New shodan for Harpenden JKA

Harpenden JKA has a new karate black belt; 17 year old Adam Sharp. After several months of focused training, and many years of hard work and determination, Adam was awarded his Shodan on Sunday 27 June 2021.

Adam with Sensei Miranda on his first club night as a karate black belt

Adam is disabled as a result of a tumour first discovered when he was four years old. It limits his mobility, causes him pain and discomfort. However, it hasn’t stopped him striving and achieving great things across a number of sports. (Obviously, we’re most interested in his karate career!)

As with every student, it took Adam a while to get used to the idea of being a Shodan. It wasn’t, however, a surprise to his Sensei, Miranda Price:

“I had every faith in Adam’s ability to pass his Shodan, and didn’t hesitate to put his name down. I’ve been his instructor for almost 3 years now, so I know how able he is. On Sunday, he proved me right, and we’re all incredibly proud of him.”

“I only get nervous at the very last minute”

As everyone who’s ever graded will tell you, grading days are long and tiring. The inevitable hanging around waiting for your turn can really wind you up. Whatever Adam does, however – karate, musical performances, table tennis – he only gets nervous at the very, very last second:

“Just as my name was called to take my place at the grading, my nerves kicked in, right on cue! But, I quickly got into my zone, concentrated on my karate and forget everything else.”

The day started for Adam with breakfast. In the car. With his mum, Jos, worried about him getting jam (or was it chocolate spread?) on his gi!

Spot Adam!

This was the first grading arranged by JKA England since the pandemic struck, and Covid rules still applied. The morning involved 2 hours’ training – limited numbers but open to all – followed by the grading starting promptly at 1pm. Apart from keeping muscles warm and minds focused, the morning training session helped the grading students get used to the Covid-style kumite. Very weird to be attacking and blocking at a 2-3 metre distance but at least it meant you didn’t need mitts and a gumshield!

Everyone agreed how good it was to be back training in a large gym with lots of people – albeit socially distanced. And trhere’s always time for a bit of socialising at JKA events; Adam got chatting with students from other JKA clubs, one of whom turned out to be his kumite partner later in the day.

Adam, just doing what it says on the banner!

The JKA dan grading

Adam, along with everyone else grading, was booked in the minute he arrived at 9am. Senseis Anthony and Susie trained with Adam in the morning, and together with Anthony’s son Aaron, gave him whatever support he needed. Which basically, was very little because Adam and his family are used to planning, adapting and just getting on with it.

In keeping with the Covid lockdown rules – and very unusually for JKA gradings – spectators were not allowed. So, Adam graded in front of the judges and other students taking Shodan.

Those taking Shodan were up first and, according to Adam it all “went really fast”. His chosen kata was Bassai Dai which went well. He was also given Tekki Shodan to perform, a kata he finds particularly difficult. The stance (kiba dachi) requires your weight to be evenly distributed across both legs. As he relies on his right leg for 90% of his stability, Tekki calls for superhuman effort from Adam. At least he didn’t have to worry about his leg-support making him slip because Sensei Miranda found some strapping that helped him grip the floor.

Karate Club Kakes…

…Karate Kake Queue!

A massive smile from Adam – and a big thank you

Feedback, from senior Senseis at the grading, highlighted Adam’s power, timing and confidence. Shodan with flying colours in other words.

He’s grateful for all the help and support over the years, from all his Senseis and fellow students at Harpenden JKA. A huge ‘thank you’ also for the help he received on Sunday: getting him through the process, putting him at ease and giving him chocolate right at the end (you know who you are Sensei).

Another hugely successful day for JKA England with superb planning in the background, with added Covid restrictions to take on board. We look forward to the next nerve-wracking experience!

Read more about Adam’s journey to karate black belt.

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