Charles Naylor was born in Hubli, South West India on the 13th May 1933. He began his education in India, and left school at the age of 14 to work for a while as a cabin boy.
At the age of 15 he worked his passage to England on the MV Caledonia. He began an apprenticeship at the BICC Company in Liverpool and attended night school, gaining a HNC in electrical engineering. He did his national service in the Royal Air Force and after a short spell back at BICC he joined the English Electric Company. It was there that he first took an interest in karate, after a colleague brought in a copy of the Nishiyama and Brown book, "Karate the Art of Empty hand Fighting". As well as teaching Karate as a profession, Charles is a trustee of the KUGB and its Vice-Chairman. He is also President of both the European Shotokan Karate Association and the World Shotokan Karate Association and is highly regarded in International circles for his negotiating skills and his understanding of the complexities of Karate politics.Charles is also a Senior International Referee.
In spite of all these achievements, his greatest pride has been in seeing his wife and his children gain their black belts, and Jane gaining selection to the International squad.Moments he will always savour are watching Frank Brennan beat World Champion Mori in Bremmen, and in the re-emergence of ESKA in Sunderland, especially as the England team won, and last, but not least, watching the 'boys' beat Japan at the World Championships in 1990.
Charles Naylor was awarded 7th Dan by Sensei Andy Sherry, the KUGB's Chief Instructor, at the KUGB National Championships in April 2004. – Jane Naylor Jones
Many thanks to Frank Brennan, Andy Sherry, Dirk De Mits and Richard Amos for editing text for this publication. Also many thanks to Jane Naylor Jones for kindly helping organise everything and Jose Alberto Pinheiro for allowing us to use this interview. -Editors
(José Alberto Pinheiro)What did you feel when you first laid your hands on the book “Karate : The Art of Empty Hand Fighting” by Sensei Nishiyama and Brown?
(Charles Naylor)My first introduction to karate was the book “Karate- the Art of Empty Hand Fighting” by Nishiyama and Brown.Somebody had brought it into the office where I worked.I was very impressed by the book and I, and other people in the office, were very interested in finding out where we could learn this art.
At the same time, a group of people from a Jiu Jitsu club in Liverpool had also seen a book on karate (probably the same book).We made enquiries at the Central Council of Physical Recreation in England.We were given the address of a person named Vernon Bell who was the only person in the country with a black belt.Vernon was a Judo/Jiu Jitsu instructor who had trained and received his grade from Henri Plee in France.
We formed a club in Liverpool together with a group from the Jiu Jitsu club and contacted Vernon Bell who came to Liverpool and did a weekend course.We continued to practice in Liverpool with visits from Vernon Bell, who later brought Tetsugi Murakamai, a 3rd dan Japanese Instructor who was living in Paris.This continued for a few years.
In 1965 Vernon Bell brought a group of Japanese Instructors who were travelling around Europe giving demonstrations.These instructors were from the JKA and included Kase, Kanazawa, Enoeda and Shirai and they impressed all who saw their demonstrations.
Enoeda Sensei eventually remained in Liverpool instructing at the Liverpool club and others in the North of England.Kanazawa Sensei lived and instructed in London and the South of England, Kase Sensei settled in France and Shirai Sensei moved to Italy.
In 1966 the KUGB was formed by the clubs who trained under Kanazawa Sensei and Enoeda Sensei and is now the largest single style karate organisation in Great Britain.
Enoeda Sensei instructed regularly at the St Helens club, which I formed when I moved from Liverpool.He also came to Chelmsford when I moved south.Kanazawa Sensei had moved to Germany at this time and Enoeda Sensei moved to London as the Chief Instructor to the newly formed Karate Union of Great Britain.
(JAP)During your early years in karate, who have been the persons that influenced you more deeply? Why?
(CN)Enoeda Sensei impressed me with his knowledge of Karate and the great fighting spirit that he infused into the students who trained with him regularly.He was a great friend and had a great influence on my whole family, who all trained in karate.
Another person who had an influence on me was Nakayama Sensei who instructed in England on the Summer Courses.As Chief Instructor of the JKA he was instrumental in sending JKA Instructors around the world, spreading the art of Shotokan karate far and wide.Nakayama Sensei had a very deep knowledge of karate and was a gentleman.
Enoeda Sensei remained as Chief Instructor of the KUGB until his death in 2003.He was a very influential leader and also impressed with his knowledge and teaching.
(JAP)In the introduction that you have written to the members and visitors of the Chelmsford Shotokan Karate Club, you stress the importance of true Karate spirit to your students and the emphasis that is always placed on the development of the disciplines of Character, Sincerity, Effort, Etiquette and Self Control.Unfortunately, these disciplines appear to be lacking in the agenda of many of nowadays karate instructors. How do you believe that this growing tendency can affect the future development of our art and what can be made in order to stop it?
(CN)Karate in the KUGB still emphasises these principles, unfortunately in quite a number of karate systems and organisations, emphasis is placed on sport karate and the need to win.This seems, in a number of instances, to bring about a deterioration in behaviour and a dilution of the art.A return to the disciplines of behaviour in the teaching of karate is probably the way to return to correct attitudes.
(JAP)From your point of view, what are the main differences between the way people took karate during the first decades of its international expansion and nowadays?
(CN)The main difference in karate from its early days is the introduction of whole families.When I first started Karate, the people who trained were male adults over the age of 16.This very fact made the training much more physical.We would train for hours and hours at a time and would often get injured.The introduction of women and children made the teaching much more technical and more controlled.Karate competition was solely for male adults, but gradually women’s events and children’s events were introduced and now whole families compete.
(JAP)Many advocate that a myriad of extremely important strategic and philosophical aspects of karate have been literally lost in translation and are impossible to grasp to those who lack a profound acquaintance with the cultural background from which the art has originated. What are your thoughts regarding this issue?
(CN)Karate originated in India and found its way to Japan via China and Okinawa.It picked up cultural aspects of many countries before it spread from Japan in the first half of the 20th Century, so it is therefore a fairly modern art in Japan.
We have learned Karate via the Japanese teaching system and have learned from Japanese culture and philosophy.
(JAP)In all your life, which were the most important documents about karate that you have ever read? Why?
(CN)The most important documents I have read about Karate are “The Art of Empty Hand Fighting” by Nishiyama and Brown and the many books by Nakayama Sensei.The first because, apart from being very impressive, it was my first introduction to Karate and the others because they gave me an insight into Nakayama Sensei’s thoughts and experiences of Karate.
(JAP)In your opinion, what are the best things that can be found in karate competition? What would you say to those who defend that competition is an antithesis of the traditional karate spirit?
(CN)Competition karate in Europe has developed, taking into account European physical and mental make up.European competition karate is probably the most successful in both “traditional” and “modern” competition.However, I personally believe that competition karate is secondary to the art of self defence.I also believe that if karate is taught properly, the practitioner of good karate will also be successful in competition.
Unfortunately a large number of karate instructors forget what made them successful and seem to try to take “short cuts” in teaching and therefore lost very important aspects.The art is becoming diluted in many instances.
(JAP)Who was the most outstanding karate competitor you have ever met? Why?
(CN)The most outstanding competitor that I have seen is probably Frank Brennan, who won a number of National and International competitions in both Kumite and Kata from the age of 17 until he retired well into his 30’s.Frank was excellent in both Kumite and Kata, which is very unusual, especially outside the KUGB and his behaviour was always exemplary.
(JAP)You are highly regarded in International circles for your negotiating and understanding of the complexities of karate politics. When was the first time that you’ve got involved in politics? What drives your desire and ability to work on that field?
(CN)I first got involved in the politics of Karate, not because I was terribly interested but because I was drawn into it, when organisations were first formed in Britain and Europe.Against most ideas, I believe that young practitioners and competitors are the most important people in karate.A lot of organisations seem to think that officials are the most important people around.They’re not.
What drives me on is trying to develop organisations that believe that the future of our art lies in the education of these young people , who will eventually take our place as leaders and hopefully carry on our beliefs.
(JAP)What were the most pleasant and most disgusting things that you have witnessed in your career as an active karate politician and referee?
(CN)The most pleasant thing I have found in karate competitions that I have mostly been involved in is the sporting behaviour and friendliness of competitors from around the world.They mix very easily and carry the bumps and bruises of competition without any trace of anger or revenge.The worst things are the bad behaviour and dissensions of competitors and coaches at some competitions.
(JAP)Can you please share with us some thoughts regarding the formation and progress of ESKA and WSKA?
(CN)In the 1980’s when the IOC decided to recognise WUKO, now WKF, the EAKF was disbanded.The EAKF was an all styles organisation but mostly Shotokan.
Shotokan is the most widely practised system in the world, but it is probably the most splintered.It was decided that a European Shotokan Organisation be formed to try to preserve traditional karate competition and to bring together the various Shotokan organisations and so ESKA (European Shotokan Karate Association) was born.
I was voted in as the first president and have been there ever since.I have received a great deal of help, first from Derek Langham and Len Avery and then from Dirk de Mits and Cathy from Belgium.On the Technical side, Ted Hedlund, Andy Sherry and the Technical and Referees committee have also been crucial to the success of ESKA and WSKA.
WSKA The World Shotokan Karate Association was formed at the request of the ESKA countries and is still growing year by year.ESKA and WSKA are now very successful international organisations.
(JAP)What would you like to see changing in worldwide karate?
(CN)The main thing I would like to see in worldwide karate is the various systems and organisations starting to genuinely work together so that our art can grow without the constant bickering that has spoiled its development throughout the world.I would also like to see young practitioners and competitors treated with the respect they deserve.They are, after all, the future of karate.
(JAP)Karate seems to have touched all your family. How do you feel about this and how it has changed/affected your lives?
(CN)Karate has touched all my family and has affected us all considerably.We all have a common interest that has brought us much closer to each other.It must be the same for families worldwide.
I am very grateful and thankful that I found Karate and have trained with and met some amazing people over the years.I hope it will be beneficial to the many thousands of people who are now involved in the art.
(1933 ~ 2007)
I had known Charles for more than 30 years and I don’t think I had ever been to a championship without him being present. He was a great ambassador for karate and is highly respected both Nationally and Internationally.
Charles had always been a staunch and loyal supporter of the KUGB and was instrumental in the development of both the European Shotokan Karate Association and the World Shotokan Karate Association. Over the years I became very good friends with him, as I have with all of his family. He was very jovial and always good company to be with. His death is a sad loss to me and to his numerous students and friends throughout the karate world.
I had the great pleasure of knowing Charles Naylor since we first met in 1959. He was a member of the English Electric companies Judo Club, and I, a member of the Alpha Ju Jitsu Club. We combined with members of both clubs and formed the Liverpool Karate Club. We always got on very well together and were close friends until his sad and untimely death in March 2007.
His enthusiasm for Karate was infectious which obviously rubbed off on his wife Dot, and children, Jane and Mark who are all Senior Black Belts. Charles ran a very successful dojo in Chelmsford which always produces Karate-ka of excellent standard, superb etiquette and many champion competitors.
I consider it to have been a great privilege to have known Charles over all those years and to have worked with him on the development of karate and the KUGB. He was so well thought of that he was continuously elected as President of the World Shotokan Karate Association and the European Shotokan Karate Association since there formation. He is missed greatly by his family and he is missed by me and his numerous friends and colleagues throughout the Karate World.
He is a great loss to the KUGB but the legacy that he has left behind has helped to make the organization strong,vigorous and successful.
Dirk De Mits
I first met him in 1986, at the time of the incorporation of ESKO (later changed to ESKA) when there was an urgent need for a clearly traditional karate organisation in Europe , following the disolvement of the EAKE. He acted as a representative of the English organisation and in an almost spontaneous, natural and generally accepted manner took charge of the establishment of this new European karate association.
Whilst recognising his appreciation for what the Japanese masters had realised in Europe, he wants to make especially clear that the shotokan karate in Europe is sufficiently adult to take its future into its own hands. His priorities specifically lie in the areas of simplicity, clarity and linearity of legislation, openness for all opinions and the addressing of what is essential. For him the athletes are the most important people concerned.
That his vision motivated others so strongly, is evidenced by the near unanimous votes cast in his favour as European President. And that the belief in his vision continued unabated, is evidenced by the success of ESKA on the one hand and his uninterrupted re-elections as President.
I first started training with Sensei Naylor as a 7 year old in 1988. I remember that, though I was no more than a 4½ft child, I was treated no differently to anyone else at the club. For me this was amazing as I was transformed from the kid I was outside of the class into a karate-ka inside and treated in the same way as all of the adults training with me. I think that is one of the first things that I found out about Charlie and is something that has never changed in the whole time I have been lucky enough to know and train under him. He treated everyone with the same level of respect and dignity they deserved and somehow managed to get the best out of them as they wanted to do it for him.
Throughout my career, he was always on hand to give me advice on how to approach my training and how to get the best out of myself. It will forever be one of my most savoured moments in karate to hear him say the words “that was good”. To receive a “good” from Charlie was the epitome of how much regard receiving his opinion is held. When there were sycophants eager to push lavish praise upon performances, it was always Sensei Naylor’s opinion that mattered the most.
Sensei's attitude and approach to karate and life as a whole has affected me profoundly. The way he carried himself both in and outside of the dojo has influenced my entire approach to everything I have encountered. I find giving up on anything extremely hard; I enjoy the prospect of training hard and reaping the benefits; qualities I am proud to have learnt from Sensei as a student and a friend.
I am proud to say that I was one of Sensei Naylor’s students and it is down to him that I know I will always feel welcome at Chelmsford. Having the honour of representing Sensei's club and his karate, in his company and under his eye, is something I will always treasure.
With perfect clarity I can remember the very first moment I ever saw a black belt and that was in late 1973 in the YMCA in Chelmsford, Essex. Slung over his shoulder, Charles Naylor, had his gi wrapped in his ragged belt and had entered the lobby. I suppose he was then, younger than I am now but he had, to me, an air of impressive authority. I never questioned that authority then or years later while competing nationally and internationally and, actually, I still wouldn’t question it now.
Traveling with Naylor sensei in my late teens always felt like a privilege. I knew he’d always know where to go, how to behave and who was in charge. I remember being introduced to Enoeda sensei as an 11 year old, Andy Sherry sensei in the mid-‘70’s and Nakayama sensei in Cairo in ’83 by Charles and marking the mutual respect and easy going familiarity he had with these instructors who, individually, were at their peaks during the heyday of the JKA.
I think the respect that Naylor sensei always received from those who really knew him came from a unique combination of factors, not least his karate ability. There are some characters (usually those looking for the excuse that caused their team to do badly in a competition) that may have found him officious perhaps. They were unfortunate to have only seen him in that role. I’ve been lucky to have spent almost all my time knowing Charles from the perspective of his student and benefiting from his knowledge, generosity and fairness.
In my opinion the strength he had, that allowed him to plunge unhesitatingly into potential conflicts during the heat of competition, was borne from his integrity and confidence that in turn came from his approach to training and teaching. Naylor sensei’s every class was designed to push us very hard and this reflected the only karate he knew, that is, the karate instilled into him by Enoeda sensei, which needs no further comment.
Physically, quite a small slightly-built man but he inspired all of us training under his tuition to put every ounce of effort into our techniques in order to achieve our potential for power through form. A striking characteristic of Naylor sensei was his huge dignity that transcended the possibility that personal gain might get in the way of doing the right thing. I think this quality more than any other has been a source of inspiration for me and one which is so rare these days where everything seems to be reduced to short term selfish benefits.
People have asked me recently what has gone on with the karate politics in England (especially of course since the sad passing of Enoeda sensei) as there are so many conflicting stories. I have friends whose loyalties lie in one or other of the several camps. I tell them that I don’t know who is right or wrong but that whatever I’ve been told by Charles Naylor is undoubtedly true, as I believe he is incapable of stating anything false.
Naturally my last conversation with Charles was only after a couple of hrs in his dojo. He was, by the way, in his 70’s and teaching with the enthusiasm I remember from the 1970’s while nursing (more accurately ignoring) a broken foot.
He is very sadly missed by me and, without question, all of his students.
CHELMSFORD SKC DISPLAY SQUAD
KUGB NATIONALS 2007
Many Thanks to Clwb Heb Enw for kindly allowing us to use this footage!