Karate is taking off in a big way in Cayman.
You could say it’s giving the chop to other sports!
The karate club at the King’s Sports Centre has only been going a year yet it is producing numerous little champs of the future already.
That’s because Greg Reid, an eighth dan exponent is channeling a lifetime’s involvement in the sport into building up the junior programme and tutoring adults as well.
Sensei Greg was featured in the Compass on Wednesday. He has a dedicated group of adults helping him nurture the kids, especially the club secretary Jane van der Bol, a black belt.
‘Jane has been a big asset to the school,’ he said. ‘She is our official secretary and we’re soon hoping to get her into the vice-president’s position of the Cayman Islands Karate Federation. We’ve been lucky because we have six black belts training in the school yet we’re only a year old. Anyone who wants to be in martial arts, we want them to come. We’re waiting for them.’
Van der Bol started in judo at boarding school in England at the age of 14, not because she wanted to beat anyone up but it was the era of Bruce Lee and most teenagers were into that martial arts vibe.
She didn’t show much interest in karate until going to the University of Florida and got involved in wado, one of the four main karate styles. That was in the late Seventies and 30 years later she’s still in love with it. She has been in four other styles over the years and came to Cayman as a black belt in tae kwon do.
A first degree black belt in tae won do, nidan, she started with Sensei Greg last September and was delighted with the way he tutors ‘because he teaches the technical aspect of it, why we do what we do’.
She also makes time for equestrian, as does daughter Ashley, 11, who represented Cayman as a rider two weeks ago and like mum is also a black belt in karate.
Van der Bol’s martial arts skills have come in handy for seeing off unwanted attention in bars. ‘Yes, it’s come in handy in a bar a few times where maybe you’ve got a drunk person mauling you and you can give a quick elbow and tell them to back off and they go ‘ahh!’ and they don’t know what’s hit them,’ she smiles.
‘Other than that it’s fantastic for overall fitness because it’s ever-changing. You’re not going through the same routines as machines or class exercise. Unlike all those other areas of exercise you can go into, you use all of your body. Our Saturday class is moving more towards ju-jitsu. I’m doing hand stands, cartwheels, back arches at 46. The goal eventually is that I’m going to be able to do a cartwheel, a flip and a kick, so I’m looking forward to that.’
She’s impressed with Reid’s expansive experience. Having met fifth degree black belts, she appreciates the life-long training he has put in.
Ashley was introduced to martial arts because of anxiety attacks after 9/11 when she was five. ‘We were living in Orlando. It was a shock for all of us and it really hit Ashley. She’s a little bit of a worry wart anyway. For her she could hear terrorists outside, they were going to steal her from her room in the night… it really affected her. They’d have a fire drill at school and she’d come home shattered because it was now real to her, not just a drill anymore.’
It took up to four training sessions a week for three years to get Ashley up to black belt standard by the age of eight. Jane did it in tandem with her daughter.
‘The classes were really tough. You were seriously working out. It taught her discipline and dedication and gave her confidence. All those things together have made her into a really nice young lady.
‘It helps you with all aspects of your life because these children in our class now, you see them following directions. Parents come to me when I’m collecting fees for the month and they say: ‘This has changed his schoolwork. He’s doing better at school because he wants to be a better student because of the discipline of karate.”