MY KARATE JOURNEY THROUGH TIME
By Sensei Robin G. Reid – Senior Warden Shotokan Karate Lodge No.9752
My first experience of martial arts was around 1972 when I joined Wu-Shu Kung Fu under Shifu (Master) Slade in Bedford at a small hut in Mabel Road. I really enjoyed the type of training and it tied in with the beginning of the Kung Fu films in cinemas during the late 1960’s such as “The One-Armed Swordsmen, Kung-Fu the head Crusher and many more by the Run Run Shaw Brothers who were at the time directors of Kung-Fu Films out of Hong Kong.
In 1974 I took a day off school and went to the Odeon Leicester Square London to watch Enter the Dragon which starred the Legendary Bruce Lee, at this point training at Wu-Shu club was 25p per session, but after the Bruce Lee explosion the fees started creeping up to the point I could not afford to attend anymore, I had to pay my mother board money, my new Palm Beach red bicycle was on credit and training the last time I paid for training it was £1.75p per session and my paper round was only £4.00 per week (Mother said if I cannot afford to go don’t go) That was the end of my Kung Fu Days.
Work and Martial Arts
I started my Engineering Apprenticeship in September 1974 at RKB in Sandy and for the first two years I used to cycle from Bedford to Sandy and back four times a week with one day at Mander Technical College Bedford. Whilst at work in 1976 one of the lads was taking about Karate how good it was, I told him he was talking rubbish “Kung Fu is much better…in fact Wu-Shu is the best”, so he asked me “well why not come and give Karate a try…”
So, I did, this was in Biggleswade Bedfordshire and the Instructor was Sensei Charlie Potter. After the first session he told me that I have not got what it takes to be a Karateka so did not expect to see me next week (well I thought I will show you Mr Karate man!) I turned up the following week and again he said the same thing to me this went on for 3 weeks, every week I would turn up and to my surprise he did not say it the fourth week (at the time I did not understand why he kept saying that to me but in time you understand)
By now I had my own car and was driving here, there, and everywhere keeping up my new love of Martial Arts “Shotokan Karate”. Then one day Sensei Potter said that I could attend a training and grading in Bedford and it will be under his teacher Mr Kanazawa (RIP) who was the head of the Shotokan Karate International (SKI) so from a small club of about 15 members on Saturday March 1981 the Dojo was full of around 1500 students and on that day all the 10th Kyu white belts passed their grading to yellow belt…what a day!
My Shotokan journey gained momentum through the Kyu levels reaching a point when we could train at Queensway Hall in Dunstable on Sundays aimed at students who were going for their Brown and Black belt grading’s.
I remember it well those Sunday morning’s sitting in the corridor of the centre I heard these loud footsteps coming down the corridor and to saw the students sitting down all stood up and bowed (I did not understand why) the person coming down the corridor. When he reached me, he stopped and looked at me still sitting on the floor (the look made me stand up!) I followed the example of the person next to me and bowed, I had no idea that this was Sensei Shiro Asano the European chief instructor of SKI and on that day, he failed all the students going for Black belts except for one, Mr Madison Dass who trained at Bedford…what a day!
Sometime after obtaining my Sho-dan Black belt some instructors broke-away forming groups in a different area in Bedfordshire, so you went one way, and others who lived in a different area stayed. Because my address was Bedford, I could not train at Biggleswade unfortunately, so I had to train at Bedford (Politics) which I did not understand so, at this point I became part of the ESKA (English Shotokan Karate associations) and one of the founder members was Sensei Michael Randall MBE who was also a founder and Past Master of the Shotokan Karate Lodge No.9752. Again, after several years another split came when T.A.S.K was formed (Traditional Shotokan Karate association) by Sensei John Van Weenen. I trained with Sensei Van Weenen for around 9 years and during that that time I graded to Sandan (3rd Dan)
In January 1985 four TASK students, Mr Gursharan Sahota, Roy Hazelwood, Lawrence Alcock, and myself travelled to Japan and trained for 6 weeks under Kancho Kanazawa the chief instructor of the Shotokan Karate International SKI) headquarters in Yotsuya in Shinjuku Japan.
There are many interesting stories I could tell on my Martial Arts training experience but that will be for a later date…
In September 1990 I left TASK and formed my own Association Katsu Academy of Shotokan Karate Association (K.A.S.K.A).
Today the academy thrives, at the four dojos in Leighton Buzzard, High Wycombe, Werrington Peterborough, and Spalding Lincolnshire.
Black Belt Grading History
After Kyu Gradings from 1978-1983 I achieved my 1st Black belt (Sho-Dan) on the 11th of September 1983 a very memorable day.
1986 2nd Dan (Ni-Dan)
1990 3rd Dan (San-Dan)
1993 4th Dan (Yon–Dan)
2001 5th Dan (Go-Dan) Hanshi Asano
2011 6th Dan (Roko-Dan) Hanshi Asano
2018 7th Dan (Shichi-Dan) Hanshi Asano
I joined the English All Styles Karate Association under the guidance of Shihan Harvey Barker which was under the umbrella of the English Karate Governing Body I believe at the time the Secretary was Mr Michael Dinsdale, Founder and Past Master of the Shotokan Karate Lodge No. 9752. This was very good training, not only in Shotokan Karate but also Dim Mak which is pressure point training. Sensei Barker loved teaching Army unarmed Combat techniques from the Far East, sadly Sensei Barker is no longer with us.
By 1994 I was fully independent with my own Association, but I still trained with Sensei Barker. During the next few years, I was invited by my old friend Lawrence Alcock to train with an Instructor called Ken Davis at Milton Keynes it was brutal, pure Shotokan, loved it.
A quick story…I used to pick Lawrence up at his home in Milton Keynes but before we set off for training, we would cut our hair on our heads so that we could look mean in the Dojo, alas it did not work! but we kept doing it anyway, great days of training. Mr Davis mentioned that he had a grading coming up soon, and would I like to attend the training, I said yes straight away! But he then mentioned that it was with the SKI Chief instructor of Europe Hanshi Asano (remember the footsteps along the corridor March 1981) what a training session.
The following week it was happening again at Houghton Regis Dojo (Dunstable Bushido Karate Club) the resident instructor there was Sensei Gary Jones, again fantastic training sessions. Afterwards several of Sensei Jones senior students trained with the Great Sensei Charlie Potter, it was so pleasing to know and see that we are still linked in the Shotokan karate family. At every opportunity I would train with Hanshi Asano around the UK, in Germany and of course Milton Keynes and Dunstable. Sadly, Sensei Ken Davis is no longer with us (RIP Ken San) his dojo has long since gone but those fond memories are still with me.
On the 18th of August 2018 I was awarded the Wilkinson Sword of Honour, a prestigious trophy awarded to students who uphold the true spirit of Karate, very honoured what a prize.
After nearly 50 years I am still training every Tuesday night at the SKI Honbu Nottingham which is around a 196-mile round trip for 1 hour of the most incredible training, I’m very privileged and humbled and as long as the body will allow me I’ll continue training….
Keep training, keep going right till the end…Oss.
My Freemasonry journey began in 2003 when W. Bro Sensei Robert Venn proposed me into the Shotokan Karate Lodge, a great honour for me when I was initiated on 11th October 2003 at Freemasons hall Great Queens street by W. Bro Sensei Michael Randall.
I was passed to the second degree in October 2004 by the Worshipful Master and Brethren at Lodge of Love Friendship Lodge No. 6123 at Baker’s Hall Harp Lane London. The following October 2005 was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason by the SKL master W. Bro Simon Gillas at Freemason’s Hall Great Queen Street London.
In 2006 W. Bro John Green the then Secretary of SKL proposed me into the British Sub-Aqua Chapter No. 8997 and on the 18th of February 2006 was Exalted in the Holy Royal Arch in Freemason’s Hall.
As I lived in the Bedford area, I was keen to join a local Lodge, and this was fulfilled when my great friends W. Bro Sensei Bernard Coppen and W. Bro Sensei John Caves proposed me into their lodge Bedford Castle No. 6124. Another dear friend was also a member of BCL, W. Bro Derek Barnett. In February 2017 I became a joining member of Bedford Castle Lodge meeting at the Keep, Bedfordshire Masonic Centre Kempston Bedfordshire.
In December 2021 I hope to become the 15th Worshipful Master of the Shotokan Karate Lodge.