I started training in 1985 in Newport Pagnell, under the instruction of Sensei Andy Kidby . At the time we were in an association called T.A.S.K. (Traditional Association of Shotokan Karate) whose chief instructor is Sensei John Van Weenen. I steadily progressed up the kyu grades culminating in September 1992 when I gained Shodan (at that time I believe I was one of the youngest people to achieve this grade in T.A.S.K, having just turned 15).
In 1994 Sensei's Kidby, Coppen and Calver moved away from T.A.S.K to form C.F.T.S. It was in that new association in April 1995 that I achieved Nidan. I was not only continuing my own personal training but had also started to teach on a fairly regular basis, and having qualified on the EKGB coaching scheme, along with Sensei James Kidby, took on the running of Wolverton Club.
In November 1998 I attained my lifelong ambition of Sandan always perceived as being the most technical of gradings, this was all the more special to me because it concluded what had been a very tough year for me personally. Five years later, and a bolt from the blue appeared in the guise of when Sensei Kidby invited me to try for Yondan, which, and it is still a shock for me to say, I passed in October 2003. Roll on to February 2010 and after many months of blood, sweat and preparation, I undertook the design, development and running of a CFTS course. My remit was the course had to be innovative and informative yet traditional Shotokan. This was to be the culmination of my 5th Dan grading, a very public one at that. After much nerves beforehand I actually enjoyed taking the course (well parts of it, being beaten to a pulp by many high ranking Dan Grades during several gruelling freestyle bouts, was not my favourite part), and the 3 hours fairly flew by. Then came my proudest moment in Karate, I was awarded 5th Dan. I can say with all certainty and honesty that I never expected to reach this prestigious grade, in fact I’m still flabbergasted when I think about it. It has also allowed me the opportunity to be a part of the CFTS Executive, another Karate moment I am hugely proud of.
I have also competed in many competitions throughout the years, both in Kata and Kumite, some of which I have been fortunate to have achieve placings. However, regardless of where I have finished I have always enjoyed and learnt a lot from them, especially how to be a gracious loser as well as winner. I believe this is an important part of younger persons karate development and would encourage all, young and not so young, to take the opportunities CFTS competition days offer. I have also had the pleasure of being picked to represent C.F.T.S in many kumite competitions, the two most memorable for me being firstly, an international class competition at Crystal Palace and secondly, when we were invited to Stevenage to fight a very good E.S.K.A squad at their Open Day, in what seemed to be very much like a gladiator arena, we managed to defeat them after some hard fought battles.
Despite now having 3 young children I endeavour to keep up my training as much as possible and still have as much enthusiasm for Karate as when I started, over 30 years ago. Having my eldest son now training in the same dojo as I do has also added an extra dimension to my training experience. I know I still have much more to learn, one of the amazing attributes of Karate is that no matter how long you have been training, if you keep your eyes, ears and mind open you will always learn something new when attending a dojo. I hope to be able to still keep progressing both in terms of achieving, but more importantly, simply understanding all that karate has to offer, both superficially and philosophically.
Shihan Liam O'Reilly - October 2017