Traditional martial arts tuition in Cornwall, UK.


At present Sandokai Karate has a number of experienced black belts.

These senior grades have one of three titles, either...
• Shihan ("Master Teacher" or "Teacher of Teachers" - awarded to 6th Dan and above),
• Sensei ("Experienced Person" - awarded to grades of 3rd, 4th and 5th Dan) or
• Sempai ("Senior" - 1st and 2nd Dan grades).

We also consider students who hold blue (3rd Kyu) or brown (2nd and 1st Kyu) belts also to be senior grades and often refer to them as sempai, but this is not a formal title and does not have a capital "S".

Though Sandokai has produced many fine black belts we have "lost" a number of them due to a variety of reasons (work commitments, moving away, raising a family and so on). In order of seniority our currently active black belts are listed below.

Click on a person's name for more information about them.
  • Robin Whale 8th Dan

    Shihan Robin Whale
    Sandokai Chief Instructor


    "It was late 1969 when I first started training in the martial arts. At that time the club instructor held a green belt, and we had a visit from a black belt from Plymouth (90 miles away) every two weeks. At first, I studied traditional Japanese Wado Ryu karate and after a few false starts got my first belt in December 1973. I continued with Wado Ryu and reached 1st Kyu brown belt, and then my sensei (teacher) decided to form his own style - Bujinkai Karate. On August 12th 1978 I passed my grading examination for Shodan - Black Belt First Dan (level). 2nd Dan followed three years later, and my 3rd Dan three years after that.

    "During that time I opened and ran a few clubs in Cornwall, the main ones that continued being the Penzance and Helston dojo (training halls). Apart from an assortment of trophies from a number of competitions both locally and nationally, I am proud to say I have fostered a number of some of Cornwall's best Karate exponents. Men, women and children, able bodied and not so able bodied, have all benefited from the study of the martial arts.

    "After a growing dissatisfaction with my progress within Bujinkai Karate, I resigned in November 1991, and formed the Sandokai Karate Association with my senior grades in West Cornwall. 18 months later I was presented with my 4th Dan by Sensei Willie Thomas, the then World Karate Champion, and in May 1998 I was awarded my 5th Dan from the Federation of English Karate Organisations. 2004 saw a big step in my karate career when I was awarded my 6th Dan, the title of Shihan ("master teacher") and hung up my black belt in favour of a red and white "block" belt. In acknowledgement of my dedication to Karate, not just to Sandokai but in respect of my involvement with other traditional karate clubs throughout Britain, I was awarded my 7th Dan at the end of 2011and my 8th Dan in 2019.

    "I have no particular preferences for one technique or aspect of Karate over any other, but as an "older" person I do still get considerable pleasure from Kata, especially Saipai, Nijushiho and Unsu. I have had my time in kumite squads, represented Redruth Karate Club, Bujinkai Karate and Sandokai Karate at both local and national levels, and now focus my fighting skills through refereeing and coaching. I am still learning and growing every day.

    "I gain vicarious pleasure from guiding my students to their own successes, both in Karate and life itself. I could fill pages and pages of this web site with tales (funny, sad, heroic and just plain daft) of the antics and exploits of myself and my students, but suffice it to say that I have got a lot more out of Karate than I could ever put back in. Karate has been a constant in my life.

    "Partners, friends, family, and fortunes have come and gone, but my Karate has always been there, as have life long friends scattered around Britain and the world."

    SHODAN - 12th August 1978
    NIDAN - 23rd August 1981
    SANDAN - 30th September 1984
    YONDAN - 2nd May 1993
    GODAN - 31st May 1998
    ROKKUDAN - 16th May 2004
    SICHIDAN - 17th September 2011
    HACHIDAN - 17th November 2019

    B.Sc. (HONS) PSYCHOLOGY - Polytechnic South West - 28th June 1991
    CERTIFICATE IN EDUCATION (Cert. Ed.) - University of Plymouth - 29th September 1996
    DIPLOMA IN SOCIAL CARE (QCF L3) - Taylors Academy - 24th November 2017
  • Kevin Gilbert 7th Dan

    Shihan Kevin Gilbert
    Sandokai Senior Instructor

    Shihan Kevin Gilbert

    Kevin Gilbert was always "the quiet one". Not overly interested in the politics or intrigues of Karate, Kevin came, trained and went. Quietly working his way through the grades he was always there, training for the sake of training.

    Kevin's strength is the technical side of Karate. The correct way to do a particular technique, a Kata or some element of the syllabus. Using this technical excellence Kevin was a regular member the Bujinkai squad and then the Sandokai team for both Kata and Kumite.

    A regular competition entrant, Kevin was at home in either Traditional or Freestyle Karate and headed up the Sandokai squad at both local and national events. It was a rare event when Kevin doesn't come home with at least one trophy.

    A good all round Karateka, he is an example of how regular hard training can lead to a steady progression in Karate. An instructor who believes in simplicity and hard work, Kevin has produced some top class students.

    Now, at a higher level, he is the Senior Instructor of Sandokai, trains the competition squads, oversees Senior Training and Kumite Squad sessions and is an active member behind the scenes organising and running Sandokai.

    As the Senior Instructor of Sandokai he continues to ensure that Sandokai has a level of quality unrivalled in the area.

    SHODAN - 22nd October 1989
    NIDAN - 29th October 1991
    SANDAN - 20th November 1994
    YONDAN - 15th November 1998
    GODAN - 23rd November 2003
    ROKKUDAN - 15th November 2009
    SICHIDAN - 20th November 2016
  • Carenza Boughton 6th Dan

    Shihan Carenza Boughton
    Sandokai Karate Registrar

    One evening, two new beginners walked into the Penzance Karate Club. One was keen to train, but didn't want to start on his own so he dragged along his reluctant sibling, Terri, who was profoundly deaf. By the end of the evening Terri was hot, sore and hooked. Though Terri had previously trained in Judo with Sensei Brian Gent (and had graded to Green Belt), Karate was a whole new ball game.

    The only allowance made for Terri's deafness was the instructor tried to make a point of facing Terri when shouting commands (so Terri could lip read him), and in grading examinations a senior grade stood to one side and signed anything that Terri had not understood from the grading panel.

    Many evenings were spent in a local hostelry after training teaching Terri how to lip read Japanese, and other club members learning the rudiments of sign language. Being deaf, Terri would study intently every subtle nuance of a move and practice it to perfection. Unfortunately, this meant that the instructor could not afford to have an "off night" as Terri would collar him afterwards and demand to know why the elbow position in the Kata was two inches lower than it was last week!

    A dedicated and hard working student, Terri soon became a "personality" in the South West of England attending every course and training session possible. Her pet phrase ''all part of it!'' has become part of local Karate terminology, usually uttered just after accidentally kicking someone in the groin! When Terri passed her black belt grading the local T.V. station invited her up for an interview and demonstration of her skills. An interesting day to say the least! The demonstration went well for Terri, but during a takedown technique she managed to pull down her instructor's trousers - fortunately there is only one copy of the video left in existence, and Shihan Whale isn't showing it to anyone!

    Hard but fair, Terri was an instructor who brooked no nonsense and has many good students to her credit. However, just before Terri's Third Dan grading her doctor told her to quit Karate as she had severe arthritis in her back. Despite the pain and against doctor's orders, Terri took and passed her grade.

    Terri's stubbornness resulted in the seniors of Sandokai forcibly resigning her, which didn't go down well at all. No longer capable of the usual physical demands of Karate training, Terri took on the role of Registrar and Licensing Officer, and utilised years of experience coaching the senior grades, sitting on grading panels and dealing with administrative and political issues. Terri is also Sandokai's Chief Examiner, with responsibility for all aspects of grading examinations - from sorting out the paperwork and deciding who sits on what panel to making a "final decision" in the case of any dispute.

    In November 1998, Terri's continuing commitment to Karate generally and Sandokai specifically was rewarded with a 4th Dan. Never a quitter, Terri soldiered on and was awarded her 5th Dan in 2004 and her 6th Dan in 2010. To this day Terri is still actively involved in the martial arts, keeping the senior grades on their toes and setting an example of what can be achieved through a lifetime study of karate.

    Recently Terri Carenza Boughton has dropped the "Terri" from her name and now only uses Carenza.

    Sandokai Karate would not be the same without her.

    SHODAN - 25th October 1987
    NIDAN - 4th November 1989
    SANDAN - 28th November 1993
    YONDAN - 15th November 1998
    GODAN - 15th February 2004
    ROKKUDAN - 16th May 2010
  • Adam Collick 6th Dan

    Shihan Adam Collick

    Adam followed in the footsteps of his brother Lee when he started training at the Helston Dojo in 1994. He was a cheeky little lad who has worked hard on becoming a quick and efficient kumite exponent.

    Initially, a regular member of the junior kumite squad, Adam gained quite a reputation in the local area. Now he is over 18 he has stepped up to the rigours of being a senior in age as well as experience, but fighting in the senior age groups is something he enjoys. Adam is a determined competitor who likes to win and finds karate competition (both kata and kumite) an avenue of self-improvement.

    When Sandokai puts on a public demonstration in aid of a charity event you will find Adam in the fore at almost every event. His "party piece" is a dynamic wood breaking demonstration, where he performs a jumping front kick to break a piece of about 8 or 9 feet in the air!

    Amongst other pursuits Adam is quite adept at Cornish Wrestling having gained and successfully defended the Under 16's Middleweight Championship title, though these days he has little time to seriously pursue this traditional Cornish sport.

    Adam combines his hard work and dedication in the dojo with working as a nurse and studying to further his medical qualifications.

    SHODAN - 16th November 1997
    NIDAN - 14th November 1999
    SANDAN - 24th November 2002
    YONDAN - 19th November 2006
    GODAN - 20th November 2011
    ROKKUDAN - 26th November 2017
  • Jason Thompson 4th Dan

    Sensei Jason Thompson

    Jason Thompson
    "I remember my first lesson in Karate. It was back in 1985 and I was a pubescent 13 year old. After that initial lesson I was hooked. The style I began with was Shoto Ryu Karate Kai, which was based in Plymouth under Sensei Vivian Nash. It took me four years to get to 2nd Kyu (blue belt) training four times a week under Sensei Nick Moller in Bristol. Whilst training as a karate ka I also studied Yang and Chen along with push hands styles of Tai Chi. Shoto Ryu was a style that concentrated on the old fashioned essence of traditional Karate and was very similar to Shotokan. I have also tried Judo, and Kung Fu but have found that Karate to be the most enjoyable and rewarding.

    "However having just been appointed as an apprentice electrician with SWEB I had to move from Bristol to Taunton to train, and as a poor apprentice, travelling back and forth to Bristol was proving difficult and costly so unfortunately training was put on the back burner.

    "Having woke up one morning to find I was now a married 31 year old with two kids living in Cornwall I realised I had something missing in my life and needed an outlet... so having surfed the net for good Karate schools in Cornwall I came across the Sandokai website and contacted Sensei Whale who told me all I needed to know.

    "I started on 1st July 2003 at the Helston Dojo instructed by Sensei Gilbert, Collick and Martin and suddenly realised how much I had missed Karate. The first couple of weeks were a nightmare as a fourteen year gap does leave you a little un-supple to say the least but I soon had the bug and trained a minimum of twice a week. I was allowed to continue as a blue belt and found the differences between Sandokai and Shoto Ryu remarkable. This meant learning new kata and theories to training. For example I now had to learn the Pinans instead of Heian kata. 2nd Kyu was fairly easy as I only had Saipai to learn. My 1st kyu (full brown belt) however was a lot harder as I had to learn five Pinan kata and Seinchin - six kata in total. I attended courses as much as possible and helped at demonstrations to promote the club and style.

    "I now train three to four times a week at Helston, Camborne and sometimes Devoran Dojo whenever possible. I like to put back what I have taken out of Karate so that other students can advance in the art as I have.

    "Karate has taught me how to focus the mind and be more tolerant of people and situations, and above all to be patient. If I find myself in situations where a person is showing violence towards me I would rather walk than provoke.

    "As Gichin Funikoshi wrote;

    '...There are always some whose only desire is to learn karate so as to make use of it in a fight... Only those with a higher ideal will find karate interesting enough to persevere in the rigours it entails. Those who do will find that the harder they train, the more fascinating the art becomes.'

    "... I think that says it all!"

    SHODAN - 20th February 2005
    NIDAN - 13th May 2007
    SANDAN - 16th May 2010
    YONDAN - 31st August 2014
  • Josh Hughes 4th Dan

    Sensei Josh Hughes

    Josh was one of a group of lads from Helston that thought they'd try out karate for a bit of a laugh. Typically, most of the group dropped out after time as they realised that the fun came with hard work.

    Not so, Josh.

    Carrying on quietly in the background, and willing to give anything a go, Josh started being noticed as an efficient kumite competitor and a reasonable kata exponent.

    Unsurprisingly, Josh passed his black belt in 2007 with very positive feedback from the examiners and is now the backbone of the Sandokai kumite squad.

    He continues to train, growing in many ways with every passing week. Despite the pressures of a young man's life, Josh always makes time for his karate and intends to do so for a long time to come.

    SHODAN - 26th August 2007
    NIDAN - 9th August 2009
    SANDAN - 19th August 2012
    YONDAN - 21st August 2016
  • Trevor Brookes 3rd Dan

    Sensei Trevor Brookes

    Trevor is an old friend of Sandokai having trained with many of Sandokai's instructors many years ago when they were members of Bujinkai Karate.

    Trevor originally took up Karate training under the direction of Sensei Alex Blamey at Penryn in the early 1990s. In those days the Dojo used was the old Boy's Boxing Club, which was in a poor state of repair at the best of times. He progressed to Green belt in the Sandokai system when unfortunately the club was suspended from training for a period as the floor literally fell away into the river below the building!

    Trevor moved to a club nearer his home town of Camborne but had to change styles to Shotokan Karate, in which he progressed to 1st Dan.

    Similarly, this club closed down after the Instructor moved away, and after a period of not training (just over a year), Trevor found a Sandokai club had recently opened in Camborne under Sensei Fran Long. He was welcomed back into the fold and was glad to be re-acquainted with some of his previous mentors.

    A popular and skilled instructor, Trevor is juggling the demands of his work life, helping out with teaching at the Playing Place dojo and training for his own personal growth in karate.

    SHODAN - 19th November 2004
    NIDAN - 18th May 2008
    SANDAN - 23rd February 2014
  • Stephen Cooke 3rd Dan

    Sensei Stephen Cooke

    SHODAN - 20th May 2012
    NIDAN - 25th May 2014
    SANDAN - 21st May 2017
  • Rob Piper 3rd Dan

    Sensei Rob Piper

    SHODAN - 17th November 2013
    NIDAN - 21st August 2016
    SANDAN - 18th August 2019
  • Victoria Olobia 2nd Dan

    Sempai Victoria Olobia

    SHODAN - 24th February 2013
    NIDAN - 19th February 2017
  • Aidan Tennenbaum 1st Dan

    Sempai Aidan Tennenbaum

    SHODAN - 23rd February 2020
  • Lee Rendall 1st Dan
    Lee Rendall

    Sempai Lee Rendall

    ... was killed in a road traffic accident on 16th September 2002.

    A bright and vivacious 16 year old, he will be missed.

    Rather than mourn his passing, let us celebrate his life.

    It Is Better To Light A Candle Than To Curse The Dark

    SHODAN - 18th February 2001

The belt ranking system can be confusing at first, especially as different styles of martial art have different coloured belts for the same grade! A green belt in one style could be an orange belt in another, however the Black Belt is universally accepted as a symbol of mastery of the basic techniques of the system - though it certainly doesn't mean you "know it all"! To make things a little more confusing, not all Black Belt grades wear black belts, though they are all Yudansha - "those who have (achieved) rank."

In some styles the black belt is the last belt you ever get, but the Japanese and Okinawan based arts (Karate, Kempo, Jiu Jitsu, Judo etc) have the option of wearing special "master grade" belts to indicate a particularly high level of expertise and/or experience. In Sandokai Karate we award a red and white "block" belt (alternating sections of red and white) to senior grades who have reached the rank of 6th Dan. It takes at least 23 years training to reach 6th Dan, so we feel that such "long service" deserves recognition.

To progress from 6th Dan to 8th Dan takes a minimum of 15 years, so we again recognise the achievement of about 40 years service to Karate with a new belt, a plain red one - the same colour as a beginner's belt. You will be able to spot the difference between a beginner's belt and a red "master" belt quite easily, the 8th Dan's belt will have his/her name and the Sandokai calligraphy embroidered on it in gold silk.

In fact, all Sandokai members who have achieved the rank of 3rd Dan and above have an official Sandokai embroidered belt to indicate their status as a Sensei.