CANDELO karate instructor Robert Graham is making a big name for himself across the country.
Graham was featured in a four-page spread of Australia’s number one martial arts magazine Blitz recently.
Graham is now the head of the organisation he co-founded Kokoro Kai Goju Australia who coaches champions, while still maintaining his roots in Candelo.
He said he was ecstatic to be featured in the magazine and it was a great boost to his dojo.
“I had just got back from Scotland when the reporter called,” Graham said.
“It’s quite warming to think that people are interested. It’s really good for our dojo.”
Graham said the story had emphasized his battle against the odds after losing his leg in a car accident at the age of 18.
“The story was about how I got started, it shows how you can beat the odds.
“It’s about hard work and enjoyment,” he said.
“I lost my leg when I was run over when I was about 18,” Graham said in the article.
“I was in and out of hospital over the 12 months.
“I had smashed a lot of my body, and I had to learn to do everything again.”
Graham told the magazine his interest in martial arts spiked during a trip to Scotland in 1988.
“I saw some of my cousins training, [one of whom] was a 3rd Dan in judo.
“I became interested watching it.
“They enticed me onto the mat and put me in a couple of chokes.
“I liked it! I liked the comradeship, but I also liked the fact they had the ability to be dangerous, but chose not to use it,” Graham said.
Graham returned to Australia determined to train and began looking for a judo school.
However, it was a goju-ryu karate school in Dandenong, Victoria, run by Ray Kennedy and Neil McBride where Graham was accepted in spite of his prosthetic leg.
“I sat and watched a class and afterwards I said something along the lines of ‘you probably wouldn’t take me,’ and they said, ‘Alright we’ll see you Tuesday then!’” Graham said in the article.
“I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, but they sorted that out.
“The simple truth is that bad things happen.
“They were good people and good instructors.
“I’ve been training ever since,” Graham said.
Long-time friend and co-founder of Kokoro kai Peter Jackson said Graham’s prosthetic leg had featured in a number of mishaps that you would expect in a comedy film.
“Rob was partnered up with a guy named John Frazetto,” Jackson said.
“John had become known as a biter during grappling. It’s easy to get out of holds if you’re willing to have a bit of a munch!
Rob had John all tied up and he decided to bite down on the fake leg, not knowing it was prosthetic.
Rob just looked at him as if to say ‘that’s not going to do you alot of good’.”
Graham said it took him nine years to achieve a black belt.
“It was never about the belt though, I would have hung out for it,” Graham said.
He began teaching students after moving to NSW in 1996.
“Teaching is not much different to being in your own classes,” Graham said.
“What you have to do is think more about looking after people and remembering that not everyone can do what you can.”
Graham, who is now a 4th Dan black belt in goju-ryu developed an empathic training style after recalling how difficult his early days had been.
His training style has seen him rise to become the head instructor of the Kokoro Kai style in NSW.
His advice to young people is simple.
“Most of all enjoy yourself.
“Look after your education; it’s more important than anything and sports run a hot second to it.
“Karate is not just a sport, it’s a way of life.”
Graham said the article had been a boon for his training dojo as they can now read about its heritage.
“It’s a boost for our style.
“It’s got everyone’s attention.
“Our dojo’s students compete all over the country and are always high in the points,” Graham said.
“I was really embarrassed [about the story], but I’m now pretty happy about it,” Graham said.