Traditional Karate

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					                                      Academy of Karate-do Goju-Ryu
                                                                 Three Valleys Karate club
                                         Karate taught for fitness & effective self defence
                       Instructors: Steve Johnson Tel..01923 710156 or 07979 316205
                                                          Graham Copperwhite Tel..01442 403399 or 07801 677668

Traditional Karate
An interview with Goju Ryu's Shihan
Tony Christian (7th Dan BKA)
by Sensei Tony Bewley 4th Dan BKA

It has been seven years since we have last seen an in depth interview with Sensei Tony Christian, in
Traditional Karate.
Since then there have been significant changes as he has recently been presented with his 7th Dan from the
British Karate Association.

Having trained with Sensei Christian for nearly eighteen years, I thought it was time that one of his students took
the time to do an in-depth interview. Being one of his 4th Dans, I thought that he might be a bit more candid, but
as I think about it now, Sensei Christian shows the same enthusiasm with anyone who is interested and shares
his passion for the martial arts. As anyone who has met him already knows that he is one of the most affable
and approachable Karate Masters within the Karate World.

The interview took place at Sensei Christians house plied with plenty of tea and biscuits, he is nearly as famous
for his hospitality as he is for his Karate Skills.

Sensei Christian was born in Liverpool in 1947 and started Martial Arts training in 1965 being involved with
many aspects of the martial arts and becoming one of the first professional Goju Ryu instructors in Great Britain.

He has studied the style of Okinawan Goju from 1970 and in 1975 he brought Sensei Terou Chinnen one of the
great Okinawan Masters to the Northwest . He is at present the most senior instructor for the B.K.A. and is
ranked as 7th Dan. Any Karateka worth their salt should look him up and train at his Dojo in Wigan where they
will find plenty of mature blackbelts and a mass of experience.

TRADITIONAL KARATE: What was Karate like when you first started?

Tony Christian. The martial arts when I first started were very primative and in the early days the clubs were
not very big. In Liverpool. there were two main styles Wado Ryu and Shotokan. In those days most of the
instruction came from Japanese instructors, so really it was like the blind leading the blind.

TRAD: What aspects of training do you concentrate on now?

Tony Christian. I think the more years you spend in the Martial arts, you see all the different aspects and you
should go with what ever mood your in, if you fancy doing Kata you do Kata, if you fancy kicking a bag, kick a
bag , self-defence or bunkais do do that. Do what ever you free at the time.

The danger with the Martial arts is if you specialise in one area you loose ground in other areas. So if you
specialise in Kata your free fighting will not be very good or if you specialise in free fighting your self-defence will

What you try and do is a little bit of everything. What I do not do in training is one lesson kicks, one lesson in
weapons or one lesson in Kata because that does not seem to work. I try to do a little bit of everything in the
lesson "like catching raindrops", and then everybody gets a little bit of each area. Hopefully they stay a long time
and their knowledge and skill gets better and deeper.

TRAD: Do you teach children differently to adults?

Tony Christian. When I started running a full time Dojo in 1980 it was very difficult to fill the Dojo every night,
you can get your adult students to train 3-4 nights a week, but after that they can't do much more. So we brought
children in twice a week.

                                     Academy of Karate-do Goju-Ryu
                                                                 Three Valleys Karate club
                                        Karate taught for fitness & effective self defence
                       Instructors: Steve Johnson Tel..01923 710156 or 07979 316205
                                                        Graham Copperwhite Tel..01442 403399 or 07801 677668
The first thing you have to do with children is change Karate because it is too dangerous especially Goju-Ryu,
being a combat system. Then it dawned on me why Martial arts has changed. Probably, what happened was
that instructors in my early days would be teaching like they had been taught as children when they were 15 or
16 (in Japan). Because as you get older you realise that a lot of techniques of old Martial arts and old kempo of
Kanryo Hiagonna and other teachers of that time must have been totally different, real combat systems. Modern
Karate moved through the teaching of children and went into sport.

Before the war in the old Kempo systems they probably did not teach many children. So you water Karate down
for children you don't do any eye strikes, knife hand strikes or any self-defence.

For children the emphasis should be character, health, and Kata training, with all dangerous things taken out.

A lot of adults especially after thirty are not interested with sport, sport is a young person thing, were at were at
15-20 you're obsessed with sport.

That is why I think children are different and that you have got to teach them in a basic manner.

TRAD: Have you changed the way you teach?

Tony Christian. I think the human mind expands with knowledge over time, the danger with teaching a beginner
is that a beginner can only absorb so much, like a small cup.

So if you teach a beginner something long and complicated, the beginners cup then overflows. Over the years I
lost a lot of good students by mixing Thai Boxing, Kick Boxing and Karate. I could handle it but the students
couldn't. I remember training with a mate who is a Thai Boxer for a bit of fun but the students got confused. I
think it's a matter of absorbtion, so you change the way you teach because you understand.
The teacher's knowledge becomes vast because you take in so much, but when you're teaching you try to
channel it so it is enough for that student at that time. That is how I've changed initially I didn't teach a great
deal, and then there was a time I knew a great deal and tried to teach a great deal which was bad. Now I know
massive amounts but I try and impart the right level of information at the right time to the right student so I don't
destroy them.

The White belt is happy learning a stance, the green belt is happy struggling through basic Kata and the black
belt is struggling with free fighting. So a good teacher doesn't flood the student, he teaches the right amount at
the right time. Hence that is why we have Black Belt training.

Some great masters you think they don't know a great deal but it's probably only that the masters teaching what
he thinks is they can handle. Like I said in the beginning the only thing that upsets people with me is that I really
love Karate more than anything else and it's not for sale. Like you're a nice guy who is a 5th Dan and you don't
have to train. No you get your GI on and train if you don't you're a drop out

TRAD: What is the purpose of Kata?

Tony Christian. I think it is simpler to look at Kata going back to the very early days, pre war, when there was
no television or video, Kata was the way of passing a message. As most people couldn't read or write the only
way of passing on the message was through Kata. The Kata was the lesson from the Masters

Going back over hundreds of years especially the pure Kata that has not been changed. If the Kata has been
changed then it is dangerous. The Goju Ryu Kata that Sensei Chinnen has shown me has not changed much
over the years and I have not attempted to change them either. Kata is not important if you are a sportsman
doing sport Karate a kick is a kick a punch is a punch.
If you want to learn self-defence locks and throws, they are all contained in the Kata but you have got to find

I see Kata as a source of knowledge for self-defence, health and enjoyment. Now Sensei Chinnen sees then as
an art form therefore whatever you put into Kata you get out.

The thing to remember in the Martial Arts is that you can get lost and think too much, so that you start thinking of
spiritual enlightenment. As you become older, now I'm in my fifties you realise you don't know much about life.
You see your parents or friends die of cancer and then you understand that you can't be a prophet and say you

                                     Academy of Karate-do Goju-Ryu
                                                                 Three Valleys Karate club
                                        Karate taught for fitness & effective self defence
                       Instructors: Steve Johnson Tel..01923 710156 or 07979 316205
                                                        Graham Copperwhite Tel..01442 403399 or 07801 677668
know it all because you don't and to say that Kata brings spiritual enlightenment or understanding of life is a little
bit heavy.

Whatever you get out of them is up to you, it is like the famous Zen adage, when the man says what will I get
out of twenty years of training? You do not really know what he will get out of twenty years training. How long is
a piece of string.

TRAD: What is your opinion about Chi?

Tony Christian. The greatest thing about Sensei Chinnen for me, is when we met him we were very immature,
in the Martial Arts, thinking you could jump over buildings and punch through 7 inches of wood. Sensei
Chinnen's philosophy was that Karate was no big deal he classed it like playing football, you train hard at
football you become a good footballer, Karate is the same.

Chi is spoken about quite a lot in Karate and I think there is something magical in the Martial Arts. Chi is I think
just an energy. The best example is like when you see the old Karate masters perform in their later years, it is
like an actor who can still go on stage even though he is very old and still perform. So Chi is defiantly playing
with the energies of your body, an example of this is some people are lazy, some people like to sit quietly, and it
depends on the energies that they are bringing up.

So I think the Martial Arts is an energy enhancing exercise. It's a place where you can go and get energy. You
can go into the Dojo and really kick some Chi in as it really lift you. Like people go to church and sing hymns, it
can really lift you, that's what Karate has, a real big positive plus energy giver. Whether you can hit people with
out touching them? No I don't think so after thirty years plus in the Martial Arts, you would be better hitting them
with a good right hand.

I do honestly think that there is more to the Martial Arts but not as much as I thought when I was younger it is
probably half and half

TRAD: What motivates you after 30 years?

Tony Christian. "It's exciting" it is what I said before it is an energy plus. In life what happens to people as they
get older they close down, then they close down their friends and passions. When they were younger they
played football they do not any more; also they used to go a lot to, say the cinema or dancing with their wives
they don't do that any more, as they get older they close down and down.

The Martial Arts stops you closing down because when you go to the Dojo there are young people i.e. children,
so you can not close down because they are feeding off you. I'm 50 plus and mixing with 30 year old men and
you pick up the energy off the 30 year olds, it is that which keeps you young and that is what I love about the
Martial Arts. I love the training it stops you closing down.

I'm still opening up and want to do things but when I see people my age they did things yesterday "well I used to
do this and I used to do that". In the Martial Arts it is I'm going to do this tomorrow I'm going to get better for the

TRAD: Have you ever wanted to give up Karate?

Tony Christian. Emphatically no never I can honestly say never, even when things have been going wrong
Karate has been my best friend.

I don't like it too much when people say that they challenge Karate everyday. I have never seen it like that for
me, Karate has always been my friend, it is always something I have loved to do, like people love to run it gives
them a kick or people get a buzz from painting.

Whatever problem I have , soon as I go into the Dojo they go, no matter what they are that is why I will always
love Karate.

TRAD: If you could change anything in Karate what would it be?

Tony Christian. I think it's a little sad that men who have a lot of time and experience in Karate don't get on and

                                     Academy of Karate-do Goju-Ryu
                                                                 Three Valleys Karate club
                                        Karate taught for fitness & effective self defence
                       Instructors: Steve Johnson Tel..01923 710156 or 07979 316205
                                                           Graham Copperwhite Tel..01442 403399 or 07801 677668
slag each other off, that's a little sad. When I trained with America's Joe Lewis the kick boxer he was talking
about his friends Benny the Jet Urquidez and Bruce Lee. I was a little jealous because it seems in this country
that the styles come through. The Goju Ryu lads tend to stick together, but there tends to be a little bitterness
between the styles.

Surely if a guy has walked 30 years down the path of Karate he should have something in common with the
other guy. Like I still get on well with Danny Connor who has been a friend of mine since the 1960's, he does his
thing I do mine, but we still have things to talk about between us.

But if I could change anything it would be for everyone to be a bit more friendly, more learning from each other,
swapping ideas. But you've got the same as in religion where certain faiths or churches believe they're right and
anyone else not doing the same thing is wrong. As you know when you get older this is ridiculous as everyone
has a different way of doing things. I think Karate is like streams all leading to the sea.

I think the problem is that Karate became a business to people and business people don't really get on well
together because their always trying to make money.

TRAD: Do you have any regrets?

Tony Christian: No (big pause) because I left a fine job, I was a qualified engineer and took a big chance
leaving my job at 26 years old and with a good career in front of me having gone to college, I decided to leave
and study Martial Arts. I think if I would have stayed in engineering I would have had great regrets being stuck in
engineering and coming up for retirement now, perhaps with money but being a very unhappy man, closing
down like I mentioned before.

Karate? No, the greatest thing I ever did, I only have two ambitions, one to teach Karate and two to have a Dojo
and I have attained both of them.

I don't really have dreams to make brilliant students, as you can't control people, I'm not a control freak. So you
have always got to give people a free choice, you can't expect people to train with you for 25-30 years, without
their own ideas and beliefs.

So my ambitions are only in the Dojo and to teach Karate, it was never really about building empires and
controlling people. That is why I have never been into magazine articles because I believe you can not collect
people, they are not a commodity you collect, you meet people, not collect them.

TRAD: Do you have a favourite Kata?

Tony Christian: Yes Seisan, I used to worry about a favourite Kata as I do all the Goju Ryu Kata's. I'm a
teacher of the Goju Ryu Kata's. and my students like all different katas. Then I suddenly realised as I started to
like 2, 3 or 4 of them that perhaps that was the correct, but I think in the old days people didn't have many Katas
you can only get into the skin of so many. I like Seisan and a few more, I love Gekasai to teach the beginners it's
a lovely Kata. I think you can do them all, but as I say in the old days I think the Masters only taught 2 or 3 Katas
to certain people, some guys might have trained for 20 years and only know 2 or 3 Katas and I think that wasn't
a bad thing. To have 60 Kata you can't really get into the skin, it's like painting a Tiger your just painting the skin
and not the bones.

TRAD: What does the kanji on your badge mean?

Tony Christian: The Characters on the badge I picked up many years ago when I first started. They mean

The story goes that a master said that - is the quality required for Karate. When students say what does it take
to become a great Martial Artist the master would say perseverance, it's a story, but it might be true. I think it is
right, after teaching for over 30 years none of the natural athletes, i.e. good kickers or punchers that have come
into the club are still here because they couldn't persevere. Perseverance is the ability to fail and come back
from failure, it's not about succeeding it's the continuing ability to overcome trouble, hardship and failure and
carry on training.

Like the young man come’s training and he has got nothing to do, then he meets a girl. So question one is can

                                     Academy of Karate-do Goju-Ryu
                                                                 Three Valleys Karate club
                                        Karate taught for fitness & effective self defence
                       Instructors: Steve Johnson Tel..01923 710156 or 07979 316205
                                                         Graham Copperwhite Tel..01442 403399 or 07801 677668
he court the girl and carry on training, then he gets married and has children, can he keep them all and continue
to train? Most people pack in by then, the best one is can a man carry on training after the age of fifty when the
body starts to slow down, it's more power of the mind and will that drives.
So the quality of perseverance is the ability to dust yourself down and to start again. Most people are worse than
when I first started especially young people, in the early days we didn't care when we made mistakes we didn't
care we trained anyway. Now everything has got to be laid on for the student and if you upset a student they
leave and don't come back. They want everything perfect, they go around all the Karate clubs looking for the
best style instead of just getting in and practising.

Life is like a path some sunny days and some rainy, but when it rains you don't run and hide you just keep going
that's what Martial Arts is about. For every sunny day there's a day you don't feel like going or you've had an
injury or your club has burnt down and you have to start training anywhere. I had a student die in my arms in the
Dojo and you think do you pack it in or keep going, well you keep going. Other days you've got 200 people
applauding you take the sun then next day it might be blowing a gale and someone is slagging you off. You
keep going.

TRAD: Is it important as a teacher to study another style of Martial Art or to concentrate on their chosen

Tony Christian: There are only two types of Martial Arts, that's good and bad. The story I like is about a farmer
with three rabbits in a field he has only one bullet and wants all three rabbits, because he waits he ends up with

Your life is very limited to what you can do. As a young man I got involved with Kickboxing, Thai Boxing and Ju
Jitsu then I realised to become good and understand an art you've got to study deeply only one style. Therefore,
if you study Karate deeply you will become good and understand more.

Also if you take soccer and rugby, a professional soccer player doesn't cross over to rugby and vice versa. If you
take a professional boxer he can really punch and has the footwork also, or take a great kicker when you try and
do it all the quality of the punching or kicking is not the same.

This is the same as Tai Chi being totally different to Goju Ryu so you make the choice.
It would be nice if you had three lifetimes to study Japanese sword one lifetime, Goju Ryu in another lifetime and
so on, but you only have one lifetime.

The danger now is that some of the systems have got that many bits and pieces together it's like trying to make
a building with too many broken pieces.
TRAD: Which Karate instructors influenced you the most?

Tony Christian: The best influence, would be Sensei Chinnen, when I was in Liverpool I was moving the wrong
way, any one can. Life is like a white path or a black path, I don't think you suddenly go down the black path. I
think it is little steps you slide off a certain way. I think I was sliding a little towards the black path and Sensei
Chinnen came along and in the mould of the Japanese Masters who were proud of being Martial Arts Masters
and didn't like the feeling of brawling and getting into trouble, Sensei Chinnen put me on the white path and to
development of a fine and good character. Even when Sensei Chinnen was over here last time he made me
read out his Dojo Kun to all the students including the 4th and 5th Dans.

TRAD: Which person do you admire the most?

Tony Christian: I'm really fascinated with W.E. Fairburn and Kanryo Higaonna also Chojun Miyagi and I've
never met them and I'll never be able to as they are dead. You tend to look at their lives and say that was a
good life, you get a rough idea of their lives, but you never meet them, or get to know their faults, that get you
mad with them.

The Chinese have a saying that no two trees grow in the same shade as one another. So as you get more
mature all the people I know have faults every single one of them, and some of the faults you could strangle
them for. As I'm sure that I get on people nerves but that is what people are like. Heroes are usually best when
they are dead and you are usually better admiring a dead man, as all you'll see and think about is his good side.
You will never see his bad temper or his mood swings and so the nice things about admiring dead people is
usually in the Martial Arts they only write nice things about them. They only write the nice things about Chojun

                                     Academy of Karate-do Goju-Ryu
                                                                Three Valleys Karate club
                                        Karate taught for fitness & effective self defence
                       Instructors: Steve Johnson Tel..01923 710156 or 07979 316205
                                                         Graham Copperwhite Tel..01442 403399 or 07801 677668
Miyagi and the rest of them.

This question follows the last one about Sensei Chinnen he was a great influence on me because he is a true
Karate Master, in the same he's himself. The idea of idolising a pop star of an actor is dangerous and I
discourage it in my club. I think Karate clubs fall apart when the Sensei sets himself up as something special.
When the green belt has been with him for 15 years and gained his 3rd Dan he sees the Sensei as a Human
being. If the Sensei has claimed never to be more than a human being with all his foibles and points his finger at
the student and says we are the same, then you have got a working relationship, like a man and woman, you
can only get on if you accept each others faults. You cannot have the perfect woman or Karate teacher, hero
worshipping Karate teachers is very dangerous, you are better off having respect for them like I said before
about the Japanese who have 30 years in, some have 50 years in, so you've got to have respect for them.

TRAD: For a long time you seemed to shy away from the limelight and interviews. Is there a reason?

Tony Christian: Sensei Chinnen's influence taught me that Karate was for training and not for talking or taking
pictures. I used to ask Sensei Chinnen was he going to write a book and he just used to laugh and say Karate is
to do not to write about. If you write about it you miss out, it's like the saying one action is worth a thousand
pictures, one picture is worth a thousand words. so in other words action is just better than anything to just do it,
let the people write about you when you are dead or old. So that is why I don't bother, I'm really more into

If someone knocks on the Dojo door and says "Hi, Sensei what is your opinion of....." I'm a swine now and say
have you got your Gi with you? If not leave me alone. That is what it's about, if you've got your Gi lets train. I'm
not bothered about what style of Martial Art you do lets get your Gi on and train. It's like an artist talking about
painting or a photographer talking about taking photographs instead of painting or taking photos.

TRAD: Thanks for your time Sensei!
Tony Christian: Your welcome.

        Academy of Karate-do Goju-Ryu
                            Three Valleys Karate club
          Karate taught for fitness & effective self defence
Instructors: Steve Johnson Tel..01923 710156 or 07979 316205
                     Graham Copperwhite Tel..01442 403399 or 07801 677668


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