Years of dedication rewarded with UK Martial Arts hall of fame induction for proud Gosport instructor

Renshi Daren Stirrat has been recognised for the years of dedication he has delivered to the sport he remains so passionate about.

By Lewis Mason
Wednesday, 22nd June 2022, 12:11 pm

The Gosport-based figure who heads up the Hampshire Academy of Shokotan Karate was recently inducted into the prestigious UK Martial Arts hall of fame at the annual show staged in Doncaster.

To make it the proud moment that little more special, Stirrat's initial nomination came from his personal idol and former Shokotan world champion Bob Sykes, who also presented him with the hall of fame honour.

There's no doubting Stirrat's warranting for the award, given his countless hour of service teaching Shokotan karate.

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Gosport's Daren Stirrat, right, alongside idol and former Shokotan Karate world champion Bob Sykes with his UK Martial Arts hall of fame inductee certificate

Starting out aged just four, the seventh dan Renshi began running a club in Leigh Park as a 15-year-old and has continued passing on his knowledge to members for the following 32 years.

During the midst of the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns, with Stirrat unable to open his current Hampshire Academy of Shokotan Karate club at the Gosport Nimrod Community Centre, he still dedicated his time teaching more than 300 one-to-one and group sessions virtually.

‘It means the world to me (UK Martial Arts hall of fame award), it’s being recognised, I’ve always been in the background, if you like,’ said newly inducted UK Martial Arts hall of famer Stirrat.

‘With my old Senseis that I had previously, they never want you to go off on your own and start up, they worry.

Daren Stirrat, left, receives his UK Martial Arts hall of fame inductee certificate from former Shokotan Karate world champion Bob Sykes

‘For me to be recognised - it was really funny because I was only asking Bob Sykes (former Shokotan karate world champion) about a competition of some sort - he was asking me how I was doing and how I’d been running classes online every night etc, etc.

‘He said I deserved to be recognised and he sent me a letter saying I’d been recognised.’

Stirrat rubbed shoulders with stars of the martial arts world at the gitzy awards in Doncaster. But there was one individual in particular who made it even more special to collect his coveted honour from.

‘Bob Sykes was a former world champion in the 1970s/80s. He was my idol, to be fair, he was an amazing fighter,’ added Stirrat.

‘To be honest, when we went up because it was over a weekend, they had demonstrations etc (at UK Martial Arts Awards).’

‘Just being around these world-class martial artists, I actually felt world-class myself, just having that bit of recognition for my hard work - not just me - my family, we all support each other. For my wife to be there to see me get this award, this achievement, it was wonderful, it really was.’

Stirrat, who previously ran clubs in Leigh Park and Cosham, has seen a meteoric rise as his small scale Hampshire Academy of Shokotan Karate in Gosport over the past eight years.

Twice the club have been honoured with representing the country at the FSKA World Championships, which members will do so again at next month's event.

But there's another aspect to teaching and helping provide a pathway for youngsters which offers Renshi Stirrat even more satisfaction than solely competition success.

He said: ‘My job, from my part, I’ve given these kids an option. There are two options in this world 1) you’re going to go with crime or 2) you’re going to behave yourself and become something.

‘If I get one child who can get to their black belt or win a world title etc, I’ve done my job. It’s been a long haul, it’s been hard work, but I’ve managed really well - over the past 10 years, competition-wise - we’ve competed in the FSKA World Championships twice now.

‘We did really well, we came back with gold, silver and bronze (medals), every time we’ve been we’ve always come back with something.

‘Karate is my life, karate is my passion, I’ve been doing it since I was four years old. I never dreamt we’d be put through all of that with Covid, nobody did, I really thought I was going to lose everything, to be fair.

‘I’d worked so hard to keep my club going, it was really, really hard.’