The path to a black belt in karate is not easy but Dr Bob Gibbins of Future Dental in Cairns, Queensland, relished the journey and the many benefits. Interview: Frank Leggett
“I took up karate about 20 years ago because of my good friend, Sensei Matsumoto. He’s probably the best karate master and sensei in Australia and is highly respected in his field.
“I started karate to improve my fitness and coordination. I soon discovered that it also improves flexibility and reflexes. In addition, using both sides of your body at the same time enhances left/right brain coordination. Karate also teaches positional and situational awareness.
“It has certainly kept me fit and flexible, and I found good company through my participation. It was an extremely fine group of people that were involved with my particular dojo.
“Early on I began working towards my black belt. I trained up to five evenings a week and it took me quite a few years to get my first dan. There are about 10 belt levels to master before achieving a black belt. Halfway through the process I took a break from training but soon realised that it was a mistake not to stick with it. I returned with renewed passion and it was emotionally rewarding to eventually receive my black belt.
“I have entered competitions in the past but that was not the reason I took up karate. I’m not motivated to purely compete in tournaments although that is important to many others.
“I think it’s very important for professionals to have an interest outside of work. We need to be able to take off our dental hat at the end of the day and be able to put on another hat.
“I’ve found that a lot of professional people have an interest in another field outside their work. Applying the same self-belief in gaining a professional degree can help you achieve in other areas. As well as being involved with karate, I love fishing and I’ve just taken up bicycle riding to complement my usual gym training and weight training. I should add that I turn 68 soon.
“After spending 20 years practising karate, the most surprising thing was the other people involved in the sport. Originally, I had the idea that they would just be there to beat other people up. This is absolutely diagonally opposite to what it is all about.
“Karate has kept me fit, flexible and aware. It’s given me confidence when out in public—I’m simply not afraid of being mugged in a dark street. Thankfully, I’ve never had to apply any of what I’ve learned in real life but it’s nice to have the skills if I need it.”