Inspirational Leeds students achieve black belts

From left: Hanya Kowalczuk, 22, Clare Adams, 34, and Sadie Bateman, 17, of the Kaizen Martial Arts Academy, Stanningley, Leeds, have all gained their First Dan Shodan in Shotokan Karate.
From left: Hanya Kowalczuk, 22, Clare Adams, 34, and Sadie Bateman, 17, of the Kaizen Martial Arts Academy, Stanningley, Leeds, have all gained their First Dan Shodan in Shotokan Karate.
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AN INSPIRATIONAL group of martial arts students have high kicked their way through adversity to achieve their black belts in karate.

our pupils at Kaizen Martial Arts Academy in Stanningley impressed a panel of six judges to win the coveted belts after overcoming a range of life’s challenges.

One student, Clare Adams, 34, is a mum-of-three who suffers myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), a debilitating condition otherwise known as chronic fatigue syndrome.

She needs a day to recover after every training session but refuses to stop her beloved sport.

She said: “I used to train three times a week but have had to cut back to two. If I train on a Sunday, my body doesn’t recover quick enough. I get really tired - my muscles, everything seems to shut down. It affects my speech, my memory, my joints - they get really painful. The doctors don’t want me to do karate but I just really enjoy it. It’s part of me.”

Another of the academy’s students is 17-year-old Sadie Bateman who has juggled her training with studying for A-levels. And her hard work paid off as the black belt success follows on from her netting mostly A* grades this summer.

Fellow student Sean England, 18, who has been at the academy since he was eight, also managed to balance work with his gruelling training schedule to land his black belt grade.

The fourth student is Hanya Kowalaczuk, 22, who was featured in the YEP earlier this year when she was selected for the European Championships in Verona, Italy. Her black belt success came in the same week as she achieved her grading in weapons - another martial art.

Academy instructor Jim Reece said: “They’ve put a lot of commitment into something which is a ‘hobby’. I can’t hide my pride.”

He said it shows karate is a sport for everybody and leads to personal development as well as health benefits: “A lot of children develop confidence and respect for themselves and others, as a result of martial arts.”

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