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Sensei Jill F. Kelly, 7th Dan


Sensei Jill Kelly is currently a 7th Dan KUGB Black Belt and a highly respected member of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB).


Sensei Jill began training in 1985 at Ashington Karate Club, at what is now the old Ashington Leisure Centre. Initially, Jill brought her son Gordon to train at the club, but after sitting in and watching several sessions and having been told by the club instructors to simply "take off your socks and shoes and join in", that's what she did! She found it to be a great benefit to her fitness and flexibility.

Ashington Shotokan Karate Club in July, 1987 with Sensei Jill as a 4th Kyu

Sensei Jill began competing as a green belt at Gateshead Leisure Centre Open Competition, winning her Kata category, much to the delight of her instructors! However, she was not yet allowed to enter Kumite competition - being "too much of a liability" with plenty of courage but only one direction - forward!

As a Brown Belt, Sensei Jill was successful in both Kata and Kumite, winning numerous local competitions. Continuing her competition career as a Black Belt, she competed in the KUGB's Shotokan Cup, where she was always a finalist, competing against former World Champions Julie Nicholson and Christine Pullen, National Champion Karen Findlay, and many other National and International Squad members.


Northern Region Squad competing internationally in Belgium in the late 1980s 

Sensei Jill regards her most memorable competitive performance as becoming 1991 Grand Champion at the Northern Region Championships. Having won the individual events in both Kata and Kumite, she was the first woman in the region to be awarded the trophy for Best Overall Competitor.


Following a serious horse riding accident and several months of rehabilitation, Sensei Jill found that Karate training strengthened her back and allowed her, once again, to participate in an "active sport".


After this, riding remained a pleasure, however Karate then became serious. Through her experience in the eventing world Jill had gained enthusiasm, discipline, and determination which she carried over into her Karate training and teaching

Sensei Jill training with the Japanese Karate Association in Japan in 2003

Sensei Jill has volunteered as the Child Protection and Welfare Officer for the KUGB for many years.

Sensei Jill has represented the KUGB for the last five years at the Child Protection in Sport Unit, which is run by the NSPCC in London, meeting many people at their quarterly meetings - working towards improving Safeguarding in the Martial Arts. She has yet to see another martial arts group which shows the selfless dedication of the senior instructors within the KUGB, which is why she shall always be a loyal member of our association.


Sensei Jill's Nidan Black Belt Grading with Sensei Enoeda in 1991

Sensei Jill is also an approved Assessor of Instructors, which is a qualification only available to 4th Dan and above grades, and each year examines potential instructors at the annual Lancaster Summer Camp, as well as preparing juniors and seniors within the club for their junior and senior instructor certificates. She is proud that so many of our members are pleased to do the training necessary to gain these qualifications, which means that they can give back to the club by assisting and taking sessions.

Undoubtedly the highlight of Sensei Jill's karate life was passing her 6th Dan grading in October 2013. The support and continuous encouragement she received from Sensei Brennan in working towards this cannot be over emphasised.


She has never felt she was for any of her Dan Gradings, and claims she never seemed to do her best on the day, but fortunately Sensei Enoeda and Sensei Sherry thought she had done enough, never to fail her! Her nervous system is forever grateful for this!


Sensei Jill being awarded her Shichidan (7th Dan) by KUGB chairman Sensei Frank Brennan 8th Dan, at the 2024 KUGB National Championships 

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