Did you ever invite Asano sensei to your dojo Nick?
Mick Randall along with my brother and myself were actually the first U.K.
instructors to invite Asano sensei to London. Initially, we organised
regular, fortnightly classes for Asano sensei which were held on Friday
evenings at the Winchmore-Hill dojo. Later on,
regular three or four monthly weekend courses were held there, and in
between the Saturday morning and evening classes of these weekend courses,
we would have our own, 'Private, two hour free-style & kata' class with Asano sensei. There were also weekend
courses which we organised with Kanazawa Sensei and Asano sensei and on
some occasions, Kato sensei would also come to teach. This type of training
regime, with Kanazawa sensei and Asano sensei continued from 1970 up until
1978. 1970 was incidentally when Mick, Chris and I were graded to Nidan (2nd Dan black belt) under Kanazawa Sensei and
Asano sensei. Whilst all of this was going on, Mick, Chris and I were
teaching four times per week at our own clubs and did our own, private, two
hour training sessions with each other which were held one or two hours
before the actual class that we were about to instruct. We did this whilst
working at various jobs from 9am to 5pm on and off.
It was during the 1970s that the JKA won the world karate championships in
Paris. I believe that sensei Tanaka, Osaka and Yahara
were members of the Japanese team that won. Did you get the chance be there
at these championships Nick?
No, unfortunately due to other personal family commitments, it was
impossible for me to be there. However, Kanazawa sensei, who was 7th Dan at
the time and coach for the Japanese team, along with Asano and Kato sensei
brought Masahiko Tanaka, Yoshiharu Osaka and Mikio
Yahara to the Winchmore-Hill
dojo. The class began by Kanazawa sensei introducing the three team members
to all of us after which he went through warming and limbering up exercises
and then took all of us through basic techniques. Once this was over, we
were asked to sit down. I knew we would be called up to pair up with these
phenomenal fighters and found a little reassurance in the fact that they
must have very good control.
Did you in fact you have to pair up with them?
Yes. They each called us up to perform Gohon-Kumite
(five step-sparring) with them. They were just phenomenal. Speed, power, kime, spirit. Impossible to block any of their attacks.
Did you have to do any other form of sparring Nick, or did you only have to
No, Jiyu-Kumite (free-style sparring) was next
and each of us paired up with one of the team members as Kanazawa sensei
watched over the whole proceedings.
Who paired up with who?
Well, although many students did pair up with the three Japanese team
members, I can only remember three bouts. The first one was my brother
Chris being paired up with Yahara sensei. I seem
to remember Chris doing his usual combination of step over Kizami-zuki, Mawashi-geri and
Gyaku-Zuki after which I think Kanazawa sensei
called "Yamae"! At the very instant
that Kanazawa sensei started the bout again as he called
"Hajime", Yahara sensei's leg was
snapping back from a jodan Mawashi-geri
to Chris's head and Chris was lying on his back practically knocked out. He
was that fast. The next person who paired up with Yahara
sensei was Gregory Durant. This bout lasted even less time than the
previous one as Yahara sensei's brilliant Mawashi-geri was out and back in a split second and
Gregg was on the floor, like my brother. Well, I had been watching all of
this and, as you can imagine, a lot of thoughts were going through my mind.
Fear was top of the list but I didn't want to miss such a brilliant chance
of facing this amazing karate-ka and formidable fighter. As soon as Gregg
was taken away I jumped up, bowed and said OSS and was invited up. I could
hear my heart beating in my head and ears I was so frightened and excited
all in one go. Standing in front of Yahara sensei
felt a bit like standing in front of a massive, stone object that was in
the process of toppling over and onto me. Suddenly he attacked and all I
could do was step backward. I thought, "I'm still here" Then he
attacked again and again with punches and kicks and all I could do was to
constantly step back and out of the way until I fell down as my legs gave
way. Kanazawa sensei' called "Yamae"
and although I got off quite lightly, I was nevertheless, disgusted with