Gondan (Fifth Dan)
When did you start training with Ishigaki?
During the summer of 1994
Why did you choose Ishigaki?
I was already training at a judo club in West London when I saw an advert in the London gay press for Ishigaki. The change in discipline to jujitsu and a better social mix brought me to the club.
Did you do other sports before jujitsu?
Yes, I reached brown belt in judo which is closely related to jujitsu. Since becoming a black belt I have also qualified as a ski instructor.
Tell us about your first class.
It was in a ULU room. There were too many students and we had to take turns to use the mat space. Everybody was friendly and I was taken to the students bar after the class. We have moved to different venues with larger rooms since then.
Was it easy to fit in?
Yes. There was (and still is) other new people so they were in the same position. The experienced people were very encouraging. You never bond with everyone but you hook up with people which make you comfortable.
When did you think about getting your black belt?
I had already reached a high level in judo so I was hoping from the start to work through all the coloured belts and to get the black.
Was it difficult?
In the early days I never found the physical demands difficult but I nearly gave up as I did not feel I was learning enough. As a Japanese martial art there are some formal behaviour which takes time to understand. The most difficult step is getting the black belt which is both physically and mentally challenging.
What do you like about Ishigaki?
We apply ourselves to training seriously yet have a relaxed social group.
Why do you like jujitsu?
Jujitsu training is an excellent way to keep in shape while giving you confidence that you could defend yourself. It is also a great stress relief at the end of a busy work day. I really enjoy the teaching role where I can help others to enjoy jujitsu.
Ever had to use jujitsu for real?
I have had a couple of incidents where my ability to defend myself helped me get out of tricky situations. Itís better not to get into those situations in the first place though!
Tell us about the Ishigaki social events.
There have been many. As well as regular after class sessions, Xmas parties and birthday parties, I have attended organised weekend trips to Amsterdam, Bournemouth, Torquay & Cumbria. There are usually about a dozen people and stories of friendly mixing with the locals are common. Trips to competitions also generate an interesting social mix.
Do you enter competitions?
From time to time. Our jujitsu association hold bi-annual international events and attending these events has taken me to Brighton, Southend, Loughborough, Looe and Lanzarote. I have tried various competition disciplines including weapons kata, empty hand kata, random attacks and groundfighting, but it can be tough. I am qualified to judge competitions at our association's competitions. I also compete and judge at international gay and lesbian events which has taken me to Sydney, Paris, Munich and Cologne. My prefered disciplines at these event are self defence and weapons kata.
Has Ishigaki changed your life?
Definitely. I am fitter, more confident and have lots of new skills (jujitsu, coaching, competing, judging and running a sports club). Getting the jujitsu black belt inspired me to become a ski instructor and to develop an entirely different career. Best of all are the new friends I have made.
How much time does training require?
For the first few belts, one or two classes per week is fine. As you get near the black belt, 3 classes per week with some home study/training. I now teach and train at the Saturday class.