After spending a year in education in Reigate and Redhill – where I studied Wado-Kai – I then relocated to Hereford to continue my education. Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) - my Hakka Chinese gongfu master (and eventual relative through my marriage to a female relative) - had granted me permission to carefully select a local martial art (but only one at a time) and dedicate myself to its study. As Chinese gongfu was rare in the UK in those days – at least in public (although it had a vibrant presence behind closed doors and within family lineages) - it was generally thought that I would encounter mostly Japanese karate – but with each lineage having its origins within China at some point in its history. This turned-out to be a logical assumption. I had gained an ‘Orange Belt’ (7th Kyu) in Wado Kai. I first attended a Wado Ryu class in the centre of Hereford which had an instructor who wore a black gi top with white trousers whose attitude was superficial and intentions entirely mercenary. This style (and class) lacked the integrity of what I had experienced in Wado-Kai. He would not let me keep my grade and as I did not trust him, I declined his offer of starting again. I then discovered the Shukokai karate class held at Hinton Community Centre, in Ross Road, Hereford. As Sensei Tom Beardsley – the instructor – allowed me to keep my grade, this place would be my training home for the next two years or so. There was then one small (but warm hall) to the left of the main door, and a much bigger (but eternally cold) hall to the right. We trained mostly in the smaller hall, with special training days at weekends attracting far more people from all over the UK being held in the bigger hall (often with the highly ranked Eddie Daniels visiting, I think from Birmingham). In those days, this style was headed by O Sensei Kimura Shigeru (10th Dan) [1941-1995] originally from Japan – whom I trained-under in the late 1980s at a large training symposium held in Poole, Dorset. (If I remember correctly, the karate class travelled from Hereford to Poole on a specially hired coach). Like ‘Wado Ryu’, the Japanese term ‘Shukokai’ is written using the traditional Chinese characters of ‘修交会’. In the Chinese language this is pronounced ‘Xiu Jiao Hui’ and translates into the English language as ‘Cultivation - Gathering to Learn and Exchange – Association'. As Hereford, (at least in those days, was like a smaller version of London), is vibrant and cosmopolitan, the Shukokai classes attracted men and women, old and young and people from many different ethnic backgrounds. Some members were serving or former members of the British Army – including the Special Air Service (SAS). Some young men from Hereford were also members of ‘R’ Squadron (‘R’ standing for ‘Reserve’), of the local 22nd SAS Regiment. I trained alongside a man named ‘Robin’ who had been part of the SAS counter-terrorist raid at the Iranian Embassy in London in 1980, etc. The class was expertly guided by Sensei Tom Beardsley (then a 3rd Dan).
The Shukokai style (which has its roots in the Okinawan karate style of Shito Ryu), emphasised the generation of power through correct postural alignment and the robust use of the hip twist. This is not unique to this style, but in the 1980s, Sensei Kimura had developed this principle to a very fine art, whereby a student could be taught to harness their bodyweight and direct it through their hip twist into every conceivable karate technique, be it a punch, kick or a block, etc. Although the basis of many internal and external Chinese gongfu styles, O Sensei Kimura in many ways demystified this process and made it far more accessible to ordinary people. Westerners did not have to commit themselves to the spiritual aspects of the Asian arts, as O Sensei Kimura presented this teaching in a distinctly ‘modern’ and ‘secular’ manner. However, in the two years that I was present, I witnessed the style alter radically as its technique was continuously adjusted (week by week) to make the kata look more likely to ‘win’ competitions. As the style moved away from its traditional underpinnings, inevitably many of its students left. Not long after I left (with a group) in 1986, I was told that the style had left the Hinton Community Centre and had become a totally different entity. If I can locate my old Shukokai karate licence, I will photocopy this document and place it on this blog post. I learned a tremendous amount about ‘politics’ in the martial arts at this time in my life. As a traditional martial artist, I have no interest in grades, competitions or self-advancement. These things were incidental to my learning experience.
Shifu Adrian Chan-Wyles (b. 1967) - Lineage (Generational) Inheritor of the Ch'an Dao Hakka Gongfu System.