Jill Kelly began training at Ashington Karate Club, at what is now the old Leisure centre - in 1985. Initially, Jill brought her son Gordon to train at the club. Having sat and watched four or five sessions, she decided to "give it a go" with a view to improving her fitness and flexibility. This was to purely benefit her current major interests; horses, eventing and County badminton.So having been told by the clubs Instructors, to simply "take off your shoes and socks and join in" thats what she did!
Following a serious riding accident and several months of rehabilitation, Jill found that Karate training strengthened her back and allowed her, once again, to participate in an "active sport".
Jill began her competitive Karate as a green belt at Gateshead Leisure Centre Open competition, winning her Kata category, much to the delight of her instructors. She was not yet allowed to enter Kumite competition - being "too much of a liability!" Plenty of courage but only one direction - forward!
As a Brown Belt, Jill was successful in both Kata and Kumite, winning numerous local competitions. As a Black Belt and during five years of competition in the Shotokan Cup, she was always a finalist, competing against former World Champions, Julie Nicholson and Christine Pullen, National Kumite Champion Karen Findlay and many other National and International squad members.
Jill regards her most memorable competitive performance as becoming 1991 Grand Champion at the Northern Region Championships. Having won both Kata and Kumite individual events, she was the first woman in the region to be awarded the trophy for Best Overall Competitor.
Jill has been the voluntary Child Protection and Welfare Officer for the KUGB for many years and dealt with several high profile cases. Fortunately, these are rare within the KUGB, but when they do arise, they cause an enormous amount of work. The work of the Child Protection Officer also involves protecting instructors from any false allegations
Undoubtedly the highlight in my karate life was passing my 6th Dan grading in October 2013. The support I received from Sensei Brennan in working towards this cannot be over emphasised. Positive continual encouragement was always in abundance. I have never felt I was "ready" for any of my Dan Gradings, never seemed to do my best on the day, but fortunately Sensei Enoeda and Sensei Sherry thought I had done enough, never to fail me! my nervous system is forever grateful for this!
I have represented the KUGB for the last three years at the Child Protection in Sport Unit run by the NSPCC in London, meeting many people at their quarterly meetings - working towards improving Safeguarding in the Martial Arts. I have yet to see another Martial arts group which show the selfless dedication of the senior Instructors in the KUGB and that is why I shall always be a loyal member of our Association.