Rod Taylor Rest in Peace (1 comment)
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Rod Taylor after a short illness. Rod suffered a severe stroke in the Dojo of Reading Shotokan Karate Club from which he never recovered. Sensei Martyn King of Reading SKC has written the following obituary….
“Just over 30 years ago, as a fresh-faced kyu grade I walked into Reading Karate Club for the first time. I remember joining the queue as people paid their subs. The treasurer – a brown belt in his 40s – sat on one of those benches sports centres seem so keen on – a wooden thing 6 inches wide and 8 feet long.
The treasurer’s name was Rod Taylor. He was meticulously writing down everyone’s name and their fee into an A4 ledger that had a brightly coloured cover. Waiting in that queue, I ended up chatting to a fellow kyu grade – Roy Harverson and it was Roy who introduced me to Rod.
30 years on, Rod was sat in the same hall, on the same sort of bench with a queue forming to pay their subs. It was as his arm slumped and the ledger fell to the floor that we realised something was seriously wrong and we needed to call an ambulance.
When I first joined the club, Rod was already a long-standing member. To this day I can still feel like the newbie compared to him. Back then, the club had a number of higher grade instructors. It had not always been that way. A few years before, the club lost its chief instructor and it was left to two brown belts, Rod Taylor and Roy Sims to keep the club going. The part that Rod has played in the existence & success of Reading SKC can not be overstated.
Back in the nineties, Roy and I were by now 1st Dans. Rod went to New Zealand to visit relatives. He entrusted me to take the subs while he was away: Bad move. He showed me the book he filled in each session. He wrote the name of every student who attended & how much they paid. Then, before he started training himself, he would count the number of £5 notes, £1 coins, 50, 20 10 p etc and would reconcile the money tin so all the numbers would add up. He did that every session and knew EXACTLY how much money was in the tin, and of what denomination.
I tried – I really did! I managed to keep going for the first week, but after that I made a rough note of how many turned up (some – a few – loads), and I didn’t so much count the money, as weigh it. As long as the money tin was heavier at the end of the evening than it was at the start, I figured we were OK.
I’ve not been asked to look after the books since then.
Something I failed to keep doing for a month, Rod had succeeded in doing this long before I joined, and has continued, most weeks, for nigh-on 30 years. But not just that, he looked after the hall bookings, had a great relationship with the centre staff, dealt with the bank and for a long time was the font of all knowledge when it came to the “less practiced” katas.
The thing is, this is not unusual. In every club – in every successful club, there are people like Rod – individuals in the club who “help”. Some take the money, or prepare the hall, some help out by taking the beginners, some run web sites, hand out leaflets or organise demonstrations at school fetes. The role these people play is vital. I was tempted to describe these people as “the backbone” of JKAE, but that’s not quite right. Helpers, like Rod are more like a vital organ, a kidney or a pancreas – we may only have a vague idea that they do something, but we certainly notice when they stop.
They say that the foundation of good karate is basics. The foundation of good karate is the help and support of people like Rod, enabling others to shine.
When the paramedics turned up for him, our fears that he had had a stroke were confirmed. They tried to transfer him to a stretcher. No one noticed that he had grabbed the bench he was sitting on. Was this symbolic – him clinging to the bench he had used so much during the last 40 years? Probably not but it certainly felt that way. The paramedic tried to prize open his grip. This was a hand that had spent decades making a tight karate fist, He may be 70 but that hand wasn’t shifting. In the end Roy made eye contact “Rod – this is Roy, let go of the bench mate” and he did. Much to the relief of the paramedics who were slightly worried about dealing with a karateka despite his age! He would have loved that.
Rod’s karate was never going to set the world on fire (though still training at 70 is awesome). He was at many of the international and regional courses but most of you will not have been aware of him. That was not what he was about. Because of him, others were able to flourish. Every dan grading I’ve passed, Rod was there to congratulate me. Every dan grading I failed, he was there to pick me up – often simply saying “ah what do they know?”. He was at the competitions, helping the Reading Competitors – “herding cats” as he called it. His last words to me were “I’m your 2-i-C tonight Mr. K, so I’ll take the beginners for you if you want”. Many have worn a black belt or stood on the podium due in great part to his efforts.
And so yesterday he died. I’m not writing this to elicit sympathy, but in the hope you will appreciate the volunteers in your club – that person who sorts the grading cards, who distributes leaflets, takes the register at the start of the session or takes the lesson when you are away. Don’t send us sympathy, thank your volunteers instead. Yes we will miss him, we will shed a tear. We will send flowers to his wife. But the last thing he would have been aware of was being in a gi about to start practicing the karate he had so loved for over 40 years. Not a bad way to go.
We will keep the club going, Rod’s work has guaranteed that. So next time you don a gi, spare a thought for the volunteer sat on a wooden bench putting names into an A4 ledger that has a brightly coloured cover.”
Rod will be sorely missed. He was a regular at the JKA England courses and always trained hard.
R. I. P. Rod