The Early Days with Mushindo and Okinawan Goju - Ryu
My first taste of Karate-Do was with Terry Dukes, the reason for that was he lived one street away from me, and was a friend. At that time Karate-Do was fairly new in London. In 1965 you had Sensei Suzuki in Clapham common and in Blackfriars Sensei Enoeda, why I never trained with them God only knows.
Maybe I was young and naïve, or was it something else? I passed by Enoeda Sensei's Dojo every night on my way home from work, and glanced in to see them training, but never went in.
I don't want to get above myself, but maybe it was not my destiny to do these styles of Karate-Do, however magnificent they were. I must say watching a demonstration at Alexander Palace with Nakayama Sensei and some of the people that assisted him, had a great influence on my determination in pursuing something I loved, and to my pleasure at a later date, I was invited personally by Tatsuo Suzuki Sensei to participate in a Gasshuku at Manor Place Baths, over a week which I enjoyed and found very rewarding.
I had the pleasure of being a part of the English contingent that had a team kumite event against the Japanese, Sensei's, Maeda, Sakagami, Kitamura, Kobayashi, Shinohara were team members. At that time and even now, my fighting's **** but it was an experience in my life I would not have missed.
I can say that I did enjoy training with Mushindo Karate-Do, although it was made up of several karate styles, and Mr Dukes was well known for telling porkies*! However, he did give me the foundation for what I was looking for in Karate-Do.
The Marble Factory Dojo
Training in The Marble Factory Dojo
During 1971-72, I went to a couple of meditation retreats for a week, where I also taught karate-do, there you would meet all types of people from different back grounds and occupations, yet really it didn't matter where you came from everyone was treated the same.
Meditation was for 6 hour's a day with communication excises and mindfulness of breathing, plus karate-do this would make up the day's program. Sometimes there would be a 24-hour exercise without speaking to anyone, this I found hard because I do like a" bunny" (Chat). Everyone had to be vegetarian for the week, involving 32 chews to each mouthful of food, so by the time you finish eating you didn't feel like talking anyway. One had to stay in the confines of the retreat, no slipping out for a quick pint, to be honest I quite enjoyed it.
It was on the second retreat, in Hazelmere, Guildford, when I first met a man that helped me obtain the Marble Factory Dojo. Early one morning the mist was everywhere, I couldn't see two feet in front of me, so I decided to go for a run in the forest, about 5 minutes down a path I notice a translucent plastic sheet and some blankets bundled together, I thought oh no a dead body, so I pushed the bundle with my foot and shouted "anyone there", and a loud scream came out of the blankets,
I almost had a heart attack, seeing these blankets flying everywhere, and then stood in front of me was this tall but very skinny white bodied figure with nothing on. I said sorry I thought you were dead, he said, in a strange almost feminine voice "that's ok I had to get up because I missed the morning meditation", I said so your on the retreat, he said that he didn't have the money to stay at the retreat so he slept in the woods. I asked him what he did for a living, he said that he worked in theatre, I thought that figures, then he asked me what my job was, I told him I taught karate-do in Camberwell, and the most amazing thing was that we both lived in Camberwell.
I explained that I had a Dojo about 5 minutes away from where he lived, in a church hall, and then he said that he was badgering the Council for some premises, to open a theatre workshop he said that there were 5 floors and would I be interested in having one of the floors for a Dojo.
I immediately said yes, so when I returned to Camberwell I contacted him to see the building, it was actually one of the derelict buildings I played in as a kid. As we went in, there was a big flight of wooden stairs, at the top of the stairs there were two big wooden doors. He said if you like you can have this floor, I walked in and looked around I could see the Marble Factory Dojo, how it would look 2 years later in that moment. I turned to him and said yes, he then said I must warn you that the council only gave us a 28 day lease on the building. Which meant that any given time they could ask us to leave, I put my trust in God and 27 years later I was still in the Marble Factory Dojo.
Getting back to the story, "I said lets go and get some brooms to sweep up, he said what now? I've got no money", I thought I've heard that one before, I said "I have 4 shillings and sixpence" (22 pence) so I went and bought two brooms.
By the way I forgot to mention, it was a former printing works so the floor was covered in a black ink, there were no windows, no electricity and no toilets because they had been smashed out, all this did not deter me from fulfilling my dream.
Every day I would go and do some work on the dojo, in the evening I would teach karate-do and with the proceeds I would buy more materials for the dojo, many people came to help me, some devoted their entire weekends to work at the dojo, to which I'm eternally grateful.
I think the hardest job was the floor, because not only did we need to sand it, but every piece of metal that was in that floor had to come out, and when you consider that building was about 145 years old it was quite a big job. We must have knocked down 10's of thousands of nails. The windows, were made of iron and each pane was about 4 inches square, so first each one had to be cleared of any old putty, then new glass had to be cut. A total of 280 windows, what a job! but the end product was worth it. At that time money was hard to come by so you did as much work as you could yourself.
I'm sure some of the people reading this article, will remember the Marble Factory as it was in the beginning, I often think about some of you, and how you helped me, although some of you might have passed on, it is to you people that I can now write this history.
Mr. Don Burton Mr .Vic Burton Mr. Peter Wilkes Mr. Desmond Carpenter Mr. Even Graham Mr. Ray Lyons Mr. Pat O'sullivan Mr. Pat Murphy
And if I missed any of you out, you know who you are.
The Opening of a Legacy
It was on the 5th of May 1974 that the Marble Factory Dojo opened, and I had about 30 - 40 Students training at that time. It was a very special place to be, when I look back and think there have been 3 generations of children trained got married, had children who have then subsequently trained with me.
Sometimes individuals stop me on the street and say, "hi Sensei, you don't remember me do you" I must say often I don't, and then it hits me who they are, my god I can't believe how time passes.
When I think that over the 27 years that I was teaching at the Marble Factory dojo, 90% of IOGKF Goju-Ryu Instructors, in the world at sometime trained or stayed and visited the M.F.D.
The first visiting Instructors to Teach at the M.F.D in 1974 was Sensei's James and Peter Rousseau, who I had the good fortune as being my instructors. Others who trained along side me were my friends and training partners Bob Greenhalgh, Tony Christian and Dennis Martin who were the senior Instructors in Liverpool. From the South of England Len Sim, Mike Lambert and from Scotland Jimmy Johnston, these were the seniors that started training in Okinawa Goju-Ryu in the beginning.
Later additions to visit and teach at the M.F.D were Hiromi Suzuki Sensei from Sweden, followed by Roichi Onaga Sensei from Spain, Hitomi Shiomitsu Sensei from Sweden, and Teruo Chinen Sensei from Spokane, and of course the Master himself Morio Higaonna Sensei, and that's not all also from Japan Tomoyuki Kato Sensei, Kazuo Terauchi Sensei, Mitusmi Okada Sensei and Juichi Kokubo Sensei.
So as you can see there's a lot of Chi (energy) and training passed through the doors of the Marble Factory Dojo.
* Webmasters note: Porkies is a contraction of Pork Pies, a traditional English pie. In London there is a form of slang known as 'Cockney (South Londoner) Rhyming Slang' therefore a Pork Pie is ……… a lie.