Karate kid kicks high

PUBLISHED: 10:34 28 September 2007 | UPDATED: 21:49 29 May 2010

Richard Clark with his black belt in karate – Pic: Dick Harding

Richard Clark with his black belt in karate – Pic: Dick Harding

KARATE kid and Down s syndrome sufferer Richard Clark has defied the odds by achieving the martial art s highest award. Richard, of Farmadine, Saffron Walden, picked up his Shodan (black belt) on his first attempt, despite suffering from the condition. He

KARATE kid and Down's syndrome sufferer Richard Clark has defied the odds by achieving the martial art's highest award.

Richard, of Farmadine, Saffron Walden, picked up his Shodan (black belt) on his first attempt, despite suffering from the condition.

He was delighted to receive the award and to have overcome his nerves during the exam.

"There was just so much to remember and I was worried that I might have a complete block," he said.

"I'm really pleased I passed first time and I'm looking forward to everyone else having to bow to me now because I'm a black belt!"

Receiving the black belt in Shotokan, the karate discipline he practices, is an incredible accomplishment, but Richard is no stranger to overcoming personal difficulties.

He was the first Essex Down's Syndrome sufferer to leave mainstream school with eight GCSEs, and has since gained an NVQ Level 2 in horticulture. He currently works at Homebase and Springwell Garden Centre, and carries out part-time work at Jubilee Gardens.

Richard's Sensei, teacher Gill Payne, has played a major part in his accomplishment, something for which Richard is very appreciative.

He said: "She's like me - she never gives up and that has helped me to get it right.

"She puts in extra work with me and I hope she thinks that it has been worthwhile."

Sensei Gill explained some of the tough requirements Richard had to satisfy to gain his black belt.

She said: "Richard's grading comprised set combination moves, set move kata (routine) including the 64-move Kanu Dai, pre-arranged sparring and freestyle fighting with three black belts.

"In addition to the physical elements, a vast range of terminology needs to be understood in the original Japanese language.

"In all, more than 100 Japanese terms need to be remembered and recalled when required during grading. Richard also needed to learn all the major bones in the body, albeit in English this time."

Richard's devotion to the sport is demonstrated by the fact he has been training for nine years, and he has no intention of stopping anytime soon.

He said: "I would like to get my 3rd Dan, so I can teach karate myself, and that's likely to take me another five years.

"After that I will just continue my journey until I become a master. That is 10th Dan and will take me the rest of my life."

Anyone who would like to follow in the Shodan's footsteps should call Gill Payne, instructor with the Shotokan Karate Club that teaches in Saffron Walden, on 01440 708365.

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