My name is Andy Brown, I’m a 53 year old male who lives on the west coast of Scotland. I’ve been practicing Shotokai karate with Kyle Karate Club and have reached the level of 1st Dan Black belt. Shotokai was developed by Sensei Mitsuzuke Harada and brought to the UK in the 60’s when he moved here.
Over the years since then there have been some splits within the original group which has left us independent. We still recognise Sensei as the developer of our style even if we no longer have the opportunity to practice with him.
I, like so many others, got interested in martial arts during the time of the Bruce Lee movies. I tried Kung Fu from books (nearly permanently damaged my knee – ALWAYS go to a club with a good instructor!), Aikido, Judo, Sport karate and finally Shotokai.
I’m not an aggressive person and found that I was regularly getting injured when sparring at sport karate so gave it up. It did however give me enough knowledge to know that it was some form of karate that I wanted to study. I looked around locally and finally found Kyle.
Shotokai karate is closer to the traditional karate taught by Gichin Funakoshi and puts emphasis on relaxation and gaining a rapport with your opponent. In this way, you can react to his/her attacks almost as soon as they start.
Because of this relaxation and timing you find you have plenty of time to avoid your attacker. We also practice sensing your opponent’s body condition and movement with light touch. When you combine this with the previous you find that it takes very little “assistance” to cause your opponent to lose balance. This is the essence of our practice.
Some of the higher grades (3rd Dan and above) can take this to extremes and actually stop you attacking them by seeming to attack you a fraction of a second before you move to attack them. I can assure anybody who doubts this that it is possible. I have personally experienced it on numerous occasions and can tell you that it is the most frustrating thing I’ve felt.
Although we practice full contact (we don’t touch and pull back as is done in sport karate) we spend a lot of time training to maintain a safe distance and get out of the way when an attach comes. Even if you are hit, it’s nothing like as hard as it would be if you were standing still. I have to say that incidents like that are few and far between in our club. There is an atmosphere of helpfulness instead of the competitiveness I’ve seen in other clubs. Yes, we practice hard and try to catch our opponents. In that way they will get better and in turn put pressure on us to improve.
When I started with Kyle many years ago I promised myself “When I stop enjoying this I’d stop practicing”. I think the fact that I’m still a member says it all …….