Profile: Bob Rhodes

Bob Rhodes is a long-time member of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB). His profile may not be as high as other senior KUGB members. However, he is highly respected by those in the know. As a competitor, he modelled his dynamic fighting style on Keinosuke Enoeda.

Bob Rhodes was born on 3 March 1946, in the Middleton area of Leeds. Growing up he enjoyed swimming, cricket, and football. He attended Harehills School.

Rhodes’ interest in Karate began in the 1950s, when as a teenager he joined a local club. Although he picked up the basics of Karate quickly, he soon realised that the standards of the club was not that good.

In 1967 aged 20, Rhodes found another Karate club in the Armley area of Leeds. The Leeds Shotokan Karate Club was a member of the KUGB and had been established by Ronnie Wade, a 1st Dan. Wade, an international competitor, was a big influence on Rhodes.

As a member of the KUGB, the Leeds Shotokan Karate Club had the privilege of hosting top instructors. Keinosuke Enodea would visit the club for a week at a time. He would conduct intensive training sessions, followed by gradings. Other KUGB instructors to visit the club included Hirokazu Kanazawa, Yoshikazu Sumi, and Sadishige Kato. As a result of such good instruction Rhodes progressed quickly and was soon allowed to participate in sparring sessions as a green belt. At the time sparring was limited to purple belts. In time he would become the Chief Instructor of the club.

As a green belt, Rhodes competed for the Leeds club in tournaments as part of the kumite team. He was part of a team that came second at the KUGB National Championships, behind a very strong Liverpool Red Triangle Club.

In time Rhodes became a successful tournament competitor. He competed in both kata and kumite. At the KUGB Northern Regional Championships he won several individual titles in both events. He also won several team titles, also in both events.

Rhodes’ successes soon won him a position on the KUGB’s National Squad, which was coached by Enoeda. He represented the team both nationally and internationally. At the Great Britain All-Styles Championships he was a member of the kumite team that won several titles. He also had a number of second and third place finishes in the individual kumite event.

In 1972 Rhodes was selected onto the British All-Styles Karate Squad, coached by Steve Arneil. His first international tournament was the Golden Belt Competition held in Yugoslavia. The team include Steve Cattle, Terry O’Neill, Bob Poynton, Jim Wilson, and Glen Haslam. Rhodes won his first bout, but lost the second one. He became a mainstay of a kumite team that won many international team events, including victories over Japan, France, and Sweden.

Known for his speed and tenacity, Rhodes was in his competitive prime between 1973 and 1975. As part of the a Leeds team he won the Team Kumite title at the 7th KUGB National Championships. He was also part of the British All-Styles Squad that made history by defeating Japan in the final of the 1975 WUKO World Karate Championships held in Los Angeles.

Rhodes retired early from competitive Karate, due to family commitments. He had a young family and competing required him to travel a lot, many times at his own expense.

In 1974 Rhodes had become a full-time instructor. He had earlier become a KUGB Grading Examiner in 1971. He moved more into the administrative side of Karate, becoming the Northern Regional Officer of the KUGB. He held this position for fifteen years. He was responsible for organising tournaments and courses. Around this time he became a championship referee at national level. He would eventually become an international championship referee at European and World level.

The Leeds Shotokan Karate Club was going from strength to strength. The club was producing top level karateka, that included the likes of Randy Williams, Matt Price, Shaun Roberts, and Nick Heald. In 1989 the dojo moved to a new location in the centre of Leeds.

In 1999 Rhodes decided to move to Devon. In the late 1980s he had developed an interest in antique restoration. He became an antique dealer. He handed the running of the Leeds club to his senior student, Randy Williams.

Although Rhodes no longer had a dojo he was still heavily involved in teaching Karate and promoting the KUGB. Known for his bunkai and oyo of Shotokan Kata, he travelled around the country giving seminars and courses. He was still involved as a KUGB Grading Examiner.

On 11 December 2011 the Leeds Shotokan Karate Club presented Rhodes with an award to commemorate fifty years in Karate.

At the 48th KUGB National Championships, held on 3 May 2014, Rhodes was promoted to 8th Dan alongside good friend Billy Higgins, another stalwart of the KUGB. Andy Sherry presented them with their certificates.

On 11 May 2019 at the 53rd KUGB National Championships, Rhodes was presented with an award for being a long standing member of the KUGB, by Andy Sherry. By this time, he had been a member of the KUGB for fifty years. He was also a member of the KUGB Technical Committee alongside Andy Sherry, Terry O’Neill, Bob Poynton, Billy Higgins, and Frank Brennan.

In 2010 Rhodes was appointed Chief Instructor of the University of Buckingham’s newly formed Shotokan Karate Club. By this time he had moved to Milton Keynes and was also teaching an open class for brown and black belts.

Bob Rhodes has dedicated his life to being a member of the KUGB, first as a student, then as an instructor. With over fifty years of training behind him, he has amassed a wealth of knowledge. He continues to impart this knowledge on seminars and courses that are hugely popular.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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