I started training at Portchester Karate Club when I was six years old, over twenty years ago. As a shy kid who did not really fit in with the rowdy football crowd that most young lads did at that age, so karate became my focus, source of enjoyment and confidence.
I trained two to three times a week until I was fifteen, when GCSEs and girls took over my life. Then during sixth form when I was seventeen, my cousin Sensei Powell asked me to come and sempai for him at his new dojo that he was setting up.
I used to jog over a mile from college to the train station to catch a train that only just got me home in time for Matt to come and pick me up as I paced it down the road and rolled into the legendary black Mercedes Vito. Then we would head out on a karate-crawl of tiny schools and village halls around Petersfield.
We did this twice a week, teaching groups of children in schools then topping off the evening with kids and adult classes at the dojo, and again on the weekend! It was a bit of a culture-shock when I went off to Uni and could only train during the holidays.
I was chuffed to be back in a Gi when my degree was over, even if my karate was a little rusty!
Around about the same time, I was out at a nightclub in Southampton with my mates from school. We’d all just finished university and were out celebrating as a group – boys and girls. The night had ended on a high note, and we saw that the girls were safely into a taxi, but then my karate senses were tingling.
Three guys came out of the shadows as the taxi pulled away and were clearly looking for trouble. They were giving all the usual ‘chat’ trying to provoke a reaction, which in my experience, means they want to provoke you to make the first move.
The ‘chat’ died down after a while and it clearly wasn’t going to come to anything, until one of the guys spat into my friend’s face. The ultimate insult. My friend saw red and punched the guy, which made it all kick off at that point.
I was now a sho-dan black belt so you’d think that I’d have a more suitable response than a mawashi, when one of the guys tried to sweep me aside; dismissing me as a threat in the process purely because I’m short and skinny.
You would be wrong about the mawashi geri, because that’s what my body decided to do – plant one, toes up into this guys’ solar plexus. Suddenly this big lad who was not scared of me, falls to the floor, so I held him down until the club ‘security’ came.
Never under, or overestimate someone’s ability because of their size!
The main thing I take from this experience of using karate for self-defence, is that when it happens, you won’t always know it’s happening. In the moment, the karate takes over and your body does what it wants to do. You don’t think, you just do. It’s scary.
I think it’s also worth mentioning that if like me you find yourself on a bit of a karate break; whether that’s because of work, school or just life in general, the mental side of karate will still be there.
The discipline, drive, and ability to deal with pressure will help you through difficult situations in life, like interviews, exams, or even a rough day at work. No matter what belt you are or how long you’ve trained, your old friend karate will be there to guide you through those challenging times.
Lloyd Brown August 2020