First RGU student sets black belt in GNKA’s history

Grampian & Northern Karate Association (GNKA) at RGU: SPORT in Aberdeen has recently seen a historic moment, when Ruari McPhee, a future policeman, became their first student trainee to ever pass the examination for the 1st Dan Grade.

Karate club The grading session, held by Sensei Dirk Heene, 8th Dan, took place in the Robert Gordon University sports centre in Aberdeen. Over 60 karatekas from all over Scotland attended the course.

Ruari, 24, started karate in 2005 in Perth, his home city. In 2006, he moved to Aberdeen to study at RGU and became a member of the GNKA Aberdeen. This club is run by Sensei Brian Bothwell, 6th Dan, the Association’s founder, President & Chief Instructor, and ‘Approved and ratified SKGB grading examiner’. Ruari joined them on the recommendations of his father who used to train with Sensei Bothwell in the 1970s.

While at RGU, Ruari was the Student President for the karate club. He was responsible for the recruitment of new members, promotion and organising events, such as a trip to the British Universities and Colleges Sport Karate Championship in Sheffield in 2008.

“I chose karate as I had always wanted to try martial arts. Since then, my goal has been to get a black belt,” says Ruari. “It has been a big part of my life and it has given me more confidence and drive & determination in my life. I am joining the police in July and I feel karate will help me as a police officer as it keeps me fit and it will make me stay cool-headed in heated situations.”

“I would eventually like to have my own karate club but I still have a lot to learn,” Ruari uncovers his future plans. “I would like to focus on using karate for self-defence rather than a sport over the next few years.”

Other individuals who passed the examination for higher grades on Sunday 29th April were: Adrian Morgan (Aberdeen) – 3rd Dan, Ben Eayrs (Edinburgh) – 1st Dan, Karolina Jandova (Aberdeen) – 1st Kyu and Amanda Walker (Elgin) - 1st Kyu.

Sensei Bothwell said: “I would like to thank RGU: SPORT for the possibility of hosting the grading session and for their positive approach towards GNKA over the years of mutual co-operation. I am really grateful for having a place where we can cultivate traditional Japanese martial arts.”

The Grampian & Northern Karate Assocation is one of the largest karate organisations in Scotland. It is directly affiliated to, and governed by, the Scottish Karate Governing Body, the only body within karate to be recognised by sportscotland.

Notes to Editors

Shotokan karate uses a grading system, known as the Kyu/Dan system, adopted from Judo by Gichin Funakoshi, the father of Shotokan karate.

This step-up system is based on 20 steps with each level signifying a student’s progress in the study of the art – 10 for the Minor preparatory grades (10th Kyu – 1st Kyu) and 10 for the Major grades (1st Dan to 10th Dan).

Each step forward represents a further accumulation of skills and knowledge.

The above information in Notes to Editors was taken from:

Sensei Heene is the top European instructor of the Shotokan-Ryu-Kase-Ha Academy and teaches karate worldwide. He is also a former European Kata champion.

SKGB stands for The Scottish Karate Governing Body. It is the only accredited grading and licensing body in Scotland. (More on

Sensei Bothwell is also a former member of SKGB technical and executive committees.

Issued on behalf of Karolina Jandova, GNKA Aberdeen Student Rep by:

Andrew Youngson
Communications Officer | Faculty of Health and Social Care
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262389