Army karate athlete is on top of the world

David Johnston competes at the 7th WUKF World Karate Championships (Credit: Kathryn Rattray)

For Corporal David Johnston, winning GojuRyu gold at the WUKF World Karate Championships in Dundee earlier this month meant so much more than a new title or another shiny piece of silverware.

“It was emotional,” he said.  “My entire karate career, all the blood, sweat, tears, injuries, for 21 years, had led to this point. I had hundreds of Scots in the stands behind me screaming my name, willing me to win.”

As the 30-year-old’s first World Championships and with his entire family in attendance – not to mention the 90 or so other competitors he had coached throughout the weekend – the pressure was on.

“I’d been preparing for the championships since being selected for the Kanzen Karate Scotland squad back in July 2017 and had been attending as many national and international competitions as I possibly could.”

“The plan was to train my brain in to believing that performing on the tatami in front of hundreds of people is just as normal as training in the dojo,” he explained.

“I knew I just had to go out there and perform the best Kata I have ever performed. I saw the score and felt my legs almost go from under me. I’d done it.”

Bullied throughout his childhood for his appearance and as a member of the LGBT community, Johnston admits his confidence was practically non-existent growing up, although he’s always had an innate drive and determination to succeed.

“Karate taught me discipline, respect, self-defense and most importantly confidence. It’s given me lifelong friends and a skill that could never be mastered and must always be trained. Without karate, I wouldn’t be the man I am today.”

Johnston, who serves in the Royal Military Police, also manages to squeeze in up to 20 hours’ karate training each week alongside his role with the British Army.

“I’d always wanted to join the Army since I was about 16 because I wanted to travel and see the world, but I never had the courage to actually walk into the careers office. I’m glad I finally did as I’ve never looked back since,” he said.

“Fortunately we are very sport orientated as a unit and being a member of the Military Police gives me a ‘peace time’ role which means when we aren’t deployed overseas, we police the Army’s Garrisons up and down the UK and abroad.”

And the Scot, who trains at the University of Gloucestershire, is one of forty Army athletes across the country who benefit from a package of TASS services including strength and conditioning, physiotherapy and lifestyle support.

“Having the opportunity to access to a specific programme to work from that has helped improve my speed, power, balance and sharpness for such a big event has been amazing.

“When I got an injury in February, the physio was able to book me in, assess me and create a rehab plan really quickly.  With the help from TASS, I was in, fixed and back on the Tatami all within four or five weeks.”

Johnston is now turning his attention to the European Championships in October in Malta, whilst continuing to manage the balance between his training, Army duties and coaching commitments.

“My aim is to one day be able to open my own dojo and give people of all ages the same opportunities that I’ve had and realise their dreams of one day becoming a world champion.”

David Johnston (Credit: Kathryn Rattray)