James Rousseau

Alongside Stan Schmidt, Len Barnes, and Hugh Thomas, James Rousseau, was a pioneer of Karate in South Africa. He is largely responsible for establishing Okinawan Goju-Ryu in Europe. A very good teacher, he has been described as making simple things interesting and difficult things seem easy.

James McGill Rousseau was born on 4 July 1944 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Rousseau began training in Karate in 1960 at the Shobukan Karate Club. The following year he graduated from Princeton College, Johannesburg.

In 1963 Rousseau travelled to Japan. He trained under Taiji Kase, learning Shotokan Karate at the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Hombu. He was awarded his 1st Dan by Masatoshi Nakayama.

In 1965, Rousseau’s teacher changed the club’s style of Karate to Shotokan Karate. That year the JKA sent four of its instructors around the world to introduce their version of Shotokan Karate. The instructors were Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda, and Hiroshi Shirai. The last leg of their tour was in South Africa. The four instructors stayed in the country for six months. Kase taught in Durban; Kanazawa taught in Pretoria; Enoeda taught in Johannesburg; and Shirai taught in Cape Town. Their visit culminated with the 1st South African Championships. Stan Schmidt became the first Grand Champion, winning both the kata and kumite events.

Rousseau travelled to Japan in 1966. He had grown tired of the politics in the South African JKA organisation. He went to Japan looking for an alternative to the JKA.

In Japan Rousseau met the martial arts historian Donn Draeger. Drager advised him to visit the Yoyogi dojo of Morio Higaonna and his assistant Teruo Chinen, located in Tokyo.

On visiting the Yoyogi dojo where Goju-Ryu Karate was practised, Rousseau found the style he was looking for. He wrote a letter to his friend, Hugh St John Thompson, asking him to join him in Japan.

On his return to South Africa, Russeau established SAGA (South African Goju-Ryu Association) in 1966.

By 1973 Rousseau had achieved the rank of 5th Dan in Okinawan Goju-Ryu. That year he travelled to England with his brother, Peter, with the intention of establishing Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate in Europe.

Rousseau stayed in the UK for six months. During this time he set up two dojos in Oxford. He also organised several courses that introduced practitioners from other styles to Okinawan Goju-Ryu.

Rousseau also established the BGKA (British Goju-Ryu Karate Association). This later became the EGKA (English Goju-Ryu Karate Association) when the Scottish clubs left the association. After he returned to South Africa, his brother Peter took over the leadership of the BGKA.

In 1977 Rousseau returned to the UK. That year he established the Bournemouth Karate Academy. Also in May of that year, he invited Morio Higaonna to London. He had previously invited Teruo Chinen to the UK.

Rousseau enrolled at the Anglo-European Chiropractic College in Bournemouth in 1978. He was inspired to become a chiropractor by former South African Springbok International Rugby Union player, Des Sinclair, who was a chiropractor.

Apart from teaching Karate at the Bournemouth Karate Academy, Rousseau also established a Karate club at the Anglo-European Chiropractic College.

In 1979 Morio Higaonna, alongside Teruo Chinen, and Rousseau established the IOGKF (International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate Federation).

Rousseau graduated from the Anglo-European Chiropractic College in 1982.

In 1991, Rousseau established the James Rousseau School of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate.

By 1993 Rousseau had taken a back seat in the EGKA while he built his chiropractic practice. However, tensions began to appear when he began to take a more active role. He decided to leave that IOGKF and he founded the GKI (Goju–Ryu Karate International).

The other founding members of the GKI were Leonard Sim, Henrieheta Sim, Gary Weber, Paul Stiffle, John Boyle, Paul Coleman, Steve Thomson, Craig Nevitt, Blaise Mellise, Kevin Nason, Tim Cooper, and Dave Thompson. Rousseau was the Chief Instructor of the GKI.

For the next few years, Rousseau was an active member of the GKI, teaching courses while continuing to build his chiropractic practice.

In 2010 Rousseau established the Birmingham Chiropractic Clinic.

On 22 July 2019, the Belgium Technical Meeting was held. At the meeting, GKI senior instructors, Rousseau, Leonard Sim, Jose Campos, Antonio Moreira, and Kevin Nason were appointed to the GKI Technical Panel.

A pioneer of Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate in Europe, James Rousseau has a wealth of knowledge. As the Chief Instructor of the GKI, he imparts his knowledge to his students through courses and seminars.

Away from Karate Rousseau has built a successful chiropractic practice based in Birmingham, England. He is also the father of five children.

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