St Mary’s Church Hall on a Monday evening and a faithful band of men and women, girls and boys are dressed in traditional white gear to learn the skills of Shotokan karate. Ian Binge teaches the martial art to classes in Marlborough and Newbury.
Shotokan karate is a no-contact version of the oriental sport that develops bodily agility, strength and control. The attacking and defensive moves are practised in the air but facing a partner.
“You will learn,” says Ian, “fighting techniques which can, if the need arises, be used for self-defence.”
Each session begins with an energetic warm-up to get the muscles ready for the series of sometimes complex moves that Ian teaches. In Marlborough he has a class of ten students studying the complex moves of Shotokan.
As with other oriental martial arts, there is a series of levels through which students progress. And if you have trouble remembering the order of colours in snooker, there are many more colours to remember for Shotokan.
You begin at the white level, and proceed to orange, red, yellow, green, purple, purple and white, brown, brown and white, brown and two whites – and finally to black. The whole series can take up to four years to achieve.
Shotokan karate came from Okinawa, was taken up in Japan and was first taught in Britain in the early 1960s. The more widely practised TaeKonDo karate – which is a contact sport – originated in Korea, came to Britain in the 1950s, and has been an Olympic sport since 2000.
Shotokan karate is certainly not a sport that needs expensive equipment – just a set of loose white clothes and the right colour of belt. What is more it does not need the latest line in fashionable trainers as it is definitely a bare-foot sport.
Ian Binge lives near Reading at Caversham and works in the computer industry. His weekly sessions at St Mary’s Hall cost £5. The governing Southern Shotokan Karate Association (SSKA) charges £43 to qualify at each grade level and that includes two ninety minute lessons from a six dan instructor.
Ian is keen to develop the sport in Marlborough and will be talking to the Marlborough Sports Forum to see how that development can be encouraged.