For educational purposes, I lived in Hereford from September, 1984 – July 1988. Prior to this I had spent a year living in Reigate and Redhill. Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) had suggested that whilst travelling for education, I should attend whatever local martial arts training was available, and in the case of the karate styles, try to discern the Chinese gongfu roots. I spent a year training in Wado-Kai Karate-Do under Sensei Alan Bound in Reigate, but when I arrived in Hereford, I was swept along into the local Shukokai class taught by Sensei Tom Beardsley 4th Dan (I will write about this separately). However, in 1986 I was informed about a traditional Goju Ryu class in Hereford – I think from am advert in the magazine entitled ‘Karate and Oriental Arts’ - taught by Mr Tony Smith. This was in Hereford Leisure Centre (I think on Wednesday and Friday nights), with a Sunday training in the countryside. These classes were extraordinary and reminded me of our traditional Hakka Chinese gongfu style. The emphasis upon heavy (muscle and bone) body-conditioning was so familiar to me that it felt like a ‘returning home’. This Okinawan approach was obviously ‘Chinese’ in manifestation – just as Wado-Kai and Shukokai were typically ’Japanese’. The grading system of coloured-belts was similar (with some differences), but the gradings were so hard and infrequent that those that focused on Goju training had to psychologically and physically commit themselves to levels of dedication I had not seen in any other Karate Training Hall (or ‘Dojo’). Practitioners, led by Tony Smith and his assistants, trained to the point of utter exhaustion – and then moved into new dimensions of existence! As a 10th Kyu white-belt, I had to undergo a three-hour grading session (under ‘Sensei Bill’ 3rd Dan and his equally highly graded partner - whom I met again many years later, by accident at a dinner party) to earn my 9th kyu – a white belt with one black tag. As matters transpired, I was granted two grades in one examination (together with a friend named Ashwin Bulsara) and left with an 8th kyu grade – a white belt with two black tags which I still possess today, and am very proud of. I was living a double martial arts life at the time, being a practitioner of Hakka gongfu since a young child. I managed to train for about 18 months solid in Goju Ryu in Hereford, but trained for much longer when back home in Devon (between my required but secretive gongfu lessons). I made contact again in 2000 with Tony Smith via telephone and the internet and we became good friends. Since my formulative days in Hereford, I had married British Chinese woman born in Hong Kong, had inherited our family gongfu style and was teaching classes of my own. For about two months in 2005, I had a friend who was driving near to Cardiff once a week and she agreed to visit Hereford en route and we trained with Tony Smith in a different hall (somewhere near the centre of Hereford). Tony also stayed a few times in our home in South London and I was happy (and honoured) to meet his partner and sons. As an author, I wrote an article about Tony Smith and it was published (in two parts) in the ‘Traditional Karate’ magazine in 2007 (please see below). Around 2007 Tony introduced me to Mr George Andrews 8th Dan at his training hall in the Elephant and Castle part of London.
My Chinese gongfu teacher (living in Sutton) - Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - advised me to ‘explore’ the many martial arts that were then around, bearing in mind that virtually all Japanese karate has its roots in the Chinese gongfu styles imported into Okinawa from China’s Fujian province over the last few hundred years. As long as this exploration was carried-out away from Sutton (where I did not live at the time), there was no problem despite the memories of the Japanese atrocities carried out in China still being fresh in the minds of the elderly members of the British Chinese community (many of whom had witnessed these barbarous acts, been subjected to them or lost relatives). Whilst attending college in the Reigate area, myself (and a friend – Robert Townsend) decided to make a study of a Japanese school of karate. As we started in September, 1983 and only had to July, 1984 at this college, our study would be relatively short, but committed. The classes were held once a week (I think Tuesday evenings – 730pm-9pm) at the Sovereign Leisure Centre, and conducted by Sensei Alan Bound 1st Dan (at the time).
We did not know what style this was to start with, but just turned-up (we were both 16 years old). It turned-out to be administered by the ‘Southern Karate-Do Wako Kai’ association which interpreted its mission as returning to the ‘true’ of the Wado Ryu (和道流) style founded by Hironori Otsuka (1892-1982) - who had only passed away the year before. It was felt that the original ‘spirit’ of Wado Ryu had been departed from, and a return to the ‘Way of Peace’ was needed. Within the Chinese language ‘和道流’ is pronounced ‘He Dao Liu’ - and means ‘Harmonious Way Tradition’. Like many ‘old’ traditions in Japan, Chinese ideograms are used to describe its principles. In this style I was taught power through correct positioning. There was no body conditioning such as in my family gongfu style, but a practitioner was taught to assume a superior psychological and physical positioning from the very beginning (which eventually culminates in ‘enlightenment’ for those who pursue the spiritual aspects), a dominance which is maintained in combat through continuously out-manoeuvring an opponent so that they cannot set themselves to deliver their best techniques against your body. Within our Ch’an Dao System, this is reflected in the principles of aligned power and correct approach found within Taijiquan (and internal martial arts), although Wado Ryu has part of its roots in Jujitsu. We generated power through exact movement and we learned a reverse-punch drill I have never seen in any other karate style (involving ‘snake’ stepping). Sensei Alan Bound was a very good and talented teacher.
Eventually, the classes (which always seemed to have around 20 or 30 people attending), were moved to the Scott Hut next to Redhill train station. The spiritual message was that if you align yourself with the deepest and loving principles of the universe (and do not conflict with life), then you will be invincible in the face of untoward violence and harassment. I have a soft spot for Wado Kai (and genuine Wado Ryu) despite the fact I am a Hakka Chinese martial artists! As young students, Sensei Alan Bound gave use a karate suit each and allowed us to pay for it over a few weeks. He was a gentleman! We successfully graded for our yellow belts (and probably our orange belts) - I think we travelled to Guildford to do this (and were graded under Sensei Barry Wilkinson 4th Dan) – and many years later, whilst looking through boxes of old documents and academic work, I came across my Wado Kai ‘licence’ and a grading certificate! It is my belief that Wado Ryu could do a lot of good bringing the Chinese and Japanese communities together! Thank you Sensei Alan Bound for enriching our lives!
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.