Dave's Profile

My first encounter with karate was 36 years ago as a skinny 20 year old just out of my apprenticeship at RNAY Fleetland’s.  I saw Lucky Lew as I affectionately knew him (he is known in the Dojo as Sensei Alan Lewis) practicing some sort of imaginary fight. He told me he was practicing a karate kata known as BASSAI DIA for his brown/white belt. I was fascinated with what Alan was doing and wanted to learn more. 


I started training shortly afterwards in Elson Gosport at an old scouts hut, unfortunately shortly afterwards I had to give it up due to family reasons.

I then took up running as a means of keeping fit and after 23 years of running 4/5 times a week my knees and repetitive injuries told me in no uncertain terms that it was time to stop this dangerous activity.  Within a year or so of being in-active the pounds (stones actually) were piling on so I had to do something that would reduce ‘the ever swelling midriff’.

At this time I happened to bump into Sensei Alan Lewis and we got talking about the good old days he suggested that maybe I should try karate training as a means of controlling my weight.

Within a few weeks of this encounter I visited Sensei Alan’s Dojo (Crofton Karate Club in Stubbington) and started my karate training there and then; I was completely hooked again after the first session. This was in March 2004 at the age of 50.

Under the guidance of Sensei Alan Lewis (Lucky Lew was not used in the Dojo). I religious trained twice a week and took my first grading in July 2004 at the Portsmouth Grammar for Girls School. This was also my first encounter with other clubs and the senior management of SEKU.  I was surprised to see so many people from so many karate clubs and it highlighted how popular karate is.

Sensei Merv O’Donnell (from this point on known as Sensei) conducted my first grading; I was very, very nervous (absolutely terrified to be honest) as was most of the other white belts. You do not really know the first time that you grade what to expect irrespective of how much training you have done or how informed you are before your grading, it all seems to disappear when you are standing in front of ‘The Table’; however Sensei soon had us all relaxed enough to enable us to move without falling over.

This is the time I set myself a target (with the help of my Boss, best friend & wife Juliet), at my age with some physical restrictions to consider I believed that I could only realistically expect to obtain a green belt, this was set in stone (in my mind) with a two year window for achievement.

I took my next three gradings at the Portsmouth Grammar for Girls School whilst training with Sensei Alan Lewis; achieving my goal of green belt  6th KYU well within the time scale (April 2005) much to my surprise.

I must point out now that at the age of 50+ I found it very difficult to learn the new kata required for each grading having many senior moments (every session nearly) along the way. Being a slow learner it would take me most of the weeks between each grading to learn the new kata. It was at this point in time sadly due to financial reasons that I had to stop training with Sensei Alan Lewis.

Three months later I went to Sensei’s Dojo in Portchester and realised how much I was missing the training. The Portchester club was only five minutes from where I now lived (no travelling expenses to consider) so I asked Sensei if I could join the Portchester karate club and was accepted.

Just doing the training each week was all that mattered to me, I managed to progress (fumble would probably be more accurate) with the help of numerous club members through the kyu grades to 1st kyu in February 2007.  During this period I became known as “Billy no mates” by the senior grades because even though I was progressing through the grades I was always appeared to be at the end of the line!!!

It was now time to set “The target” – my dream to gain Shodan before my 55th birthday.

Eighteen months after obtaining my 1st Kyu my dream came true I gained Shodan on the 5th October 2008 well before my 55th birthday.  This was the result of 4.5 years of dedicated training that included many blisters on my feet, a few broken fingers and broken ribs along the way - the last six months were really hard with plenty of blood sweat and tears.

When you are sat down in front of “The table” after your grading waiting for the results to be announced you are mentally and physically exhausted because you have put everything you have learned into those few hours.

You wait for your name to be called, you wonder if you could have done anything better – then your name is called - Shodan – you don’t really take in what has been said until one of the other graders congratulates you – you still can’t believe what’s happened.  Then you are given back your licence with the Shodan entry signed off and you leave the Dojo with a smile as wide as the Nile on your face.

I cannot put into words how I felt at obtaining my black belt - it was a very emotional time, I went out to my car straight afterwards not speaking to anyone.  Shortly afterwards Sensei Alan Lewis appeared and came over to talk with me smiling knowingly!!!!

It was great to be welcomed as one of ‘Sensei’s’ Dan grades and I feel honoured to be part of the Portchester Karate Club.  The first task given to a new Dan grade is to translate the Japanese wording on your Diploma and your black belt.  I just happened to have a Japanese work contact who kindly translated for me. For obvious reasons I am not divulging the translation.

Portchester Karate Club is not just about karate training and local demonstrations it has a fantastic social side as well with many activities such as club walks (mainly for the juniors); fund raising family socials; family B-B-Q’s , picnics, curry nights at Sam’s and the all year garden produce battle (this is another story yet to be told) etc.  I have tried to put back into Sensei’s club as much as I can; helping on the social side of things, this is quite an eye opener on Sensei’s exceptional managerial skills of delegation.

My next ambition/target was to try and help juniors with their training under the guidance of Sensei. The teaching side has turned out exactly as I thought it would be; not easy at all, and the first time you are in front of a class it is really scary – it’s like taking a grading with 20 plus examiners behind the table.  I have taken on board lots of advice on the best teaching methods (from Sensei) and constructive criticism from a great friend Royster the Mic (Sensei Roy) and I would say from my very limited experience that the hardest people to teach are the juniors – closely followed by everyone else.  I am endeavouring to improve as much as I can in this area.

My wife Juliet and daughter Hannah both train at the Portchester karate club and are keeping me alert and on my toes as I appear to be a moving target for them (only joking)?

It is now over two years since gaining my Shodan so I guess its time to set another target - gain Nidan before my 60th birthday.  I will need a lot of help to achieve this, fortunately Portchester is blessed with senior grades that are always willing to help and encourage you along the way.  So with a lot of hard work and help and assuming that I can manage to remember the kata I might be in a position to achieve this target.

Wednesday 24th April 2019

Wednesday 24th April.

All lessons are now back to normal.

Please contact 07713284430 or email mvodonnell@hotmail.com  for further information if required.


Karate Day time lessons

Daytime Karate lessons are now being held on Thursday mornings at the Castle St, Portchester,  Day Centre. For further information please ring 07713284430 or email mvodonnell@portchesterkarate.co.uk

These classes are for a range of people with varying abilities and in particular for the older and fairly active person that would like to benefit from the health aspects of practicing Karate and at the same time exercising their minds in the learning of new skills.

Existing students of Karate are also catered for in the lessons. In particular those on shift work and others that cannot get to their regular training lessons.

Further information

For the Portchester Karate Club and clubs in other areas or different training times, please email modonnell@portchesterkarate.co.uk or telephone 07713284430.

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