A new year for Ikkyo Karate

THROUGHOUT this year year The Courier will bring to you exclusive interviews with members of Aberystwyth University’s Sports Clubs. First to Feature is Aberystwyth University Ikkyo Karate Club, the three members interviewed are Stefani Dritsa, Anna Newbold and Oliver Delf-Rowlandson.

Ikkyo Karate BadgeStefani is Postgraduate bioinformatics, IBERS student and is secretary of the club whilst Anna is a Graduate Trainee and has held a variety of committee positions, and Oli is the second-year genetics student and is the club’s Treasurer. The club has a sister club at Ysgol Gyfun Penweddig which both come under Ikkyo Aberystwyth Karate Group.

How long has the club been in existence?

Stefani Dritsa: For over 40 years now! We have a photograph of a club grading dated 1974 and it’s believed the club had been in existence for many years before then. Interestingly, the photograph depicts Bob Poynton as the grading examiner who continues to take club gradings to this day. Sensei Paul James (our main instructor, 5th Dan) had been a regular member of the University dojo since 1991, before opening the Penweddig dojo in 2005.

Which competitions does the club partake in?

SD: As far as the competitions record is concerned, the Club has been taking part in a number of competitions that are scattered throughout the year with a great success. Those are the Shotokan Cup, the North West Open, the KUGB Kyu Grades Championships, the KUGB National Championships, the KUGB Welsh Region Championships, the KUGB Youth Championships and the KUGB National Students Championships. We are, now, looking into forming a team to participate at the BUCS for this academic year. In our Club, there are, also, members of the Welsh Squad who take part in the top Karate Championships of European and World resonanse (ESKA, WSKA), as well as the two Grand Slams of the year, a highly competitive, national competition, with the members of the different UK Squads competing against each other.

Do you participate in Varsity?

AN: We have been hoping to sort out some kind of match with Bangor, but it hasn’t happened yet.
OD-R: We didn’t participate in Varsity last year, maybe this year though we will get luckier in arranging a match with Bangor.

How many members does the club have?

SD: The Club as a whole has over 80 regular members, most of which are training at the Penweddig dojo. The University part of the Club had 20 members last year, but we are looking forward to bringing it to its former glory, with around 40-50 regular members! Bigger classes mean we can split off into different groups and work on specific elements depending on people’s needs.
AN: Around 30 and I’d be looking at maintaining around 35-40 for the coming year.
OR-D: Around 30 and that’s not including the people who train in the Penweddig dojo. The membership is relevantly stable, sometimes seeing a lot of new people.

Ikkyo Karate Photo

Ikkyo Aberystwyth member performing a mawashi geri. Photo – Katharina Hone

Are you looking for new members?

SD: Karate is an individual art where the student evolves in a session full of people. We are always welcoming new members and are looking forward to getting to know everyone who, for whichever reason, wants to try karate! We are welcoming everyone who wants to keep training, everyone who wants to join the world of competitions, everyone who wants to exercise, socialize and have fun. We are also open to any martial artist from another discipline. I still remember my decision in joining a session to see whether I liked Shotokan Karate or not: I left so impressed and with a big smile on my face! I couldn’t believe the human body could move with such force, speed and power and stop all that in an instant, like it never started moving. Maybe I am not making a lot of sense in the way I describe it, but I would tell anyone who’s never done or seen it to give it a chance, to come by for a couple of sessions. For me, it was ‘love at first sight’ and has now evolved into something much more than that.
OR-D: We are always on the lookout for new members; the class can never be too big!

What’s the best way to get involved?

SD: If I followed my lead on replying to this question, I would say: go to all the sessions (both at the University dojo and the Penweddig one), as different sensei (teacher) can help you in different ways. Go to competitions! If there was ever a need of you defending yourself, you’d be under stress. That’s what a competition teaches you, how to deal with that stress and act fast, beyond the conscious level of reacting time. If you don’t want to compete, go and support the rest of the athletes; the bonding that forms during competitions runs as deep as getting to know each other through discussion. Then, go out and have fun at the socials. That is common for the sports clubs at the University, but trust me, going out after a session, after the adrenaline has reached top heights, is much more fun than your usual social night out. Are you interested in the administration? Get a place in the committee of the coming year. In our Club everything is following a transparent procedure, so all members can be involved in the decision making and all new ideas are welcome. The committee is there to keep up with the deadlines and organize the paperwork. All in all, train hard, party hard!
AN: Come to a session down in the Sports Centre or at Penweddig School to give it a try. The first 2 sessions are free, so you can try it out without any commitment.

What’s the club’s biggest accolade success?

SD: There are always more kyu grades (colored belts) than black belts in a Club, so in numbers, the Club is bringing back the largest amount of bling at the KUGB Kyu Grades Competition, a competition only for the colored belts. There is a photo of the Club after the 2013 competition with 8 trophies and 2 medals between the 11 people who attended the competition. When it comes to the level of Karate, the Club counts successes in all major competitions (European, World, National and Welsh Championships). All that is showing that the instructors are nurturing colored belts with solid bases, that can then transform into black belts with an impressively high level of Karate.
AN: There are just so many! The club has a long history of being very successful at competitions across the UK and abroad. This last year we have had a British Champion, two European medals, three top 8 placing at European and World level and also talking second place in the senior team event at this year’s Welsh Championships. Most of our senior members have been selected to train with the Welsh Squad and our chief instructor is the Kata Coach for the international Wales team.
OR-D: The Squad members of the Club have been placed at the top 8 multiple times for both European and World Championships, with receiving the silver medal and the bronze at the European championships being the biggest success. And they have several times walked off the matts as part of the top 4 of the Grand Slams. Other than that, in lower grades, the Club has been having a huge success at the Kyu Grade Championships, were members return with trophies and medals from all categories.

Why join Karate?

SD: Different people join Karate for different reasons. Karate is a martial art and in that sense, it offers a lot to the practitioner: a boost of confidence, discipline, and etiquette; cultivating the spiritual, mental and physical aspects. In Karate everyone takes their own steps, bigger or smaller, according to each person’s needs. Whether that is the need to belong, the need to socialize, the need to be confident, the need to discipline yourself in -let’s say- studying, the need to escape bullying, the need to have a better understanding of your body and how to use it. Karate is not about fighting. Karate goes deeper and further than that. It is a form of exercise that has a long history and that intrigues the mind as well as the body. So, you don’t want something demanding? Join Karate. You want something demanding? Join Karate. Karate is as difficult and as challenging as you make it, as you want it to be. I realize that this sounds so good that can’t possibly be true and my response would have been the same before joining that very first session, but my response would now be: Just try it!
AN: It is a great way to make new friends and to have fun but at the same time learn how to defend yourself. Living away from home can be difficult and it is a great way to make yourself feel safer in a new environment.
OR-D: Karate is a brilliant way to stay in shape and/or get fit, it’s also a great way to meet people.

Thanks for answering our questions. If you would like to get invloved with Ikkyo Karate this year, Try Karate! There’s a
free session: Meet us at the Sports Center at 5.40-5.45 on the 29th of September!