We often hear about our great fighters, (Donovan, Valera, Terry O'Neil & Hamish Adams to many to mention) of the 70's but rarely get a glimpse into what kumite Karate was like in those days. Veteran Karate footage is rare but I found some Dominique Valera, who was and still is a Karate legend.
Lets not be too hasty to judge the more static style of kumite in comparison with modern day Karate-ka as the intent and accuracy is apparent with sometimes devastating effect. It was not unusual for teeth to be lost throughout the course of the day and the drawing of blood was a by-product of a good scoring technique. One thing is for sure, the tougher man always wins, which can't always be said for the modern game.
The 1980's saw the evolution of the sport, placing more athletic demands on karate-ka producing more athletically minded karate-ka. Rule changes such as the introduction of first to six points and three minute rounds meant a higher level of fitness was needed. Pat Mckay, Victor Charles, Geoff Thompson, Jerome Atkinson, Hughey Campbell (this guy was one of the most feared of all fighters, I once witnessed Simon Kidd sweep him clean and before he hit the ground levelled Simon with a crushing blow). Hughey, Merv' said he'd of taken ya' easy!! (Don't shoot me I'm just the messenger lol) Tim Stephens, Davey Coulter, Abdu Shaher, Beverly Morris, Molly Samuel-Laporte, Jimmy Collins, Janice Argyle, Yvette Bryan, Mike Sailsman, Mervyn Etienne and Les Fairclough to mention but a few. All of the afore mentioned were European and/or World individual gold medallists.
Not quite sure where to start with this lot but I'm sure nobody will be upset if I start with Pat(Scotland the brave). I found some footage of this guy in his 40's, check out the glimmers of speed in this guys legs / combinations and try to rewind to what you think he must of been like 20 years ago.
Oh, and as he lives in Germany now unless you understand German (turn the volume down lol, sorry reader)
Pat a former sprinter trained closely with Geoff Thompson, one of my early mentors and inspiration. These guys were incredibly fit along with Victor Charles who had a profound impact on my professional and Karate career under the Great 'British Sport Karate Association' (BSKA), who in the late 80's early nineties and became Britain's most successful Men's team. 5 English and 6 British titles in a row 2 European club bronze medals and 2 x European club golds in a row. (Wow, what a party!!) I will add that Ishinryu were our greatest rivals and had some fearsome battles, 'god bless you guys' you bought the best out in us (I think you'll find we did edge you on wins lol)!! The only footage I could get of Vic and Geoff is a slightly boring one which does not show them in the true depiction of the abilities, however context is everything.
This is the 1986 world championship final, sudden death first to score. We on the squad were divided on who would win and who they wanted to win but for the most part had to openly show no bias. (My lips are sealed to my thoughts!!) Observe what happened next.
Remember, Victor holds seven World titles and Geoff four. Pat McKay five world titles. These were our first multiple world champions at a time country attendance had doubled since that of their 70's counterparts. The fact that Britain dominated the 1980's was down to their work ethic and personal desire to be the individually the best and when united they were unstoppable. Others that joined the team rose to extraordinary levels of performance that matched the three big guns. Jerry Flemming, Mike Sailsman, Mervyn Etienne, one word guys . AWESOME.
Lets not forget our Kata exponents, the ever present Steve Quinn and the irrepressible Helen Raye who I might add is the only Brit' EVER to win a European Championships in both Kata and Kumite...................outstanding!!
The late eighties / early nineties spurned a new generation of fighters that would that served their apprenticeship in the shadows of former greats to emerge world beaters in their own right. Mike Sailsman 1990 European double gold medalist, 4 x World team champion, Mervyn Etienne - 1992 European Champion & 4 x World team champion. Willie Thomas 2 x World & 6 x European Champion, Molly Samuel MBE 6 x European Champion (in a row) and World double gold medalist. Julie Toney 3 x World champion, Jill Toney 2 x World cup champion, Tricia Duggen World champion, Paul Alderson 2 x World champion, Augustus Paul, Ian Cole World Games and European Champions, Janice Francis European Champion plus numerous individual silver and bronze medallists.
In most other sports world champions tend to be nominated for gongs, but only two athletes to date Molly Samuel-Laport and our most prolific to date is none other than9 x world champion Wayne Otto OBE. Wayne who is more than worthy of his reward but there are others who have made notable contributions to the sport. Wayne, I can say it was a pleasure working with you and we had a great line up and some great times. I hazard a guess that most of you are reading some of these names for the first time and don't have a clue who they are. Not your fault if you've never been told your history. Both Victor John Charles and Geoff Thompson both received MBE's, however their endeavours were recognised by organisations outside Karate ruling bodies. You tube channel 'peak4karate' has some fights added to favourites.
The end of the nineties and the beginning of the new millennium saw a significant change in the rules that shifted the emphasis of athlete preparation, more kicks and take downs to gain three points, less referee discussion during the bout, all factors that encourage a more free flowing bout.
We have new stars in the making arriving onto the seen, Rory Daniels, Leon Walters, Davin Pack, Jason Legister, Tanya Weeks, Katrina Low, Alton Brown, Natalie Williams, Craig Burke and Paul Newby and Jonathan Mottram breaking the Kata medal drought for England. These guys flew and still fly the flag with honour and I can say it was a pleasure to end my career in such good company. Again England showed great promise with most of the afore mentioned winning World and European Championships.
With the demise of English Karate and the progression of opposing countries we now only enjoy sporadic success. Athletes tend now to be more coach / parent dependant rely more so on extrinsic motivation, more mentally fragile than their earlier counterparts. In contrast their technical abilities are very advanced and given the current social climate support is a necessary component for success.
I would have undoubtedly left some names out in error and my apologies for this. If you feel that someone is missing then make comment, justify your choice and I will amend it.
Although facts will confirm this eye witness account, feel free to double check the history books for yourself. Unfortunately few are still around and their experiences lost.