Well done to our two new Shodans and one new Nidan


2019 is finishing on a high with some fantastic news! Following the JKS Christmas Course on Saturday 7th December, 3 Red Tigers attempted Dan grading and we are delighted to report that all 3 were successful.

Gary Pratley Sensei and Thomas Collin from the Darwen area of the Club both suffered a knockback at our September grading. Both were really unlucky and have remained determined to finish their grading as soon as possible. With the JKS Christmas course presenting the first opportunity, they have been working really hard to get themselves ready to smash their grading the second time round. Aaron Jefferson from the Haslingden area hadn’t quite done the six months required between 1st Kyu and Shodan but was more than ready to prove his worth by December.

So all three travelled down to Nottingham on Saturday and took part in the 4 hour training course with Ben Richardson Sensei 5th Dan, Hans Rana Sensei 6th Dan and Geoff Dixon Sensei 6th Dan. This must have been absolutely exhausting and by the time I arrived to watch the Dan grading, gi’s were wet through and nerves were at the maximum!

Gary Pratley Sensei – Nidan!

No sooner had they bowed in, Gary Sensei’s name was immediately called. He was asked to retake the kumite and was leaving nothing chance this time around. He was straight in there with some sharp and powerful punching combinations, overwhelming his opponent then getting straight back out. No scrapping, just clean and accurate combinations, then movement. He followed up these flurries with some strong body mawashi’s and just kept on coming forward. I’m sure Gary Sensei will admit, it was a much improved performance than last time around, therefore the correct decision had been made in September.

We are so pleased for him as he is such a lovely man who gives everything he has – every single time he trains. There aren’t many people I could say that about and mean it. He really does give 100% at every lesson. Always trying to be the best he can be, learning so that he can not only improve his own karate, but also improve the many students who follow him. He was duly awarded his Nidan and was over the moon. We are really proud of you Gary Sensei, you represented our Club brilliantly, just like we knew you would! What a role model, what an Instructor and all round great man. We are lucky to have you on our team.

It’s been so heartwarming to witness son Jaime’s behaviour throughout the whole grading process. They’ve always come through the ranks together and shared the high’s. But when Gary Sensei got the knockback last time and Jaime was successful you could tell it actually hurt his heart and he’d have swapped places with his Dad if he could! Jaime was there on Sunday supporting his Dad, urging him on and believing in him all the way. I knew by the look on his face he was the proudest son in the World when Alan Sensei called out that pass. That’s what its all about right there. Well done.

Thomas Collin was very unlucky last time around. He impressed in the combinations section then seemingly things didn’t go to plan in the kata and kumite sections. This was bitterly disappointing for Thomas as he puts so much time and effort into his karate and I for one was shocked and left wondering where we went wrong. But what can you do other than pick yourself up, shrug it off and work harder than ever.

This is exactly what Thomas has been doing for the last three months. He’s been at every lesson, trying his best to tidy things up. He’s stopped over-trying and just been working on refining his technique. I was quietly confident that things were going to go well this time but you just never know till your name gets called, how you will perform when the pressure is on.

There should have been no doubts because he was excellent. The only one in his group to get a full pass in fact. He was so focused and nothing was going to stop him getting his black belt. His combinations were ever better than last time. His kumite was strong and aggressive, he was offering plenty of combinations but also showed strong defence and counter attacks. His Katas were also much improved and he didn’t rush.

A fantastic performance from another wonderful young man who is a pleasure to work with. Thomas is a great role model for others and has also shown those around him just how to bounce back from disappointment. He’s shown he has unbeatable determination and plenty of courage. I’m so pleased he has finished this year on a high and I know there is plenty more to come from him as his talent is enormous. Well done Team Darwen is very proud of you.

Aaron Jefferson has been on a one-way mission to Black Belt from his very first lesson. All at Haslingden knew there was something special about him from the very beginning and all we had to do was guide him, keep him humble and he would do the rest. He made our job easy. It’s rare that someone comes along with it all, I’m talking about someone with exceptionally high ability with the work rate to match and parents behind offering 100% support. He is very lucky and we are lucky to have him. What a grading – what a student. Aaron was in my opinion, exceptional. A real stand out. I expected a lot from him, I always do. He made the 5 hour journey well worth it. He didn’t disappoint me one bit, it was Aaron at his best, doing what he loves the most and it was a real privilege to watch.

There are no weak areas of his karate. Kicks – they’re awesome, Kihon Combinations – he’s got them all nailed, Kumite – he’ll kick your backside with a smile on his face, Kata – now this is the area he excels the most, he performs them beautifully. A true great all rounder and a pleasure to teach. This lad is that good, if you show him a kata 3 times, he got it, locked in and it’ll be impressive.

Image may contain: 3 people, including Paul Wolstencroft and Rachael Wolstencroft, people smiling, people standing and basketball court

We are so proud of you Aaron and I know we have only just begun to scratch the surface of what you are really capable of. You have champ written all over you and if you keep up the hard work, we have the team/squad to make you even better. It meant so much to him to get his black belt and the acknowledgement from those he respects. You deserve it young man. Now keep it up because Black belt is only supposed to be the beginning.

Huge thanks to all involved, the Instructors who’ve trained you, the students you’ve been practising with/on. Those who travelled to Nottingham to watch and support including both John Sensei’s – Dolan the dirty red and O’ Donovan the other dirty red! It meant a lot to have you there. Thanks to the examiners for the approval and the Jefferson’s and the Collin’s for their unwavering support for all these years. The backing of the parents is so important to these juniors as ultimately it’s you who decides if you are bringing them to karate or not, it’s you who’s giving up your free time and money to help them achieve things like this.

Gary Sensei, Thomas and Aaron – it all carries on now, keep up the excellent work.