Dave Hazard Interviewed by Steve Rowe, for the EGKB Column, the official column of the English Karate Governing Body, June 2003

MAI – Martial Arts Illustrated, Volume 16, No. 1, June 2003

Dave Hazard is a living legend in Shotokan Karate. He is typical of the depth of quality contained within the English Karate Governing Body. Taking up the art in the late ‘60s, training at the famous Blackfriars Dojo under the late Enoeda Sensei, Dave was one of the first English instructors to up sticks and make the journey to Japan to train at the Honbu Dojo of the Japan Karate Association, returning a year later as a Sandan, graded by the late Nakayama Sensei, head of Shotokan Karate.

An East End boy, Dave has the reputation of the highest level of skill and the ability to transform that into the most useful applications, both in competition and in the street. He has a cockney charm that helps him to put over the depth of his knowledge in the most simple and practical ways, making learning with him a pleasure.

In the year 2000 Dave became Part Time Assistant to coach Ticky Donovan on the National Squad and helped immensely with both Kumite and Kata. He has brought out two new videos entitled ‘Applied Karate’, volumes 2 and 3 that are a must for any Karate enthusiast’s video shelf. He has also recently formed a new association within the English Karate Governing Body called The Academy of Shotokan Karate.

Steve Rowe: Dave, can you tell us how you first became involved in Karate.

Dave Hazard: I had been involved with Judo for a few years as a youngster. I had stopped for about a year when I met a friend who had a badly damaged hand. I asked him how he had injured it and he said ‘Karate’. I had heard of the art and couldn’t help but be interested.

When was that?

It was August 1969 and he took me along to the now famous Blackfriars Dojo. I thought the Japanese instructors had landed from the moon. They were leaping about with their head kicks and so on and I was astonished. I’d always been taught that you only kick someone in the head when they were lying on the floor. I thought “I’d like to be able to do that some day” and that’s how it all started.

When you first went along to a class, who was teaching? I walked in on a great lesson. Enoeda Sensei, Kato and Sumi were teaching.

Who else from the ‘old school’ was there?

Ray Fuller ran the club and the likes of Jim Wilson and Ray Kerridge were there. It was a great atmosphere.

What was the training like?

Hard, fast and furious. We trained consistently in the three K’s – Kihon, Kata and Kumite. Questions weren’t encouraged. We learned more by doing than by instruction. When instruction happened, it was fantastic but as the Japanese instructors’ English was minimal, it was a bit sparse. For instance with a front kick we had to raise the knee and then we were told to ‘snap from the elbow’. We tried to explain to Sensei that it a was a knee, not an elbow, and were informed that it was an ‘elbow today’. We had to snap from the ‘elbow’ when we wanted to kick.

Did you feel that method of training was better than the kind of training we do now?

No. We lost a lot of good people through self injury due to incorrect technique, where as nowadays we all utilise proper coaching methods.

Did you get your Dan grade at Blackfriars?

I took Shodan there with Enoeda Sensei in December 1972 and then Nidan. I took Sandan in Japan. I remember as a white belt looking at the green belts thinking they looked good. Heian Yondan looked great with all the chops, elbow and knee strikes; if I could just get to green belt, that’d do for me. I got to green belt, then I thought, those purple and white belts look a bit handy, I wouldn’t mind being one of them. I never dreamed that I would make it all the way to Black Belt because when I first attended the club and asked how long it would take to get a Black Belt I was told 3 or 4 years of training, attending a minimum of 2 classes a week and all the courses. I thought I’d never do that. Then I made Brown Belt and realised that I just had to stick to it to make Black Belt. Then I thought, if I just get Black Belt, that’s it, who worries about Dans? I thought the belt will wear, get a bit tatty and all will be fine…

I never aimed that high, it just came along with the training. It was always little steps and each time I thought I could make it a little higher.

What were you doing for a living at the time?

I was a hairdresser in London’s East End. I left school early and worked as a Saturday boy, sweeper up and hair washer. I met all the East end characters and villains there, getting a good education in ‘street life’. They sold more shirts and trousers and after-shave out of little cardboard boxes than hair cuts. I loved it there, I had a good mentor and learned a lot. I worked there until I became a professional Karate instructor.

What made you decide to go to Japan?

It’s where Karate as I knew it, and my instructor, came from. In those days it was also considered to be very ‘exotic’. Ray Kerridge had often talked about making the trip and then one day his circumstances changed and he decided to go. Not wanting to be left behind I sold my old banger, drew my savings out of the Post Office and off we went. That was in 1977.

Was it a shock when you got there?

Oh yeah. I had a lot of my ‘bubbles burst’ but found some other good things. It was a good experience.

What was the training like there?

Very hard. Not in the sense that you got injured, you picked up bruises and damaged fingers and toes, but it was more the mental pressure of having to train three times a day, every day. It was intense. After a while you just became a part of it.

Did you meet any other Europeans there?

There were a couple of South Africans, that was it.

How did the Japanese treat you?

Fine. Everyone tends to think that they treated westerners harshly but they treated everyone the same.

Who was the main instructor there at the time?

Nakayma Sensei, a great man. I was so lucky to be around at that time, sometimes I still have to pinch myself at my good fortune. People often ask me if that was the ‘golden era’ of Shotokan Karate in Japan and I say it was just after the golden era must have been when Enoeda, Kanazawa and Shirai Senseis were there. I had Kanazawa Shoji, Waki, Yahara, Tanaka and Osaka. It was great!

You took your 3rd Dan there, what was it like?

It wasn’t so hard. I think their view on it was that they had watched me for 6 or 7 hours a day for the last year and that was sufficient. It was a normal grading. I had to do basics, Kata, pairwork and fighting.

What did you do when you came back to England?

Enoeda Sensei and I had a disagreement so I drifted for a while. Cliff Hepburn, the general secretary of the KUGB, said that there were a lot of clubs that would like to see me and would I consider doing courses for them? Because of the disagreement, I couldn’t compete which disappointed me a bit. Before I left for Japan I had won the Kata title and was runner up in the Kumite, now I thought I was better and wasn’t going to get the opportunity to test it. Once I got into teaching, I got over it very quickly. I started teaching a few clubs around the country and once the word got around it increased sufficiently for me to turn professional and I haven’t looked back since then. That was in 1978.

Did you establish your own club then?

No, I just taught courses for others. I joined the Shotokan of England Karate Union with Mick Dewey around 1984, and to be closer to what SEKU were doing around the South Coast, I told them to pick an area and I’d move there and start a club. I was already teaching courses at a club on Brighton and when they heard about my plans they offered the club to me. The existing instructors didn’t want to each any more and said that as long as they could continue training there I could run the club. I moved to Brighton and have run the club ever since. The club’s been established for 29 years now.

Where did life take you then?

I was lucky, I started to teach in Canada and Europe, continued teaching courses, grew the club in Brighton and everything just worked out well.

Now you’re a Part Time Assistant Coach to the National Squad, how did that come about?

Ticky Donovan is the National Coach, Wayne Otto is the Assistant Coach and I’m the Part Time Assistant Coach specialising in Kata. In the year 2000 Ticky asked me if I would be interested in the post and I was thrilled to do it. I help out with the Kumite as well and I’ve had a great time.

What are your thoughts on the way that Kata is performed in a tournament?

A very beautiful performance. From a personal point of view, Kata have become impractical. The performers are complete athletes. The speed and power they have is exceptional but I wouldn’t agree with the actual content and application of the techniques. Having said that, now that Bunkai has been introduced to the competition it has lifted Kata to a new level.

Is the Bunkai set?

No, they can make up their own as long as it matches the Kata. There’s no one right way, so the various interpretations make it much more interesting and raise the level of performance. They can’t change the Kata but can interpret the Bunkai in their own way.

In the old days, when Kata was on the mat, no one was really interested, but now everyone gathers around the area to see what the competitors are doing. The fighters just saw Kata as choreographed dance, now they’ll come and see what the explanations of the moves are.

With Kata, if you can’t make it work what’s the point of doing it? It’s kicking, punching, locking, throwing, choking, strangling and doing damage. I can practise all of those techniques in a format in my Kata and pass the knowledge on that way but at the end of the day, it’s got to work. When I first travelled with the England Squad, I thought I was in the wrong job. I thought what the Kata performers were doing was very athletic and good but, as a staunch traditionalist, I didn’t agree with a lot of what was going on. To give our athletes the best opportunity to compete in that arena, I’ve had to adapt my thinking and take on board what they were doing.

We have really got some talent in this country. Jonathan Mottram and Michelle Hey are two terrific young athletes with incredible futures ahead of them and many others right behind the. The international standard is now very high and we have to put in a lot of work to match it. Jonathan and Michelle are right up with the best.

You’ve just brought out two videos?

Yeah, with Aidan Trimble. We’ve always gone for quality in our videos and lost some money in the past as a result but Budo Promotions have come along and handled the whole thing for us, keeping the quality. I’m really pleased with the result. The videos are on ‘applied Karate’. We cover basic techniques and then show how these techniques are applied to competition and then outside in the street for self defence. In the third volume we cover the sparring sets of 3 and 5 step Kumite and their application.

You’ve also just started your own association?

That’s right, the Academy of Shotokan Karate. It was formed in February of this year and we’re pleased to be in membership of the English Karate Governing Body and will hopefully progress within its structure.

Are you Shotokan only, or multi-style?

Just Shotokan.

I would have thought an excellent home for traditional Shotokan Karate practitioners.

I hope so.

How do you see the future?

I’m lucky that I’m a traditional Shotokan Karate practitioner and because I work with the English National Coach and squad. I get good quality input from other styles. I always look forward to travelling and working with the squad and then I enjoy returning to my roots when I get home. Ticky’s coaching is top quality, he’s respected world wide, he’s proven to be the best coach in the world time and time again. With Wayne as his assistant, you couldn’t ask for more. Wayne is nine times World Champion and just amazing and inspirational to watch.

The future is good. My own style still has so much for me and my role with the squad gives me more. The standard of Karate and coaching in the English Karate Governing Body is so good at the moment and the infrastructure is better than it’s ever been. The new tournament rules have improved the standard and make Karate much more interesting and exciting to watch. Our refereeing is better and the EKGB structure is constantly qualifying new people at world standard. The Squad has a Doctor, Physio and Masseur travelling with them and the whole support structure is better than it’s ever been.

Finally, Dave, we have recently suffered the death of Enoeda Sensei, it must have hit you hard

It was tragic and, to be honest, I was devastated. I’ve been with Sensei since I was 17 years old and I’m going to miss him terribly. Karate of all styles in this country owes a huge debit to him