The Black Knight Always Triumphs

Allan Clarkin, founder of Black Knights Kickboxing and Burnley CombatSombo, received a welcome surprise when he attended the Burnley Community Sports Awards 2015, with the help of Olympian Tessa Sanderson. Here’s what happened:

“I received a letter to say I had been short listed for Sports Coach of the year. On the night, the awards were being handed out and the one I had been short listed for went to another coach. Not giving it a thought, my family and friends watched the rest of the awards being given out and then it came to the big award of the night, the Life Time Achievement award. Sat half-listening, I heard my wife, Jane, say ‘Allan its you’ and I turned to see my name up on the stage in big print.

I was in shock! All the competitions I have been to around the world and I handled them, no problem. But this; I couldn’t believe it! I was walking to the stage in shock and gave Tessa a big hug. When I got back to the family table, Jane said they had said all sorts of wonderful about me; I said I didn’t hear anything. I was just so very honoured with the award.”

It is fantastic to see so many of our sport’s most dedicated individuals receiving the recognition they deserve. not just from within Kickboxing, but within the wider sporting community as well. The BKC would like to further congratulate Mr. Clarkin on a lifetime of achievements within the sport, many of which you can read about below.

A Brief(ish) History Of The “First Black Knight”

Allan started Martial Arts at the age of 2, training Judo with his parents. “Just rolling about the mat, my mum made the first mat for the club on her sewing machine. I started teaching self-defence in the Boys Brigade well over 45 years ago, then started Ju Jitsu with my own children and things moved on from then. My son moved onto golf, but my daughter became a Black Belt and a Kickboxing referee and won many titles in Martial Arts competitions.”

“I support the BKC, because the BKC are like myself – they put people FIRST this is how it should be.”

Allan’s grandson son Daniel also became a Black Belt and became a British Grapple champion as a child, competing in the British Sambo championships and winning a NO jacket Gold medal. “Danny also helps with gradings and works in the corner with me at fight nights. My other grandson trained with me for many years and still calls into the gym for a work out; like his dad he was moved onto golf and plays for Lancashire – hoping soon to turn Pro. My 3 granddaughters train in Kickboxing, to build up their confidence and fitness.”

“Over the years I have trained many children and families with problems of different sorts and I do what I can to help. I started coaching in 1980 as an assistant coach. On the 1st February 1982, I started my own club in Burnley at the premises we are in today. My first new student was a little boy called Stephen Aitken, brought to the club by his granddad, because he was being bullied. Stephen trained with me for many years and was my first Black Belt. I recently started coaching at Stoneyholme Primary School and who should I see, but Stephen – now an IT teacher. Robin Green was also a student from many years ago, Robin who is a little older than myself ,still tries to train once a week. Over the years I have taught three generations of Robin’s family, Robin, his daughters and grandchildren.

Allan’s students first started to compete within the club, hosting an Annual Club Championships. After only two years, it was time to venture into National competitions, where they competed in Grappling, Sport Jujitsu, Demo Teams and Kickboxing. “A club member, Steven Baker, was our first Kick Jitsu Champion and because he won the British titles three times for which he was presented with a Gold plated belt. Steven was also our first Amateur British Kickboxing champion. On the professional rules side we had many Northern area, English, British and two European champions.”

“You are a winner in my eyes because you have trained as hard as you can and you have competed, that is a winner!”

Dylan (The Destroyer) Carter was the club’s first Professional World champion; a class act with great skill and technique. He came to kickboxing because his school had said he would never be big enough to be a footballer. How wrong they were – he is now in the fire brigade and is around six foot and 80kg! As the years passed, Allan joined many different National Martial Arts groups, so he and his students could prove they could compete with the best. He received many coaching awards with these groups, many of which were National Governing Body recognised.

_wsb_638x338_ICO+2015“Over the years, my club members have won so many National, International and World medals and belts that I have lost track. One young man of only 16 came to the club and, because he couldn’t drive and lived in Clitheroe, his dad brought him. As he got older, his friends that had cars they drove him and they also trained. His name is Michael (The Count) Bisping. He had a hunger to compete and be a winner, his drive in the gym was second to none. He won 3 British titles whilst at the club and as everyone knows he is now in the ‘big time’ in the UFC! A great ambassador for his sport, a father figure and, for those that want to do things with their life, a role model. He shows that sport can turn your life around and change it for the better.

“Ryan Marsden started with me at a tender age of 5, supported by his dad Paul Marsden. Now, Ryan is the most successful junior I have had. He has won numerous National medals in Kickboxing and Sambo. In 2012 he travelled to Disney Land Paris, France, where he became I.C.O Junior Light Contact World Champion. This is what families in sport mean! Ryan is now a Black Belt and his dad, who decided to start Kickboxing along with his son, also earned his 1st Dan Black Belt in Kickboxing. When Paul won a silver medal at the world championships in France, his son said: ‘One day, dad, you will win a gold!’ As a coach I try to get the best out of every student. My aim is to get them to realise they can be a winner even if they don’t take a medal home, as all those sat around watching a competition are not on the mat or in the ring doing it.”

“For those that are not competitive they should try to reach Black Belt, this takes years of hard training on a regular basis and passing a Black Belt under me is something you have earned, as I don’t give them away.”

In 2014 the British Sombo Federation, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Sambo Association and FIAS World governing body, staged the Presidents Cup in the UK. This event was be the biggest Sambo and Combat Sambo event to be held in Britain and a great honour. “It was great for our sport. The best of the best in London.” Sambo is now in the European Olympic Games. “As a coach, it is always a joy to see a student pass their first grade or pass their black belt, compete in their first comp, win their first medal or become a world champ. On a personal note, I was very proud and honoured to be appointed Coach Tutor for the British CombatSombo Association affiliated to the British Sombo Federation (National Governing Body as recognised by Sport England). This position was approved by Martin Clarke, Grand Master of Sambo and the BSF Technical Committee.”


  • International Master Certificate 5th Degree Black Belt in Full Contact, Light Contact and Semi Contact Kick-Boxing (Awarded in 2002 by the board of directors of WAKO World Association of Kickboxing Organisations, World Governing body for Kickboxing)

  • 6th Dan Black Belt Kickboxing (Awarded in 2004 by World Association Kickboxing Organisation GB)

  • 7th Dan Black Belt Ju Jitsu (Awarded in 2015 by the British Grappling Association)

  • International Sport Kenjutsu Referee (Awarded in 2009 by International Shinbudo Association, Serbia)

  • 3rd Degree Black Belt CombatSombo (Awarded in 2011 by CombatSombo International, Grandmaster Martin Clarke head of British Sambo Federation)

  • Appointed in 2012 by the British Sambo Federation the position of British Combat Sambo Association National Coach for Sport Combat Sombo, also Full Contact Sombo UK National Coach, also Coach Tutor and examiner.

Competition History:

  • Amateur and Professional rules formats events – England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, USA, Canada, Uruguay, Serbia, France, Tunisia, Germany, Italy, Belarus, Poland, New Zealand, Spain, Norway, Greece, Jersey.

  • A member of Black Knights made World history when he won a Bronze medal in a WAKO World championships in Full Contact, as he was the first ever sportsman to come from Sierra Leone to win any World Governing Body medal – he was called to the Embassy in London to honour the achievement.

  • World Organisations – Black Knights have competed in representing England or Great Britain in three major world Sport Ju Jitsu Organisations, winning World medals in the WCJJO and ISJA, just missing out on a medal position in the JJIF due to injury. WCJJO, World Council of Ju Jitsu Organisations ISJA, International Sport Jujitsu Association JJIF, Ju Jitsu International Federation (World Governing Body)

  • The Worlds major Kickboxing Organisations, winning World medals in all organisations:

    • WAKO – World Association of Kickboxing Organisations (World Governing Body)

    • ISKA – International Sport Karate and Kickboxing Association. A world major sanctioning body.

    • WKA, World Karate and Kickboxing Association. A world major sanctioning body.

    • ICO, International Combat Organisation. A world major sanctioning body.

  • Other World governing bodies for combat sports:

    • FILA, International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles (IOC)

    • We competed in two none ICO recognised wrestling styles, but these are governed by FILA, winning world medals.

    • Pankration and Amateur MMA.

    • FIAS, International Sambo Federation – World Governing Body for Sambo.

    • Competed at world level in Combat Sambo the hardest jacket sport in the world, Black Knight member Ben Whitehead was ranked 9th in the world a great achievement. When Ben was a junior he won WAKO European Gold in Light Contact also many other kickboxing medals.

“All the above have a Kickboxing striking base so, Kickboxing was a big help in the other Martial Sports we compete in!”

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David Jenkins

Posted by David Jenkins

Secretary and Founding Member of the British Kickboxing Council and the brains behind FightTime, David also contributes to the GiveMeSport website.


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