UNIVERSITY of Ulster Karate Club instructor Joe McCullagh has recently been awarded 6th Dan Black Belt in Shotokan Karate following a recent grading and reception in London.
The event was attended by several high-ranking karateka, some of whom were guests from other styles of karate and martial arts.
Head of the grading panel was Michael Randall MBE, 9th Dan, chief instructor and chairman of SHOTO, the Shotokan Traditional Karate Organisation (UK), one of the first karateka in the British Isles to be awarded Black Belt in the 1960s by legendary Kanazawa sensei, a student of the founder of so-called modern karate, Funakoshi sensei. Because of his dedication to karate Michale was affectionally termed one of the ‘seven samurai. He was awarded the MBE in 2003 for his services to karate.
While at primary school Joe practised boxing and judo. Later he also practised Wado Ryu karate before returning to Shotokan which he has practised for 40 years.
He has trained with many top Japanese, British and Irish karate instructors, including legendary Enoeda sensei and former world champions Frank Brennan and Aidan Trimble, whose karate association he affiliated to for 16 years and who was a regular visitor to UUC Karate club.
He gained 1st and 2nd Dan from Andy Sherry of KUGB, 3rd and 4th Dan from Aidan Trimble of FSK and 5th and 6th Dan from Michael Randall of SHOTO, whose status and authority are recognised by the English, European and World Karate Federations. Joe opened the UUC club in 1979, introducing Shotokan to the Triangle area and was one of four people to introduce it to Northern Ireland in the 1970s. Since then he has produced many Black Belt instructors. As well as teaching in the British Isles, Joe has also been a guest instructor in Portugal and more recently in Finland.
Although continuing to focus on Shotokan Karate, in recent years Joe and his students have taken an interest in some Chinese systems of martial arts and have had several visits from an intructor of pressure and nerve point techniques, having felt that although sport karate is rewarding and has much to offer the majority of karateka, as a martial artit was devised for self defence and self-protection purposes.
So although his students have had many competition successes, including winning the All Ireland Intervarsity Championships, competition is not their primary focus.
“Outside of its martial arts and sports aspect, karate promotes good health and, importantly, perfection of character - something people tend to lose sight of in their quest for trophies and awards,” said Joe.
“Having said that it is the awards that provide motivation for juniors in particular and thanks to the awards and indeed the dedication of some of my former students, Shotokan karate is alive and well locally.”
UUC Club trains every Tuesday and Thursday night.