Frank Jennings, 2nd Dan

Frank is another one of our southern regioners who made the move from training into teaching after finding himself without a local KUGB club; he now runs Senshi karate in London, actively cultivates relationships with other clubs and guest instructors, and particularly encourages families to train together.
Frank’s friendly and easy-going nature makes him a very approachable instructor, but don’t underestimate his eye for detail and commitment in everything he does! We’re grateful for Frank for agreeing to join the SHOTORAMA instructors team, and apologise to his club members for taking him away from their regular Saturday session. Of course, the door is open for everyone here at SHOTORAMA!
Here is some more about Frank and his background, with a couple of thoughts on what karate means to him.
when did you start karate, and how long have you been training?
I started training in 1996. I started training in London, moved to Liverpool where I continued training and then moved back to the South East. At that point, I switched associations for a while, but came back to KUGB for the quality of karate.
what club are you at now, how did the club get started, how long has it been running?
I run my own club, Senshi Karate, in Greenwich and Charlton in South East London which I set up in 2016. I set it up because there were no KUGB clubs in the area and I was keen to fulfil the promise I made to my daughters and get them to black belt. I’ve got one there so far. The other is not far behind. I also train regularly at Marshall Street in central London which was Sensei Enoeda’s old dojo.
have you tried/ do you have experience in other martial arts?
I tried Jiu-Jitsu when I was a teenager. It was good fun – particularly the throws and breakfalls – but ultimately, I didn’t get on with it. Modern shotokan karate, of course, has similar kicks and punches but has lost its throws.
who have been your major influences/instructors?
I was influenced by sitting in front of the TV with my Dad watching David Carradine in TV programme Kung Fu (“Ah, grasshopper”). Then the (original) Karate Kid (“Pain does not exist in this dojo”) and of course Bruce Lee (“Become like water my friend”) who inspired a whole generation and beyond. In real life, Robin Dale at Ichiban in Crawley has been a key influence in my karate. And Sensei Rhodes, under whom I’ve trained many times and who has run several of the gradings at my club.
how would you describe your philosophy/attitude to karate?
The physical side of karate looks after my body, the philosophy or, if you like, the spirituality behind karate looks after my mind. You practise over and over, stripping out unnecessary movements to make it as natural, efficient and powerful as possible. You learn to hurt and try not to be hurt. And then you learn not to use karate unless you have to. And be nice to people. It’s not a bad code to live by.  
what experiences from outside the dojo do you bring to your training/teaching?
I try to make my classes fun. Not everyone appreciates my sarcastic humour and my Dad jokes don’t always work. But explaining things through humour – especially when you’re correcting someone’s mistakes in front of the class – is my way of trying to get people to see for themselves and do it better next time without them feeling embarrassed. And I also tell them what I’ve done wrong and how I’ve learned from my mistakes. After all, we’re still all learning.
how does karate influence your life outside the dojo?
My wife thinks I’m obsessed with karate and I think I agree! Karate is a way of life for me so in some ways the dojo is everywhere. If I’m not teaching or training, I’m talking about the next class or what I’m hoping my students will achieve. I’m not quite like Cato (kids, look it up!) but my daughters know that if they’re standing next to me waiting for the Tube, they’d better be ready to block…
what is your favourite part/aspect of karate training?
Everyone loves kumite: it’s the glamorous side of karate. That’s one of the reasons I started karate and, at first, I couldn’t understand the point of kata. I thought it was a form of aggressive ballet and a waste of time. But, as I became more experienced, I started to understand kata better. In kumite, you have to use control so that you don’t (deliberately) injure your opponent. Kata, on the other hand, is a great opportunity for me to practise a more varied set of techniques without control. And when you do the bunkai for a kata, it all makes sense. The first time I did bunkai training with Sensei Rhodes was a light bulb moment for me.
do you have a favourite exercise/drill/kata?
My current favourite drill is kizame tsuki, gyaku tsuki with yori ashi. Simple. That’s me! Current favourite katas are Tekki Nidan and Gankaku. However, I also enjoy practising bunkai sequences from the Heian kata.
 
how would your students describe you/your lessons/club?
I run my club in conjunction with my two daughters who also do karate. There are a few fathers and mothers who train with their children at my club and we have a 50/50 split between male and female students. Hopefully, all this means that my students would say they find it a family-friendly environment in which to train and they learn while having fun.
what challenges/ambitions do you have?
I started karate later in life and will never be world champion, get to 8th Dan or be able to do full splits. However, I want to get as far as I can while the body still lets me. I also want to see my students do well and start passing on what they have learned.
 
do you have any particularly memorable highlights of your karate career (so far)?
As I said, I started karate later in life and, while I have won some medals in my time, I don’t compete much. For me, therefore, it’s about improving my karate and pushing my students to achieve their best. I’m particularly proud of setting up my own club and, through the club, getting my oldest daughter through to black belt, the first person to do so through my club!
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