My first recollection of wanting to practice the art of karate was back in 1955 I was seventeen years old at the time, and had heard about this karate club in the Hyson Green area of Nottingham, and having not long given up boxing, which I had been doing for some years, and was quite good at by all accounts, having won a few medals as a school boy boxer, oh!! and I had just found out about these wonderful things called girls, one in particular.
I spoke to my father about me starting at the karate club in Hyson Green, but he was adamant that I could not join the club, there did seem at that time to be an air of mystery about karate, about the secret techniques that the practitioners used to use, and although I was intrigued with this new thing called karate I respected my fathers wishes. Not necessarily because I thought he was right in what he said about karate, but because I respected him and would not disobey him. Some months later I heard that the club had closed down, but no one knew why, just that it had closed.
So, I occupied my time with other things in life, like my new girlfriend, football, cricket and generally doing things the youngsters did in those days. I got married at the age of 22, raised a family. I worked away from home for many years, but gave long distance trucking up in 1972 and found that I had too much spare time. One day in the pub one of my friends told me about this karate club not far from where I lived. That started me thinking about how much I had wanted to practice karate when I was a youth. I found that there were several clubs within a five mile radius of where I lived so I started to check them out – There were about two Shotokan clubs a couple of Wodoryu clubs one Shito ryu, one or two Shukokai and I think four Sankukai clubs.
I went round them all to watch, and spent a whole training session watching at each one and found that the same two instructors ran the Sankukai clubs. It eventually became a choice between one of the Shukokai clubs or a Sankukai club. So I trained at one of each for a couple of sessions, and then decided to train at the Sankukai club called ‘Bushi KI Karate Do’ at Trefoil House at Ilkeston in Derbyshire, just about four miles away from where my home was. I started training at Bushi Ki in about seventy two but didn’t take my first grading till I think October 1994. I had an issue with the grading nights before that It was just after that that I first met Yoshinao Nanbu, the founder of Sankukai, it was amazing, I thought that Sid Wise was good, but this man WOW!! he was something very special. The things that this man was doing amazed me, and from that day on, every time that sensie Nanbu came to England, I was on the front row to book my place. I think it was about 1974 master Nanbu came to Ilkeston on a Friday night, then on the Saturday, Alan and Sid had booked a coach to Belle View Manchester, to go to the BKC championships, where master Nanbu was doing a demonstration. You know, I was absolutely blown away by the man, he demonstrated Kaiton Zuki kata, Kaiton Geri Kata, both of which I had never seen before and a whole lot of other things, like, doing Ashi Barrai, followed by two Mawashi Geris before the other chap got half way down to the grownd, it was amazing. I never missed a visit of his after that.
Surprisingly, I passed all of my grading without any apparent problems, until I took my sho Dan, when all of the possible problems came up at once. I just couldn’t believe it, I forgot katas, and one or two other things, but the biggest thing by far to me, was my side kicks, I was by now in my late thirties and my more supple days were long gone, having been a truck driver for so many years. So to be told by your chief grading officer that your side kicks needed a lot of work was devastating. But me being me, I picked myself up, dusted myself down and got on with my training. About one year and an awful lot of leg stretching later, and just before the next Dan grading we were training in kaitten geri gedan, I was with Sid Wise and as he demonstrated the Kaiton Geri Gedan he miss focused and struck my calf muscle with kakato, (the back of his heel rather than his calf muscle).
I thought my leg had broken in half, but when I looked down, it was still there and seemed to be in one piece, but the pain was horrendous. The following morning I couldn’t move my leg at all. The bruising was from my knee to my toes, and in the middle of the calf muscle was a large pappy area about three inches in diammiter, after about a week and a half I was taken into hospital, where I spent two weeks and needed to take about five months off of work and training with a shattered calf muscle, all over that one miss focus by the instructor, but it didn’t stop me getting down to the dojo. I would manage to get into the car after a bit of a struggle, and hobble into the dojo and sit and watch. I even learned stuff just sitting there watching!
When I eventually got back to training I was so enthusiastic I trained four nights a week, two with instruction and two nights free training all on my own. It was about a year after that when I retook my Sho Dan again, everything seemed to go well, until the results were given, I had failed again, but this time only on my side kicks, once again, I was absolutely devastated.
I can still remember now the words that Sensie Alan Carruthers the chief grading officer as he said to me … ‘We feel that a good Chudan Mawashi Geri is essential for a black belt’ I just can’t tell you how much I hurt over that remark. This was on the Sunday, on the Monday I was back at training, and training every bit as hard as ever, but I had decided that if a good Chudan Mawashi Geri was essential for a Sho Dan, then I would rather be a good first kyu, than a bad first dam. Over the next three or four years I stood in line every training session and enjoyed my training, and watched as yellow belts passed me in the lime up, and becoming black belts, whilst I was still a first kyu. It was during this period that grades became irrelevant to me! I didn’t need a black belt around my waist to be as good a karateka as the people who had passed me in the line-up, I was as good, if not better than some of those who had passed me by, because I had been training much longer than they had, and I was improving all the time, apart from my side kicks it would appear, and something more important than that, I had learned humility, something that a lot of them had not.
I carried on traning as a 1st kyu for probably another three years or so, and was quite happy doing so despite the frequent questioning from my fellow students as to quote; ‘when are you going to take your sho Dan again Reg?’ My reply was always the same. ‘I don’t need a black belt around my waist to be as good as the black belts in the club. I just need the knowledge and the technique of a black belt!’ And that has been my philosophy in life since, if you can do the job as well as a craftsman and have the knowledge to go with it, then the only thing that he/she has got that you haven’t, is a certificate.
During one such discussion, the Chief Grading Officer, D. A. Carruthers spoke up and said ‘I think that you are stupid not taking your black belt grading again’. But when I told him that ‘when Sensie Nunbu did a Jodan Maewashi Geri, he stood almost vertically and whilst I just cannot get my foot to my Chudan height without having to bend over at forty five degrees’.
‘Maybe so’ he replied, ‘but I wouldn’t like to be on the receiving end of one of your Maewashi Geri’s, it would go right through my ribs’. So after some more badgering from my fellow students I retook and passed my Sho Dan on 28th September 1985. At least four years after my first attempt!
On April 15th 1987 I opened my first club along with a colleague, John Bingham but John found the timetable to difficult to marry up with his work patterns, so after a few months I was on my own with about eighteen students of all ages, And I loved almost every minute of it, and still do.
Also in 1987 I became a qualified K.S.E.M competition Judge.
In 1991 I became a qualified K.S.E.M competition Referee.
I was awarded my Ni Dan in October 1992.
In April 1993 I became an English Karate Governing Body Kumite Judge.
May 1994 I was awarded F, E, K, O, Referee.
In July 1994 I was made Chief Referee of Karate Sankukai East Midlands.
In January 1999 I took over a club in Allestree Derby from A colleague who gave up karate, so that made two clubs that I now run under the banner of Bushinkai Karate Do.
In September 1999 I gave up competition adjudication altogether, and decided to just concentrate on running the two clubs that I now run, and the art of Bonsai, my other passion.
In January 2000 I decided to leave Karate Sankukai East Midlands and join the A.M.A. (Amateur Martial Association) and soon after that, that Brian Nobel, the then A.M.A. Chief Referee and Peter Allen the A.M.A. Competition Organisers also persuaded me to take up competition refereeing again. Soon after that I was awarded San Dan. I have been with the A.M.A. ever since, and in March 2004 I was awarded Yon Dan.
Also in March 2004 I fulfilled something I had wanted to do for over twenty-five years. I was invited to Scotland to train with Doshu Yoshinao Nanbu. I remember that I had made arrangements to arrive at lunchtime, for the afternoon session, but I managed to get there about a half an hour before the morning session closed, so I stood at the back of the dojo and watched. It was strange, to see Nanbu San in person after so long. While I stood at the back of the dojo, Nanbu San noticed me standing there and it appeared that he noticed the Sankukai badge on my t shirt, and seemed to be very pleased to see me there. When the afternoon session began, I got a rude awakening, things were so different and I found things difficult, very hard work, frustrating, overwhelming, but, above all else, it was absolutely great training with master Nanbu again.
In the evening of that Saturday we were all going out to a buffet and dance evening, as soon as I came down the hotel stairs to the bar, Nanbu San came across to meet me and welcomed me so warmly, saying ooze, welcome to our family of Nanbudo. He presented me with his card, and I presented him with mine, I was pleased to see that he put my card into his wallet, and not just into a pocket. We spoke so much of the old days with much affection, and he insisted on me sitting with him on the coach to the buffet, and there too we spoke of old times, AND my age, me being 65 at the time, as I was and still am a good bit older than him.
The next morning we spoke over breakfast, and we spoke as old friends. He said that he had looked at all of my licences, A.I.K.S. K.S.E.M. and my A.M.A. and was happy that I had chosen to keep the old ones, as they were and important part of my past. At lunch time that day I had to leave to come home, it felt like leaving an old friend, and as I left, he greeted me and wished me a safe journey home, saying I hope we meet again soon.
In March 2006 I was invited to train in Scotland again with Doshu Nanbu, this time I took my assistant instructor Matt McCulloch with me, and we decided to go for the whole weekend, The honour of this was only superseded by the honour of being able to talk with Doshu Nanbu, man to man over the breakfast table of the hotel. as though we were old friends, swapping stories of what we had done in the intervening years. Surprisingly, he was not offended when I told him that at the age of 67 years I felt that I was to old to think of changing styles, but I did think that there were things within Nanbudo that I thought would compliment my training within Sankukai. His reply was ‘if there are things in Nanbudo that will help you in Sankukai, then you should use them. After all, we are all of the same family’. Then when we left the seminar at lunch time on Sunday I was amazed to find that, Doshu Nanbu had recognised my Sankukai third Dan in my Nanbudo licence and my assistant instructor second Dan in his. It just doesn’t get any better than that. We will go again.
In October 2009 I went to Caerleon just outside Cardiff to train with doshu Nanbu again. Things were just as hard for me again, but at the start of the first session I did ask if he minded if I had to rest out during the training, saying because I am a good bit older that you are doshu. He laughed heartily and said, ‘of course you may, just leave the mat and sit down if you need to old man’ I did have to rest out a couple of times during the sessions, but it was great. At the breakfast table on the Sunday morning we spoke of various things and during that conversation I told him that I had introduced a couple of new kata, and some new combinations, all in the vain of the sankukai teachings and he said that it was good to keep moving forward and introduce more things for the students, I pointed out that it was good for my old brain to keep working out new things, he laughed saying ‘very true’. Then we were interrupted by the chaps that came to pick him up to take him to the dojo.
At the end of the session on Sunday evening, a very weary Reg went over to Doshu Nanbu and wished him a safe journey home, he also wished me a safe journey home, and said that he hoped that we meet again soon. I think we will. When I got home and was looking at my Nanbudo licence, I noticed to my surprise Doshu Nanbu had signed my nanbudo licence to Yondan. Does it get better than that? I don’t think so!
If there is any more information that you would like about the style of Sankukai, the Bushinkai Karate Do clubs or myself; Just give me an email and I’ll try my best to let you have it, A.S.A.P. Many thanks for taking the time to read about myself, my assistant and our time within karate.