Interview with our new black belt - Jitendra Shakya 1st Dan

Q: Another black belt then?!

Jitendra ShakyaYes, that is 3 in the last 2 years for the clubs, with firstly Bob, then Glyn and now me, so great news.

Q: Tell us about when you first started karate.

I started in Shito Ryu karate as a child whilst living in Nepal and did this for a few years. I joined the British army with the Gurkhas in 1996 and in 2000 moved to Aldershot, England and this is where I started Wado Ryu karate with my Sensei, Graham Hopkins

Q: So you've been studying Wado Ryu ever since?

Well, yes and no! Since I joined the Gurkhas, I have been posted all over the world and I have been very fortunate that Sensei Graham has been so good to me. Because he is also in the Army, we have managed to catch up in places such as Cyprus and New Zealand, where he has given me instruction and graded me. Therefore, when I joined the Aldershot club, I only really got a years dedicated Wado Ryu training, before the overseas postings started. During the period between 2001-2006, all I really did was compete and do competitions all over the world. I didn't practise any basics or any kata!

Q: So what sort of tournaments did you do and how did you get on?

I really enjoyed my competition days and most were within the forces and I was Army champion 3 years running between 2006-2008. I should add that I did win the Army championships in 2001-2005, but that was in the brown belt category. Although I wasn't a black belt at the time, I persuaded the chief referee at the 2006 championships to let me enter the black belt section, which he hesitantly did. I hope I repaid his faith by winning it! In 2003 I won the World super games gold medal in New Zealand, which covers all the military services. In 2005, I won the silver medal in New Zealand again, when I tried to retain my title. I also had some success in the Wado Ryu nationals, coming 3rd in 2007, which was my best placing.

Jitendra ShakyaQ: So what happened after that?

I decided in 2006 that I would start training for my black belt and trained with Graham and the Wado Academy several times a week. As i was due a move in the Army in 2008, I asked for extension to stay at Aldershot for a year, so I could carry on training with Sensei Graham.

I found it really hard to go from just fighting to basics and had to really work at it. My katas were a very poor standard and had to be raised, but Sensei Graham spent a lot of time correcting my weaknesses. From 2007 I started to attend all the Wado Academy courses and trained as much as I could with the senior instructors around the country. Sensei Shiomitsu and the others picked me up on so much around my technique, such as stances and punches, but I have found that with their help, concentrating on basics has made me become a better martial artist. In 2009, I stopped competing altogether to concentrate on my grading. In the months before the grading, I would always stay longer at the club and put in extra work and I have to thank Kevin, who would often stay behind and help me. I had decided a long time ago that I would grade at the Summer course in 2009, so I put in everything I had to prepare for it. This was going to be my first and last chance to grade for a number of years, due to my imminent move in the Army, so I felt a lot of pressure.

Jitendra ShakyaHow do you mean you felt it made you become a better martial artist?

My punches and movement have a lot more power as i became more adept and gained a better understanding about my basics. I even started to enjoy kata!

How did the Summer course go then?

I was nervous when I got there and for the whole week I could think about nothing else apart from the training and my grading. The week is very long and very tough, a lot harder than you can ever think! Towards the middle of the week I started to relax a bit more, although I would say that the hardest bit was a session with Sensei's George Grimes and Nick Quilliam. They covered our grading syllabus and pulled us up on so much, that I began to wonder if I was actually good enough.

Q: Tell us about the grading day.

We did the morning run at 6.30am on the beach, followed by the usual karate practise in the sea. When i got back to my bed and breakfast, I had a card on the table from my landlady wishing me good luck! I was overwhelmed by the good wishes I had from everybody to be honest. In the morning session I could not concentrate and was worried about forgetting things or going wrong. The hanging around between the end of training and the grading is hardest though! I diverted my mind by recapping the syllabus, but I couldn't eat or drink! It is actually ok when you get going and the first kiai is a great relief.

Q: Did you think you did ok during the grading?

I don't think I could have done much better than what I did. It lasted for over 2 hours, but went very quickly and whilst still worried about kata and basics, I started to chill a bit and didn't think I went wrong. Due to odd numbers, I had to do the pair work twice though, which added to my worries that I might make a mistake second time around! Come the free fighting at the end, I was totally relaxed and enjoyed it and it was a great feeling that it was nearly over.

Jitendra ShakyaQ: What was it like to pass?

I remember it being hard waiting for the results, it seemed to take ages. When we lined up for the numbers to be called out, they said number 3, which was mine and it just made all the effort I had out in worthwhile. I felt I had nothing left in me and it is an overwhelming feeling. My mind went blank for a while and it took ages to actually sink in........I had achieved one of my life's ambitions. With people like Sensei Shiomitsu on the grading panel, I feel that the credibility of my black belt is first class. I've seen other black belts occasionally, who I have not been totally impressed with, so it means so much!

Q: What comes next for you then?

I just need to try and carry on with my Wado training. I move to Dover in September and finding a good club will be difficult, so i will just keep practising and attend the Wado Academy courses, as i don't want to lose what i have learnt so far.

Q: Apparently your speech in the evening was quite moving?!!

My speech was a bit like an Oscar acceptance! I had put karate first before work and family for a long time, but it was all worth it, even though it had been really tough. I just wanted to thank everyone who had helped me and given me the support during the week, I am so grateful to them......they know who they are!

Jitendra ShakyaTell us about your instructors.

Sensei Graham Hopkins has been inspirational to me and guided me all the way to the grading. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't have got my Dan grade. As I said before, he has gone to great lengths to help me achieve this and his enthusiasm and commitment to his students is amazing.

Sensei George Grimes is great to train with and the way he interprets moves such as kata is phenomenal.

Sensei Arthur Meek is amazing. The way he fights and teaches makes me really look up to him and he trains so hard.

Sensei Shiomitsu and his relaxation will hopefully start to sink in more. he has shown me that karate is not rigid and that being relaxed is so effective. It is new and hard to do, but i am working on it!

I'm also fascinated by Sensei Wayne Otto OBE classes, they are hard work, but just brilliant and I have learnt so much from him.

Q: We understand you went and trained in Japan recently, can you tell us about it?

I trained in Shotokan during the first week of my stay there and found it really difficult. We did basics the whole time and there were some powerful techniques, although it was very different to Shiomitsu Sensei's Wado, as the movements are more exaggerated. When you sparred with them though, you could really feel the power in their punches. I was very lucky though as Shiomitsu Sensei had spoken to Kobayashi Sensei, a well known Wado instructor on my behalf, so that I could train with him. Sensei Kobayashi drove 2 hours to pick me up and his hosting and hospitality was humbling. His passion for karate is amazing, he trains every day in the morning starting at 5am, so has superb discipline. He teaches every night and his life revolves around the art. As a person, I found him generous and very down to earth and am very grateful to him.

Jitendra ShakyaQ: What was his training like?

Well, for those that saw him at the Winter course, you have an idea! His training covered basics, kata, pad-work and sparring. After a 3 hour session with him, you just have nothing left. Fighting was very straight, quite different to Europe and very, very fast. They seemed to punch a lot more than kick as I recall. So all in all, the Japan training was very hard, but without a doubt it made me sharper.

Q: Anything else?

i think things like how Sensei Shiomitsu helped me in Japan are what impresses me about the Wado Academy, everyone is so welcoming and friendly and I wouldn't trade it for anything else. It is like a big family and when you go on the big courses, people are friendly, disciplined and look after each other. I feel very proud and honoured to be part of the Wado Academy.

Everyone at the clubs would like to wish Jitendra their congratulations and wish him well in the future.

News Headlines

Wado Academy Winter Course 2017
The bookings forms will be available soon. The dates are Sat Feb 18th to Weds Feb 22nd at the Guildford Spectrum.

Xmas closing dates 2016
Farnham - Last class Sunday 18th Dec. Reopens Sunday 8th Jan

Haslemere - Last class 14th Dec. Reopens Weds 4th Jan.

Aldershot - Last class Weds 21st. Reopens Weds 4th Jan.

We often get asked about beginners courses. We don't run them specifically, but beginners are welcome at any time at any lesson. Call us if you want to chat first, all serious students welcome.

New Dan Grade syllabus
The Dan Grade syllabus for 2015-2017 is now available at this link.