About Sensei Ian Warren and the origins of A.A.K.A.

I first started Karate at the age of 24, having been persuaded by my cousin Neil, to go along to a class with him after his brother in law, who had already been attending the sessions for a little while, had convinced Neil he should give it a go! At the time Neil and I were both into weight training and Neil being just over six-foot-tall, and almost as wide, me the short five foot seven- and three-quarter chunky sidekick, thinking what did we need to learn to dance around in our pyjamas for? As that was our impression of Karate. Anyway, we decided to give it a go and went along to our first class.

All I can say is we were lucky that we attended the classes of Sensei Ian Cuthbert. Probably one of the best instructors in England but most definitely the best competition karate coach in the United Kingdom. I only mention this as after we went through the class which started with a light warm-up followed by some basics, we finished with some “light ” sparring. We borrowed some hand pads and were asked to line up, lower grades one side, higher grades on the other. I looked across the room at the line of Black Belts none of them particularly big some quite tall but not heavy set and thought this is going to be easy, I’m a lot bigger than you! We were asked to pair up, one of the black belts made a beeline for me another for Neil. We bowed as was the etiquette and began. I tried to copy the way my opponent was moving and holding their hands and moved in to land my first punch. After that, all I remember was looking up at the ceiling and being punched after only just hitting the floor. My opponent helped me up and we carried on I couldn’t get anywhere near him. If I moved in, he slipped off to the side and hit me, he hit me as I was moving in, he hit me as I was moving away. He never hurt me and only hit me fast enough and hard enough to get his punches and kicks in. My next opponent was a young girl of about sixteen only slight in build and a tiny bit shorter than me. I was worried about hurting her! Well no sooner than hajime (begin) had been called she must have punched me three times and kicked me twice before I even had time to move, she was like lightning and I was hooked on karate!

After that, I very rarely missed a lesson, practised every chance I got. As soon as I achieved my yellow belt, asked if I could do double sessions, even though the second session was for higher grades only. I started attending the National Squad training sessions, which were held every couple of weeks, and our own in-house squad sessions every two weeks. I went from training once a week to three or four times a week in just over a couple of months. From Yellow belt I attended every competition I could from club competitions to National level, eventually making my way on to the “Shikon” squad team. I came second on a few occasions but never actually winning a competition until 2014 when I took first place in the Veterans (Over 35 yrs.) section in a national competition, almost 20 years after my first competition!

After gaining my 1st Dan I started teaching almost straight away having been assisting in classes for quite a few years prior to that. We now have 5 different locations with three of my original students (brothers, Ben & Tom Boulton and Lewis Start) from those first classes still training and teaching with me and I am proud to say, my two girls, Holly and Poppy are both 2nd Dan Black belts and, yes parents, even I had that struggle many times when they were younger getting them to classes. I persevered, they are now teaching in Attleborough, competing at national level and still loving karate! I still see Sensei Ian Cuthbert and still attend the squad sessions whenever I can.

I think that learning a martial art with the right instructor is as important as learning to swim, one day it could save your life, even if it is learning to walk away from a potentially hostile situation. I learnt how to fight on the mat, so I didn’t have to fight on the street, but should the need ever arise???