Karate my way of life: By Simon Keegan

The chief instructor of Bushinkai, Simon Keegan (5th Dan Renshi) reflects on his martial arts studies. Various points are numbered with citations at the bottom of the article. The idea of this article is to give context to our curriculum.

Simon Keegan, Renshi

Simon Keegan, Renshi

I have formally studied the Shoto/Budokan family of Karate as my primary art for more than 20 years, but my studies go back much further.

As a young child I was taught the basics of Karate and Jujutsu [1] by my father Sifu David Keegan and other relatives. My great uncle was also a Jujutsu black belt in one of the country’s first clubs [2]. He and my grandfather were also taught boxing by their father and grandfather and military service, which of course included hand to hand combat goes back six generations. [3]

I joined my first club aged 11 [4] and studied various martial arts briefly and informally including fencing and archery before joining a formal Karate club.

I joined the Bushido Academy [5] at 16 and was taught Karate, Judo, Aikido, Kobudo and we also practiced boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing and various other arts. I trained at the Bushido Academy for eight years. In that time I competed at national level [6] and learnt a good grounding in the arts. In 1999 aged 20 I was awarded my blackbelt in Bushido. I studied the Heian, Bassai, Empi and Kushanku forms and also learnt Chinte.

Earlier in 1999 I followed my dad into a Chinese martial arts club [7] where we were mostly taught the Beijing modern Yang style and also studied Sun style, Chinese sword, to a lesser extent Hsing-I and some related Chi Kung exercises. I trained in this club for eight or nine years and did some competitions.

In 2000 I opened a branch Dojo of my sensei’s club which would become the Bushinkai Academy. My club was located at the Northwest College of Martial Arts where I was mentored by various senior teachers. From this point I focussed my training on the traditional side of the arts rather than competition. I began training under Sensei Bob Carruthers in Karate [8] and also in a traditional taught Jujutsu style which also comprised Iaido, Jodo, Aikijujutsu and Kobudo [9]

Bob Carruthers was a former student of Shihan PAJ Handyside 8th Dan, the founder of Shobukan Karate [10] which comprises Shotokan and Budokan Karate together with Jujutsu and Aikido. Under Bob I learnt the Tekki, Hangetsu,Meikyo, Jutte, Wankan and Gankaku forms and attended squad training for Bassai Sho, Kanku Sho, Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan and Unsu.

I graded to 2nd Dan Jujutsu and also 2nd Dan Karate, and was introduced to some of the older Okinawan methods of Karate by Steve Brennan [11] and various other Jujutsu teachers. I was later awarded 2nd Dan Judo, and further down the road 2nd Dan Taiji Quan by my father.

In 2003 I was accepted into Kokusai Budoin, Japan’s oldest martial arts fraternity and my grades accepted in the divisions headed by Hirokazu Kanazawa (Shotokan Karate grandmaster and Yang style Tai Chi teacher) and Shizuya Sato (Nihon Jujutsu and Judo). In Kokusai Budoin, I also began to study Goju Ryu Karate and Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu, a Koryu style of Iaido [12]. My grades were endorsed by the hereditary Shogun, Yasuhisa Tokugawa.

My primary Goju Ryu teacher for the next 10 years or so (on an occasional and semi regular basis) was Kyoshi Reiner Parsons [13]. I graded to 3rd Dan under Reiner and in the same grading my father was awarded 3rd Dan based on his Chinese martial arts teachings.

However I did not leave Shoto/Budokan Karate alone, continuing to be taught by Bob Carruthers, and in 2004 he introduced me to his own teacher Shihan Handyside who has been a friend and mentor ever since.

My primary instruction in Judo was under Ray Walker, who, building on my previous Jujutsu and Judo experience would take me aside when on seminars and teach the likes of the Kime no Kata to me. I also had chance to get on the mat with masters like Mitsuhiro Kondo, Sato, and Jack Hearn. Ray recommended me to the position of assistant UK secretary for IMAF UK and then with the schism of IMAF GB (later UKBF) I became the international director.

In 2005 I met Hanshi Terry Wingrove [14] 9th Dan and joined the International Ju Jitsu Federation. I accompanied Terry on several courses and through him met masters like Alan Ruddock [15], Allan Tattersall [16] and Patrick McCarthy [17]. Through the effectiveness of his Karate Jutsu and Yawara Terry convinced me to discard that which was not functional. In 2007 as a 4th Dan [18] I became not only a founder member of the English Karate Federation [19] but also established a system of Karate and Jujutsu called Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu [20]. I also hosted a seminar for the 50th Anniversary of British Karate and the British Jujutsu Federation in 1956.

For the next few years, I learnt and taught all over the country including annual seminars in Scarborough, Liverpool, Manchester and Nottingham. In 2010 I was awarded the title of Renshi (polished teacher) [21]

After teaching in Wigan and Salford, I made the Hakutora Academy (previously Van Dang) our permanent headquarters and at the centre was able to expand my own repertoire my cross training with Muay Thai and Wing Chun instructors. I also studied Escrima with the Abaniko Tres Puntas group.

In 2012 I decided to step away from running an association and joined Sifu Steve Rowe’s Shikon [22] since it was the long established home of my teacher’s teacher Shihan Handyside. On December 18 2012 almost 13 years to the day after passing my blackbelt 1st Dan, I graded on the mat for my 5th Dan under Shihan Handyside. It was made extra special by the fact I graded in the same hall where Budokan grandmaster Chew Choo Soot taught Mr Handyside many years ago.

In the last four years I have edited various martial arts publications – from Martial Arts Guardian to Classical Karate and Jujutsu magazine to co-ordinating the Daily Mirror’s MMA coverage (Mirror Fighting) but have also continued to evolve my own training. Working with my ‘Karate sister’ Kicki Holm [23] on kata, sparring with my friend, Muay Thai Kru, Giorgio Zappone and seminars with the likes of Fumio Demura in Shito Ryu, Kobudo and Batto. My next project is a kata performance with the London Symphony Orchestra.


But the most important learning journey is teaching my excellent students each and every week.


[1] My father’s first martial arts was Jujutsu in around 1959-1961 at Southdene Community Centre, Kirkby with Sensei Bernie Blundell, he later attended training with members of the Red Triangle Shotokan Karate club. 

[2] My great uncle Bill Nelson (William Henry Nelson b 25/12/1924) trained under Prof Gerald Skyner who claimed his Jujutsu club had been founded by Mikonosuke Kawaishi in 1928.

[3] I served in the Duke of Lancaster’s Own (Cavalry), as did my father. My father’s uncle John Keegan was in the Navy and two others in the RAF, and both his grandfathers, Paul Keegan and James Lawless served in WW1. My father’s great great grandfather Herve Briant was in the French Royal Navy. On my mother’s side, my grandfather was in WW2, my great grandfather in WW1. My great great grandfather August Nilsson was in the Swedish Royal Navy.

[4] A Wigan boxing club, I believe may have been St Cuthbert’s.

[5] My teacher Steve Bullough had studied Judo, Ki Aikido and various Karate styles including Budokan, Shotokan, Wado Ryu and Shukokai. He took some Kyu grades under Mike Newton (Yoseikan/Budokan) and some Dan grades under Roy Stanhope (Shukokai).

[6] I competed in the WKA, FSK, EMA and BAOMA interclubs.

[7] My teachers were (British) Tai Chi world champions under the direction of Prof Li De Yin.

[8] Bob Carruthers commenced his Karate training in 1972 with Bujinkai (a mix of Wado Ryu and Preying Mantis) under John Smith and Danny Connor, he later trained in Shobukan, Shotokan, Shukokai and various other styles as well as Iaido and Escrima.

[9] Kiai Yamabushi Ryu was run by Jaimie Lee-Barron (who had studied Iaido and Jodo under Mike Finn) and George Scarrott who had studied Aikijujutsu under Brian Dossett.

[10] Phil Handyside began his martial arts study in 1963 with Jujutsu/Judo and then in Shotokan Karate with Sadashige Kato in 1963. He then trained with Cyril Cummins and Dennis Makinson in Shotokan, before grading to 1st Dan under Hirokazu Kanazawa. In the late 1970s he switched to Budokan and under the headmaster Chew Choo Soot became the country’s vice president. He graded to 2nd Dan in Budokan and is presently graded 8th Dan in Karate.

[11] Steve Brennan was the senior student of Bob but he had also trained in the Karate methods of Vince Morris and Patrick McCarthy (Koryu Uchinadi).

[12] My father joined a MJER club under the Roshukai organisation and then moved over to Kokusai Budoin, he trained with Japanese masters including Keiji Tose, Yoshida and Hara. I had previously done some Muso Shinden Ryu forms which are quite similar.

[13] Reiner began his martial arts in the 1960s in boxing before studying Goju Ryu in Liverpool under the likes of Senseis Christian, Martin, Greenhalgh and trained with Japanese/Okinawan masters like Higaonna and Kai. His greatest influence however was Tadanori Nobetsu (10th Dan) founder of Nisseikai which combined Goju with Feeding Crane.

[14] A member of the first ever Karate club in the UK, under Vernon Bell, Terry later lived in Kobe for more than 20 years and studied various Karate and Jujutsu methods under masters like Fujimoto, Fujiwara and Kimbei Sato.

[15] The man who introduced Karate to Ireland and later trained in Aikido under the founder. Today his senior student and successor is a member of Bushinkai.

[16] Hanshi Tattersall was the UK Director of Dai Nippon Butokukai and recognised as headteacher of Myoshin Ryu. He also taught Eishin Ryu to my dad.

[17] Hanshi McCarthy was the translater of the Bubishi and pioneer of Koryu Uchinadi.

[18] I was awarded by the FSK/WKA and recognised by both my Shotokan teacher R Carruthers in NTK and my Goju Ryu teacher in IMAF R Parsons.

[19] I attended the initial meeting of the EKF as a founder member, representing the UKBF.

[20] Hakuda Kempo Toshu Jutsu is designed to take Karate and Jujutsu back to its combative roots.

[21] Hanshi Tattersall, UK Director of DNBK presented our first Renshi titles

[22] Steve Rowe is an 8th Dan Wado Ryu Karate and also studied Yang style Tai Chi under the grandmaster Ma Lee Yang.

[23] World kata gold medalist and 2nd Dan under Hirokazu Kanazawa






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