A new generation of karate black belts has been born in the Borders, and the squad of five are the youngest yet to be developed by local 6th Dan Martin Brownlee.
Shannon Atkinson, 17, Steven Wittet, 17, Jack Templeton, 16, Matthew Wight, 15, and Lewis Watt, 14, underwent 12 months of highly-intensive preparation to achieve their first black belt gradings – and for all five it was well worth the effort.
“I have been doing karate since I was five and when it was suggested to me that I take the grading it just seemed like a natural progression,” said Shannon, who hails from Hawick and has just left high school to take up mental health studies at Borders College.
“Yes, it meant a lot of hard work for all of us, but we get on great as a group and I think that knowing that we were all going through the same thing helped us support one another, too.
“Someone is always getting ribbed at sometime or other by the others, but when it comes to it we all stick together and help one another out. I will definitely be looking to do more gradings in the future.”
Lewis is the youngest in the group, but does not think that he has had to work any harder than the rest and has just taken everything in his stride, even the three-hour-long dan grading sessions the group had to undertake, along with their usual training sessions.
“I really enjoy learning the different techniques and then demonstrating them along with the others,” said the Galashiels Academy pupil.
Jack is also from Galashiels, Matthew, from Peebles, and Lewis, from Bowden.
“I think we have all benefitted in our own way from the discipline that karate installs and should benefit from that whatever life should throw at us,” said Jack.
All five teenagers have been part of Martin Brownlee’s Borders’ Karate Federation from a young age and were specially selected by the man who became the highest-ranked instructor in the region in 2008.
“This particular group have been with us since they were about five years old and have came up through all the gradings to junior black belt,” he said.
“For people of that age to then achieve a senior black belt is pretty rare, and this group is really quite exceptional.”
Also instrumental in this most recent success were 3rd Dan Alan Murray, 1st Dan Darren Davies and Hawick instructor Malcolm Elliot.
Former European champion and karate professional Douglas Fowler, 7th Dan, carried out the grading.
Brownlee said: “It has taken a lot of time and effort from everyone involved to get them this far and everyone is really happy that they have made it.
“Traditional (non- combat) karate is a discipline that takes a lot of effort, sweat and sometimes even tears to perfect, but if you stay the course you will be successful and hopefully reap many benefits from it, including fitness and self-discipline.”
The Borders Karate Club meets at Galashiels Academy on Tuesday and Thursday nights.
Call 01896 756326 for more information.