Shukokai Karate Federation (SKF): Training with Sensei Kimura Shigeru - (1986) - Poole, Dorset! (7.9.2023)
I think that about 40 people from Hereford boarded a coach during the Spring or Summer of 1986 - and headed to Poole, Dorset - a journey of 134 miles in a Southerly direction! This journey took about 4 hours to complete and when we arrived we all booked into a hotel - with two-people per room. If memory serves me correctly, we trained on Saturday and Sunday - before returning back to Hereford on the Sunday evening. I am featured in this video in the photographs listed below. If it was 1986 - I would have either 18 or 19 years old depending on whether this event took place before or after the end of May!
We all trained in Shukokai Karate under Sensei Tom Beardsley at the Hinton Leisure Centre - although occasionally I understand that Tom Beardsley also taught at a number of other places. (I once graded on a Saturday morning in a small school training hall I never saw before or after)! I left the style in 1987 - along with many others - when the direction of the style started to locally depart from that advocated by Sensei Kimura - whom I got to talk to on the Course. As part of my overall gongfu training - I thoroughly enjoyed my time training with Shukokai and I learned a tremendous amount about hard-hitting! When Kimura's Shukokai was at its peak in Hereford - it was a thing of considerable beauty - and I will never forget the military connection or the kindness I experienced.
This is 'me' - a 'hard' and 'ferocious' warrior - on a secret gongfu mission to learn as much as I can about Japanese Karate whilst still in education, before returning to the practice of our family gongfu style! The above video was forwarded to me by my Goju Ryu Karate-Do teacher - Sensei Tony Smith 5th Dan - as I had no idea it existed! Although it is difficult to tell - I am either a 'Purple' or 'Brown' belt at the time!
Dear Tony (Sensei)
Exactly - well said. As you already know (these are really 'Notes' to clarify my own understanding - as I know you know) - real combat is fluid and requires an instantaneous adaptation. My view is that this ability stems from years of experience endlessly repeating the same movement - or patterns of movements (in a disciplined manner) - whilst participating in sparring (or various other types of fighting) - where all this ingrained activity comes out (due to necessity) and manifests in all kinds of weird and wonderful ways!
Usually, simplicity prevails over the complex in such situations defined through 'immediacy' - and much of the modern 'Bunkai' is so very intricate and diverse that I doubt any of it could be realistically applied in the few seconds required to nullify an attack AND take away an opponent's ability to effectively respond. (Whilst holding one of their arms - the opponent still has a head, one arm and two legs free to respond - more than enough to be effective).
When I think back to training with yourself in Hereford and Cardiff (and the Tensho Kata you demonstrated in Sutton) - I remember your weight being firmly 'dropped' (rooted) whilst you also seem to 'float' - like a cork bobbing about on the surface of the water! This manifestation is continuous and effortless whilst being retained whether you are standing still, moving (in any direction) or even sitting down.
From this foundation your arms and legs are 'moved' depending upon the Kata, Basic or exercise being demonstrated. I suppose what you are saying is that modern Bunkai focuses too much upon the movement of the arms and legs - but tends to by-pass (or 'ignore') the need to be 'rooted' and to 'move' properly from this root.
Person Featured: Adrian Chan-Wyles
Location: Back Garden - 29 Siddalls Gardens, Tiverton, Devon EX16 6DG
Time of Year: Late Summer - August-September
Year: c. 1987
Photographer: Cousin visiting from Oxford - with her family.
I would often practice Shukokai Karate-Do (and our Chinese gongfu family style) in the back garden of my parental home during the Summer Holidays of the academic year (when I was studying at college in Hereford). Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) had given me the task of surreptitiously practicing various lineages of Japanese Karate-Do and studying the Chinese cultural origins of these martial arts! My cousin caught me performing the various 'Katas' - the 'middle' photograph is 'Yoi' in Japanese Karate-Do - or the 'Ready' and 'Alert' posture and attitude assumed prior to (and after completing) the performance of the various 'Pinan' Katas - and then carried-on watching whilst I performed the Chinese gongfu 'Basic Form One' [小形一 - Xiao Xing Yi] (the 'lower-block' performed in 'Horse Stance' in the third photograph on the right) - and the 'flying front-kick' found in the '3rd Advanced Form' (離拳- Li Quan) from our Longfist style (first photograph on the left)! From 1983-1984 I practiced one-year of Wado Kai (Southern Karate-Do) in Reigate and Redhill, I then trained in the Shukokai Karate-Do Federation (SKF) between 1984-1987, and then Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do (1987-1989) - both in Hereford. I also occasionally trained in the odd Dojo here and there around Devon (usually 'Shotokan') and I trained in Goju Ryu in Finchley (North London) a few times. However, as I matured and my mind and body developed into the inner and outer structures required by our family (Hakka) gongfu style - my experiment with other martial arts ended around 1993 as I started moving out of my youthful days. Eventually, once a style is properly practiced - then the inner (chemical) and outer (physical) body transforms into the 'shape' the style requires so that the correct 'functions' (or 'techniques') are developed. This means that eventually the techniques of other styles cannot be practiced in a deep or fundamental manner as the building blocks are completely different. Of course, this does not mean that nothing can be learned from other styles - but the profound knowledge must be transformed (or 'translated') into the dialectical language of the style that has been regularly practiced. In other words, when traditional martial arts are practiced over long periods of time - the inner and outer mind and body 'change' due to the continuous effort being exerted in a particular direction. When young, however, the energy channels in the body are still malleable and flexible - but this changes with age and experience.
For about a six-month time period between 2005-2006 - myself and a number of Chinese friends would get into a car and drive the three and a half hour journey from Sutton in South London - to Hereford to train with Sensei Tony Smith 5th Dan of Goju Ryu. At some point in all this activity, Tony Smith invited us to a martial arts symposium in Birmingham held on one Sunday (I think in Summer). This had hundreds of people attending, all demonstrating their own particular martial arts and this is exactly where I had the honour to meet (and talk) with Sensei Frank Johnson 6th Dan. Although my family style is (Chinese) Hakka Gongfu - Master Chan Tin Sang (1924-1993) instructed me to explore other styles whilst travelling around the country as a young student. This is where I encountered 'Southern Karate-Do Wado Kai' - and where I trained under Sensei Alan Bound 1st Dan (1983-1984). I was told that this was a lineage emphasising a return to the principles of 'traditional' Wado Ryu! This why I was very interested in talking to Frank Johnson as I believe Wado Ryu is a very advanced and sophisticated style emphasising the highest level of 'internal' awareness and development. Wado Ryu is like Taijiquan where exact positioning and timing is used - coupled with the use of dropped (and rebounding) bodyweight - which replaces the need for forceful muscle contractions (which wastes and depletes the available 'external' energy). Obviously, muscle-contractions can be used - but only when required rather than as a matter of habit. When I shook Frank Johnson's hand - and put my arm around his shoulders in 'thanks' for him signing my book - I sensed immediately the advanced state of his mind and body. This is an ability following years of advanced Taijiquan 'Pushing-Hands' practice - and the need to quickly assess anyone who walks into our training hall!
Hereford: Sensei Tony Smith (5th Dan) Presents Me with a 'Rare' Okinawan Goju Ryu Karate-Do Badge! (2005)
Despite my best efforts, and after hours of research on the Japanese-language internet, I have not been able to locate a single article about Sensei Kimura – although I have managed to reconstruct his name using the Chinese ideograms still used in Japan – placing his family name ‘Kimura’ (denoting a ‘tree village’) first, and his first name (‘Shigera’ meaning ‘talented’) second. This is the normal traditional placing in China, Japan and Korea, which is the exact opposite of the convention that has developed in the West. When coming to the West, for instance, many Asians rearrange the placement of their names in accordance with the Western custom. The lack of any written evidence for Kimura Shigera in Japanese language sources probably reflects the fact that he became famous outside of Japan. He is mentioned a number of times within Western (English) sources, and was considered an expert in ‘power hitting’. Not only this, but his understanding of body-mechanics was so profound and exact that his teaching of Shukokai technique eventually became considered a separate and unique branch of the style. Once, when attending a seminar in Poole, Dorset in the mid-1980s – I witnessed Sensei Kimura execute a perfectly timed mid-level front kick into a foot-thick striking pad held by a large Western man. The recipient flew upwards a couple of feet and then fell backward about 6 feet and came crashing to the ground. The next day, this large and stout practitioner of Shukokai (from Hereford) had a large ‘blackened’ bruise across the entirety of his abdomen area – despite 12 inches of foam rubber having absorbed the shock of the power! I find it interesting that Sensei Kimura managed to separate the ‘power’ producing aspect of karate from the religious and/or spiritual elements of traditional karate, and express that process in sound scientific concepts. For a standard biography of Sensei Kimura Shigeru – please reference the link below:
As I cannot access any reliable Japanese language texts regarding Sensei Kimura’s biography at this time, I cannot confirm any of these facts that appear in English. Certainly, when I trained with him in the 1980s, I had no idea of his past and assumed he had travelled to the UK from Japan. He appears to have left Japan for the White Minority ruled Southern African countries of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and South Africa in the early 1960s, although he eventually left and migrated further to the US. I have written elsewhere (although not on this blog) how US Cold War policy called for the spread of the same Japanese martial culture used in WWII (against the West) throughout the West to negate what was viewed as a possible diasporic Chinese culture sympathetic to ‘New China’ established in 1949. This false economy, if you like (which saw Western governments use domestic taxpayer's money to employ supposed ‘Karate Ambassadors’ from Japan), came crashing down when the US established full diplomatic links with Mainland China in 1979. By 1989 the traditional karate scene in the UK had completely disintegrated. Before 1979, karate classes in the UK would be held using Japanese terms and instructions, but by say 1989, this was already becoming a thing of the past which is non-existent today. One thing I can say is that as far as my experience of Shukokai was concerned, the classes in the UK were always multicultural.
PS: As far as I am aware, the ‘double hip twist’ which Shukokai is famous far was modified by Sensei Kimura. This technique (in its original form) used to involve one side of the hip being pulled back and then forcibly pushed forward to execute a technique (left-hip for left reverse punch for example) - but by the time I was training in Shukokai a basic time-saving guard position had been developed - whereby the hip was already held in the ‘pulled back’ position. Therefore, with the left leg forward, the right hip was already pulled back and ready to go.
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.