Articles, Interviews & People, Uncategorized




Written in January 2004…..

It was a year ago that we last interviewed Dennis – and in Bob Sykes words “2003 has been the Dennis Jones year”.  Writing the “Samurai on the Door” columns and working on a book with him has helped me to understand what makes him tick a little bit better.  I think the most surprising quality about Dennis is his quiet manner.  You only get to know anything about him in bits and pieces over a period of time and need a lot of perseverance and patience to get the whole picture.


Dennis is well qualified with a Batchelor of Science degree; an ONC and HNC in Building, a Fellow of the Institute of Carpenters and is a College Lecturer in Building and Civil Engineering.  He is very well read in many subjects, including Philosophy and History, particularly appertaining to Martial Arts.  He has an incredible knowledge of guns and shooting and with both his Father and brother having been in the SAS, a good working knowledge of Military strategies and fighting methods.


His first love however, is the Martial Arts and the development of the Human Being through their study.  His deep historical study of the Martial Arts and practical experience on nightclub doors over 23 years, makes him a unique person with a highly unusual perspective.


I hope you get the opportunity to meet and train with Dennis in the forthcoming year and that you get the chance to delve into the rich tapestry that makes up his experience in life.  Meanwhile I shall continue to work with him on the “Samurai on the Door” column and the book and offer you this interview for the MAI Yearbook…..


SR  Talking to Bob Sykes the other day, he told me that the “Samurai on the Door”  column is the most popular in the magazine!  What do you think of that?


DJ  Surprised in some respects and not in others Steve, I’ve studied and trained in the Martial Arts for nearly 30 years and “pressure tested” everything on the doors throughout that period of time.  Many Instructors can only pass on their fighting knowledge second, third or fourth hand, or they may have competed or had a couple of street fights against non entities.  I’ve used my techniques against all manner of fighters continuously over all those years, in all manner of situations and feel like I have a lot to say.


My driving passion has always been the Martial Arts and I’ve trained and thought about it every day without fail, often training in the dark and in the most inhospitable and unusual places….. knowing that extra repetition and mental affirmation could be the one that saves my life.


SR  You’re a dark horse, we know you obtained your first Black Belt grade in Kyokushin  all those years ago and that you obtained a teaching certificate in Wu style Tai Chi from Katherine Allen, but you’ve actually cross trained quite a lot over the years haven’t you?


DJ  Probably the first person in my generation to talk about cross training was Bruce Lee, like most people training at that time, he was my hero, so I took his ideas on board.  Working on the doors meant that I was looking to see what worked and styles and Martial Arts never really came into it, but yes, I trained in any club and with anybody that I thought might have something to offer.


I would like to make the point though, that the Traditional Martial Arts do have a lot to offer, they were formulated by people that had to fight to the death to survive, if they are passed down accurately all the strategies and techniques that I use are in there.  The problem with many modern Martial Arts is that Instructors choose a technique because it looks good or sounds logical, but… test it in reality and it fails….


Take it from me; the very first time that you face a real opponent in the street, it will be like nothing you’ve ever encountered in the Dojo…  unless you have a mentor that has that kind of experience teaching in your Dojo.


SR  You’re also one of the most well read Martial Artists that I’ve met….


DJ  (Laughs) I’ve read everything I could lay my hands on to do with the Martial Arts from about 1973 onwards, including all the obscure items, like the Times article on Mas Oyama’s first demonstration in 1960 in Madison Square Gardens, the first full contact championships when fighters like Aaron Banks were competing, when the legendary boxer Rocky Marciano trained in the Martial Arts and so on.  I’m an avid collector of all Martial Arts documentation.  I love to read all the old books containing pictures and documents referring to the old Chinese Boxers or in fact, anything to do with the Martial Arts.


SR  You’ve read a lot of philosophy as well….


DJ  Yeah….  Everything from the Upanishads, to the Bible….  I’m what you might call a “man watcher”, because that’s what I have to do on the door, nasty people are deceitful by nature and I have to be able interpret all the subtle signs of them trying to “get into my head” for my own safety.


SR  You also have the longest list of letters after your name I’ve ever seen!


DJ  I have taken the trouble to obtain qualifications because I’ve had to earn a living to be able to continue and finance my study of the Martial Arts.  When I was younger I was told that I was stupid and felt that I had to prove that I wasn’t.  I simply put the same work ethics that I learned in the Martial Arts into regular study.


I have a Batchelor of Science degree; an ONC and HNC in Building, a Fellow of the Institute of Carpenters and eventually became a College Lecturer in Building and Civil Engineering.  This gave me a reasonable and honourable living and enough spare time to enable me to continue with my Martial Arts studies.


SR  I think that it shows that you have the ability to develop yourself holistically and utilise your Martial Arts skills in all other areas of your life.  Would you say that writing these articles has been cathartic for you?


DJ  It has been extremely good for me.  23 years of conflict taught me a lot, if you can imagine all that Martial Arts study and I still felt doubt and fear, looking around at all the Instructors, Sensei and so called “Masters”, I couldn’t find anyone to really help.  Bruce Lee said that a Master was a Martial Artists who had no “vague notions”, many of them sounded confident but I knew when put under pressure they would be Paper Tigers.


Working on the magazine and our forthcoming book has helped me to frame what I’ve learned and experienced and will inevitably help others.  Martial Arts practitioners usually have opinions on what will and won’t work in a street confrontation and I choose not to comment on that… what I will tell the readers is what REALLY happens from my own direct experience…..  the truth….. as it is…. what I’ve seen – and what I’ve felt.


What I can also say is that I can identify many common denominators in the old Martial Arts texts that I can relate to.  The writers had to fight to survive and had the knowledge we still require; much of it was unfortunately lost enroute to us.  I was awestruck watching old footage of people like Kano, Ueshiba and Oyama because you can see the capability in their movement and the determination and resolve in their eyes.


SR  The book that we’re working on, doesn’t fit in to the “Hard Bastards” genre, it’s more about the alchemy that takes place in a human being who studies Martial Arts in the same way that we do.  It’s more a Martial Arts or “Lifestyle” type book and contains a structured way of approaching the internal alchemy that takes place, irrespective of whether the reader trains in a Martial Art….


DJ  That’s right.  The stories that we use, such as those in our column, are designed to illustrate a point from practical experience and make learning a more pleasurable and memorable experience because of the illustrations that we use.


SR  Violence seems to permeate throughout society and today, wherever you look, the can see the effect it has on our lives.  What would you say is the difference between a violent person and a Martial Artist?


Violence is easy; it’s used by criminals all the time.  Most are not even particularly good at it; they just make sure that the odds are in their favour.  There’s no human development in learning violence.  I’m interested in courage, bravery and a developed human being.  Peace is earned.  We have to earn the right to live in peace by keeping violent criminals at bay.  We don’t have to become like them.  That’s what the articles and book are all about and I think that most Martial Artists would agree with me.


Criminals will get into a victim’s head first, then they’ll isolate that person from support by using money, wealth and especially influence.  Then they will use violence on the victim, three or four handed, maybe knee capping him with a baseball bat, using a weapon on his face, breaking his arms, or perhaps even murdering him.  Often it’s just business and there’s nothing brave in that. Remember, being a criminal is a way of life; it’s not the “way” of Martial Arts.  A Martial Artist will always have the “righteous objective” that we’ve discussed in previous articles and would never start the violence.


Our path is not to become unevenly yoked to them.


SR  What do you mean by “unevenly yoked”?


DJ  What I mean is, they control you by getting you to do things for them, I mentioned in the December article that if you were the manager of a nightclub you could be targeted by the dealers and if you were a weak person they would seduce you into getting a drug habit so that they had a hold over you and you would be “unevenly yoked”  to them.  You become dependent on them and they are able to make decisions that could affect you in a negative way.  I can say that I’m not “unevenly yoked” to anyone.  I’m not involved in any type of drugs or criminality.


SR  Bob Sykes mentioned that 2003 was the “Dennis Jones Year” and apart from the magazine articles, you’ve taught and lectured to the Shi Kon Dan grades, taught on the Medway International Summer Course to a host of International Martial Artists and you’re coming with me to the Czech Republic to teach Presidential Bodyguards, Special Services and Police Self Defence Instructors.  Bob has asked you to teach on his Super Seminar and you’re working with me on the book.  You’ve also opened a club in Maidstone Kent.  A busy year to say the least!


DJ  That’s right!  I’m not used to being high profile.  In my trade it pays to be the opposite.  I’m grateful for the help that both you and Bob have given me and I’ve had to work hard to find words to express what I’ve done naturally over all these years!  With my close circle of friends and students, I’ve generally used what we call the “vernacular” to explain the principles.  Techniques were developed and refined through the encounters that I had, I didn’t need to explain them in Martial Art terms.  With the Shi Kon method of analysis and principles, that which I found difficult to explain previously fits in perfectly!


SR  I think one of the reasons that we got on so well instantly, was the fact that we could both recognise the principles behind what each other was doing.


DJ  That’s right.  In my club I’m teaching the Shi Kon syllabus because it’s efficient and works well.  When I first met you, from your reputation I thought that you were a traditional Japanese style Martial Artist.  What amazed me was, when we started talking I realised that you had a system that fused Japanese and Chinese Martial Arts into a practical set of principles.  Although you teach traditional Wado Ryu and Yang Family Tai Chi, the underlying principles are still the same.


I was also amazed by the fact that you had no ego towards me and that we could talk openly and freely about Martial Arts, self defence and philosophy without either of us becoming defensive.


SR  In our photo shoot you look perfectly at home with a Katana and Jo staff…


DJ  Yeah I have a natural affinity to the Samurai and their weapons  I know that you have trained in both for decades yourself – I find the Samurai ideals very zenic and noble.  Even though I’m half Chinese my mind rests very comfortably with their principles.


SR  With the huge response we’ve had to the articles and courses the readers are continually asking about the book and future courses, what are your plans for 2004?


DJ  To continue with the articles, complete the book, continue with the courses and grow my club.  Most important for me is to tell it like it really is, no embellishments and no compromises.


SR Thank you Dennis.


DJ  Thank you Steve.










Ethical Is Successful Business In Martial Arts

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Martial Arts businesses suffer from some of the worst marketing on this planet.  All the ‘hype’, ‘management consultants’, ‘Leadership Programmes’, ‘upgrades’, door to door sales, mass leafleting and buzz words that have lost their meaning such as ‘self discipline’, ‘confidence’, ‘self defence’, the self made ‘Masters’, countless ‘World Champions’, clubs that throw every Martial Art into the hat with lists that they couldn’t possible supply has left potential and existing students sullied, confused and lost.

Schools wanting to develop relationships with outside sports clubs have had their fingers burned by the expansionist, badly run and heavily marketed clubs. Under the guidance of their marketing gurus these clubs used all the right buzz words to get into the school curriculum and subsequently taught poor quality and often downright dangerous Martial Arts.  They then rip off the children and their parents after persuading them to join their club with upgrades of up to ten times the original joining monthly subscription.

Business and life are not separate.  A Martial Arts Instructor has to decide exactly what his aims in life are and where he wants his dojo or kwoon to go.  As an Instructor and Martial Artist, he has to define exactly what success is for him.  Management companies and business advisors are rarely experienced Martial Artists and are therefore often prepared to sacrifice all that is holy in the Martial Arts to simply earn as much as they can from a client as quickly as possible.

To most Martial Artists that I know, success is primarily being good at what they do, so their own Martial Arts expertise and that of their students is a high priority.  For that to happen they need to ensure that the structure of their dojo or kwoon is professionally run and is financially sound.

Top business guru’s recommend that any successful business requires a top quality product, the ‘salesman’ then has the confidence that what he is selling is what the customer requires.  With a good service and reasonable pricing structure, the customer will remain loyal and return again and again for life.  Thus a good salesman only has to ‘go out on the road’ once and with little or no attrition from his customer base and growth from the best source possible – word of mouth, does the job for him.

Just common sense really eh?

First of all, an Instructor needs to be good at what he does and never stop improving his own personal development.  I know so many ’30 year’ Martial Artists that have just repeated 3 years development 10 times…  Black belts, that are just ‘fitter and faster’ with a white belt standard of technique…. An Instructor needs to continuously grow and lead the way for his progressing students, constantly researching and refining his own technique.  If he wants to run a successful school it’s important that he learns a sound, well acknowledged art and style under a reputable instructor and is fully qualified to grade those under his tutelage.

Being good at something is one thing, being able to teach it is another.  It’s important to have the right coaching qualifications and abilities.  Over the years I had coaching qualifications from a variety of Governing Bodies and as each one transformed into another, the qualifications became defunct so when the NVQ came out I jumped at the chance to get a permanent set of qualifications that would be recognised everywhere I went.  Add to that an enhanced CRB disclosure, Professional Indemnity insurance, Governing Body registration, MASA accreditation, First Aid, Safeguarding Children, Equity in Coaching and Club for All qualifications leading to the Sport England ‘Clubmark’ accreditation and you have a product that is ‘quality assured’ with coaches with qualifications that everyone can recognise.

Then you have to do a good job.  ‘Professional’ doesn’t just mean earning money at something – it means doing a ‘professional’ job.  Turn up at the right time with all the right equipment and lesson plans and provide a good, quality lesson.    Support that with structured feedback to students and parents, recognised gradings and access to continued development and competition and you’re providing the service that should be expected.

This is perfect public relations (PR) if you do this well you won’t need all the trashy gimmicks.  You won’t have to become the performing monkey at all events, forever giving out leaflets and begging people to join you.  You won’t find yourself cutting a child’s birthday cake with a sacred Samurai sword and acting as a babysitter, the only ‘salesman’ you’ll have to be is the consummate professional.

‘Snowball PR’ means that every time you do a good job, people will talk about you, eventually you become the Professional Martial Artist that is the ‘go to’ guy in your area for anything to do with Martial Arts.  People will come to you because you won’t be ripping them off, damaging them with bad training practice and trying to ‘upgrade’ them at ridiculous prices with sham products.  Respect will come when you help the children, help rehabilitate people from illness and surgery, adapt professionally for people with special needs, help people with posture, breathing, mental awareness, mental focus, emotional growth, health, fitness and conflict resolution.

When did your ‘management consultants’ and ‘business advisors’ help you with all that?  They won’t, because if they turn you into the consummate professional, you won’t need them.

The onus is on you to ‘up your game’ and do what you know is right, don’t let poor quality, heavily marketed clubs take over, use the quality that you’ve developed over the years, that Martial spirit of humility, resolve and determination to get out into the community and SHOW what premium Martial Arts can do to change it for the better.  Let them know what qualifications they should be looking for and match those of the other sports to be a positive part of your local community, take pride in what you do and beat the ‘snake oil’ salesman with a quality product that uses PR over marketing and utilises that Martial Arts spirit of determination and resolve to leave a Martial Arts legacy of which we can all be proud.

Interviews & People

Mick Gooch Interview 2003


This interview was published in January 2003

We need experienced Martial Artists to stay around and help the younger generation; far too many of them fade away and either stop training and teaching altogether or simply end up training on their own.  Therefore I was very happy to see Mick Gooch in fine form after a 14 year absence.

Mick Gooch is one of those Kyokushin “names” from the Medway towns in Kent, along with Paul and Terry Owen, Dennis Jones and Norman King, Mick bought the Kyokushinkai style of Karate to Chatham.  Mick is a natural, easy going, likeable guy who can switch on the intensity in his training at the drop of the hat.  Twenty years ago I gave him and Norman King a job in the security industry.  Norman’s clubs were in the same Leisure Centre’s as mine and as Steve Arniel is a friend of mine, we met annually at the Kyokushin Knockdown Tournaments. Two years ago I acted as a judge along with Mick’s friend, boxer Johnny Armour, to his world record attempt at Crystal Palace of one fingered push ups on a coconut.

Mick became famous for his world record of one finger push ups and appeared on countless television shows in the 1980’s raising a fortune for charity.  After burning out and suffering illness he overcame his own adversity to return 14 yrs later for the year 2000 record breaking attempt.

At 46 years of age he looks better than ever and ready to guide the younger generation to prevent them from making the mistakes too many of us made in the past…..

SR  Hi Mick… tell me about your introduction to Karate…

MG  In the early ‘70’s like many of us, I went to watch the Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon”  and was captivated by it!  I looked around the Medway area for Karate clubs and the style getting to be well known at that time was Kyokushinkai, the clubs were run by brothers Terry and Paul Owen so I joined them.

SR  What was your first session like?

MG  Well, I didn’t know what to expect, the club was in the Casino Rooms in Rochester and was jam packed with people being taken through the fundamentals.  I was so pleased when I got my karategi (suit) and found all the kiai’s (karate shouts) strange – but right from then I knew that Kyokushin Karate was for me and that with effort, I could excel at it.

The training was very hard with thousands of repetitions of each technique but I loved it!  I was always pretty fit, I had played football at school and had trained in boxing, but that wasn’t really my cup of tea…  Karate really suited me and I quickly became dedicated to it.

SR  Tell us about your friends at the time…

MG  Dennis Jones, he was a big influence on me – he had such a clever mind!  As soon as I met him he became like a mentor to me, we worked together and used to train together – even during our lunch hours we would do a thousand punches!  As I became dedicated and stronger it was his idea to do a one fingered push up.

SR  So where did you first do it?

MG  Dennis encouraged me to do it in my Mum’s kitchen!

SR  With Terry and Paul Owen, Dennis Jones and Norman King around, you had a strong supportive group?

MG  Yeah… they were top notch! Norman King really helped me out with my kata and free fighting later on – he’s a very good instructor!  Ray Pearson of the Tonbridge Karate Club also helped both Dennis and myself through our Black Belt grading and Cyril Andrews of the Seven Sisters helped us to get through our second dan where incidentally I also did the 30 man kumite. I’d also like to mention Liam Keaveney who has helped me throughout my Martial Arts training and the late Jim Carpenter, another Medway Karateka who helped me support so many worthy causes.

SR  I’m planning an article on Martial Arts in Medway in the early years, it’d be great to get all the guys together.  When did you get to meet Hanshi Steve Arniel?

MG  Terry Owen used to talk about Hanshi a lot and say what a great instructor he was and being beginners we didn’t really know what he meant.  When he invited him down to the Casino in Rochester the moment he walked into the room his charisma was evident!  The atmosphere in the room just changed!  We were just mesmerised by him, everything he said was just crystal clear, he really is a brilliant instructor!

SR  Did you ever meet Sosai Oyama?

MG  Not personally, but I fought in front of him in the Knockdown tournament.

SR  What tournaments did you fight in?

MG The first tournaments I fought in were the continuous “clicker” fighting; our original team under Terry Owen including me and Norman came 3rd, we were really pleased!  Everyone kept talking about the Knockdowns and when I got to brown belt I decided to have a go.  I trained like a nutter for it..  it’s just my way I guess I’m an all or nothing type of guy, I beat 3 black belts on the way up and came 4th..  I’m convinced I could have won it but for an ankle injury  – I withdrew, I didn’t have an Instructor there to push me and I regret it to this day.

SR  So after Dennis Jones got you to do your first one fingered push up in your mum’s kitchen – how did it progress to the Guiness Book of Records?

MG  I remember Bruce Lee used to do one fingered push ups and as he was an idol of mine, I was already doing hundreds of press ups on my fingers gradually taking a finger away at a time until I was on two… then Dennis encouraged me to do just the one…

Hanshi (Steve Arniel) knew that I could do the one fingered press up and at a course told me that he wanted me to develop it as a special drill.  He said that I should work on it to set a world record.  So that’s what I did!

SR  What training regimen did you set?

MG  As no one had done it before I had to work it out myself.  What I discovered was that you have to keep the strain on the joints all the time to develop them, near enough 24hrs a day!  So I did the push ups all the time right through the day wherever I could.  I was doing 3,000 a week!  The pain was incredible!  I had old injuries on my hands because I used to do a lot of breaking techniques as well – my hands would swell up, sometimes I couldn’t close my hands! I couldn’t count the times that I’d get caught at work in the most embarrassing positions (Mick is a painter and decorator)!  Then I had to rest for 3 days before an attempt.

SR  What supplemental training would you do?

MG  I used to thrust my fingers into sand and then into iron filings and dried peas but Hanshi told me to stop that as it was too severe.  So I would stick to the fingertip press ups removing one finger at a time as I described earlier.  I would do them with weights in a rucksack on my back.

SR  How where and when did you set the world record?

MG  The first time was at Wembly Arena in 1982 at the European Knockdown Tournament.  I managed to do 38 full press ups right down to the floor and right back up, but I still had to do it again for the Guiness book of Records, we decided to do it at the Knockdown Tournament at Crystal Palace in 1984 and there I managed to do 45 and that was recorded by them.  In between I managed to do 40 for the “Just Amazing” television show under great duress because I had to break two coconuts and spear a watermelon with my fingers just before the attempt and I damaged my hand!  It was extremely painful but I just felt that I had to do it!

SR  Then you stopped… why?

MG  I was at the pinnacle of my Martial Arts career as such and was training so hard that my immune system was low and I caught a chest infection.  It just didn’t seem to get any better and I went to two different doctors who just gave me pills and then I started to develop new symptoms…  Eventually I had to go to a top nutritionist in London who diagnosed it as the yeast allergy candida.  That really knocked me of my pedestal, I just gave up for a while and it took me 10 years to sort it out!  I had to summon up all my warrior spirit to battle it and destroy the negativity.

SR  What were the symptoms?

MG  Very bad fatigue, a sort of constant “bloated” feeling and like hay fever around the eyes.  These symptoms got stronger and stronger as the candida was spreading through the gastro intestinal tract.  It became a case of I had to be in complete control of what I was putting in my mouth, now I know all the things that I can’t eat and drink so I stay well away from them.  You never get rid of an allergy; you can only keep it under control.  I actually feel better now than I’ve ever been!

SR  What other television did you do?

MG  I did Blue Peter, The Wide Awake Club, doing the alternative record of one finger push ups on a coconut and The Big Breakfast.

SR  What made you get back into it after a 14yr break?

MG  Originally it was for charity, a little girl called Gemma Smith and a little boy who had cystic fibrosis called Paul Meredith, unfortunately they’re no longer with us, Hanshi Steve Arniel and BKK supported their cause.  This time it was for Billy Ripley the footballer who found himself in a wheelchair and Jodie Duff who has spina bifada.

This time it was to be at the 2000 Knockdown Tournament at Crystal Palace and I was very privileged and proud to make the attempt and have you, Steve, and Johnny Armour the WBU Bantamweight World Boxing Champion to be the judges.  Johnny is a friend of mine and also of Billy and Jodie and was prepared to do anything to help the cause.

SR  How did it feel?

MG  A lot of well meaning people were trying to instil fear into my heart and mind by saying that I didn’t want to be doing this in my forties and that I shouldn’t be putting my joints under so much strain and that I would get arthritis etc…But now that I’d beaten the allergy problem – I was ready!  Nothing was going to stop me!  I worked on my determination and mental focus and proved them all wrong.

My previous record was 16 press ups on a coconut and I had beaten that at an event in Chatham and on the Big Breakfast but at crystal Palace I was counted at 38!

SR  I can vouch for that!

MG  (Laughs) You certainly can!

SR  What about this Paul Lynch who broke your Guiness record?

MG  My record was 45 press ups on one finger and his was 125!  I can’t believe that anyone could do 125 in the same way as I did 45, I would love to meet him and see exactly how he did it, if it was the same as me then I take my hat off to him, but I just don’t believe it’s possible.

SR  Paul, if you read this Mick would love to meet with you!  What are your plans now for the future?

MG  Through my links in Medway and in the Martial Arts with people like yourself Steve, I would like to help younger Karateka who want to dedicate themselves or specialise in certain areas like record setting to be able to maintain their health and training programmes and not make the mistakes that we, the pioneers, made.  Martial Arts should develop their character and make them better people.

SR  I couldn’t think of anything better Mick, and anyone better to do that than yourself.  I look forward to working with you.

Articles, Interviews & People

Steve Arneil – Kyokushinkai Legend


This interview was conducted in the year 2000…

I have known of Steve Arniel since the 1960’s and personally for some years.  I have attended the Kyokushinkai tournaments since the beginning, many of them as a V.I.P guest and had the honour of awarding Steve the “man of the year” award for “Traditional Karate” magazine at one of those tournaments.

Steve is one of the most senior, if not the most senior Karateka in Great Britain.  He holds the prestigious grade of 8th Dan and the respected title of Hanshi.  He has held the respect and loyalty of those close to him for many years and despite the politics still holds the greatest respect and love for his mentor, Sosai Mas Oyama.

My respect for Steve lies in the fact that at 65years of age he still teaches regular classes to beginners and senior grades alike, he still travels the world teaching courses and remains one of the most genial, likeable people that I have ever met in my life, let alone in the Martial Arts.

Because of our friendship I feel that the following interview reveals many never before published facts about Steve and his struggle to learn Kyokushin in Japan from it’s founder Mas Oyama.  Steve also allowed me trawl through his private photograph collection and select some of the most intimate photographs from those days.

I think that all readers will enjoy Steve’s story documented here in his own words in a way that keeps the “magic” of his own personality, reflecting his honesty, and almost superhuman effort required to learn Karatedo in those days.


SR Can we begin with how you got to Japan – how you started training?

SA I was born in South Africa and at the age of 10 our family emigrated to Zambia. I was very interested in Judo at the time and started training in both Judo and Boxing.  My mother wasn’t very keen on boxing and made me stop, so I continued with Judo.

From a very early age I was fascinated with the Orient, – I can’t explain why.  As I grew up I used to watch a Chinese gentleman training in his back yard doing things that I didn’t understand.  I used to watch him and was fascinated by him.  I used to go to the shop that he owned to buy groceries.  One day I was in the shop with my Mum and he said “why do you always look at me?” and I said that I didn’t – I had not realised that he could see me ‘spying’ on him.  He invited me to watch closer.  He told me he did Shorin Kempo and he asked me if I wanted to learn.  I told him I did Judo but my main love at the time was Rugby.

I started to train with him and was very intrigued by the movements he made. Looking back I think his training was mainly for health.  I went on to college and my apprenticeship.  I used to go and see him and work with him.  There was no set training or syllabus or anything.

I moved to Durban to finish my qualifications in mechanical engineering and found a local Judo school that also did this other thing called Karate, I was about 25 or 26 years old at the time.  I used to go down to the docks because at that time, many Japanese were emigrating to South America and Durban was the port at which they all stopped.  I used to go to the boats and ask any Japanese if they did Karate and if they said yes I used to take them up to the Dojo to train with me.  I was doing such a mixture – Wado, Shotokan, anything!  To me Karate was Karate and I had no inclination as to what style was, I just wanted to learn!

I went back home to Northern Rhodesia and I said to my Mum that I wanted to go to the East.   She didn’t understand why, but she agreed that I needed to get it out of my system!  So I went to see the Chinese gentleman and he gave me the names of people to train with in China.

I got an engineering job on a boat and worked my way from Dar Es Salaam across to Hong Kong and then from there to Kowloon and into China and I got as far as Manchuria where I found a monastery and I trained in Shorin Kempo there.  I was in 7th heaven!  It was beautiful.  Very hard discipline, working in the fields, meditation – very similar to a Buddhist temple.

Unfortunately the Cultural Revolution occurred with Mao Tse Tung and the ‘little red book’ and life became difficult. People outside the monastery didn’t like me (a westerner) and would hit me on the head with their red books! The people I was staying with suggested that I leave China as it was becoming extremely dangerous to be there during the revolution.

I had no choice but to leave and they took me to a teacher in Kowloon. But I was not happy there – it was very different.  By then I had heard of a teacher in Japan called Oyama.  The people I was with told me that I should go and look for him as he taught the kind of thing I was interested in.

I didn’t have enough money so I worked on the boats to the Philippines where I did some training in the stick and knife.  It was great and I enjoyed it.  When I had earned enough money, I went back to Hong Kong and travelled to Yokohama.

When I arrived in Yokohama I suddenly thought ‘Oh no, what am I doing here?’  Nothing was in English, everything was in scribbly writing and all I knew was the capital Tokyo – like someone coming here and knowing only about London!  I managed to get myself to Tokyo which took a day or so.

As all I really knew at the time was Judo I went to the Kodokan.  It was such a beautiful place.  I said that I wanted to learn and they let me in.  There were a few Americans there. I did Judo there for a little while until I passed my Shodan.  Then I met an absolutely brilliant American called Don Draeger.  He became a friend of mine.  He was in the military and specialised in many things.  He helped me.  I said I was looking for Oyama.

I first went to Gogen Yamaguchi and I enjoyed my training with him but felt that something was missing.  However it would have been very bad manners to ask him where Oyama’s Dojo was.  I then went to train in Shotokan in a Dojo behind the Kodokan.  I trained those years with people like Kase and all the other well renowned Shotokan Sensei.  I knew Kanazawa and I knew Enoeda – he is still my friend.    I walked into the Dojo and was asked if I was interested in training.  My Japanese was getting better and I was able to say yes and join.

Coming back to Don Draeger.  I said ‘You know Don, I am living in a fantasy world.  I have heard about this bloke that knocks bulls out and he said, “do you mean Sensei Mas Oyama? I know him.”   He took me up to the Honbu Dojo behind Ryoku University – the first Dojo of Kyokushin in Japan.  I walked in and Don came with me.  He could speak beautiful Japanese.  There was something about the place and I knew it was what I wanted.  It was just a room really and everybody was pounding the usual ‘OOS!  OOS!  OOS!’ and I could hear it from quite a distance.

Observing the usual courtesy and rituals Don spoke to a wonderful instructor called Sensei Kurasaki, a very famous Japanese Instructor in Kyokushin.  He said that if I was interested in training I would have to sit and watch because Sensei Oyama was in America at the time.  I said to Don “how long will I have to wait”, he said  “as long as it takes.”  I didn’t understand, I said “why do I have to wait, every other Dojo I have been to have just let me train.”  He said that this was a different Dojo.  Kurasaki said that if I wanted to train there I had to attend every day and watch.  At the time I thought “what a cheek”.  In any case I did go and watch for about six weeks – I just sat in that space and watched.  The Dojo wasn’t very big, a wooden floor, four wooden walls with shogi windows with rice paper on them.   I would come in every day, do the bow and sit and watch.

Very few people would speak to me.  Not because they didn’t like me but just because I was a foreigner and they weren’t used to foreign people being in the Dojo.  Then one day, this man came through the door and I thought, “this must be him” he had a wonderful presence.  Kurasaki was speaking to him and he was looking at me.  He tried to speak to me in English and Oyama’s English was awful.  Then he said “Don Draeger” so I asked Don to come up the next day.

He spoke to me through Don and said that this was a different Dojo, everything was 100% here and was I very sure that I wanted to join the Dojo – not the organisation – the Dojo.  I said yes and that I really wanted to train.  I had looked at it and I liked what I saw and that I felt it was really for me.  He said OK, then I need to come back for a few more weeks to watch and really make up my mind. I said to Don “What for”.  He said that he wanted me to be very sure.  I said that I was sure.  He said that he was talking about life.  I didn’t understand.  He said this is one life, don’t play around.  It was a different Dojo.  I said OK.  When I went on the second week he gave me my first Karate Gi.  He said that I would have to start from the beginning.

I had to be there at 6pm and train until whenever Sosai felt like finishing, it could be 10 or 12 pm.  You couldn’t say that you would go home when you felt like it.  As Kohai we had to then clean the Dojo, the toilets (which were buckets), you can imagine how difficult that was for a fresh South African boy and check and wash the dirty Karategi’s for the entire Dojo!  It was not pleasant work but part of Kohai life.  I was accepted there as a Karateka and treated like one even though I was foreign. I was treated the same as all the other Kohai (like slaves).

Slowly but surely I worked very hard.  I was very dedicated.  I was treated like everyone else.  After a period of time I passed my brown belt.  Then my first lesson in life came.  It was from an Instructor called Okada unbeknown to me at the time he was a brilliant Karate man.  The late Ashihara and I were great mates – we were always up to something.  When anybody new came into the Dojo we were always on to them – testing them out to see what they were like.  One day this bloke came in and we found out his name was Okada.

We were tasty 1st Kyus – or so we thought!  In Japan you have Sensei and Sempai and you all line up.  When we lined up Ashihara was up before me and stood in front of Okada.  He was like a young lion raring to go.  So he faced Okada and fought hard and gave him a hard time.  As soon as the fight was over, I faced Okada and also gave him a hard time!  We were feeling very full of our selves as we walked off – we had smacked a 3rd Dan.  We waited for him to come back but he didn’t for two weeks.  Finally he returned.  Of course we thought it very funny.  But he was back for us.  He had been out of training for a while and had returned to pay us back.  When Ashihara lined up in front of him he laid him out with one punch.  Then everybody looked at me because they knew it was my turn next.  He called me over and I suddenly didn’t speak any Japanese!  But I had to go and take my turn and boy, did he give me a pasting – not in a nasty way though it was a lesson.

It was my first lesson in respecting others.  Just because they may not be fit or something you should not take advantage – they didn’t get 3rd Dan for nothing.  It was our first lesson.  My second was my Shodan.

I was a bit cocky and a big headed a foreigner that could speak Japanese.  I went for my black belt – I had trained extremely hard and to me it was just a procedure.  It was very hard like all Kyokushin gradings.  I was very confident and thought I was the best, especially my Kata.  Although Kyokushin is a very hard style Kata was important then and that is why I am very much for Kata training now.  Oyama wanted absolute discipline in technique and I felt I was good. I knew it – I fought like a champion.  I went out with Ashihara, we started together at the Dojo as white belts.   We were both very confident and thought we were good.

At the Dojo you didn’t find out if you had been successful for up to six months afterwards, so we both trained and trained in that time.  I was so confident I even went out and bought a black belt and kept it in my room and looked at it.  Then training one day the list of passes was put up and I was looking up and down the list and my name wasn’t on it!  I went up to Kurasaki and said “Sensei my name isn’t on the list”, and he looked at me and he said “Oh yes, its not there”.  So I went out and trained and then I thought I knew what had happened – I was getting a special award!  Then nothing happened – I just couldn’t figure it out.  So the next day I went to Sensei and said that my name wasn’t on the list and he said “yes”.  He wouldn’t tell me I hadn’t passed I just had to accept I was still brown belt.  Then Ashihara walked in front of me with his black belt and I couldn’t believe it – I was so angry.

I went home that night and went through all the excuses – it was because I was foreign, the wrong colour, anything that I could think of – it was because they didn’t like me.  It thought that’s it …………..

I was very disillusioned after that, I thought I had been failed because I was the only round eye or foreigner in the Dojo.  Instead of going training that evening, I went to a movie but I didn’t enjoy it because my mind was at the Dojo.  I was nervous in case someone saw me who knew I should have been at the Dojo.  I did this for about four days I was quite up tight about it.    I lived quite close to Oyama in a small bedsit room with a family.  I was sitting there feeling very hurt and wondering where my life was going.  In the morning there was a loud banging at my door and I said “who the hell is that banging on my door?”.  When I opened it Mas Oyama was standing there.  He wanted to know where I had been.  I said that I was very sick but I’m feeling much better now and coming training today and so off he went.

Then I though oh my God what am I going to do?  I thought of leaving the country but I didn’t have enough money so I had to stick it out!  In any case I went back that day.  Not a word was said to me about where I had been.  I was nervous about training again.  But I got stuck into training and accepted that I had not been successful.  But I began to get over it and got on with my training.

Then the grading came again and I lacked a bit of confidence.  They asked me if I was going to try again.  I didn’t think I was ready.  But I went in for the test and I did exactly what I had to do I worked very hard and I waited for about a month and a half and my name was on the list – shodan!  I ran all the way to my apartment and put on the black belt I had bought – I had never put it on before.

Looking back, over the years, I know why they held me back.  I wasn’t ready – my mind or my heart.  It was a hard lesson to learn.  I think if I had got my black belt then (first time) I would have left Japan – that would have been that.  I would have been too big headed.  Oyama said that he saw more in me than just black belt and he had to take the chance that he would lose me through disappointment.  I try to explain this to students when they are not successful on gradings.  I always try to be honest and fair.  That was one of the greatest lessons in my life.

SR Its nice that there was somebody wise enough to see that.

SA Yes what would have happened to me if I did pass – I would not be here today like this.  I would probably have been like others and packed it in, and tried something else and pack that in and so on.

Then I passed 2nd Dan before Ashihara.  I pushed and trained harder than the others.  It was not like it is now where you have three months between gradings or a year.  We went by time put in, dedication.  I was training morning, afternoon and evening and so within a year they said that I should try for 2nd Dan.  I thought they were crazy!  My attitude had changed completely, I wasn’t thinking about grades any more, I just wanted to be a good black belt.  But then I went to 2nd Dan and a few months later Ashihara and the others went to 2ndDan.  By then Shigeru Oyama and Nakamura went to 3rd Dan.  They were all good people.

So we trained and trained.  We went to summer camps.  They were very hard.  We slept in tents and had to get up very early in the morning.  Whatever we did, though, Mas Oyama did first.  He never asked us to do anything he didn’t do himself.  If he trained in the waterfall, we did, if he walked through paddy fields barefoot, we did – whatever he did we followed. He used to tell us stories of how he grew up and when he went into the mountains.  He would give demonstrations, which would encourage us, even if we tried to copy and weren’t successful.  He was a good leader and was an extraordinarily kind man, which many people didn’t realise.  He was extremely strict in the Dojo. You never stepped one fraction of an inch out of line, but privately, very kind.  He made us very disciplined.

We fought hard.  Our fighting was totally different to the fighting that was going on elsewhere.  Nowadays you would call us crazy people.  Every time you fought it was for survival.  After every session you would see the boys putting on bandages.  And then the black belts would have a field day on the white belts.  Of course I went through all that and I gave it out.  It was like a sport but it was never abused.  Higher grades never took advantage or abused their rank.  Giving a hiding always had a purpose – it might have been a hard lesson but it was never done in spite.

Usually the evening session began with a strong warm up, Kihon, Kata and then we would end up with fighting as usual.  Go through the traditional ending bowing etc.  Then we would finish and hang up our dirty Karategi’s for the Kohai to wash.

Then we had to build the new Dojo – the one everyone is fighting about today.   Our job on a Sunday was to dig the foundation.  I dug the foundations for that place and wheel barrowed the concrete.  Slowly the building went up and when it was finished it was as it is today.  It was a beautiful building it has a small Dojo on the bottom another in the middle and at that time, Sensei used to live on the top floor.  That is where I grew up and saw and did a lot of things.  It would take me years to document it all.  It was a lovely time of my life.

SR How long were you there?

SA I started there around 1961 until beginning of 1965.  I loved it.  I was very fortunate with my wife.  I wasn’t able to work and she supported me fully.  She worked in a bank.  If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have been able to do what I have done.  I did some work of course like most foreigners but it wouldn’t have been enough.

SR When did you get married?

SA In 1964, the last year I was there.  I used to teach English in the bank where my wife worked.  That was how we got to know one another.

I was fortunate enough to get work in the Movies also – I was a bit of a movie star.  I changed my name to Steve Mansion.  I did quite a few movies.  I did a movie with a famous actor, it was called “Big Fight On Sand Hill”.  I was a Mongolian.  That’s how I earned money.

SR Tell us about the 100 man Kumite.

SA Of course, the day came when the Old Man gave me the biggest shock of my life when he said he wanted me to do the 100 man fight.  I said that he must be crazy and that I couldn’t do it.  He said that he thought I could and he had confidence in me.

I said why not one of the others?  He said that some had already tried and couldn’t do it.  He said that he thought I had the character to be able to do it.  He said that he wanted somebody to do it before he died.

I said that I was too small!  I made all the excuses that I could.   But he kept talking to me and by that time he and I were very close.  Due to my marriage and all my training he had become like a father to me, my own father had died some time before.  In those days your father had to negotiate your wedding for you and he took on that role, we were very close.  I felt that if I had a son he would be named after him – which he is – Stephen Oyama Arneil.

In any case he said that I had better speak to my wife about it.  She said that I was crazy.  He kept pestering me and in the end I said to my wife that I wanted to have a go and she just said OK.

It was very hard training.  I trained every day – up mountains, in rivers, on the sand.  Lots of Kata – the absolute discipline of the training.  When I tell people about it they are surprised and just say “Kata???”

I trained in Kata, on the candle (putting out the flame with the kime from a punch), the makiwara and then bag work, that was my daily schedule.  All I did was get up at 4 am and go to bed at 11 pm and just do Karate in between.

I kept asking him when?  He said he would let me know when he thought I was ready.

I just trained and trained and in the end I didn’t worry about it any more.  I thought it was just a way for him to get me to train more!  I had great support from all the other students there.  Some of them had already tried it and been unsuccessful.

The rules are quite simple.  You don’t beat a 100 people you just have to fight a 100.  If there is any indication that you are taking punishment that you can’t handle or you can’t fight back they stop it or you can stop it yourself. Other than that, you have to stand and fight.

One Sunday morning, I walked into the Dojo.  They were all sitting there in traditional form.  Sensei Oyama came up to me and said that today I fight a 100 fights.

I said today?

He said are you ready?  Everybody was sitting there, all the officials, the students everybody, so I said yes.  I didn’t know that they had told my wife and told her to come down and fetch me later!

I started about 10 o clock and finished about 1 o clock.  It took about 2 and three quarter hours.  You can save time if you knock them out.  Each fight is about 1 and half minutes so if I was able to knock him out in 15 seconds I saved myself that much time.  I think I knocked some out and some down and I went down and got up a few times.  Mentally I was very focussed then.  I counted the fights up to 20 – and after that I was just fighting.

I fought Okada and Shigeru Oyama.  And then Nakamura came up.  We had a very hard fight, he really had a go.  I thought he was trying to kill me.  Then all of a sudden it just stopped.  I stood there and looked at them.  They said, “you’ve completed it”.

I couldn’t believe it.  Everyone stood and clapped.

The Kohai took me downstairs and washed me.  I could see bruises all over me.  When I went back up to the Dojo where my wife was waiting for me and she just looked at me – I was covered in lumps and bumps and bruises – I looked like a leopard.  They did the usual ceremony of bowing and they gave me a certificate and after the congratulations that was it.  They said to me wife that she had better take me home.  When I got home I could barely move.  That night I slept like a log.  The next day I didn’t train at all but on the Tuesday I started training again.  They said I needed to in order to get my circulation moving again.  I was like an old man, but by the end of the week, I was back to normal again.

That was that.  In those days it wasn’t done for public recognition – papers and all that.  It was a personal and Dojo achievement.  And I wanted it to be kept that way.  However after about three years, it came out and everybody knew about it.  My life was a misery after that.  Everybody wanted to come and fight you know?

Unfortunately now it has become stupid – the TV is there and all that. So I was lucky in that I was the first person other than my teacher – they say he did 200 fights, I don’t know because I wasn’t there but he says he did it so I can only go on that.  He was very powerful so I believe he could do it.

He was a tremendous tamishiwara (breaker).  There were two things I always wanted to learn from him.   How to take the side of a bottle out and how to hold somebody down with a finger touch.  He never taught it.  I would ask him many times to teach me and he would always say I wasn’t ready.  He took the secret to the grave with him.

SR Do you mean he could hold you in a sitting position?

SA Yes just sitting and he would do this technique (Steve placed his finger softly on my head) and you couldn’t move however hard you tried.  I really wanted to learn that.

The other technique was with a beer bottle.  He would set it down and take the cork out.  He could hit it on the side and take a piece out of the side without breaking any thing else.  The first time he showed us he hit the bottle then showed us his hand with the piece of glass in his hand.  It was amazing.

SR After those early years, how did things develop from there?

SA Then the organisation began to grow.  As you know, it was very powerful.  I was groomed and Takashi Nakamura was groomed for ‘special’ jobs.  Slowly but surely it developed.

SR What about competition?

SA I had never done a competition in full contact, in my period of time it didn’t exist. Competition only came about in Kyokushinkai because the kick boxers of Thailand challenged Japan – any style.  We were the only style who accepted them.

SR Wasn’t a film made about that?

SA I think so, I’m not sure.  Anyway, we agreed to give it a go.  A group of us were selected including me but I wasn’t able to go as I had commitments.  Kurasaki the coach went, Nakamura and Fujihara.  He was a small man but had the spirit of a mountain.  We went over to Thailand and we fought them with their rules and  knocked them all out.  The Thai people were so shocked, they didn’t know there were any other styles that fought like them.  They fought tremendously, in those days anything went except you couldn’t gouge the eyes.  They came back to our Dojo as heroes.  They were very bruised.

Three fighters were supposed to go over to Thailand.  As I said, I couldn’t go and the other student Yushiko, Oyama’s brother couldn’t go as he was a law student taking exams.  Only the two of them went and the Thai people were upset because we had promised three fighters.  So Kurasaki fought – he should never have fought – he was the coach.  He was very strong, a hard man and he did very well but got caught with an elbow strike and had his nose broken.  He didn’t win.  He had the biggest black & blue eyes you’ve ever seen!

That is when Kyokushin really started and when we decided to have tournaments.  The first knockdown tournament was quite wild!  We were allowed to hit in to the face, to grab, to go on to the ground just like we did in the Dojo, all kinds of things!  It was a bloodbath.  There were no guards on the knuckles or anything.  However, slowly but surely, all that changed.  No face hitting was allowed, mainly because we didn’t want to wear gloves.  We could kick to the head though.    If we had worn gloves we would have been kick boxers and we didn’t want that.  We then stopped grabbing.  The rest is the same to this day. – We don’t kick to the joints or on the ground.

We became tremendous fighters.  But Tsuyuko always said to us that all Kyokushinkai must be gentlemen and ladies – at that time we didn’t have any women students but he mentioned it.  He said our courtesy must be of high level at all times,  he said that when you fight, you fight like an animal – for survival; after the fight you must be a perfect gentleman.  We would have been in big trouble if he had caught us abusing our positions or misbehaving.

SR I heard that you were a bit of a movie star, did you keep any memorabilia?

SA I am always asked if I have any posters from my movie days.  But I am not a collector and in those days you didn’t think about things like that – it was just something I did.  I have all the memories, which is just as good.

SR Tell us about the demonstration you did for the Prime Minister of Japan….

SA We did a demonstration for the Prime Minster and Oyama said “now the boy from Africa will do a break” and he held up four pieces of wood.  I hit them and nothing happened!  He said, “do it again”, I did and nothing happened.  I could see I was bleeding and he said, “do it again” and I still didn’t do it  – but he said “that’s what I call courage it never lets you down!”

That’s typical of the things he would do – I had never done a break before!  When we when on summer camp with him or winter camp, the things he would ask us to do were unbelievable and we always had to reply ‘oss’.  He was always testing our courage and obedience but he never abused it, he never did anything for a ‘giggle’ or to humiliate.  If he asked you to do something, he really wanted you to try.  That is why I loved the style.

SR How did you come to the UK?

SA Coming to Europe was fate really, I was on my way back to Africa, and I came back through Russia and London.  However due to the complications in my home country, it would have been very hard for my wife to live there you know?  It wouldn’t have been right, so I ended up staying in London.  Then I met Bob Bolton who I originally met in Japan.  He was a very good Judo Man as well as Kyokushin.  He opened up the LJS (London Judo Society).   That was where we started our Kyokushin group.

Then I became President of Europe Section and I did a lot of things for the European group.  I was the first one to introduce a syllabus.  We didn’t have a syllabus prior to that.  But I knew we didn’t have the same mentality as the Japanese and needed to have things written down.  In Japan there wasn’t a syllabus we just had to learn everything and keep it in our heads!

Then came the kata book.  Oyama said that the only way you can unify a club or organisation is by doing the same thing and the only way you can do the same thing is by Kata.  He said to me ‘ promise me that you will never forget that Kata is the only way you can unify a group’.  You can see that when people from different places are all doing kata – all the same and unified.

Unfortunately, like everything else, it got very big and certain things happened which Nakamura, Shigeru and I wasn’t happy with, things were done openly – draws were fixed, rules were changed in the fighting.  You know people would train their lives out to go to Japan to compete and then were robbed by bad refereeing.  This of course got more political and then Nakamura left and he asked me to go with him.  But I said that I was obligated to my ‘dad’ and couldn’t go.  I was sad to see him leave and then Shigeru left and then finally, Kimura said to me that I couldn’t hang on to it any longer.  He said that I would be leaving the organisation around the man, not the man himself.  I have always said that I would never leave him, but I did leave the organisation.

I will always be a Kyokushin man until I die and I have tried to carry on his dream as I saw it – good karate, having a good time and try to do your best.  I think I did this with our European Kata championships.  All the kata were the same and the judges knew exactly how to judge.  It was very good.

There are three breakaways.  I don’t have much to do with them and I try not to criticise.  This is the way the IFK has developed.  I hope to continue the best way I can and I hope there will be people to continue it.

SR I often wonder about those masters in their graves looking and wondering at the use their names are put to sometimes.

SA Yes!  I think if the old man could come back he would probably cut a few heads off!!!

I don’t know our future, we will see what happens.  I will do my share to see that it develops the right way.  I have a very good group of people around me who think the same way.

SR Yes, Kyokushin is known for its integrity.

SA Yes, as you know Steve, I always have respect and want respect in the group.  I think it’s a terrible thing to boo two fighters – it shows disrespect to the fighters even if one has committed an infringement.  Let the referee sort it out.  If you don’t like him, don’t clap him but don’t boo him.

SR I watched the Kyokushin championships certainly since the 1970’s.  I can remember Shigeru Oyama and the first baseball bat shin breaks etc. I was there for those and I can remember when you had contingents from the Wu Shu Kwan and other groups.

SA Yes they were my mates and I loved the other groups coming to join in.  We had a group over from Holland once who had a very bad attitude.  We wouldn’t let them come again.  I said to them that they had to improve their manners first.  They were rude to everyone and they were rude to our VIP’s as well.

I think it’s tragic what happened to the Kyokushin organisation.  They were very big.  What hurts me sometimes is that some groups keep dragging the old man from the grave you know?  He always taught me that he had given us all knowledge and we had to continue the knowledge, respect him, talk about him but don’t live on him.  Live on your own achievements.

SR You mean like Shu Ha Ri?

SA Yes, I have lived on my own achievements but I couldn’t have made the achievements without his teaching.  I don’t go on about his achievements – I know what he did.  I am a man of my own destiny.  I have developed the things that he said and taught.  He said to me that there were things he wasn’t happy with and that maybe with my help they would improve further and that my students would develop if I taught them properly.  You will play your part in the chain.

But this doesn’t work for some people.  Many people say they knew him and were friends with him.  He was friendly person and would put his arm around someone for a photo but most of them didn’t really know him.  But that is human nature I suppose.

Kyokushin is broken up and I don’t think it will get back together in my lifetime.  There is too much diversification, too many splits.

SR That is the way of things though isn’t it?  People grow and change and move on?

SA Well, yes.  Oyama always said to me that you’ll grow up and have your own family.

SR Yes.  Your style is your roots, where you come from.

SA Yes, I will keep developing.  People always say to me about the WUKO thing.  They ask me who is better, the boys then or the boys now.  I say, technically the boys of today are very good, they are very sharp, but the boys of my day would probably destroy the boys today with their character, they couldn’t match their character.  The guys today with their methods of training are very good, but they have never had what we had at the Dojo.  So it is very difficult to say who is the best.  I can only go by character.

I look back to the way I trained.  Many of the things we did were plain stupid.  We didn’t know any better, you know if you could stretch your legs a certain way they were forced by someone helping you – there would be tear marks from stretching.  Nowadays there are proper ways of training and we have new technology and knowledge for training so we don’t have that any more.  If I learn something useful from a sportsman or trainer I use it.  Sometimes I meet people from the Olympic teams and if I see someone who can jump high I ask them how they train to do it.  I develop the training methods to suit us and get my boys to jump higher when they fight.

As I was saying the boys of today would never survive the training we did.  The character is not there, the absolute loyalty, the dedication we had.  Then again, in my era if only we had access to the technology and knowledge we have today back then, and with the character, it would be a totally different thing.

People ask me about different styles, I think of Steve Cattle, Terry O’Neill, Bob Poyton, Andy Sherry all Shotokan men, they were all in my squad.  They were brilliant.  Then I had Brian Fitkin, Howard Collins, to name a few, they were Kyokushin.  They were able to train together and they were all able to fight well and to the rules.  Once they came home they would all go off to their separate classes and clubs and do their own thing, but when they came together for the squad they all pulled together as one British group – no style.  It took some time for them to come together as they all were very loyal to their groups, and I had a couple of upsets with Enoeda and Suzuki but they had to be loyal to Britain whilst on the squad and follow the rules and plan of the squad.  But we overcame our differences by talking and eventually we all went out to Japan and although we lost the tournament, I learned a lot from the experience, because remember that I wasn’t a WUKO fighter.

I was fortunate enough to do well in European tournaments and then eventually we won the world tournament and beat Japan in Paris, which I will never forget.  Kanazawa came up to me and groaned.  I said next time we will beat you in the World Tournament, and he said never.  We won in Los Angles and it was a very proud moment for me, the boys on the squad and for Great Britain, I was very proud.

SR What year was that?

SA 1975 I think.  It was great.  I know that Oyama was a bit put out, he said that he felt he had been robbed by his own.  So I said to him that I lived in the country, I worked in the country – I pay my taxes and obey the rules, just as he had taught me.  I said to him that I couldn’t do knockdown in Britain – it wasn’t allowed, and that the only way I could ever expose Kyokushin, was to do what I was doing then.  I needed to show people who we were and how good we were so that I could go back to Britain and concentrate on our organisation.  After that, I had no trouble.  I was able to start Knockdown in Europe.  If I hadn’t done the WUKO thing I would never have been able to get Knockdown started – every one was dead set against it.

We have good rules, proper medical examinations before competing and good training and to this day we have never had a serious injury.  But I have very strict discipline if people want to fight.  They can’t fight unless they are fit.  They must have a doctors examination before they fight.  They have to be medically checked out.  My main concern is for the fighters.

I never went against my teacher in that respect.  I don’t know where Kyokushin would have been if we hadn’t done all that.  Brian Fitkin and those guys they did a tremendous job for Britain in WUKO fighting, but they also came back.  Howard Collins did a hundred man fight after I did it.  And they should all go down in the history books for the work that they did.  What they do now is their affair.

When I give a person a grade, he is worth every bit of it.  After that if he goes one way or another, or disgraces himself, I can do nothing about it, they must do what they must do.

I think that is what my Karate is about.  I am saddened at what has happened to Karate in Britain now, the same as what happened to Kyokushin.  It is falling apart, money, power and greed and then etiquette becomes lost.  If they are not careful, it will be gone forever.  It will be difficult to bring it back to what it was because of changes in modern society.  Nowadays you have “Karobics” Karate and aerobics combined, you have “Boxercise” and karate exercise they are all spin offs to make money.  But it is not for me to say what is good or bad but some of it is a con.  But all of it is taking away from the Budo study.  Every time you have a Dojo open that is doing a form of Karate and exercise where the tradition is gone, the etiquette is gone, the directness is gone and you are losing.  It is a new generation and they are not getting the training.

The prospective students don’t know any different if they just walk in from the street.

SR The movies don’t help.

SA Yes the movies give an unreal view of Martial Arts, even though some of them are very good.  I don’t know what the end product will be.  I shall just try to keep going and maintain the traditions like many other good Karate Instructors in Great Britain who feel like I do.  When we are gone, I don’t know…

There must be many people who have the same thoughts that I have.  But I am not too saddened by it because that’s life you know?

SR There is still a lot of good in the Martial Arts

SA I remember debating and talking with my teacher.  I was one of the few who could talk honestly and directly with him because we were very close.   I always said to him that he had to learn to give way a bit, learn to handle some change.  It is important to have an open mind.  There is so much change about.

SR Can we talk about Kata?  Sanchin – a lot of styles including Kyokushin pay a lot of regard to Sanchin training.

SA Sure, Sanchin and Tensho.  They are taught with Ibuki breathing.

SR When people watch Kyokushin Kata they see the Ibuki breathing and don’t really understand.  Could you give some explanation on it?

SA Ki is the main aspect.  The inner spirit you know?  It’s in the shout, the breathing, the movement, and the relaxation, in appreciating something.  It has an unbelievable power that can’t be described on paper really because you need to feel it to understand it.  The power that people can produce in it is well ……

You only have to go to the East and watch Tai Chi and  see a gentleman or lady of the age of 80 or 90 and they move around like (Steve demonstrates Tai Chi type movements).   I would just stare and think it was beautiful then you have the other side of it in Tai Ki Ken – the exact reverse of it.

Ibuki is something you learn from the body. It’s a breathing aspect, a form of energy.  You inhale clean air and you bring it into the body and you exhale it out from the diaphragm and it pushes it out.  The idea is that you achieve a clean sound not a guttural sound and what comes out is like a whistle, a wind sound.  I was always taught that there are three powers within the body; and it comes from Tai Chi.  A soft power, a hard power and instant power and you try to accomplish these things within your training by Kata.  We do Sanchin and Tensho kata for that effect.

It took me a long time within myself to try to grasp it.  I understood it but I have not achieved it.  I understood what I was after but to achieve it is difficult.

SR Is it translated as Battle Breath?

SA Yes, Battle Breath.  It’s a part of a shout.  Its not a scream, its very controlled.  It has different aspects.  If you are hit in the stomach for instance and you can’t breathe, people hit you on the back.  If you know what you are doing you inhale down very quickly.  The stomach has a lot of nerves.  When they are shocked they contract and prevent you from breathing.  Therefore if you inhale and use the technique, it releases the nerves and centres the breathing again.  That is basically our argument in favour of it.  It stops shock preventing parts of the body working.  It is the Ibuki part of recovery.

You can do Ibuki in three powers.  You can do it in the soft power like Tai Chi, you can do the hard power, but you can’t just practise instant power.  My teacher said that instant power is like a fish.  Take a stone and drop it in where fish are swimming and they just move and then carry on as normal, which is like instant power.  That is the key, like when you are fighting and you go in for the big one – that is the battle cry for instance.

SR The Chinese call vibration power “Fa Jing”

SA When it dawned on me I wanted to tell him (my teacher) but he is dead.  That is the only way I can explain Ki is physically by using kata.

If you relax your body it will collapse.

Power three will only come out in kata at the point where you shout.  The shout is instant not long or drawn out.

My students train with all three powers and you can see the different levels of power quite clearly when they train or fight.

I have been quite successful throughout the world in getting across the message of the three powers of Kyokushin.

SR In Sanchin we do a flexing of the spine, the difference between tipping the hips forward and the tailbone coming up.

SA We draw it in.  We don’t push it forward.  If you push it forward you lose the structure of one degree forward.  We are always one degree forward. All stances are one degree forward in Kyokushin to achieve the centre line.

The muscles must be hard and flexible not tense.  Tense muscles can’t move.

SR What about Tensho?

SA Tensho is exactly the same except it is circular movements.  My teacher said that when you do Tensho you must think like an artist and draw the lines.

Sanchin is direct lines, Tensho is circular.

Sosai believed that if you could circle the body with your arms you had an impenetrable defence like a fan.  If it goes slowly you can put your finger in and out, if it’s fast then you lose your finger!

It is to create an absolute pure defence.  A circle is to protect.  This is what I was taught why we do these circular movements.

SR Last Monday I trained with Yap Chen Hoi who is the Shaolin Forms Master and he has the original five animal forms that are taught at the Temple.  You can see Tensho in all of them.

SA Yes, yes, it’s lovely when you get to meet people of that level and you can converse and not argue.  And you can discuss one another’s ideas.  I don’t waste time with people who think any thing they don’t do is rubbish – it’s a waste of time.  Have you ever heard the stories as to why different stances?

SR In my view the original Kata was Sanchin as it gives you the ability to stick to the ground instantly in a normal stance.

SA I’ll tell you what was told to me.  Zenkutsu Dachi is to develop the full structure of the legs for a fighter on a smooth area.  Kiba Dachi the Horse Stance, comes from the Military where they used to hold the horses with their legs and knees, and Sanchin was developed for use in very wet and slippery conditions like on the battle fields of China.  It was a lovely way to describe the stances.  Kokutsu Dachi was so that you could step and kick quickly.

I am sure there must be many other formulas and explanations for the stances.

SR Yes, I think for Sanchin particularly, a lot of monks and dignitaries all wore robes and had this magical dignified thing, that you had to be able to despatch and adversary effortlessly. …..

SA Yes, it’s lovely stories.

We use the triangle for Sanchin do you?

SR We use both, the back foot straight or angled.

SA I was taught by Sosai and a sensei from Tai Chi Ken in China, the way we do it is with body proportion – how tall or short you are like building a house.

It is how the triangle fits on your body type.  It is quite interesting.  I know the Goju do it differently but I don’t understand it – it would be nice to learn their way someday, to understand it.

SR Some Chinese stylists do it with the feet straight.

SA Yes, we call that Mura Ashi Dachi.

SR In Chinese Chi Gung and Tai Chi we keep the weight over the kidney point in the feet because the Chi builds up in the kidneys particularly when you fight.  As you were saying the one inch (per cent) forward. They always aim to keep the weight on the kidney point and maintain balance.

SA Yes, the trouble with a lot of westerners is that they don’t know the meridians of the body and they don’t know the points.  All they want to know is how to kill somebody or how can they cause pain.  But it takes time to learn properly.  I was fortunate, I learnt a lot from my time in China although it was short and my time in the East.  I enjoyed what I was doing in China it was strong and powerful and it was only by fate that I ended up in Japan – it wasn’t planned that way.

SR I think that Kyokushin still has a very Chinese influence.

SA Yes, Sosai was very strong in Chinese influences, the circles, the straight lines, the curvatures.

SR Yes, such as the original Sanchin stance was similar to Naihanchi stance.  The Tekki Kata – In Shotokan they changed it as they said that when the legs were tired you would rise up in the stance so they changed it so that you would sink lower.

SA Mind you in my own way, I have developed technique and style to suit the conditions we have.  I hope I have not done any thing wrong by it.  People ask me if we teach a hard style and I say yes.  They see the fighting and some think that we don’t have any skill, but I say to them that if they come to the Dojo they will see a different thing entirely.  This is why we do Clikker, Wuko and Knockdown.  I believe all three provide good things, one is the ability to control, the other is movement with control and one is full contact with focus and where you hit hard you put them all together and you have a nice fighting machine!

SR I always say to my wife that I go out and “play” Martial Arts because where ever I go I enjoy it.  I enjoy taking lessons and learning from different sources.

SA Oh yes, I enjoy it all and I am not the sort of bloke that won’t try to learn from what ever I come across.  I am always learning.  About two months ago I was in Norway and I was asked why I teach beginners like I teach high grades.  They said to me that I shouldn’t teach beginners I should leave that to lower grades.  I said that no, a beginner wants to work with me just like a high grade.  It’s something that I’ve never forgotten, I said I was a beginner and I was grateful to have my teacher work with me.  I know some people think it’s beneath their dignity to work with a white belt but I think it’s important.

SR Yes, it’s nice to have a clean sheet of paper to work with.

SA Yes it’s good.  But it’s a strange world.  So many changes, so many things taking place.  But if you are brought up properly you know what’s right and what’s wrong.  You have to rely on your education.  I hope that my students are getting that education.  Some people say to me that some of my students have left me.  I say that’s right, but whilst they were with me I gave them my full co-operation.  If they were black belts that I gave to them, they deserved it.  Any one I gave a black belt to was worth it.  Some say yes but look at what they are doing, but I can’t vouch for their character now – once they leave.

Let’s have a coffee!