The Black Belt's Journey

For Sensei Roy Hanson and myself, getting our black belts (Shodan) was quite a journey, in ways that we could never have expected! We trained hard for many years, graded when ready under the watchful eye of Sensei Roy Trusler.

Whilst working together with our instructor, we helped each other through some tough but enjoyable Training. This was the first part of our long journey, which had interesting scenery on the way. But the rest was yet to come, with perfect timing and almost psychic foresight we had chosen to take our Shodan grading in the middle of the petrol crisis (September 2000). A black belt grading which at that time was held in Liverpool! The trains were hardly running and a car was out of the question.

Determined to get there at all costs, we contemplated the alternatives, hire a horse and cart, cycle and even walk - I kid you not, we seriously coincided this. In the end we managed to book some seats on a train, but as a backup due to many trains being cancelled at short notice, we worked out a way to get enough petrol from about four of our mates to get us there but not back. We squeezed onto the train and after a couple of adventures we made it to the grading in time. Where the longest part of the journey awaited - the grading itself.

I never thought that it was possible to lose all the moisture from within your mouth whilst simultaneously needing to be no more than two feet away from the toilet, but it is. The grading itself was tough and nerve racking, but we had made it through with flying colours thanks to our training, lots of support from each other, club members and last but not least Sensei Roy. To everyone who eventually starts this journey, I'd give you this advice - train hard but take time to enjoy your training, and cultivate a friendship with someone who owns a horse!

Sensei Chris Murray.