One of the most senior karate instructors in the world, Aberdeen’s Ronnie Watt, is continuing to keep his club alive during the lockdown.
The Scottish karate master, who turned 73 this month, has launched virtual training sessions three times a week for students of his National Karate Institute (NKI) in Aberdeen, one of Europe’s top karate schools.
Usually, Ronnie – who is a 9th Dan black belt, the highest award bestowed by the International Shotokan-ryu Karate-Do Shihankai – instructs around 300 students of all ages, grades and abilities each week, but he is now reaching out to a third of them through online training sessions and Zoom calls.
It was important for Ronnie to keep this up, not only for himself, but for the adults and children who are members of his award-winning club and so he is offering them free classes on Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6-8pm and Saturdays from 11am-12.30pm.
Ronnie, who has been practicing Shotokan karate for almost six decades, said: “After 56 years of being a professional karate instructor, and training and competing all over the world, I thought I would give something back to keep the students training and make this a little bit more positive.
“None of us know the outcome of what will happen with this terrible virus, especially as we are in a contact sport and contact with people is very important in training, but we need to keep the morale up.
“We never ever thought a virus would knock us out when we have survived lack of sports facilities, training on the beaches, and keeping the club going against all the odds with very little support, but we have kept a glimmer of hope going by launching the online classes.
“We will keep the clubs going against all the odds.”
Now, three days a week, from his lounge – which has become a makeshift karate studio – and dressed in his karate suit and black belt, Ronnie takes his classes via Zoom, thanks to his son and two club members who helped set up the technology. But it did not go to plan, at first!
Ronnie added: “We had a trial and it wasn’t a disaster, but it was very amateur. Since then we have become quite good at it. I have been designing the classes, writing down the moves, and making a plan for the members.
“We started with black belt sessions and have now opened up training to the beginners too. I make it suitable for the students right through the grades.”
Lord Charles Bruce, whose son Benedict attends the virtual classes, said that Ronnie’s classes “have has made such an impact on Benedict, reconnecting him with a very important part of his life that had sadly become a distant memory for him after he moved to London.”
Lord Bruce added: “But his regular contact with Ronnie is an essential part of his week and brings him so much happiness and fulfillment.”
The coronavirus outbreak struck Scotland just as National Karate Institute was about the stage its annual Scottish Samurai Awards, which became the Order of the Scottish Samurai. This meant organisers at NKI were forced to cancel the ceremony at the last minute. It was a major blow for the club. However, the senior instructor is looking ahead to next year’s event instead and looks forward to re-opening the club once it is safe to do so.