When Clint Chaffey took his first karate class, in Tamworth in 1984, a wellspring was created that not only changed his life but changed the lives of his family members, and so it goes on.
The bricks-and-mortar manifestation of that transformative happening is located at 53 Barnes Street, Tamworth. Chaffey’s Black Belt Academy is a long-standing Tamworth institution – a kind of church in which Clint worships the ancient Japanese martial art and promulgates its teachings.
Numerous people have heard and accepted Clint’s word, including his children, Scott and Kristie, both multiple karate world champions, who now serve as their father and their sport’s messengers.
Clint’s wife, Carol, is a karate black belt like her husband and children, although she no longer trains. Married in 1976, Carol has been by her husband’s side throughout the growth of the business and remains a vital cog in its operations. “She’s the face behind the desk,” Clint says.
Scott’s daughter, Jayda, 5, is the first second-generation family member to take up karate, while her younger sister, Violet, will begin training when she turns three this year – the same age Jayda and Kristie were when they started learning the sport. Scott, the older sibling, was five.
Clint, Carol, Scott and Kristie are all multiple-dan black belts in the karate style Clint created, Shorikan.
Clint, 61, has been smitten with karate since that first class, with the seventh dan black belt ascribing his enduring passion for the sport to a practitioner’s inability to master it.
“It’s been life-changing,” he said of the impact karate has had on him. “I’m still keeping fit, still actively training. And, I guess, over that period of time, compared to a lot of people out there, I haven’t had a 20-year break or a five-year break at any point. I’ve continuously trained all that time … I can probably count the nights I’ve missed training on two hands.”
At the start of this year the family took the “massive” step to stop teaching Shorikan and start teaching another karate style, Uechi-Ryū, given its global popularity – a step the Chaffeys hope will ensure the viability of the business for many years to come. Clint, Scott and Kristie are high-degree black belts in that style, too.
“That’s the plan,” Clint says when asked if the business will be passed on to Scott and Kristie, who are also instructors at the academy.
“It [the business] has become very family-bonding,” he adds. “We always go on holidays together, we train together. We’re training together every day, I suppose. So that’s been awesome for me as a dad, anyway – to have all the family together.
“And I guess now we’ve got the grandchildren coming along and they’re training. It’s gonna be life-changing for them, too, without them even knowing it.”