Anyone wanting to take up karate should pop down to the Purple Dragon Club, Cayman’s longest running club which has been here for years.
Started by Trinidadian ‘Sensei’ Geddes Hislop, he was a student of the style’s founder ‘Professor’ Don Jacob, hence the Don-Jitsu-Ryu system. Jacob attended grading over the weekend, held for the purpose of space so that spectators could attend at St Ignatius School.
Sensei Hislop, runs the club in Lawrence Boulevard with co-manager Sensei Floyd Baptiste, whose wife Karen is a second degree black belt. Their son Dante is only six and passed his orange belt on Sunday. A second child is due in February and presumably he or she will be a karate expert before out of Pampers.
Floyd and Hislop are both fourth degree black belts. Karen is a second degree black belt and Jacob is ninth degree.
Baptiste, 34, has been practicing karate since 16 and been teaching at the Purple Dragon for 11 years. Hislop needed an instructor to come down and teach so he arrived in George Town keen to boost karate’s popularity. It’s worked. They started with around 16 students and now have over 200. Short and grossly overweight as a kid, Baptiste was fed up of being the brunt of fat jokes and decided to do something about it. At 15 he was well over 200lbs, possibly twice the weight a kid of his height and build should be.
‘My name in school was Fat Boy. I was big. People used to pick on me all the time. I was the object of bullies. I actually went to a body building gym at first but found that monotonous and humdrum. I always heard about Purple Dragon karate and would be passing by and looking up and seeing these guys doing it.
‘I went up with some friends one day to take a peep. An instructor saw us and they got scared and ran but I stayed. The instructor was nice, introduced himself, asked me what I wanted and he encouraged me to sign up. I started doing it and thought I would last about three months, just to learn how to beat up a guy but learned that it was about so much more than that. I started to discover myself. At the end of a session we say in Japanese: ‘I believe in me’. And when you say that over and over again, it starts seeping into your subconscious. I began to gain self confidence.’
Now a rippling 160lbs, those bullies would not recognize him now – now would they want to tangle with him.
The grading is a way of gauging how well the martial arts are developing and how they move up in rank. ‘Our grading is done where the students are tested in their forms which is fighting against imaginary opponents. Then there is also the language of martial arts.
They are also graded in sparring. It’s in a ring and it’s tag sparring where they have to score a certain amount of points on a particular target area. They’re also graded in their self defence skills. They have to show the ability to defend themselves standing up to punches, kicks, blocks. They also have to show the ability to defend themselves with pressure points, strangulation, locks, holds and so on.
‘We’ve got kids as young as four years up for grading right up to big people. We have so many up for grading – 109 – we have to have it over two days and four sessions.
‘We don’t just try to teach the fighting but the discipline. If these guys have that discipline and they’re your neighbour, you know you don’t have to look out for them to be robbing you because this person has honour, integrity, you can trust them. We’re not just developing the body, we’re improving the mind and character. We’re trying to build a good character in the community.’