Contact: Chris Baker 6th Dan - 07804 732 662

The History of Ken Yu Kai Karate

Firstly lets look briefly at the origins of Karate, which can be traced back to India around 1000B.C. where a martial art known as Vajramushti is known to have existed. This was introduced to China, according to most historians by an Indian monk known as Boddhidharma, who settled in the mountains at the Shorin Ji (Shaolin Temple) and introduced a series of exercises to the monks. As time went by these exercises were refined and developed into a form of self defence and was known as Shaolin Temple fist method (Shorin Ji Kempo). This is why the Shaolin Temple is credited with being the birthplace of martial arts. It is known that this method of self defence flourished throughout Asia and eventually found it’s way to Okinawa via settled Chinese families some of whom were experts in martial arts.

The Birth of Karate

During the formative years ‘TE’ or hand as it had been called shrouded in the secrecy due to laws in Okinawa that were attempting to eradicate martial arts. The three leading schools in Tomari, Naha and Shuri went underground to avoid detection. Sometime between 1784 and 1903 the word ‘KARATE’ replaced ‘TE’. Also during this period different styles (Ryu) were developed, these Ryu, by the year 1903 had become standardised many of which are still being taught today.

The Creation of the Styles

History shows that “Bushi” Sokun Matsumura who studied under Kanga Sakugawa and was responsible for developing the fighting style around Shuri which became known as Shurite.One of Matsumura’s top students was Itosu, another was Higaonna Kanryo who was regarded as the most influential martial arts instructors in the history of Okinawa.

In 1874 Higaonna left Naha and travelled to China and trained in Shorinji Kempo. When he returned to Okinawa his fame spread and he did a demonstration for King Shotei and subsequently became instructor to the royal family. Throughout the rest of his life he developed Nahate, among his disciples were Chojin Miyagi, founder of GOJU RYU and Kenwa Mabuni, the SHITO RYU founder.

Itosu who was born in Shuri began his training under Matsumura of the Tomari line. He was the creator of the Pinan (peaceful mind) series of Kata. Importantly among the Itosu’s top students were Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of SHOTOKAN, Kenwa Mabuni and Choshin Chibana.

Mabuni who studied under Itosu and Higaonna, combined two styles, Shurite and Nahate and created his own method called SHITO-RYU. He was heavily influenced by Go Kenki of China and developed formal exercises based on the white crane techiniques taught to him. Mabunis Shito-ryu is one of the four major styles taught in Japan today.

Shito Ryu - Ken yu Kai

Mabuni’s top students were Kuniba who began Seishinkai, Kenei Mabuni who began Shito Kai, Iwata, who Terry Pottage (Chief Instructor of Ken Yu Kai) also trained with whilst visiting Japan in 1985, and importantly Chojiro Tani who was the originator of SHUKOKAI karate, which translated means association of those who train together.

Tani’s senior students were Suzuki who was based in France, Fujiwara who is now deceased, Nambu who founded Sankukai and Nambudo and most importantly for Ken Yu Kai, Shigeru Kimura. Shukokai was introduced into England in the late 1960’s at a training course at Lilleshall. Many of the leading British Karateka from the BKA who were mainly Wado Ryu stylists went along to train on this course and quite a number of them felt this (new) style was much more advanced and decided to adopt Shukokai as their way of Karate. In 1969 the Shukokai Karate Union was formed. As it happens from time to time, one section of the SKU decided because of various reasons, to form an alternative group known as WSKU under the direction of Suzuki with a resident instructor Keji Tomiyama. This group is now known as Kofukan and is based mainly in the Leicestershire area.

The chief instructor who now looked after the SKU alone was Sensei Kimura. He was, and still is the best and most powerful of all the Japanese sensei. But once again a split developed amongst the senior instructors of the SKU leading to another break up and consequently another group was formed mainly in the Birmingham area known as SKF.

Later that same year, 1980, Terry Pottage had to make an important decision for his group of clubs, collectively known as KENYUKAI, incidentally this name was given to him by sensei Kimura, which was the name of his own dojo in Osaka, Japan. After much soul searching, Terry and his loyal instructors, joined the Governing Body of Karate as an independent group.

Chris Baker and Prestwich Ken Yu Kai

I began training back in 1989, inspired after seeing Daniel Larusso as the Karate Kid for the first time. My mum took me to karate at my local Primary School, St Hilda’s on Whittaker Lane in Prestwich, where a club by the name of Black Rose was in operation headed up by George Campbell a student of Terry Pottage and a member of the Ken Yu Kai Karate Association. I followed George to several venues over the years, namely the Village Squash Club and the purpose built dojo above the Kosher Butchers on Bury New Road in Sedgley Park.

At the age of 14 I successfully attained the level of Black Belt 1st Dan after being assessed by a grading panel lead by Terry Pottage. I had taken a keen interest in the competition side of Karate and was representing the association squad in National and International events under the instruction of Steve Kelly and Andy Chapman who were the Ken Yu Kai Association National Squad coaches.

As with most sports, politics came into play, my instructor George Campbell had decided to leave Ken Yu Kai and join forces with other instructors to form the Alliance of Shukokai Karate Association, I took the decision to stay with Ken Yu Kai to further enhance my skills in the sports side of Karate. I joined the Broughton Ken Yu Kai club of which was run by Terry Pottage with support from Steve kelly and Andy Chapman. (Based at Broughton Recreation Centre, Camp Street)

It was when at the Broughton club the competition results started to come, I successfully placed in all Ken Yu Kai National Events, predominantly in kumite, represented both association and country in international tournaments in Hungary, Italy and Scotland. My proudest moment was securing a Bronze Medal in the U16s Kumite ‘Kobe Osaka’ World Cup. Shortly after this I picked up a silver medal in the U16s Kumite ‘Karate Kids’ British Championships.

At the age of 16 I attained 2nd Dan and began to teach at the Broughton Club, it wasn’t long before I had my own lesson on a Thursday evening at the club. During this period I continued to compete locally and as part of the Ken Yu Kai squad but now in the senior and adult sections, and continued to pick up medals and trophies.

By 19 I had become 3rd Dan and was practically running the Broughton Club, with Terry doing the senior lessons. I always aspired to having my own club and in April 2001, just before my 20th birthday I opened Prestwich Ken Yu Kai at St Hildas Primary School back where I began my karate journey 12 years previous. At this stage in my Karate career I wanted to put back into a sport that had given me so much in terms of personal development. I decided to focus on the running of the club and development of the students instead of personal competition success.

My very first student at Prestwich Ken Yu Kai was a young boy called Daniel Seiff, Daniel went on to achieve his black belt and was very successful on the competition scene in Kata, winning Gold medals in most U16 National Kata Competitions. Daniel left the club in 2007 to persue further education at University.

In 2005 at the age of 24 I achieved 4th Dan and I continued to commit to the success of the the club, I decided to move the club to two new venues in Prestwich to offer to different catchment areas and promote growth. I opened a class at the Phoenix Centre in St Mary’s Park and a class at St Margaret’s Youth and Community Centre this was succesful and saw the eventual closure of the St Hildas class.

In 2012 at the age of 31, I graded to 5th Dan under Terry Pottage, becoming the youngest 5th Dan in the association and first to be graded under Terry Pottage .

In more recent years the club has seen many high calibre students and has had the pride of English Internationals, English Champions, British Champions and International Champions. There have been 17 Dan Grades at the club, ranging in age from 11 to 47 at the time of the grade.

My future plans for the club are to continually promote the family and social environment, to help those that want to get fit get fit, to help those in need of self confidence, to support those that want to be national champions and to support those who want to become Black Belts. Something for everyone really…………. 

Chris Baker 6th Dan   

Kanga Sakugawa
1733 – 1815

Sokun Matsumara
1809 – 1901

Anko Itosu
1831 – 1915

Higaonna Kanryo
1853 – 1916

Kenwa Mabuni
1889 – 1952

Chojiro Tani
1921 – 1998

Shigeru Kimura
1941 – 1995

Terry Pottage
Ken Yu Kai Chief Instructor