You can't live in Leicester without seeing the Gannon name. There is Paul, Michael and a couple of other brothers (Frank, John?) too, who all seem to be masters of martial arts. I have to pick one, and the winner, by virtue of training at a reasonable time on a Thursday is Michael.
Michael's website: http://www.mg-bba.co.uk/ tells me some interesting things: Master Gannon has "studied the Martial Arts for 30 years and has been teaching Adults & Children for over 20 years. Among his many qualifications, Master Gannon is a qualified P.E Teacher"! For adults it promises to "Make Massive Changes Almost Overnight!". Right then!
I fill in the online web form and am almost instantly texted back about my free tester session booked for the 10th. Before the session I get two further texts and a phone call from Michael. This, in comparison to the lack of contact from the last class seems to be a big bonus - they want me!!
It's quite a schlep from my home in Knighton to Bradgate Street near Blackbird Road but I arrive as agreed at 6.50pm and watch the end of the previous session. A group of student are in a circle defending themselves from a rubber knife. The venue is an industrial unit which has been well adapted to a dojo, with matted floor and a good sized space.
Michael greets me warmly and asks me the same medical questions and what I'm looking to get out of the class. I say I have done some karate as a child and I'm looking to get fit. The other participants seem friendly and range from un-uniformed newbies like myself to two gentlemen weaning 2nd dan black belts and a couple of ladies in 1st dan belts.
The class starts with a slightly cheesy reading of the tenets of tae kwon do (relabelled the tenets of Martial Arts) and then straight into some punching, blocking and kicking combo's. I'm quite pleased at first that Master Gannon doesn't feel the need to correct any of my techniques despite this being my first lesson, when I look around several of the students are making a pigs ear of the techniques (bent wrists, sticking out thumbs etc) and he isn't correcting them either... Sadly, a teenage girl, sporting a shiny black belt is one of them.
The rest of the class appears quite unstructured and focussed around techniques into a bag / circuit training and fitness. Whilst these are fine and enjoyable, again Master Gannon neither joins in nor corrects any of the techniques and, personally, I can't stand that he plays music during the session. It seems that most of the taught elements are from Taekwondo rather than karate.
All in all, when Mick asks me at the end whether I will be coming back I am very non-commital. I can't find any evidence that this school is linked to any recognised association for the martial arts, the only affiliations quoted are to marketing and networking groups. In my opinion, the teaching is not up to te standard of te other classes I have attended and any belt earned there may be worthless at another school if the new instructor had to correct the bad habits these students are being allowed to pick up.
On a positive note, one of the second dans had good technique (possibly better than Gannon himself) so good luck to him and apologies to anyone who attends Mick's classes who is offended by this, it's not a rant, it's an opinion but my advice would be to see if your grade is accredited anywhere just to protect yourself and you future if you move elsewhere. Next week: Chun seh dau Shaolin Kung Fu in Clarendon Park...