BRIAN FITKIN wants to inspire his students
Karate veteran Brian Fitkin offers a summary of his career and championship successes. He delves into the struggling time in Japan that left its mark and talks about what drives him to continue teaching at the age of seventy-six.
Brian Fitkin’s martial arts journey begins in the sixties in the rougher parts of South London.
– Where I grew up, it was good to be able to take care of yourself. I had always been interested and good at sports.
He began training kyokushinkai karate in 1965. One of the major contributing factors to the nineteen-year-old Londoner’s choice of that particular discipline was the enigmatic nature of the Japanese martial art.
– I was drawn to karate because at the time it was surrounded by a bit of mystery, unlike boxing, which was big. When I started practicing karate, it quickly became clear that I had talent. I had an inspiring instructor in Shihan Steve Arneil, which made the training interesting and developing, he says and continues:
– I also thought that the tough training that kyokushinkai entailed and the challenges that came from training so hard suited me well. Taking on challenges is what led me to travel to Japan and train for a year with kyokushinkai founder Sosai Oyama.
Going off to train karate in Japan in the late sixties was not for the faint of heart. Something that Brian got to experience the hard way.
– Training in Japan was tough. Not only physically but also mentally. I was expected to train two or three sessions a day, seven days a week. At the time, I didn’t have much money, so eating well was often difficult. It was a fantastic experience and I made many good friends during my time there, but it was tough to live from day to day with such a bad economy, he says and continues:
– Some days I had nothing to eat, but I was still expected to train. If I was away for more than a day, Sosai Oyama sent some guys to check why I wasn’t in the dojo and to say that he wanted to meet me at the office the next day. When I got to the office, he asked why I hadn’t worked out. I felt so guilty that I said I had been sick. He looked at me for a minute or so and then told me to make sure to be back at the dojo the next day.
The Japanese karate experience left a strong impression and became permanently etched in Brian.
– When I look back on my time in Japan, I am glad that I traveled there as a young person. It was a turning point for me and the time there has affected my entire life. I have since been back to Japan many times for international competitions and camps and have come to appreciate Japan significantly more as the years have gone by, he says, adding:
– Traveling there at that time was not like it is today. It was both unusual and expensive to travel there for an ordinary person my age. I had to sell my old car to raise money for the trip made on the Trans-Siberian railway and by boat across from Russia.
After the sojourn in Asia, he would unexpectedly continue his journey of discovery. This time back west.
– I came to Sweden because I met Johnny Grimstål at a European championship in Spain in 73. Johnny represented the Swedish national team and I was in the British one. He had a karate club in Stockholm and they had just switched to kyokushinkai. The club was very big and he wanted the help of an instructor, so he invited me. In the fall of the same year, I traveled there and stayed for a semester. After that he asked if I could stay permanently as chief instructor and said he could help me with practical things like visa. I returned in March of the following year and have been in Stockholm ever since, he says, adding:
– I like it here. Although I miss England, I have always had the opportunity to travel home during the summer and over Christmas.
Brian started competing already the year after he started training karate. His competitive career would prove successful with many fine scalps.
– At that time there weren’t that many competitions. There were competitions for all different karate styles and we competed according to a points system. I represented both the English national team and the British team at several EC and WC and was also team captain. I won the European Championship individually as well as in team and the WC in team. When I went to Japan I was in the first Kyokushin All Japan in full contact but was disqualified in the quarter finals. I stopped competing in 76 when I was at my peak after the EC wins.
Although Brian is getting on in years, he still possesses the drive to enthuse his young students.
– I enjoy instructing. It is rewarding to inspire karate students to develop and become better. Everyone needs a reason to get up in the morning and karate has been a way for me to give something positive to the students.
How long in the future the now seventy-six-year-old veteran will continue to teach is written in the stars.
– I don’t know, I take it as it comes. As long as the body lasts.
One of Sweden’s acting exports, who is perhaps most associated with the character Ivan Drago, has been training with Brian since he was a teenager.
– Dolph Lundgren started training karate at Stockholm’s Kyokushin when he was around seventeen years old. Our relationship has been good. We keep in touch with each other and meet when he is in Sweden.
Read more about Stockholm’s Kyokushin Karate
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