Martial Arts and Me

Dojo Kun – Morals of the Dojo

In the majority of Karate Dojo’s, there are a set of DOJO KUN (Morals or rules of the Dojo) that are recited at the end of each class. Depending on the style, there can be between four and eight rules. My style has five rules, which were recited at the beginning and end of each class. I have listed them below.

To strive for the perfection of character

To defend the paths of truth

To foster the spirit of effort

To honour the principles of etiquette

To guard against impetuous courage

My Martial Arts career began when I was 5 or 6 years old, when my Uncle Ian took me to a JUDO (Gentle Way) class, that was held in the grounds of Holywell School. I remember that I didn’t take to it at all well and soon left. A few years later, at about the age of 8 or 9, I tried again. The club had moved to Yorke Mead School in Croxley Green, by now, and was run by Sensei George Bonney. My Uncle Ian attended the club and so I tagged along to see what I thought of it. This time I was in my element. I do remember avoiding gradings, as I believed (as I still do now) that they were a waste of time. Soon I was training regularly at our club on Monday evenings, travelling to Acton for training on Friday evenings and, occasionally, to other clubs in the area on other nights of the week. These included, High Wycombe, Northwood and St. Albans to name a few. Eventually I started to lose interest in the entire concept of JUDO, so I left the club. I was about 12 years old.

Me - Judo with Clare

In the summer of 1986, my friend Chris and I were discussing things to do, when Chris suggested that we should try KARATE (Empty Hand). So, we did. A new KARATE class had just opened on St. Albans Road, at the Co-Op Hall, and we were the first two students. The school was run by Sensei Andrew Moss, along with help from Sensei John ‘The Tank’ Sherman and another Sensei named Paul. (I can’t remember his last name.) The style of this KARATE was, YOSHINRENTAN DAIKENTAI JITSU, and our School was called the RONIN DOJO. For the next few weeks Chris and I were the only students, and we received some of the best one-on-one training that I have ever received. Soon, though, Chris got bored with KARATE and decided to leave. I, however, decided to stay. Gradually, more and more students began to join the club. Of all the students, I was the only one with any background in other Martial Arts, and this helped me with the Japanese terminology, use of balance and technique. By now Sensei’s John and Paul had left to start their own clubs, leaving only Sensei Andrew Moss. Not that it mattered, as he was a great Sensei. I found myself reading more and more about the Martial Arts and Sensei Moss even gave some of his books to read. Some of the books that I borrowed from him were so good, that I began to build a collection of my own. Then, during the school holidays, I would meet up with Sensei Moss and we would do some fitness training. This normally meant running around a park a number of times, followed by push-ups and squats, etc.. Sometimes, we would go to the pool and stand in the water up to our necks. We would then drop into a KIBA DACHI (Horse Stance) and throw punches and kicks. This helped to perfect the technique and was invaluable in creating good posture and balance. Then we would grab lunch and maybe watch a video. Sometimes, Sensei Moss would teach me techniques that were way above my grade. It was during one of these sessions that I mentioned that I really wasn’t interested in grading, but was far more interested in the techniques and history. Sensei Moss, seemed to understand this and so I became exempt from gradings. By now I had turned 16 and had left school. I had found a job working at Halfords, and this still allowed me to train every Monday evening and during my free-time. By now, the class was being instructed in the use of weapons. The first weapon that Sensei Moss instructed us in, was the BO (Staff). A six-foot, one-inch thick piece of Red Oak, tapered at the ends. At first I remember being very clumsy with it, but that soon passed and I came to understand that the BO, or any other weapon for that matter, had to be treated as part of me, rather than as a seperate piece. Pretty soon, I was learing to use the BOKKEN (Practice Sword), JO (Short Staff), TONFA (A rice husking tool), SAI (Three-pronged daggers) and, eventually, NUNCHAKU (Rice Flails). Of all the weapons that I learnt, the BO and NUNCHAKU remain my favourites. The club moved a few times, and as we gained a few new students, some of the older ones left. As the spring of 1988 approached I had begun to find it more and more difficult to travel to Abbots Langley with my kit and weapons. So, I spoke to Sensei Andrew Moss, and he understood completely. I promised to stay until June and go with him to Hatch End, to a friends club. This would be my first visit to another KARATE dojo. The day that Sensei Moss had chosen, to visit this other dojo, was Wednesday 25th May, 1988. We met at Watford Junction and got the train to Hatch End, where we were met by Sensei John ‘The Tank’ Sherman. John then drove us to the grounds of a school. We all entered the school, made our way to the changing rooms and then entered the hall. We all bowed as we entered. Sensei Sherman introduced Sensei Moss and myself to the class, and then we started our warm-up. After this we were paired off and began practising attacks and defences. To start with, a few of the students were taking it easy with me, or seemed unsure of me, until I realised that I was the only JU KYU (10th White) in the room. This was purely as I had never taken a grading. Noticing this, I started to put more power into my blocks and punches. Soon we were all separated and were told that next we would be doing some KUMITE (Free Fighting). Again, the other students seemed apprehensive towards me, until their Sensei told them that anyone who didn’t put their best in would be doing push-ups for the rest of the night. I won my first three fights quite easily, even though one was against a ROK KYU (6th Green). Then it got a bit harder. I lost my next two fights. Won the following two, and drew my last fight. I was exhausted, but ecstatic. As the class ended, and we all knelt along the side, I was summoned to the centre. So, I made my way to the centre of the dojo, wondering what was coming next. Then the three Sensei’s stood and faced me. Then the Sensei of the club bowed to me and stepped forward. I did the same. He then congratulated me and awarded me with my SHIK KYU (7th Orange). As he released my hand, he said, “Ichibon. Ichibon.” Then Sensei’s Moss and Sherman bowed and moved forward to shake my hand. We then returned to our kneeling positions. Bowed and made our way to the changing rooms. On our way home, Sensei’s Moss, Sherman and myself stopped off for a drink. While we sat there drinking Coke, I asked Andrew what ‘Ichibon’ meant. He replied that it was Japanese for ‘First Class’ or ‘Number One’. I went to two more classes at Sensei Moss’ club before leaving to find something else to tackle.

Finding nothing that interested me, in my area, I decided to try my hand at JUDO, again. So, I called my Uncle Ian, and was soon back training at Yorke Mead School. By now Ian had achieved his SHO DAN (Black Belt) and was now running the club. Now that I was over the age of 16, my Uncle was insistent that I took gradings. So I did. I attained my GO KYU (5th Yellow) on Sunday 10th July, 1988, at the Acton BJC club, in front of Sensei Brian Caffary. It was at a competition, soon after this, that I met Master Robin Otani (President of the BJC), who honoured me by signing his name on my belt. I was so happy with this, that I had my Mum embroider it, so that it wouldn’t fade or disappear. My training went from once to twice to sometimes four times a week. On Monday 20th February, 1989, I passed my YON KYU (4th Orange) at Yorke Mead School. By now our club was called GENSHIN JUDOKWAI, (‘Genshin’ means ‘intuition’) a name bestowed on us by Master Robin Otani. In the summer of 1989, my Uncle took me to Potters Bar, to try out JU JITSU (Gentle Techniques). The club was held at the Potters Bar Cricket Club and was run by Sensei Mick Player. Within 20 minutes or so, I had found my calling. JU JITSU had everything: It was like all the Japanese Martial Arts rolled into one. In fact, this was how all the Japanese Martial Arts started out, before being separated into the various disciplines we know now. On our way home, my Uncle and I discussed what we had seen that night, and decided to join the following week. So, we had our regular JUDO class on Mondays and from the following week began JU JITSU on a Wednesday. The following year, 1990, was a busy one for me. It began on Monday 12th February with my SAN KYU (3rd Green) in JUDO, followed on Wednesday 14th February with my SHIK KYU (7th White) in JU JITSU. On the Wednesday 7th March, I attained my ROK KYU (6th Yellow) in JU JITSU. Three weeks later by I took my GO KYU (5th Orange) and surpassed all my expectations by attaining my YON KYU (4th Green) the following week, April 4th. By now we had opened our club up on a Thursday evening, for Senior Grades only, and were teaching JU JITSU to our JUDOKA. My Uncle was flying through his grades, too. On the 25th July I took and passed my SAN KYU (3rd Blue). On the same day my Uncle reached his NI KYU (2nd Purple). Then on 7th November, I reached my NI KYU (2nd Purple) and my uncle reached ICHI KYU (1st Brown). It was incredible to think that in 11 months, I had reached Purple and Ian had reached Brown Belt. And, to cap it all off, Ian won the trophy for ‘Best Brown Belt Grading, 1990’ and I won the trophy for ‘Best Purple Belt Grading, 1990’. During this year, Sensei Mick Player had introduced us to various different instructors, including Sensei’s Jim Thorpe, John Steadman, James McDade and Soke Kevin Pell. The following year though, the club changed and the politics of the World Ju Jitsu Federation changed, so Ian and myself, went looking for another club. And we found it, in Stanmore. And it was run by none other than Sensei Jim Thorpe, who had transferred over to the British Ju Jitsu Association. So, we joined and continued our training. Sensei Thorpe seemed pleased that we had both joined as, because of our JUDO background, we knew how to break-fall, whereas many of the other students had no previous experience. This was where my nickname of ‘Rubber Man’ came from. Sensei would use me, or my uncle, for demonstrations, knowing that we would be able to break-fall, get up and be thrown again, without any problems. And, on Wednesday 30th September 1992, I achieved my ICHI KYU (1st Brown), in front of Sensei Thorpe. The club continued, although we moved location several times, until finally it was impossible for me to continue with, as I was now raising my daughter, Alysha. So, I went back to just training in JUDO on Mondays, and practising JU JITSU on Thursdays, at our club. Then, on Monday 16th June 1997, I passed my NI KYU (2nd Blue) in JUDO. Soon after my Uncle was forced to close GENSHIN JUDOKWAI, due to rising costs and a lack of support from parents, who seemed to think that the club was there for baby-sitting their kids on a Monday evening.

Genshin Judokwai ~ Class of 1997

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Links
Below are some links to various Martial Arts websites, including those of some of my instructors. 
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2 responses to “Martial Arts and Me

  1. I was never really into any form of Martial Art, but I was a huge fan of the Karate Kid, and I still remember the DOJO KUN of the Cobra Kai;

    Fear does not exist in this dojo, does it?

    Pain does not exist in this dojo, does it?

    Defeat does not exist in this dojo, does it?

    Goes against everything that Karate stands for.

    Like

  2. I watched Enter the Dragon, when I was young, and that was it for me. Seeing the Karate Kid, also made me try Karate. It’s amazing that certain films and shows can have such an impact on a persons life.

    Like

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