Club Secretary, Website and Social Media Administrator
Yvonne Skalban, 2nd Dan
Yvonne started her journey with Shotokan at the age of 7, when her dad enrolled her in a Shotokan Karate Club in Paderborn, Germany, where she was born. She enjoyed the strict and disciplined structure and soon was passing her coloured belts, where she had shown a good natural aptitude. After she achieved her yellow, belt family requirements meant that she had to stop training.
However, as a teenager the bug returned and she trained for a year again enjoying the experience, but academic studies required her to move on. But her desire to one day get back to the dojo and train never left.
Fast forward a few years, she moved to the UK in 2006 to pursue a degree and continued in academia after graduation to pursue a PhD in Computational Linguistics at Wolverhampton University.
In 2012, she realized that the time had come to get back into Shotokan. She explored numerous clubs but could not find that elusive something that she was searching for.
And then, when training at a scuba diving club in Halesowen Leisure Centre, she came across an advert for Birmingham and Halesowen Shotokan Karate Club. The dojo of the legendary Shihan Cyril Cummins, 8th Dan.
She rang him and he invited her in his charming Irish way to pop down and watch the lesson, and that was when her life changed.
The intensity and ferocity and skill of the students was mesmerizing, the man teaching was awe-inspiring if not slightly petrifying. At last, this was what she had been in search of.
She threw herself into the training, sometimes walking several miles and back to get to the dojo and the arduous and testing physical and mental training soon paid dividends. She double-graded at her first grading; something Shihan Cummins hardly ever bestowed upon students, but he saw and felt her dedication to him and Shotokan. She once jokingly said that she would rather give up a kidney than miss training.
In 2014, as a first Kyu, Yvonne got a job working for Apple in Cork, Ireland. Here she struggled to find a dojo that could offer her what BHSKC had given her, although she did find a JKA dojo where Shihan's name was highly respected and revered, but work patterns sadly denied her the chance to train.
She returned to Birmingham in 2015, a year later, where she had got a job at the University of Wolverhampton. However, her real motivation was Shihan and the dojo; this was the one place that she knew she had to pass her Shodan exam with and there was only one man she wanted to impress, Shihan Cummins himself. So she set about her training with a renewed vigour and zest, did not miss a lesson and pushed herself harder than ever before and then finally on June 18th, 2016 with Shihan Cummins 8th Dan, Sensei Birks 5th Dan and Sensei Susan Hessian 4th Dan who also was a great help and inspiration to her, she passed her Shodan with an excellent grading.
However, the journey was just beginning and upon the sad death of Shihan on May 12th 2017, she wanted to help Sensei Birks open a new dojo so that a new chapter of Shotokan can emerge based upon the spirit and example of the old.
Yvonne achieved her 2nd Dan on March 22, 2019 under Sensei Birks.