Tag Archives: This Could Be The Year

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