Tag Archives: Competition

Karate And Me – Part 9 – Competing As An Adult

KARATE AND ME

PART 9 – COMPETING AS AN ADULT

Turning sixteen and moving into the adult categories for competing was not an easy transition. It would probably have been easier had I been training regularly, but alas that wasn’t to be anymore. For the past couple of years I had been plagued by knee problems, firstly the painful growing pains and once that had subsided I was left with an almost constant ache in my knees, this restricted any training, as the next day it would be severe and then fade as each day passes, only to start again next time I tried to train.

Secondly I had now become an instructor instead of a student, so training opportunities were restricted to one or twice a week, if I was lucky. When you add in the factor that I was at least a good four or five inches shorter than most of the other competitors, with the majority a good six foot tall and then there’s me, just five foot four and a half inches tall, believe me the half is very important to me!

Being short doesn’t stop you becoming a good fighter, it just means you have to work harder, be faster, have lightning reactions and great movement. I had speed, that’s not an issue, but reactions are the one thing that needs constant training, the ability to react when a six foot bloke is throwing a fist straight at your head is a must, this was the training I was severely lacking.

Due to the lack of training I missed my first national championships in 1990, it would be my first as an adult, which although meant that I would be in the junior male section, I didn’t feel fit enough or that I had had the required training, so I attended just as a coach and spectator.

Later in the year I started to compete again, but the success I had had in the last few years as a child, was now none existent. There was no momentum to carry into the adults sections, it was now a case of starting again from scratch, to reevaluate where I was, my tactics and my training.

Then came my first nationals as an adult in 1991, this time I entered and frankly in the fighting I was out of my depth for the first time, I could hold my own, but I was a long way from being competitive, not with the level of training I was getting, I was physically smaller, so I had to be physically quicker and smarter, this was where I was struggling.

But in the kata, that was a different story. In that first adult competition I lined up alongside all the other seniors, feeling a little bit out of my depth, but that I was going to give it all I had. I had never really had any success in the nationals in the boys kata, never got through more than a couple of rounds, so now I was in the adults, I didn’t expect much more.

So I was called up for my first match and I won. I was called up again and again, I kept winning. I made it through to the last two on my area, if I won that I would be through to the semi finals with the other area winners and the seeded finalists from the previous year, the seeds were basically made up of current English squad members, some of which were European and world medalists.

After the first kata, it was a tie, so we went again. I felt through the first half I was doing quite well, then my curse hit me, I suffered from something that would plague me for years, my foot slipped on the mats, losing my balance and composure for just a moment, but just long enough for the judges to see, I lost the bout and was out, I was so close, yet so far.

It was a disappointment, yet a revelation all at the same time. Having become less successful in fighting, I was breaking through in kata. All the development of my basic technique that I had put into my teaching, was showing in my kata ability. In the next few competitions later that year, the same pattern followed, moderate success in the fighting, followed by promising success in the kata. I wasn’t winning any trophies or medals at this stage, which after many successful years in the junior sections was a little different, but in the kata I was improving, soon I would stop competing regularly in fighting and concentrate all my training into the kata.

I was only getting in a certain amount of my own training, so developing my technique, which I could still do whilst teaching made more sense to me. I would still fight for the club in team events and enter the odd individual fighting completions, but after that I concentrated on kata competitions, success didn’t come straight away, but I was determined to get there.

FIREFIGHT by JIMMY EAT WORLD
This is where our diligence has lead
The waves roll in to claim our patient steps
Can we become more than just ourselves?
And leave the sand, our want, our will, our doubt

It’s firefight, I won’t run.
They’re spitting spite all through my blood
For you and me, there’s nowhere left to hide
Except you and me, there’s no one else alive

This is now the moment after next.
Are these still the eyes of a temptress?
Why open the door if you won’t go?
Don’t ask twice if you don’t wanna know.

It’s firefight, I won’t run.
They’re spitting spite all in my blood
For you and me, there’s nowhere left to hide
Except you and me, there’s no one else alive

Is there an answer?
If it’s an honest one, honestly worth its question
There’s no question
The city as my witness
I am who I wanna be, but you could be anything
Just be anything here with me.
Endless quotes and with the secondhand
If you let go then that’s where time will stand.

It’s firefight, I won’t run.
They’re spitting spite all through my blood
For you and me, there’s nowhere left to hide
Except you and me, there’s no one else alive

It’s firefight, I won’t run.
They’re spitting spite all through my blood
For you and me, there’s nowhere left to hide
Except you and me, there’s no one else alive.

Karate And Me – Part 7 – 1989 A Year To Grow Up

KARATE AND ME

PART 7 – 1989 A YEAR TO GROW UP

So 1988 finished on a high after recovery from an injury, then 1989 should have been plain sailing, continued growth, I guess it was but for wholly different reasons.

An injury that happens due to an accident or an incident, like my ruptured ankle is one thing, but an injury that can’t be seen or can’t be explained is another thing.  As the new year moved on, I was still training five times a week, Sunday was the busiest by far, it was a three and half hour slog every week, firstly teaching beginners for one hour, then two hours training in the general class and then an additional half an hour for just the brown and black belts, it was a hard day.

In early 89, I found that I would wake in the early hours of Monday morning, suddenly wake in pain, my shins just below my knees would be screaming in pain, when this happened there was no getting back to sleep, there was no position I could find to ease the pain, nothing I could do, I would just lie in bed crying with the pain, for weeks I kept it to myself, but then eventually I told my Mum and she arranged an appointment with a Doctor.

As the weeks went by I began to get aches and pains in my knees too, during training and after, it never really went away, but that pain on Sunday nights/Monday mornings was the worst.

Up until I was 15 I was under 5ft in height, suddenly in the first few months of 89 I had grown to pretty much my current height of 5ft 4½ inches, when I saw the Doctor he explained that I had Osgood-Schlatter Disease, it sounds severe, but essentially is severe growing pains.  He explained that the growth plates within my lower legs were not growing at the same rate and the pressure of my training was causing the pain, even the pain that would wake me in the middle of the night.  There wasn’t much that he could do, other than prescribe painkillers, it would eventually go, in other words I would grow out of it too, but it could be sometime, he advised that when the pain became severe to take time off training.

Over the coming months I would skip training for weeks at a time when it became bad, I tried to train through it, but it wasn’t always possible.

In terms of competition,  I still competed, but for the fighting my growth changed the category I was in.  At that time competition was catorised by height with under 5 feet and over 5 feet, all my success had come at under 5 feet, everyone was pretty much my height, we were all well matched, now it wasn’t so.  My first competition in the new height group was the Nationals, although I didn’t change the way I fought, I still waited and counter attacked, it made it harder, the distance changed because most of my opponents were now inches taller and so this changed my timing, that first competition I got through to the quarter finals, but lost to the eventual champion, he must have been almost six foot, his reach was way beyond mine and he just picked me off at random, it was a learning experience to say the least and from there I had to re-assess my style of fighting.

Over the summer I took more time off training, the pain wasn’t going away and at times it got worse, especially those Sunday nights, I came to dread going to sleep on Sunday night and not because it was school the next day, because I knew it was going to be painful.

Then one evening during the early summer Alan asked if he could speak with my Dad and me after a class, he took us aside and then dropped the bombshell.  He had decided that he was going to emigrate to Australia, only it would be this coming October, but he needed to organise the people who he wanted to continue running the club.  My Dad had been helping take the money at the club for some time, he helped Alan out where he could, which allowed Alan to concentrate on just teaching, so Alan asked if Dad could keep doing this, but it was his choice of instructors that was the big bombshell.  I was only fifteen and my club mate Darren was only seventeen, but Alan had decided we were the two people he wanted to continue the teaching at the club, Darren being older would be Senior Instructor and I would be Assistant Instructor, Darren’s Mum would become Secretary and handle the admin and my Dad would collect the money and help Julia organise things.

I don’t think it was so much as a request from Alan, I’m not sure he really offered me a choice, but I didn’t refuse and neither did my Dad, he had already approached Darren and Julia by this point and they had agreed, so did we, so it was all set.  After the next club grading at the end of September Alan would step down and leave the country just a few weeks later.  He had arranged for a couple of other junior students to run the Lincoln club with the help of their parents, but at the last minute those plans changed and a couple of other seniors who ran other clubs in the Lincoln area took over that club.

I don’t think at that time I really realised what that would mean in terms of my life, I was fifteen, it was just karate, although a big part of my life, I didn’t see it having such a big influence on the direction that my life would follow from that point.  From this point on, my life would begin to revolve around the club, my life choices were formed around what was best for the club and it’s students, although I didn’t have much of a plan for my life at that point, they would all have to revolve around the club I was now tied to.

My main apprehension at that point was how I would be received by other members of the club, mainly by our adult section.  I was senior than most of them in terms of grade and experience, but I was a junior in terms of age, our adult section ranged from ages 18 through to people in their 50s and 60s, if I was to be taken seriously by them and other club instructors, I had a lot of growing up to do.

But in those early months, my fears were all for nothing, the seniors seemed to understand the pressure both myself and Darren found ourselves in and helped us as much as they could, they stood by us and the transition went smoothly.  If anything is was our peers, the other guys that were of a similar age and grades, they were the ones that fell away, some left to go to college or university, others I guess found it difficult to adjust to us teaching, they simply left overtime, but the seniors, they stayed with us and encouraged us, I will never forget that, the respect they showed us both.

As the year came to a close there were once more a number of competitions, the first of which was just a week or so before Alan left at the Regionals, as a club we had our best competition yet, we returned with numerous trophies.  For me I had a break through, this time in kata, for the first time I made the individual final for kata at a Regional level, I finished fourth, but it was a break through, especially as my effectiveness in the fighting was now challenged by my lack of height.

As November came around my, knees were still causing trouble, when I returned to the Newark Open, I made the finals of the kata and the kumite, but in the last round of the kumite I clashed knees with my opponent, my knees were already aching, but due to the pain and bruising, I decided to withdraw, I regret it now, I should have just gone for it, but at the time I sat out and watched the others compete in the finals, thinking that I could have beaten them.

A week later I went back to the Ipswich Open, once more in the morning I made the kata final and then in the afternoon competed in the kumite.  I made it through to the quarter finals and then faced the tallest guy in the competition.  I remember the early exchanges, I waited and he attacked, again he out reached me and I wasn’t quiet as quick as I was due to the lack of training over the last few months, so it was hard, I just couldn’t match him.  Then he came in with a punch to the face, I tried to get underneath it, to block and counter as he came in, but he hit me full in the face, I just remember everything happening in slow motion as I slowly fell to the ground.

When I came around I was flat on my back and it seemed there was blood everywhere, the referees rushed over to me and then the first aiders came over, my mouth felt numb and I put my tongue to the left side of my mouth and realised I had a large hole in my top lip, it was torn wide open.

The first aiders helped me back to their station, while the referees disqualified my opponent.  I had made it through to the finals, but first there was the small problem of the hole in my lip.  The first aiders said they couldn’t do anything for me and it would have to be stitched at the hospital.  One of the local volunteers agreed to drive myself and my Mum to the hospital.  I was helped up to go to his car, I took a few steps across the hall and once again everything went into slow motion and I found myself once again slowly slipping to the floor, I had collapsed again, by this point it was obvious I was going to take no further part in the competition.

I was taken to hospital and eventually had six stitches in my lip.  I made it back to the venue just in time to collect my two trophies, still in my blood soaked suit.  For the second time in two weeks I made the finals, but couldn’t compete in the final, I regretted the decision not to compete in the finals the previous week even more.

I couldn’t eat properly for a number of days, it felt like half my mouth was closed due to the swelling, my parents kept me off school for a few days, by the time I went back to school it looked a mess, the dried blood had scabbed around the stitches and it was still swollen, it didn’t look good at all.  They told us at the hospital that the stitches would dissolve after a week or so, almost three weeks later I still had four stitches still in there, the other two I had managed to get out with my tongue and my teeth, eventually a parent of one of my students, who used to be a nurse, cut them out for me.  I still have the scar on my lip, in time I would add to it, I’ve only had two sets of stitches in my life and the second set would be in the very same place as the first!

So 1989 came and went, the nineties approached and the growing up was to continue.  When you take responsibility for something, especially at the age that I did, I guess you have no choice but to grow up quickly, what I originally found daunting I would begin to grow into, I would begin to grow as a person and a student myself.

BRAND NEW START by ALTER BRIDGE
Against the sky
Streams of light
Call out to me and you

We leave as one
We’ve just begun
To find the solace we’re due
This is the life we must choose

We will make a brand new start
From the pieces torn apart
The break of day is before us

Cast your sorrows to the wind
Let the highway take us in
As we escape the disorder

This desert road
That we call home
This is our destiny
We’ll chase the setting sun
As we outrun
A life of agony
God how we ache to be free

We will make a brand new start
From the pieces torn apart
The break of day is before us

We will make a brand new start
From the pieces torn apart
The break of day is before us

We’ll make our way
We’ll make our way
We’ll make our way
We’ll make our way

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

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.

RISE TODAY by ALTER BRIDGE
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

Karate And Me – Chapter 5 – Success And Second Dan

KARATE AND ME

CHAPTER 5  – SUCCESS AND SECOND DAN

I guess after you’ve achieved a goal you set your heart on, there is a period of coming down, the next twelve months seemed to pass by with no real development, no real achievement, I trained, I continued to train five times a week, but just seemed to tread water.  It was one of those periods where I see where development was just slow.

The summer of 1985 was a strange one for me, I contracted some sort of virus which just didn’t seem to let go, I was constantly feeling sick, I missed about six weeks of training, there were times when I got to karate and then suddenly felt sick, my Dad thought I was losing interest, it wasn’t that way, I was still very much into training, I guess there was an element of that, but this virus did hang around for a while.

In either late 1985 or early 1986 Alan decided to add a special beginner’s class to the schedule on Sunday afternoon’s, but the revelation was the he wasn’t going to teach it, he would supervise, but it would be left to the junior black belts to teach new junior beginner’s the ropes.

At that point I was the fourth most senior of the junior black belts, so I was in effect just an assistant, but odd weeks I would lead the class.  I enjoyed this, one of us would lead the class while a couple of the other black belts or sometimes brown belts, would demonstrate in front of the class, the others mingled with the beginners, correcting them or showing them what to do.  The class started off small, but eventually it grew to over thirty students, this was in the hay day of the club, the overall membership of the club was well over 150, although at that time there was only one other karate club in the town and they didn’t take kids.

The junior black belts just kept coming, our the line up of black belts went from just the four of us at the end of 1984 and reached around twenty over the next few years, we had some promising students coming through, many showing much more potential than I had, many came through without getting any temporary grades and passed their black belt first time, in complete contrast to myself.

So 1985 passed for me with no real success, for the first time there were no gradings for me to take and in the competitions I entered, I didn’t find any success, but as Alan always said, the best lessons were in failing, that was where we really learnt about ourselves, not from victory.

The next year started pretty much the same way, but as our black belt section grew and we all trained together and pushed each other, things began to change.  In October the regional championships came around, four years previously I had taken part in my first competition in the regions, that time only in kata, this time I was twelve years old and allowed to fight in the competition for the first time.  At the time the current National Champion for my age group and height was from a club in Birmingham, he would be in the completion and he was a target for all of my club mates, he was the one we all really wanted to beat.

For some reason I decided to fight defensively from the off, I would just wait for my opponent to attack and either block and counter quickly or move in to hit them before they could hit me, in the early round it worked and I kept to the tactic, all the while listening to the instructions from one of my instructors behind me.  I was going well, so well in fact that Chris who was coaching me, missed the call for his competition, he wouldn’t leave the area whilst myself or any of my club mates were still in the competition.

I made it through to the semi final and was drawn against Andrew from Birmingham, I stuck to the same tactics, I would wait for him and counter attack.  It worked, I scored the first point, but Andrew went on all out attack as the time ran out, he didn’t score, but because he had managed to back me out of the area twice, it was given a draw, even though I was the only one to score.  So we had to fight again, still I would stick to the same tactic and it worked again, I picked him off, scored the only point and this time stood my ground, when time was called, I had scored the only point again and was declared the winner, I was through to my first final and had beaten the current National Champion to boot, I remember bowing off the area and jumping straight into Chris’s arms, I’m not sure who was more pleased in that moment, Chris or myself.

Come the final later that day, I would be facing my club mate Stuart, we knew each other quite well and knew how each other fought, he was still only a brown belt, but despite that he had already placed third in the National Championships.  I think I under estimated him, I thought being the black belt, this was mine, I was wrong.  The fight was over quickly, the first point happen almost immediately after the start, Stuart came in with a kick, which I still believe didn’t really connect and I countered, but his kick was scored, I was behind for the first time in the whole day.  For some reason then I switched tactic and went on the attack and Stuart beat me at my own game, he waited, blocked and countered, scoring the second point he needed to win the fight.

Still despite that defeat, I was still second in the region, there was over sixty kids in my category that day, I was second and had beaten the current National Champion, I had no right to be disappointed and I wasn’t, far from it.

As December come around it was time to attempt my second day, the grading would take place on my thirteenth birthday, down in Slough.  It was a long day, we left early and had to wait around so long before grading that, both myself and Darren who also went for his second dan, failed miserably.  I don’t think we were badly prepared, I don’t necessarily think the waiting around was a factor, it was just a hard grading, with a lot of good kids and on the day we hadn’t come up to scratch, we would both have to wait a few months before trying again.

It was only a couple of months before we would try again, so in February 1987 we went to Wellingborough to grade again, this time it was much closer to home and the waiting around wasn’t nearly as long.

There weren’t that many juniors going for second dan that day, I believe it was just six of us, I was naturally the youngest and by far the smallest, the others were all a couple of years older and all Darren’s size, so when it came to fighting, they pulled out a young brown belt who had just failed his black belt, it was a little unfair on him.  I wasn’t going to under estimate him like I had done a few month earlier, I went for it, I was all over him, in gradings it wasn’t acceptable to wait and defend like in competition, your were expected to show spirit and attack, so I did, I didn’t hurt the lad, but I never let him off the hook, I battered him a bit, the only time he hit me was with a kick below the belt, that just made me mad!

This time I had done enough, I had passed, unfortunately Darren hadn’t, that made things hard, we were good friends and it was hard not to show too much jubilant emotion, when you knew exactly what he was going through having failed before, to Darren’s credit, he never showed it, in fact the next morning I woke to find a congratulations card through my door, we had that much respect for each other, when he passed a few months later, I returned the compliments and put a card through his door too.

When May 1987 came around it was time for the National Championships again, as always at Crystal Palace, the junior catagories were getting bigger, there seemed to be more kids there each year and as usual, we were put in the smallest hall, out of the way of the crowds, but crammed into a small gym, hundreds of kids, not ideal, but we were all in the same boat.

I rode my luck to say the least that year, I made it through to round three and there I drew a lad called Ian, it was the first time he had competed, but he came with a reputation, his bigger brother was on the England National Squad and in the World Championships the year before had made the final, decisively beating the Japanese favourite on the way, so a lot was expected of Ian.

I was using the same tactics, wait and counter attack, but Ian didn’t give me chance, he was fast, he came in with a back fist, which hit me smack bang on my left ear, hard, I went down and the next thing I know he was on top of me, just punching away at my head.  He had gone over the top with his aggression and control, the referees disqualified him and awarded me the fight, I was through, but I would rather have won the fight fair and square.  I did get chance to fight Ian again a few years later, this time he fought cleanly and beat me hands down.

After that regaining my composure, despite the fact it felt like my ear had doubled in size, I made it through to the semi finals, there I faced a boy from Sunderland called Marc, he was good fighter and fought very similar to how I did, but he was faster than I was and beat me soundly, it was probably a fight to far for me, but I had made the semi finals and collected a bronze medal later that evening, it would be almost twenty years before I collected another medal from the Nationals, but I was happy with that one and Alan, my instructor was over the moon.

Later that day though I took part in the kata, in the first round I was against probably the smallest and youngest boy there, the judge announced the kata and told us both to begin, I started and then glanced across at this kid, he was doing a different kata to me, then I realized I was wrong, I had heard the right kata, announced the right kata, but was doing the wrong one, I stopped and just stood there as this kid finished, rightly he was awarded the win.  When I sat down, one of the corner judges turned to me, he said to come back next year when my head was on straight, well to be honest it didn’t matter, I was getting that bronze medal later, that was all I was bothered about!

After that period of treading water following passing my black belt, I had now in just over six months, come second at the regionals, passed my second dan and won bronze at the nationals, I was beginning to achieve a potential, that had you seen me when I first started, you wouldn’t think anyone like me could achieve.

NEW HORIZONS by FLYLEAF
So you’re tired but you’re alive
So open up your eyes
And you can get your sleep when you are dead
Kill the clock inside your head
Bring your normalcy to the edge
And watch it drown in new horizons
New horizons

You said I’d only have to wait until I die
And that’s in no time
How did we come to thinking this was funny?
Cheering and laughing at the dying
While we’re riding the line in You

Wait
You said I’d only have to wait until I die
(New horizon)
There is no such thing as time
Inside this moment no sun rising
Wait until I fly
(New horizon)
Wait until I fly
(New horizon)

Life floods in with a conquest
Life floods in with a new quest
He’s a voice for the voiceless
And a song for the soulless
Life floods in

Wait
You said I’d only have to wait until I die
(New horizon)
There is no such thing as time
Inside this moment no sun rising
Wait until I fly
(New horizon)
Wait until I fly
(New horizon)

When the times keep going wrong and we go right
When the times keep going wrong and we go right

Wait
You said I’d only have to wait until I die
(New horizon)
There is no such thing as time
Inside this moment no sun rising
Wait until I fly
(New horizon)
Ah!
(Wait until I fly, new horizon)
We need you here!
(Wait until I fly, new horizon)

There is no such thing as time
Inside this moment no sun rising
Wait until I fly

When the times keep going wrong and we go right
We go right

Karate And Me – Part 3 – Journey To Black Belt

KARATE AND ME

PART 3 – JOURNEY TO BLACK BELT

1983 was a tough year, at the beginning of the year passed my 3rd Kyu, which is the first brown belt of three brown belts, now the real training began, most people recognise that brown belt is the belt before black, so once you make it to the first brown belt, the kata you learn is generally the one you then use for your black belt, the grading syllabus is generally the same, it the technical detail that must improve each time.  I passed all these gradings and by the end of the year had received my 1st Kyu, next step was black belt, a minimum of six months training and preparation.  Early that year Alan had started a club in Lincoln, it ran on Friday nights and then eventually Wednesday nights too, I began to travel with Alan on Friday nights to Lincoln, at first it was only me that wanted to go, eventually others higher grades came with us too.  By the time I passed my 1st Kyu I was training five times a week and it was hard training, Alan pushed us hard, he wanted us to succeed, he was hard but fair, always fair.

One thing he didn’t stand for was any kind of bullying, he wouldn’t have anyone taking liberties with other students, higher grades were to be fair and work with the lower grades and not be hard on them, push them, but not use them as canon fodder, he was keen on that.  One thing he wouldn’t stand for is anyone laughing at other students, he would get the different grades up to do their kata in groups, if one of them went wrong and any other student sat down laughed at them, he would get them up straight away, he would sit everyone down and make the student who laughed do their kata, whilst encouraging everyone else to laugh at them.  I was a victim of this once, I never did it again, I guess if I did that now, I would be pulled over the coals for it, but back in the early 1980’s it wasn’t so frowned upon, as I said once you had got caught, you never did it again and as higher grades, we sort of began to police and school the other students, make sure none of them fell foul of the rules and made the same mistakes as we had done.

In May 1983 I took part in my first National Championships, I was only just a brown belt and for the first time came up in a category with black belts, we didn’t have a junior black belt in the club at that point, that wouldn’t happen until later that year, I think the youngest black belt in the club at that point was about fifteen and he had quit training a year or so before.  I think Alan fudged the entry forms somewhat, to be fair it was common practice among all the Club Instructors to be liberal with ages on entry forms, the minimum age for fighting was 10 years, I was nine and not ten until seven months later, but I was entered in the fighting.  I wasn’t sure what to expect at this level and when I was called up for the first round against a black belt, I decided to just get stuck in.  I’m not sure either of us had much technique, more just youthful exuberance, somehow I won that fight, against a black belt, I was over the moon and my Dad who was watching was too.  I lost my second fight against another black belt, but that didn’t matter, I had beaten a black belt and that was my medal, together with the bruises and black eye I collected along the way.  I remember that competition well, the fighting especially, it was at Crystal Palace and we were on one of the mats on the balcony, which was a first because usually the kids were downstairs in one of the tiny gyms, there would be hundreds of kids squashed into these small rooms.  I think the kata was downstairs, I don’t remember anything about that really other than I lost in the first round, my one victory in the fighting was enough to make my day.

There was still a matter of two gradings to pass before attempting my black belt, thankfully I got through those okay, I don’t think I blitzed them, but I did enough to pass.  By this time I was training five times a week, every week, three times at my home club in Newark and twice at our sister club in Lincoln, it was hard training, but good, always good.

My first attempt at Black Belt came in April 1984, it was up in York and my first time training at one of these courses, never mind attempting to grade.  I remember training at Lincoln the night before and everything was a mess.  I couldn’t remember half the katas I needed, not that I didn’t know them, any other night I wouldn’t have had a problem, maybe it was nerves or apprehension for the next day, but I couldn’t get them right, half way through one of them I remember just having a complete memory blank, I just didn’t know what came next, to this day, I’ve never again had that problem, but that Friday night, I was lost.

The next day was the black belt grading in York, it wasn’t at some grand leisure centre, it was in the sports hall at Imphal Barracks, Fulford in York.  It was basic to say the least, just one large hall, small changing rooms and no refreshment facilities.  Hundreds of people came to train and over a hundred were there to take their grading, so it was a little cramped.

Five people from my club were grading that day, including me, I don’t remember much about the training and very little from my grading.  I do remember the free fighting, I really enjoyed that, the lad I fought went on to become National Champion a couple of years later, but that day I gave as good as I got.  Unfortunately though I failed everything but the fighting, the gradings are split into three parts, basics, kata and fighting, the basics pretty much count for most of the grading, if you fail that, you fail everything.  To pass you have to pass all three, if you fail kata or kumite, you still fail, but next time you only have to retake those elements, fail the basics you retake everything, fail two out of three, you retake everything also.

So I had failed and therefore had to redo the whole grading again.  In truth, I was just ten years old, still pretty young, but also it’s a requirement that there is a minimum of six months between passing the last brown belt and attempting black belt, I was a couple of weeks short of that, my instructor put me and another couple of students in regardless of this requirement, he later stated you would have to be exceptional to pass if you fell foul of this rule.

Three out of the five of us passed that day, Stuart an adult member of our Lincoln club, Darren who was a couple of years older than me and always been a couple of grades ahead, he had already failed once, but passed on this occasion, then there was Trudy, she had come through in the same group as me, but she was good, very good.

It was a bit of knock back to fail, it’s hard when good friends have passed, you want to be happy for them, but at the same time, your world has fell apart.  After that I stopped doing the extra training sessions at Lincoln for a while, I guess it knocked my enthusiasm somewhat, I trained hard when I trained, I just didn’t train as much.

In hindsight, that was wrong, looking back if I wasn’t good enough to pass when I was training five times a week, how was I going to be good enough to pass if I was only doing three.  Well the proof came just three months after that grading.

My second attempt came at Lincoln in July 1984, in truth the training didn’t go that well, the instructor picked me up on a number of things and it seemed to blow my confidence.  The outcome was the same as before, I failed the kata and basics, but passed the fighting.  I think I actually did better the first time around, I can’t put my finger on what went wrong, I simply was nowhere near good enough, now I had to wait another three months before I could try again, one thing was for sure, it was back to training five times a week.

BEST OF YOU by FOO FIGHTERS
I’ve got another confession to make
I’m your fool
Everyone’s got their chains to break
Holdin’ you

Were you born to resist or be abused?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

Are you gone and onto someone new?
I needed somewhere to hang my head
Without your noose
You gave me something that I didn’t have
But had no use
I was too weak to give in
Too strong to lose
My heart is under arrest again
But I break loose
My head is giving me life or death
But I can’t choose
I swear I’ll never give in
I refuse

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Has someone taken your faith?
Its real, the pain you feel
You trust, you must
Confess
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Oh…

Oh…Oh…Oh…Oh…

Has someone taken your faith?
Its real, the pain you feel
The life, the love you’d die to heal
The hope that starts the broken hearts
You trust, you must
Confess

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?

I’ve got another confession my friend
I’m no fool
I’m getting tired of starting again
Somewhere new

Were you born to resist or be abused?
I swear I’ll never give in
I refuse

Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Has someone taken your faith?
Its real, the pain you feel
You trust, you must
Confess
Is someone getting the best, the best, the best, the best of you?
Oh…

Karate And Me – Part Two – Slow Progress

KARATE AND ME

PART 2 – SLOW PROGRESS

My slow progress continued, I still wasn’t very good, I was still shy and would still break out into tears every now and again, if I couldn’t get something right or I thought I was being shouted at!  But I kept going, my next grading to yellow belt followed the same pattern again, I still wasn’t good enough for the full grade that I was going for, once more I received a temporary grade, I was just that sort of student, improving, but was still behind those others in his group.  There were only a few kids that were higher than me back then, I was in third group of juniors, there were a few in a group a grade above me, a couple of older kids that were higher than the rest, then there was my group, we had all taken that first grading together and were going through the grades together, but none of the others had temporary grades, granted I was the youngest, I was still the only one in the club at that time that had started before the age of seven, it would over the coming years become popular practice over the country, with kids as young as four joining the club in time, but as the youngest, the smallest and definitely the shyest, I was the runt of the litter, the one that was struggling along, I was trying my hardest, after that short break from training as a 9th Kyu, I hardly missed a session, even at just seven years old attended the odd adult class during school holidays, I’m not sure why I was allowed, maybe because I was a trier, because even if I didn’t get it right, I gave my all.

If I look back over my karate training, I see where there were periods were improvement was slight or gradual, this first year of training had been like that, after just over one year of training, I had taken that first grade, been given a temporary grade and then carried that through the next two gradings, it had been progress, but steady to say the least, as I say, it was not because of lack of trying, it was because I wasn’t that good, I wasn’t a natural, it came hard to me, it may not look that way now, but trust me it did, it’s hard to get that across to my students these days, it’s hard to tell them how I struggled and get them to believe it, they do or at least I think they do, but I can safely say I wasn’t a natural and I struggled alone making steady progress.

At the end of each year we would have a competition on the last day of the training before Christmas, in my first year I didn’t take part, I was only a white belt then and although there was a group for white belts only, I didn’t want to do it, I was of course too shy to take part, my natural shyness held me back and I just sat and watched.  The next year as a yellow belt I took part, in the basics, kata and kumite (fighting), I wasn’t that good, the trophies went to some of the guys who were higher than me, some of my group of grades and a couple of those below us, I was still nowhere near their standard and my shyness made me struggle more when it came to gradings and competing.  This was my first competition and it was only in front of the guys I trained with week in week out, the judges were the guys that took our classes each week, I knew everyone, yet still I found it hard to get up and compete, it took time and years to overcome that, not completely, even now thirty odd years on, I still struggle with nerves, not so much the shyness now, but it does manifest itself as nerves still, even now.

Then every now and again I made big steps, I would make big improvements in a short time, but then as things became more advance I would struggle again and fall back into that steady improvement.  This happened at the next grading, when I took my green belt grading I passed with a full 7th Kyu from the grading before and this time a full green belt too.  This was the only kyu grading that I took that wasn’t at my own club, this one was at Southwell and as my Dad was working, it was the only kyu grading he never came too, but this time I really remember feeling strong for the first time, like I was getting it, not just going through the motions, trying, but not feeling it, this was the first time I felt like I really went for it, not just tried, but went for it.

Finally I had got rid of that temporary grade and thankfully I never picked up another, I was finally on a par with my piers, even though I still didn’t think I was as good as the others in my group the same grade as me.  I distinctly remember though, as a green belt being in the class when we just us green belts were up and the rest of the class were sat down watching us go through our new kata, none of us really knew it, we were just learning and it obviously wasn’t going very well.  It is a big jump in level from the previous kata for yellow belt to green belt, it’s technical jump and requires a lot of technical detail, not seen in the previous katas, so we were obviously struggling and our instructor was losing a little patience.  I remember us going over a certain bit over and over again, it wasn’t going well and in the end Alan shouted at the lot of us, I instantly broke out into tears, I don’t remember if I was getting it wrong or not, but I remember what happened next, we were all stood there, about six of us and I was the one crying, the only one, obviously Alan saw this, I remember him saying we weren’t trying hard enough, continuing to say that only one of us was trying to get it right and he’s the one in tears because he can’t get it.  Whether I was the only one getting it, or the only one who was really trying hard, to this day I don’t know.  I just know that at times Alan could be hard, but he had a soft side too, he knew me well by now, I trained more than anyone and even though I wasn’t as good as the others, I was becoming a bit of a favourite of his, he knew how to pull me back if I got emotional, it didn’t happen that much by then, but every now and again it did and on this day, he knew how to handle me.

Over the next couple of grades, it was more of the same, steady progress, I was passing the grades, but not really pulling up any trees, I was trying, I was improving, but it was once again steady progress, the grades got harder each time, the katas harder and more technical, I would still say I wasn’t as good as the rest in my group, but having said that, as the months went by, our group was getting smaller.

At the end of 1982, I had got to 4th Kyu, purple and white belt, that years Regional Championships was being held in Wolverhampton and Alan had hired a mini bus to take a handful of us to compete.  There weren’t many of us, about eight if I remember rightly.  It was the first time I had travelled so far, as a youngster I had trouble with travel sickness, I couldn’t go far without stopping the car to be sick, but even though this place seemed so far away and we were travelling forever, I made it through without being sick.

It was my first competition and because of age, I was only entered into kata, at the Regionals you had to be twelve to fight and I was still just eight, so it would be a few more years until I got that chance.  I remember getting called up for my first round, as with most competitions i’ve entered it’s done on a flag system, two competitors get up alongside each other and perform the same kata at the same time, the judges around the ring raise a red or a white flag depending on who they saw as better, the one with the majority of flags go through, odd times there is a draw, the two competitors just do different kata until a winner is found.  So I was called up, I walked to my mark and waited, then I was called onto the area and received a bye, I didn’t really understand what a bye was at the time, but I was through to the next round.  Byes happen every now and again, with the knockout system there has to be a certain number of competitors to fill the draw sheets, ie sixty four, if there are say only sixty competitors then four byes are put into the draw and four people go through to the next round.  Sometimes though your opponents don’t turn up for whatever reason, I can’t remember why I got a bye, but I was in the second round and well, that was it, I was called up for the next round and was soundly beaten.

It was my first competition and even though I got nowhere, I enjoyed the experience, seeing how these things were organised and credit to the guys that organised the Regional Championships over the years, they always did a great job, I may not of won, even a round, but to actually go out and compete was victory in itself, to overcome nerves and my natural shyness, was a minor victory.

Over the years of competition Alan pushed us hard to be our best and try to win, but win or lose, it didn’t matter to him, he would tell us that in order for someone to win, someone had to lose, one day it will be our day.  He would also tell us that just to compete was winning enough, there were so many that could compete, students that were better than me, but never tried, never gave it ago, if you don’t try, don’t compete, you will never win, so just by having ago, we were winners enough, the experience of being there and trying was as he always stated, invaluable.

A month or so after that, just before my ninth birthday, we went to an open competition in Derby, this time a few more of our club came along.  This was a different competition, at the Regionals all the competitors were from our parent organisation and performed Shotokan under the KUGB, this competition was a mix of styles from all over the Midlands, I had never seen any other style, it was an eye opener to say the least.  This time to compete it was different to the Regionals, you performed on your own, you chose the kata and performed it alone in front of the judges and they gave you a score, the four highest scorers went through to the final and somehow in my category for age and grade I made the final!  It was my second competition proper, if you discount the club competition and I had made the final, I didn’t do very well in the final, I finished last in the final, but four overall and still received a small wooden plaque type trophy, it was my first one and I was well happy with it.  I seem to remember I tried the fighting at this competition, but didn’t make it through a round, it was an experience in many ways and I was pleased with a trophy, albeit fourth place.

At the end of the year it was club competition time again, it was only my second club competitor and in some ways the competition there was more fierce than the open I had done earlier that month, we were all of similar level and although friends, we wanted to beat each other.  In the basics and kata, I once again came nowhere, I was miles behind my class mates in that area, there were some good students coming through, far better than me.  In fighting though, we were split into height categories and I was in with the smaller guys.  This time I made it through to the final, I had a bit of help from the instructors, not that they favoured me in their decisions, but they told me who I was fighting next and what moves they favoured so I could watch out for them, which of course I did.  But in the final I face a lad called Kevin Handley, he was a grade higher than me and soundly beat me, he was probably the best in the club at everything, kata and kumite, after he won our final, he then faced the winner of the taller guys, he won that fight as well, that how good he was.

That wasn’t a bad return for my first forays into competition, I had entered three competitions in the space of three months and won trophies in two.  If I look back now, I was proud of those first two trophies, we had some shelves at the back of the living room, they were placed on there, unfortunately it would be another two years until I added to their number, but competition is a bit like that, sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t, the catagories were packed in those days, there were hundreds of kids in each group, over the years you get to know kids from all over the country, we competed at the same competitions for years, it’s sad to say that there is probably only me still going from those old competitions, not only from my club, but all those over guys I competed against in those early days, apart from me I don’t think anyone else is still training, let alone competing.

THIS COULD BE THE YEAR by RYAN STAR
This could be the year
This could be the moment
You’ve been waiting your whole life
To show the world the cards you’re holding – now
It’s one life
One dream
One spark

It’s one chance
One move
One shot

It’s on you
Be cool
Believe

This could be the year
This could be the moment
You’ve been waiting your whole life
To show the world the cards you’re holding – now
It’s one life
One dream
One spark

It’s one life
One wish
One fire

It’s one choice
One voice
Sing it higher

This could be the year
This could be the moment
You’ve been waiting your whole life
To show the world that you are ready
Hold your head up high
and touch the sky
Cause you know this is everything, everything
So take your shot it’s all you got to be

This could be the year
This could be the moment
This could be the year

Decisions

“I’ve had it. If anyone sees me near a boat they can shoot me.”
Sir Steve Redgrave, Atlanta 1996

Probably one of the most famous quotes in British Sports history, Sir Steve Redgrave defiantly uttered after winning a forth Gold Medal at the Atlanta Olympics, he officially retired only to make a come back and win yet another Gold in Sydney four years later.

I made the decision to retire from competition karate over three years ago, well before I started to sink, I knew this year would be thirty years of competing in the National Championships, I saw that as a landmark, probably a record here in the UK and a benchmark for those that follow, it was a significant number and at 39, it seemed the right time to retire.

On the day of the competition as I spoke with people about it, I used my own version of Sir Steve’s quote, if anyone saw my near a competition mat with my karate suit on, they could shoot me! I honestly had my mind made up, a decision made over three years before, that was it, it was over and the reception of all the members of the JKA England when they announced my retirement as I collected my medal was mind blowing, a moment I will treasure forever.

But last Sunday, just two weeks after the Nationals, our Chief Instructor, Ohta Sensei, visited my club to carry out a grading examination for my students, then things in my mind began to change a little.

Ohta Sensei was the Chief Judge for my final performance and a corner judge for my semi final, he has witnessed all my performances over the last ten years, both here in the UK and with the England team abroad.

As we chatted before the class was due to start, we spoke about the Nationals, that’s when he told me I should carry on and that it was the best he’s ever seen me compete!

Oh WOW, now I’m a little confused, I’ve made a decision, a statement of intention and I do intend to fully go ahead with it. But that wasn’t something I had planned for!

But part of me is wondering, if after everything that has happened in my life over the last three years since that decision was made, if after all that I’ve come through, I’ve not only become a better person, but a better competitor, the old me had so many flaws, the new improved me could actually continue to improve.

I know three weeks ago I approached every performance on the day differently to what I’ve ever done before, my preparations as I wrote about in my post “Close To The End Of The Zone” I followed as always, but I added a key component, one that I’ve never added before, it must have made a massive difference, it certainly felt different.

After all the years, after the hundreds upon hundreds of competitions I’ve took part in and the thousands of individual performances I’ve completed, I am always nervous, have a tendency to look tense in my movement and rush through it. These have been criticisms I’ve faced, but nerves always brought out these habits!

Sometimes, I’ve tried to take pressure off myself, told myself not to worry about the result, just enjoy it, that works, it helps, I always feel I do better. But in the big tournaments, when you are there to chase medals, it’s hard to remove those nerves and that tension.

But this year, as I stood aside the mat awaiting my turn, I took a moment, a moment to pray, I just prayed for a calmness of the heart as I walked out, a calmness to perform without tension or nerves.

Well, it worked, lets face it prayer always does, I felt so different, so much more in control, so much more relaxed, I could move how I wanted and control the movements so much better, not on the edge as I have been previously.

Obviously, not only I noticed it, but Ohta Sensei and friends alike!

Do we sometimes make decisions, even drawn out calculated decisions too early?

How could I have foreseen what I would go through three years ago?

How could I have ever believed who I would be now three years ago?

For the time being, I am retired and I intend to stay that way! But next year, next June, you just never know?

You might just have to shoot me!!!!!

UNSTOPPABLE LOVE by KIM WALKER-SMITH
Try to stop Your love and You would wage a war
Try to take the very thing You gave Your life for
You would come running
Tear down every wall
All the while You’re shouting
“My Love, you’re worth it all”.

God you pursue me with power and glory
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You’re unrelenting with passion and mercy
Unstoppable Love that never ends

You broke into the silence and sang a song of hope
A melody, a sound in the deep of my soul
You have come running
You tore down every wall
All the while you’re shouting,
“My Love you’re worth it all”

God you pursue me with power and glory
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You’re unrelenting with passion and mercy
Unstoppable Love that never ends

God you pursue me with power and glory
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You’re unrelenting with passion and mercy
Unstoppable Love that never ends

No sin, no shame,
No past, no pain
Can separate me from Your love
No height, no depth,
No fear, no death
Can separate me from Your love

No sin, no shame,
No past, no pain
Can separate me from Your love
No height, no depth,
No fear, no death
Can separate me from Your love

Whoa
Your love, yeah

God you pursue me with power and glory
Unstoppable Love that never ends
You’re unrelenting with passion and mercy
Unstoppable Love that never ends

Try to stop Your love and You would wage a war.