When I was in secondary school around 13/14 years old I had had a session of Judo at the local YMCA during the summer. It was ok but I didn’t fancy it at all. I found out one of the other kids had his green belt in karate and maybe it was the Bruce Lee thing or maybe it was the show Kung Fu but I wanted to try it and often wished I was a green belt thinking it would mean I’d be pretty good. Having successfully avoided joining a Taekwando club in Germany when I was stationed there in the late 70’s I ended up at RAF Coltishall and luckily there was a club there with the students being taught by a 1st kyu called Derek Frame (the grade below black belt). I got my licence but around 18months later Derek was posted. He’d failed his black belt exam twice at Crystal Palace with the KUGB due to excessive contact, (karate speak for either he gave someone a black eye, bloody or broken nose) I on the other hand still remained a white belt as grading examinations were not something I was offered.
That green belt ever more elusive, my journey took me far and wide until in 1991 I ended up in Portsmouth. I managed to find a club run by Mick Dewey (4th dan) and his sidekick Stacey Crowe (2nd dan). I watched one class on a Tuesday and joined the next class, Thursday. Six months later I took my first grading and “double graded” to red belt on the 5 March. I finally got my green belt on my third grading exam on November 11th 1992. This past week I have been busy. I taught at the Gibraltar Shotokan dojo as usual on Tuesday, Wednesday I went to my old club now at a different location and taught there for a change. On Thursday night I was in the line up being blasted at Portsmouth Honbu (HQ) dojo by Sensei Dewey an 8th dan these days. Stacey Crowe now 6th dan was still there too. On Friday I went to the Lovedean Karate club opened and run by Sensei Brian Smith 7th dan, No2 in the SEKU hierarchy. Both lessons were very different but great fun I was getting tired though. Thankfully Saturday was a day off.
Sunday was the September SEKU Instructors Class. This class is a tester but as always with karate you get out what you put in. It ran for about 3 and a half hours though with Sensei Brian Smith taking the first 90 minutes covering “kihon ippon” paying special attention to the methodology and set up so that student beginners and more experienced up to green/purple belt understand what we are looking for as examiners. Of course this simple class is always made harder with senior dan grade technicians going at it hell for leather but there were plenty of smiles too. I took the next period taking the class through all three of the “Tekki katas” ambitious but fun, I hope. The final period was taken by Sensei Dewey, consisting of Ju-ippon kumite and it’s usual difficulties. Like the first period this too was emphasised for the instructors on the teaching going forward particularly standardisation of technique but also with an element of “choice of defence” when it comes to dan grade students particularly. Throughout the 3 and a half hours including the rest periods for the students I was undergoing another grading exam. I was thoroughly knackered at the end and very nervous. After the class I was called out by Sensei Dewey and offered congratulations on attaining 4th dan.
After all my dreams I spent just 3 months as a green belt in fact I’d spent more time as a white belt, which probably did me some good. Thanks you to Sensei’s Dewey, Smith and Lewis who sat in judgment of me on Sunday I appreciate everything each of you have given me. I’d also like to thank Sensei Crowe because that first day I watched a class as Sensei Dewey was away. Without seeing the style, skill and level of effort on that first day I may well have ended up sticking to darts, although getting 180 is far easier than a karate exam in any colour.