On Saturday 27th April, there were two "firsts" at the Whitehaven dojo: The first ever junior Student of the Year award was presented to Phoebe Forster and Peter Hinde was the first student to be given the senior honour for a second time. Those who managed to be there will have some understanding of the value and importance of these awards from the words of Sensei Chris Denwood, the surprise, joy and emotional responses from Peter and Phoebe and possibly a little too from the poem I, as last year's Student of the Year, wrote to be read out on the day.
I usually write these little news updates as the voice of the E.S.K.K dojo and try to remain detached. In this case, I make no apologies for making it very personal. Chris's words and a copy of the poem can be found at the bottom of the karate classes page and if you have the time to read it you may understand why it is so personal and why the Student of the Year award is such an important part of our year. Allow me to explain the importance of the award and for what we should congratulate Peter and Phoebe:
As a contrast to the formal grading structure that is used to help each of us learning the art of traditional karate to "measure" where we are on our learning journey, the Student of the Year award is based on a vote by fellow students with input from the instructors. There is no pass mark or test to sit. It isn't a measure of where you are on the journey; it's a reflection of how you travel, how you help and support your fellow travellers, the impact your travelling has on them, the time you devote, the commitments you make along the way and the strength and courage you show to keep on the journey when the going gets tough. Fellow travellers and those guiding you have their say based on how they feel. This makes it a remarkable honour.
In the last year the group has grown and restructured meaning the "voting" was a little more complex and for the first time, a Junior Student of the Year was selected. I have watched my own two boys train along side young Phoebe Forster and I have trained along side her myself at the family training sessions. She absolutely sparkles with enthusiasm for her karate and her exceptional skill is the result of many hours devoted practice. No one is too old or too highly ranked to recieve helpful advice from this extraordinary young lady and no one is immune from her infectious playful humour that shines through as she prepares herself for each hard training session. I was privileged to watch her take her grading for 6th Kyu when she put in the performance of her life; a display of Pinan Shodan kata that was clearly the result of many hours of repetition and a steely eyed fixed gaze as she hid the fatigue of a punishing kicking drill that seemed to last an eternity. It showed to me that young Phoebe is made of the right stuff and the award is truly well deserved.
From Peter Hinde's reaction when his name was called out, it clearly never occurred to him that there was a possibility he may be selected for the Student of the Year award for a second time. He had been honoured with the award much earlier in his karate journey for his devotion to the art and his "get back up" attitude to set backs. This time Peter has been recognised once again for his approach to training, his support to the group, the committment he has shown to self improvement and the help and encouragement he gives to so many. To make it personal once again, Peter is a huge part of the reason I took up karate. I was worried I was too old, too unfit, had too many injuries and just might not fit in. Peter walked me by the hand through those first steps on the journey and I still feel a nudge, push or shove in the right direction at pretty much every training session we share. A good friend of mine recently joined his kettle bell class after only knowing him many years ago before he took up the art. She described him as the true gentleman we all know him to be but she was taken aback by his obvious commitment to being the best he can be and came away from her trial lesson very much inspired to do the same. That's Peter Hinde. That's why he's once again this year's senior Student of the Year.
A very personal congratulations from me as I hand over the honour to these two very special, inspirational people, Peter and young Phoebe, and I hope I can also speak for all of the E.S.K.K Dojo in wishing them well on their journey this year.