Where do I begin to write about this special event in my career as a full time martial arts instructor?
I suppose I should start from the beginning; in November 2000 I took what was the hardest exam of my life, and the first student to attempt the infamous Ishin Ryu Black belt grading. After two days of gruelling physical tests both on and off the mats I passed and, once all the celebrations were over, Soke Kevin Pell asked if I would start a club in Thetford.
Not knowing if it would work, I travelled up to Norfolk every Monday from my lorry driving job in Hertfordshire, and drove back in the late hours to start again after a few hours of sleep if I was lucky.
I did this for nearly a year, before the family and I took a risk and sold up and moved to Norfolk. The club was growing steadily, but I still needed to drive the lorries. Over the next few years I decided to open a club in Brandon and Dereham. With ever growing interest, I started more classes at the Thetford leisure Centre on a Saturday morning which has grown to be a very successful club.
I never would have dreamt that fifteen years later I would still be teaching as a full time instructor. I have been very privileged over all this time to experience, alongside my instructor Soke Pell many great events.
Between me and Soke we could write a book on the things we have done together over the last 20 years.
So on Saturday 22nd March we celebrated this special year with a party for all my students. It was a great day, with many of my students that I have been training for only a few weeks to my longest serving student Terry Whiifin for the last 12 years all attending.
I invited the mayor to come along to help me unveil an Ishin Ryu plague that we were having displayed at the dojo on the main wall. It is very special as it will always be there to remind visitor’s that there is an Ishin Ryu Ju Jitsu Club at the centre.
There was so much for all the students to enjoy; bouncy castles, bungee run, massive slides and so much more.
I arrived two hours before with my family and friends to help set the event. DBL Castles who I have used for so many years for my summer camps and Christmas parties were there with the bouncy castle and massive slide.
The next two hours were hectic, with food to organise, equipment to arrange in the right place and set up for the big photo-shoot for the unveiling of the sign. At 2.40pm, students were already arriving eager to get through the doors into the party, and by this time my nerves were starting to kick in.
At 2.55pm we had no option but to let them in as the queue was going right thorough the centre and out of the main doors. With Ben Healow music in the background to welcome the student to our party it was an emotional and very special two hours for me and my students.
The mayor of Thetford, Sylvia Armes, arrived in good time, along with my instructor Soke Kevin Pell.
Once all the students had signed in, it was a packed hall with students, parents, sensei’s & family all ready to celebrate this great day.
First we had to get the hundred plus students ready for the photo-shoot and unveiling of the sign. This took a while, but was worth it in the end. The worst part was to come having to do a speech in front of all the parents, which I always hate doing.
After thanking all my guests, students and parents for supporting this special day, it was party poppers in hands ready to reveal the sign. After a count of three every one pulled their poppers, Soke and I pulled the curtain to reveal the sign which was followed by a massive cheer and claps by the parents. It was a very emotional moment which I will always treasure.
It was time for all the students to enjoy all the fun and food for the next two hours. Their smiles on their faces said it all, and so many came up to me to say thank you for a great party. I can’t believe that I started back in 2000, with a couple of students and now I teach hundreds of children a week. I didn’t want the party to stop, but sadly after two hours of an amazing time spent with my students and friends it was time to go home.
I would like to say thank you to all the following people that came along to support this very special day.
The mayor of Thetford Sylvia Armes
Soke Kevin Pell, Founder & Chief Instructor Ishin Ryu Ju Jitsu
All my Fellow Yudansha, Sempais & Students.
A very special thank you to the Filippou Family & Curtis family for all their amazing help that they have given over the years, and for helping me and my family set up and pack away after the event.
And finally to my wife Tracy for all her amazing support she has given me over the last 19 years since I started training in Ishin Ryu Ju Jitsu.