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Having taught Karate here in South Devon for 18 years now and having moved away from a very densely populated area where I trained and competed with a well known International Karate Organisation that bears those three letters, I have some thoughts to share. In a way I’m sharing these thoughts not only as a matter of interest for those that are interested but also to counter some opinions and feelings out there on large Karate schools and organisations.

Presently here in South Devon we operate 7 Dojos with 5 Instructors from Shodan up to Godan. We have around 140 Students attending these Dojo and we operate a fee structure to accommodate various levels of training occasions. We operate under the name Chi Rei Kai as an Independent organisation.

We often hear other Karate-ka (of varying ability) profess how it’s wrong to be a big Dojo and as such they say that quality is compromised over quantity. Even the phrase Mc Dojo has been coined in our direction. Or certainly inferred anyway. It’s worthy of note though that often if not every time these emissions are from Karate-ka that are either aspiring to get just one student of their own or Instructors that have only a handful of Students to teach and struggle to make the rent each week. That’s ok by the way, each to their own, but nevertheless it’s worthy to note that these types are often the most vocal about how great it is to be ‘small’, whilst I suspect that what they wish for themselves, is the complete opposite.

Let me tell you about our classes. We have classes from Monday through Saturday. Yes we have Sunday off except for special courses and Brown & Black Belt courses. Often we will have more than one Black belt Instructor present during any of the classes. For example on a Friday evening in Kingsbridge we will have four Black Belt Instructors plus a number of Black Belt Students. After starting the class with a ‘warm up’ we will split up into smaller groups and work through the HDKI GB syllabus. This then ensures that although there may be a large number of Students in attendance each one will get the right amount of attention in their respective group of maybe six to eight fellow Students.

In addition to the already Instructor status Black Belts we have a number of Black Belt Students that may help out every now and then. Therefore what we are offering is a complete and structured development for all level of Students from beginner to Senior Instructor. Being part of a larger organisation (the HDKI) means that our seniors are also being developed to levels that they would not otherwise achieve. As the Head and grading Examiner here, I myself am getting International teaching opportunities and high level instruction from those that are much better than I. Next year I am spending a whole month living in the Hombu Dojo (head quarters) in Ireland and serving an Internship to further enhance my own Karate development.

In the last four years we have had eight high level International Instructors come here to us to teach a Seminar. Without a reasonable number of Students it would never have been possible for our Students to learn from such talented and high level Karate. Not only a privilege for our organisation but a privilege for the South West itself! People have travelled from all over the country to come and train in Kingsbridge because of the opportunities that we have created because of the size of our membership.

There are also more subtle benefits to being a large organisation. As we have good structure, if a Student prefers a certain teaching style or likes the dynamics of another class more than their own, then they are able to migrate. This in turn gives us great resilience in sustaining the group therefore offering all Students organisational longevity that is often and sadly missing as another Student gives up Karate or another Dojo can’t pay the rent and closes it’s doors.

At the beginning of this year I moved to part time work to develop my Karate. I am now working towards giving up my ‘conventional’ career of 17 years and becoming a full time professional Karate Instructor due to the demands upon me to teach and train.

So to sum up and make my case, yes Quality and Quantity are both extremely possible at the same time and perfectly ethical. However, this can only happen with the right structure, passion, loyalty and dedication of those leading and all working as a team. Also only if the intentions are ‘Student and Karate first’. To those that would differ I suggest that yes, you are entitled to your opinion but at the same time you must understand that success means success all round and for everyone and this is most honerable indeed.

All our Chi Rei Kai Students here have access to International Karate of very high repute including Competition or just numerous chances to enjoy high level Karate and then go and practice a Karate lifestyle filled with Balance, Health and well being.

All of this only possible because of the size of our membership.

This is what it looks like to ‘Thrive’. Osu!

Kind Regards
Ash Hawkes

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