Bridlington is to preparing to welcome dozens of martial arts experts from around Europe this weekend, for what is thought to be the biggest gathering of masters ever held in the UK.
Hundreds of students are expected to fill Leisure World on Saturday and Sunday, for a huge two-day seminar designed to cater for not only experienced martial artists, but also those who are new to the sport.
It has been organised by Stuart Hicken, himself an international grandmaster and head coach at the Bridlington Martial Arts and Fitness Centre.
He said: “It has taken me a year to organise, since I visited last year’s event in Germany, so it has been a huge job but it’s very exciting. We have invited over 50 grandmasters from around the world and although we are waiting to see how many arrive, I think this is the biggest gathering held in Great Britain. It must be a record.”
Groups of experts are flying in from Portugal, France and Germany, while other individuals are expected from Poland, Spain and USA, as well as from all corners of the UK.
Sessions will cover a range of martial arts, including karate, judo, kung fu, tai chi, tae kwon do and MMA - but the event is not just about aggression and competition.
Mr Hicken said: “It is not just about the masters. People who have never tried martial arts before are welcome to join us. It is not about competition, nobody will be shown up. It is about sharing knowledge.
“Martial arts can help with willpower, discipline and self-confidence. It is about mind, body and soul. Martial arts is one of the best sports for children, because of the discipline.
“We have parents come up to us and ask ‘how do you get them to do that?’.”
The last 12 months have seen Mr Hicken travelling to a number of similar events overseas, and later this year he will take a team of students from Bridlington to a world championships event in Japan - but he insists this weekend will be one of the highlights of his decades of involvement in martial arts.
“I have been doing it for 42 years, we have another master who is 79 and has been involved in martial arts for 61 years. Put everyone’s experience together and just think what knowledge you have there.
“And you are never too old or too good to learn. I’m sure I will learn something this weekend from one of the other masters. A master is always a student as well.”
As well the prestige the weekend will bring the club in the martial arts world, Mr Hicken believes it could play an important economic role for Bridlington, and he has visions of it being a fixture in the resort’s calendar.
He said: “We’ve filled five hotels already and many other guests have booked their accommodation independently. I hope this will grow and grow and grow, year after year.
“We are doing this for our town and our sport and we are so passionate about what we do.
“I don’t think people realise the magnitude of the weekend, and what it could be.”
For details, visit the club’s premises in Hilderthorpe Road. To particpate, tickets are £20 for adults for two days, or £15 for one day. Juniors, aged 10-16, pay £15 or £10, while spectators will be charged £2 a day or £3 for the weekend.
Mr Hicken can be contacted on 07730 562913.