Tag Archives: The Fight

Karate And Me – Part 1 – The Beginnings

KARATE AND ME

PART 1 – THE BEGINNINGS

It can safely be said I was quite a sickly child, whatever went around I caught, my sister on the other hand was never ill, it was always me.  It was tonsillitis that was the bane of my life as a young child, it seemed to come around every couple of months and instead of school, I would be sent to my Nan’s whilst my parents worked.

Eventually it was decided that I would have my tonsils removed.  In the late seventies and early eighties it was, I guess, common practice to just send every chronic suffer to have them removed, nowadays they aren’t so keen.

So on Sunday 21st September 1980, I went in to Newark General Hospital, the day before my operation was scheduled.  There were three other boys having their tonsils out and also a young girl who was having her adenoids removed.  We were all of a similar age and seemed to get on, except the young girl who was rather loud and annoying!

On Monday afternoon we were taken upstairs to theatre and one by one we were all operated on.  I remember waking up and just coughing up blood, all we were allowed to eat for the first few days was ice cream!  On the following Thursday we were discharged and my parents were told I was not allowed out of the house for two weeks, for risk of infection.

Whilst I was house bound, my cousin, who was four years older than me had started karate at the local sports centre.  On the first Sunday that I was able to leave the house, I went to watch him.

At that time in 1980, karate was only just becoming the family activity it is now, beforehand it was just a battleground for grown men, but now more and more clubs were inviting kids to join.  The club in Newark at the time had an age limit of seven years old, at that time I was still only six, just two months before my seventh birthday.

So on Sunday 12th October 1980, I went along to watch my first class.  I remember sitting on the bench at the side, just watching and then standing up and trying to replicate what the kids and their parents were doing.  Then about half way through the class the instructor came over to my Dad and me, he had obviously seen that I was trying to do karate too, he asked my Dad how old I was and when he told him that I was still just six, but only a couple of months from being seven, the instructor paused for a moment, then decided I could join in, he invited me to join the rest of the class and off I went, shoes and socks off and I joined in.

As a child, or being honest here as an adult too, I was very shy.  I didn’t make friends easily and didn’t speak with people I didn’t know.  If I was with my parents and they stopped to speak with someone they knew, I would hide behind them, unless I knew them, but generally I was very shy and quiet.  I was more than happy with my own company.

So karate was a big step out of that bubble for me.  The instructor, Alan, was a hard but fair man, he pushed us, sometimes maybe too hard, but that was because he wanted to get the best out of us and generally only the ones that really tried and he thought had potential.

In those early months, I’m not sure what he saw in me, I tried, I really did, I was a trier, if I was doing it, I was all in, doing the best I can, but the honest truth was that despite all my efforts, I was rubbish, my natural shyness didn’t help either, I guess it stopped me performing at times and also if the instructor raised his voice, I would probably break out into tears, I did many times and generally it wasn’t because he was shouting at me either, I was just that sort of kid that would cry at the drop of a hat, I was shy and I was emotional, I guess I still am, just ask my Connect Group!

After five months for training, it was time to take my first grading, I had never met a Japanese person before, Kawasoe Sensei was quietly spoken, but a very good technician.  I don’t really remember that first class with him, I remember it being a Saturday evening, as was the normal for grading back then, eventually they would move to Sundays, but that would be a year or so later. I think that Sensei would come up from London, take a session and grading in Newark on the Saturday and then travel on Worksop to do the same on Sundays, although I may be mistaken.

I have a vague recollection of taking that grading, but what I do remember is the result and what my instructor told my Dad afterwards.  It was very rare a student ever completely failed a grading, they would have to be clueless to do that and lets be honest, if they were clueless, they shouldn’t be taking the grading in the first place.

I don’t think I was clueless, I just wasn’t very good, my instructor told my Dad that I got the turns wrong in my kata, essentially the first kata is a twenty simple moves and a handful of turns, the turns are the only thing you really have to get right!  In addition to that I didn’t kiai during my grading either.  The kiai is a shout of spirit, it should be done at the end of every set of basics and twice during the kata.  I think I may have kiai’d during the grading, but knowing me and how shy I was, it was more likely that I just mumbled something under my breath, rather than let out the shout of spirit that was required.

As I say, it was pretty rare to see anybody fail at the first grading, it still is, but there is what is called a temporary grade, the student still gets to wear the belt they were grading for, but as they are not quite up to standard, they could just be made up to a full grade the next time, unless they significantly improve.

I got a temporary grade that day, 9th kyu as it was called.  These days we give out a bright orange belt to new 9th Kyus, back then though, there was no such thing, we kept the same shabby, fraying canvas white belt and my Dad wrapped a piece of black electrical tape around each end, that signified 9th Kyu, the next belt should be what is now red, but back then a second tab was added, it was all a bit basic.

I laugh now when I think back to that first grading and my early days of karate, the thing I couldn’t do back then, is what I now have a reputation for, I couldn’t do my kata, as time went on I would become Regional kata champion, eventually National kata champion and represent England in kata on five occasions, but back then I couldn’t do it for toffee.

It does however make a good story for my students these days.  When I can see they are struggling with their kata, learning new ones and not getting the right, I tell this story, of the little shy boy, that couldn’t do his kata, that got that temporary grade like some of them, I wasn’t very good, I wasn’t natural at any of it, I worked hard though and in time it came to me.  The young kids look at me in disbelief, they can’t imagine that I would have been that bad, I tell them I was a lot worse than they are, then watch as they relax and things begin to fall into place.

That early disappointment wasn’t a setback, it was just a start, I was too young and didn’t really understand what it meant for it to be a setback, I got the belt, so everything was fine, it was now on to the next grading.

But there was a setback to come.  Back then I idolised my cousin, we weren’t a very well off family, most of my clothes and all of my bikes at that point had been hand me downs from my cousin, needless to say, he was four years older and generally bigger than I was, I was very small for my age, well below the average height, indeed at 5ft 4½ inches, I am still very short (needless to say the ½ inch is very important), so the clothes I got from him were too big and by the time I grew into them, they were well out of date!

Some weeks after that grading, my cousin decided one Sunday that he wasn’t going, we only trained once a week at that point, but the classes were growing by the week and soon a Tuesday evening would be added, but my cousin said he wasn’t going, so I wasn’t going either.  The same thing happened the next week and then the week after that, it happened for about six weeks, then my cousin said he didn’t want to go anymore, so naturally, as I wanted to do everything he did, I told my Dad I didn’t want to go anymore either, my Dad wasn’t very happy and I didn’t understand why.  I had no idea how much it cost each week, how much the karate suit cost, the license and the grading, I didn’t understand any of that, I had no concept of money, I didn’t get pocket money, I did karate and that was it, so I didn’t understand until years later why he was unhappy that I didn’t keep going.

He hardly spoke to me for the following week, until on the following Saturday, I asked my Dad if he would take me to karate the next day, I remember the light in his face when I asked him.  My Dad worked three jobs most of the time when I was younger, he worked at the local factory during the week, two weeks on days and then two weeks on nights, then the weekends he would work with a friend of his at a Garden Centre in Southwell, the friend he worked with also did karate and around this time had just received his black belt, apart from Alan, the main instructor he was one of two that past that day to become the second black belts from the club.  In addition to those jobs, my Dad would finish work early and then go and work for an hour or so at the D.I.Y. store my Mum worked at in town, he would just help in the mill cutting wood and then would come home with my Mum, so unless I went to the Garden Centre with him on a Saturday, which I did from time to time, I didn’t get to spend that much time with him, he worked so we could have a nice home and nice things.  I had been born into a family that was living in a Council Flat on Grange Road and by now my parents were working hard to buy their first house, it was a council house that we had moved into, but my parents had purchased it and were working to do it up and pay the mortgage, as well as give my sister and myself everything they could afford, so when I said I wanted to go, I realised this was something that he wanted to do for me, to support me in, he knew I liked it, I knew I was a trier and the instructors there had taken to me, whether I was pretty bad at it or not, he wanted me to succeed.

So I went back and started training once again, preparing for that next belt.  By the time I took that next grading, the belt system had changed and the 8th Kyu belt had now changed from the old white belt with two tags to the red belt, although the 9th Kyu belt would remain white with a tag for a while to come.

Back in those days it was popular to just dye belts, I guess it was expensive then to buy belts, karate wasn’t as popular a pass time as it is now, so belts weren’t available everywhere like nowadays, so my Mum decided to dye one of the white belts I had, I had two now, because I had inherited my cousin’s after he quit, she purchased the red dye, followed the instructions the evening after my grading.  I still had only a temporary 8th Kyu, I was good enough to complete my 9th Kyu belt that was a temporary grade from before, but still wasn’t quite good enough to get a full red belt, so it was temporary again.  The only problem was that she dyed it that Saturday evening after the grading, but it came out pink and she had used all the dye, the Sunday was normal training at the club and well, I went with my pink belt.  There wasn’t many people at the class and with it being July, the class was held on the playing fields behind the sports centre.  My Dad took his camera that day and somewhere there are pictures of me in pink belt, beating up Fraser, one of the adult brown belts who would help out at the kids classes on a Sunday afternoon.  Needless to say the next day my Mum purchased some more dye and re-dyed it, it came out a dark crimson red, that was fine for me.  After that grading I never wore a dyed belt anymore, it was a purchased belt all the way.

THE FIGHT by THE ROCKET SUMMER
It’s silent tonight
I’m trying to wrap my head around
If everything will be alright
And how you didn’t have to do it now

And I don’t
know how
you managed to sleep with
knowing that you abandoned me at the worst time
but I will

Fight the fight and
keep defying
I’d give up, but I keep trying
To fight the fight,
it’s in my wiring
this is how you made me
To fight the fight
and keep on fightin’
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me

Faith, welcome back
it’s been awhile since we hung out
have you come to get me back on track?
you know they didn’t have to do this now

But I don’t have no
Time to waste for me now
About how they abandoned me at the worst time

So I will
Fight the fight and
Keep defying
I’d give up, but I keep trying
To fight the fight,
It’s in my wiring
this is how you made me
To fight the fight
And keep on fightin’
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me

What would I do now
if you weren’t here to pull me out?
What would I do now
If I didn’t have my friends?
What would I do now
If you weren’t here

And as the trouble chases me
Bring me guidance
Be with me to

Fight the fight and
Keep defying
I’d give up,
but I keep trying
To fight the fight
It’s in my wiring
This is how you made me
To fight the fight
And keep on fightin’
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me

I’d give up, but I’d be lying
So fight the fight and keep defying
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me
 

Jogging Bumblebees And All That!!!

Sometimes you think things can’t get much weirder, this morning as I neared the entrance to my work I was passed by a young woman jogging, dressed as a bumblebee, not the sort of thing you see every morning in Newark, I mean, we have some weirdos but a jogging bumblebee!  I can only assume there was some sort of fun run organised for Sport Relief, otherwise, I really don’t know!

Friday afternoons I teach a couple of karate classes for the Sport Centre, the first class is for four to six year olds, which can be interesting at the best of times, today was one of those days.  We have recently managed recruited a young boy, who has a zero attention span, you need to pairs of eyes on him all the time, which means either me or my fellow instructor spend most of the lesson trying to keep him in check.

Today that seemed almost impossible, the class bordered on chaos, we managed to keep it together, but we were well relieved when it ended.  It’s saying something when the kid that usually causes us the most problems, is getting annoyed at this other kid for not doing anything remotely like what we were asking him to do!

The only problem is that when that class finishes we have the next group straight away, one group leaves and the other starts, not even a minute to regroup!  The second class wasn’t as bad, they are older and far more interested in learning, but it still has it’s moments!

Oh well, we’ve got a week to recover and then the madness starts again!

THE FIGHT by THE ROCKET SUMMER
It’s silent tonight
I’m trying to wrap my head around
If everything will be alright
And how you didn’t have to do it now

And I don’t
know how
you managed to sleep with
knowing that you abandoned me at the worst time
but I will

Fight the fight and
keep defying
I’d give up, but I keep trying
To fight the fight, 
it’s in my wiring
this is how you made me
To fight the fight
and keep on fightin’
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me

Faith, welcome back
it’s been awhile since we hung out
have you come to get me back on track?
you know they didn’t have to do this now

But I don’t have no
Time to waste for me now
About how they abandoned me at the worst time

So I will
Fight the fight and
Keep defying
I’d give up, but I keep trying
To fight the fight,
It’s in my wiring
this is how you made me
To fight the fight
And keep on fightin’
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me

What would I do now
if you weren’t here to pull me out?
What would I do now
If I didn’t have my friends?
What would I do now
If you weren’t here

And as the trouble chases me
Bring me guidance
Be with me to 

Fight the fight and 
Keep defying
I’d give up, 
but I keep trying
To fight the fight
It’s in my wiring
This is how you made me
To fight the fight
And keep on fightin’
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me

I’d give up, but I’d be lying
So fight the fight and keep defying
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me
I’d give up, but I’d be lying to me