The Knights of Knowle
On the 19th of May 2021 we were finally allowed to teach Adults inside venues again. Although we had to stay at an acceptable social distance.
This involved building spreadsheets to organise and invite members, arriving early to venues to set out training grids and teaching more classes to accommodate limited numbers in halls.
Constant change became a familiar challenge during lockdown, so all these factors were manageable.
Back in September 2019 I had returned to teach our Junior Classes at Knowle. I had been away from the club for a year due to work pressures. My colleagues Keith and Amber had done a great job in keeping the club going, but we agreed it needed a reboot and a clearer identity.
Initially I decided to establish a clarity of intent for the club, and I stopped teaching adults at the venue and made it a class for Junior students aged under eighteen. Suddenly classes were easier to plan and although numbers were low, we had started to rebuild.
When lockdown started, we had four active students. All kids and half of them my family! But I was focused on the work ahead and clear on what I wanted to build.
In essence I wanted to create a dojo closer to home in the image of that we have built at Petersfield. I wanted to offer my family an opportunity to train with me closer to home and in doing so compliment my work in East Hants with similar values demonstrated in Fareham.
I felt that if I achieved that I would be happy. It wasn’t about big numbers or anything else. It was just about expanding my work closer to home and providing training opportunities for my family.
As I began to teach on zoom a few of my sons’ friends expressed interest and soon I had a digital ‘Knowle contingent’. I taught them at the same time and on the same day as the club sessions would be and I was confident we would have a reasonable turnout.
When under eighteens were allowed to train in April 2021 we had a full hall of eight students training in two meter squares at distance from each other. We soon formed a nice bond with everyone enjoying the classes.
Suddenly I realised that as I conceived development plans for the students that I would soon have a problem. When the kids reached eighteen, they would potentially have nowhere to go. The obvious solution was that I would need an adult class for them. But I didn’t want to wait! It felt like the right thing to do was to build that as soon as possible.
I am fortunate that I have a loyal and dedicated group of adult students. Some of them I taught when they were kids at Portchester karate club. Consequently, they live in and around Fareham. They are a great bunch and are not daunted by a regular drive up the A3 to train at Petersfield, but I thought they would benefit from a more local venue.
I am also blessed to have Police Officers and Firemen amongst my membership. These people value flexibility to train around shift patterns and work pressures. I just felt it would be well received.
So, this time last year I started a Tuesday evening class for over fifteens and two of my long-standing friends attended. Micky B and Robin trained and I remember being happy and in the moment. It was just like the early days of Petersfield back in 2009.
Over the next few months, the classes stuttered as they established themselves. Word of the class was spreading but people had a great deal of change to manage. One Tuesday in June nobody turned up. So, I filmed an hour’s instructional film for people with additional needs. I had become used to change too so I just went with the flow. This video is hosted by the Dimensions charity and receives regular views on its YouTube page.
I think that if I have one strength in charity it is that my enthusiasm for the art is very genuine. Consequently, I love my work and I think/hope that is infectious.
The joy of this is that like attracts like.
As the club began to grow, I kept bumping into former members or students. One of these was Nick who is a fireman in Fareham. Nick had wanted to train with me some years ago, but he was extremely focused on changing careers and becoming a fireman. I had told him that we would be there when the time was right. As a result, I kept bumping into him every year and we always talked karate.
Initially Nick brought his daughter to the junior class. Soon his own enthusiasm was bubbling again, and he joined our adult class. What I didn’t realise is just how enthusiastic Nick would become or just how many people he would talk about our work in Knowle.
I also didn’t realise just how many relatives he had lol. 😊
The message here is that sometimes you just have to do what you know is right and the right people will find you.
My wife is a veterinary nurse and for many years worked in Stubbington near Fareham. We have some lovely friends from those days and one of my wife’s colleagues started bringing her children. They told their friends and soon I had others from Lee on Solent and even Botley! (Betty you rock!). I have realised that these days people are more willing than ever to travel for the classes they want.
Knowle has grown nicely. Our junior class is almost full and we now regularly have adults training in double figures whose experience range from beginner to forth dan. The classes have a great energy and our current record holder is Rob who is back training after 26 years out of a dojo. He just pips his Sister Jens 22 year break from training.
Last night we went for a meal after the class. Naturally not everyone could make it, but it was a really nice way to recognise how far we have come. What I thought would be a good idea for my family and shift-workers has started to grow into much more.
I am thrilled to have a healthy mix of male and females training who all have a common love of karate and are most importantly decent, fun humans who are great to spend time with.
The other week I was teaching the junior class and I was saying how the gang needed a team name. Much like another of my new groups The Clanfield Massive has established.
One of the parents (Kirsty I think) shouted out ‘what about the Knights of Knowle?’.
Well, I liked the sound of that so we went with it.
Sometimes you just have to follow your gut and do what you feel is right.
See you in the dojo! 😊