Category Archives: Blog

Julie’s Trek To Everest Base Camp

One of our colleagues on our karate journey with the SSKA, Julie Collins, a 4th kyu at the Caversham Club, run by Gary Leyshon, has also decided to undertake an additional journey. This time it is a little more scenic but fortunately not a never ending pursuit of perfection like Shotokan Karate.
Julie is trekking to Everest Base Camp (yes you did read that correctly) to raise funds for Macmillan Cancer Support and in honour of her younger sister who sadly lost her battle with this dreadful disease.
It is worth noting that Julie has already completed 52 walking marathons over the years in her bid to raise funds. This is the first time she has created a “Just Giving” page to seek support for this eminently supportable cause.
Please click here to visit Julie’s JustGiving page – any help would be gratefully accepted.

Clubs hold kata competition in memory of Lorna

On Sunday 19th December the SSKA clubs of Berkshire and Hampshire held a kata competition at Queens Anne’s School in Reading.

The purpose of the day was to remember one of our instructors at Caversham, Sensei Lorna Webber who sadly passed away in 2021.

In addition participants honoured her karate career with high quality performances in Lorna’s favourite discipline of kata.

The event was officiated by our Chief Instructor, Sensei Cole, Assistant Chief Instructor, Sensei Lewis with Senior Instructor assistance from Sensei Ridgeway and Sensei Thomas.

It really was an amazing day with some outstanding performances. All of which were conducted in the true spirit of karate demonstrating – respect and integrity for our art and fellow karateka.

All proceeds for the day are to be donated to charity – in this case Great Ormond’s Street Hospital.

While winning trophies is a physical reward, we should not forget the following quote from the founder of our Shotokan style.

“The ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory nor defeat, but in the perfection of the character of its participants”

– Gichin Funakoshi

In this context there were no winners or losers with all karateka benefitting from the interaction, learning and experience provided by the cause, events and competitive nature of the day.

There can be no doubt that the participants, spectators and officials on Sunday demonstrated clear focus and fulfilled this aim.

On behalf of the SSKA I would like to thank all of you who gave up your time to compete in very uncertain times, and also to those who couldn’t make the day but nonetheless donated to the cause. Your help and friendship is invaluable.

Gary Leyshon

Senior Instructor – SSKA

My Karate Journey: Helen Sheldon

I attended karate as a child but drifted away from it in my teenage years. My son and daughter started training in Faringdon, and as I sat on the side lines watching, I was surprised by how much I could still remember. I was encouraged to join in and we have been training as a family ever since. That was over 10 years ago and we now train in Brize Norton with Sensei Cowling.

I work at Oxford University as a scientist for Cancer Research UK. I love my job and I was devastated when the laboratories closed during the first lock down. Like many others, I was forced to stay at home and found it hard to exercise. We all really missed training during this time and it was great to start again, even if it was initially in a playing field! My daughter even managed to achieve her black belt in October which was the highlight of the year.

Thankfully I am able to work during the current lockdown. Cancer Research UK and many other charities have suffered financially due to COVID so it’s great news that research can continue. Once again, I am forced to practice my katas in the kitchen. I look forward to the day when we can get back to training, I am hoping to grade for my 2nd Dan so I certainly need the practice!

Message from Sensei Cole

To our dedicated students,

The SSKA has been enriching students life with karate since 1987 and in all those years we’ve never experienced at times quite like these.

The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting families and businesses everywhere meaning it is a challenging time for all of us. The most important thing is we remain healthy and listen to the Government’s advice and Stay at Home.

We were disappointed that our Swindon grading could not take place as planned and some of you missed the opportunity to grade for your black belts however your safety is more important to us.

I am grateful to have a very dedicated team of instructors who are actively supporting their students, generating online lessons, providing virtual one-to-one sessions and sharing training plans online. More than ever it is important to try and keep some routine in our lives and I thank my instructors for their hard work.

We certainly can’t wait for the day when life returns to normal and we can open our doors to students again. If you need any help or advice with your training please don’t hesitate to get in touch, we are here for you.

I’d like to personally thank those of you who are NHS or key workers and doing your everything to keep the world in order and supporting our families. Thank you.

Keep safe, keep well and keep in touch.

All the best wishes

Sensei Cole

Chief Instructor SSKA

**Salisbury February Gradings CANCELLED**

Unfortunately we have had to cancel the Pre-grading on Saturday 29th February (3pm to 4pm) and grading on Sunday 8th March (12pm to 2pm). We are sorry for any inconvenience.

Anyone wishing to grade can grade at our centres in Exeter, Reading or Swindon. If you need to post your forms to us – please message us for the postal address.

Salisbury gradings will return as planned in June.

I had a lot to learn…

I used to take my son to karate and would sit and watch, one evening the Sensei wanted to demonstrate a move (Uraken) and asked me to oblige. It frightened the life out of me and he said,  ‘you can learn that if you want to’ , so I started joining in the lessons and thoroughly enjoyed it.

In 2007, when I was a 1st kyu, the opportunity came to take over the club which I agreed to. When I first took the club on somebody described me as a person who had just passed their driving test (i.e., had a lot to learn). But I grew in strength and in 2008 I achieved my 1st Dan, black belt. I couldn’t have achieved this without the support of Stuart Cole and Rob Lewis.

I gained my 2nd Dan in 2011, 3rd Dan in 2014 and 4th Dan in 2018 and with this came promotion to Senior Instructor. In January 2019 I was asked to become a Grading Assistant. I wouldn’t have been able to achieve this without the support of the SSKA members.

I strongly believe that my club in Basingstoke is successful because of its members, their dedication to the sport and the club, which I truly appreciate.

I have never regretted taking up karate and would strongly recommend it.


The McCarthy Family

In December 2012 the McCarthy family discovered the SSKA Kendrick karate club in Reading.

This came at a time when they were looking for ways to increase their children’s (then aged 6 and 9) confidence, self-esteem and ability to defend themselves in the no matter how unlikely event of being in danger.

Yasmin aged 9 and Oscar aged 6

Following a brief conversation with Sensei Tracie Quelch the decision made itself and the children started straight away.

Both parents agreed that if their children demonstrated a keenness to learn and succeeded in grading for their Orange and Red belts (9thand 8th Kyu respectively), they would also both join.

As a result of their success and the high praise that their children’s heaped on the SSKA Instructors they took the plunge and in June 2013 the McCarthy parents joined Kendrick, following in the wake of their children, progressing steadily through the Kyu grades. From their perspective, it was inspiring to learn from their children and watch them grow in maturity and also mindfulness…great traits for leadership!

In October 2015 their daughter Yasmin passed her Shodan and in October 2017 passed her Nidan, with son Oscar, Mother Emma and Father James passing their Shodan in 2017, making a full suite of Kuro obi.

The initial intention was to enable their children to develop their own self-belief, stamina and confidence. With typical modesty they never truly anticipated that they would ever reach the goal of Shodan, never mind Nidan, as Oscar, Emma and James now aspire to; and with Yasmin training hard for her San Dan their success continues to grow.

James says “As a father, I have had the pleasure of watching these acquired skills surface in other aspects of my children’s lives and sports they take part in, determined to do better with the belief that anything is possible if you are willing to put in the effort. A good example of this is our daughter who has recently been promoted to Corporal in the ATC (Air Cadets) and our son who has progressed from the D team for Rugby and Football up to the A’s and B’s, a result of which, in part at least, is a direct result of the skills acquired from the study of karate and the guidance offered by the SSKA Instructors”

An additional aspect which has been vital to their success is the amazing group of friends the McCarthy’s have made along the way from a variety of clubs including Reading, Kendrick, Theale, Wokingham, Salisbury and Swindon to name but a few…an unknown benefit at the start of their karate journey.

James says “It has been a privilege to meet a great group of people from all walks of life with a shared vision to continually improve both individually and in my particular case as a family. All down to the team that is the SSKA”

Written by Gary Leyshon