It is important that karateka are aware that time, effort and practice are still the main factors in working towards perfecting not only one’s skills but also one’s inner mind and attitudes towards an Art.Gursharan Sahota
Training in Shotokan Karate for over 50 years, Gursharan Sahota leads one of the largest Shotokan groups in the United Kingdom. He is a man that holds Gichin Funakoshi’s Guiding Principles very close to his heart.
Gursharan Sahota was born into a Sikh family in Kenya in December 1960. His parents Piara and Amar Sahota had five children. He was the youngest of three boys and also had two sisters.
Growing up, the Sahota brothers would read Judo books. They would practice the techniques they learned against each other.
In 1972 the Sahota family made a decision to move to Bedford, England. Gursharan’s brothers, Avtar and Bhupinder were already in the UK studying.
Because Gursharan Sahota was the only boy at school wearing a turban, he was sometimes the target of bullies. Although he was not afraid to stand up to the bullies, the targeting still affected him and his studies.
Both of Sahota’s older brothers practised martial arts. Avtar Sahota practised Karate. Bhupinder Sahota practised Taekwondo and eventually became a Grand Master leading his own association.
In 1974, aged 14, Gursharan Sahota began practising Shotokan Karate. He joined TASK (Traditional Association of Shotokan Karate) in Bedford, whose Chief Instructor was John Van Weenen. His first instructor was Charlie Potter. He later joined the classes run by Van Weenen.
Van Weenen had been practising Shotokan since the mid-1960s. He and his friends Eddie Whitcher and Mick Peachey travelled to Japan in 1967. They stayed in the country for a period of time, training under Hirokazu Kanazawa.
Training at Van Weeneen’s dojo was strict, with a lot of emphases placed on good discipline and etiquette. Sahota began training twice a week and eventually increased his training to three times a week.
Initially, Sahota placed a lot of emphasis on his kumite and developed into a very strong fighter. However, as he progressed through the ranks and his knowledge deepened, he realised the importance of kata.
Sahota’s first competition was as a purple belt. He entered a team tournament and finished in second place.
Sahota went on to have a successful competitive career, frequently finding himself in kumite and kata finals. He also captained a strong kumite team consisting of Roy Hazelwood, Donovan Slue, Robin Reid, and Lawrence Ellcock, which had a lot of success.
In 1978 Sahota was graded to 1st Dan in front of a panel of instructors led by John Van Weenen. He was aged 18 years.
In 1981 Sahota opened his first Karate club in Luton/Dunstable.
It had been one of Sahota’s ambitions to train in Japan. In 1984 he got the opportunity. He travelled to Japan with friends Roy Hazelwood, Lawrence Ellcock, and Robin Reid. They trained at Hirokazu Kanazawa’s dojo, the SKI (Shotokan Karate International) Hombu in Yatsuya.
At Kanazawa’s dojo Sahota and his colleagues trained in the morning and evening classes. As expected the classes were hard. Kanazawa normally took training sessions. Sahota trained in Japan for six months, before returning home due to a back injury.
Sahota’s Japanese visit had a profound effect on his life. On his return to the UK, he decided to dedicate his life to learning and teaching Karate.
In July 1993 Sahota formed his own association, TESKA (Traditional English Shotokan Karate Association), and became Chief Instructor. After training with John Van Weenan for 19 years he felt it was time to move out on his own.
Sahota’s Luton/Dunstable club became the Hombu of the new association. In time TESKA changed its name to TISKA (Traditional International Shotokan Karate Association).
October 1994 saw the publication of Sahota’s first book, “The Shotokan Karate Handbook – Beginner to Black Belt“. The book’s foreword was written by Mick Billman of the EKGB (English Karate Governing Body).
After only two years, membership of the Sahota’s Association had increased to 1100 members.
Sahota had been influenced by John Van Weenen’s humanitarian efforts in Albania, following the end of communism in the country. In 1996 an event called Karate vs Cancer was organised. Sahota led 750 students in a one-day charity event. £10,000 was raised for St John’s Home, Moggerhanger, a Sue Ryder Home.
May 1997 for the publication of Sahota’s second book, “The Advanced Shotokan Karate Handbook“. The foreword of the book was written by Colin Malam of the Sunday Telegraph Newspaper.
Through the 2000s Sahota established TISKA as one of the biggest Shotokan associations in the United Kingdom. The association had clubs from the north of England down to the south of the country. It also had affiliated clubs in South Africa and India.
On 25 May 2015, Sahota was awarded the rank of 8th Dan.
In April 2021 it was announced that Sahota had been awarded the title of Shihan. He was presented with a certificate by Mick Billman.
Gursharan Sahota’s love for training and teaching Karate has not waned over the years. He still teaches over 30 classes a week. A believer in Gichin Funakoshi’s eleventh guiding principle – “Karate is like boiling water; without heat, it returns to its tepid state“, he is constantly training.
Sahota is heavily involved in charity work. He helps subsidise surgeons to travel to third-world countries to operate on underprivileged children. He has also funded many projects in India. This includes helping fund the building of a new school.
Sahota is married with a daughter and son. His daughter has followed in his footsteps and she’s already a black belt.