once famous for its ship building industry


Hanshi Alan Gibson 9th Dan


It would be impossible and a massive task to write down everything of nearly 60 years within the martial arts. I am now unfortunatly starting to forget many things although I hope this brief profile helps with some understanding of my life within the martial arts.


Born 1947 Govan, Glasgow. Scotland

Once famous for its ship building industry, Govan is situated on the banks of the river Clyde.

Along with the Gorbals, Govan is also known as one of Glasgow’s toughest area’s.

In past days, police would walk around in two's for their own protection. Some wore leather neck bands to protect them from razor attacks of the teddy boy gangs that roamed the streets at night.

Like many a run-down inner-city area, Govan could be a very dangerous place at times.

My father had a bit of a reputation as a Glasgow hard man and had done some boxing before the war.  As a means to survive the hardships of the these years, he boxed illegally in dockland pubs, fighting mainly Russian and American sailors for money.

Living in such an environment you had to quickly learn how to look after yourself and although my upbringing may not of been an academic one, it did help me survive many a bad situation.

                  Where I was born top floor Govan Glasgow 1947

My interest in karate started late October 1959

I was 12 years old and after seeing a demonstration on television of a karate expert smash through a wooden door with his bare fists, I thought  to myself, how could he have such power and skill to do that. I really wanted to be just like that karate man and to have that explosive power and skill. So off I went to find a karate club.

However, the accepted age for joining a karate club back then was around fourteen or fifteen so I had to pretend to be older.

Note: The only style of karate practiced at that time in Scotland was Shotokan.

Shotokan is am older style of traditional Japanese karate.

Note: Training back was very basic, however it was much more brutal and physical than what is practiced today. Because of this there were no women or young children participating in karate at that time.




1st Dan Shotokan




If you can imagine, joining a karate club back then in a city like Glasgow was certainly not for the faint hearted.

Most students were either made up of teddy boys, gang members, street fighters, nutters or just plain hard men.

Doing karate then

It was either to enhance your fighting skills, test yourself, or have the opportunity to damage someone.

Maybe not all the students were like this, but what I experienced most were. If you are wondering what category I would put myself in, then you would have to put that question to Shihan or Renshi as well as all my past students .

Having such a deranged group meant that the instructors had to be tougher and a lot more brutal in their teaching approach.

Although some of the students were good

street fighters and were very aggressive, most were not tremendously fit.

On the other hand, instructors and senior students although pretty good fighters themselves, were always in good physical condition and because of this, most of the tough nuts when pushed, found it hard to stay the distance with them.

The atmosphere and attitude in class sometimes lent towards a more sadistic nature where one could smell the tension and aggression.

But it was well suited for that time and place.


Outside training

Jodo mission
Resting after hard training session  

front of the Buddha shrine temple bell

and below a close up of the bell

close up of the temple bell

jodo temple at night


Kata training at entrance to the Jodo temple


Senior Japanese ladies training class

With high ranking Grandmaster Kisho Inoue, of the Okinawan

and Japanese Ryukyu Kobujutsu association and one of his Shihans

traditional Honbu Dojo

  Kobudo class in progress




Karate in the early days

It was no fancy pants stuff, karate then, compared with some of today's standards was more physically and mentally demanding and lot more aggressive. You have to understand, at that time, karate was just beginning in this country. It had just come over from Japan or Okinawa where the philosophy was not winning trophies, keeping fit, or for having a nice little hobby after work. Karate was taught back then as a kill or be killed fighting art and clearly something that should not be confused with some of the watered down soft styles that are being taught in many so called clubs today.


This type of training and philosophy gave me a strong mental and physical attitude and built a good foundation towards real fighting situations.

Once in a while we were served up to visiting Japanese teachers

Our Japanese teachers were all very tough and very determined men, although a few, (just a few) could be at times helpful and polite in their teaching manner. Others however, thought the war was still on and we were their prisoners.


With the great Shotokan Grand Master, Kancho Hirokazu Kanazawa 10th Dan

One of Japans most famous and talented instructors

Kancho Hirokazu Kanazawa is one of the few remaining karateka privileged to have studied under supreme Okinawan karate master Gichen Funakoshi who is credited as the modern day father of karate bringing karate over to mainland Japan from Okinawa in 1922.

Master Kanazawa, is one of the world’s most renowned and respected traditional karate masters alive today. He won the notorious ‘All Japan karate Championship’ Kumite championship in 1957 and in 1958 won the Kata and Kumite Titles. On one occasion winning the finals whilst nursing a broken wrist from an earlier event. 

Although trained in Judo in his early years, Kanazawa took up karate whilst at University under the late headmaster of the shotokan style Matsatoshi Nakayama (10th Dan). Breaking away from the JKA (Japan Karate Association) in 1973, Kanazawa set up SKIF (Shotokan Karate-do International Federation). SKIF is now the world’s largest Shotokan association, having over 2 ½ million members in over 100 countries.

Hanshi has had the privileged and honour to have trained under this great karate man.

Weekend courses outside in mid winter

Our Japanese masters would take us training to the windswept Scottish mountains. Sometimes in the middle of winter forced into the freezing sea or lochs to do sparring, kicking, punching and kata techniques. Thinking back, we must all of been completely bloody mad.

Training in these days was a non stop regime of 2 or 3 hours of grueling basic repetitious techniques. Everyone was very competitive with each other. Being roughly grabbed, pushed, punched, kicked, slapped or hit with a wooden staff by our instructors along the way was normal practice.

A typical warm up

1,000 kicks over a chair, or to each other, 1,000 punches in a low horse stance, bunny hops around the dojo (banned today), star jumps to the last man standing which usually lasted over half an hour where the instructor would only stop when the last man gave up. This usually ending up with us having very sore, blistered or bleeding feet.

Throughout these long years I have certainly trained in many an odd place, such as; working men's clubs, dingy shop basements, church halls as well as training outside in all weathers. Some of the indoor premises were old establishments that had stone floors or unpolished floor boards that were so rough that your feet would often feel like they were on sand paper and being ripped to shreds. Over the years of pounding the floor with bare feet your soles became very hard, also losing some of the feeling where you could stand on a tack without noticing or feeling it.

Sparring in these days was a very aggressive affair

Sparring at times seemed nothing more than all out war. No protective equipment was available in these days and heavy physical contact was the norm.

It was plain fear and survival of the fittest, take no prisoners was the motto. Anything went, head butts, knees, even bitting, grabbing the hair, throat or groin was deemed acceptable, although some students did get carried away with this. You could grab your opponents legs if they tried a kick you and throw them hard to the ground, followed by punching them semi hard to the body or skin contact to the face (that's a laugh). Also dropping down with your knee on you opponent was a good way to wind them and then jump on them to wrestle them into a strangle hold submission. You were expected to do some moves lightly but usually we all got very excited and carried away most of the time.

As you can imagine, there were lots of injuries, bruising, strains, broken fingers, ribs, toes, black eyes, loose teeth or a broken blooded nose. Sometimes a fracture of the arm, leg, fingers and toes it all happened now and again. However the truth is, it just all seemed to us back then part of training and was the only attitude you seemed to have towards others. This to me is understandable especially growing up in such a place at that specific time and really something you just accepted without question or thought. No one really cared anyway, myself, instructors or students.

Sparring was usually done one to one, although you could find yourself fighting 2,3, 4 or more opponents.

We had special names for these fighting sessions; the "Pub Fight", "Street Fight" "The all in fight" "Smash & Grab" or "Grab & Smash" where everyone in the dojo attacked anyone near them, just like a big battle. That was fun!! The fights were actually a big free for all and would only finish to the last man standing, the winner (who was let off doing the hundred press-ups or the hundred bunny hops). Saturday and Sunday were special sparring sessions being 3 to 4 hours long where we all usually ended up totally soaked in sweat, battered, bruised or hurt, but usually in most cases very sore and bloody.

You never forget these times, anyway the pain and aches from past injuries which are still with me, ingrained into my memory today won’t allow me to forget.

I have often wondered how on earth I ever managed to survive these crazy mad times.

Health & Safety, Child protection, Risk Assessment, CRB, Insurance " where there's blame there's a claim. What's that, never heard of it back then!!

Come to think of it, I would be worth an absolute fortune now if the compensation culture was around then, although all the people I have damaged would be very well off to.

The late Soke Shigeru Kimura 10th Dan Shukokai Karate 1941 - 1995

Seen here in Glasgow, Scotland.

Soke Shigeru Kumura was a legend of Shukokai Karate.

He took up Kendo and Judo before moving on to Karate aged 16yrs

He won the Japan karate championship title and won it again a year later.

He believed that karate should be realistic. His fast and powerful methods of training were obvious to his students and opponents. He died aged 54 and is sadly missed by all traditional martial art students who trained under him and those who knew of him..

When I first came down to London from Scotland, I trained for a while at master Tatsuo Suzuki's dojo.

When I moved later to Brighton I trained at sensei Joe Robinson's dojo. I also did some boxing at Brighton Boys Club along with my karate training. The coach at that time as I remember and told was a former British champion, later he sent for my professional licence and I remember he said that I can earn £60 a fight being a professional boxer. However, doing 7 days a week hard training started to take it out of my body physically, especially as I was also working at a very physical job and therefore decided I should concentrate soley on my karate. Along with my karate I also did judo under sensei Robinson and gained my brown belt. However, I wanted to open my own karate club, although teaching a lot of karate students was a brand new experiance for me. My thirst for training was far stronger than having a club, so I often went back and fourth when I could manage, back to London to continue with my training at Master Suzuki's dojo.


Later I was privaliged to be invited by master Tatsuo Suzuki to take part in a demonstration, to be held at the Brighton Boys Club. This demonstration was for sensei Fuji, one of sensei Suzuki's instructors who wanted to open a karate school at the Boys Club. Along with myself, there was the British Competition Wado Champion and some of the Worlds top Japanese Wado Ryu karate masters, one being of course sensei Fuji himself.

As I remember, although I may have forgoten some others, they were: sensei Meiji Suzuki, sensei Maeda, sensei Shiamitsu, sensei Sakagami and Commenting was Tom Hibbit MBE, who was at the time the UK Wado Ryu secretary under Master Suzuki. Later he become the head of the AMA, one of the largest karate sanction associations in the UK.

After doing a demonstration of karate fighting techniques and sparring with the Wado champion, sensei Kuniaki Sakagami then asked me to spar with him, with sensei Meiji Sukuki as referee.


During the fight, things got a little heated and I made heavy contact, spliting open sensei Sakagami's lip.

I could see in his face he was not to happy with that and got really angry. Especially when the other Japanese masters started laughing. Even though I stopped and bowed, he fiercley attacked me, ending up with me being trapped up-against the spectators who were sitting all around the hall. He aimed a powerful front kick at my gedan level (below waist), not nice thing to do. Anyway luckily, I managed to stop it from making contact with a strong downward sweeping block (gedan barrai). However, the kick was so strong it lifted me right of the ground. Afterwards, while in the changing room I noticed my arm was fast swelling up like a balloon and was starting to give me a lot of intense pain. However, I thought nothing of it at the time, it's something you get used to and expect in those days when sparring in karate. It wasen't until later, I thought, may as-well pop along to hospital, well just in case. Glad I did, it ended up my arm was badly broken.

Anyway, the following week I was at sensei Fuji's very first class along with my arm in plaster.

Note: Master Fuji would always bring another Japanese instructor along with him to every class and on that very first one, yes, it was only, sensei Sakagami.

During the lesson I noticed he was hobbling a little bit. However, I dare not ask why, as that would be very disrespectful of me to do so, although I was told later by a student that it was because of my sweeping block. Well that pleased me and eased all the hassle you get with having a broken arm.

Unfortunatly, the class only lasted months due to lack of students.

I remember one thing about sensei Fujii, he was a very snappy dresser and for me a great karate man, especially being the all Japan open style champion. I also remember, he had a fantastic powerful sokuto fumikomi (side kick).

Lastly, I just like to say, if not for my gedan barrai block, my chances of producing any children would probely be zero. Good old gedan barrai!!















7 years of hard training

I achieved my black belt after 7 years of hard training. Seven years with at least 4 times a week class training, plus home training was the minimum time expected for black belt. However I was totally obsessed and was eventually training up to 6 days and even 7 days a week.

Much later competitions between different karate dojos sprung up and were all hard fought battles. However later on when karate started to spread with many new schools springing up it started to take a more softer approach. However students like myself who were brought up on old style karate found that our type of aggressive fighting methods seemed to suffer badly from a lack of control usually leaving the other guy picking up his teeth, ending up being disqualified.

I left Scotland in the late 1960s

Since my shotokan days I have experienced other karate styles such as: Shukokia, Kyokushinkia, Gojo-Ryu and Wado-Ryu.

I have trained with and have had the privilege

to meet some great Japanese and Western masters of the martial arts, such as: Sensei Kanazawa, Sensei Enoeda (deceased), Sensei Kato, Sensei Mack, Sensei Tommy Morris, (Shotokan). Sensei Nanbu, Sensei Kimura, deceased (Shukokia). Sensei Higaonna,

(Gojo-Ryu). Grandmaster Tatsui Suzuki, deceased (Wado-Ryu).Sensei Shimitsu, Sensei Mejii Suzuki, Sensei Fuji, Sensei Meada, Sensei Sakagami,

Other fighting styles I have participated in

The other styles I have practices have been: Okinawan Ryukyu-Jitsu with Grandmaster Inoue and Sensei Mead, (Jujitsu & Kobudo, martial art weapons). Sensei Dillman (Kyusho-Jitsu) nerve, vital point strikes and locks. Judo and karate with Sensei Robinson, 6 times World Judo champion and Wado-Ryu karate teacher.

Wu-dan Tai Chi. Iai (the art of Japanese sword drawing) with Sensei Elsgood deceased, Unarmed Combat and boxing at Brighton Boys Boxing Club. Finally I have to say that my foundations before came from street fighting, father, upbringing and my environment.


Training in the mountains in winter was a regular thing.

Weekend outdoor training camp. around 1960s

Kobe Osaka Club

Nanbu sensei at the back-early 1960




If anyone has any photographs of the Brighton Boys Club demo or remembers being there,

I would be very interested in hearing from you.

You can contact me at  headoffice@samaorganisation.co.uk


I would like to state that I have had to calm down a LOT, and I do mean a LOT.

Although my previous training may of been hard and brutal, it certainly has given me a strong mental constitution that has sustained my appetite for karate for over 50 years of the constant daily grind of repetitious training and has also installed in me the attitude of the elusive continuing search for self improvement.

Embroidered on my belt in Japanese kanji is the word "karate student" to remind me that I must always be humble and to continue to strive for perfection for even after 53 years of teaching and training I have still much, oh so much to learn about this wonderful ancient art.




Getting my award from the Lord mayor Sanchin kata wood breaking demo 1984

A few things from the past

Above - Hanshi performing Yoko tobi geri (flying jumping side kick) at Bedford Street Dojo



Hanshi and Sensei Chris Kent showing holding side kick

Unfortunately not many things have survived, some of my old photographs got lost throughout my karate history

Photographs I am sorry to say was not really something you took in the old days. You came to train and that's it.

However below is one of my old martial art books I have actually kept from 1966. It was the 2nd edition and

sadly I lost the very first edition.

Also one of my Licence books from Thames Karate International around early 1970s which was one of the

largest karate groups based in London



Hanshi's old 2nd Dan Certificate in Wado-Ryu Karate

Because of Hanshi's history and time in the martial arts

He was awarded 3rd Dan along with Honorary life membership from E.K.K.A (English Korean Karate Association) 19/12/1982

This was not just given, for he had to fight the EKKA SQUAD of black belts and show advance kata


Hanshi with his 2 sons, Yondan Sensei Lee and Scott at the 2005 summer camp in Lanzarote, Spain


Hanshi jumping heel kick to his son Sensei Lee                  Hanshi & his son Sensei Scott                      Hanshi training with both of his sons




Kobudo Training