This interview was conducted in September 2003…
I didn’t really know Mike Nursey until recently. I’d heard his name over the years and when he came directly into the English Karate Governing Body from FEKO he attended the Council meetings and was elected on to the Technical and Executive Committees. Mike has always been the voice of reason. He represents the voice of the majority and clearly has the interests of English Karate at heart.
At the first Management Board meeting it was clear that he wasn’t duplicitous and in computer speak was WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). We had a good day at my Dojo doing this interview and spent most of the time talking Karate as opposed to politics. As you will see from this interview he is another EKGB Karateka that has been around since the dawn of English Karate.
SR Hi Mike, where did your interest in the Martial Arts come from?
MN At school I tried Football and Rugby but wanted something where I could get a result directly from my personal effort and not have to rely on other people as you do in team sports. I started Judo in 1961 when I was about 12 years old and carried on for approximately three years where I achieved a brown belt. While doing Judo I was also a member of Southgate Swimming Club. Regularly swimming 50 – 60 lengths twice a week for stamina and fitness and swam for the County many times.
At a Venture Scout meeting a guy called John Hawkes came down to the club and did a Ju Jitsu demonstration, I followed him back to his club in Wood Green which was behind a very tough Irish pub in North London called the Wood Green Arms and enrolled. The Ju Jitsu was blended with Judo which suited me because of my Judo background.
SR How long did you stay there?
MN I stayed for approx 1 year but as I was very slight at 9stone and found even a beginner at 16 stone was hard to beat so I looked around for an art that utilised distance more efficiently. One night I saw a student doing some strange moves in the corner and he told me it was Karate and that there were only two clubs in London. I enrolled in the nearest one run by John Van Weenan. That was in 1967.
SR What was the training like then?
MN Very disciplined. Lots of repetitions. Two hour sessions starting off with loads of basics in the old long Shotokan stances. We were very lucky, Instructors like Eddie Witcher, Mick Randall, Mick Payne and visiting Japanese instructors such as Takahashi, Kato and Chief Instructor of the KUGB Sensei Enoeda would come and teach and do the gradings; it was difficult but I loved it!
SR What was the sparring like?
MN Sparring was lethal! No control and you frequently got a whack from the higher grades, in those days you just accepted it and tried to get out the way. There were also no mitts or safety equipment.
SR Who else was around at the time?
MN Mick Billman was and still is a good friend of mine.
SR He’s the subject for my next interview, I’m actually seeing him next week. Who else?
MN Mick Randall, Roger Hall, Nick and Chris Adamou , John Van Weenan and Paul Perry to name but a few.
SR Who were the main Instructors?
MN The Club Instructor was John Van Weenan and we were in the KUGB. After about 6 months training we had a course and grading at Crystal Palace and all the Japanese Instructors were there. I was a bit short of money and couldn’t afford to stay at the hostel there, so I borrowed an old camper van and parked it in the car park! Every day I came back from training to find a notice fixed on the windscreen telling me to move it, so I just kept switching car parks and slept in the back! I managed to keep that going for two weeks!
I took my first grading there and went straight to temporary yellow belt. That was a buzz and seeing the Japanese Instructors really inspired me!
SR Would you say that there was a camaraderie in those days that doesn’t seem to exist now?
MN Yes. Society has changed. In those days the training was harder and people didn’t complain so much. If you took a hit you just got on with it and accepted it. If we taught like that nowadays we’d lose all our students, I’m not sure it was a good or bad thing but I’m glad I was around to experience that sort of training.
SR When did you get your first Black Belt?
MN In 1971. From Kanazawa Sensei. I went to 1st Kyu with Enoeda Sensei and then Kanazawa came over and I went with Mick Randall and Kanazawa. When I took my Shodan it was a big event that was held in front of 200 people and quite nerve racking!
SR When was the SKI formed?
MN SKI was formed around 1974. The Chief Instructor was Sensei Kanazawa who at this time came to England quite frequently. But over the years due to his commitments in other countries he was coming over less frequently and passed the SKI on to Asano Sensei in Nottingham. Asano would come down every couple of months for a training course that consisted of hard basics in the morning and freestyle in the afternoon with the black belts. He was Japanese University freestyle champion. He would get all the students sitting in a circle while he strutted up and down punching and grunting before calling the dreaded words “one black o belto”. One black belt would get up and get a good pasting followed by the next one and the next one until he had fought them all – sometimes as many as 20. The afternoon session with the black belts dwindled over the years but I thought it was great.
SR How did you get on with the Tai Chi that Kanazawa Sensei taught?
MN I think when we learned it was in the early stages, we just learned it like a Karate kata and did it because we were told to. We didn’t understand it but were told that it was good for us! When Kanazawa Sensei went most of us stopped practising it.
SR Where did you go from the SKI?
MN That was when we formed the English Shotokan Karate Association (ESKA) in ’79 with myself ,the late Eddie Witcher, Mick Randall, Chris and Nick Adamou, Greg Durrant, John Van Weenan ,Roger Hall, and the late Harry Jones. It was so successful that it grew too big and became too difficult to manage. John Van Weenan started his own Association, as did Greg Durrant and Mick Randall,and Chris Adamou. ESKA is still running today and is currently in its 24th year with myself and Roger Hall as Chief Instructors.
SR How many students do you have now?
MN About 900. Almost every club Instructor has graded in ESKA from white belt. We hold regular courses and gradings and organize many functions, tournaments, dinner dances etc and a have a very good social side, I feel that is important in an Association.
SR What other senior grades do you have in the Association?
MN Roger Hall is a 7th Dan, Mark West and Nick Lower who are 5th Dan approximately ten 4th Dans and a total of nearly 80 Black Belts.
SR What area does the Association cover?
MN Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, and Essex although we do have clubs in London and the Isle of Wight. We have a competition once a year that is always well attended. For the millennium we had a special tournament with over a thousand people attending and Tony Banks MP was our VIP guest.
SR Do you do WKF tournament?
MN Yes we do, although we are a traditional group and tend to have more Kata competitors than Kumite.
SR How did you get involved in the politics of Karate?
MN Through my old friend Mick Billman. We were members of the EKGB through FEKO and we decided to join the EKGB direct. Mick encouraged me to take an active part and I became involved in the Council meetings and was elected on to the Executive and the Technical Committee. With the EKGB restructuring we have now become a Company Limited by guarantee and have a Management Committee. I was elected on to that along with yourself Steve.
SR How did you find the politics?
MN I was very frustrated at first with how long winded the meetings were but we have now evolved into a strong positive entity. The new Management Committee looks very promising!
SR How do you see the future for the EKGB?
MN It looks good! The new structure has created a pro active Committee and we can actually get things done. Those on the outside will soon have good reason to want to be in the English Karate Governing Body because of the support structure that we are putting in place. Our Coaching, Vetting, Child Protection Policies, Tournament Structure, Squad Training and Selection Procedures, insurance packages and general resources are second to none.
Just look at our membership, look at the people that you’ve interviewed over the last few months Steve. There can only be one Governing Body for Karate. The EKGB has the majority of senior Founding Fathers of English Karate and our resources and affiliations really are second to none. . If you want to be a REAL English, British, European or World Champion or selected for the Olympics in 2008 you have to be in the English Karate Governing Body.
We’re also focussing on Traditional Karate – the Club Instructors need support and guidance. We need to be able to advise them on business management, Insurance deals and packages, computer software, grading and technical structures and strategies, advertising law and recommendations, statistics and so on. They need the support and expertise that we have. All we have to do is to make it available! That’s our job Steve!
SR What about your own Karate?
MN Karate to me is just as enjoyable today as it was when I started all those years ago. I love teaching! I get enormous satisfaction from teaching all types of students helping them through all the ups and downs of their training and get a real buzz when they finally achieve their Black Belt. I would like to see ESKA continue to expand from within and to carry on teaching and training for many years to come.
SR Mike it’s been a pleasure talking to you.
MN Thank you Steve – I enjoyed myself.