[quote="el_grimley"]Years ago when I was little I trained at the Black Panther Ju-Jitsu club based in the Southend / Thundersley area in Essex. I'm looking to see if the clubs still arround (can't find an active webpage) or if anyone who was part of the club from about 93-98 is on planet jitsu. Or if anyone who knows of anyone that was involved with the club.
who was one of the Green belts from the Westcliff Friday class.[/quote]
I've just found your post after reminiscing over my training days and doing a Google search - I've joined the site specifically to reply to your post. I'm so sorry that I'm nearly 13 years late! Story of my life, that really is. I just hope you get to see this...
I trained at the Black Panther club for nearly 3 years - I dunno why, I always thought it was 2 until very recently - from the tail end of '94 to late in '97 (the last year was half break, half training again after my life got, shall we say, hectic.). I got to Orange Belt and miss my time at the club immensely.
I listed the club as one of my places when I joined Friends Reunited, more in the hope that any attractive women who attended might see me listed and remember me (I did get one proposition while at the club, and sadly I didn't take her seriously at the time). I was 14 when I started, and 17 when I unfortunately became unable to train because life got in the way - home life became unbearable, and within a couple of months my mum had chucked me out just after I turned 18. Although I was never a typical teenager, the age-range I was in during my time training was really the reason I listed myself but didn't contact anyone there - you could say that I'm an acquired taste, and for me listing myself as having gone there was more a badge of pride than thinking that anyone from the club would actually want to talk to me. The club was listed as having existed from, IIRC, 1990-2001 - the dates of this part of the story are a bit hazy, so please forgive me. I think I signed up in 2004, when you could list yourself for free, but still had to pay an upgrade fee to contact people on there...and, like I say, that wasn't really my aim. (It was more so that people who knew me from wherever could get back in contact; I didn't think anyone from the club would do so.) Also, because of all the different classes that were held across Essex, I didn't recognise a lot of the names listed. Sadly, with that site having bitten the dust, I'm unable to double-check exactly what was said and when. Who knows, as it looks like the next bit of my post follows chronologically from when you added yours, you may have already managed some contact or even know the rest of my story before I tell it!
It was towards the end of 2008 that I received a post on my profile from O'Sensei, which said 'I hope that 2009 is a better year for you'. So the great man himself saw me and DIDN'T think 'Oh Christ, it's that twat!' - awesome! So I sent him a lengthy message saying how awesome it was to hear from him, and what his teachings had done for me, not just at the time, but throughout my life. He sent me a truly lovely message back, saying that he was sad that the club had disintegrated (this wasn't the word he used; I'm paraphrasing - thinking about it, I think he said 'fell apart', though I could be wrong), but that it was probably inevitable. (I feel really bad for him, considering just how much incredible work he put into the club, and all it did for his students.)
Sadly, life got in the way *just* at that time - I'm talking major events, the effects of which I'm still feeling very much to this day, and most probably will for the rest of my life - so I didn't get the chance to follow up the conversation. I hope I'd have had the balls to ask him what happened; from the day I had to stop training - and it was like a dagger to the heart, let me tell you - I always vowed that one day I would return, no matter how long it took me. I was immensely proud that I'd returned after my enforced 6 months off when I was 17, and I just viewed my future return as similar to that. Seeing that the club no longer existed made me sad beyond measure. It was the last bit of my life before I legally became an adult, and everything went downhill from there. My training will always stay with me, but sadly now only in memories. I did say in my initial (and, sadly, only) message to O'Sensei that I looked forward to the day that I would be his student once more.
I had Ju-Jitsu recommended to me by a friend, and attended the juniors class - at the end of which, O'Sensei said that I was far too big for that class, and said to attend the next senior one, which I did. The classes were held...was it at Shay/Shea Studios?...in Westcliff, and after a little while they moved down the road to a hall right at the bottom of the sports field of Westcliff High School For Boys (which was actually used by the school as the dining hall). This was of particular personal embarrassment to me, as I'd attended Westcliff until halfway through the second year, when things became to difficult for me, and I transferred to Tommy More's over the road. Even Westcliff's groundskeeper/janitor, Mr. Fishlock, took the opportunity to attend some classes, as his flat was provided with the job and it was just around the corner! This was maybe two years after I'd moved schools, and even though I'd grown considerably since then, and I'd had precisely zero dealings with him while at the school, I was paranoid that he'd recognise me! (I have also seen Senpai Andy a few times over the years locally, but again with the recognising. He was listed on Friends Reunited, too, and I think I may have a way of contacting him if you'd like. Maybe P.M. me about that?)
I also attended some of the mixed classes, and I seem to remember you. My first mixed class was in that dinner hall, and I remember lining up down from a kid younger than me, who was a Green Belt...not realising that the seniors lined up first in grade order, then the juniors in grade order. I just thought 'These younger kids have trained to a higher level than I have, so surely they just line up by grades!' It never even entered my head that the older guys would be further up the line purely by virtue of them being older. My main night for training was Monday, and I think the mixed classes were held on Saturdays?
Then the mixed classes moved to Balmoral Community Centre, and I'm pretty sure that the whole thing - all the classes in the Southend area - had moved there by the time I'd come back from my enforced 6-month break. Whoever said that life is what happens to you when you're busy making other plans could not be more right!
I hope life has treated you well since your time training there. So were you there from '93-'98? If you're the guy I'm thinking of, then that would tally with my time there, and explain why you were exactly one grade above me. (ARGH, those damn A.M.A. rules that said every grading had to be a minimum of 6 months apart, right??! I knew that Yellow Belt syllabus back-to-front and inside-out by the time I attended that grading! I could do with that teenager version of me to train me right now, never mind everybody's favourite 2nd Dan Soke!).
I've sadly had a lot going on (seemingly non-stop), which has resulted in severe health issues - I've been unable to work for 9 years now. I really hope to return to some kind of training one day, but even if it happens, it'll never be the same without my old instructor. I really don't think it is for anybody who has to change for any reason.
So why Manchester? No offence, but if there's anywhere on Earth that I'd rather live less, I have yet to hear about it! That's what happens when you're a teenager coming of age, who's into decent music and getting Oasis shoved down your throat at every given opportunity. Where were all the music snobs 20 years ago??? You can't move for them now! Hahaha...
Anyway, now I've bored you to death, you can sleep easier than someone unable to get out of my scarf hold ;)
Yours forever in the spirit of Bushido,