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Karate in England dates back to 1957, and the founding of the British Karate Federation by Vernon Bell, the first British black belt. It remained a fringe activity until the mid-1960's, when Japanese instructors such as Hirokazu Kanazawa (Shotokan), Tatsuo Suzuki (Wado-ryu) and others arrived in the UK and began to teach. The popular TV show "The Braden Beat" also played its part; in 1966 a story circulated according to which Suzuki was reputed to be able to break a 6" block of wood with his bare hands. The Braden Beat got hold of the story and issued a challenge to him to demonstrate his ability live on TV. The challenge was disdainfully turned down by Suzuki, but was picked up by Kanazawa. He duly appeared on the programme and not only punched through the 6" thick block, but broke several other blocks with a variety of techniques.

I started my personal karate journey on 2nd November 1965, when I joined the Wearside Karate-Do Club in Hendon, Sunderland. Shortly after joining I attended a demonstration staged at the South Shields Marine Technical College. One of the star performers was a certain Peter Spanton, who was impressive even then as a green belt. Our club practised the Wado-ryu style*, and was affiliated to the All-Britain Karate-Do Association whose chief instructor was Tatsuo Suzuki. Although Suzuki was a superb exponent of the art he stifled the development of students by refusing to allow non-Japanese to conduct gradings, and was very reluctant to travel to the North-East. As a result it was 7 months before I could take my 8th kyu grading. This was conducted by Toru Takamizawa 3rd Dan. I had never seen a Japanese Black Belt in the flesh before and was highly impressed. He engaged in jiyu kumite with Bryan Crossley, a newly-graded 1st dan and gave him a hard time.

* Another club in Sunderland, the High Street Dojo, practised Shotokan, and was affiliated to the British Karate Federation.

In October 1966 I enrolled at Sheffield University - follow the links below for more details of my involvement with University karate in the 1960's and 1970's.

Sheffield University Karate Club

British Universities' Karate Federation

Karateka I have been privileged to know in their pre- black belt days include:-
Stan Knighton 8th Dan, Chief Instructor of the Shukokai Karate Union
Ritchie Noblett 8th Dan, Chief Instructor of the Welsh Bushi-Kai Karate Association
Vincent Morris 8th Dan, Chief Instructor of Kissakikai Karate-Do

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