I was fifteen years old and had been training at the Tonbridge club for about a year. I used to borrow a Judo suit from school as I did not have the money to buy a Karate suit.
One day I took a holiday from school (kids, do not try this) and went to the Tonbridge Club dojo in the afternoon. I sat there in my ill-fitting judo suit and watched all the great Instructors teaching and training. Master Meiji Suzuki, Sensei Abbey, Sensei Aritake and many more.
As I watched in awe and wonder, Master Suzuki came over to me and asked if I would like to spar with him.
Unbeknown to him, in the evenings I would train with the British Karate Squad and had been training with them for that whole year. They must have found it very amusing having a young boy sparring and training with them.
They were the toughest men I have ever trained with and also the most generous, never taking advantage of my youth and always coaching me.
Alfie Pitkin (never showed any nerves, I was privileged enough to fight with him in many team events), Joe Williams (built like a colossus and moved like a cat), George Norville (five foot five and one of the greatest fighters I have had the honour to spar with. I actually decided to model myself on his movement). And many more.
We went to the middle of the dojo. I bowed to him went into ready stance, then fighting stance. With that, I moved in swept him, reverse punched him and went back to the start line.
Looking up, I saw all the instructors seated and watching. I thought this is great, Master will award me a high grade and tell me how wonderful I am.
The instructors faces said it all. Disbelief and fear etched all over their faces, not for themselves but for me. They shook their heads and looked away.
Master slowly got up and for the next hour he swept me, punched me and kicked me. So great was his skill that I did not have one injury at the end of the session. Death by 1000 cuts in its purest form.
He bowed and we finished. I managed to get changed and walk across the road. There was a little park next to a church (how prophetic.) There I laid for many an hour until I could get up and go home which luckily was around the corner.
Thank you Master for a lesson in skill.
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