Cambridge University Karate Club

Seventeen consecutive varsity victories (2007-2023)

Cambridge University Karate Club (CUKC) was formed in 1976 by Charles Levitt and Simon Giszter, two junior grades who arrived in Cambridge as freshers and were surprised at the absence of a karate club. They got in touch with Bob Poynton of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) and with his encouragement set up the first karate club in the University, then called CUSKC (Cambridge University Shotokan Karate Club). They immediately had a large intake of new members and since they were the highest grades present, Charles and Simon had to teach the lessons themselves. Over the years the club evolved and grew into the large and successful club that it is today. The Chief Instructor is Ken Hori, 6th Dan, who himself started karate at CUKC and has a very distinguished competition record.

The club has always believed in creating a welcoming and inclusive training environment and new members are always welcome to join, regardless of previous experience. We positively encourage novices to join, and many of the club's members started karate in exactly that way. It is possible, though far from easy, to grade to shodan (first grade black belt) in 3 years, though 4 years is a more attainable target. Since Shotokan karate is practised all over the world it is a sport that can be continued long after graduation, and as can be seen from some of the instructor profiles on the site, many of our members have gone on to become exceptionally accomplished karateka, building on their successes with CUKC.

CUKC has a long and distinguished record at regional, national and international competitions. The club is always keen to welcome new people to compete for CUKC, and the squad typically contains members from a wide variety of styles, training backgrounds, and levels of experience — from people who have only been doing karate for 6 months right through to several members of the KUGB England Squad. Since we practise Shotokan karate, it is necessary for members joining from other styles to adapt and learn the necessary kata if they intend to grade. The Governing Body (JSKE) allows cross-gradings that enable you to transfer your grade over to the Shotokan system at the appropriate level, so there's absolutely no need to start from 9th kyu and work your way up the ranks again. In the past we have welcomed members from Gojo-ryu, Shito-ryu, Wado-ryu, Kyokushinkai, taekwondo and many other disciplines.

Karate is a Discretionary Full Blue sport at Cambridge for Men and Women, meaning that the Captains may award Half Blues (and Colours for the Women) and the Blues Committees may award Full Blues to those members of the squad who have met certain criteria through competing for the University. We take part in the annual Varsity match against Oxford and attend many national competitions throughout the year, as well as the BUSA (British Universities Sports Association) Karate Championships. Being a University club means that there is an emphasis on competitions, but it is by no means mandatory to compete and for novices the focus is squarely on development and progression through the grades.

CUKC enjoys an active social life — post-training pub trips, termly socials, film nights, karaoke nights, and meals with guest instructors all occur regularly. Our largest event of the year is the Annual Dinner, held in May Week. This is a black tie, 3-course dinner with entertainment, speeches and plenty of wine! Demolition of any apparent grade segregation is the responsibility of the Social Secretary, who through clever use of alcohol and parties can get even the most timid karateka dancing their socks off.

The best way to get an idea what the club is all about is to come to a training session and meet some of our members for yourself. Also, if you have the time, take a look at the ever-expanding collections of photos and videos on the site, which showcase both the competitive and social sides of CUKC life. We hope to see you soon at training!