AN OAP karate fighter has just hung up his “Karategi” uniform – after 52 years as an instructor.

Former soldier Peter Whitney began training on tennis courts and concrete car parks in 1966 as a way to keep fit. 

He fell into training with an Irishman exiled in Swindon for work. A keen fighter, Peter was only beaten twice before giving up competitive fighting aged 40 – turning his attention to coaching.

Now, after 52 years practising karate, he’s giving up coaching at the Oasis club he helped establish.

“I’m 81 now,” said Covingham man Peter. “I’ve had a couple of heart scares in the recent past and I take this special blood thinning stuff to stop me having a stroke or a heart attack. I had a couple of wobbles before Christmas.”

But he’s not planning to abandon his Swindon Oasis Higashi Karate Kai club.

“I’ll still be going down there on occasion,” he said.

Peter, a dad-of-two who was born in Liverpool but arrived in Swindon after a short army career, told the Adver: “I was 29 years old when karate first got a name in the papers.

“I was just a keep fit man at the time.”

Initially trained in a street-fight form of karate called Kenpo, Peter and his colleagues moved to a new form of the martial art – Wado-ryu – after advancement in the sport became almost impossible.

“Then, if you wanted to get graded in Kenpo you had to go over to Ireland,” said Peter.

One man went over there. “Because of the Troubles, nobody else wanted to go over there and grade.”

At first, Peter found it hard to adjust to the “precise and clean” Wado-ryu. But he soon blossomed, competing in the sport.

“I only ever got beaten twice,” he said. The first time it was his instructor’s brother who bested him. Next, it was a fighter from Cheltenham. Even though he lost the fight, Peter broke two toes in a kick that had his opponent “folded in half”.

“I enjoyed my fighting,” he said. “There have been some wonderful things. But it’s time for me to slow down now.”

He gave up competitive fighting aged 40, turning his attention to teaching at Swindon’s Oasis centre.

Peter, a 7th grade black belt, estimates he has trained thousands of students in that time.

“When karate was very big and widespread we had classes of 80 people,” he said.

Peter is still working on his karate skills. Every morning he’s out on the patio practicing his “katas” – the pattern of movements that imitate karate moves. 

“Even at 81 I’m still keeping going,” he said.