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KENNY GRAY’S first experience of martial arts was when he went to Argyll Shukokai beginners’ class in Oban on an October evening in 1984. He was one of 40 students starting under Sensei Nicky Connolly. At that time Kenny was looking for another form of training to complement his running, which he was really into at that time. Little did he know that it would be the introduction to an activity that he would still be participating in 30 odd years later.
Kenny quickly rose through the grades, taking part in competitions, and attending courses and seminars all over the country. He was at peak fitness during this time, training up to six days a week. Within a few years he found himself helping Sensei Connolly out with classes, which at that time were very popular. It was common to have a beginners’ class of up to 30 students. As his knowledge increased, Kenny was attending courses regularly, run by martial arts legends such as Ticky Donovan, Pat McKay, Geoff Thompson, Vic Charles and Davy Coulthard. Closer to home, he was travelling to Dunoon and Lochgilphead to train with Iain Sinclair, and Archie MacAlister in their respective classes. While at 1st kyu (brown belt), Kenny started teaching around small villages to give those who couldn’t
travel into town a chance to learn karate.
In 1991, Kenny reached the grade of 1st dan (black belt). At this time, due to work commitments, he had problems attending classes in Oban. Work was mostly in the Crianlarich/Killin area and he saw an opportunity to start a class there. Within a year or so he had classes in Callander, Killin and Tyndrum, under the name of Central Freestyle Karate. With more than 80 students training, he had quite a lot on his plate. Kenny gained his 2nd dan in 1995 while attached to the UKASKO organisation. Kenny continued with this for four years and also ran weekend residential courses during the summer months, with outdoor training and guest instructors. These were very popular, especially when the weather was fine. At this time, he also tried out a few other styles of martial art including judo, and jiu-jitsu under various instructors.
In 2004, Kenny returned to Oban to train with Argyll Shukokai, taking over the club along with Jim MacKay and Flo McBurnie as Sensei Connolly had moved to Spain. He gained his 3rd dan in 2007 and continued to train and teach in Oban. At this time he was also running a club in
Lochawe/Dalmally which was a great success. Over the next few years many changes took place, with Argyll Shukokai becoming Argyll Martial Arts in 2012. Kenny opened a club in Inveraray in 2010, which has gone from strength to strength, and the Dalmally club is still well attended, he received his 4th dan in 2014 along with his sister, Flo McBurnie, who helps run the clubs. There are also have two 2nd dans, Andrew Buchanan and Andrew Lawson, who help with the classes in Oban and Inveraray. In all they have well over 60 students training with them at present.
Kenny said: ‘My advice for anyone wanting to try martial arts is, go for it! You have nothing to lose, and a lot to gain.
‘I would like to thank Nicky Connolly and Archie MacAllister (deceased), for all the knowledge passed on to me over the years. I now look forward to reaching my 5th dan in the near future.’