My journey through Karate, Jujutsu and Tai Chi by Simon Keegan

In Bushinkai I teach a system of Karate & Jujutsu called “Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu” and I have also taught classes in traditional Jujutsu and Tai Chi. Among the masters who have influenced my study are my teachers’ teachers (Shotokan) Hirokazu Kanazawa and Tadanori Nobetsu (Nisseikai). There are also many Jujutsu styles that have influenced my studies over the decades and I have also studied Chinese martial arts formally for some 17 years. In each of these arts I have studied with some of the very best teachers in the world and been lucky to receive decades of excellent tuition. There have been many mistakes and obstacles along the way but this is a short account of my journey so far.

Early years

My interest in the martial arts probably came from some of my early childhood experiences and those relatives who affected my life. My dad, David Keegan of course was my original teacher in life as in martial arts. He had studied Jujutsu as early as 1959 in one of Liverpool’s first clubs and when I was about seven he went to live and work in China along with my uncle John, also a blackbelt in Karate. John married a Chinese Tai Chi practitioner named Mei Kwan who I call Ai Yee (auntie) and to my daughter is Kai Ma (something like ‘godmother’). My dad’s oldest brother Paul had also studied Goju Ryu Karate and Jujutsu and was a member of the To-ken Society for the preservation of antique Japanese swords. The first time I ever saw a katana drawn was at his house.

On my mother’s side of the family too was a martial arts tradition. My great uncle Bill was a Jujutsu blackbelt in the 1940s and he and I were very close. When he died he left me all his medals and historical records and lineages. He and my grandfather had originally been taught to box by their father and grandfather, a Swedish sailor whose family had been stationed in Okinawa with the Swedish East India Trading Company. My grandmother’s eldest brother Ted, a cousin of Liverpool boxing champions Jimmy and Tommy Molloy was a master at arms in the Royal Navy who served in Japan and China. I’d train in my dad’s garage on the bags and makiwara, conditioning my knuckles on sand, sparring, learning to use the sword, and weapons such as throwing knives. When at my grandfather’s house I would mostly practice boxing or sometimes with the bokken he made for me. I also joined a boxing club when I was around 10. I also spent many years training with my best friend Paul and his brothers, one who was a brown belt in Goju Ryu and later I followed him into my first Karate class.

Entering Bushido

From my teens I trained for around nine years with Sensei Steve Bullough who taught a system called Bushido Freestyle Karate. It was based on various Karate styles (such as Budokan/Yoseikan, Shotokan, Goju Ryu, Wado Ryu and Shukokai) and contained elements of Ki Aikido, Judo and Kobudo (chiefly the Jo, Nunchaku and Katana). My teacher had also he said been taught an old Samurai system originating in the Edo area which comprised of Kenjutsu, Jujutsu and so on. I was awarded blackbelt in these arts and also studied the sporting side such as kickboxing, Muay Thai and the kind of grappling that is now called MMA.

Katana practice wearing my sensei's gi and hakama 1997

Simon aged 17 in 1997

Sensei congratulating me on passing

Awarded blackbelt in 1999

Chinese martial arts

Around the time I was brownbelt in Karate, I followed my dad into a Chinese internal martial arts school run by two local instructors who were each world championship competitors. We were mostly taught Yang style (Beijing forms of Li De Yin) and Sun style but also quite a bit of Chinese sword, Chi Kung and some Hsing-I. My teacher had trained in many other Kung Fu arts such as Bagua and Shaolin but we were not really taught these, they were just alluded to in the context of for example Sun style (Sun Lu Tang was a master of several styles such as Bagua). I trained in this school for around eight or nine years and it taught me the importance of attention to detail and relaxation.

Simon teaching in February 2001

Early Bushinkai class in February 2001

Bushinkai head Simon in 2002 studying the Japanese koryu of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu

studying the Japanese koryu of Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu with a Kokusai Budoin Renshi

Simon with Hanshi Nobetsu, (9th Dan Karate) chief director of Kokusai Budoin

Simon with Hanshi Nobetsu, (9th Dan Karate) chief director of Kokusai Budoin

Shotokan and Jujutsu

In 2000 I established the Bushinkai Academy and from then on began to concentrate only on the traditional and practical side of Karate, Jujutsu and Tai Chi, and setting aside the sporting arts. I trained on a brief, informal and seminar basis with various teachers, picking their brains and learning how to consolidate my studies and in 2001 I met Sensei Bob Carruthers who not only was my main teacher for around 10 years but also introduced me to his teacher who in turn became mine, Sensei Phil Handyside.

Simon's mentor Shihan Handyside with his mentor Hirokazu Kanazawa  10th Dan IMAF

Simon’s mentor Shihan Handyside with his mentor Hirokazu Kanazawa 10th Dan Kokusai Budoin

Bob had begun his studies in an art called Bujinkai which was comprised of Wado Ryu Karate and Preying Mantis Kung Fu and then trained in Shihan Handyside’s Shobukan which was essentially Shotokan but influenced by Malaysian Budokan (a more Chinese type of Karate) and Jujutsu. I began to truly appreciate the practical side of Karate when Bob’s senior student Steve Brennan introduced me to Hanshi Patrick McCarthy and the Koryu Uchinadi methods which were notable for their two man flow drills and integrated grappling practises. I graded 2nd Dan in both Shotokan Karate and Ryukyu Kempo Karate Jutsu under Nippon Traditional Kobudo. In the later years I trained with Bob he too was broadening his horizons and introduced me to instructors from classical Filipino stickfighting and Small Circle Jujutsu to name just a few. In 2000 I began training with a Jujutsu club called Kiai Yamabushi Ryu. This style taught lots of different arts such as Jujutsu, Aikijujutsu, Ninjutsu, Iaido (from Muso Shinden Ryu), Jodo (from Shindo Muso Ryu), Kenjutsu and much more. I trained on some excellent seminars in Ireland and ultimately graded 2nd Dan in the arts and the corresponding Menkyo of “mokuroku”.

My Nisseikai teacher Reiner Parsons and Tadanori Nobetsu who combined Goju Ryu with Taiwanese Feeding Crane

My Nisseikai teacher Reiner Parsons and Tadanori Nobetsu who combined Goju Ryu with Taiwanese Feeding Crane

Kokusai Budoin: Studying Goju Ryu, Nihon Jujutsu, Judo and Iaido

In 2003 I was invited to attend a seminar with Mitsuhiro Kondo (9th Dan Hanshi), one of the original master who brought Karate and Aikido to Europe in the 1950s. I found he was Swiss Branch Director for an organisation called Kokusai Budoin (International Martial Arts Federation). I was impressed with Kondo Sensei and also impressed by the list of masters who had been a part of this organisation from Hironori Ohtsuka to Minoru Mochizuki (Kondo’s teacher in fact). I demonstrated my arts and was recognised as 2nd Dan Karatedo (Hirokazu Kanazawa’s Shotokan division) and 2nd Dan Nihon Jujutsu in Shizuya Sato’s division.

Bushinkai chief instructor Simon with his 2nd Dan in IMAF in Kanazawa Hanshi's Shotokan division in 2003

2nd Dan in Karate and Jujutsu with Kokusai Budoin

I learnt not only Karate and Jujutsu but also Judo and Iaido, enjoying training particularly with Jack Hearn (Nihon Jujutsu), Ray Walker (Judo) and Colin Hutchinson (Judo).

Three Nihon Jujutsu masters who influenced Simon's studies, Jack Hearn, Mitsuhiro Kondo and Shizuya Sato

Three Nihon Jujutsu masters who influenced Simon’s studies, Jack Hearn, Mitsuhiro Kondo and Shizuya Sato

My biggest influence from Kokusai Budoin however was Reiner Parsons, a Goju Ryu and Kobudo stylist who took me under his wing and taught me the underlying principles of the martial arts – how to apply the breathing, softness, relaxation and directional movement. Reiner explained that his teacher was Tadanori Nobetsu (9th Dan Hanshi) founder of a style called Nisseikai which combined Goju Ryu (he trained under Eiichi Miyazato, senior student of the founder) and Feeding Crane. Nobetsu Sensei would travel to Taiwan to train with the grandmaster of Feeding Crane and his Karate became more soft but more powerful. In 2004 I got to train with Nobetsu Sensei myself and subsequently was graded 3rd Dan by Reiner.

As an IMAF instructor in about 2003

As an IMAF instructor in about 2003

The Shotokan-based style of mine was not unknown to Reiner, not only had he trained with the likes of Kazuo Sakai (10th Dan Wado Ryu) nut he had also been graded 6th Dan by Ikuo Higuchi, the headmaster of Shoto Ryu and successor to Okinawan master Makoto Gima. Reiner had also trained with Kai Kuniyuki a practitioner of various Koryu such as Yoshin Ryu, Shinto Ryu and Eishin Ryu. I joined the board of directors and was offered the post of UK secretary before a schism in the UK group led to two UK  branches, one of which, later renamed the United Kingdom Budo Federation I became International director of. Training also with diverse masters such as Terry Wingrove (9th Dan Karate Jutsu, 9th Dan Yawara), Allan Tattersall (9th Dan Jujutsu, 9th Dan Iaido and UK head of Dai Nippon Butokukai), Alan Ruddock (student of the founder of Aikido) and also meeting Patrick McCarthy (9th Dan Koryu Uchinadi, 9th Dan Jujutsu) I began to finally understand enough to have the kernel of an efficient system.

Hanshi Tadanori Nobetsu 9th Dan

Hanshi Tadanori Nobetsu 9th Dan

Establishing Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu

In 2007 as a 4th Dan Karate Jutsu, 4th Dan Jujutsu (awarded by the WKA) I formulated a system called Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu which stripped my Karate and Jujutsu down to their most efficient core. I became a founder member of the English Karate Federation under the World Karate Federation and continued to learn with various instructors, from my own teachers Bob Carruthers and Reiner Parsons and of course David Keegan to instructors in Escrima, Iaido, Muay Thai and Jujutsu. I re-established my relationship with Shihan Handyside and re-forged the link with Shobukan Karate. Through affiliation with Shobukan the club joined Shikon and headteacher Steve Rowe, an 8th Dan in Karate and a Tai Chi teacher, directly under the headmaster of Yang style has also lent his wisdom to our school. In 2012 I graded 5th Dan under Shihan Handyside.

*In 2014 I re-established my relationship with Kokusai Budoin, when I found that master Nobetsu was now Chief Director and Master Higuchi his deputy. Bushinkai is now affiliated to both Shikon and Kokusai Budoin UK.

In Bushinkai the seniors and I continue to learn. My main interest is in the practical and traditional side of Karate, my second in command Dan Sanchez (2nd Dan) is a serving police officer (so some good restraints!) and a keen practitioner of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. We also have Kicki Holm, a member of the Danish National Karate team who graded up to 2nd Dan with Hirokazu Kanazawa.

Kicki Holm

Kicki Holm 2nd Dan

Next year marks 15 years of Bushinkai, 20 years since I took my first adult Karate classes, 25 years since I joined my first club and about 30 years since my dad first propelled me across the room with an Ogoshi. The years are flying by and I feel this is just the beginning for my learning and the growth of Bushinkai.

Bushinkai’s Hombu is the Hakutora Academy (Van Dang Martial arts) the north of England’s premier martial arts centre. We have demonstrated at an international tournament and also at a Japanese cultural festival.

Senior International instructor Simon Keegan 5th Dan

Simon Keegan 5th Dan

Karate class times:

8:00-9:30pm
Thursdays

Van Dang Martial Arts (Hakutora Dojo)
Newton Street Manchester
Contact: kaicho@runbox.com

poppyseiza

The next generation: My daughter Poppy and her cousin Maisie awarded their yellow stripes in Shito Ryu Karate by Sensei Julian Mallalieu, student of Soke Fumio Demura

 

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