Sen No Kai Martial Arts Association :


Club is closed!

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 subtle.

   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.

   This has now been an enduring feature of the club and has ensured that our students get access to the best tuition that can be afforded in a university year.

   During my Honours year I eased back from the club due to the pressures of work, but Sensei Clark and his committee took the club from strength to strength. Willie’s inspiration, dedication and perseverance (for it is nothing less) ensured that the club had a longevity, and a membership that were not bound by the limited experience of going to Uni during term times only for three or four years.

   I have visited the club many times over the years and have met many committed individuals who have studied, given great commitment and have strongly influenced the club. Many still remain. However, the bedrock of the club remains Sensei Clark, and I welcome his elevation by the University and I honour him for his dedication to all club members over the years, and for his profound services to humanity in general, delivered in his own, inimitable, way.