Preston martial arts centre wins award amid fight to survive the pandemic

Posted on - 16th March, 2021 - 7:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Ashton-on-Ribble, Business, Health, Plungington, Preston News, Proud Preston, Sport, University campus
Peter and Katheryne at a grading event with their great nephew
Peter and Katheryne at a grading event with their great nephew

Nippon UK Martial Arts has been recognised at the SME Northern Enterprise Awards despite a tumultuous period that has seen the club forced to relocate twice and then battle the Covid-19 pandemic.


Owners Katheryne and Peter Sharples from Ribbleton say they were thrilled to win the award for Best Children’s / Youth Martial Arts School in Lancashire after what they describe as ‘a bumpy few years’ since 2017.

Speaking about the challenging time, Katheryne said: “After having to leave our base on Watery Lane to make way for the Porsche Showroom, we struggled to find another building suitable. We moved our classes to Preston’s College and this became our base.

“In 2018 we were shown around a premises on Fylde Road, which was being used by the NHS. The building was structured as eight individual offices so we had to envisage how it would look open plan.

“The size of the the building, the parking facilities and the location were perfect, so we applied for planning/change of use.”

Read more: Porsche showroom on Preston Docks is officially opened

After a 12-week wait, Katheryne and Peter received approval to go ahead.

“After having all of the offices removed, it took us a month to refurbish. Electrics, levelling the floor, painting, building a reception, creating a matted training area with barrier. Carpeting our large reception area, adding seating, adding kitchen facilities, then signage and outdoor lighting. 
Nippon UK Martial Arts finally had a new home!”

“It was a labour of love and we are very proud of what we have achieved.”

Katheryne and Peter were back to doing what they love most – being part of the community and providing Martial Arts tuition. Then in March 2020 the first lockdown hit.

Read more: A full run down of what can and can’t open in Preston and Lancashire on April 12

Nippon UK quickly adapted by creating an interactive Facebook group to help keep students motivated, but Katheryne and Peter were relieved to reopen – complete with Covid-secure adjustments – in July.

“We had reduced seating for spectators, a socially-distanced training area, screens up at reception and kitchen counters, multiple sanitiser stations throughout and temperature checks upon arrival – all of which made our classes possible again.

“We were so happy to be back, but disaster struck again with lockdown two and having to close in November.”

A class at Nippon UK Martial Arts
The now premises in Fylde Road were “a labour of love”

Nippon UK opened again in December for children’s classes, but the club closed again completely for lockdown three in January.

Katheryne says the latest lockdown has been the hardest.

“This time, interactions in the Facebook group have been much less than earlier lockdowns as motivation has been hard.

“We have struggled ourselves.

“Being so isolated when we are used to seeing so many children and their families every day. Missing the hustle and bustle of our community facility, our team and our members.”

Katheryne and Peter, who are both originally from Deepdale, are feeling happier now they have a plan to reopen. Classes for children are due to resume on Monday 12 April and for adults on Monday 17 May.

The recognition from the SME Northern Enterprise Awards has also given the team a boost.

“We have been part of Nippon UK for 20 years, mostly as franchisees but when we were given the opportunity to buy the club in 2015 we didn’t hesitate. It’s such a huge part of us, we couldn’t have imagined it going to anyone else.

“Being recognised for doing what we love means the world to us. The thought of losing it all has been truly heartbreaking.

“We hope the government’s road map out of Covid-19 restrictions works, and we see the end of lockdowns.”

Proud Preston. This, and many stories like it, show how the people of Preston are making a difference. Our Proud Preston section showcases all the charitable, kind, uplifting and great things about our city and the people who live here. #ProudPreston is alive and well, and there’s much to celebrate and be proud of, despite the challenging times we all face.

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What do you think of Nippon UK’s journey over the past few years? Let us know in the comments.

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