Bearsden Martial Arts Club has been running classes for children and adults in the area for over 30 years. Our chief instructor, Hugh Russell, has over 40 years of experience in various martial arts and currently is a 9th Dan Black Belt. He is assisted by instructors Eric Walton (3rd Dan Black Belt), Ross Walton (2nd Dan Black Belt) and John Marley (1st Dan Black Belt).
The club trains on Tuesday nights at Bearsden Academy and on Wednesday nights at St Joseph's Primary School in Milngavie. On both nights, child classes are from 7pm to 8pm, with adult classes following from 8pm to 9:30pm. Today we have 30 adult members, and 60 juniors. In addition to our training, the club has regular social activities.
New members will be made to feel very welcome. We actively encourage people of all grades to train together so a new member will get to train with everyone from other newcomers, up to Hugh. We have 14 black belts in the club at present which allows us to give 1-to-1 tuition with a black belt for new members to help them feel comfortable and get used to our training.
The club is part of the wider Shoto Budo organisation (www.shotobudo.org) which has clubs in Scotland, England, Ireland and Finland.
Shoto Budo as a martial art has its roots in Shotokai Karate but, reflecting the interests of the senior instructors, has evolved to incorporate elements of many martial arts, such as judo, jiu-jitsu and aikido. The over-arching principle is one of self defence and the emphasis is on self development and continual improvement so there is no competitive fighting element to what we do.
A typical practice may involve elements such as hitting pads, parrying, wrestling and takedowns. This is performed in a safe, controlled and supervised environment and is always appropriate to the grade of the practitioners. Speed and technique for experienced black belts will be different to that of the new comer and practice will reflect that.
Training with us has many benefits. There are improvements in overall fitness, balance, flexibility as well as the improved confidence and ability when it comes to self defence. A session of hitting pads is also a wonderful way to relieve stress after a particularly busy day.
Children can start training at five years old and will have two opportunities per year to grade and move to a higher belt. Depending on their progress, junior members can start training with the adult class and then at 18 can move up to the adult grades. Our instructors are PVG Disclosure checked.
Age, size and sex are no barrier to joining. You don't have to start young and you don't have to be the Incredible Hulk. We have members training in our adult class ranging in age from 14 to 61 and covering short, tall, big, small and all points in between. We welcome new members regardless of age. For example, Ross started at 6 years old, is now 23 and a 2nd Dan Black Belt whilst another member started after 50, has been training with us for about 18 months, loves the fitness element and now has an orange belt (the third colour after a beginner's white belt). We also encourage both male and female members to join and women joining will be made to feel welcome and not embarrassed in any way. Regardless of age, levels of fitness and flexibility or previous experience, training with the club will help you to improve and you will find yourself being able to do things you never thought possible.
In addition to the regular training nights, the wider organisation holds several courses throughout the year giving everyone an opportunity to learn from other instructors, train with different people and grade for new belts. At our most recent course, held in Larbert at the start of November, we saw four new 1st Dan black belts (Emma, 34, Scott, 43, David, 61 and Ashleigh, 18), two junior black belts (aged 14 and 16), a blue belt (Diana, 49) and an orange belt (Iain, "closer to 55 than 50"). Getting to a black belt is not a race nor is there a time limit. Of our new 1st Dans, Emma has been training for four years, Scott for nine years and David for 18.
Commenting on the club, Hugh finds training to be enjoyable as it helps fitness and flexibility whilst as a coach, he is rewarded by seeing club members develop and grow from beginner to black belt and onto coaching themselves.
Eric runs the Tuesday night junior club and "finds it very enjoyable that a wide variety of kids, from quiet and shy, to full of beans, can change over a relatively short time into competent and confident youngsters. It’s hard work keeping everyone on track for their progression to their next grade, but we try to make it a fun way of learning not only a Martial art, but the self-confidence, self-discipline, compassion, self-control and respect that come with this, which is great for the instructors and parents but more importantly for the kids themselves."
The cost for children is £14 per month and £17 per month for adults. This covers membership of Shoto Budo, insurance and training two nights per week. A newcomer can wear comfortable clothes such as shorts and t-shirt before buying any equipment, such as karate suits, pads and gloves which can be purchased through the club at a discounted rate.
If you a have New Year resolution to get fit and want to try something new, come along and join us. Your first night is free and there is no obligation to join. There is a contact form on our website and we can answer any questions you may have before you come.
More information is available at our website, www.bearsdenmartialarts.org, on Facebook at facebook.com/BearsdenMartialArts/ and on Twitter @BearsdenMAC.
2016 is almost in the books. It's been an eventful year in world events but closer to home, what have been the hightlights for Bearsden Martial Arts Club? I asked my club mates for their personal favourite moments.
Perhjaps unsurprisingly, gradings were highlights for many. Scott M had his first grading over the summer during a course in Greenock, saying he will never forget his first one. Just wait until the next one, Scott!
Diana loved this year with her highlight being getting to the end of it and feeling that she is making "steady progress even though I am even more acutely aware of the known unknowns and this has really boosted my confidence". It's always nice to feel progress is being made and I'd like to congratulate Diana on not one but two successful gradings in 2016 and she begins the new year as a blue belt.
For David, his highlight was seeing the progress that everybody has made over the year and the grading in November. He's far too modest to mention it but many of us were delighted to see David finally get his black belt. It's been a long time coming and it was thoroughly deserved for such a good guy.
Training and grading for first Dan was Emma's top moment and she specifically included the training part as first Dan is more than just a weekend course. It's a process with ups and downs along the way. Similar to Diana's growth in confidence, Emma pointed out that the praise from Hugh, other instructors and fellow martial artist has given her a huge spring in her step and also the feeling that she is capable and worthy of the grade, even when there were times she doubted her own ability. I could not put it any better myself, as that pretty much word for word my own highlight.
From a period of injury and low confidence in 2015, this year's training has been so good for me with many challenging but enjoyable sessions over the year, culminating in the grading in November. As mentioned in the last article, my enthusiasm for training has been renewed and my fitness level has been better than it has been in a very long time.
Previous articles have covered the joy so many members get from seeing others develop their skills and this was reflected in many comments. From our new black belts, junior black belts, kyu grades and kids coming through from beginners, it really is satisfying to see everybody improve. We have a club Facebook group and the supportive and congratulatory messages to each other before and after grading is genuinely heartwarming.
Hugh continued this theme, with one of several highlights. From a club point of view, so many people graded over the year and in particular the National Course in November that Hugh takes great pride in seeing the club develop their skills. It has also been a good year for the club in terms of membership numbers, across both our junior and adult classes. On that last note, we cannot rest on our laurels and will be looking to grow membership further in 2017.
It might not be training related, but Hugh also mentioned the club's Christmas night out! We might spend time hitting and choking each other, but we are actually quite a sociable bunch.
The final highlight was from Jamie and is perhaps the most inspiring, motivational story of the year.
Alan Dunn, who trains in our Greenock clubs, was awarded a special 2nd Dan at the spring Adult National. A keen and passionate martial artist, his progression was put on hold by a massive motorcycle accident. As soon as he could move in a wheelchair, he turned up at Billy Haggerty's door asking what can I do? And he kept coming back, getting on two canes, then one, then a stick, until finally walking freely which was nothing short of a miracle.
He still struggles but that does not stop him from training and coming to courses. Shoto Budo literally saved his life, and Alan being awarded for his sheer determination was one of Jamie's most heart warming and emotional moments of my year. I agree and that is a story that we can all be inspired by. Just amazing.
So that was 2016. We enter 2017 with a healthy club, lots of freshly graded members and our journey continues. Who knows what the new year will bring but let's hold on and enjoy the ride!
I've now been a black belt for a month but as my first dan grading approached, I wondered how I would feel afterwards. Would it feel like an achievement, an anticlimax, a culmination or a step along the way?
The quick answers:
Let's look at each of these in a bit more detail. It did feel like an achievement. It has taken a while, there have been interruptions for work, injury and life in general, but to get through the course and perform in the grading felt great. I have said before that I consider martial arts to be a personal challenge and to meet this particular one, one that had built up a daunting aura over time, was so rewarding.
After all the training and the formal grading, your reward is a certificate and a 290 centimetre length of black cotton that Greaves Sports will sell you for five pounds. It might not be some elaborate trophy but it certainly did not feel like an anticlimax. In fact very much the opposite, putting the black belt on for the first time felt . . . a bit weird. In fact, a month down the line and it still feels weird. For me, it symbolises the time and effort I have put into Shoto Budo and also what it has given to me in return.
It definitely is not the end of the journey but it does feel like a significant milestone. After all, if I train in Shoto Budo for the rest of my life, I'll never get another colour of belt. There has been a perhaps unexpected benefit: I feel re-energised in my training. My frustration with injuries and lack of progress (perceived or otherwise) have been banished to the past and replaced with a desire to continue learning and to move up again. Who knows when that will be but I have a renewed enthusiasm for my martial art, all thanks to this length of black cotton.
There is so much more to learn. It was interesting to see the reaction of my work colleagues; on more than one occasion the phrase "better not argue with Scott, he's a black belt now" has been uttered in meetings. It's not that in the space of a grading I suddenly learned a whole range of new skills or some previously secret techniques but to the wider public, the black belt clearly maintains its mystic status as being a symbol of being a martial arts expert (I'm definitely not). Most of my colleagues were surprised that there are another nine dan grades after the one I had just achieved.
Training with so many talented people both at the course and in my club shows just how much more there is to learn and how great is the scope to improve. I might have been training for nine years but I feel like I have barely scratched the surface. It's clear that a first dan black belt is far closer to the start of the journey than the end.
Watching our higher dan and Meijin grades train is both hugely impressive and inspiring. It is also notable how much knowledge our Meijin grades have when it comes to the fine details of what works, how and why. For example, during the course, Emma and I were practising a technique taught to us by Markus and Marko (very skill third and fourth dans respectively) but when one element was not working for either of us, a small detail from Richard Price (3 Meijin, or 8th Dan) made all the difference. That is a level of skill, knowledge and vision for everyone to aspire to.
So to answer the opening question "now what?" is actually quite easy. More training, more learning, more fun and, hopefully somewhere down the line, second dan. Without question, I am really looking forward to enjoying the next leg of my martial arts journey.
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.