GKR Karate will always hold a special place in Sensei Ryan Marvin’s affections, but what about his desires away from the dojo? Shimbun spills the beans on another of Ryan’s romances…

WHEN it comes to his first love, Sensei Ryan Marvin has never shied away from public displays of affection. Indeed, as those ringside at the 2017 World Cup in Queensland will testify, the 4th Dan black belt was only too happy to wear his heart on his sleeve and demonstrate his devotion Down Under in front of a sell-out crowd.

While his fellow competitors opted for the usual attire of a national team jacket or gi on the Gold Coast, Ryan chose to don the royal blue of his beloved football team, Leicester City – a club crowned English Premier League champions a year earlier – as he warmed up for international action.

The respected referee, however, insists his infatuation with the Foxes is no passing crush and began long before Jamie Vardy and company achieved the “impossible dream” of clinching the top-flight title at the end of the 2015/2016 season.

“I’m from Leicester and have been supporting the club since I was a little kid; I love football and absolutely adore Leicester,” the 30-year-old told Shimbun

“I was brought up watching them on television with my brother and even had a trial for the club when I was younger. Before the last World Cup, my old scout contacted Leicester to tell them I was going to compete and I was given a club jacket to wear while in Australia, which appears in all of the photos – so yeah, I really love my football.”

And despite going on to claim kumite silver in the men’s senior open in Coomera, the former goalkeeper is adamant that Leicester still monopolise his sporting highlights.

“There are certain points of that championship winning season I look back on even now and talk about with my family,” the GKR Karate zone director for the South West Midlands area in the UK added. 

Sensei Ryan Marvin

“The season before we had started playing really well and I can remember being sat at my brother’s house and watching us go 3-1 down against Manchester United; we came back to win 5-3 and my shouting scared the life out of my nephew and made him cry.

“The season that followed was just amazing, but I didn’t really believe we were going to win the league until a couple of months from the end.

“Whenever I think about the last game of the season, when Andrea Bocelli sang Nessun Dorma before kick-off, the hairs on my arms stand up,” he said. “My family were at the celebrations; we lined the streets of Leicester with an insane number of people and it was just bonkers.

“It was phenomenal, absolutely phenomenal and is probably my best memory so far – with the exception of getting engaged I should point out!”


Ryan is certainly more measured when it comes to ranking his successes as a martial artist.

“Karate is really quite different from football because it is very personal,” explained the experienced tournament coach, who has trained a stable of national and world champions, including Ben Mildenhall-Clarke. 

“I’ve had a few highs and I think I’ve been quite lucky that I’ve not had too many lows. 

“I did okay at the last World Cup, finishing second to Ash [Ashley Fleming] who deserved to win, and that was quite a high, but my biggest has been getting my black belt from Sensei Bob [McCracken].

“I was double graded from 2nd Kyu to black belt and that was certainly an emotional moment – one of those occasions when you sit and cry and don’t take your new belt off for a few days!

“There have been lots of great moments in karate, but the sport is different from the enjoyment of football because you feel more accountable for the results.”

That is not to say Ryan – who was forced to watch from the sidelines in Milton Keynes after aggravating an old knee injury earlier in the year – lacks any passion or will to win when he steps into the dojo or onto a tournament mat.


Jokingly describing himself as the Robbie Savage or Paul Gascoigne of karate, he added: “I’m a ‘pick-off’ fighter for the most part but I do attempt to antagonise my opponents – give them a little nudge or shove, or force someone into a corner and then do nothing – to try to get them to make silly, irrational mistakes.

“It depends who I’m in the ring against but it can get a bit fiery. Outside of the ring that all goes but when I’m in the moment, I do get pretty fired up and I’m sure that was out there for everyone to see at the last World Cup.”

And Ryan, who swapped goalkeeping gloves for sparring mitts in 2004, believes such an edge is vital for those students who wish to become the best that they can be.

“You need to harness passion and have a bit of intensity about you,” he said. “If you’re not passionate, you are not going to progress. 

“If you don’t walk away from a tournament that you’ve lost feeling a little bit of disappointment, you won’t be able to take the next step forward.

“After I lost to Mike [Barrett] at the 2015 World Cup, I was gutted. It was a fight that he deserved to win, but I look back and think ‘I could have done this, I could have done that’. 

“It is disappointments like that which drive you on to the next level,” he continued. 

“If I had just walked away and gone ‘oh well, I lost’, I probably wouldn’t have got as far as I did during the two years that followed. The same is true for people if they fail a grading; you need an emotional response to kick on.”

After a change in manager last season, Ryan will now be hoping his football team heed this advice and react positively to recent setbacks both on and off the field. 

But, regardless of the Foxes’ fortunes over the coming months, it is a certainty that the sensei’s love for Leicester will endure – not least as he has named one of his dogs Kasper after the club’s goalkeeper. 

This article first appeared in Issue #2. Got some catching up to do? Grab yourself a back copy or five here.