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2019: What a Year for Enso SKC

It is always an interesting experience, as one year draws to a close, to look back with fondness on a year in life achieved, and all that goes within those 365 days. And at the same time, we look forward to the challenge and excitement of a brand new year, waiting just around the corner.

When I stop and reflect on this year, I find myself having, well, quite frankly, mixed emotions. I suppose this is partly about the whole question of mortality, and I am not talking about myself for once. Nope, I am talking about the simple and sad fact that in 2019, we lost some of the most iconic Karate masters that the world has seen: Sensei Kanazawa, Sensei Abe, Sensei Stan Schmitt, Sensei Nishiyama, and others as well.

I suppose, for people like me, who have been training almost 50 years, I have grown up with these masters, and watched us all grow up, grow old, and then slowly fade, as Shakespeare himself brilliantly said “we are all but players on the stage” and then, of course, we exit left, pursued by a bear... to quote the bard, and that is very true.

The trouble is that you get to a point where all that, you take for granted, suddenly is not the same. The old order is replaced by the new. Whatever that is, and then you start looking back.

I honestly feel very honoured that I grew up in this Karate heyday, in the early seventies, until today. I witnessed that generation who graduated from the early JKA instructors courses who came to the UK to teach and train on special courses. Mostly the Sensei Enoeda courses at Crystal Palace. I first went there in 1977, when I was 17, and took place in my first KUGB national championships. It was brutal. I got knocked out cold by a third Dan from Newcastle. Knocked me flat out with a superb ushiro mawashigeri. First time I experienced smelling salts, and concussion. Happy days, especially as a pillion passenger sat on the back of a motor bike where I kept falling asleep on the late night bike ride back to Brighton, where quite honestly I have no idea how on earth I got back in one piece.

But, putting to one side the sadness of loss, closer to home it's been a great year at Enso SKC. Some brilliant, tough, challenging sessions in the dojos In Halesowen and Nuffield. A super course back at Bartley Green with Senseis John and Holly Bruce, which was truly outstanding. Then some excellent training with dear friends Les and Steve Knight at TSKC. Meeting and training with Sensei Steve Lowe, and an incredible private happy birthday lesson with Sensei Steve Carless at his wonderful dojo in Walsall. Grading success for several Enso students, but I won’t embarrass you all too much (Yvi Skalban, Mel O’ Reilly, Patrick Jones, Bob Egan, big Chris Smith). All seriously hard-earned, as those masters that we now mourn would expect nothing less. And as for my own dearly beloved Sensei Shihan Cyril Cummins, he would expect nothing but the highest standards and that is what I will deliver in 2020.

Which for me will be a memorable year for many reasons. Firstly, I turn 60 years old in May. A pensioner once upon a time, so I am told, also I will be able to take my 6th Dan having served the required time restraints, and for which I have been training for now for some months.

I take the view that I have a journey. It might be short, it might be long, but either way I want, if my body will let me, to try and be the best that I can be. And this is the point: never put off today and all that because, trust me, when you have cancer, you have to live life to the full in the moment.

And that is exactly what I will do my friends, until next year when I will map out new goals and ambitions, as must you for 2020.


Sensei Austin Birks

Sensei Austin with a Santa hat

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