Chingford Karate Club, started 30 years ago and has expanded to include 15 other clubs in East London and the Essex area. Clubs in Waltham Abbey, Harlow, Enfield, Wanstead, Woodford, Walthamstow and other areas have joined the Chingford Club, and the group is now known as Shotokan Karate England.

This explosion of interest in karate is due to people of all ages realising that karate is a discipline that helps concentration and coordination and is also fun to learn.

The Chingford Karate Club was actually ground-breaking because 30 years ago in 1985, it was the first karate club to open in Waltham Forest. The founder, Rod Butler, had to persuade the local council that karate was in fact a disciplined martial art rather than an aggressive sport. Opinion of karate has happily changed and there are now karate clubs throughout London and Essex and children can even study karate as a GCSE subject at school.

Shotokan Karate England has a wide range of ages and a great family atmosphere in its clubs. Many of the children are introduced to karate by parents, but Rod got into karate years ago after watching his son in a class, he even met his wife at Chingford Karate Club! After more than 40 years of karate experience Rod is now the chief instructor maintaining a high standard in all of the SKE clubs.

SKE also organise karate demonstrations in schools as a way of introducing children to karate. Classes are open to students from the age of six and all abilities are welcomed. There is also a free introductory class for anyone interested in starting a structured programme of learning defence against punches, kicks and grabs.

As members become more experienced, they are encouraged to attempt gradings, rising through the colour belt ranks, ­from white to black. Every three months there are grading courses where members can demonstrate their new skills and attempt the next belt exam. There are also regular inter-club competitions, and an annual National Championships.

SKE has had members representing Great Britain in the World Karate Championships in Japan, and Chingford member Tim Ahmet won the Great Britain Under-21 Championships as an active junior member.

The clubs also use karate to help various charities. This year 200 members performed a Karate Marathon to raise money for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Appeal and a presentation of £22,000 raised by the event will shortly be presented. During 30 years the clubs have raised more than £100,000 for various charities.

Future plans include international exchange visits with clubs from abroad where visiting clubs train here and SKE Clubs travel abroad to a host club. The next exchange trip will be to a club in Belgium.

Shotokan Karate England
01992 768 664

By Ben Sneath