Ilkley Karate Club, now celebrating their 26th year, have welcomed four new members to their ever-increasing black-belt group.

Alex Miles and George Kent, who are both ten, and sisters Annabelle, 13, and Katie Connor, 15, successfully completed their grading to the rank of 1st degree black belt (1st Dan).

They now join the elite ranks within the Shito-Ryu Shukokai Karate Union (SSKU).

The Ilkley youngsters achieved their long-term ambition after successfully completing six hours of mental and physical endurance.

The national black-belt gradings are held in Manchester, and students from all the clubs in the association are graded by four of the highly distinguished England Karate chief instructors.

Those taking the black-belt grading had to perform nine out of a possible 27 memorised combination of moves, some of which originated from the founder of the Shukokai style of karate.

In addition to the combinations, the youngsters also had to perform three katas (set moves), demonstrate impact work on pads and perform a variety of self-defence techniques against an opponent, finishing off with a couple of bouts of sparring against fellow students.

The SSKU dan grades are highly regarded, and there is an extra sense of achievement if the grade is made.

They are also recognised in the birthplace of karate as each certificate is authenticated with Grand Master Soke Yamada's seal, who is recognised as the formative head of Shukokai.

Ilkley Karate Club instructor Mark Outterside said: “You really need to prove yourself both technically and physically these days, and if you do pass the grade of black belt, especially in our style of karate, you feel you have earned it.

“It takes on average four years from beginner to black-belt level through the grading system.”

The Ilkley karate students are now looking forward to the forthcoming Cumbrian Open Championships, in addition to the trips to Germany and Greece later in the year to train with fellow SSKU groups, as the association has a worldwide following.

For more information regarding classes, contact Mark on 07590-424980 or visit the club website at