Star squad turn into karate kids

TO succeed at karate you need awareness, balance and confidence - traits which the Spring into Summer squad found in abundance. REBECCA LEFORT reports on a challenge which saw the group punch, kick and shout their way to success.

By Tracey Sparling

TO succeed at karate you need awareness, balance and confidence - traits which the Spring into Summer squad found in abundance. REBECCA LEFORT reports on a challenge which saw the group punch, kick and shout their way to success.

DON'T mess with the Spring into Summer squad!

Not only are they fitter than they were six weeks ago, but they now have some impressive karate skills too.

Initially many were a bit scared about the thought of trying a martial art, but once they got into the karate lesson they relished the chance to let out their aggression - through a combination of kicks and punches and learn some self defence moves at the same time.

And they particularly loved the 'kiais', loud yells which help to give the techniques more power.

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Some of the squad initially released small squeaks along with their punches but by the end of the session huge roars could be heard throughout Ipswich's Northgate Sports Centre.

Teresa Buckland, 46, of Woodbridge Road, Rushmere St Andrew, Ipswich, said: "I didn't think I was going to like this but it has been brilliant. I was concentrating so much on getting the moves right that the time just flew by. I had no idea I would like it this much."

And karate 'sensei' (coach) Bill Williams was so impressed with the squad's dedication that he kept adding new, harder, kicks and combining some of the simpler karate moves into small routines.

By the end the group looked an intimidating sight as they punched, kicked and shouted their way up and down the sports hall, remembering the 'rei' (bow) once they'd finished the exercise.

Bill said: "They did really well. Once they started moving there was a 'zenshin', an awareness of what they were doing. So I was able to add more each time because they kept exceeding my expectations."

Bill warned beforehand that the session may leave some beginners aching for a few days as it uses muscles that often don't get much of a work out. As well as improving strength and fitness, he added that taking up karate helped improve flexibility and confidence too.

The team were also taught a few basic self defence tricks such as grabbing an attacker's little finger and pulling it across their hand.

Joanne Brown, 36, of St Leonard's Road, Ipswich, said that by learning the tips she already felt 'like a world beater' and more empowered to protect herself if she needed to.

She added: "It's so simple - I had no idea you could do those little things and they would really work.

"It makes me more confident. I'm going to go home and practice the moves on my husband!"

Instructor Sarah Hammock, who helped Bill lead the karate lesson, added that her confidence had grown dramatically since she took up the sport about two years ago.

The 35-year-old mum-of-two said: “I started going to the gym about three years ago but it wasn't until I took up karate that I got my muscles working. I think it's a great discipline and my children are involved with it too now.”

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Has learning karate or self-defence helped make you more confident? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.

N The roots of karate stretch back to 2000 BC

N The martial art began on the Japanese island of Okinawa before being introduced to mainland Japan.

N Karate means 'empty hand'

N It is a fighting system which uses the hands and feet to deliver blows, kicks and strikes.

SOURCE: Northgate Karate Club

The Spring into Summer squad trained with Bill Williams who runs the Northgate Karate Club.

The club meets between 7pm and 8pm on Wednesdays and 11am and midday on Sundays at Northgate Sports Centre, Sidegate Lane West, Ipswich.

It is open to everyone and people are welcome to simply turn up on the day.

For more information visit www.northgate-karate.fsnet.co.uk.

Bill also organises self defence courses for schools. For more information see www.geocities.com/school_selfdefence.

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