Zen-Shin Martial Arts Association

176 Soho Hill, Handsworth, Birmingham, West Midlands, B19 1AL.

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Tel: 07976401214


Table of Contents


Hello! My name is Afiya, I am an instructor and part of the admin team here at Zen-Shin.

Afiya Richards

 I will be using this page to post about what’s going on at the Zen-Sin Studios, latest news & events, with photos and videos, and maybe some random things that you will hopefully find interesting.

Thanks for taking the time to check out the Zen-Shin website and hopefully see you soon!

International Open Karate Competition 2019

On Sunday 17th November 2019, the University of Worcester Arena hosted The Central England 7th International Open. Nine different countries were represented, with over 500 competitors taking part.

Zen-Shin took our new squad down to gain some experience from this prestigious event. There were some really high level competitors in the arena, and I expect to see some of the same faces in the Olympics next year in 2020.

Our first success was early on the in the morning with Alanna and Nerone. The duo placed 1st in the ‘9 and under pairs kata’ category. They have come a long way since a disappointing result earlier in the year. They work together great as a team, and it’s great that they have the discipline to keep improving.


Kayla took 3rd place in ‘8-9yrs girls kumite.’ There were a lot of other great karate-ka competing against her, but Kayla put up a good fight in order to secure her medal.



Phoenix took silver in individual kata for boys 9-11yrs. Phoenix showed great focus through the early rounds, and looked to have been the favourite. A slight lapse in concentration under pressure may have allowed the gold to slip through his fist. However Phoenix did a great job, and now he is hungry for gold.

Micah, the master of long katas, entered the Learning Difficulties Kata Category and came away with 3rd place. We are so proud of Micah. His first external competition, and after that performance it won’t be his last.

Many of these competitors have been training many years before they chase their ambitions of glory to compete against other clubs. Harry and Steve both break the mould. Both students have been training for around 6 months, and have already competed multiple times. It takes bravery to compete against someone on the same level. Harry showed us what kind of bravery he has when he shouted out ‘Heian Shodan’ (considered a low level kata) as the kata he was to perform in front of an audience of international, seasoned black belts and judges. Harry proceeded to perform his kata showing great focus. Although he didn’t come away with a medal, that experience was priceless.

Zen-Shin Mens Kata

Steve came away with a Gold in his category for Males over 40. Steve has made a lot of progress and has built on the experience gained from the last Zen-Shin competition in October.

IMG-20191117-WA0015Jane and Suzy participated individually in the Women’s 35yrs and above category. They both took joint 3rd place with their kata performance. There were some other really talented ladies competing, so they did great to come away with a medal.

As well as Kata, we had students competing in kumite. We expected a high level of competition, and it didn’t disappoint. Many students came for the experience, and the chance to learn. Our team did their best, but were unable to sustain a winning streak long enough to get a medal. There are many lessons to be learned from this experience, and the Zen-Shin coaches have paid attention on how we all need to adapt in order to stay competitive in the evolving sport. In the coming months we will look to expand our squad training times and sessions, and hope we can                                                                                have as many willing karate-ka on board for the                                                                            journey.

In total we took home 2 Gold Medals, 1 Silver Medal, and 4 Bronze Medals.


Out of 62 teams,   Zen-Shin finished 10th! We are very happy with that result considering the international competition that was there.

Well done to all the competitors, those that went home with or without a medal. This was a valuable experience, so now is the time for us to focus on our weaknesses in order to improve.

Below is a list of our students who competed at this event:

Alanna – 1st place Team Kata 9 and under & individual kata

Nerone – 1st place Team Kata 9 and under & individual kata

Phoenix – 2nd place Kata 9-11 & Pairs kata

Lauren – Kata

Miriam – Kata

Diana – Kata

Kayla – Kumite 3rd place, pairs kata & kumite

Morgan – Kata & kumite

Kyle – Kata, pairs & kumite

Kishan – Kata & pairs

Daniel – Kata

Harry – Kata

Steve – 1st Kata 40yrs plus

Shania – Kata & Kumite

Jane –  3rd place 35 years and over Kata

Suzy – 3rd place 35 yrs and over Kata

Micah O’Connor – 3rd place Learning Difficulties Kata

Morgan – Kumite & Kata

Mohammed – Kumite

Liam – Kumite

Omar – Kumite

To view the statics from the event click this link

The Miracle of Mokuso – Meditation in class

You may have noticed we have been doing ‘Mokuso’ more often at the beginning and end of our classes at Zen-Shin this year. A lot of you may be wondering why?

Mokuso is a Japanese term for meditation, the literal translation is moku=silent/still and so=thoughts, it is a big part of the traditional karate practice. Students sit in ‘seiza’ and clear the mind of all the business and worries of life outside of the dojo, so they can focus on their training. Typically children arrive at the club loud and excited and adults are usually stressed from a hard day of work. The transformation that a minute of silence makes is incredible. When I did this for the first time with our junior class in Mere Green a 9 year old student after a long sigh said something like “ahhh, that was like sitting in the country side with the sun on my face and a lovely breeze”. I was amazed at how effective a few moments of stillness was. It completely relaxed this busy, energetic, chatty 9 year old and took him to a state of bliss. This creates such a great start to a class, it gives us the opportunity to be present during our karate class. Similarly, finishing the class with Mokuso helps us leave the dojo calm and content, with a clear mind preparing us to go back into the world while maintaining the karate way of always beginning and ending with respect.

Meditation & mindfulness and its benefits is being talked about everywhere recently. I caught a bit of the BBC program “The doctor who gave up drugs” a few weeks ago which showed just how effective meditation can be for children that usually use drugs to help cope with their ADHD and other learning difficulties. Meditation and mindfulness is also promoted a lot in the work place these days to help employees cope with their day-to-day stressful lives.

So what is meditation? There are many interpretations but it can be defined as any experience involving introspection (personally I also see practising kata as one form of meditation for me… but more on that another time). It is a state of thoughtless awareness. This can be very difficult thanks to our senses which trigger thoughts and memories which once set off are hard to stop in their tracks. To do this requires detaching from our senses like we do when we are in a deep sleep. The world is going on around us but we don’t hear, smell or taste any sensation.

Control your emotions or they will control you. Chinese proverb.

In relation to karate, Meditation is the foundation of karate-do (and all martial arts). If you cannot control your mind while sitting down meditating, then you will definitely struggle to have a clear mind when put under pressure at work/school, in a crisis or while sparring. Your physical body may be fast, powerful and flexible but if you cannot control your mind or emotions then your vision will be clouded. As the Chinese Proverb says “control your emotions, or they will control you“.

Martial arts is not just a physical practice. Yes working hard in class will teach you self defence and improve your fitness. But being a true martial artist is more than that. It is a path towards greater awareness, concentration and patience in and outside of the dojo. This cultivation of mindfulness, introspection and self analysis are all important techniques to the martial artist. Change does not happen over night and it is only you that can choose to take your practice to the next level. Discipline yourself to practice meditating without moving, or scratching an itch, or thinking about what you have to get done tomorrow and surrender to this mild form of torture… But, it does get easier!

Written by Afiya Richards


Women do karate too – Period

I love going to karate, focusing on my training and working hard in class.  However, there was a certain time Every . Single . Month that I dreaded putting on my fresh white gi and stepping into the dojo. Yep, you guessed it, i’m talking about my period. As it is a subject generally not discussed in our society, I had no idea how to handle this situation from the age of 11. It was hard enough dealing with it at school let alone at karate.

Faced with the prospect of embarrassing myself every time I perform a mae geri (front kick) or sit into my kiba dachi (straddle leg stance), I could no longer focus on karate but was constantly stressing and trying to get a glance in the mirror every opportunity I could to check my dignity was still in-tact and my gi bottoms didn’t resemble the Japanese flag. Now looking back I realise that bleeding is nothing to be embarrassed nor ashamed about, to be honest its pretty amazing that we can be bleeding and still show up and kick ass.

After years of being self conscious and paranoid at karate, my Dad knew I struggled with my heavy periods and came up with a genius idea. He bought me a pair of tight training shorts …. and I haven’t looked back since! I use them as an extra layer of armour that keeps everything in place and acts as another barrier against leakage – yes, unfortunately its happened to me too. But now when that time comes I can save myself a lot of worry.

Probably one of the only perks about my Dad being my Sensei is that I could let him know the situation before class, especially as my periods were very painful and heavy. So he understood why I may have been holding back in class. With that being said, I’m sure I’m not the only female who practices karate that has this monthly struggle. If so, when you get chance I encourage you to let your instructor know before class why your energy may be lower than usual, or that you have got bad cramps or back ache. It’s completely natural and understandable, we don’t have to pretend like it’s not happening. Karate is very much a masculine practice with yang energy, however as females we must embrace our ‘SHE power’ and our Yin – feminine energy, and respect our bodies particularly during this time. Periods shouldn’t stop us from doing what we love. But we must listen to our bodies and if we need to slow down a little, that’s fine. I know its hard to put your gi on while on your period, but I always feel better afterwards. Exercise can help PMS (premenstrual syndrome), physically and emotionally.

Sensei Afiya Richards, photography by Daniel Griffith

I hope this post helps somewhat, if not at least you know that you are not on your own with this one. And if you are a guy reading this…maybe your sister/mother/partner or even training partner will appreciate you reading this.

If this post resonates with you, I would love to hear your comments or feedback.

Afiya Richards x

First Inter-club competition for the Zen-Shin Kickboxing & Muay Thai team

On Sunday 10th September our small Zen-Shin Kickboxing and Muay Thai [KBMT] team headed to the 1st Reaction boxing gym for our first Inter-club Competition. Our team comprised of Lazaros (10 years old), it is his second inter-club this year. Our senior fighter Gurbax (53 years old) and finally Sensei Abian (25 years old). Although Abian has competed many karate bouts, he has never had a ring fight so this will also be a first for him.

All fights are with K1 rules. Competitors under 16 must not strike to the head. 3 rounds per match. Each round is 1 minute 30 seconds. No elbow/knee strikes to the head and no spinning back fist strikes.


First up was Laz. Laz came into the ring confident and composed. Unfortunately after just the first few blows the match got called off because his opponent threw an illegal swinging blow to Laz’s head. The referee was hot on too much contact and wanted to see more technical controlled shots. Not to worry Laz.

Next up was Sensei Abian. After almost one round of fighting his opponent was warned then disqualified for careless swinging punches. [Video can be seen on our Facebook] Luckily another fight had been set up for Abian later on that day.


Gurbax’s turn. Gurbax was the oldest competitor of the day at 53 years old. His opponent was only 35. Gurbax joined the Zen-Shin family this time last year. Its his first time fighting but Gurbax went into the ring focused. His opponent and their team were very loud and confident but non of this intimidated our Gurbax.  Through great resilience and skill from Gurbax, he managed to be the only one to execute not one but two cracking take downs. Wiping the smile from his opponents face. The fight lasted the 3 rounds and was good to watch. It was a great first fight and we are very proud to have him on our team.


Finally Sensei Abian’s turn again. This time with a more experienced and technical opponent. Spirit was high and this was a great fight to watch.  This was one of the most technical fights of the day. Unfortunately on the third round Abian did a low strike and it caught his opponent on the knee, deeply bruising the top of his foot. Instantly the foot went dead and he could not continue. Up until that point Abian got some well executed strikes in and even a few clean and controlled round house kicks to the head. [Fight can be seen on our Facebook page]

Thank you to all those who came down and supported our fighters. Much appreciated. Also thanks to Mark Beckles for coaching on the day and thanks to our photographers for capturing the fights.

Well done to all competitors. We are very proud of you all here at Zen-Shin. Next time we can hopefully bring a bigger team to fight and support Zen-Shin KBMT.

Zen-Shin Karate Camp 2017

DSC_0294The 5th to the 8th of May 2017 saw Zen-Shin’s annual tradition of going to Devon for our Karate Camp. Devon Cliffs Holiday Park in Sandy Bay, Exeter, has hosted our Karate Camps for 34 years now.

This year we followed the same timetable as the previous, 2 large classes, instead of 3 smaller ones. This gives families more time to explore the area, and for the children to make the most of all the great facilities they have such as swimming, crazy golf and rock climbing.

Our morning sessions started from 8:00 to 10:00 on both days. It was at the Saturday morning beach session Kyoshi John Richards (8th Dan) introduced the kata ‘Kanku Sho’ for the first time to many of the students. Although it is a high-level kata, with good instructions and patience, even the lowest of grades were able to benefit.


Saturday afternoon we focused on perfecting the kata, as well as working on basics and bunkai. By this time everyone was feeling tired. There is something about the energy of the course that encourages you to keep training.

Sunday morning was met with a cool run down to the beach. Today is the day we go in the sea. After going through our newly learnt kata, we got involved with partner work and we all wrestled each other into the water. The cold English sea baptising our aching bodies, and soothing our souls.

Sunday afternoon was our final session. This was the time to muster all remaining energy to put in a performance in front of all the spectators who had gathered around the Zen-Shin Karatekas. This training session focused more on kumite, and partner attack-defend exercises. It was good to fight new faces from different clubs.

Everyone was well behaved (even the parents!), and as usual Zen-Shin students exemplified the mindset and spirit of true Karatekas. We hope that you learnt new things during the course, and are able to apply them back at your own club.


Thank you to all the students who came down to train, as well as the Senseis who helped the students and supported Kyoshi. The parents must not be forgotten as they are the ones who show never ending support to their children and help to create our Zen-Shin Family.

Next year will be our 35th year at Devon Cliffs. We will make sure it is an extra special year, so make sure you book early to ensure there is a space for you.

Secondary School Results


The results are in! Children across England have been finding out if they got into their desired secondary school. This is a really big decision for the children, and will often mean the breakup of old friendships and habits.

It is really important that we support and congratulate our children when they achieve; not only academically, but in every area of their life. It is good to be acknowledged for doing something you are proud of, and this encourages and builds confidence.

For those who didn’t get into the school they wanted – don’t worry, the world will NOT end. You can still make good things from a bad situation. Pick your chin up and focus on all the good possibilities that may come from this new experience.

Some parents have expressed how doing karate at Zen-Shin has helped their child to focus more, which has led to better behaviour and results at school. For the 37 years we have been established, Kyoshi John Richards has had the pleasure of helping countless people achieve their potential using karate.

Kyoshi has found that to be successful in everything you do, you must apply yourself all the time and never give up until you have reached that goal.

Well done to everyone who is trying to build a better future for themselves.


360 Filming

Use your mouse

Chris Hillcox contacted Zen-Shin through Facebook to organise filming some Karate in 360. Jumoke and Abian liked the idea of experimenting with different types of filming, so they agreed to meet up.

They spent just under two hours trying out ideas, and makeing the most of what the camera can do. It was a really fun experience.

It seems like 360 video has a promising future. We hope we can work with Chris again to work on some more ideas.

Please check out more of his stuff at :Check out our full Youtube channel for all of our 360 videos.

Check out our full Youtube channel for all of our 360 videos.


February Inter Club Competition 2017

The Zen-Shin Inter-Club Competition has been a tradition running within the association for over a decade. This year Zen-Shin Studios hosted our first competition of 2017 with great success. Sensei always encourages his students to take part in the competitions as he has experienced how this helps students to focus on improving their standard for themselves, and can even help inspire them by watching higher grades.

Our inter-club competition is special because it brings people together and strengthens our ‘Zen-Shin family’. Friendly competition, good sportsman ship and a few tears always make for an eventful day.

This year we exclusively used our beautifully crafted Zen-Shin Medals. Over 80 students competed in 21 different categories for 63 medals. We also held two Kickboxing fights using WKA K1 rules hosted by Sensei Abian.

Congratulations to everyone that took part. Competitions are a great time to reflect on your own ability and your future in practicing Karate. For those that came away without a medal this year, remember that it is those who work hard consistently who are victorious. Focus how you can improve yourself, rather than how good the competition is.

Erdington club scored the most points overall, with Mere Green in second then Soho Hill in third. Well done to the clubs and competitors.

Respira pilates at Zen-Shin Studios

Its a new term for Respira pilates at Zen-Shin Studios. Ruth is back with a new course designed for beginners: 18:30-19:30 starting Wednesday 1st March.

The six-week course is designed to give you an experience of what pilates can do for you. Teaching you the foundation of pilates’ rehabilitative movements to improve mobility and strength.

Practitioners can expect a relaxed and intimate environment. Our qualified instructor will use core strengthening exercises, body alignment poses and lengthening postures to build your mind-body connection.


For enquiries please call: 07976401214

or email: enquiries@zen-shin.co.uk

Sensei Abian had an afternoon with Ruth to experience some pilates for the first time. Check our video to see how he got on.

Moving Zen Two

Moving Zen has been gaining momentum this year under the guidance of Sensei Abian and Jumoke. What started out as a new year workout in the park has progressed into so much more.

Moving Zen has been free to all Zen-Shin members so far, because Abian and Jumoke wanted to give back to the Zen-Shin community. They want to help those who usually study one martial art to expand their perception of how they can interact differently with themselves and the world around them.

Well done everyone that turned up to work hard with us.

Check out our video to see what we got up to.

Abian & Jumoke