Karate And Me – Part 6 – Stagnation To The Winning Week



It’s fair to say that my karate progress has gone along at differing rates, so many times it has just moved along at a rate so slow, it’s hard to see any progress, then there have been big jumps in progress, it seems that’s the way it has always been, no steady progress, just very slow or very rapid, kind of all or nothing, I guess that sums up my character.

Following that period of success, starting with the runners up position at the regionals, passing my second dan and then third place at the nationals, everything slowed down once again.  In a way, there wasn’t that much to aim at for a while.

In terms of gradings, that was it until I was twenty one.  In our organisation, both then and now, the age limit for taking third dan was twenty one, some associations have a limit on first dan for juniors, but here in the U.K. there is rarely a limit on first and second dan, but third dan has that age limit, so for me at that period of time, grading became a distant thought.  I have to say that I fully agree with that, even though I did wait eight years to grade again, I don’t regret it and I believe it’s the right thing to do, even though I had a lot of knowledge at that point, at that age you don’t really have the maturity.  I was angered a few years back, when I saw that a senior instructor who split from that organisation and started his own, he changed that rule to eighteen, to promote his star student, in truth I thought it was a bit of a joke, because I knew the student in question and I had reservations about him, not so much his ability, but the general attitude he displayed to fellow students and competitors, as I say, I don’t believe he had the maturity to go with such a grade.

So the rest of 1987 went by without any major incident, I entered the regionals again that year, but in the fighting I was soundly beaten in the early rounds, the only success came as part of a team kata squad, Alan put me with two other lads, Darren and Ian, both were older, bigger and better than I was, but he decided we were the best team the club could put together at that time.  In team kata, as a three you perform the same kata in formation and synchronised, the three make a triangle, with on person in front and then two behind.  Generally you try to keep the two together at the back a similar size, so naturally I was the leader at the front, something that I have generally done all my career, even later on as part of the England team.  So I was the leader, I gave all the commands and set the tempo for the kata, essentially if I was off the team was off, there was no hiding when you’re in front.  It was our first outing as a team and we made the final four, I think we practiced really hard on our first kata to get through to the final, but not so much on a different kata should we get there, but we achieved the first priority, reach the final, but sadly we finished fourth out of four, but still received a trophy.

After that there wasn’t any further success for over a year, training was good, I was still training five times a week, still teaching with the beginners class, our black belt group was growing all the time and the club was growing, everything was good, so it’s hard to put a finger on why I didn’t continue with the successes I had had, but I guess these things happen from time to time.  In fairness, I have always said that the best lessons are learnt through failure, it makes you go back, to access and analyse things, a chance to work on things that aren’t quite right, so maybe it was a good thing.

In the summer of 1988 I had a major set back.  I had joined a local football club with a number of friends from school and over the summer we were preparing for the new season.  At a training session one Wednesday night I suffered an injury that put me in a plaster for a month.  I was running with the ball and my friend ran across me, taking my back leg with him, it was completely by accident, just one of those comings together, but my studs kept my foot stuck in the ground and I was spun around whilst my ankle ligaments twisted, as I fell to the ground my foot stayed flat in the ground and it torn my ankle apart as I fell, my ligaments were shredded.

I was taken to hospital, where they x-rayed the ankle, but they sent me home strapped up until some of the swelling had gone down and two days later I was put in plaster, it had severely torn my ligaments, I was now facing a month in plaster and then further time out until I could train again.

My Dad wasn’t happy, neither was Alan, my Dad said that after all that karate training I had no injuries and I do a few weeks of football and end up with ruptured ankle.  Alan wasn’t happy as he wanted myself, Darren and Ian to continue working together for that years regionals, which were coming up at the beginning of October, it was cutting it fine as I wouldn’t be out of plaster until the end of September, but he didn’t want to change the team at this stage.

I spent a month in plaster and then went back to have the plaster removed, if you have ever had limb put in plaster, you’ll know there is that moment of shock when the plaster is removed and a skinny looking thing with pale, flaking skin is there in front of you.  Where had it gone, my leg was tiny now from the calf down, in fact it still is, my right leg still looks skinny compared to the left, even after almost thirty years.

They told me to keep my weight of it for a week or so and to use crutches to get around.  I had use crutches for the first few days it was in plaster, but as they had given me a shoe to wear for the plaster, I had just walked around with that without using the crutches, I hated them.  So after walking home using the crutches, as soon as I got home, I put them aside and refused to use them ever again.  That was a Friday morning, I went to watch training that evening, but being sat there, with my foot out of plaster, I found it irritating not being able to do anything, so Sunday afternoon I defied Doctor’s orders and went back training.  I tried to take it easy, but soon got caught up in trying as hard as everyone else, some things were hard, I couldn’t turn on that foot as easily as I used to be able to, but after a few weeks, it was business as usual and our team was back practicing for the regionals.

We performed well, but I guess our lack of practice costs us, we failed to make the final, it was close, but we missed out.  I didn’t fight that year because of the ankle injury, only kata and team kata, but missed out on medals in both, maybe next year.

At the end of 1988 there were two open competitions that would be on back to back weekends, one at Newark on the last Sunday of November and then one in Ipswich on the Saturday after, which was made more interesting as we moved house the day before.  At the Newark Open I was entered in kata and kumite, I made it through to both finals that day, I finished third in the kata and then faced an old club mate in the final of the kumite.

Malcolm was a good fighter, I can’t remember the exact reason why, but he wasn’t training with us at that time, he was training with another local club, although we were all still good friends.  This competition was run on the unusual rules and they made us wear body armour and head protection, neither of us were used to this, but we made the most of it.  In the final I took the lead, fighting my usual way, just waiting for the opponent to come in, then counter attacking, I was leading when Malcolm made a series of punches to the head, the referee firstly warned him and then the second time disqualified him, as he announced it we both stood there wondering what was going on, I wasn’t particularly bothered by the punches, it was the head gear that was making it awkward, but the referees decision was final, I was awarded the fight, I was leading anyway, but still I didn’t want to win that way.

So the next weekend we went to Ipswich, I was in kata and kumite once again, but also in the team kata with Darren and Ian, as the eliminations went on I made the kata final and the team kata final, in the afternoon we had the kumite.  After fighting the previous week on the defensive, I decided to change my style in the first fight, I was against a lad I had beaten the weekend before, I decided to attack, pretty soon I lost the first point and almost lost the second, which would have seen me eliminated, Alan was refereeing and he gave me a look as if to say “what the heck are you doing!”  So I returned to my old style, I took the second point and then the decider to win the fight, so for the rest of the day I kept those same tactics, wait for them to come, I made the final once again and for the second weekend, it was me verses Malcolm, his chance for revenge from the weekend before.

I finished third once again in the kata, in the team kata we finished second and then it was the final of the kumite.  It was I guess a bit of a grudge match, this time no silly rules, no body armour and no head gear which caused more problems than it was worth, we were fighting the way we knew best, no gimics.

I kept the same tactics, wait and counter attack, Malcom was an aggressive fighter and liked to attack, so it was down to who was quickest, I took the first point by counter attacking and then the second doing the same, I was champion again for the second weekend running and any controversy or doubt about the result the week before was settled, we were still friends and remain so to this day.

It was a good return for seven very busy days, five trophies, two firsts, a second and two thirds, it was a good way to end a difficult year, but the bar was set for the year to come.

The wind is blowing cold
Have we lost our way tonight?
Have we lost our hope to sorrow?

Feels like we’re all alone
Running further from what’s right
And there are no more heroes to follow

So what are we becoming?
Where did we go wrong?

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
Oh, won’t you rise today
And change this world?

The sun is beating down
Are we ever gonna change
Can we stop the blood from running?

Our time is running out
Hope we find a better way
Before we find we’re left with nothing

For every life that’s taken
So much love is wasted

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
So won’t you rise today
And change

This world
Only love can set it right
This world
If only peace would never die

Seems to me that we’ve got each other wrong
Was the enemy just your brother all along?

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
Oh won’t you rise today
And change this world?

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

Yeah, oh yeah
I want to rise today
And change this world

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