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!
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.