Sensei Austin Birks, 6th Dan
Sensei Austin Lloyd Birks started his Martial Arts journey at the age of 11, when he started fencing lessons. At the age of 12 he took up Judo and got to green belt.
He started Karate in 1974 when he enrolled on a 3-month beginners Karate course at Sutton Coldfield Wado Ryu Karate club. He just kept going and has continued to learn and train ever since.
In 1977, he joined Brighton Shotokan Karate club and the long journey with Shotokan began. He trained with Sensei Mick Dewey and Phil Elliot, then KUGB 2nd Dans. The training was intense, technical, and demanding.
In 1979, he became a student at De La Salle Teacher Training College, part of Manchester University, where he joined the College KUGB Karate club. He trained and taught there for 4 years, eventually gaining his University Colours in recognition of his services to the club.
He trained in various KUGB dojos across the UK as his career took him across the country, including dojos in Preston, North Yorkshire, and Manchester. He attempted and failed his Shodan (1st Dan) with Sensei Keinosuke Enoeda 3 times during this period who was then the Chief Instructor of the KUGB.
In 1986, he moved to Hereford where he formed the KUGB Worcester Shotokan Karate Club with his University friend Sensei Mike Woods. And then as a first Kyu everything changed.
In June 1987 he went to train with Sensei Cyril Cummins, a senior instructor with the KUGB who ran a club at the Bartley Green dojo in Birmingham. This was the start of a 30-year journey that would see Sensei Cummins help him pass his Shodan and eventually, after another 4 attempts, his Nidan, again with Sensei Enoeda.
He went on under expert tuition from Sensei Cummins to eventually pass his Sandan (only 3 attempts required this time) then his Yondan exam (first time pass) and in 2014 he passed his Godan at the second attempt with Shihan Cummins.
For many years he was Shihan Cummins Sempai (senior student) and in 2012 Shihan bestowed the title of Sensei upon him in recognition of his long and loyal service. Sadly Shihan Cummins passed away in May 2017, however, his legacy continues with Sensei Birks opening his own dojo at Bartley Green to teach traditional Shotokan Karate as was taught to him and many others.
Shihan Cummins always taught “Never Give Up, Never Give In”, that is why Karate is a personal journey for all who embark upon it. Sensei Birks chose the name Enso as in Japanese in means imperfection, and Karate is about over coming imperfection, an impossible goal but over coming failure and being better and stronger for it is the true value of learning Shotokan Karate.
In September 2018, Sensei Austin was diagnosed with level 4A bowel cancer. Over the next 2 years, he underwent two major life-saving surgeries and three courses of intense chemotherapies, some 46 treatments in total. In spite of this, and being locked down during the Coronavirus pandemic as a highly vulnerable person, on Saturday 26th of September 2020, he passed his 6th Dan examination under Sensei Peter Manning of the Traditional Shotokan Karate Association, with the support of Shihan Joe Ellis, the chair of NAKMAS.