Charlie Wildish:

I began training in Shotokan Karate at the age of 16 with the Sheppey Karate Club, attaining my first dan in 1982 under the charismatic Sensei Ray Fuller. It was here that I first started to develop a love for bunkai and practical applications, rather than competition.

Work took me to Scotland where I continued with my Karate training with the Karate Union of Scotland. A knee injury and 2 cartilage operations took me out of training for over a year, but I returned and attained my 2nd dan under Sensei Enoeda in 1988.

Work again moved me, this time to the South West of England, where I trained with KUGB and then SEKU. Training in Frome, Somerset under Sensei Graham Mead, I further developed my love of practical bunkai which was emphasised at this club. It was clear by this time that bunkai was beginning to be better understood and becoming more workable than before. In 1995, I attained my 3rd Dan with SEKU under Mick Dewey, Dave Hazard and Mervin O’Donnel.

I also studied a bit of Wing Chun Kung Fu during this period which I found very practical and straight forward. Some of the Wing Chun applications can be read across into my Karate kata’s.

Then due to domestic problems, I was not able to train properly for a number of years, though I did try to maintain some standards, particularly kata, training on my own at my works sports centre when I could.

In January 2009 I returned to the fold. With the Frome Karate Club unfortunately closed down, I had to look around for a club that suited my needs. I wanted a club that had a high standards, realistic self defence and bunkai, and a progressive approach (away from the original stiffness that used to permeate Shotokan Karate years ago). I was lucky to find the Wells Traditional Shotokan Karate Club, headed up by Sensei Paul Mitchell, 4th Dan, which fulfilled all my needs. Paul also teaches Tai Chi which I took up in Aug 2009.

Although the Tai Chi and Karate are taught separately and are quite different on the surface, there is also significant overlap. It is also nice to see some of the Tai Chi softness put into the Karate, making it more fluid, effective and healthier.

Due to parental commitments, I cannot always get to training with the club as often as I would like to. Therefore I sometimes train on my own, and sometimes with a friend, Keith McKay Cormack, who is a Kung Fu practitioner (Choi Lee Fut, Wing Chun, Huen Kuen and others). Although we practice our own kata’s/forms, we often cross reference to work out the bunkai for them. Despite the linear emphasis of Karate and the circular emphasis of most Kung Fu styles, it is surprisingly easy to cross reference and find applications that can be used by both systems.

Although I am and always have been predominantly a Shotokan stylist, I have always kept my mind open to learn and absorb from others. In fact, by learning from others I have often attained a better understanding of my own Karate. Although I enjoy practical bunkai, I still believe that good basics are essential. Good bunkai can only build on a solid foundation. Although all visitors are welcome to come to learn and share their own knowledge, I would advise anybody to keep studying hard at your own core style and not to neglect your own basics in favour of bunkai.