Popular Portsmouth karate instructor marks 80th birthday with gift of gratitude from students past and present

A KARATE instructor who has inspired students for 50 years was surprised with a special gift to mark his 80th birthday.

Friday, 19th March 2021, 1:53 pm
Karate instructor Bob Caruana was presented with a special gift for his 80th birthday from students past and present. Pictured: Bob, third from left, taken in 2019 after Bob's last student grading. This included the 3rd Dan Black belt grading for one of his lifelong students John Aquilina

Bob Caruana started his lifelong karate journey in Portsmouth in 1971, inspiring and teaching countless students over the years.

On March 13, Bob celebrated turning 80 and was presented with a special lifetime award by the NOZOMI Foundation on behalf of students past and present.

This included a framed certificate and a glass award engraved with Bob’s name and the date, and it was shared on worldwide Facebook pages which saw comments flood in from grateful learners.

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Bob Caruana with his certificate and glass award

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Bob, who was teaching right up to the first lockdown in his SSMA dojo in Buckland Community Centre, said: ‘I wish to thank all my students and friends for the many comments I got, some of the students date back to nearly 30 years ago. It was a pleasant surprise for my 80th birthday.’

Portsmouth has been the city Bob has called home since age 15 and his Merchant Navy days, which led to him to move from his birth home of Malta.

Bob started teaching in the early 1980s at the first full-time Shotokan Karate Dojo in Portsmouth, with students learning at the Portsmouth Shinboku Centre on St Mary’s Road which would later become the Southern Shotokan Karate Association.

Bob Caruana in Shinboku dojo in the 1980s

Michael Fletcher, chief instructor at PSKO Havant, was taught by Bob and wanted to present the special gift for his 80th birthday.

The idea was sparked after students from Michael’s Leigh Park karate school organised a personalised Japanese Katana sword to be given to him in December.

Samantha Lewington, fellow instructor at PSKO Havant, said: ‘[We wanted to] recognise for the first time someone who has dedicated so much life to learning and teaching Shotokan Karate in the past 50 years.

Bob Caruana with Michael Fletcher when he was a brown belt

‘Michael himself would not have learnt if it wasn’t for Bob and then he would not be passing that teaching on now to all of us. The amount of time he’s given to so very many, it’s good to give something back that is so very well deserved.

‘It is good to see this traditional respect and recognition for those that have spent a lifetime teaching and passing on their knowledge. Without their passion and dedication none of us would be where we are today.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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