Sunday 13th May Dan Grading Results and Write Up

We hosted a Special Course and Dan Grading with Alan Campbell Sensei 7th Dan Head of JKS England on Sunday 13th May at the Taekwondo Centre in Manchester. It was a fantastic day with a great turn out despite the wonderful weather outside and our JKS England Squad members attending their National Kata Squad Training.

Huge thanks to everyone who gave up their afternoon and trained at this event. Without your support, we wouldn’t be able to host such enjoyable days. Thanks also to Alan Campbell Sensei and Wendy Preston Sensei for making the journey from Nottingham and coming to teach our course and organising/conducting the grading.

Alan Campbell Sensei and Paul Wolstencroft Sensei each taught two sessions. Both were thoroughly enjoyable and very hard work. The Dan grades focused on Kata Kanku-Dai followed by kumite drills with Paul Sensei and then Alan Sensei took over and beasted us with several conditioning exercises (including a very challenging burpee drill). He finished off with some further kumite drills to improve speed and reactions.

It was lovely to see a few familiar faces from other JKS England Clubs including Paul Allison Sensei. Keiko and Phill Sigley, Kevin Christopher Sensei from JKS Leyland and our visitor from JKS York. We hope you enjoyed the courses and felt welcomed.

There were lots of nervous faces who would be shortly attempting their Shodan or Nidan. Due to the large amount of students who attempted grading we had to split into two grading panels.

The Kihon Section was assessed by Paul Allison Sensei 5th Dan (JKS Preston) and Mike Beckwith Sensei 4th Dan (Red Tiger).

The Kata and Kumite sections were assessed by Alan Campbell Sensei and Paul Wolstencroft Sensei.

Thirty students were brave enough to put themselves forward for their Shodan or Nidan and it was a very tense couple of hours. They all tried their very best to battle their nerves and impress the Instructors. If you have never attempted a Dan Grading, you cannot begin to understand how much pressure you are under and how quickly it can all unravel if there is a tiny lapse in concentration.

Twenty one were successful including Keiko Sigley who attempted her Nidan from JKS Preston. She was fantastic, huge congratulations.

Nine students have unfortunately been asked to either retake the grading or just one section.

Every student who was brave enough to attempt this grading has been working hard for the last couple of months in their classes to give themselves the best possible chance of success. But there is so much more to the journey than the last few weeks of preparation. Each and every person who attempted their grading on Sunday, earned the right to be there. They earned their place in the line up through many years of hard training, sweat, tears and grueling Kyu gradings.

They have all experienced the magnificent highs and the agonising lows of training in karate and are still here, unlike the majority of the people who started the journey beside them. They never got off the train.

They have continued to battle hard and reach their goals and attempt their Shodan.

They are not quitters.

They are the winners and that is why they were there.

You have already shown true spirit, determination and strength of character to get this far and we were proud to give you the opportunity to try and grade.

Getting a Black Belt should never be the end of the journey anyway. It is just the beginning. Being awarded your Black Belt doesn’t make you any better than anyone else, it simply means that you have worked hard within your own capabilities and are meeting your own potential.

It is personal to you and doesn’t change your karate at all. You’ll be exactly the same the next time you bow into the dojo. You’ll have to sweat, work hard and endeavor to improve just like everyone else.

It is important that those who were unsuccessful this time around that you fully understand what I have said above and take the following to heart;

  • You are still very good at karate.
  • You have not let anybody down.
  • You should not feel embarrassed. You weren’t the first, won’t be the last and you weren’t the only one.
  • You did well, you just might be capable of a little bit more.
  • Your Instructor and your family are still proud of you.
  • Good days and bad days can happen to anyone. No matter how amazing your karate is or how much you train. I am a professional Instructor and I failed. But it gave me a reality check and made me work harder at improving my karate so I’m glad that it happened.
  • Follow the example that was set by Emma Ginn Sensei, who we all saw successfully grade to her Nidan at the THIRD attempt. That takes real courage and should serve as an inspiration to everyone.

The best thing about our Club is that we experience these things as one big family. We pull together and look after one another no matter what. We may all train in different classes and have different Instructors, but the wonderful support network and genuine care for one another is felt right across the Club. It is isn’t just the students and Sensei’s who look out for one another, its the parents and supporters who experience it all right alongside us. They matter more than they will ever know.

Talk to your Instructor or your fellow students – ask for help. So many people are rooting for you and want to see you succeed. Everyone is behind you, willing you to keep on going and finish what you have started.

The hurt and upset will last only a few days, maybe weeks, then it will pass. But when you get your next opportunity to prove yourself and you’ve worked on what you’ve been asked to, that Shodan or Nidan lasts a lifetime. Reaching your Black Belt is a marathon not a sprint, do not give up in the last 100 metres. I’ve never met a person who has given up at 1st Kyu who hasn’t regretted it.

I cannot wait to write some special words about those who didn’t quite make it this time around. So please do not disappoint me! Keep it going.

The following students and Instructors were successful and should be extremely proud of becoming a JKS Shodan or a JKS Nidan. You belong to a prestigious organisation and are in very good company. To be awarded your Black Belt by this panel of experts is a special honour indeed.

Below are the names of those successful and some words about why they are special and how well they did on the day.

Remember – Shodan is the first level. You may have made it to the top of the mountain, but the journey never ends. Karate is a lifetime study and you will always have lots to learn and plenty of room for improvement. Imagine if those before you had given up at Black Belt, we’d have no Club!


Our new Shodans: 

Ethan Kirk – Wonderful performance from this very young, very exciting student. He has successfully followed in the footsteps of his big brother and was every bit as impressive. Ethan has so much focus, discipline and dedication. It has been a pleasure to watch him flourish over the years under the excellent tuition of Mike Baron Sensei. We are delighted to see all of his hard work paying off, his performance was absolutely superb. Ethan has so much talent and enthusiasm and we know that he is capable of even more if continues to train with his fantastic attitude. His Katas were outstanding and he was really strong and brave in the kumite section. His kumite really has improved a lot and we can tell he has been working hard on this. Ethan always gives it 100% effort and has overcome crippling confidence issues on more than a few occasions. We are so proud of you Ethan, well done.

Lola Fellone –  Well this has been a very long time coming. Six years of hard work and patience has finally paid of for this exceptionally talented young lady. She is so dedicated, training four times a week – every week and always puts the effort in. What a beautiful and well mannered young lady too – such a credit to her parents. Lola is the kind of student everyone wants to teach, she listens to your advice and corrects what you ask her to, there and then. She’s not afraid to push herself, joining our squad, medalling at comps and really working hard to fulfill her massive potential. She was just brilliant on the grading day, She blasted through the kihon with strength, focus and power. Her Katas were very sharp and well rehearsed and the strongest part her karate is without doubt, her kumite. She put together some fantastic combinations and landed her shots with accuracy and control. Keep it up. I’m sure there is lots more to come from you yet. This girl and her brother Kairo without a doubt are Student of the Year/ England Squad material.

John Riley – We expected to see great things from John as his standard has been consistently excellent from the day set foot in the dojo. This exceptionally talented young man must be a dream to teach and has gone from strength to strength over the years. He certainly didn’t disappoint us at his grading, he was one of the stand outs. His Kata’s were absolutely beautifully presented. So focused, super-sharp and he gave it 100% as he always does. We are so pleased that he got his Black Belt and will be a fantastic role model to all others in his class. John has no idea how talented he is and this is one of my favourite things about him. So amazing at karate, but so humble and willing to always work hard. What a superstar, he certainly has Student of the Year/ England Squad potential and we are excited to see what lies ahead for him. Well done young man.

Kairo Fellone – Kairo Fellone without doubt, is one of the best young fighters we have ever produced. He is strong, powerful and highly skilled when it comes to kumite and you’d have to go a very long way to find someone his age who would match up to him. He has everything, fast hands, excellent movement, exceptional kicking ability, foot sweeps/takedowns and he can take a dig. His timing is superb and he understands distance. He is such a natural at kumite but still works really hard to better himself. However, it has been a long and challenging road to his black belt because unfortunately for Kairo, getting a Black Belt isn’t just about being able to fight brilliantly. You have to be strong in all areas in order to pass the grading. We have had to work really hard on his kihon and katas to get them up to scratch and his perfomance on the day was very impressive. It just shows us that he can do anything he puts his mind to. We know there is so much more to come from Kairo and he can only grow in confidence from earning his Black Belt. The future is very bright for him and I expect that he continues to work hard in all areas of his karate to fulfill his phenomenal potential.

Joe Finney – Joe Finney is another exceptionally talented Karateka. It may sound like I’m exaggerating, but the quality of the young kids in our Club really is so special and unique and Joe is up there with the very best of the them. His karate looks almost effortless and he really does make it look so easy. This is one of the things many that makes Joe stand out from the rest. Of course anyone who does karate knows how hard it is and we know how much physical effort that actually goes into everything we do. He’s always been very good, but since he got his 1st Kyu, his focus and effort has gone to the next level, we couldn’t have asked for more. His performance at grading was absolutely superb. He was equally impressive in all areas and this is a very hard thing to do. His Kata’s were exceptional, his kihon was brilliant and despite having a very talented and (slightly) intimidating opponent, he was very brave and held his own in the kumite. It was great to see him manage to land a few good shots of his own. An exceptional grading from an exceptional student. You have followed in the footsteps of your Mum Sensei Helen brilliantly and set a great example to your little brothers. We are excited to see what the future holds for Joe, there’s no doubt, his talent could take him right to the top! Well done.

John O’ Donovan – What a tough grading day to say the least, but if there wasn’t some sort of injury involved, it wouldn’t have been John Sensei! We wouldn’t expect anything less than his usual 150% commitment and effort! He absolutely throws himself into everything he does, he is a really strong karateka and super enthusiastic. He has been troubled by a nagging injury over the last few weeks, but nothing was going to get in between John Sensei and his Black Belt. Since the day he started, John Sensei has been very consistent with his training, stayed really focused and is always looking for ways to improve. He trains so hard at every single lesson and takes advantage of every opportunity to do extra. He takes his karate seriously and it was great to see this hard work and dedication paying off, his katas and combinations were really solid. He had to spar not once, but twice at the grading and both rounds were intense to say the least. He gave it everything he had and showed that he is a very tough karateka indeed. Excellent performance John Sensei and I hope once the bruises have gone, you can look back on the grading and say you really earned that belt. (I bet you even enjoyed it all a little bit!). You also set a great example to your girls and I know that they will show that O’ Donovan spirit at their next gradings!

Ron Matthews – Ron is such a great character to have in the Club. He is such an inspirational athlete and really puts the younger students to shame when he pumps out those one arm press ups and can squat for days! He is so encouraging to others and always trains really hard. Even the parents join in with the Ron hand clap! We like to joke, but nobody can deny that Ron is a very good student who is always 100% focussed and takes his karate very seriously. He has worked hard on his combinations and katas to improve them and eliminate errors or freestyling! But you just know we were all waiting to see just what he was going to do in the kumite section. After all he is on the JKS England Squad for a reason. His movement is exceptional, it is so hard to get anywhere near him. His reactions are lightning quick and his attacks are always on target. His control is actually pretty good (luckily for the rest of us) and his sparring is improving all the time. Congratulations Ron, you fully deserve your Black Belt after years and years of hard work and keep up the great work.

Adam Bennett – Awwww we love Adam Bennett. He works so hard each and every time he trains. You won’t find many youngsters who put more physical effort into their training than Adam. We can be doing the simplest of exercises and he is always there giving you 100%. He is a pleasure to teach and attends absolutely everything to make sure he is always learning and making good progress. You won’t find Adam taking any shortcuts, he listens and tries to correct what you ask him to and we couldn’t ask for more than that. His parents are super supportive and make sure that he fulfills his potential. He was so up for his grading and was fully prepared for anything. His combinations were really strong and he showed great spirit. His Katas were well practised and tidy and he almost tries too hard. He is that busy putting so much behind every technique it can send him off balance! His kumite was really strong and he made good use of combinations. Give me a class full of Adams any day and I’d be very happy indeed! Well done and keep up the fantastic work.

Courteney Alty – What a great performance at the grading by Courteney. She has been training with us for many years and has trained under a large number of Instructors. She is very dedicated and trains several times a week. Courteney is very active, talented and is fit as a fiddle. She was so up for this grading but looked very nervous beforehand. There was no need to be nervous because as soon as her group was called up,  she was ON IT! So focused, so determined and so ready to take full advantage of her opportunity and get her Black Belt. Her combinations were well practised and her stances were excellent. She would have been able to do every Kata one after the other if she’d have been asked to. Her Katas were really sharp. She put in a very brave performance in her kumite and was throwing everything she could think of at her opponent. She is one tough cookie that is for sure and certainly isn’t to be messed with. Congratulations on your Black Belt Courteney, your hard work and perseverance has been rewarded at last.

Juliette Stevinson – Another one of our brilliant young superstars. Juliette is a very dedicated student training 3 times a week every week. She is a brilliant cadet leader and a fantastic role model for all our juniors. Since grading to 1st Kyu Juliette and her Mum Therese have  stepped up their training and have been 100% focused. Juliette is has a natural gift for karate and lucky for us she doesn’t waste it. She trains hard, she listens and corrects whatever you ask her to. She is clearly very intelligent and remembers everything, so you don’t have to tell her the same things over and over again. There is a quality to her karate that you just can’t teach. She is a pleasure to teach and  was a pleasure to watch on the grading day. I’m sure inside she was nervous, but on the outside she looked calm, confident and in control. There was literally nothing going to stop her from getting her Black Belt and she did it in style, scoring highly in every area. Juliette was just outstanding and there is still so much more to come. She may look up to our more experienced superstar girls such as Lori-Ann, Leah, Molly, Abby, Grace, Georgie and Amelia, but Juliette has the talent to be right up there alongside them, she is that good. Now she has her Black Belt, she might start believing it herself. Student of the Year candidate – no doubt.

Therese Stevinson – I still remember the first time I saw Therese and Juliette train, they were both pretty nervous and cripplingly shy but you could tell straight away that they had something about them that could take them all the way to Black Belt. I think it is the attention to detail, natural athletic ability and the desire to become more confident and achieve something together. I certainly think we helped you to become more confident because the change in you over the years has been enormous. Therese has worked so hard and trained very consistently. She isn’t afraid to ask questions and these are the things that have helped her to become so good. Her concentration and focus is second to none and she is a pleasure to teach because she clearly goes away and practises. Therese performed really well on the grading day and wasn’t going to let anything hold her back. Her Kata’s were excellent and she was brave and moved really well in the kumite. She put together some good techniques and I was left wondering what she had been worrying about! Well done Therese, a Shodan hard earned and fully deserved.

Clarke Thompson – There is something very likable indeed about this quiet and well mannered young man. Clarke has always had class karate. He set the bar high from the start. At every grading and every event, we always expect to be impressed and he never disappoints us. I think it is his work rate. He almost tries too hard (if that is even possible). Everything he does, he is fully committing, you’ll never see him being lazy or trying to slack off. He is a pleasure to teach and been a very loyal and dedicated student of Sensei Lorraine’s over the past 7 years. It might have taken him longer than others to get there, but his performance on the day was great. He really seized the opportunity with both hands and made it impossible for the examiners to say no. You fully deserve your Black Belt after all these years and we are really proud of you. Well done.

Hannah Ormiston –  What a brave a courageous young girl Hannah is. She brushed off the crushing disappointment of having to retake her kata section and has worked harder than ever alongside Sensei Lorraine to relax and improve. Hannah travelled to Nottingham last time and successfully completed the kihon and kumite parts of her grading. As disappointing as it is not to pass, sometimes the examiners just see that you are young and talented and expect that little bit more of you. Hannah certainly proved this at her second opportunity, in familiar surroundings alongside her Clubmates. She has remained so determined to succeed this time around and make her family and Instructor extremely proud of her. Hannah’s Katas were very much improved. They flowed nicely, were well timed and she put in a lot more physical effort. Her stances were really good and the presentation of her katas had improved immensely. Hannah should be an inspiration to the rest of us, because who else would still be here after training for 9 years and putting that much effort in? Just shows how much it means to her. Hannah’s commitment and dedication can never be questioned and she thoroughly deserves this. Well done missus and keep up the great work!


Our new Nidans

Catherine Johnson – Catherine Sensei has made immeasurable improvement between Shodan and Nidan. She is one of our most dedicated Instructors training three times a week, every week on top of teaching her own class. She is so committed and always works really hard at every class. Always hungry to learn and improve and she has no ego whatsoever. Catherine Sensei is always humble and willing to listen to the advice of others to help her get better. She has always lacked confidence in the past, but more recently after working closely with Paul Sensei, she is training with much more self belief and has improved so much. Her performance on the grading day was excellent and we are proud to have her as one of our Instructors. Having started karate in adulthood, it can be hard to perform to the standard you’d like especially when you are the proud mother of a karate prodigy! However, karate is your own personal journey where you must try to fulfill your own potential and Catherine certainly does this. It is also great to have another female in the upper ranks of the Club. I hope you can relax more, know that you did great and are an inspiration to all. Well done.

Emma Ginn – What an amazing lady. It is hard to put into words how proud we are of Emma Sensei and what courage it must have taken to get up their on that mat on Sunday. Emma Sensei has been struggling with a serious knee injury for over twelve months now which has hampered her grading preparation more than once, resulting in her having to retake the kumite section of the grading for a third time. What a difference we saw this time around. She was much more calm, confident and was a woman with a plan! She had a point to prove and boy did she do it. She has clearly worked on her movement, accuracy, speed, fitness and setting up techniques. There were no wasted attacks and she was quick to counter when given an opportunity. I think she even surprised herself with how well she performed. I don’t think I can recall a time in over 20 years of doing karate, when I have ever seen anyone look more relieved to have finished a round of kumite. There was a collective sigh of relief because I think everyone in the room was rooting for her and willing her to do well. What a superb performance from such a lovely, kind and inspirational lady! We do love a good inspirational story with a very happy happy ending. Emma Sensei is a now the proud holder of a 2nd Dan and we couldn’t be happier.

Daryl Brady – Daryl has been training with our Club for many years alongside his Missus Emma Sensei. Since the day they joined they have been training consistently and doing every event or course to better themselves. They are both so dedicated and it was so nice that we could give them this opportunity to grade together and push one another in the run up. Daryls performance at grading was really good. He is very strong and powerful which can be a help or a hindrance depending on what you are doing. He definitely had to work hard on his combinations to make them tidy and his Katas were well presented and flowed nicely. He has progressed so much between 1st Dan and 2nd Dan and has finally learned to relax! Daryl and Dean Sensei had a right good ding dong in the kumite, but both came away unharmed and smiling. It’s a good job they have control and we were all very entertained! Congratulations Daryl on your Nidan, we are really happy for you! Keep up the great work!

Dean Knox – Dean Sensei has been a very loyal and dedicated member of our Club for over 7 years. He has always been really impressive at all of his gradings and usually has son Joshua right by his side. This time, he had to go it alone and I think it may have helped him focus a little more. Dean is another great example of what can be achieved when you are working within your own limits and refuse to let anything hold you back. His performance at grading was excellent and he thoroughly enjoyed his kumite round with Daryl. I think he surprised himself with some of the techniques he managed to land. Dean Sensei’s Katas were well practised and he looked confident and sharp. Dean Sensei perhaps hadn’t had the period of preparation that he would have hoped for, but his consistent training, effort and hard work over the last couple of years has led some major improvement and he deserved his grade 100%. We are so pleased for Dean Sensei and delighted to have him as one of our NIdans.

Matthew Affleck – What a talent. What a performance! A truly wonderful young man, who is an absolute credit to his parents. We are very lucky and privileged to train Matthew at our Club. He has everything. Physically, he has become an excellent all-round athlete but what I like the most about him is that he has the attitude to match. He excels in all areas but is never satisfied with where he is up to. He works tirelessly and pays attention to detail as he knows this is how you go from being very good, to being exceptional. Matthew is on the JKS England Kata Squad and performed his grading katas to a superb standard. I think everyone who saw his choice Kata on the day would have been impressed and could appreciate the endless hours of effort and sweat that had gone into it. Paul Sensei is often hard on Matthew because he knows how talented he is and I’m sure he wouldn’t have it any other way. We are so proud of Matthews standard and that he represents our Club on the national and international stage. He thoroughly deserves his Nidan and we are certain that if he stays focused that there is so much more to come from him. He has achieved so much already at just 13 years old, including Student of the Year, representing JKS England at the European Championships in Belgium and now he’s got his 2nd Dan. His parents must be so proud and so are we. Well done to our little superstar.

Georgie Dyal – What an enormous difference between this grading and her last. Since successfully grading to 1st Dan a couple of years ago, Georgie has been more motivated than ever. We all knew she had the talent and ability, but now she is performing to her full potential. She’s joined our Squad, medalling in kumite at several tournaments and trains like she was just born to do karate. She has worked her way onto the JKS England Kumite squad, turning in good performances and is picking up some valuable experience along the way. Her performance at the grading was outstanding and she scored well in all areas. Georgie is a pleasure to teach, polite, hard working and always looking for ways to improve. She is fully supportive of all her friends at karate is a fantastic role model to all of our younger girls. Georgie doesn’t waste her talent and I’m sure she will continue to keep trying her best and making improvement. Don’t be fooled by the gorgeous face and the sweet smile, Georgie is super-strong and could put a whooping onto just about anyone if she ever needed to! She’s had a fantastic year and will no doubt be one to consider for Student of the Year if she keeps up the brilliant work.

Emily Withington – We love a good triumphant return at Red Tiger! Huge congratulations to Emily Withington whom I’m sure we’ll all remember from recent years. A former student of the year, dominant competitor and former JKS England member, Emily’s karate has always been of an exceptionally high standard. Emily really was in a league of her own with a quality of karate that just can’t be taught. Fast forward a couple of years, with school work and a crisis in confidence out of the way, we are delighted to see Emily is back and as awesome as ever. She has been working closely with Paul Sensei to prepare herself for this grading and her hard work certainly paid off. Her grading performance was brilliant and I particularly enjoyed watching her Katas, she was back on top form and enjoying her karate again. That is what it is all about. Emily is proof that in some cases it is possible to take a break and return having lost none of her class whatsoever. Karate of this quality is permanent and I would hope that she can take great confidence from what she has achieved and feels that she proved to herself and everyone else that she still has karate from the TOP DRAWER! Well done to Mum Teresa Sensei too for the patient and gentle encouragement that she has given Emily, it must have meant the World to Emily to know that you so strongly believe in her. And Emily, you now know, that your Mum is always RIGHT lol! Well done to you both.

See our new Black Belts and 2nd Dans of the Black Belt Roll of Honour by clicking the link below:

Black Belt Roll of Honour

We should close by saying a huge thank you to the parents, friends, husbands and wives. You will never know just how important your role has been in accomplishing these grades and the part you play in the karate journey as a whole. We have so many parents who travel for miles and miles to get their children the best training possible and give them the greatest chance of success. You not only support them physically by taking them to class, you also enable them financially, often sacrificing your own needs to allow your loved ones to achieve these grades. It is can be so costly especially if there are two in the same family. Most important of all is the emotional support, by making sure that they continue to push themselves and don’t quit when the going gets tough. None of this would be possible without you guys and I mean it sincerely when I say thank you all.

As good as it feels today have achieved your grade, the learning never stops. To remain good at karate you must continue to train and remain thirsty for knowledge. You must carry on trying to be the best you can be. Many of you have high ability and are capable of even more. There’s always things going on to keep you motivated, you just need to find what works for you.

Always seek ways in which you can challenge yourself, set lots of little achievable goals for or follow your ambitions. If you compete, throw your energy into that, set your sights on the Olympics! It is all possible through JKS England.  If you prefer the traditional route, train on more courses, become an Instructor or a Cadet, perhaps visit the HQ in Japan. The opportunities are there for us all to take advantage of in the JKS.

Do not become just another name on our Roll of Honour who used to be brilliant at karate but let other things get in the way and you can’t be bothered anymore. You’ll find a way or find an excuse.

Karate is like boiling water, turn it off and it’ll go cold. In other words, stop training and you’ll be amazed how quickly you lose your fitness, flexibility, speed, timing, power and you’ll become just another person who used to be good at karate. Ask Emily just how hard it is to get back to being ‘karate-fit’. There really is nothing like it! She has had to work her butt off for months and months!

Honour your gift, continue to enjoy your karate and above all – inspire others to follow in your footsteps.

What remains to say is the day was such a happy one, and a grading that I’m sure you will remember forever. We can all be very proud to have shared it together! Well done and thank you all for being a part of it.

Lastly, If you would like to order a JKS Hirota Embroidered Belt from Japan you can collect an order form in class. The order will be submitted on Monday 28th May, so you’ll have to let us know by then.