How I’ve used karate to support myself and others

Date: 10 September 2021   Author: Energise Me

Nigel shares how karate has supported him through difficult times, allowed him to fundraise and been an important part of his life.

Getting into Karate

At 16 I left school and joined the British Army. The Army impacted my life. We lost our Colonel in Ireland and he was a huge inspiration to me – even though he jailed me for 28 days, because I went AWOL when I was in love!

It was after leaving the Army that I finally began my Karate journey. We were in Gibraltar and there was a fellow soldier in the gym doing these interesting moves. I asked him if I could join in. He agreed and I was introduced to Karate. I still have a Karate book I ‘borrowed’ from the Army Library.

In my early 20’s,back in England, I saw a flyer about a Karate school and went along one evening to give it a go. Everyone else was wearing a Karate Gi and I was just in a tracksuit. I looked around at everyone and wondered if one day I could also become a ‘black belt’.

I was all over the place at the start. My kicks were wrong, and I couldn’t get the turns right. There was a guy there who started at the same time as me and did everything instantly, but after a few years he gave it up. I think not being good at the start gave me the motivation to keep going.

Karate has always been something I could turn to in these difficult times, and no matter what happens, it's dependable and there when I need space or support.

How Karate has supported me

After the Army, I got married and joined the Emergency Ambulance Service. I worked as a front line Medic and later became a Rapid Response Medic, completing 21 years in service. Over this time, I witnessed a lot of trauma – not just at work, but also in my personal life.

My wife and I lost a little girl, “a seed that never blossomed”. I attended multiple traumatic emergencies that have stuck in my memory. My second son Luke was disabled and suddenly passed away in 2015.

Karate has always been something I could turn to in these difficult times, and no matter what happens, it’s dependable and there when I need space or support. It’s been my emotional medicine. Karate always makes me feel better, and brings an inner feeling, a spiritual journey.

 

Becoming a coach

After 21 years in the ambulance service, I left and became a coach, and later a Team Leader at the Centre For Adolescent Rehabilitation. I worked with 18-24-year-old males helping them develop skills in the hopes they could ‘swerve’ a custodial prison sentence.

This new role and the experience interested me, and I enjoyed working with younger people.  The meant that I began to understand myself in a different format. I liked developing people and giving them a new direction. I graduated as a Prison Officer, joined Her Majesty’s Prison Service, and trained to be an ‘assistant physical education instructor’.

Working in this role allowed me to see that I could be a coach and instructor, both in my work life and within karate.

I have studied Karate for 37 years and worked my way through the grades, but I wanted to do something more with it.

Fundraising through Karate

I have studied Karate for 37 years and worked my way through the grades, but I wanted to do something more with it. I’ve never been interested in medals or competing so I started putting together events. The very first event was for the son of a lady who worked in the Control Room at the Ambulance Service HQ. She had triplets and one of them, her son, Daniel suffered with Leukemia.

I organised my first Karate demonstration at Winchester Sports Centre to raise money for Daniel. We raised £2000 and were able to send him, and his family on a dream holiday to America as well as donate the remaining funds to a charity. This was the real beginning for me, and I got a buzz from helping others. I knew in my heart that there was something more I could do with my Karate.

Then I put together a Karate fundraising event after the Japanese Tsunami disaster. I had trained in Japan and it was one of my favourite places, so I wanted to do something to help the people. I also organised another Karate event and raised money for the ‘Care for Casualties’ military relief fund.

These events all meant so much to me and I was so lucky to have friends that could help support them. Without these friends, nothing would have been possible. My efforts were recognised, and in 2015 I received the Japanese Karate Association Dylan award regarding my Karate fundraising. I also underwent the JKA grading examination to enable my standard of Karate to be recognised and registered in Japan.

I think back to that and think who was learning from who. Who was really the teacher there?

Working with children

From here I still wanted to do more. I remember seeing how Daniel and my son Luke had been cared for and decided to arrange fundraising events for children. I organised the first Karate demonstration at Naomi’s House Children’s Hospice. We presented a Karate demonstration and included all the children in the event. Every child received a ‘certificate of attendance’ which was individually addressed and signed by my fellow Karate instructors. You could see in their eyes how much it meant to the children, and those involved in the event.

One event that really stuck with me was when I taught Karate at the ‘Friends of the Young Deaf’ at Crystal Palace. The children seemed to appreciate and understand the different abilities and needs of each other. They just knew what to do and how to behave, maybe because Karate had taught them. They all wore misfitting Karate Gi’s but they really didn’t care. They’d line up like little warriors. I think back to that and think who was learning from whom. Who was really the teacher there?

Find out more about Nigel’s Karate over on the New Forest Karate website.

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