Mick Dewey is one of few who was present at the beginning in British Karate. He, like many of his peers have seen it all, but he continues to develop and make his association, Shotokan of England Karate Union (SEKU) one of the strongest in Britain. Former student of Enoeda Sensei, this karateka continues the efforts of his instructor and works hard to promote and develop Shotokan Karate.
Sarah Amos: Can you please tell us a little about your start in karate please?
Mick Dewey: I began training in 1967 at the Portsmouth Karate Club, not through curiosity of the martial arts but to simply find out what it was that was so important as to keep my girlfriend away from me three nights of the week. I joined the class and found that I enjoyed the movement and the challenge of trying to perfect a technique. I have since discovered, as we all have, that it is an almost impossible thing to achieve.
SA: Having trained with the KUGB for many years, who of your peers would you say most inspired you and why?
MD: In those early days, my inspiration came from any source from which I was able to glean information. Everyone had something to offer and we, as beginners would spend hours talking through the last training session and discovering the secrets of the ‘new technique’ we had learned that day. Terry O’Neill was the perfect all-rounder; he could perform kata, was an exciting and very effective fighter and could kick, as I had never seen before. Billy Higgins was a brilliant fighter, good timing, punching and sweeping with such effect. The late Steve Cattle was always tactical and so spirited. Bob Rhodes, always so strong. Bob Poynton always looked nervous and timid but he gave the wrong impression and would beat on most occasions giving you a couple of heavy ‘digs’ just for good measure. Then there were the likes of Jimmy Brennan and Ray Kerridge who never knew the meaning of the word ‘backwards’ in karate fight. Unfortunately, my style of fighting was very similar to theirs and we would always end up with a horrendous clash in the middle of the arena. You always knew you had been in a fight when paired up with those two characters! Not forgetting of course Dave Hazard, who always appeared to be able to do things that others could not. Then there were the people who it seemed could perform the perfect kata - these are the things and the people who inspired me in those early days.
SA: Was it difficult leaving the KUGB to start your own association?
MD: It was extremely difficult and it broke my heart, I became a professional Karate Instructor in June 1974 during the ‘boom years’ of Bruce Lee. It was circumstantial and very unfortunate but in 1982, I found myself in a difficult position and it was impossible for me to continue as a member of the KUGB as a professional Instructor. I was particularly hurt by not being able to invite my instructor the late Enoeda Sensei to my Dojo in an official capacity again.
SA: Can you mention any particular fights you had during your time on the KUGB squad that stand out for you?
MD: Well, you are talking of a very long time ago now and there are so many memories but, as stated in the previous question/answer, the clashes with Jimmy Brennan and Ray Kerridge immediately come to mind. However, I think the one that always seems to stay in my memory is the 1975 KUGB individual Kumite final at Crystal Palace National Arena in which I had to fight Terry O’Neill. I’ve not seen or spoken with Terry for many years now but when we do meet - and it’s obviously a sore point with him - as he will always remind me that I was the only one to score on him during the entire competition that day. Oh! By the way, I lost the contest by two wazari to one!
SA: Which of your successes means the most to you? Why?
MD: Next year - 2007 - is the 25th anniversary of the Shotokan of England Karate Union. We have stuck religiously to our principles and that of Sensei Enoeda and we will continue to practise Traditional Karate. I like to think that we have just 'got on' with the job and because of that, SEKU has been accepted by the likes of those mentioned above and by others throughout the Karate World - that makes me feel very proud and is what means the most to me.
SA: Could you tell us a bit about your stay in Japan?
MD: I went to Japan in 1977 – Jubilee Year and it was the IAKF World Championships at the Budokan, Tokyo. I travelled with a friend of mine, Bob Waterhouse, who was also in the KUGB team squad at that time. Because the team squad had to raise its own money in order to travel, Bob and I travelled separately from the rest of the team as we were coming home some time after the rest of the team squad. Bob and I were going to train at the infamous JKA Headquarters in the district of Ebisu in Tokyo after the championships, after the rest of the team had returned to the UK. Our pals Dave Hazard and Ray Kerridge both members of the London Blackfriars Dojo, were already training at the JKA and had managed to rent an apartment acquired from a French guy who had also been training at the JKA. It was very cramped in the small apartment but we moved in.
SA: Who was there at that time?
MD: Well, all the usual faces from that era were there. Of the many famous Japanese Sensei teaching at the JKA at that time, were names such as Asai, Yahara, Osaka, Shoji, Tsuama, Nito, Omura and Esaka. It was before SKI so even Sensei Kanazawa put in the odd appearance from time to time. Also on one occasion, the man himself – Sensei Nakayama! There were also members from the famous Stan Schmitt ‘s outfit in South Africa; I met Keith Geyer who also stayed at the apartment of Dave and Ray. I met Ronnie Ross who runs the Highland Karate Association in Inverness for the first time.
SA: And did you experience any kind of brutality?
MD: It was the JKA and we were training in a Martial Art, we were Gaijin in a foreign country and yes, the training was very hard! I sometimes think the Japanese were a little over the top but it was their thing and we were in their environment. I do remember one day however, meeting Dave and Ray who had just finished training in the Instructor Class. They were both on a bicycle with Dave pedalling and Ray behind him sitting on the seat, Ray looked a mess, he had lumps and bumps all over his face and two black eyes for good measure. “What happened to your mate?” I asked Dave, as I did not recognise Ray. They then explained, in those days on entering Japan you had to get a visa and it would be issued for a limited amount of weeks – I forget now how many it was - you then had to leave the country and come back in, in order to qualify for your visa. Ray’s visa had expired and he had to leave the country in order to have it renewed. (The lads usually took a trip to Korea for a couple of days and came back with their new visa and this is what he had done) Although he had notified the instructors at the JKA that he would need a couple of days off to complete the process, they still gave him a good bashing on his return for doing so! That is how it was, brutal maybe but it seemed to be the accepted thing. It happened all the time especially between the Japanese themselves! Your first visit to hospital was free, after which you had to pay, we would tease each other about this if one was unfortunate enough to have made a visit to hospital.
SA: And what would you say was the most important things you took away from the trip?
MD: We are talking of thirty years ago here, karate was very new and very mystical and we had read a lot from books such as Dynamic karate, Karate-Do - My Way of Life, Moving Zen, Nishyama & Brown etc. However, you had to be there to go to Mecca and be part of it, live it, feel it, be in amongst it and we did! To be able to do this was marvellous and I brought back with me so much. It has given me so much depth and inspiration and I have been able to feed off it for many years.
SA: Were you close with Dave Hazard before you stayed in Japan, or was it this trip that cemented your friendship?
MD: Dave Hazard and I met at the Portsmouth Dojo when we were both Kyu grades. We Portsmouth Club members would invite Ray Fuller Sensei each weekend to teach us. Ray was from the Blackfriars Dojo in London where some of the first generation Japanese instructors including Enoeda Sensei, were based. On one occasion around 1970ish Dave accompanied Ray for his usual visit. Ray was an inspiration in kumite. We trained hard together, gave each other a few bruises but we hit it off together and we have been buddies ever since. There is an amusing story about that first meeting but that will keep for another time.
SA: And what Dave Hazard bring to SEKU?
MD: Dave, for personal reasons, had left the KUGB by now and was travelling the country visiting various Dojos and teaching his brand of karate. By that time, SEKU was several years into its existence and well established as a member of FEKO. Knowing Dave of old, I knew what he was capable of and I thought we could benefit from his contribution should he wish to join us and become part of our revolution. I spoke with my brother-in-law Merv O’Donnell who is one of the SEKU Senior Instructors and several other senior members who all thought it would be beneficial to have Dave on board. Dave accepted our invitation to become one of our senior instructors and was given the title of ‘Technical Director’. We installed him into the Brighton Karate Club in Sussex, which was a club a guy called Phil Elliott and myself, had started some years earlier. Dave now had a base to work from and a direction in which to go. We had 19 years of good constructive Karate. We liked to think of ourselves as being progressive and were always looking at better ways of doing things without changing traditional methods. Of course Enoeda Sensei’s way came first. We also had some very good times and lots of fun. Alas, Dave’s free spirit gave him ‘itchy feet’ a couple of years back and he chose to leave SEKU for a fresh beginning. He moved to Nottingham and is now running his own outfit. The parting was sad but very amicable; we still keep in regular contact and meet up from time to time.
SA: Are you still in close contact with any of your KUGB peers?
MD: As stated above, I meet with Dave from time to time. We also, meet with Bob Rhodes and Billy Higgins each year to spend a couple of days together talking of the old days, having a laugh and a few beers. We find it very therapeutic and I think it is important to keep things like that going. In my capacity as Board member of the Governing Body, I also have the opportunity to meet with Bob Poynton and Andy Sherry on a regular basis.
SA: You are Chief Instructor of SEKU. What sets SEKU apart from any other Shotokan Karate association?
MD: SEKU is 25 years of age in 2007, it is well established and people know us. We are not fly-by-nights; we hold regular instructor classes and our senior instructors are well established in their own right and are good teachers. Our syllabus is structured to suit all ages and abilities, we have a system that caters for children from six years of age without diluting the standard of karate but still giving them value in what they can achieve. We practice traditional values and abide by the karate code of conduct and self-discipline. We promote two tournaments each year and both events are conducted under Shobu-Ippon rules, although our members are able to enter tournaments using other rules if they so wish. We put no restrictions on where our members may train and expect the same in return from other Associations. If karate-ka join us from other associations their grade is honoured, if they choose to take a grading examination with us they will be judged by the same standard as any SEKU member, they could be promoted, be relegated or stay the same, this we think is fair. We expect the same treatment for our members should they join other associations.
SA: Your karate continues on the teachings of Sensei Enoeda, what do you feel is the most important thing you stress in your karate teachings?
MD: The root of traditional karate is in the foundations and I think it most important to be relentless about the three K’s – Kihon, Kata & Kumite. Rather like your house, if your foundations are weak then your house will not stand up to every day wear and tear and will eventually fall. If you regularly practise your basics within the three K’s, you are then able go out and have your fun. Enoeda Sensei did just that, with at least half the class spent honing basic technique, after which he allowed us to have our fun.
SA: Right now, there’s much debate about the whole issue with relaxation and tension of the muscles upon impact with a target. What is your opinions about how we should contract the muscles upon impact?
MD: I believe that Kime’/focus (The contraction of the muscle on the very point of impact) is the most fundamental aspect of karate. Without it karate is merely an aerobic movement. I also think that there are two types of Kime’, one as I have just outlined in the brackets and the second for use particularly when using the Makiwara when at times, one should practise what I term as double Kime’. To explain, the practitioner contracts the muscles on impact, then executes a second focus by locking the entire body to form a short push into the Makiwara. Note: Karate-ka need to make use of the Makiwara in order to understand this type of focus. Okinawa Goju-Ryu Sensei Morio Higgaonna teaches this form of Kime’ for Makiwara training.
SA: How great an emphasis do you place on breathing?
MD: I think it very important to breath in unison with each technique, not necessarily noisily or with full lungs, these are merely teaching aids for the beginner. Breathing in this manner teaches us that the use of breath ie the exhalation of breath in a technique to relax whilst performing it and to focus it on the very point of impact, then to release it again immediately. As we advance in our understanding and ability, we can achieve the same effect by using a small amount of exhalation and sometimes none at all.
SA: We’ve recently placed an event you’re planning on the site calendar, and we noticed you’re running the tournament by ippon shobu rules. What’s your opinion on the modern state of kumite competition?
MD: Modern Sport Karate is good for the young man/woman, it gives him/her the outlet needed, and for the competitive edge, we have in our youth. The problem is without the foundation of the three K’s there is little to fall back on as we get older and no longer wish to compete.
SA: Do you think the WKF rules have to some extent lost a degree of the Budo attitude?
MD: Yes, I do, with Shobu-Ippon for example; there is very little room for error as you only get one chance, maybe two. The rules are very basic and easy to understand. In my opinion, WKF rules tend to dilute the value of the technique as points are awarded so freely. That is not meant to demean the WKF competitor as I think they are extremely skilled, talented and very athletic, but I think there is a certain degree of the game of ‘tag’ in there somewhere. The emphasis on winning at all costs also encourages the footballers disease of ‘diving’ to the extent that we have seen the introduction of the 10-second rule and the awarding of ‘negative points’ as a result.
SA: What is Sensei Dewey’s favourite Kata and why?
MD: My favourite Kata changes with time, one day I might like Sochin, another time it could be Hangetsu or Gojushiho, maybe Heian Nidan, it depends on my mood or what Kata I am training in and what I feel comfortable with at any particular time
SA: Where do you see SEKU going in the future?
MD: As stated earlier, SEKU practise Traditional Karate and Dojo etiquette and we abide by the Karate code and encourage self-discipline, as we believe in its values. SEKU syllabus is structured for all levels, ages and abilities and I hope the legacy we leave will continue.
We want to say a huge thank you to you Sensei Dewey for allowing us to interview you. Thank you.