One of the many joys of our martial art is there are no limitations on who can join. It doesn't matter if you are male or female, big or small, young or old, hairy or bald; everyone is welcome. One of our members, Iain, joined us in March 2015 and started his Shoto Budo journey after the age of 50. This is his experience so far...
I decided to join Bearsden Martial Arts Club in March 2015. For some time I had harboured a desire to learn a martial art but had always found an excuse not to attend, safe in the knowledge that there was always next week. I had previously participated in other sports and achieved moderate competence in some of these. Was I apprehensive that I might make a complete fool of myself? Did I really want to do this at my age? Would the television not be preferable in winter and the golf course in summer?
Finally, aged nearer fifty five than fifty I plucked up the courage to go along to St Joseph's Primary School in Milngavie on a wet Wednesday night and make enquiries about joining BMAC. No commitment, you understand, just a tentative enquiry. I had a quiet, confidential word to those close to me about what I was doing but all were warned not to mention this to anyone else.
In no sense was I joining the club. I was just going along to see what it was like. However, from the minute I wandered in and made enquiries of Jackie about prospective membership I was warmly and enthusiastically welcomed. A senior club member took me aside and basically gave me private tuition for half an hour. In so doing he was sacrificing his own training schedule. There was not a suggestion of anything other than encouragement and patience demonstrated and I quickly forgot my earlier misgivings.
Eighteen months on and I am still there. I have managed to progress a couple of grades, having attended three national courses with the club. More importantly, and above all, I have discovered a new and compelling interest and broadened my horizons hugely. I now feel that a week is not complete unless I have been at least once to BMAC.
The highlights for me have included a young man sporting a very dark coloured belt who announced that I was four years older than his dad. "Well done", he said to me. Not "are you daft??!!" or "are you not a bit old for that??!!" as had been the theme of some of my less broad minded contemporaries upon discovering my new interest.
That theme of encouragement and support is prevalent at every practice. The instructors, led by Hugh, Eric and John, have truly remarkable ability, a deep knowledge of the art and apparently an endless supply of good natured patience. No technique is ever too much trouble to explain and further demonstrate, no matter how often it has previously been meticulously and comprehensively shown. The constant support, friendship and encouragement from other members have been like no other I have experienced.
There is always present the constant of a strong and underlying recognition that we all want to improve our skills and everyone will help everyone else to achieve this, no matter the level which each member has achieved. The practices are focused and layered learning is a recurrent theme. Smiling is obligatory!! While I suspect that I am certainly one of the oldest novices to have joined the club nobody cares about my age, ability or background.
For those concerned with the quality of training, to watch our lead instructor Hugh demonstrate techniques is to watch a true master of his art. At the most recent Adult National course in Larbert, six club members were awarded a black belt. No other club within the wider Shoto Budo organisation achieved this remarkable distinction. Of those earning their black belt, three were female and three were male, with ages ranging from 14 to 60 (sorry Davie!!).
Lest, however, you should be under the impression that enjoyment is sacrificed for achievement. I emphasise that the focus is predominantly about enjoyment of the practice, and while the acquisition of the tutored skills is clearly our principle purpose, the shared humour amongst us is always demonstrably present.
I am writing this to demonstrate that this club is not simply for teenagers or the young. If you have a notion for martial arts, no matter age, sex or background I can only tell you that I am delighted that I overcame my initial apprehension and decided to join BMAC. I have developed skills I thought were beyond me, I have made deep and enduring friendships and I have had an absolute ball. If you are looking for a new interest, if you want to spend the time between dropping your own child at the club and the later uplift more constructively I urge you to consider joining us. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed and like wine through water it will change the colour of your mind.
Thanks Iain, and congratulations on your recent success in grading for your orange belt at the course!
Scott has been training in Shoto Budo since 2007 and is a 1st Dan Black Belt. He is working towards his 2nd Dan grading.