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John Nurden revisits Arthur Wallace as he celebrates 45 years of Sheppey Karate Club

By John Nurden

Four decades ago, a young journalist visited Sheppey's first karate club and got a good kicking. The chap who launched the 'attack' was prison officer Arthur Wallace.

And he's still running the club. The journalist, John Nurden, is still reporting the news and, at 65, returned for more punishment...

Arthur Wallace aims a karate kick at reporter John Nurden
Arthur Wallace aims a karate kick at reporter John Nurden

It was more than 40 years ago that I first encountered prison officer Arthur Wallace.

He was running Sheppey’s first karate club and had invited me to see what it was like.

I’ve never been particular sporty but Arthur kitted me out in a white canvas sack and matching belt (he wouldn’t give me a black one) and demonstrated the inscrutable art of punching someone in the throat with a foot.

This year the club celebrates its 45th anniversary and he celebrates 50 years of kicks.

Arthur admitted: “You looked pretty good when I gave you a roundhouse kick to the head. I am lucky nowadays if I can kick above waist level!”

Arthur Wallace in the 1980s
Arthur Wallace in the 1980s

He took up judo in 1967 in Rochdale, Lancashire, after getting beaten up by seven youths and two years later switched to karate.

He said: “I found karate more effective as a combat art. Judo is more of a sport.”

The former sheet-metal worker moved to Sheppey in January 1971 as a 21-year-old brown belt to work in one of the prisons and eventually rose to the rank of senior governor, spending his last three years as director of the National Recruitment Centre for Prison Officers.

He retired in 2012 after 42 years service. He opened his own ‘dojo’ in Eastchurch in May, 1974, and a year later joined the first Island team to compete in the national karate tournament at Crystal Palace.

Sheppey Karate Club boss Arthur Wallace gets his 50-year certificate
Sheppey Karate Club boss Arthur Wallace gets his 50-year certificate

He and the other members, Colin Butcher, Terry Newbury, Steve Evans, Colin Pembury, Steve Baxter and Peter Allum, are now all grandads.

Arthur gained his 1st Dan, a type of grading used in karate, in 1975 and in December 2014 was awarded his 7th Dan making him one of the highest-ranked instructors in the south east.

His wife Frances is a 6th Dan, so best not to mess with the pair of them. They now run five clubs and have 88 students.

The main club meets at Sheppey Leisure Centre in Sheerness on Mondays and Thursdays at 6.20pm.

Sheppey Karate Club grading in the Conservative Hall in the 1970s
Sheppey Karate Club grading in the Conservative Hall in the 1970s

There are after-school clubs at St George’s, Rose Street, West Minster and Thistlehill Academy.

Arthur, an expert on Japanese swords (sai) and 6ft staffs (roku-shubo) said: “We are now teaching the children and grandchildren of our original students.”

Highlights have included his ladies self-defence squad which had more than 97 members.

His team of instructors, which includes a 6th Dan, 4th Dan, two 3rd Dans and several 2nd Dans, has produced 154 black belt students, making it one of the most successful in the south east.

For details email skc.wallace@gmail.com or call 01795 876567.

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