Club 4: Egham SKC

After a couple of weeks of traveling, I decided to keep my next trip local – and where better, than the magnificent Egham SKC, one of my local clubs where I am lucky to regularly train with Sensei Blyth Baker, Dave Austin, David Hurst, Chris Betts and Jess Baker.

Egham SKC has been running successfully for over 2 decades under the leadership of Blyth Baker and Dave Austin. For years a mainstay of KUGB Southern Region events and Special Dan courses and so well known in the southern karate community.

Today was Kyu grading day at the club so we benefitted from an even wider bunch of talented instructors – Sensei John Parnell, Robin Dale, Val Dale and Jamie Sims.

Today was Kyu grading day at the club so we benefitted from an even wider bunch of talented instructors – Sensei John Parnell, Robin Dale, Val Dale and Jamie Sims.

Broken still, I would not be in a position to physically train. (Yep, still injured! ☹ ). In fact, not to drone on about my injury but Sensei Blyth Baker warned me before Christmas that I would end up hurting my knee due to a poor kicking technique…and damn, I hate the fact he was right! Note to self, listen to my instructors, and adjust my training style accordingly!

During my visit to Senshi, it struck me that on grading days, collectively everyone in the dojo – karateka, instructors, grading examiners, parents – are routing for those grading to succeed! The exact same positive vibe was also present in Egham. Almost palpable! And on this occasion, I paid even more attention and reflected on my own experiences over the years…

Saturday 26th March 2022

Over 50% the students walking through the door at Egham SKC for their grading were school age. Looking at the faces as they arrived, I wasn’t sure who was more nervous, the children or their parents, or even grandparents. 

This point alone struck a chord. As karateka, we are so heavily focused on our own journey, and that of our fellow karateka, but perhaps sometimes forget about our extended karate family – yes, parents, grandparents, partners, brothers, sisters, friends….

They live and support our journeys too. Whether it be dropping us off, picking us up, watching us train, listening to us talk about karate, feeling our nerves….you name it, they are right there with us, every step of the way. Our karate journey is perhaps bigger than just our time in the dojo and involves many others, many journeys and engagements which make up the whole developmental experience which is karate training.

At this point, on behalf of everyone who trains with Shotokan Connect, THANK YOU to our extended karate family. We couldn’t do it without your support.

Here are a couple of fantastic photos of our extended karate family in Egham…

Before the grading, there was a senior training session. With thanks to the fabulous instructors in order of teaching: Sensei John Parnell, Robin Dale and Val Dale.

John was injured and stepped in at the last minute to kick off the senior class after David Hurst provided a fabulous warm up. The class was almost pure kumite – everyone having the chance to spar safely with everyone else with the degree of difficultly starting low and building as confidence grow. Starting with one side only attack, hands only with control and the other side defends. Then swapping roles and adding complexity. Sweaty, challenged and happy – this part of the class closed. Sensei Robin Dale then took over and focused on some kihon moves with his direct, exciting and clear style. Skillfully blending these moves into kumite drills in preparation for the later grading.

Join in our ‘Caption This’ series on social media. What is Sensei John doing?

Throughout the session, beginners and kyu grades were encouraged to partner with Dan grades to give them a challenge. You could visibly see the confidence and enthusiasm grow within the group – even more so when people were asked to reflect on what went well and what might be improved for next time – and perhaps most importantly to focus on their strengths.

As always, even from the injury bench, I was amazed at how much I learnt by actively observing how expert teachers coach and motivate the students. This is clearly a strength of Shotokan Connect and something the students have a clear appetite for. By the end there were certainly some tired faces dotted around the dojo, all with a glow of new knowledge and inspiration.

Now onto the grading. The word that brings fear to all karateka, regardless of age and grade. And let’s not forget our supporters…our extended karate family…they feel it too! That sense of community and togetherness was clearly felt in the dojo in Egham.

Well done to all involved, the day was very well organised. The grading was split into two groups – equally impressive might I add. So much time, effort and dedication is put into our training before a grading – and this was evident – the quality was particularly outstanding. Always an honor to watch, perhaps a little extra special when it’s your home club.

What I loved about this grading was that Sensei Blyth Baker and Dave Austin were trialing a new way of grading for the Shotokan Connect Quality Assurance Committee. The first group followed the traditional process – so, each small grading group completed their kihon, kata and kumite in one go, without a break. The second group followed the new trial process where everyone grading completed each section before moving onto the next section. This process gave the grading karateka a break in between kihon, kata and kumite.

The standout for me with the new process was the dedication and focus displayed by the karateka. In-between each section there was a mix of stretching, fine-tuning, quiet contemplation and motivational coaching.

At the end of the grading, the grading examiners, grading karateka and parents/guardians were asked for their feedback. Thank you to everyone for their honest feedback – this is still being analysed to decide on the best way forward.

Perhaps more importantly, how did everyone get on? Look at these pictures – they tell you everything you need to know. Congratulations to you all. Every pass was thoroughly deserved. And look at the proud faces of our family and friends…this is what it is all about…collectively celebrating our successes. Whilst the commitment to quality karate is undoubtable, the commitment to fun togetherness and inclusion is also apparent and very much appreciated by family and parents alike.

Final thoughts…

Another incredible experience, this time by looking through a different lens – that of our extended karate family. Thank you once again on behalf of everyone at Shotokan Connect. Your patience and support is crucial to our development and ongoing journey – not just that of your nearest and dearest, but for everyone who is training.

I urge all karateka to pause and reflect next time you’re in the dojo. Identify the sacrifices your supporters make to encourage your journey and remember to thank them.  They’re an essential part of our karate journey.