Not all sports are moving at the same pace towards a workable future. But thanks to some innovative thinking, karate in north Wales is catering for its regular members as well as helping entice potential new recruits among disabled people, as Reuben Florence told Graham Thomas.
Teaching karate during a global pandemic is not easy, but that hasn’t prevented Reuben Florence from showcasing the sport to disabled people in North Wales.
Reuben – founder and chief instructor at Dragon Karate Cymru in Bangor – recently opened his doors to new enthusiasts as part of the Virtual Insport Series hosted by Disability Sport Wales and sponsored by SPAR.
Those are virtual doors, by the way. With the real doors still closed on club facilities like Dragon Karate, these taster events have migrated online.
But Rueben was able to make a short introductory film for anyone keen to take up the sport as part of the first of four regional events that are highlighting the attractions of various sports.
As well as karate, the North Wales event featured gymnastics, wheelchair basketball and rugby union – each giving taster sessions online, showing basic techniques, skills and drills.
🥋 New Kicks on the Block
💻 Read about how Dragon Karate Cymru in Bangor are ensuring that sport is available for all abilities during lockdown
— sportwales (@sportwales) June 22, 2020
“We have recorded sessions that people can click on and get an idea of what the sport is all about,” says Reuben, who has been involved in karate for 25 years.
“They are quick challenges that anyone can join in with. Online activities are never going to replace the real thing of face-to-face instruction, but in the present time they’re a fantastic way of introducing the sport and keeping connected.”
Dragon Karate had already begun to provide inclusive lessons for children on Anglesey and the Insport series is helping them pitch the sport to a wider and more diverse audience.
“It’s a great sport for everyone,” added Reuben. “Karate can offer so much and it’s truly a sport for all ages and abilities.
“As a club, we have been providing lessons for people with learning difficulties, but we want to expand and introduce the sport to people with physical issues and also visually impaired people.
“One of my regular students who is 62, recently feel in his attic and injured his arm. He’s not going to be able to use that arm, but I want to get him back into training and enjoying the sport as much as he can.
“Karate can offer that to people and I’m excited to broaden the lessons to as many people as we can.”
Before the current sporting lockdown, the Insport Series had become well established over the past decade with over a dozen events being held throughout the country at various locations.
One of the biggest was held at Cardiff Met University, where 11-year-old Phil Pratt was introduced to wheelchair basketball – the sport in which he would later become a Paralympian with the Great Britain squad in Rio in 2016.
The Day Has Arrived. Join the Virtual North Wales Insport Series Today. With Ruben from Dragon Karate Cymru (Clubs in Caernarfon and Bangor), Mair Eluned from Bangor Gymnastics Club, Wheelchair Basketball (Caernarfon) and Rugby @dsw_news @CyngorGwynedd @BywnIachCymru pic.twitter.com/cTk7v1kwi0
— Chwaraeon am Oes Gwynedd (@CAOGWYNEDD) June 12, 2020
With those venue-based events currently off limits, the virtual world is enabling the series to continue and on June 19, the second event will be taking place, with clubs chosen from the Gwent region.
They include showcasing gymnastics with Valleys Gymnastics Academy, tennis with Little Hitters, wheelchair rugby with Dragons Wheelchair Rugby, and boccia with Monmouthshire County Council.
On July 3, there is an event for clubs in the South Wales region and a week later it’s the turn of clubs based in Mid-Wales and the west. The events remain free to view online, at any time, after the event day itself.
Tom Rogers, senior Insport project officer at Disability Sport Wales, says: “Under normal circumstances, these events would take place physically, in locations across the country throughout the year.
“Social distancing to keep us all as safe as possible from coronavirus has forced many of us to adjust, and for now, our Insport Series events will be held online. Each event will be hosted by clubs from a specific Welsh region, delivering a range of inclusive opportunities for you to try at home.
— Ambionics (@ambionics_uk) October 12, 2017
“The clubs have created video content which has been edited for the online visitor. So, for instance, with gymnastics, there is a warm-up clip you can do, followed by four activity clips.
“Someone can stay on each video clip as long as they want. If they feel a certain sport or activity isn’t for them, then they can click off and go onto the next one. All the content is something you can replicate in your own home.”
Visit insportseries.co.uk for further information on how to access these free events
Please note: This event is open to all ages, but you will need someone over 16 years old to register.
Virtual Insport Series
North – 12th June 2020
Gymnastics – Bangor Gymnastics Club & Mon Actif (Anglesey County Council)
Karate – Dragon Karate Cymru
Wheelchair Basketball – Wheelchair Basketball North Wales
Rugby Union – Colwyn Bay Stingrays & Welsh Rugby Union
Gwent – 19th June 2020
Gymnastics – Valleys Gymnastics Academy
Tennis – Little Hitters
Wheelchair Rugby – Dragons Wheelchair Rugby
Boccia – Mon Life (Monmouthshire County Council)
South – 3rd July 2020
Basketball – Archers
Football – Barry Town United FC
Multisport – SportFit
Dance – Impetus Dance
Goalball – South Wales Goalball Club
Mid & West – 10th July 2020
Tennis – Brecon Integrated Sports Club
Athletics – Maldwyn Athletics Club
Multisport – TBC
Weightlifting – Pembrokeshire Weightlifting Club