Sensei Jill Kelly began training at Ashington Karate Club, at what is now the old Ashington 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 even further. This was to purely benefit her major interests; horses, eventing and county badminton. So having been told by the club instructors to simply “take off your socks and shoes and join in”that’s 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”. Riding remains a pleasure, however Karate became serious. Jill applied the same enthusiasm, discipline and hard work to her karate that was necessary in the eventing world.
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 Pullan, National 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 Safeguarding Officer for the KUGB for many years and has 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 Safeguarding Officer also involves protecting instructors from any false allegations.
Jill represented the KUGB for the five 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. She has since spent a further five years and ongoing representing the KUGB at the Martial Arts Safeguarding Group, which is overseen by the Sports Council. She has yet to see another martial arts group that shows the selfless dedication of the senior instructors in the KUGB and that is why she shall always be a loyal member of our association.
Jill is also an approved Assessor of Instructors, which is a qualification only available to 4th Dan and above grades, and for many years examined potential instructors at the annual KUGB Summer School in Lancaster, as well as preparing juniors and seniors within her own club for their Young Leader, Assistant Instructor and Instructor Qualifications. She is proud that so many of our members are pleased to do the training necessary to gain these qualifications, which means that they can put something back into the organisation. Several of Jill’s own students have went on to run their own clubs. As a Senior Assessor, Jill is also able to qualify 4th Dans and above as KUGB Assessors.
Undoubtedly the highlight of Jill’s karate life was passing her 6th Dan grading in October 2013. The support she received from Sensei Brennan in working towards this cannot be over emphasised. Positive continual encouragement was always in abundance. She has never felt she was “ready” for any of her Dan Gradings, and claims she never seemed to do her best on the day, but fortunately Sensei Enoeda and Sensei Sherry thought she had done enough, never to fail her! Her nervous system is forever grateful for this