Sheffield University Karate Club

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In October 1966 I enrolled at Sheffield University and my karate came to a halt temporarily, as there was no club available to transfer to. During the spring of 1967 I attended a demonstration of Karate organised by the Sei-Do-Kan club. This organisation, whose 1st Dan instructors were Roy Stanhope, Danny Connor and Martin Stott, was based in Manchester and the demo was intended to recruit new members for the Sheffield branch. It was the first time I had seen Suzuki perform, and he was very impressive, as were the English Black Belts. I joined up for the new club, which trained in the Vestry Hall at the foot of The Moor. Sessions were taken by Roy Stanhope, who was a good instructor. One fellow member who was to become an illustrious karateka was Stan Knighton - I remember him as a purple belt. Unfortunately because of University holidays I kept missing grading sessions and it wasn't until November 1968 that I took my 7th kyu. My 6th kyu followed relatively soon after in February 1969.

karate poster

In November 1968 I posted a rather amateurish notice (above) in the Students' Union in Sheffield to gauge whether there was any interest in forming a University Karate Club. The response was encouraging, but I was about to get my first experience of Karate politics. Earlier in 1968 Suzuki had broken away from the BKA as it was now known and formed the United Kingdom Karate Federation. (Apparently this wasn't the first time he had broken away but this time the split was permanent). Some of the University students who responded to my notice attended a UKKF Club, the Hi-Ryu-Kan, in Sheffield. I desperately wanted to avoid having to affiliate to Suzuki's organisation, for a number of reasons, not the least of which was his narrow-minded view of other styles. I felt that a University Club should welcome all styles. Fortunately my views were shared by the students who formed the nucleus of the new club. The club later affiliated to the British Karate Association on the grounds that it was multi-style.

To further promote interest in the club a match was arranged with the Hi-Ryu-Kan club in February 1969, which ended in a 1-1 draw. A demonstration of wood breaking was given afterwards, and this resulted in a number of fresh members joining the club.

match report

The political side of things then became more complicated, as Roy Stanhope had switched to Shukokai, and it was clear that he would eventually make a full break with the BKA. It was at this point that Len Palmer of the BKA gave me invaluable advice and assistance. Among other things, he put me in touch with the Cardiff University Club who came to Sheffield on 15th March 1969 for a kumite and kata contest. They were led by Dave Mitchell and Richard Noblett who were both senior brown belts. They refereed and judged the kumite, in which Cardiff emerged the victors by winning the final contest, after the first four had been drawn. They then gave a demonstration of defence against tanto and katana, and of course the obligatory tameshiwari. We had given the event good advance publicity and a large audience turned up. At our next club session we were besieged by students wanting to join.

match report

In the summer of 1969 I hitch-hiked to Dale in Pembrokeshire (not an easy proposition from Newcastle!) and met up with most of the Cardiff University crowd for a week-long course under canvas with Pete Spanton. It was a tough experience in more ways than one; the conditions were primitive - getting into wet gis first thing in the morning is not the most pleasant way to start the day, and the training was hard - several participants pulled out by mid-week, and I failed my first attempt at brown belt. Richard Noblett passed his Shodan however, so I did have something to celebrate on the last night of the course.

Dale 1969  Dale 1969

Karate Course at Dale - September 1969

Richard Noblett - Shodan

Richard Noblett - Shodan

On returning to Sheffield for the new term I made contacts with other university clubs, and a further three matches were arranged:

Sheffield University v Liverpool University - at Sheffield 18th October 1969
Ari Franklinos (4th kyu)0Paul Wong (3rd kyu)½
Patrick Brennan (4th kyu)1V Yoon (3rd kyu)½
Keith Laidler (4th kyu)½J McLaughlin (6th kyu)0
Ion Protogerellis (7th kyu)0V Korotchenko (8th kyu)½
S Yoong (7th kyu)0Paul Wong (3rd kyu)½
Liverpool won 2pts - 1½pts

Sheffield University v Cardiff University - at Cardiff 8th November 1969
Ari Franklinos (4th kyu)½A Swinnerton (6th kyu)0
Patrick Brennan (4th kyu)½Keith McCormack (5th kyu)½
Peter Davy (6th kyu)½T Williams (6th kyu)0
R Hodgson (8th kyu)0B Wilshaw (7th kyu)1
M Langford (8th kyu)0J Coulson (8th kyu)0
Sheffield won 2-1 on bouts

match report

Sheffield University v Manchester University - at Manchester 29th November 1969
Ari Franklinos½P Murray0
Keith Laidler½, ½T Atherton0
Patrick Brennan1C Adcock0
Peter Davy0B Pickard½, ½
S Yoong0M O'Hare½, ½
Sheffield won 2½pts - 2pts

match report

Two weeks later I went for my 3rd kyu for the second time, and this time I passed, the examiners being David Mitchell and Richard Noblett.

Sheffield Championships

Patrick Brennan scores with mae tobi geri during the club championships
The referee is Bryan Crossley

Sheffield Championships

Keith Laidler (right), a Shotokan exponent, uses a classic Wado technique during the club championships

It was through the contact with Liverpool University that the club learned of the existence of the British Universities' Karate Federation. This body had been founded in 1968 by Liverpool University Martial Arts Club and representatives from a couple of local colleges. Its aim was to promote the growth of student Karate by staging an annual national student championship in February of each year. The Liverpool University Club had good links with the local Red Triangle (Shotokan - KUGB) club whose members included such up and coming stars as Terry O'Neill, and in consequence they received excellent support from the KUGB organisation.

Sheffield University Karate Club were invited to take part in the third BUKF championships at Liverpool on 14th February 1970, and as a warm-up to that event a match was arranged against Bradford University:

Sheffield University v Bradford University - at Bradford 30th January 1970
Ari Franklinos½J Rowland0
Peter Davy½Ken Stopani½, ½
Ion Protogerellis½, ½B Douglas0
T Ramsden½Favat0
A Crosby0E Wardman½
Sheffield won 2½pts - 1½pts

match report

The club sent two teams to the BUKF championships, both of which were eliminated in the first round. The A team lost 2 - 2½ to the previous year's champions, C. F. Mott, and the B team lost 1 - 4 to Nottingham University. I made it to the semi-finals of the individual kumite, where I lost to John Errington, the 1969 champion, and came runner-up in the kata event with a performance of Chinto. This was the occasion of an amusing incident involving Keinosuke Enoeda, who was the Senior Referee on the day. When I came to perform I stated the name of my Kata - Chinto. Enoeda clearly hadn't heard correctly, for when I had finished he shook his head and said "That is not Jitte." Terry O'Neill, who was one of the corner judges, went over and whispered in his ear. A broad grin spread across his face and he bowed to me. I also appeared in the team kumite final, drafted in as a substitute for an injured member of the C.F. Mott team, but despite winning my own bout C.F. Mott were forced to yield their title to Aberdeen.

Stung by their disappointing performance in the championships, Sheffield immediately challenged Aberdeen to a match. This took place at Aberdeen on 28th February 1970, where the champions re-emphasised their superiority by beating Sheffield 4½ pts - 2½ pts in a two-round contest. To make matters worse, Stuart Mireylees of the Sheffield team suffered a broken arm, and on the return journey home the team's car fell foul of a radar trap.

sheffield university karate club

R. Vatish (8th kyu), J. Liebeskind (6th Kyu), A. Fikri (6th kyu), D. Patchick (6th Kyu), J. Bolton (5th kyu), S. Bolton (4th Kyu), K. Thomas (7th kyu), R. Frazer (8th kyu)
J. Fleming (6th kyu), J. Coid (8th kyu), K. Burt (6th kyu), C. Crosby (6th kyu), J. Benns (7th kyu), R. Owens (7th kyu), J. Smith (8th kyu)
P. Brennan (President, 1st kyu), A. Franklinos (Captain, 1st kyu), P. Davy (Secretary, 3rd kyu), M. French (6th kyu)

I took one more grading during my time at Sheffield - on 9th May 1970 when Bryan Crossley graded me to 2nd kyu. My personal involvement with the Sheffield club came to an end that summer, when I moved to Newcastle University to continue my Ph.D. studies - and become a member of the Newcastle University Karate Club of course. I met up with my old colleagues on several occasions - at the BUKF championships in Nottingham University (1971) and Sheffield Polytechnic (1972), and also when we staged tri-cornered contests between Sheffield, Newcastle and Durham Universities. Eventually we all went our separate ways, but with fond memories of the time when we were pioneers of University karate.

During my time in Newcastle I achieved Shodan (4th December 1971), the examiner being Bryan Crossley. It would be 35 years before I would achieve Nidan - which I suppose is a record of sorts!

Patrick Brennan
November 2006

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