Traditional martial arts tuition in Cornwall, UK.


Any one who has spent a few years in the martial arts will know that it isn't all sweat, aching muscles, bruises and Neanderthals with no teeth. A few classic funny moments pass into legend, and a few are recounted below.

My apologies in advance to any one who doesn't share the sometimes basic humour of the martial artist, but as they say in the Army "if you can't take a joke, you shouldn't have joined." However, just take a moment and ask your self "how come most of these embarrassing photos from the past all feature the same person?"

Come on, guys, there has to be some ancient cave paintings of other karateka out there ....

Back in the late 1970's Bujinkai Karate was holding a grading at St. Austell for all their students in Cornwall. As usual, the morning's training passed quickly, and as we were about to wind up and get ready for the grading itself Sensei Whale noticed that the Chief Instructor was not looking very happy.

He expressed some displeasure that a number of female Karateka were not wearing the correct Bujinkai uniform - namely that they had various coloured T-shirts on under their gi. The rules state that only women are allowed to wear a T-shirt under their gi jacket, and that it should be a plain white T-shirt.

"Leave it to me", Sensei Whale replied.

Ten minutes later as we bowed off , Sensei Whale asked all the female Karateka to stay on for a moment. He reminded them of the rules, expressing particular regret that one of his own first Dan students was wearing a bright green Garfield T-shirt and should have known better! He praised those with the correct T-shirt, and gave the others thirty press ups to remind them to wear the correct uniform next time.

One group went off to prepare for the grading, another group ambled off and did their press ups (cursing him under their breath), leaving a solitary woman standing in front of him, smiling.

"Is this all right, Sensei?" she asked as she pulled her gi jacket wide open, revealing that she was wearing nothing at all underneath.

"Er... Yes, that's fine", he replied.

Ken got fed up with bringing his son to Karate twice a week and sitting and watching the session, so he asked the Sensei if he could train as well. Unfortunately Ken had been in a mining accident and had lost a leg, but it was agreed that he could try.

Ken had a special leg built for him so he could swivel and execute kicks "after a fashion", and he compensated for his limited mobility with very fast and devastating hand techniques.

When Ken was an orange belt he was sparring with a blue belt twenty years his junior, and got caught with a thrusting side kick that sent him sprawling. As he fell, the straps holding his artificial leg broke and his leg ended up spinning round and round beside him as he lay prostrate on the floor.

We have a sort of unwritten rule during sparring... if your opponent falls, slips, trips or is thrown to the floor you finish him/her off immediately before they can get up again - failure to do so results in a penalty of twenty press ups!

The blue belt hesitated a moment, then went in to deliver the killing blow. As he moved in, Ken grabbed his artificial leg by the ankle and hit the blue belt on the side of the head with it, knocking him over and stunning him. The whole room collapsed into fits of laughter as Ken hopped around the prone blue belt waving his leg and cried ''that'll teach you!''

Eventually Ken had to stop training as he got an evening job, but he graded to purple belt, and the last time I saw him he was jogging seven miles a day to keep fit.

Sumo wrestler
We like our students to be knowledgeable in other martial arts and sports, but this is going a bit too far.

(Shihan Whale has the rather dubious honour of being runner up in the 1995 Cornish Sumo Wrestling Championships).

Though not a "bulky" person, skills learned from Karate (co-ordination, timing, balance and side stepping) got him through to the final where he faced a huge rugby player from Newlyn.

The guy was like a solid block of concrete and would not budge. Shihan Whale just bounced off him, and was eventually, slowly but surely, bulldozed out of the ring.

karate fight
Isn't it strange how every time you try to take a photo of a Karate competition you always seem to end up with the two protagonists either looking like they're desperately in need of a trip to the toilet, or doing the latest disco dance (very badly!).

A classic newspaper shot from about the early 1990's - Alex Blamey (left) vs. Robin Whale (right).

Thanks to Becky Curtis for the clipping - she's the one sitting on the floor just behind Robin Whale's left hip.

Karate kata
Thanks to David Croft, a photo of a rather fetching performance of Pinan Sandan at the British Karate Association National Championships.

The photo was copied from a cave painting originally made when Noah was an apprentice!

There are no prizes for guessing who the aspiring kata champion is!

karate nose attack
It's nice to see that the subtle art of seduction isn't dead!

Richard Collett certainly knows how to win a girl's heart with his style of romance.

Actually, this was taken at a pressure point seminar.

Whatever he's doing it looks like they are both enjoying it.

karate lawn mower
I know that wages aren't great in Cornwall but you'd think that a karate black belt could afford a lawn mower…

But then again, isn't that what lower grades are for?