Michael Randall

You will only get out of Karate what you put into it and that is the most important lesson. There are no secrets in Karate, you have to live it and experience it to discover all it has to offer.

Michael Randall

Known for his technical ability and his attention to detail, Michael Randall was a pioneer of Shotokan Karate in England. He was one of the first people promoted to black belt by the JKA.

Robert Eric Michael Randall was born on 8 April 1945, in Stoke, Newington, London to parents, Robert and Vera Randall. He was the oldest of two children, having a younger sister. His father was a serving soldier in World War II.

As a baby, a bomb had exploded close to Randall’s family home, during a German bombing raid.

Growing up Randall was a shy and sickly child. He suffered from asthma and was hospitalised for rheumatic fever.

In 1959 Randall left school at the age of 15. He began working on his birthday. He tried a variety of jobs.

Randall began working as an apprentice carpenter and joiner in 1961. He worked for Union Cold Storage, located in Blackfriars, London.

Around 1963 Randall met Ray Fuller, who was employed as a painter at Union Cold Storage. Several years older than Randall, Fuller had been a paratrooper in the British Army.

Fuller had first heard about Karate while serving in the army. Interested in learning the exotic martial art, he managed to get a copy of Hidetaka Nishiyama’s book, “Karate the Art of Empty-Hand Fighting“. He also got a copy of Henri Plee’s book, “Karate By Pictures“.

Fuller had shown the books to Randall and suggested that they should learn Karate. Finding a club was not easy. They finally got in touch with the Japanese embassy which directed them to Vernon Bell.

In December 1963 Randall and Fuller applied in writing to join Vernon Bell’s BKF (British Karate Federation).

On 17 January 1964, Randall and Fuller began learning Shotokan Karate from Bell. Randall was aged 19, and Fuller was aged 29.

Randall and Fuller trained in the room above the Horseshoe Pub in Clerkenwell. Randall’s mother, who was a talented seamstress, made him his first gi.

Most of the teaching at the dojo was done by Jimmy Neal and Terry Wingrove, with Vernon Bell looking on. Randall and Fuller trained at the dojo twice a week. Other people training around this time included Eddie Whitcher, Brian Harper, and Pauline Laville (Bindra).

On 26 January 1964, Tetsuji Murakami conducted gradings for the BKF for the last time. He had first visited England on 18 July 1959, to teach for the BKF. This was the first Japanese instructor Randall trained with, albeit for a short time.

The next major instructor Randall trained with was Hiroo Mochizuki, who arrived from Paris on 22 February 1964. Mochizuki taught several classes in London and York, on behalf of the BKF.

Randall and Fuller loved their Karate training. They sometimes trained at Epping Forest. They also trained in the basement of the building where they worked. They would also train on the flat roof of the building.

However, one day when training at work, Randall and Fuller were spotted by a nurse who worked at Guys Hospital. She had seen them on the roof of the opposite building, and not sure what was going on, had called the police. The incident resulted in Fuller being sacked from Union Cold Storage. The incident was covered in the newspaper and had the title, “Karateman Gets The Chop“.

On 6 November 1964, Randall was among the students who appeared in the first colour film of Karate shown in Britain. The three-minute colour film from Pathe Films was shown in cinemas across the UK. It showed training at the BKF Kentish Town Baths dojo.

In April 1965 a training party from the JKA arrived in the UK as part of a world tour to promote the JKA’s version of Shotokan Karate. The party consisted of Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda, and Hiroshi Shirai.

Kanazawa gave the JKA’s first official lesson at the BKF Lyndhurst dojo in April 1965. Randall and his fellow students had never seen Karate performed to such a high standard.

On 21 April 1965, the first authorised demo by the JKA in the UK took place at the Kensington Town Hall in London. This was the first of three demos given in London. Randall and several other students were selected to perform at the demo.

Hirokazu Kanazawa became the resident instructor of the BKF in 1965. The BKF had become affiliated with the JKA. Kanazawa had been contracted to teach for a year. He held three classes a week at the Lyndhurst dojo. He also held an extra class at the Kentish Town Baths. All four classes lasted 1 hour and 30 minutes. Randall attended all four classes, adding a fifth as his training progressed.

Kanazawa’s teaching style made him a top-rated instructor. Randall and a group of other students, including Nick and Chris Adamou, Eddie Whitcher, Mike Peachy, Will Mannion, and Jack Johnson, trained with him relentlessly. They were playfully known as the “Seven Samurai” as they were devoted to him.

Sometimes Randall and other students would have the opportunity to train with other visiting Japanese instructors. Some of the instructors who visited the dojo included, Taiji Kase, Keinosuke Enoeda, Satoshi Miyazaki, and Hiroshi Shirai.

At the end of Kanazawa’s contract Vernon Bell and the BKF did not renew it. This upset many of the BKF’s London students. This led to a split in the BKF in the summer of 1965. The KUGB (Karate Union of Great Britain) was established. Kanazawa became the Chief Instructor of the new association.

In 1966 Randall met his future wife, Miyoko, who joined the training group.

On 6 January 1967, Randall was promoted to 1st Dan by Kanazawa. The grading took place at the KUGB’s Blackfriars dojo in London. It was a private grading, with no spectators.

In 1968 Kanazawa left Britain for Germany, on his way back to Japan. Keinosuke Enoeda became the new Chief Instructor of the KUGB.

With Kanazawa’s departure, Randall alongside Chris and Nick Adamou became disillusioned with their training. During Kanazawa’s time in the UK, they had trained with him almost every day. They missed him, and at the time felt there was no one to emulate his teaching.

In time Randall and the Adamou brothers got together to train in the manner Kanazawa had taught them. They eventually established dojos in Walthamstow and Winchmore Hill. They did keep in contact with Kanazawa.

Randall was selected to be a member of a British Shotokan team in 1970. The team also included Steve Cattle and Terry O’Neill. They competed against a Japanese All-Styles University Team at Crystal Palace.

On 11 September 1970, Randall was promoted to 2nd,m Dan alongside Chris and Nick Adamou, by Kanazawa.

Kanazawa was a coach of the Japanese team at the 2nd WUKO Karate World Championships held in Paris, France. Several members of the team stopped off in the UK to train. Team members, Masahiko Tanaka, Yoshiharu Osaka, and Mikio Yahara attended several training sessions.

On 9 March 1973, Randall was promoted to 3rd Dan by Kanazawa. That year, he, Eddie Whitcher, and the Adamou Brothers left the KUGB. They joined Kanazawa’s SKI (Shotokan Karate International). The following year Shiro Asano was appointed the Chairman and Chief Instructor of SKI (GB).

In 1974 Randall appeared on the BBC’s Nationwide television program. This was alongside, Kanazawa, Asano, Sadashige Kato, Eddie Whitcher, Steve Cattle, and Chris Adamou. They gave a series of demos.

Randall was appointed team coach for the SKI team by Asano in 1976. This was for the JKA championships

Randall and the team travelled to Japan where they stayed for a couple of weeks. The team trained at Tokyo and Gifu universities. However, as Keinosuke Enoeda had already brought a KUGB team from England, they were not allowed to compete at the Championships. Only one team per country was allowed to compete. Disappointed, Randall and the SKI team watched the championships as spectators.

On 26 April 1978, Randall was promoted to 4th Dan. That year he left the SKI.

In 1979 Randall helped establish, the ESKA (English Shotokan Karate Association) alongside Michael Nursey, Roger Hall, John Van Weenen, Eddie Whitcher, Greg Durant, and Harry Jones. Randall and Whitcher were appointed Joint Chief Instructors of the ESKA. The new association covered the areas of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Essex, and London.

ESKA founding members Eddie Whitcher and John Van Weenen left the association in 1981 and 1982 respectively.

In 1983, Randall and Roger Hall produced four videotapes covering a student’s journey from beginner to black belt.

Randall left the ESKA in 1984 to form the SKA (Shotokan Karate Association). He was the Chief Instructor. However, he left the SKA in 1996, to establish the SHOTO (Shotokan Traditional Karate Organisation).

In 1997 Randall, co-authored, the books, “A Shotokan Karate Book of Facts Volume I” and “A Shotokan Karate Book of Facts Vol II“, with Clive Layton, and Michael Nursey. The following year, “A Shotokan Karate Book of Facts Vol III“, was published.

A Freemason, Randall was named the first master of the new Shotokan Karate Lodge, on 27th June 2000. He had originally belonged to the Sackville Lodge. The new lodge was formed of members interested in Shotokan Karate.

In January 2002 Randall was promoted to 8th Dan.

In 2003 Randall was awarded an MBE for his Services to Karate. He was presented with the award by Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. During the presentation, the Queen asked them several questions and seemed genuinely interested in his answers.

Randall was promoted to 9th Dan in 2011. At the time he was one of the highest ranked non-Japanese instructors in Europe.

On 10 June 2020, Michael Randall died peacefully in his sleep. He was aged 76 years.

Described as an inspirational instructor, Michael Randell was at the forefront of Shotokan Karate in England. A dedicated student of Hirokazu Kanazawa, he was known for his technical ability and his attention to detail.

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    • Anonymous on January 29, 2024 at 5:30 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks again for reminding me of good days gone by. Very sad that Michael died relatively young similar to my Wado-ryu sensei Peter Spanton. I can’t remember if I met Michael Randall but I trained with the Adamou brothers in Walthamstow and was graded by Kanazawa a couple of times.

    • Anonymous on January 30, 2024 at 4:20 am
    • Reply

    I think you made a mistake on Micheal Randles year he passed away

    1. When did he pass away?

    2. Thank you. The correction has been made.

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