Memoirs of a Karate Fighter by Ralph Robb
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.
Most readers who pick up this book will, I would guess, be attracted by their memory of The Karate Kid (the proper one with Ralph Macchio – piss off Jayden Smith) and the 80s karate craze it inspired – admit it you were tempted to paint your father’s fence, or wax his car or catch the flies with chopsticks.
This is not that story. This is a sad book in many ways. Ralph Robb recounts his time in the dojo and is effusive in his praise of the discipline and positives which karate brought into his life.
But it is hard not to see a narrative shot through with injustice, toxic masculinity and societal inequalities which mean that these young men are forced to fight constantly just in order to be left to go about their daily business.
The memoir is littered with racist skin heads targeting Robb and his friends for the colour of their skin or for refusing to rise to the bait while they work on the door of a nightclub. Robb himself risks serious long term health damage because he cannot show weakness to his peers inside the dojo and continues to train with a terrible injury.
All of which made me terribly sad. I would like to think that we have moved on as a society but I fear we really have not. Perhaps the best that can be said is that Ralph Robb is an engaging guide, with a captivating style leading his readers through a Midlands beset with all of the problems we see in society.
And yet, by never losing hope , Robb points a way towards optimism for all his readers and the hope of a better life.
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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