I had one “so called” 1st Dan start at my club, who had no proof of his grading. I took his word for it, as he looked the part. After one year, he took his 2nd Dan under me; he then did his upmost to destroy this club.
He left and got a 3rd Dan after another year, 1st Dan to 3rd Dan in 18 months. The group of three with this “so called” Dan grade started another club behind my back. They said they were leaving because of family and jobs, all lies. They then contacted all the other members of the club and spun a tail of lies!
I started learning/practicing karate in 1968 as an adult, Wado-Ryu style. I was first interested in Judo, as I did not know that any karate clubs existed in England. I went along to the local judo club to have a look and what I saw was not what it said in the books. It seemed so unorganized, every one was doing their own thing, needless to say, I did not join in. What I did not know at that time was that judo had changed from the traditional to more sport judo.
One day in September 1968, I saw an advert in the local paper for a karate club starting a beginner’s class in Crewe, in a Church Hall. I went along to see and I was so enchanted by what I saw. The discipline, the etiquette, the kiai and the next minute complete silence, I was spellbound by all of this.
I was 24 years old and had never seen anything like this before, the instructor on this first session was a purple belt called Roy Eldon. As I was sitting watching, he approached me and asked me to join in. I was petrified, but he pulled me on to the floor and that changed my whole life forever. The next time I went, the instructor was a brown belt called Don Lawton, he was a very hard instructor. Both Roy and Don came from the Potteries twice a week, taking turns teaching for each session. There was around 25 Students at that time in the club. The highest grades in the club were two green belts (The Club actually first opened in April of 1968.)
I took my first grading on the 9th of April 1969, along with: Dave Warburton, John Simpson and Bill Gorski. The style of Karate at the Club at that time was Wado-Ryu. Near the middle of 1969, a Japanese instructor, called Kimura, came to the club, so the whole group changed over to the style of Shukokai at the latter end of 1969. We trained very hard in this style under many Japanese instructors, I got an invite to a Shotokan competition by Ron Church (KUGB) and when I mentioned this to the secretary of the SKU, I was told that I was not allowed to go there anymore!
This then started the change to the Shotokan style in 1982. I had never been to an open Course or Competition, so all I knew was Shukokai and little of Wado-Ryu, so I led a sheltered karate life for about 14 years.
Then, I got an invite to a Shotokan course by a KUGB Instructor, Ron Church. I was then invited to an 'open' karate competition, run by Cliff Hepburn (North Midland Open, one of the CHP Open Competitions) as a Referee. To put it mildly, I was amazed by the Standard of the 'kata' and 'kumite' (most of the competitors were KUGB, Shotokan).
I went along to this and felt a re-serge of enthusiasm for karate and began to go on Shotokan courses with some great instructors e.g. Masao Kawasoe Sensei, Steve Cattle Sensei, Dave Hazard Sensei and Rick Jackson Sensei. I have also trained with some great Shukokai instructors such as Kimura Sensei, Nambu Sensei, Ashima Sensei, Kamohara Sensei, Ikazaki Sensei, Suzuki Sensei, Yamada Sensei, Stan Knighton Sensei and Edward Daniels Sensei.
I have been competing in karate competitions since 1970:
1970 SKU national kata 2nd
1974 SKU kumite 3rd
1974 North of England SKU Kata 1st
1974 England SKU kata 1st
1975 North of England SKU Team kumite 3rd
1975 South of England team kumite 2nd
1975 South of England kata SKU 1st
1980 South of England SKU kata 3rd
I then started to enter open competitions:
1983 North Counties’ open 4th
1984 North Counties’ kata 2nd
1984 Central open kata 2nd
1984 Counties Masters kata 2nd
1984 Sports Council open kata 1st
1985 Midland open kata 3rd
Again I did not complete for another five years:
1990 Eastern open kata 1st
1991 Eastern kata 1st
I have also organized several large open competitions between 1983 and 1993, for ten years the North Midland open, the North Wales open, the Cheshire open, and several Sports’ Council competitions.
I have also been Chief Referee for several competitions, during these years i.e. Yorkshire Open, South of England Open, Welsh Open, East of England Open, North of England Open. I found my 'open years' to be the the best years, meeting and competing against some great Shotokan karateka such as: Cyril Cummins, John Errington, Simon Oliver, Baz Leeshue, Eddy Johnson, Frank Cope, Mike Dinsdale, Ian Burndred, Billy Tattum, Freddie Tonkmor, and Cliff Hepburn, who with Ron Church, brought me into the world of Shotokan.
During my time in karate, I have seen and experienced some strange and wonderful things. Like the time I was competing in a team event in the 70s, in the SKU (Shukokai) during the finals I was the last fighter on and we needed a draw to win. I was swept and stamped on and could not get up from the ground. The Referee was shouting at me to get up (I was fighting an international, one of his Students and his team) and I ended up in hospital with broken ribs and a collapsed lung, but he was not disqualified, he won the fight and the final.
On a Referees course I was told by a very 'Senior' Instructor and now Head of his own Association, quote " When I call the judges or judge together to discuss a point, I tell a joke (the Competitors and Spectators think we are discussing) because I have made up my mind anyway " some Karate Chief Instructor!
I have seen good things also, like the first time I met the great Steve Cattle, I walked past and he said "hi Syl". Afterwards, I asked him "how do you know my name?" He replied: "of course I know about you". That day I learned something more about karate, I don't for one minute believe that Steve Cattle knew anything about me, he was just being very polite.
In the early 80's I was asked to be the head the panel of judges of senior mens’ kata at a large competition. As we walked towards the area, one of the judges asked me what Grade I was, I said "I am a 2nd Dan", he said "I am a 4th Dan" (of course he should have been, the chief judge is a senior grade.) I then offered honour to him, and because I offered, he declined; this honorable karate man was Cyril Cummins, 6th Dan KUGB.
In 1986, I had the honour of being able to referee the senior mens’ kumite, one of the competitors was Frank Brennan 6th Dan KUGB, (probably the best all rounder, none Japanese karateka), when I awarded a point against him, he turned to me and bowed, I had never seen that before. Another lesson I learned that day, someone who believed in the 'way'. This is the way all karateka should behave, but sadly not.
Like I have said in the past, not all karate is karate and not all karateka are karateka. Gichin Funakoshi the founder of modern karate said: "what sometimes looks like karate, is not always karate".
I should say a few words here about a very clever man I met and who changed my life, Cliff Hepburn. He, along with Ron Church, changed the way I thought about karate, I owe a great amount to them. Cliff Hepburn had a way about him that could make you do things you thought you could not do. Sadly, since he moved to the USA I lost contact with him, but I will never forget him.