(Shaun Banfield) Could you please tell us how you first got started in karate and why?
(Matt Price) I first started karate when at the age of nine my parents decided I should have an interest outside of watching TV. At first I didn’t enjoy it and just found it hard work, but my parents kept dragging me down to the club. Then at about the age of 13 I suddenly decided karate was for me and I have never looked back since.
(SB) In 1986 you started to train with Sensei Bob Rhodes. How did you find his instruction and what were the main focal areas of his teaching?
(MP) I remember on my first lesson with Sensei Rhodes he taught a long complicated combination. I struggled to pick it up and presumed it was a combination that was regularly practised at his dojo. I remember going home and practising it ready for the next session. To my surprise next lesson we did another equally complicated combination. After a few weeks of this I discovered Sensei Rhodes never repeated a combination and expected his students to immediately pick up whatever he was teaching, this certainly sharpened your concentration!
What impressed me most about Sensei Rhodes' dojo was the strong group of fighters he had training there. Karateka such as Randolph Williams and Nick Heald. Sensei Rhodes taught in a tough no-nonsense way and bred tough no-nonsense fighters.
(SB) At what stage did you begin to compete, and what was the impetus to begin?
(MP) I stared competing at about the age of 13 when I was a brown belt. I just fancied giving it a go, the chance of winning a trophy or a medal appealed to me.
(SB) I believe in 1987 you got onto the England Junior Kumite Squad, tutored by Andy Sherry at the Red Triangle Dojo. How would you describe this period of your training career and what influence did Sensei Sherry have on your karate?
(MP) Getting onto the KUGB England Junior Squad was a landmark in my karate. The training was so intense and Sensei Sherry would push you to the extreme both physically and mentally. Sensei Sherry would expect 100% from his squad members no matter how intimidating the situation.
Sensei Sherry has had an incredibly influence on my karate. I cannot speak highly enough of his commitment and drive within karate. Every time I train with him I come away impressed by his ability and drive.
(SB) What did the training consist of, and what other instructors taught there?
(MP) When I was on the Junior Squad, which was some time ago now! Only Sensei Sherry would instruct.
The training was extremely intense. It was made even more daunting as the KUGB Senior A Squad was expected to train on the Junior Squad. This meant you were training with such people as Frank Brennan, Ronnie Christopher, George Best and others. The training consisted of a lot of line-ups, such as starting at one end of the Red Triangle and having to fight your way though the line to the other end of the dojo, your job in the line was to punch and kick the person coming though and try to knock them back. A lot of the training was based around building up your spirit/aggression levels. Many people were invited to train with the squad but only lasted the one session!
(SB) What would you pinpoint as your most favoured success competitively, and would you care to share your memories?
(MP) This is a good time to ask me this as I have just returned from the ESKA European Championships in Lucerne, Switzerland. Here I became the European Individual Kumite Champion. I have been taking part in this championship for many years now and have come close to winning before, but up to now it had always evaded me. This year's championship was the biggest ever, with some seriously good competitors in the draw such as Mustapha Berkani, Andreas Horn and Dmitri Formiriakov. To become the first British Senior Male Champion since 1988 was extremely satisfying!
I am also extremely pleased with my KUGB Grand Champion title, becoming only the fourth man after Andy Sherry, Terry O’Neil and Frank Brennan to gain this title is something I will always be very proud of.
(SB) You have fought individually and as a part of team. In what ways are they different, and which do you prefer?
(MP) At the start of my competition career my best results always came out of team fights. This was partly due to the coaching I would receive during the fights from my team mates, but most of the difference was due to my game raising as I was fighting not only for myself but for the team. It took me some time to correct my mindset to match that of team fighting in the individual arena. This is why it is a good idea to get up-and-coming fighters onto a team to bring the best out of them, to show them what they can achieve. These days I have no preference; I am equally at home competing as a team member or individually.
(SB) To what extent did Sensei Enoeda inspire your training?
(MP) Sensei Enoeda was an incredibly inspirational karate-ka. He had the ability to push you as far as you could go, and then get a bit more out of you. I trained under him on the KUGB Senior English Squad for many years, and will always treasure those times. Often it wasn’t what he taught you, but the way he taught you, the spirit he injected into all his instruction was contagious. His Budo sprit and sense of humour will always be greatly missed.
(SB) Coming from a Shobu Ippon arena, you now compete in Sanbon kumite. How would you describe this transition, and in what ways did you have to alter your approach to training?
(MP) Moving from Shobu Ippon to the WKF rules does require some changes in training. The main difference especially at International level is fitness. In Shobu Ippon fights are normally 2 minutes, and can be won very quickly, and even if they go to time there probably will not have been that many exchanges. With the WKF rules the fights are 3 minutes at international level and will almost always run the full time. In the WKF - with you needing an 8-point margin to win - you are constantly setting up and defending attacks, so fitness becomes a major factor. Another major difference is the level of intensity needed. In Shobo Ippon one error could cost you the match. This closely mirrors a real fighting situation, whereas with the WKF rules you can often make a few mistake and still claw back the win. This can produce a more flamboyant fighting style, especially as you will be awarded with greater points for a more spectacular technique such as a head kick.
There are good arguments for both codes and I hope there will always be a place for both within karate.
I did not find the transition too hard as I had trained for many years with top WKF karateka such as Paul Newby who was the World –60kg WKF Champion. This gave me the grounding I needed to compete under the WKF rules. I have very much enjoyed being an International competitor with the All-Styles team and have learned a lot from the squad coaches Ticky Donavan, Wayne Otto and Willy Thomas.
(SB) You also released an educational Interactive CD-Rom.Would you please explain why you decided to use this type of technology rather than the normal DVD or book medium?
(MP) I felt an Interactive CD-Rom was something a bit different. The interactive format allows you to move from technique to technique as you would in a book, but with the added video playback, the best of both worlds.
(SB) What were your objectives in the creation of this project?
(MP) I felt this would be a useful instructional aid. They have received very good feedback.
(SB) Having being exposed to karate organizations outside of the KUGB, especially recently, what do you feel are the benefits of being a part of the KUGB?
(MP) Being part of the KUGB has many benefits but most importantly the standard of karate within the KUGB is extremely high. The KUGB is run as a non-profit making organisation, this means any profits are redirected back to the members through such things as free courses.
I also like the way the KUGB encourages all-round strong karate. The fighters within the KUGB are not just strong athletes but good karateka with an all-round understanding of kihon, kata and kumite.
(SB) You have also taught at your dojo at the Harrogate Shotokan Karate Club for many years. What do you feel are the most important elements to stress in your teaching and why?
(MP) I feel it is very important to practise all-round karate. Some instructors only train their students with a syllabus in mind, teaching them only enough to reach their next grade. This is like teaching a foreign language and only showing your student enough to get by, rather then the whole language. I stress the need for strong kihon training. We work on katas, both for form and bunkai. We practise and test our techniques on pads. We practise all forms of kumite, with much emphasis on Jiyu-kumite and street defence. I feel the practise of Jiyu-kumite is extremely important in a karateka's development. I believe Jiyu-kumite is often the nearest we will come to replicating a real fight situation with the dojo. My views on this subject can be seen if you read the article ‘Jiyu-kumite, is it necessary?’ which I have written, and is posted on your excellent website.
(SB) Having had experience with many great instructors, the likes of Bob Rhodes, (famed for his interesting kata applications) how much emphasis do you place on kata application, and what do you think are the most important elements of kata training?
(MP) I enjoy Bunkai training; it can be a great teaching and learning aid. It gives you something to keep in mind when performing the kata. Bunkai also makes you look harder at the kata and really study it. Having said that I do think it is important that you don’t get caught up thinking that just because you're studying the application to a kata that that is making you street-combat ready.
I really enjoy studying a kata move by move and trying my best to improve my form. I find I can easily submerge myself in this type of training. I especially enjoy this sort of training using a mirror for feedback.
(SB) Coming from a very successful competitive kumite background, I think it’s important to highlight that you have also been very successful in kata competition. When performing kata, how important is visualization, and do you feel this is a major part in the focus that accompanies kata performance?
(MP) I feel visualization during a kata performance is extremely important. When I’m performing a kata I want to feel the techniques I’m using would be strong enough to cause damage. I sometimes look at a kata that is aesthetically very pleasing but lacking in real power. I know a technique does not always have to look powerful to be powerful but equally I have spoken to many kata competitors who have admitted to sacrificing power to make a more visually appealing kata. I would prefer my kata to lack some prettiness if I can make up for that with aggression and power.
(SB) At your stage in training now, with success in competition and as a teacher, how often do you come back to simple kihon training, and do you think it’s always important to come back to kihon fundamental training to develop your freestyle training?
(MP) I always stress the importance of Kihon training. I believe your kihon is the foundation karate is built on. Without good basic training your freestyle will be sloppy. Almost all the top Jiyu-kumite competitors from all styles of karate have a strong base in kihon. Basic training is so important in building the correct muscles and body structure to create power and dynamic techniques during kumite. Without the base structure of kihon your karate will not have the foundations to develop and grow.
(SB) What is your favorite kata and why?
(MP) Unsu is my favourite kata. I have practised this kata for many years. When I was younger I was attracted to it for its athleticism especially the jump. These days I find the whole kata exciting. When performed well it is a remarkably beautiful and powerful kata.
(SB) Can we just say a huge thank you for giving us your time, and we wish you every success in the future!!
(MP) Thank-you very much. Keep up the good work with the website, its excellent!