Sensei Roy Partridge 5th Dan was a senior Karate-Ka of the Wado-Ryu style. He was the first Instructor to grade Sensei Derek Ridgway. Sadly he passed away in the summer of 2000, but his influence lives on in Kazoku Kai. He is greatly missed.
Interview with Roy Partridge 5th Dan
Roy Partridge, 5th Dan, is Chief Instructor to the Amateur karate Kai, a Wado-Ryu group based in the midlands area. He has been studying Karate for over 20 years, with many famous names, and is well respected amongst the hierarchy of karate. There now follows a rare interview, which I was lucky enough to obtain from one of the quiet men of British Karate, which gives a rare insight into both the man and his art.
Derek Ridgway: How many years have you been doing martial arts?
Roy Partridge: Just over 30 years now. I started doing judo in 1956 when I was 17/ I did that for about nine years, but had to retire due to knee problems. It was then that I started karate.
DR: Who taught you judo in those days? I expect instructors were hard to find in the 1950’s.
RP: Yes that’s right. Judo was still largely unknown in those days. Instructors were few and far between. I started under a Green belt in West Bromwich, the only grade in the area. Then, luckily, a Japanese Sensei called Kenshiro-Abbe, and 8th Dan, started to teach in Birmingham (which is not far from West Bromwich). As well as an 8th Dan Judo Kenshiro-Abbe was also a 4th Dan Aikido and a 4th Dan Karate Shotokan- style I think.
DR: Did you enjoy your Judo years?
RP: Yes. I enjoyed Judo a lot and won many medals as a youth on the Judo circuit. I enjoyed competing and the physical aspect of the sport, as most of us do when we’re in our teens and early 20s.
DR: So how did Karate come about?
RP: Well as I said previously, I started to suffer with cartilage trouble, which caused me to retire from Judo and look elsewhere in the martial arts.
DR: Did you decide on Karate straight away?
RP: No I did Aikido for a few months, but I kept hearing about this thing called Karate. So I enrolled at the West Bromwich club which, at the time was being run by a Polishman called Jan Bujak, who was a Green Belt at that time. I started not long after Eddie Daniels, who also trained at West Bromwich at the time.
DR: What style was it at West Bromwich, then?
RP: Wado-Ryu, although we went through a few styles in those days. Jan Bujak left for South Africa and we tried Shukokai, which Eddie Daniels decided to stay with, although I decided to stay with Wado.
DR: Who graded you in those days?
RP: I graded with Mr P Suzuki, Mr Iakawa or Mr Go Adachi, who were teaching in Birmingham at the time. Sensei’s Iakawa and Go Adachi have since returned to Japan and Sensei Takamizawa tells me that Mr Iakawa is now a successful businessman.
DR: What about your 1st Dan. Who graded you for that?
RP: I took my 1st Dan in the old BKA under a panel of Takamizawa, Spanton, Donovan, J. Smith and D. Connors. I also took my 2nd Dan with the same panel a few years later.
DR: I know that you have long since taken over as Chief Instructor at the now famous West Bromwich club and that over the years many famous instructors have visited your club.
RP: Yes that’s right. From the very start when I took over as instructor I would try to get top instructors to visit the club. In the early days we had visits from a 6th Dan Shotokan, who was touring Britain from I think Malaysia at the time. His name was Mr Chu-Chu-Soot. We also had visits from the famous Hirada of the Shoto-kai style. When I joined the BKA every month I would have visits from Takamizawa, Spanton, Donovan, J. Smith or D. Connors. I also booked D. Valera it was his first visit from France and John Smith acted as his interpreter. It was a great day. Hundreds were training. I think it was Valera’s best turnout. He told me he really enjoyed his stay. He showed us a lot that hadn’t been seen in this country. It was a great day.
DR: Those were good days in the BKA, with so many good instructors, all with different ideas and different techniques.
RP: Quite true. You weren’t tied to one man’s ways or methods. This gave a much larger scope for learning. You could have your cake and eat it. Also, with such a good standard of instruction the standard of the BKA, as a whole was good both in Kumite and Kata, certainly the best I’ve seen for a group that size.
DR: So why did the BKA split? You knew the committee as well as anyone at that time. What went wrong?
RP: One of the main reasons, I believe, was that it just became too big. The top instructors wanted more freedom to do their own thing and run their own affairs independently. It’s a shame the BKA split really, because it was a good association and maintained a good standard, which is good for Karate and students as a whole.
DR: So. It was decided after the BKA split that you decided to join Toru Takamizawa’s Tera Group. Why did you choose Tera as opposed to other groups you could have joined?
RP: Yes I did join Toru when the BKA split. Whilst in the BKA I was a member of John Smith’s club/ John is a good friend and excellent instructor, but at the time was experimenting and moving away from traditional methods and I preferred to practice Wado. As John was based in Plymouth I decided to find a much nearer instructor and continue in Wado. I was left with either the Tera Group of Takamizawa or the Higashi group of Peter Spanton, both of whom taught Wado. I decided on Toru at the time because he was local in Birmingham. I could train with Toru every week with no need to travel far from West Bromwich, whereas if I had stayed with Peter I would have had to travel to Forest Gate in East London, which just wasn’t practical. At best I would have seen Peter only once a month. With Toru he was close enough to visit whenever I chose.
DR: Did you enjoy training at the Temple Centre with Toru?
RP: Oh yes. My years with Toru were where I learned most about Karate and certainly about Wado-Ryu Karate. I would have regular private lessons with Toru and my standard was greatly improved by him. You see there are a lot of Karate-Ka who wear the Wado badge and claim to be doing Wado-Ryu \|Karate, but they are doing a mixture of many styles, so their standard of Wado-Ryu is often quite poor. You would be surprised at the amount of people who claim to be Wado who don’t even know the Ohyos or Kihons.
DR: So why did you leave Toru and form your own group, the AKK?
RP: Just the urge to move on, to do my own thing, to evolve my own ideas.
DR: In many ways the same reason the BKA split up, then?
RP: That’s right. Toru told me that the Japanese call it Shu-Ha-Re, which means to ‘move on’ or to ‘move away.’ He said it was quite a natural evolution of the experienced martial artist. After all, as children grow up and mature they leave home and start to run their own lives. After many years of hard training Toru believes it is quite natural for the student to want to leave and run his own affairs.
DR: I assume then that Toru was quite understanding about you leaving his Tera Group?
RP: Yes, he was quite supportive. As I said previously, Toru accepts that as the student evolves he will eventually move on and do hid own thing.
DR: Did Toru give you any advice when you left?
RP: Only to wish me luck and tell me he had confidence in my ability to make a success of running my own affairs. We parted as good friends.
DR: So how does the AKK differ from other associations you have been in?
RP: In the AKK people have more freedom, particularly Dan grades, although the Wado syllabus is strictly adhered to for gradings. In the normal class many other techniques are taught, also Kata from other styles, which gives the student an insight into what other styles have to offer. In my opinion, too, many instructors brainwash their students with only one style, giving them the impression that only their way is the correct way, when as we all know, styles have things to offer. You should use what is good and cast away what is not. Personally I think it shows ignorance on the behalf of the instructor if he does not have an insight into other styles both Japanese and Chinese in origin, or, for that matter, martial arts of any country if they have things to offer. My senior members (3rd Dan and above) have freedom to move, to develop their own ideas. If I show a technique and one says, “Well I feel more comfortable doing it this way,” that’s OK with me. Senior grades must be allowed to evolve their own ideas, if not, that’s when they leave your association to form their own.
DR: To diversify a little I know while you were in the BKA you were a top international referee. Have you any memories you would like to share of those days?
RP: Yes. I was a top national referee with the BKA. I was referee at the nationals several times at Crystal Palace, London, and Belle Vue, Manchester. During that time I officiated all the top stars of the time too many to mention, really.
DR: Moving on to your own personal training. What aspects of Karate do you now enjoy most?
RP: Basics. When I first started Karate I never really enjoyed them, but now I just can’t get enough of them. I’ll spend hours in front of the mirrors in the dojo trying to get them to some sort of standard that I am personally happy with. You see I have gone full circle the most basic technique now seems to pose the most difficulty because there is no room for error. Only perfection will do.
DR: You mean, in basics, you are constantly striving to better yourself, to obtain that perfect technique?
RP: Yes. In basics there is no opponent, but oneself, and there is no sterner judge of oneself, than oneself.
DR: I must ask you what you think of competition Karate. Do you think there is too much emphasis on competition Karate?
RP: For young people I think it is good. Young people need to compete. I certainly did when I was young and doing Judo. But I believe people must beware of neglecting the older parts of Karate just for fighting. When people only fight, often when their fighting career is finished, their Karate career is also over. They don’t know where else to go for satisfaction because they lack the knowledge of other aspects of Karate. Karate is a lifetime study. At the age of 30 years you are just beginning to understand it, that’s if you started as a teenager. So during your fighting career you enjoy your competition after all we have the best fighters on the world. But do keep your hand in at the other aspects and then when you retire you will have them to turn to and to direct your energies towards.
DR: What do you think of the standard of karate today as opposed to, say, 15 to 20 years ago?
RP: Technically O think the standard and knowledge has greatly improved. On the whole, instruction is a lot better, although there is still a lot of ineffective Karate about. On the other hand, Karate these days is a lot softer 15 to 20 years age Karate-Ka were a lot tougher, they could take a lot more punishment, but, technically, we were behind today’s Karate-La On the whole I think things are better today. I remember being on a course with a senior Japanese Wado instructor years ago, and we were doing Junzukis up and down a rugby field for hours. How many of today’s students would put up with that type of training?
DR: What advice would you give to people wanting to start Karate today?
RP: Try to find a decent club, which isn’t always easy. Ask about; find out if a friend does it. Pop into your local martial arts shop or sports shop they often know the local clubs. Above all, good clubs will have a good reputation. Always make sure that the club is recognised by one of the major federations.
DR: What are your opinions on youngsters in Karate?
RP: Although I teach youngsters in a junior class at my club, I personally would recommend under 14s to do Judo first to learn throws, locks and breakfalls, also to familiarise themselves with Japanese terminology and discipline etc. That early Judo training would put them in good shape for their Karate training. You would be surprised at the amount of Karate-Ka who cannot breakfall.
DR: Which Karate Ka do you most admire today?
RP: For me, the people I respect most today are the same people I respected 10 to 15 years ago. They are all great Karate-Ka and I have a great respect for them all. People such as Peter Spanton, John Smith, Ticky Donovan, Danny Connor and, above all, Toru Takamizawa, whom I regard as technically the best Karate-Ka I’ve ever had the pleasure to train under.
DR: If you had to sum up your philosophy on Karate in a few words, what would it be?
RP: Above all, enjoy your Karate, and don’t be tied down to one technique or method. Karate is continually evolving and we must move with it or we will get left behind. After all, you would use a boat to cross a river, but you wouldn’t pick it up and carry it once you were on the other side.
DR: Roy, thank you for your time.
RP: Thank you.
The above interview was printed in Traditional Karate.
OBITUARY ROY PARTRIDGE AGED 61 YEARS
It is with great sadness that I have to report the death of a well-known karate instructor from the midlands, Sensei Roy Partridge.
Roy started his martial arts training with Judo in the late 1950’s training under the famous Judo instructor Kenshiro Abe. This he continued for many years winning many medals and awards. Due to knee problems Roy had to retire from Judo competition and was looking for some other martial art to challenge him.
This by now was the mid sixties and Karate was just making a name for itself so Roy decided to find a Karate club and give it a try. Roy soon became one of the most respected instructors in the area and was well known by the hierarchy of karate in this country.
Roy’s main club became the West Bromwich Karate club, which is one of the oldest clubs in the country. He taught there for over 30 years; teaching generations of students Wado-Ryu karate. It was not unusual for someone who started training at the West Bromwich club when it started to have their children come and train when they were old enough; and then when they had kids, they would bring them along to the club. In so doing Roy would touch the lives of three generations; all of them coming to him for instruction and guidance.
Over the years Roy had many famous instructors visit the club among them are Toru Takamizawa; Peter Spanton; Ticky Donovan; John Smith; Dominique Valera; plus many others.
I, myself, first met Roy in the early 1970’s I was training at a club in Wilenhall, near Wolverhampton. None of us were black belts and we were really very starved of good black belt instruction. It was then we contacted Len Palmer and he told us to get in touch with Roy as he was local and he came highly recommended.
After that Roy came and taught at our club every week and conducted gradings. This relationship continued for many years with some of us also travelling to Roy’s club in West Bromwich for extra training and private lessons.
With the demise of the B.K.C.C. Roy then joined Toru Takamizawa’s Tera group, which was based at the famous Temple club in Birmingham. Roy often told me how he enjoyed his time training with Toru and how much Toru influenced his karate training. When Toru Moved down to Kent in the early 1980’s Roy took the decision to form his own Association which he called the Amateur Karate Kai (AKK) He remained chief instructor to the AKK until his untimely death recently Over the years Roy taught literally thousands of Karate-ka both young and old; both male and female. He touched people’s lives, some briefly some permanently. He will be remembered as a great Karate-ka; a friend; and as a source of respect and inspiration to many people.
I, myself, will miss him dearly, he was, and still is a great influence on my karate training. For me he was one of the greats, an unsung hero who just got on with it. I will always remember him, he was my first black belt instructor, he was a good friend and will continue to be a source of inspiration in all my future endeavours.
On behalf of all your students both past and present.
We all miss you
Sensei Roy Partridge (1939-2000)