This week Bill Carne talked to Kieran Warlow to congratulate him on achieving Black Belt First Dan in Japanese-style jujitsu, and to find the reasons why Kieran initially took up this version of the martial arts . . .

Kieran Warlow’s commitment to his part in Japanese-style jujitsu over the past six years has recently been rewarded by the awarding of his Black Belt First Dan with the Red Dragon Club in Milford Haven, who meet at the Meads Leisure Centre every Friday evening from 8-9.30pm.

"It is a pure form of self defence, since the emphasis is on self-restraint and so there are no competitions to enter," Kieran told us at the outset, "but it has been of immense help to me in my personal development."

It is a style that is taught by Peter Evans, a terrific Fifth Dan, assisted by Mike Steer (Third Dan) and Barry Jones (First Dan) in a club that encourages backing away from confrontation, as well as looking for ways out of tricky situations, which suits Kieran because this approach fits nicely into his way of life.

Because Kieran would tell you that his participation stems from a time when he was in school and a good friend was picked on by two bullies.

"They set upon him and when I went to help I just froze, and felt awful afterwards that I thought I had let him down badly, and although he was fine about it I felt it was something I had to deal with.

"Then I heard about the Red Dragon Jujitsu Club and decided to give it a go - and was made really welcome in their family-orientated set-up, where everyone encourages each other - and I haven't looked back since."

As well as his jujitsu, Kieran has also enjoyed cycling and taken part in the Wales Sportive a number of times, and also has 12 medals of different colours from other cycling challenges like the Tour of Pembrokeshire, Velathon Wales and the Velo Birmingham to name a few.

His most recent challenge was 'The Battle on the Beach' at Pembrey, which included three miles of cycling on the wet sand and then five miles on a mountain bike through woodland, so completing one of the three laps on the 25 mile run.

"When I entered last year it was my first time on a mountain bike and it was a full-body workout that I wasn't expecting, but still really enjoyed." admitted Kieran.

"I had trained really hard for this year’s event, and as well at this race I’m looking again to take on the Velathon Wales, which starts and finishes in the city centre of Cardiff in front of huge crowds with thousands of other riders (estimated at 15,000) - and it feels like being in the Tour de France because it takes place on closed roads.

"The 80 miles distance takes in the Caerphilly Mountain, and The Tumble, which needs almost 30 minutes to reach the summit, so it is no pushover!"

Kieran clearly enjoys hauling himself up steep slopes because he completed the 'King of the Hill' in Saundersfoot in only 19 seconds and on each of the three occasions he has taken part has rocketed up St Brides Hill and been in the top five.

“The Velo Birmingham took a different toll because it was 101.4 miles over rolling hills and took a real toll on the legs so I was just pleased to finish it, albeit in a time of 7 hours and 9 minutes.

"I also did the hill climb at Llys y Fran Reservoir's far side in 1 minute and 50 seconds and on a different note I ran in the Cardiff Half Marathon with virtually zero training and managed a time of two hours 16 minutes."

Kieran would say that his involvement in 'parkour' helped with his being able to cushion falls as he raced over unusual obstacles, often at a little higher than might have been expected, which assisted with his juijitsu development after starting out with a white belt to wrap around his 'gi' (uniform) and steadily developed through red, yellow, orange, green and blue with a white stripe to signify what level he is currently at.

"From there it was on to solid blue, purple and then brown belt, all of which I am proud to display on a stand I made at home - and now I have my black belt first dan to add to it.

"I was really nervous when I sat my grading just before Christmas 2017 with an emphasis on weapon defence alongside a whole series of other techniques in two hours of full-on activity, all of which was videoed for the assessors to look closely at.

"I had to demonstrate 25 throws against four opponents, including black belts, then demonstrate various stand-up and ground defence, finishing off with free sparring and conditioning. It only ended when Peter Evans caught me with a terrific sweetly-timed punch under my ribs and I sank to my knees just as the buzzer went!

"When I was told I had qualified for Black Belt status I was delighted, but as tired as I have ever been in my life!"

As well as progressing his own skills in the future, Kieran is also intent on becoming a coach to youngsters so that they can get a good start in his sport.

"It is a special form of jujitsu in the sense that there is no competitive element as a means of progression, but always an emphasis on self-discipline that encourages walking away from trouble or using the restraint holds that we learn - but it inspires confidence because we know how to look after ourselves in a dire crisis.

"Youngsters are also taught self-discipline in the Dojo and on the mat, and enjoy an element of good fun as they start out in training sessions."

Chatting to Kieran Warlow his quiet self-confidence is evident; as is his enthusiasm and sense of commitment to his sport of Japanese-style jujitsu and we would unhesitatingly suggest that parents could do far worse than encourage children to join Kieran in the Red Dragon Jujitsu Club because he is very much a great advertisement for his style of martial art!