A Black Belt Grading was held on Sunday 9th May for our under 18’s that have been continuously training.
We were well prepared for this event with very limited numbers and all students taking COVID tests night before.
We couldn’t have asked for group of co-operative students and parents, thank you all for making this happen.
Before I report the results, I just want to mention that each and every student who was invited to grade was there because their Sensei had watched them work tirelessly over the past 12 -24 months towards reaching this goal. Their dedication and commitment to their own karate and our Club could never be questioned.
Our new certificate states that ‘the student has demonstrated the self-discipline to turn ability into achievement’. Never has this been more true than now. Most of you were preparing for a grading in May 2020. Twelve months later, you remained disciplined and were still hard at work.
We just provided you with the opportunity to shine and you ALL did. The bravery it must have taken to go and try when your preparation time with your Instructor has been so limited is extraordinary. That’s mental strength and courage that we can all admire. A dream without a deadline is just a fairytale. We gave you the deadline and you tried your very best.
Not one person went home having failed the full grading. There were just three who were asked to come back and retake one particular section. Think about it in terms of scoring 66% in a test. You didn’t do badly AT ALL.
We were delighted with everyone’s performance and attitude on the day. If you didn’t quite make it, you are still so close. Do what you need to do and come back full of confidence next time around. You’ve already spent 4,5,6 even 7 years working hard at your karate, what’s another few weeks of specific training? Carry on, you are far too talented to give it all up now. Baraka, Michael and Priya, I want to be writing amazing things about you in a few weeks time – you can all do it.
I also just want to take some time to thank all of the Instructors who have continued to teach and motivate these students throughout the best and worst times. We are so lucky as Karate Instructors that we get to see you grow up and fulfill your potential. Your teacher at School changes each year, we get to take you from beginner with zero knowledge or skills to highly skilled, physically and mentally strong Black Belts.
Then you end up bigger than us! And our job is to make you better than us. Each generation of students better than the last. Throughout our shared experience, a mutual respect and friendship is developed between Sensei and Student that can last a lifetime. We have the most rewarding job in the World. RTK are lucky to have such a wonderful team of Sensei’s who care so much about their students.
Thanks to the examiners Rob Sensei, Paul Sensei and Mike Sensei for sharing their expertise and Leesa Beckwith Sensei and Jo Sysum Sensei for all your help and hard work behind the scenes. It was a very smooth ship thanks to you guys! Even Paul Sensei didn’t have anything to complain about. This is a miracle.
We had 19 successful students on the day – 14 new Shodans and 5 new Nidans. After many years of dedication we always say a few words about each person and what makes them so special to us.
Shodan Black Belt – 1st Dan
Noah Green – I absolutely love Noah Green’s karate. He tries SO HARD. Everything is done at 100% speed and effort. Give me a class full of Noah Greens and I will be very happy. He is a wonderful student to teach and such a brilliant karateka. Hard working and polite but with that competitive edge that makes sure he gets better and better. He was fantastic at the grading and although we still have more areas we can improve, he is well worth a black belt and should be so proud of himself. Noah has trained continuously throughout lockdown and kept up his sharpness and increased his knowledge. It’s been a long journey but he has earned his Black belt at last. I hope that you continue to train without the pressure because you enjoy your karate and are a wonderful example to others. Well done fella! We are very proud!
Jayden Clarke – What can I say other than – that is how you SMASH a grading. The focus on this young mans face when he entered the room, I just knew he was up for it and determined 100% to be leaving with that Black belt round his waist. He was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. Jayden showed us that he has everything it takes to carry a black belt and more. I have never seen him more sharp. He gave every section everything he had on the day and in the month leading up to it. I don’t think you could have done more! 1:1’s, training almost every night. How could we say no? Jayden you were brilliant. A class act. Yet we know there is plenty more to come. You have what it takes to achieve more and more. He is great with other students, always kind and helpful and even though he is so good at sparring, he’d never take advantage. Keep doing what you are doing young man. Congratulations.
Josiah Curtis – Joey Curtis – the improvement you have made in the last couple of years has been exceptional! You should be so proud of yourself. What a top student you have become. The effort has never been a problem, he’s always tried so hard. However, Joey is now bigger and stronger than ever before and this has completely transformed his karate. He looks powerful and every technique looks like it would be effective. We have areas we can work on to get even better but overall his standard was really good and we were all happy with his performance. Joey is also a lovely young man who impresses us more and more each time we see him. I think this was the first time we have seen him without his Dad Jon Sensei or sister there alongside him and his focus was just brilliant. We are so pleased for you Joey, keep up the brilliant work!
William Cristoforo – There is so much I could say about Williams karate but I think what sums it up perfectly is that fact that he got the most consistently high marks across 4 examiners on the day. We ALL thought you were amazing and you were! Every area was equally impressive. The katas were exceptional, the kihon was sharp and strong and the kumite was brave and spirited. I think if we had said ‘do each kata sharp and strong 10 times’, William would have said ‘Oss’ and done it – brilliantly. He is that good. He’s always been something special and now I believe we are starting to see a little bit of what this young man is capable of. Sign this one up to the squads – he’s top drawer! Please keep doing what you are doing, you little superstar.
Joel Purvis – What a student Joel has become. To watch him grow up into such a lovely young man has been a pleasure. He has shot up in height since we last saw him and sometimes this can effect your karate but Joel was a solid as ever. A great all-rounder he deserved his Black belt 100%. He has done so much training over lockdown and been with us for many years. His kihon was so powerful and sharp and he tried so hard in the kata section. The strongest part of his karate has always been his sparring and certainly did not disappoint. He was brilliant. Joel sets a wonderful example to others in his class and will be a fantastic role model as a black belt. We are delighted that he did so well and we know there is much more to come from him. Well done Joel, keep up the amazing work.
Finlay Dewhurst – Finlay is a fine example of a karateka. This was his second attempt at grading and he could not have done more to get himself ready this time around. Not even a global pandemic could come in between Finlay and his black belt. He was class. I have never seen him so focused and up for it in my life. I would like to see ‘the grading Finlay’ at every class please. He made no mistakes this time around and needed no second chances. What a performance, what a student. This is how you take a knock back, brush it off and prove yourself. You proved you are a black belt to us, to your fellow students and everyone who was watching. We are SO proud of you. You blew us away, please carry on training and keep focused because when you are on it, you’re amazing fella.
Poppy Evans – The first of Team Evans to earn her Black Belt, Poppy was SO good! She was understandably nervous at the start of the grading but I think the nerves settled after the first couple of combinations and after that, she was excellent. I wish she had a little more confidence because her karate really is something to be very proud of. Her Katas are beautiful, she shows good movement and distance control in her kumite and is actually a lot stronger than she thinks she is. She’s brave and kept on going. She’s also a lovely young lady who always works hard in class. Poppy has kept up her training and achieved a Black belt during a Global pandemic, what a story that will be for the future. Amazing work Poppy, please start to believe in yourself more as we think you are brilliant and always have!
Noah Vernon – Awwww lovely little Noah Vernon was so tiny when he started karate! Just look at him now. Noah has been taking his black belt preparation so seriously. This was obviously very important to him and he has been doing everything he could to be ready and secure a successful outcome. He really did have nothing to worry about because he was awesome. And that kumite – where in the World did that come from? Absolute fireball – BOOM! We’ll have that every lesson please. He scored highly in all three areas and I think his katas were among the best we saw all day. Very composed, very classy performance from one of the most polite students at RTK. Like Poppy, I think Noah can doubt himself when there really is no need to. We believe in you and know there is more to come. You are fantastic at karate and now hopefully with that Black belt around your waist you will believe it too!
Lilly O’ Donovan – Where did the confidence come from? The BEST version of karate Lilly I have ever seen. Please bring her to every class thank you. Talk about grabbing an opportunity with both hands, Lilly has waited long enough and absolutely bossed the grading. She was super sharp in the kihon, the katas have been worked on and polished up and the kumite well – it was STRONG. A top performance from a top young female. I would like to see you build on this now and keep improving and working hard. You are now the highest grade of the sisters, it’s up to you to keep it that way! We thought you were fantastic Lilly, a real stand out with even more potential. Be so proud of that hard earned black belt and keep working hard missus!
Amy O’ Donovan – I was looking forward to seeing Miss Amy all day and disappoint me – she did NOT! She was superb in every single area. The kihon – amazing, the katas – even better – the kumite – well I LOVED it. That is how you do a grading like a boss lady. Amy has been exceptional at all her gradings, we’ve always seen something special here and now she is a black belt she can relax a little and start believing in herself too. Add confidence to this kind of talent and the sky is the limit. Lucky for us she’s also a fantastic Assistant who is wonderful with our youngsters. We are lucky to have students as talented and sweet as Amy helping out the next batch of superstars. Keep up the wonderful work Amy.
Charlotte Griffiths – The first time I met Charlotte was at a competition and she was on my tatami, a white belt or possibly an orange belt but straight away I knew she was going to be something special. Mike Beckwith Sensei would tell you the same, experienced Sensei’s just know when someone will go all the way and Charlotte has not let us down! She’s an incredibly gifted and talented karateka. Sometimes it can be little difficult to keep her focussed but add an element of competition or a prize and she is ON IT. At the black belt grading she was as the top of her game. The combinations were well practised and she got some high marks. The katas were executed brilliantly and she battled through the kumite despite being much smaller than her opponent, she got off some strong techniques and was brave throughout. Spirit and courage will get you a long way and Charlotte showed plenty of both. Well done Charlotte, we are very proud of you. Please continue to set a great example in class! You have all the talent in the World missus.
Liam Dolan – What a journey this young man has had. Liam has been training with us for many years alongside his brother Thomas and in that time has watched both parents become and black belts and Instructors. Team Dolan are such a brilliant karate family and now Liam has joined both Helen and John in the black belt gang! He is everything a true karateka should be. Hard working, determined, patient, loyal, a perfectionist and an all round wonderful young man. There have been plenty of ups and downs, triumphs and setbacks but since earning his 1st Kyu I have seen nothing but focus and one thousand percent effort from Liam. He’s had his eyes firmly fixed on that black belt and nothing and nobody was going to stop him. He was brilliant on the grading day and we were so pleased for him. He absolutely SMASHED it. His preparation has been thorough and he’s taken no shortcuts. Congratulations Liam you are a legend!
Frazer Atkins – I remember when this brilliant young man started over 7 years ago with his sister at Lacey Green Afterschool Club and my goodness have we had some superstars through that school. Louis Johnson, James Sherlock and now Frazer Atkins has become the third Lacey Green Black Belt! Absolutely incredible. Frazer put in a very strong performance to earn his grade with no mistakes and 100% focus throughout. He is very special student indeed and is proof that having the right attitude and a willingness to learn, will take you where you want to be in life. Frazer was clearly nervous in the beginning but he wanted that Black Belt so badly. He soon relaxed, found his confidence and just got better and better as the grading went on. Keep up the outstanding work young man as we know there is so much more to come from you. Well done.
Megan Fu – What a student. Meg has impressed everyone with her beautiful karate right from the start. Teresa Sensei knew right away both Meg and Maisie would be something special and we LOVE it when you prove us absolutely right. You have been and will continue to be an absolute dream of a student. Meg is so committed, focused and enthusiastic, this teamed with her high ability means that there really are no limits for this brilliant young lady. She is already an exceptional karateka with plenty of room still to grow and achieve more. She has the perfect attitude and I have no doubts she will continue to learn and get better and better. Her performance at grading was somehow even better than we expected. We are so excited by Meg’s talent and are committed to pushing her further as she’s certainly got everything it takes to go to the very top with the likes of Grace, Izzy, Molly, Lola F and Lola G! Congratulations Meg, you’re a star.
Nidan Black Belt – 2nd Dan
Izzy Baron – What a performance from our little Champ who just gets better and better and better. Izzy has always been a belting little student with awesome karate. She has won countless medals over the years and competed all over Europe. She was Student of the Year 2019 and has now achieved her Nidan Black Belt and she is TWELVE. Let that just sink in for a second, what were you doing at 12? What a BOSS. I could go on and on about how incredible her karate is and how she put in another exceptional performance at the grading. She proved she has made vast improvement in each area especially her kumite and this improvement has been made over the last three years not just the last year when she’s not been able to train as much as she would have liked to. She’s so lucky to have wonderfully supportive parents and a Dad and sister who aren’t afraid to push her hard to fulfill her massive potential. She looked super-sharp and is developing real strength in her techniques. The best thing about Izzy (after all she has achieved so far) is that she is a wonderfully polite and humble young lady in the dojo. Always eager to learn and improve, she’s willing to help others and lead by example. She puts the hours in and goes the extra mile. As karateka we are to strive for perfection of character. The way she carries herself and behaves at karate, she’s a perfect example of this. Never change Izzy! You are still our little pocket rocket – shining star! Well done.
Kyle Girault – I cannot tell you how excited I was to watch Kyle do his grading. An always-exceptional performer, Student of the Year 2019, a fierce competitor – he had so much to live up to and he delivered everything we expected and more. Wow. Kata like Louis Johnson, Kumite – like well Kyle Girault, this one is in a league of his own. Calm, composed, fluid movement, picked his shots perfectly, superb control, lightning quick techniques that were in and out before you could get near him. Incredible. We are so lucky to teach students with such exceptional ability and his parents and sister could not be more supportive. Mum Lily Sensei strikes the perfect balance between loving Mum and no-nonsense Sensei and motivator. He dedicates so much of his time to his karate and all of his hard work has paid off. There was no question in my mind whether Kyle would grade or not, it was a case of – how exceptional will he be and can he lift that level. He answered with a top class performance. One of the best I have ever seen in 20+ years. Legend. Please keep going, as you are still so young with plenty more to offer.
Lola Fellone – There is not one student who has trained in more sessions both on ZOOM and in the dojo since she last graded than Lola Fellone. Karate is such a huge part of her life. She’s getting to that age where we start losing students to hanging around with their friends etc. Lola is in the dojo every single night. Working hard, day after day. Her energy and enthusiasm is never lacking. She approaches every lesson with the same great attitude and willingness to learn. She really enjoys what she does and that makes the difference. She is totally fearless and dominant in a pair of mitts and pads. There are no weaknesses in her karate and I cannot believe everything she has achieved at such a young age. Izzy and Lola are just incredibly inspirational young ladies. Lola is another highly decorated competitor with a fierce appetite for success. She has been training like a black belt since she was tiny. Always destined to do great things and is without doubt – one of the BEST ever. Students she once looked up to she has now surpassed and I am confident she will keep going and continue to find inspiration. Stay focused and fabulous missus! You are the one everyone looks up to now.
Adam Bennett – The commitment and improvement this young man shows is nothing short of extraordinary. He’s always been very talented and such a hard worker. There is no doubt about it and we would always talk about his potential. These days Adam is smashing his potential. He is SO much better than when he got his Shodan and it is all down to his own hard work. He is an absolute machine, if we said do 500 burpees and then do the grading Adam would just crack on with it (or ‘wiy it’ as he would say haha). His fitness, strength and stamina is superb and he has worked hard to tidy everything up. He used to ‘overtry’ but now he looks relaxed and it has improved his technique. He is a pleasure to teach in the dojo and is a real perfectionist He’s not happy until it’s just right. He performed with such confidence at the grading and didn’t make a single mistake. I really enjoyed his Jion, everything he was asked to correct in the weeks leading up to grading were spot on. Nerves didn’t get the better of him and despite sparring with students much bigger than him he got stuck in and really held his own, executing some impressive techniques. We have no doubt that Adam would be able to look after himself should he ever need to and is one of the best juniors we have. We are so pleased for you Adam and so proud of how far you have come. Keep up the marvellous work you absolute superstar.
James Sherlock – What a wonderful student James Sherlock is and has always been. He was so little when he started but he always had that something extra special about him where we knew we could turn that talent into an excellent karateka. He has never let us down and his passion for karate burns as bright as ever. His dedication has never waivered and he remains as committed and enthusiastic a the day he started. James has always looked up to others for inspiration but has now firmly cemented his place at the top of the Juniors in the Club. Others will rightly look up to you and I can’t think of many better role models than you. Your karate is exceptional, your attitude is exceptional and Paul Sensei so lucky to have you as his Cadet at Handforth. I could watch James’s karate all day. He has wonderful technique and is now developing the power and strength to make it work. He clearly enjoys practising Kata and all three of his katas were excellent but I was impressed with how much he had improved his kumite. He was brave and his movement was much better than when he did Shodan. A classy performance from a classy young man. Well done and keep it up.
Now for some very embarrassing before’s and afters! I LOVE these! Such a bunch of CUTIE’S!