Vicar packs a punch at karate classes

Rev Neil Gardner who has taken up karate. His son Ieuan (6) took it up a year ago.

Rev Neil Gardner who has taken up karate. His son Ieuan (6) took it up a year ago.

Health-conscious vicar Rev Neil Gardner is hoping to add a belt to his cassock after taking up karate in a bid to get fit.

The Wisbech St Augustine’s vicar has been watching his six-year-old son Ieuan thrive at Bushido Warrior Karate School for the past year and has now taken up the sport to improve his fitness.

Neil said: “I need to get fit because I’m far too big and flabby. Karate helps you not just to improve physically, but mentally as well. It’s a great way of relieving stress and a way of finding something that’s a point of concentration outside of work.”

Shotokan Karate classes have just started at St Augustine’s Church Hall and Neil is planning to attend two every week to kick-start his fitness plan. He used to do martial arts as a child and has enjoyed getting back into the sport.

His son Ieuan is now a red belt and has got a lot from the Little Warriors classes.

“The children have a mix of training and play and there are a lot of disciplines involved,” Neil said. “They learn self-discipline and when they should hold themselves back. It’s not about fighting.

“I have noticed Ieuan is more physically confident and fitter. All the children there have benefited.”

And Neil has quashed any suggestion that karate is an unusual sport for a vicar to take up.

“Martial arts has its roots in religion. A lot of the techniques were used by monks. You can see the similarities between the karate kata and Tai Chi moves.”

Bushido Warriors is run by chief instructor Richard Smyth. It meets at St Augustine’s on Wednesday evenings from 6pm to 8.30pm, the club meets at Walpole St Andrew on Mondays from 6pm to 9pm and at St John’s Hall, March on Fridays.

Richard said: “Training in karate is not to learn violence but to prevent and avoid it. Karate depends more on skill and attitude than on muscles or size.”

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