HOWARD COLLINS – The Welsh vagabond

Howard Collins tells Kampsportnews about how he discovered kyokushinkai karate, the tough training in Japan and why he eventually ended up in Sweden.

Howard Collins, like so many others, was introduced to martial arts through the fantastic world of cinema. He got especially hooked on kyokushinkai karate.

– It was the films with what they called ”the judo chop”, especially James Bond.

The year was 1965 when his friend then tipped him off to what would become an essential part of his continued life.

– My friend practiced judo and he said his instructor knew of a dojo in Cardiff. I hopped on a bus and found The Cardiff School of Budo. There was karate, judo and aikido, he says and continues:

– The whole package of hard training and discipline got me hooked from day one. I then chose to stop all other activities.

After six years of practicing at home in Wales, Howard was, by chance, inspired to pursue his passion on another continent.

– I read an article about training in Japan with Sosai Oyama and decided that’s what I wanted to do. So I saved my money and eventually moved to Japan in early 71.

The stay in the homeland of karate turned out to be considerably more long-lived than Howard had initially predicted.

– When I went there, I had money for a few months. The chief instructor at Honbu, Shihan Yasuhiko Oyama, explained to Sosai Oyama that I had no money left and no plane ticket home. Then I became a paid uchideshi (disciple, ed. note) who opened the dojo, cleaned and eventually I also got to teach. I stayed there for about two years.

The kyokushinkai training in Japan proved to be much more grueling than what he was used to from the Welsh capital.

– Training in Japan at that time was difficult with tough discipline. Especially for people like me who were just there to train. We practiced every day. The lessons lasted between two and two and a half hours and were almost always the same, he says and continues:

– Twice a week the black belts had special training with Sosai Oyama. I was allowed to attend the lessons as I was an uchideshi. I was only there to train, so I trained seven days a week. For me it was eat, sleep and exercise. Most of the other students practiced twice a week.

The Japanese way of life was of course different from the Welsh but proved to be no major concern. The stay in Japan also offered a title that still lingers today.

– I learned enough Japanese to get by. The cultural difference was exciting as you can imagine. I adapted quickly. The name Shihan is a title given to me by Sosai Oyama. A simple translation is someone who precedes with good behavior.

In the mid-seventies it was once again time to move back to the European continent. However, not home to the British Isles.

– I came to Sweden by chance. Shihan Attila invited me to teach at a summer camp and after that he offered me full-time employment at his dojo, Gothenburg’s Karate Kai. I thought: why not? The plan was not to stay but here I am still, he says and adds:

– Of course I miss Wales, it is after all my roots. I still have friends and family there but I don’t get homesick.

Today, Howard has managed to turn seventy-three and is still active as a kyokushinkai coach. He also appears in the promotional film for next year’s edition of the European Karate Championship, which will be held in Gothenburg.

– I still teach full-time at Gothenburg’s Karate Kai and hold seminars for other dojos. Next year’s European Championships is a big challenge and it takes a lot of people to make it work. I see myself as an advisor to the organizing committee.

Read about Gothenburg’s Karate Kai

Read more about Kyokushin Karate

Also read about Swedish Karate Federation

And also Zendokai International Karate Camp

Tomas Loman

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