Julian Cunningham, 3rd Dan:
I originally started karate aged about 8 and that lasted for about 2 months, I was there in body but not mind thus this interest never lasted very long. I subsequently had fads in other things such as football and cubs but no longevity in any of them. However my older sister started coming home with all these trophies from netball and that triggered something in me where I thought that I also would like to be getting accolades for something and bringing home trophies. Therefore at aged 12 I properly commenced my karate journey at Benson Shotokan Karate Club based at Handsworth Leisure under the instruction of Sid Gordon and this time my experience was totally different. I fell in love with it in no time at all having quickly discovered I had a natural flare for kumite. Within a few months I entered my first competition as a white belt in the 5ft 3, and above 12 – 15 all belts category. This was an open style competition and I fought competitors senior to myself with a tough finals but I still won. This first taste of victory just drove me on with my training and I never really looked back.
The club atmosphere was brilliant, it was a real family environment and despite tough, competitive training to hone our skills there was a lot of comradery amongst us. I had some great mentors at this club, Regional, England Team and Squad members which only served to help sharpen my skills.
I went on to get selected for the England Junior Squad aged 16 in which the intense training with the best helped me to greatly improve. I represented England for my first international aged 17 at the ESKAs (European Shotokan Karate Association) in Italy. I made my debut fighting for the Senior Team aged 19.
Sensei Christopher is my Senior and was one of my mentors when I commenced training on the England Squad, always giving me sound advice and encouragement and it was at this time that I commenced training at this club for supplementary training to help with further improvements, I would make the journey over to the other side of Birmingham for the advanced session 1x weekly in which we would be put through our paces. Once again I was truly blessed, as this club has always been a great environment to learn as well as feeling part of another family.
In terms of achievements these include ESKA Junior Team Kumite Champion, Junior and Senior Kumite Champion for KUGB Shotokan Cup, ESKA Senior Team Kumite Team Champion, KUGB National Team Kumite Champion, 5 x KUGB National Individual Kumite Champion.
Even though I stopped competing in 2004, I still have a love for karate and martial arts on the whole, I am never complacent with what I have achieved or what I am doing but always striving to improve.