Seven Towers Karate Club is celebrating its 35th anniversary as the longest established martial arts club in the Ballymena area.
Chief coach Dan Redmond 7th Dan has been inundated with congratulations from many parts of the world in recognition of the club’;s milestone.
Dan formed the club in late 1980 and he has been present during its growing days when the sport of karate was just taking off in a bigger way in Northern Ireland.
Dan explained that he did not have aspirations to be a coach of karate and that the decision made to start up a club in Ballymena happened because a few friends asked him to start a club.
He explained: “In those days I remember that Ballymena had a boxing club and the Antrim Forum had a judo club. As I recall that was it.
“I was practising my karate in Antrim, Belfast, and Dublin and then later travelling to England and to France. We practised in some old halls around the town and often outside if the weather permitted.
“Eventually we got a booking from the previously called Ballymena Borough Council in The Sentry Hill and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Council for its continued support over the years and also to the now retired former Recreation Officer Mr Ronnie Mc Bride.
“I began to advertise the new club in the local press and on the first opening evening 117 people turned up to participate. That number then eventually levelled out to about 60 and the club has held that kind of membership ever since.
“After training at the Sentry Hill for 2 years we moved into the Seven Towers Leisure Centre and again I would take the opportunity to express my gratitude to the STLC.
“Our classes have been held in the Minor Hall each Wednesday ever since. We have a thriving children’s class from 7pm to 8pm and then the older members practice from 8pm to 9.30pm.
“Over the years our club members have won Northern Ireland, Irish and British individual titles. The STKC team were the consecutive Northern Ireland Team Champions from 2004 to 2009. Club members have represented the Northern Ireland Board at International level and I myself was a member of the ‘first ever’ Northern Ireland Karate Board team to compete abroad.
“During the early training days in Ballymena we used to take our runs around the block barefooted and that continued for a long time until someone began placing broken glass on our various routes. However we continued to hold barefoot walks for a number of years to usually support a local charity.
“News of the clubs 35th anniversary has found its way onto Facebook and since then I have received best wishes from all over the World. Many of our former members are scattered all around the Globe and they have been contacting me to offer congratulations and to remember their own days at the club. Many of them remember the non-flexible rule of punctuality and of having to be at the club ‘before the class started’. That rule is there yet and punctuality is demanded.
“The style of karate practised is WADO-RYU. The club also participates in cross training with other martial arts on seminars where it could be boxing, wrestling, Ju jitsu or pressure point training etc. We have strong links with The British Combat Association and with Iain Abernethy Applied Karate System. All Club Coaches are Northern Ireland Access verified permitting them to work with minors.”
Dan has expressed appreciation for continued support he has had from his club coaches, his club members, the parents and the local press.
New members are always welcome and no special clothes are needed to take a free trial class.