An Interview With Cumbria Coast Karate

Let’s start at the beginning. How did you club come about, and what’s the story behind it?

Well it all started as a bit of a pipe dream back in 2016. I was training with my previous organisation and started wondering about life beyond the dojo. As a project I decided to start writing a syllabus that would encompass how I thought karate should be taught in the modern dojo. As I learned new techniques from various sources I was starting to make a fitting syllabus that one day I would take to the next level. When explaining my dreams to one of my instructors one day it was met with anger and disappointment. He told me that I had to choose between the project that I had started or the current organisation. After talking it over with my partner, it was at that moment I decided to follow my dream and go for it. We opened in March 2017 with 4 students, 2 following me from the previous organisation once they discovered my intentions, and have never looked back.


Thinking about your own martial arts background, what was it that stuck with you the most from your training?

The discipline. It’s hard to explain to people when you say that without karate I would be a huge hot head. Some of the strategies taught to me over the years by my teachers have helped me to develop as not only karate-ka but as a human being, and for that I am truly thankful.


What is it you do so differently at club level, and what standards do you insist on from your members and instructors?

I think it is important that every student has their own identity in the dojo, we are not robots after all. Junior members are here to learn and more importantly be safe whilst learning. With this in mind I decided to enrol adult members from 8th Kyu and above on certain courses etc to ensure that practices are being followed. For example, all of our adults are DBS checked, why you ask, they are not instructors? You are correct but to safeguard both the club and its students, it’s worth paying the £15-20 per check to ensure you know the background of your adults in case there is an issue that hasn’t been disclosed. As well as this all adults have to complete an online child protection course so that they know how to conduct themselves around children. Lastly we enrol adults in first aid as we have 3 rural dojos where it will take time if an ambulance was required.


To put it frankly, why do you bother when so many others do not?

At the end of the day the world is changing and we all need to move with the times. There have been so many cases coming out in the media of various crimes against children and young people and as clubs it is our responsibility to make sure that we over safeguard our practices.


Do you see these additional standards translate into any commercial success, and if so, how?

Since starting the scheme, in the middle of last year, we have seen cases where you tell parents about how we are all DBS checked/first aid trained and they are astounded why we have done it. It is a selling point when taking on new students as it’s a huge peace of mind for the parent when leaving a child in your care. One of the parents told me recently that we have more qualifications than the lifeguard down at their  local pool which was good to hear.


How do you keep the club profitable and sustainable whilst investing income into the training programs?

We are not a competition based karate club so all the money generated goes towards training programs, DBS checks and seminars so that all students can benefit from an all round learning platform.


What would your advice be to a new club starting up in terms of how they should best manage important criteria at club level (such as insurance, DBS, first aid etc)?

It’s all about balancing, I put set amounts of money aside every month for various things ranging from the essentials like insurance to other things such as team bonding to training courses. I plan my schedule up to a year in advance so I know what money is required when.


Is there anything in particular you recommend a club should try doing, or anything in particular that works well for you at club level (in terms of improving standards?)

What I have found is modern technology in the dojo also helps (i.e if you have wifi get a wireless card machine),I have an iPad that I have at every lesson that means I can check on medical history of students, licence expiry dates and also I have all the emergency contact numbers in case I need them. Pen and paper is slowly disappearing. Furthermore, we can use a lot of the app functions such as to film a student (with GDPR Consent) so you can playback and discuss improvements required to assist them progress.


Do parents / students typically notice the extra work you put into in-club development?

Yes, everyone who knows me know how much time and effort I have put into the club. We have gone from one to three clubs simply because of the sheer demand for services. We have gone from 4 students to 70 students in 2 years which is fantastic. But in my eyes there is still a lot to do. I have plans to introduce more courses to widen the spectrum of what we do. I have been extremely fortunate to have the backing of some extremely loyal students, who would do anything to help the club progress, as well as some fantastic instructors and more importantly friends. The club is a family and that’s how we treat each other. It’s that simple value that keeps me focused day in day out doing what I have loved for all these years.


Find out more about Mark Stevens and Cumbria Coast Website from their official website;