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Get Involved: Manchester Shotokan Karate Club

David Brierley talks about the positives of getting involved with karate at the university

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Last week saw thousands of you milling around the university’s Welcome Fair, signing up to hundreds of societies, picking up free pens, and decapitating Margaret Thatcher—but now is the time to narrow down your search for the right society! Sport editor Harry Newton caught up with The Shotokan Karate Club’s David Brierley, who thinks this is the society for you!

Could you tell us a little bit about Karate?

Karate is a martial art from Okinawa, now part of Japan, which came from Chinese Kung Fu, Japanese Ju Jutsu, and a variety of other sources. In some ways, it was the original MMA—a combination of kicks, punches, grapples, and throws used as civilian self-defence. These days, however, most practice sport Karate—this is what has been entered into the Olympics for Tokyo 2020.

There are two disciplines of sport karate: Kata (choreographed sequences of techniques to demonstrate speed, power, technique, and coordination); and Kumite (semi-contact sparring, using punches, kicks, and some throws).

Why do you think it’s important to get involved with Martial Arts?

I don’t think it’s just Martial Arts that are important to get involved with, but sport in general—fitness is so important for physical and mental health, and even just a twenty-minute walk can do so much good to anyone. I in particular love Martial Arts because not only do they promote fitness, flexibility, and self-defence; but also Martial Arts promote respect, mental wellbeing, and humility. If anyone is looking for a sport to do that is not only a bit different to your typical notion of fitness, but also promotes and encourages positive sportsmanship, then you would be hard pressed to find something more suitable than a Martial Art. Martial Arts are also very inclusive—a huge range of people practice them worldwide, and there is a growing number of women and LGBTQ people actively involved with them, which I think is really encouraging for the future of the Martial Art community.

You’ve been invited to be part of the Manchester XXI Club – could you tell us what this is, and how long it has taken you to reach this level?

The Manchester XXI Club is a sporting body that was set up to represent and promote high-achieving sports-people at the University of Manchester—every year, they elect 21 people who have achieved a high level of success in their sport, and 21 people who have contributed a huge service to their sporting community. I was shocked to have been invited to become a member, and I am extremely proud to be able to represent my University at this level. Having started Karate four and a half years ago, I am now starting to compete at International level, but still have a very long way to go with my career. Competing with the University club has helped my progress significantly, and the opportunities the Athletic Union, and its constituent clubs, offer to University students is something I believe everyone should take advantage of during their time at University.

What opportunities have become available to you since doing Karate at the University?

Competing at BUCS (The University Nationals) for the first time was the moment when I decided I wanted to start seriously competing in Karate. The level of competition at the University club is very high, and it was my situation that gave me the motivation and encouragement to work towards my goals. I will be attending the Shito-Ryu Karate World Championships in October this year, something I would be very unlikely to be doing if it were not for having competed at University level and pushed myself in this way. Not only that, but it is also very good for your CV—working in the committee, and representing my sport off the tatami (competition arena) has given me opportunities which have really filled out my time studying at Manchester with far more than just a degree or a part time job could.

Sport along-side your degree. Honestly, is it helpful or a hindrance?

As surprising as it may seem, I truly think doing an AU sport alongside your degree is helpful to both. No one can just do their degree full on with no form of stress relief—when a deadline is coming in, and you have hit a wall, a couple of hours of training is almost always enough to give you the break you need to get back to it with a fresh outlook. Physical health also promotes mental health as well, something that sadly too many people have difficulty with at University, myself included. With competitions to plan for, you become better organised with your time, and more aware of when and how you need to organise yourself—if you have to be in Edinburgh on the Sunday, submit an essay on the Wednesday, and then be down in London on the next Sunday, you simply have no option but to get yourself together.

Could you run us through what competitions the team compete in, and how regularly?

The University Karate Club are members of the KUGB, and therefore compete at their events. Usually, this is two or three competitions in Semester One, and four to five in Semester Two—including our big event of the year, the University Nationals. These competitions range from regional to international level of competition, so there is plenty there for everyone.

How can others get involved?

Come train! There is no better way to get involved that to simple turn up—the University Karate club trains on Tuesdays and Fridays at the Trinity Sport Centre, and we welcome people from absolute beginners to seasoned veterans. We also have a Facebook Page, Twitter Page, and Facebook Group—give us a message, and we will be happy to help!

For first years who are not sure whether they should get involved or not, the answer is always yes—University, for me, has been a time of trying new things and making the most of the opportunities that a degree presents. Nowhere else will there be this amount of clubs and societies that you can do alongside your degree for as little cost as you will find them elsewhere.