Q. Why did you start Karate?
A. Whilst at school I was by far the shortest in my year and possibly one of the shortest in the whole school. For many years I had been a target for bullies due to my size and physique. I probably didn't help things because I didn't know how to turn the other cheek and always had to have the last word. Things didn't change too much on leaving school either. I was severely beaten up a couple of times with one occasion resulting in me having a short stay in hospital. This was the trigger I needed to learn to “handle” myself.
I took a trip to Bedford boys club and spent an evening watching them go through their boxing training. I knew immediately that it was not for me. It looked like it might hurt and anyway they all towered above me. Martial arts were almost unheard of then but I had heard about the obvious Judo, Kung fu and Karate. They intrigued me but information was scarce and clubs were not to be found.
One day by chance I stumbled across a judo demonstration, which looked excellent and soon had me engrossed. By coincidence this club also trained at Bedford boys club so off I went to give it a go. However I soon discovered it was not for me. I was easy prey for the bigger chaps who repeatedly bounced me around the mat and invariably I left for home with a headache.
Q. So when did you start Karate then?
A. It was in 1972 under Sensei John Van-Weenen in the Japanese Karate Association at the Bedford dojo which in those days was a tin shed! I continued training with Sensei up until 1994 when along with Sensei's Coppen and Calver we formed CFTS.
That first class is still a vivid memory for me. Doing that first simple Chokuzuki along with the rest of the class immediately gave me a sense of belonging. I had played football and rugby for my school and being quite a good runner I had run cross-country and athletics for both the school and the county. I had always been sporty enjoying all aspects of the physical nature of it but especially the competitive side. Yet nothing so far had fit the bill as karate did. Something instantly clicked with me making me always eagerly look forward to the next session.
Q. Have you ever considered giving up training?
A. No not ever. I can honestly say it's never crossed my mind. I really can say I love karate as much now as when I first put a gi on all those years ago. Of course there have been times when training has not been going my way, such as when I failed my black belt, or when I picked up a long term hip injury. When competition results weren't going my way I found it very disheartening too but I realised that karate wasn't just about picking up trophies. It was nice to win or get placed but I felt that was only a part of what karate could do for me. There was a time when I could not afford to train properly though.
For almost a year, whilst mortgage rates were up to sixteen percent, I was absolutely broke. I was in fear of not being able to pay my mortgage and some things had to go. During those few months I either trained with some mates or practiced alone. I believe that every experience benefits you in some way. I think going through that very difficult period of my life has helped me as an instructor in a way I could not have comprehended had I not lived through such an experience myself. It has made me appreciate what I have, I am neither mercenary nor materialistic, but I do like nice things and am even more grateful for them now. It has also made me compassionate towards students in financial difficulty and as an executive member of CFTS assisted us in our policy of always making our training, courses and events etc. affordable for all.
Practicing locks & restraints with Sensei Bigsby
Q. How has Karate changed since you began training?
A. Nowadays there appears to be a club on every street corner of every town and even many villages can boast more than one type of martial art. When Sensei Coppen and I started there wasn't more than twenty clubs across the whole country!
Training methods themselves are what has changed most I suppose. In those days training was possibly too severe. In an attempt to give a physically demanding session instructors showed little regard for the well being of the student. This may have been out of bravado or possibly just sheer ignorance. An understanding of physiology or psychology was never even a consideration. Most instructors, some of which were only 3rd Kyu Brown belts, were naïve and inexperienced although they were definitely very keen and capable karate-ka. The standard of instruction is now by far superior to that our generation of students received which is in part thanks to our progressive governing body. Instructors now are better equipped, qualified, trained and insured than their predecessors. In those days too there was little humour in a dojo in fact if you dared to laugh you would have been punished with some physical torturous exercise or other.
On the negative side though I feel that training has become easier and less demanding. Perhaps our technical standards have been maintained, and we expect more background knowledge but the fighting spirit in most karate-ka has got lost through the years. A lot of today's students would not turn up night after night for the arduous repetitive training we received in the early days of English karate.
I believe that there are many reasons for karate becoming less demanding. Partly due to the fact that in the early days of karate very few ladies participated, and most that did were not very feminine either, and to see a child in a dojo was an extreme rarity.
Over the years awareness of The Human Rights act, The Children's act and the fact that we have become a blame culture society have made instructors more wary, altering the way Karate is taught. When I began my training to get a technique wrong or even if you couldn't perform it because it was beyond your grade, body or for any other reason usually resulted in being kicked or punched as punishment. One was never praised. If you didn't get shouted at or hit in a lesson let alone given some form of punishment then you must have trained to sensei's satisfaction. Rarely were you helped to learn a technique because the philosophy was those who want to learn will pay attention and copy those who don't, won't. The majority of today's students could not tolerate this sort of tuition. In the sixties and seventies a karate class was a thing to be endured not so much enjoyed.
Other considerations on an instructor's mind are the commercialism of today's martial arts. Running a club is usually an expensive affair and even if the instructor is willing to devote his time for free other costs still need to be covered. If he or she wants financial reward, for giving up so much of their time, and it is only fair that they do, then training has to be balanced to suit of the needs of as many of the students as possible. To satisfy only the most dedicated of karate-ka sadly makes for an unviable club.
Another key reason for the change in karate was the development of more competition. Karate was not devised for sport. The advent of it has therefore not only changed the way we train but has even changed the techniques themselves. Gichin Funakoshi probably would not recognise a lot of what we do in the name of karate. For example kicks are better performed waist height or lower to incapacitate an assailant, yet thanks to freestyle karate, a naïve student measures how good his superiors are by how high they can kick. General kumite is now practiced at greater than arms length in contradiction to the close infighting of karate's origins. Grappling skills have also been sadly lost to karate as have wrist and arm locks etc all of which are there to be seen in our bunkai.
Q. What experiences have you of training with Japanese instructors?
A. Mostly I can say very good ones but as I have already said they were hard taskmasters. They were very demanding and in my mind expected a lot of me at my lowly grade. I have trained with Asano. Kato, Enoeda, Akita, Kase amongst others but by far the best was Kanazawa . I believe the Japanese are still the best at traditional karate and Kanazawa the best of all. As a race the Japanese are very conscious of class and Kanazawa is of the upper class and is a true gentleman, a very humble, patient instructor and a truly exceptional karate-ka.
Training under the Japanese is very basic and demanding but on the negative I always felt it fell short in content. Training always ended with a promise of what was to come next time. However next time never came. Once I attended a course at the height of Kanazawa sensei's popularity at Crystal Palace in a dojo along with over a thousand others. To be fair it was ridiculous. You couldn't see or hear properly; you just had to copy others and hope you were doing it correctly. But the spirit in that room was the best ever.
One memory I have of both pain and pleasure was back in the late 70's when Kanazawa sensei brought eight new Japanese dan grades over with him to train with us at the Bunyan sports centre in Bedford . I had never seen so many dan grades at once! To see one at a time was not even the norm then so to see as many, and Japanese as well, was for me an overwhelming experience. The session began with simple basic training followed by one-step kumite. As one of the higher grades in Bedford dojo I got to pair up with one of our guests. To him it was a matter of honour. My partner tried to do me damage on every occasion he attacked me but I really couldn't get near to him except one time but he made me for it for the rest of the session. We concluded the class taking it in turns to freestyle with our visitors. We really didn't know what to expect except pain. I wasn't far wrong but I honestly did enjoy the experience. Dick Saint, a dan grade in Judo used to train with us back then. He was a big well built fit guy and he was up next for his turn to freestyle with one of the young Japanese bulls. After a few initial mesmerising exchanges somehow this five foot square visitor had Dick flying through the air. Up Dick got and having dusted himself down, recommenced and without further ado grabbed his partner and threw him across the dojo where he landed about three foot up the wall. This was the beginning of battle royale and would have been well worth paying to watch. To their credit once back in the changing rooms our guests returned to humankind becoming friendly and Jovial.
Sensei Asano was a man to be both respected and feared. He is an exceptional karate-ka and away from the dojo good fun enjoying a beer and a laugh with other students but beware in the dojo. Fast, hard, strong and gifted are all words that describe him and his freestyle well. They are attributes he used to his opponents detriment. I remember his favourite technique being gyaku-mawashigeri, a sort of inside out roundhouse I have never seen anyone else perform, and he used it perfectly to kick unsuspecting students in the groin. He always tested your spirit; he would hit you to see if you would carry on. If you were reluctant he would hit you again and if you fought back and hit him, or nearly, he would hit you again anyway!
Once we had Sensei Kato at the dojo in Bedford and to be honest I didn't like the man. His karate was good but as a person I found him disappointing. After Kanazawa Sensei, I found him to be crude and coarse with a rude abrupt attitude. He brought me down to earth with a bump making me realise that not all Japanese were gods.
Q. Who are the best English instructors you have trained with?
A. That is not an easy one to answer I have trained with so many. I trained under Sensei John Van Weenen for twenty- two years, a very good karate-ka who has both given to and received so much from karate. I am grateful to him for all he taught me. He is instrumental in making me the instructor I am today.
Of the others under whom I have trained Sensei Paul Perry stands out as a very hard and capable man. He also stands out in my mind as being the most supple. I remember one day watching him with my mouth wide open as he walked up to the wall, raised his leg up it and performed splits against it!
The late Sensei Eddie Witcher was a kind gentleman but in the dojo, in samurai mode became something else. He had some very good students because he wouldn't compromise with his methods and training regime but this also had the effect of limiting his classes to half a dozen. He trained in Japan and graded there and having fallen in love with a Japanese woman, got married there.
Of the others Sensei Randall stands out. Such a warm hearted kind instructor. So softly spoken too. Sensei still teaches in the same way the Japanese do, by example and repetition, not necessarily by correction. His stature belies his power and strength.
I have also enjoyed the teachings of Sensei Vince Morris who started off as a Shotokan karate-ka but has since studied Kyushu-Jittsu which concentrates on nerve centres and meridian lines along the opposite to acupuncture points. In his day he was an expert freestyler. I learned a lot from him too both in freestyle and with bunkai.
Sam and Tom from Ampthill club
Q. Should students strike punch bags etc.?
A. Yes, but not initially. A student should wait until they are adult and of a senior grade. Striking something prevents muscle memory and providing it is done with good technique will improve focus and distancing. Later on breaking (Tameshawari) is also a good idea but one must not be too ambitious and also prepared for failure and occasional pain. To do any striking or breaking too early can result in damaging one's body or probable loss of technique and confidence. I do believe to strike something gives you a feel for the technique and will show you where any weakness may be but I don't think it has to be done daily. To break boards, tiles and bricks etc is only possible with self belief and should be practiced occasionally to remind karate-ka of the power they have developed so ensuring they maintain self control at all times.
Q. Have gradings changed at all and what are your grading experiences?
A. Most definitely YES ! When we turned up at a grading we were doing so in virtual ignorance of what was expected of us other than the Kata that is. My gradings were usually taken by Kanazawa Sensei but a couple were with Sensei Asano but whoever it was with we always were given a string of techniques which were mumbled at us and nobody dare ask for them to be repeated. Performing the basics was like knocking down a row of dominoes. The student who thought he had heard and understood began performing and others gradually joined in, sometimes correctly and sometimes to the wrath of Sensei not so. The fact that we all now have a syllabus that is adhered to makes a students (and instructors) life much easier. Standards of lower kyu grades may in some ways have slipped but by the time they are brown and black belts I feel there is not much difference for those who train with diligence. Through the early grades karate may just seem like a dance to the uninformed which is acceptable but by brown belt the techniques must become effective, less laboured and more natural.
Perhaps equally important is the distance one has to travel to a grading that has also changed. We always had to travel with the nearest gradings being held in either London or Nottingham. Nowadays gradings are always within a few miles from home.
One other factor that has changed is the pass rate. When we turned up to grade a large proportion always failed. This fact made us even more nervous than our modern counterparts. Today a decent instructor vets his students prior to a grading weeding out any doubtful candidates. This is a good thing as it ultimately helps juniors with their confidence and self esteem. The downside of this is that there are very few failures nowadays and one of life's lessons is that one must learn to deal with failure. Some karate-ka now just disappear when they fail. In my mind they are the ones missing out. Obviously they didn't have the strength of character needed for karate anyway.
I got to my shodan grading with Kanazawa Sensei without having failed any of my gradings. He failed me my Shodan grading. I was distraught. Absolutely gutted! Much later I asked Sensei Van Weenen why I had failed and he explained I had failed just because I had not failed a grading before, to teach me one of life's most important lessons. I can understand this now and have obviously moved on but it was bitter medicine at the time. I went away and trained harder than ever and refused to grade for over a year until Sensei collared me and insisted that I retake Shodan. I suppose that was my way of being stubborn and reverting to nature in having to have the last word. Any way in that spring of 1980 I successfully graded to black belt eight years after beginning my karate. It wasn't until then that I realised that getting black belt was not the end but just my beginning for it takes a lifetime to understand the ways of karate.
This brings me on to another big difference. We graded occasionally. We graded irregularly, whenever sensei Kanazawa came on a visit. Nowadays people grade more regularly and therefore take less time in arriving at Shodan. It is good things to have a calendar and a set of dates to work towards but too many students throughout our country just chase the next colour without too much regard for personal improvement. One must ask one's self “Do I ultimately want a black belt or more importantly do I want to be as good as a black belt?”.
To fully comprehend karate gradings and the thoughts behind them one really has to have been around karate for a long time and be of a high grade. I am occasionally asked why did so and so pass yet that other student failed. One should never question a result. In earlier days one would never have questioned the result of a grading one just had to accept it. To pass a grade one has to do one's best. What may be deemed the best for a young boy or girl would not be the same for an adult. If one student has some form of inhibiting disadvantage that student may pass even though to a spectator they may not appear as good as one who had failed. To grade successfully at karate is unlike any other examination in life. One generally should not compare students like for like, we are all individuals and must be graded as such. Providing a karate-ka achieves their optimum performance through out a grading taking all matters into consideration that person will pass. This is especially the case when taking brown and black belt examinations. Thankfully the days of blanket failure or of selective failure just to teach us a lesson are well and truly behind us.
Sensei O'Reilly presenting Sensei Kidby with his EKGB 6th dan diploma
Q. How important is your grade to you?
A. Initially when I began training my grade was very important to me. It was the way to progress from one class to the next. It was the only way to be shown the next basic combination or kata. It was also proof to me that I was progressing. I had taken three gradings before my white belt changed colour. When it turned yellow I thought I was Bruce Lee! Brown belt was a very significant milestone for me too. I could train with the big boys in the advanced class. How physically hard that was and how much more mentally demanding too yet how rewarding and satisfying.
I wept with joy when, after eight years of arduous training, I was awarded shodan. This honestly has been the most significant grading for me however sandan, third level black belt, was I suppose rewarding because that meant I had achieved instructor status. Other grades have just become another milestone along my karate journey. It may seem trite or conceited of me to say that but after all they are only numbers and it's what is in my head and how effective my karate is on the street is what really matters. So now I can honestly say what grade I am is not as important to me as it used to be.
However the thing is with regards an instructor's grade is that they have to keep moving onwards and upwards to stay ahead of our student's grades or else we become like a cork in a bottle preventing them from progressing and moving forward.
Teaching juniors in the Ampthill school club
Q. What are your views of children in Karate?
A. What a change I have witnessed over the years and how much the balance of student membership has changed. Children from not participating in karate when I started are now in the majority. I believe Karate is of enormous benefit to children of all ages because not only does it give them more confidence on the street but also with taking tests and examinations in a group and as an individual. Karate also gives much needed discipline in a world where increasingly there is none. Self-esteem is also a by-product of correct traditional instruction as is an improvement of the ability to concentrate. I have been told on many occasions of how a child has improved at school or elsewhere since they started in one of my dojos. In the days of computer games, television and the fear of allowing a child out to play on their own karate fills a need for physical activity aiding the child's body to develop and maintain a healthy level of fitness.
Sadly though it is a pity that so many start too young never to realise their potential and achieve these benefits, leaving just as they achieve a level of proficiency to take up some other fashionable pastime.
Children are the future of Karate and as such need to be cared for. They need to be encouraged and as such we need to try to find a more positive method of teaching our art. Children also need variety, fun and to be entertained as much as instructed. They need constant rewards and motivation and a sense of achievement such as gradings or competitions to hold their interest. Most importantly it is an instructor's duty to appreciate children are not small adults, they are different only having the mind and body of a child. Currently over two thirds of the EKGB membership are children. We must grasp the opportunity to further develop karate and maintain it's long-term growth by satisfying the needs of all both young and old. Currently children grade along side adults with intermediate grades for the some coloured belts. Sadly they must retake black belt at sixteen. This is by instruction of the EKGB. It is because of their abilities, capabilities, maturity and retention of knowledge before this age being different to that of adult karate-ka.
It is sad when other parents and students alike do not comprehend this but I personally hope in time we will be able to find a way around retaking shodan. I have sympathy for junior dan grades for their current plight because I know how I would feel having to retake a grading I had taken two or three years ago, all for the belt I am already wearing. This has seen some excellent junior karate-ka leave me over the years, talent we need to retain for they are potentially the instructors of tomorrow.
Q. Do you believe karate has changed you?
A. Another difficult question. It would be easier to answer had I been older when I started. I think karate has opened my eyes to many things within my character both negative and positive. I think that karate is a great lever of personalities. The outgoing, brash, loud sort of person will have their temperament calmed whereas in my case when I was shy and insecure, which I know many will have a job believing. It has given me the confidence to talk or perform in front of many people. Would I have gained this level of self-confidence without karate? Possibly, but I feel probably not.
Karate has definitely given me the tools to defend myself in a threatening situation. Maybe by avoiding confrontations in the first place and secondly if it is unavoidable by dealing with it in whichever way necessary.
It has helped cover up my flaws. I was outwardly aggressive when I began training. Karate has shown me how to harness that aggression and given me the opportunity to release it through normal dojo practice. It has also made me more single minded over any goal or target I may set myself. Also the perseverance and spirit to see it through. Again though I question myself; was that there within me already or has karate just brought it to the fore and made me more aware of it?
Through my years as an instructor I would like to believe I am more tolerant of other peoples weaknesses, preferring to look for positives rather than dwell on their negative points. This is not an easy thing to achieve or to make others obviously aware of due to the nature of our art being so openly negative a lot of the time. Such as “that technique was wrong because” or “you must do so and so more”, “bend your knee”, “stop talking” etc.
I am sure that karate has changed me in other ways too but probably only those who have known me for a long time would notice but I feel strongly whatever the changes to be they can only have had a positive effect.
Q. Why did you leave TASK and set up CFTS?
A. Contrary to what some may believe it was not out of malice nor did myself and Sensei's Coppen and Calver fall out with Sensei Van Weenen. Looking back I think we were possibly just ready for a change and a new challenge. I had dutifully followed Sensei around different associations for twenty-two years usually training with him twice a week. You don't stay loyal for that long unless you are getting something out of the relationship. In karate terms he made me what I am today and taught me most of what I know. He also had a great influence over my life and through his philosophy the way I lead it. I still hold him in high regard and he still has a hold over me a bit like a headmaster might have over a new school pupil.
On the negative side I feel Sensei Van Weenen could have been more approachable. I did not always find it easy to talk to Sensei and in any case the way I was brought up through the ranks it was not always right to pass an opinion usually being wiser to keep your own council. With my karate to pay for plus that of my five children you can imagine how expensive it became for me with gis, licences and gradings etc. which are still currently cheaper in CFTS than those we paid for over ten years ago. On top of these costs I felt course fees were becoming too expensive. All courses were compulsory for higher grades and were usually in the region of twenty pounds per person. If I went alone that was not too bad but if any or all of my children either wanted or were told to attend that pushed the costs up considerably.
Also we were discouraged from attending any training outside of our association. This had the effect of me being spoon fed my karate and having blinkered vision from being too sheltered with only one instructor's viewpoint.
Taking all this into account it was only right I left TASK. By coincidence Senseis Calver and Coppen felt as I did. So in 1994 CFTS was born over a pint one night after training. We decided to improve on the negatives of TASK and build upon the positives. With this in mind the three of us agreed to keep costs down and be more approachable. To enhance our training and to open our eyes plus those of our students we decided to offer affordable courses from instructors of other martial arts and other styles of karate as well as Shotokan. I hope we have achieved what we set out to do but I firmly believe if we occasionally fall short we still have moved a long way forward from where I spent all those years. Unless any karate-ka has trained elsewhere for a respectable period of time they will not begin to appreciate just what we have in CFTS. The grass is always greener...
Countering Sensei O'Reilly's mawashigeri with gyakuzuki
Q. What do you like best about your training?
A. Once upon a time I would instantly have shouted FREESTYLE! I still enjoy it but as my hair falls out and injuries take longer to heel and mend the enjoyment of it has waned somewhat. Yes it must remain an integral part of dojo training but it would be shortsighted of any karate-ka to think that's what karate is all about. Funakoshi never freestyled. Nakayama introduced it (with Funakoshi's permission) to interest and retain younger membership. Dojo freestyle is completely different to competition freestyle but neither is anything like a street fight. In freestyle the best techniques are banned, as are the best target areas and on the street who shouts “yame”? I used to believe that when an instructor got too slow or too old for it he said he had grown out of it or lost interest in it. I now realise that it really is only a passing phase. It is a necessary stepping-stone and it definitely does give you a buzz. However you really do move on when it dawns on you that karate is not about freestyle but more about kata.
It is in a kata that you discover the differences, interpretations and attitudes between one style and another. It is also in kata that one discovers the bunkai and through that one discovers how your fighting system actually works. It's not that you would utilise any particular piece of bunkai in a street situation but instinctively one would react. Upon analysis, looking back on the event, I would like to wager the move was selected from a kata or grading set based on bunkai. From an instructor's perspective I thoroughly enjoy passing on practical self-defence moves from the bunkai I discover. My favourite kata used to be Hangetsu, which it probably still is but now I really like Seienchin. Another favoured kata of mine is Sochin.
In further response to the question I can honestly say that I derive a lot of pleasure from passing on my meagre amount of knowledge and seeing my students progress and improving. There was a time when I was embarrassed or envious of a students achievements if they had a faster punch or better kick than mine but now I just view it as natural progression and can take a modicum of satisfaction and pleasure from it.
Sensei Kidby blocking Kakato-Geri from Sensei O'Reilly and countering with a gedan zuki
Q. What are your favourite techniques?
A. Freestyle wise I like spinning ushiro-mawashigeri or Uraken and Gyakuzuki. It is surprising how many combinations these techniques can be included in, also how often they score. I really enjoy moves that are practical on the street such as throws, sweeps and restraining techniques like wrist or arm locks. On the other hand though, I dislike impractical techniques that either don't work for me or that I cannot get to work for me. I think good karate should be simple and should work regardless of body shape and size once you have got your head around the technique that is. Why waste time teaching or rehearsing impractical or impossible moves?
Sensei Nelson performing Ufugusuku bo kata
Q. Do you have an opinion on the use of weapons in karate?
A. I don't agree with learning to use any form of fighting system aggressively and the use of weapons would insinuate this. However to understand a weapon and how it works is part way to overcoming a fear of it. In the world of martial arts weapons came first and unarmed defences to them came as a response. I do believe therefore that occasional use of weapons in the dojo is okay. To learn a Bo or Sai kata for instance is an interesting diversion to our usual kata forms. Also they give you a better understanding of the moves and bunkai in some of Shotokan's advanced kata. Furthermore one can relate these types of weapons to the sort of things we might find ourselves being attacked with on the street such as knives, baseball bats or pool cues etc.
I would not advocate learning the likes of Nunchaku though. What purpose does it serve? What similar weapon are we likely to come up against on the street? Why waste hours of valuable time learning to use something irrelevant when time can be better spent on things more useful.
Q. What concerns you, if anything, about karate?
A. Firstly the most important part of any session has to be the warm ups. Many students do not warm up sufficiently or do so in an illogical sequence. This can lead to painful and or re-occurring injuries, some of which can last a lifetime.
Concentrating on any single aspect of one's training to the detriment of all else will cause an imbalance and thus weaken your system, as would inadequate or irregular training. Training should be undertaken with sincerity and depending upon the ability of one's training partner with as much realism as possible. Across the Nation too many students only train once a week and then only for an hour or so. How will they learn let alone improve? All karate-ka from yellow belt ought to be training twice a week and from brown belt onwards occasionally should take in extra sessions. This has to be so, for just to retain what you have learned already takes a lot of time to practice, and therefore to progress will take even more. The further one progresses the more time one needs to commit.
A few karate-ka may be guilty of being over zealous in their training, which too can cause problems. Wear and tear on the body must remain a consideration because a too physical regime will be detrimental. As with anything in life achieving a balance with one's training is paramount and yet this too must be balanced with issues like career and family matters but one must prioritise one's spare time.
I also feel I should stress that any practitioner of karate should never be complacent nor over confident, nor should they go out looking for an excuse to use their art. Some students may be confident in the dojo but what they may be like on the street concerns me.
I do have a little concern over the direction traditional karate is going. Many of the original training methods have disappeared; as has much of the spirit of it indeed many of the techniques have been altered and modified to suit sport karate, which are not always going to be of use in a real fight.
Q. What would you like to see for the future for Karate?
A. I would love to see it included in the Olympics. It would be great for us all, promoting our art, but part of me knows that unless we bring back a more traditional element to freestyle and a better, simpler scoring system for all to understand, then it will have a negative effect.
Q. What about your future?
A. My ambition initially was to learn to handle myself. Maybe I have achieved that and maybe I have not but I haven't been hospitalised since I began training, so I suppose I must have achieved it.
I suppose my first target was to achieve Brown belt. My next ambition was to achieve a black belt, something I did about a quarter of a century ago. So for the future, simple, just keep on as long as can and also to pass on whatever I can to anyone who is interested in listening.
Q. Do you have any closing thoughts for the reader?
A. Yes. I was once quoted a Tibetan proverb that I believe benefits all students who sometimes may think me or any other Sensei a little too harsh:
“ The iron ore thinks itself needlessly tortured in the blast furnace, but the tempered blade looks back and knows better”