Why did you start martial arts?

I was diagnosed with a Grade 1 brain tumour in December 2021, throughout 2022 I had to surrender my driving licence upon the advice of my neurologist and I was in and out of Hospital for MRI’s and Ultrasounds. 

I became very depressed and realising I was in a funk, felt I needed to do something to steer me away from the dark path i was on.

I have always had a keen interest in Martial Arts and the location of Leighton Buzzard Kickboxing academy was a key reason in my joining, it was a place I could walk to and learn Kickboxing which had always been my favourite Martial Art to learn.

How did you feel at your first class, and has that changed now?

Everyone was so welcoming, Whilst I am a ‘big guy’ and can look intimidating, I was very nervous walking in for the first time. It took a couple of weeks for me to settle but I became quickly aware of the family atmosphere within the building, there didn’t appear to be any ‘Kliq’s’ and everyone was there to support each other within their Martial Art’s journeys and have fun at the same time.

What do you think has been your biggest challenge so far?  (just starting, the warm up’s, learning the techniques, or something entirely different?)

Biggest Challenge thus far has definitely been the warm ups, it has been a while since I maintained a certain level of ‘fitness’ and each week (especially post Christmas) I feel as if my heart is going to explode out of my chest. It’s certainly a liberating experience in trying to become fit again but its definitely a challenge I try to work on.

Have you had challenges with keeping up you’re training versus your home or work life? How did you overcome them?

As an Adult Social Worker and Father of 4 my work and home life is extremely busy, thankfully I have a very supportive partner whom allows me the opportunity to work on techniques and combinations when I am not at the club, allowing me to watch those instructional videos and work towards my next grading.

Whilst a teacher can show you how to do a technique and a sparring partner can provide the feedback you need to better grasp how it works, it is up to you as an individual to put in the work, the physical repetitions and mental thought process outside of class in order to truly assimilate the lesson.

Have you felt any benefits physically or mentally from training in martial arts ?

Yes to both, whilst I have only been with the club around 6 months it has definitely played a effective factor in my emotional  and physical wellbeing. A complete 180 in terms of where I was a year ago; of course I still have ‘down’ days but overall ECKA has been a constant positive.

I look forward to each and every week in both expanding on my training and working alongside the friends I have made there.

What are you proud of in terms of your achievements so far? (a belt, turning up, increasing fitness, learning a new technique or something else?)

Achieving my first Red belt, As a perfectionist I was disappointed in the grade I received in obtaining it, but the feeling of my Sensei handing the belt to me to the applause of the class is a memory I will always be most proudest of.

What do you most enjoy in your training?

Definitely learning the techniques and sparring, that’s what I’m there for.

What would you like to achieve with the club?

Obviously the correct answer is to earn my black belt, but additionally I would love to become a trainer (in time) and give back what I have learnt to newcomers of the club.

What would your advice be to anyone wanting to start martial arts?

This is a really complicated question, because it depends on why you want to learn Martial Arts in the first place and depending on your purpose, the answer differs.

Some train for fitness, others because they want to learn how to fight and see a school or style as a means to do that. For me personally I am of the belief that every good fighter has their own personal preferences regarding style, and they will inherently train most of the time to those strengths. They may also learn other styles to supplement their primary style, but in the end when it counts they will rely on what serves them best.

For me, for example, that means kicks, so even though I am learning Kickboxing, I don’t want to use the techniques I’m learning if I can help it. I want to kick, drop my adversary and get out of danger!

Within Leighton Buzzard Kickboxing Academy, we have amazing Sensei’s that will work alongside you, whatever your purpose for a learning a martial art is. Come along and give it a try!

Ben Clarke

Age 42

Red Belt