FROM Peterlee to Melbourne – the martial art of Ishinryu is uniting people all over the world.
Steve Baxter has travelled 10,000 miles and boosted links with fellow enthusiasts.
TRACY WALKER spoke to the former England international about his experience.
Steve Baxter describes them as his worldwide family.
The karate champion has just returned from a two-week trip Down Under where he shared his impressive skills.
Add that to his fellow enthusiasts in Germany and America and it becomes clear this is a close band of like-minded people.
We caught up with Steve after he returned from his latest adventure. He travelled more than 10,000 miles to Melbourne, in Australia, where he taught his Ishinryu techniques to groups of up to 85 other martial artists.
The 36-year-old former England international, who is an instructor with the Peterlee-based East Durham Ishinryu Club, was invited on a two-week trip to Oz by sensei Bruce Hyland 6th Dan, a former Australian national coach, to help train students.
Steve also passed on his expertise during a three-day residential camp at Mount Evelyn, on the outskirts of Melbourne.
The fearsome fighter has picked up a host of titles over the years including five-times North-East Champion and has represented his country in places including Turkey and Scotland.
Steve, who has 22 years experience in the art, said: “It was a learning experience and a life experience.
“The advantage was it was the same style that myself and my fellow instructor Gavin Foster 3rd Dan teach at our club.
“The great thing was being that far on the other side of the world and to walk into a club where they wear the same badges and do the same style as you was a comforting thing and made it quite easy for me.
“To meet people of the same style who respect what you are capable of was fantastic.”
Steve taught at six dojos, which are martial arts clubs, as well as a gasshaku training camp.
He taught a range of techniques, including kihon, or basic skills, kata, which is fighting an imaginary opponent and kumite, which is fighting.
Steve said the trip ranked alongside other big achievements in his life, including gaining his first black belt and fighting for England for the first time.
But he said a downside to going Down Under was the wildlife.
The tough guy is used to seeing off opponents in the gym – but nothing could prepare him for when he came face to face with a 6ft python.
Steve, a store manager for Barker and Stonehouse in Darlington, said: “The one thing I dislike about Australia is the wildlife.
“As big and tough and capable of fighting as I am, spiders and snakes are no-nos.
“The guys in Australia knew this and I was stood talking to a class of 85 students when one of the other instructors decided to come in with a python.
“The choice was I either look embarrassed in front of the 85 students or put this thing round my neck – I had to take it.”
Steve, who plans to return to Oz, added: “I have now got friends around the world through global karate, whether it be here, America, Germany or Australia because of my karate.
“My karate family has now been extended to Australia and my thanks go to everybody out there.”
There was even better news for Steve last weekend.
Thanks to the success of his Australian trip, he was awarded the grade of 3rd Dan by his instructor, the world renowned Ticky Donovan, 9th Dan OBE.
East Durham Ishinryu club is based at East Durham College, in Willerby Grove, Peterlee and new recruits are welcome.
The club meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the college.
Beginners classes run from 6pm to 7pm. Everyone is welcome.
To find out more, call 07708098691 or visit www.eastdurhamishinryu.co.uk