Ok, so I consider myself a fully fledged member of the Karate Kid generation. And I am not talking about the most recent bastardisation of the film (sorry, but it should have been called Kung Fu Kid), I am talking about the feel-good 80’s cheese-a-rama film that inspired kids like me to want to do a crane stance and beat the living daylights out of the school bully. Somewhere, deep in my psyche, I still yearn to be able to achieve that status…even though I am now an over-weight 34 year old with no bullies to beat the living daylights out of. Never mind.
So here is my cumulative experience of karate to date: When I was at Northumbria Uni I did 3 months of Wado Ryu under Sensei Ray Coates back in 1998. Then I quit. I didn’t take any gradings. Looking back, I am not sure why I quit. Probably a combination of fresher year at uni (fun vs exercise) or it could have been the fact that the dojo was held in an unheated squash court. The pain in my feet was excruciating. Any hoo, I quit and that was that.
Fast forward to 2011. After yet another debauched Christmas of food, wine and more food I decided enough was enough. Time to get fit.
So me and a friend decided we would look around for a local karate club and because I had done a minuscule amount of Wado Ryu, thought that was the best place to start. We happened upon a Wado Ryu club in Aldershot, got in touch with the Sensei and arranged to go along one wintery night in January.
Getting to the dojo was a challenge in its own right. Being situated in the middle of an army barracks was the first problem. Three gun-wielding check-points later we found the right gate. Follow this with a Heathrow style security check. Marvellous. Now we were late for the session. What made us even more tardy was finding the correct building in the barracks. A helpful soldier said, “go up there, turn right at the brick building, then go straight, then left at another brick building, then it is just around the corner.” The instructions would have been excellent if only for the fact the barracks were covered in brick buildings!
So we had arrived 10 minutes late.
Rule 1: NEVER arrive late for karate
Now I am a great believer in listening to my first impressions – call it what you like but my thin slicing tends to be right in the end. This place was weird. Once in its life the building had obviously been a dedicated sports hall – full size basket ball court with wall mounted baskets. Now, it had turned into the Lady Gaga of sports halls: a gym-come-physio room-come-basketball court-come-admin office. Weird.
So we join the class – the Sensei is nice enough, but the overall feeling we were left with was ‘nice’. In my book, ‘nice’ and karate does not work.
So we quickly knocked that on the head.
We renewed our search, googling here and there…man, there are a lot of Dojos in the Surrey / Hampshire area. We settled on trying a dojo in Frimley (near Camberley). they practice a style of Karate called Goju Ryu (go-joo roo). I had never heard of it before.
Off to a good start – we arrived 10 minutes early. Marvellous – the room was free from extraneous stuff. Then to cap it all off, the Senseis (not sure if that is the plural of Sensei!?) were incredibly welcoming. “just take it easy, go at your own pace” they said reassuringly.
So we joined in – feeling like numpties in our tracky bottoms and t-shirts, about to embark on our first ever Goju Ryu experience.
Next blog: “my first Goju Ryu class”