Neil Jerome, 5th Dan

Finishing off the instructor profiles for the SHOTORAMA committee, but certainly not the last from our line-up, this one is from me! I also wrote the questions, so basically I am interviewing myself. I’m excited to be here 🙂
I think I’m going to be the instructor who is travelling the furthest to come to SHOTORAMA, living in Norway now, but it has been amazing to be at the heart of the event planning form the start, getting our friends on board and working to make such a unique event. Anyway, here’s some background on me.
neil.
When did you start karate, and how long have you been training?
i started at university; later than i would have liked in hindsight, but any age is a good time to start karate! here’s a question for anyone thinking to start training: if you start training now, do you know how old you’ll be when you get that black belt? and the answer is: the same age as if you don’t.
What club are you at now, how did the club get started, how long has it been running?
i started kenmei while i was working in london, about 8 years ago. it closed a while after i moved to norway, but i’m super proud of everyone who achieved so much and made the club what it was while it was running. i’m still attached to clubs in the uk, and always try to get into a dojo when i’m back over.
Have you tried/ do you have experience in other martial arts?
i’ve tried so many, but all while training shotokan! i’ve tried ju-jitsu, wing chun, capoeira, aikido, iaido, tai chi. maybe some others. some other styles of karate too; wado and shito-ryu. i took judo long enough to get a few belts. and they were all brilliant, and opened my perspective no end. but i always returned to shotokan; shotokan contains everything, but it is important to get external in help finding the things you’ve missed.
Who have been your major influences/instructors?
i trained in manchester and salford with garry harford until nidan, and am definitely a product of his outstanding teaching. but i have trained with so many others, in the KUGB and other associations and around the world, and the best teacher is experience, both depth and breadth. a major influence has been the lessons learned from fellow students, club instructors, and training partners over the years, and it is definitely this that led into the idea for SHOTORAMA.
How would you describe your philosophy/attitude to karate?
good question! definitely to be open to new ideas and interpretations, and to question everything – not in a disruptive way, but to search internally for the feelings of movements, to play around and explore variations and see what is valid and where the scope of a technique ends. because your karate will be different to mine, and anyone else’s. and to remember that efficacy is the only metric that matters – aesthetics is tied to that, via efficiency and body mechanics, but is not a goal in itself.
What experiences from outside the dojo do you bring to your training/teaching?
um. everything?! i have a background in science, which helps in analysis, communicating ideas, and being constructively critical. spending time with other martial arts helps. one that’s less obvious is that i learned so much from doing improv comedy that i would often incorporate those principles into my lessons in a sneaky way. martial arts, and self defence, are ultimately about understanding and negotiating the interplay between people; it’s important to give the non-physical side of that its full weight.
How does karate influence your life outside the dojo?
too many ways to describe! i’m fitter, happier, and more productive. 
What is your favourite part/aspect of karate training?
i just really love training, and teaching especially. that sounds dumb, but its true. when i go to clubs where the instructor doesn’t seem to have any passion or joy for karate, it’s no surprise that the students don’t either. my favourite part, then, is when people show up! being able to teach and train with other people? it’s the best! from day one at my club, and at every lesson i teach, i have always said thank you to everyone for coming.
Do you have a favourite exercise/drill/kata?
that changes constantly – its always whatever i’m thinking on at the moment. training under new instructors always throws up something new, interesting, and challenging.
How would your students describe you/your lessons/club?
my long-standing karate buddy paul, also from garry’s club in manchester and who dropped by my club once it was up and running, described the style as ‘weirdly articulate’. i’ll take that.
What challenges/ambitions do you have?
currently, i’m learning to teach in norwegian, which is a fair challenge! and keeping in touch with uk clubs and friends is important to me. the idea and organisation of something as big and complex as SHOTORAMA has been a big deal. we didn’t just want to do another training session; you’re going to see something special.
Do you have any particularly memorable highlights of your karate career (so far)?
i tell too many karate stories. just one? ok! i vividly remember a session in manchester, years ago, maybe i was shodan at the time. a rotating partner drill with simple block and counter for gyaku-zuki. i was up against stuart gordon, who outclassed me in basically all aspects, and who was definitely a strong influence on my karate development. anyway, i went for him full acceleration, and got him. i don’t know who was more surprised! and i saw this very brief look in his eye, like he knew he’d been caught napping. of course then he immediately stepped up and was beating me easily. but it was great to realise that in that moment at least, i was an opponent who shouldn’t be underestimated.
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