It was as vivid as it was
stark. I entered the Crush Hall with the trepidation that I was
entering a strange and somewhat mystical world. Unaware of ‘the
score’ I imitated the others around me. They were loosening off
and there seemed to be no one in charge.
Enter the Dragon!. He then
entered the hall from the changing room. A smallish, but solid
man, then in his late twenties. He had a presence about him, and
he surveyed the attended throng, beginners et al. Oh Shit!
His training sessions were
legendary. He drilled like an Army sergeant, demanding,
thorough, bunny hops and brain damage. I didn’t think the human
body was deigned for such demands. His tuition was tireless, his
tolerance endless, and he encouraged, cajoled and barked his
demands in a drive that would have brought lesser mortals to
tears. It was rare to have any injuries.
I quickly found that Mr
Clark was a social animal. He enjoyed a small refreshment after
the training and I quickly joined in. Over our pint he would
regale us with stories of Grange Farm, Sensei Harada and Ken
White. He told us of the experiences, the gradings and the
clashes of culture of east and west and how in many respects the
Scottish approach was respected by the Japanese.
As I started to get more
involved I was encouraged to take more to do with the club. Mick
was Secretary at that time I think, and I was co-opted on to the
club committee as Treasurer. The club grew as Mr Clark’s
reputation spread, but he discouraged any interest in the club
that did not consider the Martial Arts the way he wished it
taught. He taught Martial Arts as an art form and as an amalgam
of techniques that worked not as a rigid style. He was happy to
absorb aspects of Aikido, Judo, Ju-Jitsu and Classical Sword,
and today his art is like the finest blended whisky; mature and
Mr Clark periodically
arranges Gradings for the members to go through their paces in
front of visiting Dan Grades and have their grading levels
reassessed. Bobby McBirnie and Jack Ewart would visit at these
times and deliberate on the respective gradings of the members.
This opened the doors for many individuals to go through and
beyond and many like Murray Tait, Dave Leadbetter and Bill
Duncan spring to mind, but they are legion.
Mr Clark said that some of
the new members were having difficulty obtaining suits. He found
me a contact, we obtained the suits. He said it would be
desirable to do sword work in tandem with our Karate practice,
we obtained bokans. We designed and had made Stirling University
Karate Club badges, we arranged weekend courses, and we applied
for and received subsidies for Dr Thomson, the Director of
Physical Education. I subsequently became club Secretary.
However our most memorable
and enduring arrangement came about when Willie and I were
talking of the frustrations of tuition within a University
environment. He said that at Grange Farm they ran week’s courses
that gave the tutors time to work technique, Kata and other
aspects of the arts that were a little more obscure or time
consuming. I said why don’t we do it here and Willie said great
idea. I liased with Dr Thomson for funding, JPR Riddie for
residences and Willie for the finer points of the timing and
detail. Willie made enquiries as to the availability of other
high grade Martial Artists like Slim (Aikido coach for Scotland
at the time) and his Uki, Tommy, and the whole event was put
together in three months. I subsequently became President.