Somewhere to review books I'm reading without giving away any spoilers!
I’d like to welcome Ralph Robb here today and thank him for writing this guest post.
Read on to discover more about him, his life and read an excerpt from his book, Memoir of a Karate Fighter…..
Sometime ago a question was put to me regarding an incident in the book. It went along the lines of: ‘Don’t you think you were being unpatriotic in your reluctance to wear the Union Jack on your tracksuit during the medal ceremony?’ The answer to that question was: ‘Depends how you look at it.’ The follow up question was – ‘I view that as being highly hypocritical. If you objected so strongly, why didn’t you just withdraw right at the beginning and give someone who was proud of their country the opportunity?’
In order to give you a clearer perspective of where I was coming from, I’d like to draw you into the experience of a twenty-year-old young man. But before I do so I think it is important to mention that these were my view points at that time and no one else on the squad. This wasn’t an exuberant display of discord but a quiet disagreement between two people. I had many friends and colleagues that proudly wore the badge and I was fine with that. They had their opinions and I had mine.
I can’t begin to tell you the number of times I was chased in my early teens by grown men that wanted to do me harm for having a different skin colour to theirs. The majority of the times they were football supporters (rival and home fans) that were looking for an opportunity for a little ‘aggro’. The first time I had experienced this I remember being truly terrified and stuggled to understand the reasoning behind it. Always fast on my feet, I was never caught but the visceral hatred displayed, was etched into my memory.
As I grew older, I became more confident and I began arming myself for such encounters. By now, I had moved out of my parents’ house and was living in a high-rise flat with my then girlfriend who was expecting our first child. She was rightfully terrified of the skinheads who were in a flat above us.
It wasn’t just on the street level that we were being accosted. The National Front had held a massive march in Wolverhampton where their raw hatred was proudly on display behind the flag. Thankfully, there were counter marches by the anti-Nazi league and while I was deeply affected by the actions of racists I became aware that they were a minority and there was a countless number of white British people who were appalled by the misappropriation of the flag by the National Front and the politicians who led them into the Falklands War while they actively promoted its flying from houses as support for ‘our lads’.
Perhaps the most disheartening talk I heard was from work colleagues I thought I knew. I have a vivid memory of a conversation around a canteen table, with discrimination as the topic. It ended with a comment along the lines of: ‘If you don’t like it here you can always go back to where you came from.’
A blast of ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ from two large speaker horns on the car’s roof startled me and turned my head. A call of: “ENGLAND FOR THE ENGLISH – REPATRIATE NOW!” accompanied the music.
I stopped in the road and glared at the man in the passenger seat who held the microphone handset. At first he smirked but it soon gave way to a grimace. Staring at him, I experienced a similar hatred to the one I had previously felt for the skinhead leaving the lift. But now there were no boxes in my hand to prevent me from acting. I turned and spat onto the car’s bonnet. The two men in the car made nervous smiles as I trembled with anger. I made to rush to the car’s door, to rip it open but a strong hand grabbed me by the shoulder and dragged me back.
The car sped off and my elderly neighbour asked, “Are you a special kind of stupid? Can you not see they are taunting you, to get you to react . . . I’ve seen it all before with the Nazis. . . . Nothing changes.”
Novelist and former karate champion Ralph Robb recounts his experiences at one of Europe’s toughest dojos and provides an insight into the philosophy and training methods of a club which produced national, European and world titleholders. In a hard-hitting story, Ralph tells of the fights on and off the mat; his experiences as one of a very few black residents in an area in which racist members of the National Front were very active; and the tragic descent into mental illness and premature death of the training partner who was also his best friend.
Author Bio –
Ralph Robb was born and raised in the industrial town of Wolverhampton, England and now lives in Ontario Canada with his wife, cat and dog. A proud father of four, Robb works as an engineering technician and loves rugby, martial arts and a good book. His world is balanced by quality TV, global events, great outdoors and of course his grand-daughter.
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