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Senior Grade Promotions - December 2023

Higashi held their Christmas kata course and dan grading on 9th December in Reading. We have already reported on the day in the previous blog post and congratulated those that passed their gradings! This blog post is to celebrate the senior dan grades that were awarded promotions - all three hailing from Maldon Higashi Karate Kai.

Congratulations to Richard Bartley (left) and John Spurgeon (right) on being awarded their 5th dans and extra special congratulations to Steve Gibbs (centre) - Chair of the HKK association - on his well deserved promotion to 7th dan!

John and Richard were also gifted some lovely statuettes by MHKK to further recognise them for all they have done for Higashi over the years.

We asked the honoured senior grades for their thoughts on their promotions:

John Spurgeon (5th Dan)

After first starting my karate journey in 1986 at Maldon Higashi and achieving my 1st Dan in 1998 under the late Sensei Peter Spanton, I never thought I’d still be teaching and training all these years on. Karate has played a massive part of my life, both physically and mentally, making many friends over the years, and to be awarded my Godan on the 9th of December 2023 at the Christmas course was one of my karate highlights. Thank you to all my fellow karateka, both past and present.

Richard Bartley (5th Dan)

Like most people who started training in martial arts at the time, it was Bruce Lee and ninja films that got me into the dojo in 1986.

My local club belonged to a Shukokai organisation which was an offshoot of Tani Ha Shito Ryu, but with a focus on the study of body dynamics, the double hip action and hard punches and kicks delivered against home made foam pads. I remember being knocked out by a mawashi geri on one occasion.

I first came into contact with Wado at Manchester University. The group had a very similar background to Higashi and was based in Barnsley. They were strong in both kata and kumite.

After university, I went home and graded to Shodan in Shukokai in 1998 at an all day grading. It was a tough and exhausting examination.

It was when I moved to Maldon a few years later that I started training with Higashi. I was impressed by the intensity of the club and everyone was very welcoming. The dojo had quite a low ceiling and by the end of the evenings there would often be condensation dripping back onto our sodden gis. We were also a very sociable club and it felt like being part of a family.

Travelling to Forest Gate to train with Peter, Sue and the other senior grades always felt like a major event, and I often felt nervous as I didn't want to let anyone down. You were expected to give it your all, and if you didn't you were likely to get a gyakuzuki in the ribs, delivered with an ironic smile by our chief instructor. Trips to Ogwen were also a highlight.

I have lived and trained in Shito Ryu in Spain and Belgium - including running a Higashi club at a school in Brussels - and combined this with Japanese Jujitsu, but it was always important to me to maintain my links with Higashi in the UK. When I moved back to Essex 7 years ago, it made the transition much easier and it was a surprise and great honour to receive the rank of Godan on 9th December, even if I was disappointed not to be able to accept the award in person.

I would like to thank everyone I've trained with over the years and all of those senior grades who have shared their time and experience to help me improve my technique and knowledge. I look forward to seeing you all soon in the dojo.


Steve Gibbs, HKK Chair (7th Dan)

My first karate lesson was in 1976 but it wasn't until 1978 I realised I was embarking on a journey, but never imagined that I would still be on it as we head into 2024!

During this time I have been fortunate to train with some great karate-ka and top instructors and none better than the late Sensei Peter Spanton. I achieved Shodan Feb 1984 at the Higashi dojo in Durning Hall Forest Gate, and so started part two and the real journey as a black belt.

Proud to say my next three gradings were passed at the Higashi spring courses in Ogwen Bank Nth Wales, gradings were outside and a little less refined than an indoor dojo!

Senior promotions are hard to live up to and feel I still had a way to go on fulfilling my Rokudan presented to me by Peter Spanton in 2015!

Fortunately I am part of a great group of fellow instructors and dan grades at Maldon Higashi who have become good friends along with so many I have met over the years training and competing in the UK, Europe and as far as Brazil.

So my journey continues and has become even harder to now try and live up to the award of Shichidan.

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