On Wednesday 7th October 2015 five students from the Shotokan Karate Ryu (SKR) gathered at the St John’s Dojo in Stansted Mountfitchet to attempt their 1st Dan (Black Belt). Amongst their number was a student from the London based SKR club who had travelled for 2 hours across London to attend the grading.


The examination (Grading) panel was chaired by Sensei Dave Sharkey (8th Dan), one of the most Senior Karate-ka in Europe, Chief Instructor of the English Karate Organisation (EKO) and Chairman of the European Karate Organisation Governing Body (EKOGB). Also on the panel were Sensei Michael Ring (5th Dan), the Chief Instructor of the Shotokan Karate Ryu (SKR) and Sensei Donna Ring (4th Dan) SKR Chief Instructor of Juniors. With over 90 years of Karate training the panel were keen to ensure that the high standards of Shotokan Karate Black Belts were maintained.

The grading commenced with Kihon (basics) where Dan grade candidates were asked to perform at full speed and power a sequence of five or more techniques given in Japanese by Sensei Sharkey. The rapid fire combinations came thick and fast, and the Dan grade candidates performed well.


In photograph, left to right: Tolis Zacharatos, Wesley Berry, Andy Crawford,Tony Bellringer, Rick Porter

The students were then asked to demonstrate their Grading Kata (formal exercise) chosen from the 11 first Dan Kata. They were then asked to perform 4 Kata of the examiners choice from the same list.

Students then partnered up for the Kumite (sparring drills), performing defences against full speed and power attacks to: Jodan (face), Chudan (Body), and Keri (kicking), including Mae Geri (front kick), Yoko Geri (side kick), Mawashi Geri (Roundhouse kick), Ushiro Geri (turning kick) and Ashi Barrai (leg sweep).

Finally, the Dan candidates as to perform Jiyu Kumite (Free fighting) at full speed and power against 5 separate opponents demonstrating their fighting skills and Karate spirit. After a blistering round of matches Sensie Sharkey called “Yamae” and the exhausted candidates were sent out while the examiners made their deliberations.

On returning to the Dojo Sensei Sharkey award the following students ShoDan (1st Dan Black Belt); Wesley Berry (39), Tony Bellringer (43), Rick Porter (45), Apostolos “Tolis” Zacharatos (40) and Andy Crawford (50).

Sensei Sharkey remarked: “The Standard of the Karate from the entire group was extremely strong. The Kihon, Kata and especially the Kumite were top class. Bishops Storftord and Stansted should feel proud of their Karate-ka, they always impress with their dedication the art of Shotokan Karate.”