Sensei Arthur Meek 7th Dan

Sensei Arthur Meek 7th DanSensei Arthur Meek began his karate training in 1975 as a member of the Bridgwater School of Karate which was part of the then United Kingdom Karate Wado Kai (UKKW).

At the age of nineteen Arthur, along with a handful of fellow senior grades, made a political decision to leave the club and form a new one, yet still under the wing of the UKKW. This decision enabled him to continue training under the expertise of the many resident Japanese instructors at that time.

Arthur pursued a successful competition career as well as spending a couple of seasons training with and representing his local amateur boxing club. After passing his black belt at the age of twenty under the supervision of Professor Tatsuo Suzuki, Arthur fought his way into the national under 21 kumite squad.

A year later with the help of Shiomitsu Sensei, Arthur left for Japan to train at the world famous Nihon university karate club in Tokyo. He stayed here for nine months living as an 'uchi deshi' under the coaching of the Tanabe brothers (Hideo and Fumihiro) and Katsumi Kobayashi sensei. This was a period of time he felt was a defining moment in developing spirit and humility.

Returning to the UK in 1982, Arthur eventually made his way into the senior UKKW England team, alongside the likes of World Champions Jeff Thompson and Jerome Atkinson. This national team won the European Wado Ryu championships in Amsterdam in 1983 and in London in 1984.

In the mid eighties his passion for boxing was still undiminished, so he put it to the test winning a couple of professional bouts on the dubious unlicensed circuit.

Arthur finally secured his own individual karate titles in 1987 and 1988, winning the UKKW nationals at Crystal Palace and in 1989 he was European middleweight champion in France. In the 1990s Arthur also competed in kata, claiming a runner up position in the national championships and a bronze medal in the Europeans.

In 1990 when Shiomitsu Sensei formed the Wado Academy, Arthur was appointed squad coach.

Arthur Meek was promoted to 6th Dan (2001) and 7th Dan (2011) by Shiomitsu Sensei and also awarded the title of Renshi in 2005. He is now a senior instructor with the Wado Academy and presides on their Dan grading.

The below is an extract from Sensei Arthur Meeks forthcoming book; "Go Sauce the Chestnuts"

Sensei Arthur Meek 7th DanThe journey had ended as we pulled up outside the grey aged building that sat right on the expressway. It looked bleak, like a disused factory, for at midnight there was no hint to what lay behind the many rows of black windows of the three storey complex. From here on another a kind of journey would begin. This was the dormitory where I was hoping to spend the rest of the year living, training, and 'enjoying' the hospitality of Nihon University Wado Ryu Karate Club.

Kobayashi Sensei helped me with my cases but stopped me at the open doorway, "Shoes!" he said, the first sign that I had now entered a different culture. I removed mine and copied Kobayashi by putting on a pair of pale blue plastic slippers from the pile scattered around the bottom step. We climbed the three flights of stairs to the second floor and were greeted in the corridor by one or two bleary eyed students in tracksuit bottoms and t-shirts who seemed to be making a real fuss over seeing one of their senior instructors present, bowing, shouting almost, and doing everything at the double. I'm pretty sure it wasn't for my benefit.

We were ushered into a small dining room that had a distinct smell, not unpleasant, a mixture of old furniture with that of Japanese tea and other spices. There was another doorway in the far corner that led to a small kitchen. At this point I felt nervous as Kobayashi barked at the two or three students and they responded on the double by preparing two places at a table. The students eyed me on occasion as if I were to blame for their insomnia, a sort of 'I'll have you later' kind of look. Great start! However we sat around the table as Kobayashi introduced me to my fellow students. I amused them with my poor Japanese which I had taken time out to study from a phrase book. I amused them further when I produced my Karate licence and showed them who had passed me my first grading five years earlier, none other than Kobayashi Sensei who sat a little bemused, struggling to remember when and where etc. I was then served a little food, and whisky, which was hardly welcome, unlike the hot shower that followed.

Sensei Arthur Meek 7th DanI had a quick look around the facilities of our abode and primitive would be a fair description. There were three toilet cubicles apart from the urinals and I hadn't seen toilets like that since a school trip to France when I was thirteen. There was no bowl to sit on, just a ceramic hole in the floor. I didn't know which way to face when I was in France and I had no better idea now. I just made sure my feet were well out of the way.
Around one o'clock we turned in, Tanabe Sensei was away so Kobayashi Sensei and myself took his room for the night. I was reminded that running was at six that morning!

For a spring morning it was pretty wet, so much so that early morning training was to be in the dojo rather than the nearby park. Even though it was early after an excited late night I was filled with even more excitement and a little nervousness as I was able to view the opposition so to speak. I followed Kobayashi down the stairs, donned my trainers and stepped out on to the street where the rest had all lined up to greet us with a loud,

"Ohayo gozaimasu!" (Good morning). Kobayashi led us into a gateway around the side of our dormitory block into a small car park where we had parked the car the previous night. What I hadn't noticed the night before was the Karate dojo that was set back some twenty metres from the roadside. Unlike the old dormitory building it had newness in its wooden construction and as we were led barefoot inside the immaculate wooden floor glimmered with our reflections as we limbered up. We wore only our tracksuits for the early training so there was quite a mixture of colour and design and I tried to size up the extent of abilities I would be mixing with.

As we jogged around the dojo I studied the instructor who was now conducting this morning's procedures. Although not much taller than me Kobayashi Katsumi Sensei's build was wiry and he stood very upright with a hint of authority that made him seem ten foot tall. I had vivid recollections of training with this respected instructor in the February of 1976 when he visited my home town to conduct a training and grading session. Up until then I had witnessed the likes of Hamaguchi and Kubo brandish their powerful style of Karate but Kobayashi was quite different, smooth, lithe, very quick and athletic. As a complete novice I remember peering through the window of the local school gymnasium trying to catch a glimpse of this thirty-year-old Japanese man at the peak of fitness as he sparred with the senior students of my club. He was flamboyant with his legs and would kick high then suddenly stoop low to sweep away the opponents legs and then jump up to punch an unguarded face. Demonstrations of this nature would often be his specialty at the National Championships at Crystal Palace. Moon face was a nickname he had unknowingly adopted among the members of my club; his face was rather oval in shape and he often wore a stern expression but it would light up with a glow when a smile of some magnitude would spread across its surface if anything remotely funny should attract his attention.

Kobayashi's hair was still quite as long as I had remembered it in the seventies, almost as if he were holding on to something of a reminder of his days in fashionable London Town. Returning to Japan in 1979 Kobayashi continued to teach for a living opening dojo's in and around Tokyo as well as assisting at the university from which he had graduated.

Nihon University had for years carried the reputation as the fighting man's source of development in Wado Ryu Karate. Tatsuo Suzuki had graduated from here, as well as Masafumi Shiomitsu, Fuji, Maeda, Murase, an endless list of International instructors and fighters. So was this the right place for me or one step too far? I pondered much during this first introductory session.

Before embarking on this intrepid trip I had sought the permission and advice of my instructor back home, Shiomitsu Sensei, who agreed to contact the relevant authorities once he was satisfied that I was serious enough in my intentions. There had been one or two previous foreign visitors to the club who had unfortunately left an unsavoury reputation so it was decided that I could go once Shiomitsu was happy, after all his reputation was also at stake. Over a period of several months I trained on many courses where Shiomitsu could look at me and be convinced in his own mind. Finally he agreed to endorse my visit with one proviso; "if you let me down"...he then put his fist to my face. Enough said!

So here I was then under the full scrutiny of over twenty pairs of eyes, there were one or two familiar faces from the night before but there was no emotion of recognition as I nervously loosened up next to Kobayashi, almost as if he were my guardian. The only sound was the creaking of the sprung wooden floor beneath our bare feet.

A shout broke the silence and a circle was formed around the edge of the dojo. In the centre a student led the exercises; 'ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku, shichi, hachi, ku, ju. Ichi, ni, san, shi, go roku, shichi, hachi, ku, ju' and so the mantra continued as we all followed the stretching intently. We then broke our inertia to begin our run around the dojo perimeter. As we jogged I took in the full extent of the finery of its construction; narrow sliding windows were set into the walls just above floor level, larger frosted windows above head height let in most of the light, the sills of which were the resting place for little hand towels. The wall opposite the entrance was adorned with a solitary Japanese flag and as I jogged in pace with the rest of the club I noticed that the large mirror along from the doorway was in fact a sliding door that was partly opened to reveal a small room. Above this mirrored door was the 'kamidana', a shelf that held a small shrine typical of any dojo. Makiwara; punching posts, 'grew' in one or two places around the edge of the dojo from the floor like little wooden trees as if to decorate the sparsity of an already completely wooden house with even more wood.

We ran around the dojo that measured about twelve metres long by ten wide for about twenty minutes working up a little sweat in the spring warmth. Despite the rain that fell outside the humidity was still evident even though it was early on an April morning. Kobayashi finally called 'yame' and paired everybody off to practice a little randori (light sparring) and the emphasis was on light; as in no contact. That suited me fine on my first day's training, for I was barely off the plane and felt, mentally, a little in two places. I changed with several partners with the customary bow and I was a bit taken aback at the loud 'onegai shimasu!' and 'arigato gozaimashita!' before and after each exchange. Tall, short, stocky, wiry they were all different except for one thing; their hair was cropped short, almost army-like, and that was the noticeable thing that struck me already that day; they were like one unit. Despite their different dress code that morning there was uniform in their motion, and even in their style of fighting; with good control they loved to attack the face. Moreover, in the presence of a senior instructor there was the utmost discipline. Nobody spoke unless spoken to. 'Best fall in line' was the reminder to myself.

Morning training was over at seven by the clock on the wall and we filed back quietly to our concrete abode next door. There was a sudden rush of activity as some students started to sweep the corridors and dining room. Some were cleaning the toilets and showers and another small group became busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast.

After showering and changing, Kobayashi and I were summoned to the dining room where already all students were sat at their places awaiting our arrival. There was a curt command which must have meant something like 'backs straight!' because they all stiffened in their seats and then something was said in unison before they began to eat. I watched carefully to see if they actually ate their food in time, but no they scoffed quite heartily without any extra help.

I looked warily at the bowl of a sticky substance in front of me and then at the other bowl next to it. Now up to this point I had never eaten anything Japanese in my life. I had enjoyed a Chinese from the local take-away but I can assure you that is no preparation for this culinary challenge of the Land of the Rising Sun, especially when prepared by young knuckleheads. Now, if there were ever a dish to serve someone to put them off Japanese food for life it would be 'natto'. "Eat!" said Kobayashi, "good for health".

Quite whose health he was referring I wasn't sure. I dutifully copied my revered instructor and wound the orange sticky goo around my chopsticks and took a mouthful. It was awful. I couldn't take it out again but I didn't want to continue either! I tried to listen as Sensei explained about the fermented bean curd but that only made the taste worsen. Finally I swallowed and grabbed the bowl of what I was told was soup next in line in front of me. I took a mouthful. I think somebody had forgotten to rinse this bowl of its previous contents after washing up. There were bits of cabbage, potato, onion and all sorts floating around.
"Ah miso soup!" someone said. I didn't care, it was marginally better than the previous dish and it washed away the sticky remnants. I was of course cause for amusement among the lads around me, which kind of broke the ice so I continued with the soup and a little boiled rice before drinking the green tea served me. One of the boys switched on the little portable TV that was perched on a table at the far end of the cluttered dining room and we all quietly watched a Japanese version of The Big Breakfast.

Fortunately a hungry student robbed me of the remaining unwanted natto that was in a small bowl in front of me and although I had eaten most of the rice that was in another bowl Kobayashi told me not to leave anything. There was but a small mouthful that I had left but he urged me to polish it off. I looked at the bowls in front of the students around me and there was not a morsel left in front of anyone, not even a grain of rice.

After another 'back straight' command there was another loud after meal exclamation from everyone. I tried to pick out what was said but any sense was lost in the speed and colloquialism. To me it sounded like "go sauce the chestnuts!" Despite my advanced purchase of my phrase book I wondered how on earth I was going to pick up the language. Anyway 'go sauce the chestnuts' would do for the time being.

My first day on Nichi Dai territory was a Sunday, which meant no afternoon training. It also meant that students could go off for the day so the dormitory quickly became deserted. It was an ideal time for me to do a little recce of my new home. The peace was soon broken when I heard Karate type shouting coming from the bottom floor of our block. I went out onto the pavement where I could see an open window from where the shouts could be heard. Through the window I saw a group of students working hard at various weight lifting apparatus. They were training in small groups shouting and encouraging those pressing or lifting the barbells. They eyed me suspiciously before turning back to their training.

I continued to wander further around the concrete construction and realized this was a dormitory of some considerable size. I could make out room after room containing personal belongings hanging on the walls, various sports clothing trying to dry in the damp spring air. Behind this huge building was a sports field where I could see several individuals pitching a baseball to bat wielding comrades and these too were emitting sporting shouts at the tops of their voices. Beyond this sandy grassy field were yet more pitches separated by high mesh fences containing other groups of athletes playing soccer, rugby, American football, all shouting to their hearts content in the mid morning drizzle.

Returning to the dormitory of the Karate club I was greeted by two students who invited me to lunch. Was this to be another sojourn into 'gastroandromeda'? I wondered. They told me Kobayashi was sleeping so we walked a few hundred yards along the busy dual carriageway introducing ourselves as we went. One lad introduced himself as Kikuta. He spoke good English and was curious to why I had come. He told me every one had presumed I was an American for they had had a few visitors from the States fairly recently at championship time.

We stopped outside a restaurant called Denny's. My mouth was already chewing in anticipation of the hamburger that was on display in the window. Inside we sat and enjoyed a large coke and the grilled meat that sat between two slices of sesame bun with mayonnaise. The thought crossed my mind whether I could buy a few burgers to stock up with for later. To say it went down well is an understatement of magnitude. We shared some more conversation and I particularly remember asking about the nightlife in the area. After all at twenty-one I considered life to be a balance of work and play. The response was a bit mute so I left it at that hoping to glean more later. The boys paid the bill and welcomed me to Japan. A good omen I had hoped.

In the afternoon an extremely important visitor stopped by our digs, so important it seemed that even Kobayashi was on his toes. There were shouts of "chop, chop" coming from all the way up the stairway. Students who had been secretly dozing their Sundays away were all at it, jumping into the corridor standing bolt upright "chop! chop!" they all bellowed. What the hell were they shouting? If the man who appeared was so important why were they dare telling him to hurry up I wondered?

"Konnichiwa" said Kobayashi to this man who appeared rather frail but only seemed in his fifties. I realized 'konnichiwa' was the word they had all uttered in their colloquial tongues shortening the word to just 'chawa'. I bowed deeply to his eminence along with the rest.

"This is Tanabe, kantoku coach," said Kobayashi and we followed Tanabe into the room in which we had slept the night earlier.

"Aasa Meek" said Tanabe Sensei.

"Hai" was my response, the only word I knew to say at the right time without offending anyone. Kobayashi explained that this was the elder brother to Hideo Tanabe the club coach and was responsible for the recruitment and overall running of the club from its headquarters. He had stopped by to give me an impromptu interview. Through Kobayashi as interpreter I answered a few questions and then he asked me to perform Pinan Shodan kata in front of him. Now, bearing in mind we were in a room that could barely sleep two people, and which was cluttered with trophies, not to mention my unpacked bags, I thought this a little odd but my response was quicker than you could say, "chop chop!" I went through the kata as best as possible without kicking anything valuable, which I thought was a result.

Fumihiro Tanabe pondered for a moment and then gave me a choice; I could stay at a nearby flat or bed sit and come training at the allotted daily session four until seven in the evening, or I could stay at the dormitory for a modest monthly fee and live alongside the rest of the students. I chose the latter because it made sense financially but it was also the best way to get a true insight into this frugal way of life. He made it clear that I should learn some Japanese and live by the house rules.
"Hai" I said. He smiled.

The monthly fee worked out at around forty pounds, which meant I could budget for the rest of my needs. My fee would cover breakfast and evening dinner plus training.

The rest of that evening was uneventful as one by one students could be heard returning from their day off. There were more shouts of "chop, chop" as I realized some were older boys being greeted by their juniors. There was an evening meal of some fried food in batter which was ok, after which I returned to my little room alone to reflect on my first day.

Kobayashi had left to teach Karate elsewhere so I was able to relax a little before I was told to switch out my light by one of the lads next door. It was ten o'clock.

My mind drifted to the familiar world I had left behind only twenty-four hours earlier; my family, girl friend, my mates and the Karate club back home in Bridgwater.

Tomorrow I guess it all starts for real in the dojo.

From the command 'hajime' I shot forward to get in an early attack, just the way we had so often trained, hoping to catch out my opponent. My ploy might have worked had it not been for the fact I was up against the most successful fighter ever to graduate from Nihon University. Murase pounded me with a perfect 'nagashi zuki' that hit me on the right side of my head and halted my quick advancement. I had not been hit so hard since my days in the boxing ring. That fuzzy, ringing sensation went through my skull and I had to briefly move away to clear my head but I immediately stepped back in and threw my favoured lead leg reverse roundhouse kick. It found its mark perfectly and smacked Murase flush in the mouth. There was a groan from the ranks sat behind me as if they sensed the inevitable consequences from my impertinence. Murase rushed in grabbed and swept me but I hung on to his jacket and so we became entangled and both crashed to the floor. Immediately Murase butted me with his head and I returned the same. He smiled and let me up and we resumed our scrap. I tried to get my hands working in the fight but a perfect front kick from my adversary hit me in my leading right hip that stopped me dead. Then another hit the same place as I failed to anticipate this man's forte. I then attempted to feint with my legs to unsettle Murase but he was not the unsettling type. His fast one two punch both found their marks on my ill guarded face and all I could do was grab and wrestle in vain. I could taste the blood that pooled in my mouth from my split lip and tongue, but I was not done. At the break I shouted to muster some spirit. Then another front kick hit me again in the same place as before and I was fast running out of ideas. My mind was racing yet my opponent appeared calm and had hardly broke sweat. His general movement seemed almost casual yet he seemed to be everywhere. He could read the fight easily as he stood with his front arm outstretched majestically controlling the distance between us. Even though I was outclassed I kept at him, throwing single punches or kicks that whistled past their intended target while he leaned or sidestepped away to counter with ease.

Finally Murase called time. We bowed and both thanked one another.

My fights that followed that evening with one or two of the first and second years were tougher than usual for I was tired after the Murase experience which had probably lasted around five or six minutes. I was glad to finish that evening and when I pulled off my Karate gi trousers some of the skin covering my right hipbone came away with the material indicating direct hits from Murase. Although it was sore as hell it created a tumultuous laugh from my club mates. Kikuta shouted to everyone to come and have a look so I told him he should stop looking down men's trousers, which embarrassed him when the others teased him. Kawano celebrated the finish of the day's training with his backward somersault from a standing position. For a big man he was as agile as a cat.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Sensei Arthur Meek and content not to be copied or used elsewhere without his prior authorisation.

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