Tag Archives: New Horizons

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