Taunton Academy pupil achieves a black belt in Shōtōkan karate

A Taunton Academy pupil is celebrating after achieving a black belt in Shōtōkan karate at the weekend. Nathan Hartnell, 13, from Norton Fitzwarren has been working towards the sport’s highest grade since he was six years old, overcoming a foot injury to pass after two years of trying.

Nathan’s dad, Christian Hartnell, said: “We are very proud of him. It has meant lots of hard work over the last few years and several attempts but he didn’t give up. He was really pleased to have passed, especially after sustaining a foot injury during the pre-grading training session. Until now he’s been unable to participate in competitions due to his age restrictions but Nathan is now really looking forward to this aspect of karate.”

As the most widely practiced style, Shōtōkan is considered the most traditional and influential form of karate. Nathan has been training with his Sensei (teacher) Mark McCormack for seven years and is currently based at the Minehead Dojo. He passed his black belt at the Exeter grading centre, where the UK’s Chief Instructor Sensei Stuart Cole was his examiner. 

Shōtōkan training is divided into three parts: kihon (basics), kata (forms or patterns of moves), and kumite (sparring). To pass the examination Nathan needed to demonstrate all nine. He is able to now train for his 2nd Dan and also to become a junior instructor.

Nathan, who is in Year 9 at school, also works as a young leader with Trinity Scout Group and was awarded the Chief Scout Gold Award earlier this summer. Last weekend he attended a camp for Beaver Scouts immediately after his karate grading, where he mentored the younger children – some of whom were on their first camp without their parents. He is also a keen and active member of Taunton Detachment HM Royal Marine Cadets.