MEMBERS of an East Lancashire martial arts club braved freezing conditions for their annual training trek up to Darwen Tower.

Tower Shukokai Karate Club held its kangeiko – or cold weather training – in the shadow of the landmark that overlooks Darwen from which they take their name.


The toughest members went barefoot for the ancient art, which is a practice adopted by many Japanese martial arts clubs.

It is designed to develop both the spirit by subjecting the practitioners to tough conditions and to develop a “kindred bond” among club members.

Training consisted of the traditional Japanese disciplines of “kata” (formal choreographed drills), “kihon” (the practice of fundamental techniques) and “kumite” (pairs exercises, such as sparring).

The day began with the group congregating at the Lychgate on Tockholes Road before making the trek to the base of the tower at 1200ft elevation, where they stripped to their keikogi (wraparound uniforms).

After training, the trek back down the hill was rounded off with a welcome meal at the Sunnyhurst Hotel.

The host club was joined by members of other local karate clubs; JKS Shotokan, Leyland; Knights’ Shukokai, Chorley; SSK, Urmston and Blackburn Budokwai.

Tower Shukokai’s chief instructor, Andy Allwood, 5th dan black belt said: “This year was possibly our best kangeiko ever. Great training, great weather and it was a special pleasure to welcome so many guests this year.”

Assistant instructor Martyn Skipper added: “It was lovely to be joined by many club members, past and current, who couldn’t train this time, but were able to add to the atmosphere, making this a special event this year.”

It was a successful 2014, for the well-established martial arts club and they will hoping for more of the same this year.

Imogen Skipper, 17, showed that she is following in the footsteps of dad Martyn who was crowned European Veterans champion in 2013.

She ended the year on a high by starring at the UK Open Open at the Birchwood Tennis Centre in Warrington.

She took part in the both the cadet and senior competitions despite still being a few weeks off her 17th birthday.

The QEGS sixth former entered the adult female kumite (fighting) event.

Despite a spirited battle, she was unable to defeat her older opponent in their first round encounter. But it served as a useful warm-up for the cadet event where Imogen was on blistering form, easily cruising her way to the final, conceding just one point in the eliminations.

In the final, Imogen won gold with a four points to zero win, including an ippon.

  • Tower Shukokai is Darwen’s oldest Shukokai karate club and has been in the town since 1987. They meet at Edgworth School on Mondays and Saturdays and cater for a wide range of ages and abilities from five-years-old to late middle age. For More details at