Wado-ryu - John Moreton 8th Dan

In 2007 Sensei Moreton provided me with the following interview for Karatesite.

I began Karate at a time in my life when I lacked direction and needed a focus. Had I not taken up the discipline my life could have turned out very differently.

I began my training in Hull in 1969. The club that I trained with was affiliated to the then U.K.K.F. that became the UKKW. I chose Wado simply because it was the style that happened to be practised by that club. I have never practised any other style of Karate. The cost of my training was typically 50 pence per 4 sessions per week. My wages at that time were approximately £4 per week. My first Gi was a Tokiado and I remember that it cost me the handsome sum of £13.00. At the end of every training session it used to stand up on its own from the sweat!

My instructors, John Pittock and Trevor Burwell, were both green belts when I began training. My Japanese instructors were:

  • Mr Ohtsuka the founder of Wado-Ryu
  • Mr T Suzuki
  • Mr Fukazawa
  • Mr Meji Suzuki
  • Mr Shiamitsu
  • Mr Peter Suzuki
  • Mr Fuji
  • Mr Maeda
  • Mr Sakagami
  • Mr Kobayashi
  • Mr Kitimora
  • Mr Wakamae
  • Mr Takamizawa
  • Mr Tanabe

This list is not exhaustive. I have trained with many other Japanese Instructors on various courses both in this country and around the world.

The only English gentleman that came to instruct at our club was Mr Bob Wignall who was a real hard nut. He used to accompany the Japanese Instructors when they first began to teach in this country and he helped to show them the ropes as some of them were unable to speak or understand English very well to begin with.

The Japanese Instructors would come to the hall where we trained every 3 months and they would grade us. A grading would consist of us going through our syllabus on the Saturday followed by the actual grading the next day. During the Saturday we would learn new techniques and discrepencies would be literally beaten out of us. We were kicked into the correct positions and hammered during fights with the Japanese Sensei but we learnt quickly. 200 or so students would attend the grading on the following day so it was a very long day.

Society was much harder in those days than it is now. We just accepted things without question and never complained.

Once I became a green belt I began to travel to London to train at Judd St Dojo, Kings Cross. This was where all the Japanese Instructors were based in England at that time. I also attended many summer and winter courses at various venues around London and elsewhere in the country. I was training during the splits in the U.K.K.W. and remember when all the Japanese Instructors parted company with Mr Suzuki. I heard many rumours as to why they left but I won't repeat them. Some stayed away but most came back. However, Meji Suzuki left to start Mugendo.

Like in all walks of life some of the Japanese Instructors could be quite difficult. Others were nice. I won't embarrass them and say who, in my opinion, was difficult, but my 3 favourite Japanese Instructors were Mr Sakagami, Mr Maeda and Mr Kobiashi. I recall two Japanese Instructors with very bad reputations had to move to different countries for a while to allow things to quieten down here! I remained with Mr Suzuki and the U.K.K.W. up until 1980 when I left because of some differences of opinions. I also thought that I knew every thing there was to know!

I formed the English Karate Association with Joe Balco and Yoshi Shinohara and Barry Wilkinson was also part of our organisation for a short time until he left us to form the S.K.W. I left the E.K.A. in approximately 1984/1985 as I felt that I needed to branch out on my own. I formed my own group the English Wado-Ryu Karate Union/Federation. I'm afraid that numbers at my new club were low largely due to my tough no nonsense training methods and hard approach.

Around 1993/1994 I was contacted by an old friend, Stuart Winter from Redcar that I had known since my time at the U.K.K.W. He informed me of a course that he was hosting where Mr Suzuki would be instructing. I attended and loved it. From then on I began to train on all of his courses and summer camps. I attended Mr Suzuki's 1995 tour of Japan and this led to my returning to the U.K.K.W. and W.I.K.F. I believe if you use someone then you should support them.

I later became the Chairman of the U.K.K.W. and the Vice-Chairman of W.I.K.F. in Europe until such time as I left again in 2002. I left due to some issues that happened in the U.K.K.W. that resulted in their name change to the W.I.K.F. and also because of some demands that were placed on me that, unfortunately, I felt that I could not accept. In any case, I left again and in 2003 I formed the Wado-UK Karate group which is an independent Wado-Ryu association set up for Karate-ka who wish to practice any of the 3 schools of Wado in a structured and friendly atmosphere.

During the period between 1970 and 1980 I won many local and domestic competitions. I also competed on the U.K.K.F. /U.K.K.W. squad. I fought at the Bel Vue, Manchester in the B.K.C.C. days when I was a green belt. Those were good days. I became Captain of the U.K.K.W. team and we won many Wado Europeans titles and events. I was also selected on to the England All Styles Team. We went to many countries and won European championships as well.

I have two Bronze Medals from European All styles Championships. I was selected on to the British World Championship Squad in 1975, however, I didn't get into the Team that went to the U.S.A. but we all did our bit pushing each other on whilst trying for a place. I didn't try out for the next British World Championship Squad as it was to be held in Japan and, unfortunately, I was just not in a financial position where I could afford to go.

The last England Team fight that I was selected for happened to be against France and also happened to be the same day as my son's christening and so I was unable to take up the place. I stopped competing in 1980 as I had a family to support.

I was also a National Referee (E.K.G.B.) but I also had to give that up after I suffered a heart attack. I have refereed at W.I.K.F. World and European Championships and I was also a NVQ assessor for Karate.

I have fought with many famous Karate-ka either during competitions or at training sessions. These have included – Ticky Donovan, Brian Fitkin, Hamish Adam, Dave Coulter, Howard Collins, Jeff Wybrow, Terry O'Neal, Bob Poynton, Billy Higgins, Steve Cattle, Eugene Codrington, Unel Wellington, Eddie Cox, Neiman Prince, Vic Charles, Jeff Thompson, Jerome Atkinson, Terry Pottage, Ossie Rowe, Peter Denis, Mick Dewey, Dave Hazard, Tyrone White, Stan Knighton, Mike Dinsdale.

John Moreton
August 2007

Website: WadoUK

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