At Gaunt Francis we take a great interest in our staff’s extracurricular activities; it’s a great way to connect with each other and let them know we appreciate and support them. Our I.T Manager, Simon Dodd, has been training in Shotokan Karate for an incredible 22 years!
Simon is currently black belt 4th Dan (Yondan), or in simple terms – he’s pretty damn talented – and has been a club instructor in St. Athan for the last 11 years. His interest in the martial arts developed at the age of 8 when Simon and his friend were bullied in school, and so he wanted to learn self defence and gain confidence – not to mention his role model was the legend that is Bruce Lee! After trying out all sorts of martial arts such as Muay Thai, Tae Kwon Do, Kick Boxing, Judo and Jujtsu, Simon soon realised that Karate was the one for him and he has been fortunate to train with many famous instructors over the years, including Dave Hazard and Wayne Otto.
The Welsh Karate Organisation is run by Paul Watson along with other instructors – all of whom are volunteers. Simon first volunteered and coached as a teenager and got his coaching certificate at 18 years of age; he has been running classes for the past 11 years in St. Athan. In fact, this club is the first club in the Vale of Glamorgan and first martial arts club in Wales to receive a Silver insport Disability Award – a major achievement!
Although not the most important thing for Simon, he was a great competitor and competed at a national level – he even made it onto the Welsh Squad. He soon left and retired from competition around 7 years ago, however is now slowly moving back into competition to support some of his students who have recently shown an interest.
Over the last few years, Simon had hoped to pursue an academic career using martial arts as the focal point, to get a PhD scholarship and to try to bring martial arts to a greater recognition in the UK – but sadly being unsuccessful with the funding has meant that Simon hasn’t been able to pursue his ultimate goal.
Despite this, Simon has had some great success; his undergraduate thesis was published at Cardiff Met University which won an award, and his Masters thesis was published in an international journal, which was translated into several European languages. This soon led to an invitation to an international martial arts conference in Portugal where Simon presented his work. Simon has also written the foreword to a martial arts book and hopes to be writing a chapter in an academic publication later this year.
Here is Simon in action: