I admired many aspects of all the Karate schools I trained with, but I felt that none could offer exactly what I was looking for. Unbeknown to me at the time I was following the step of Shu-ha-ri.Chris Thompson
One of the highest-ranked Wado-ryu practitioners in the United Kingdom, Chris Thompson has trained with many of the first Wado-ryu instructors to come over to the UK. He is a familiar face, having written and featured in many Karate books.
Chris Thompson grew up in West London during the 1960s. Aged eleven he was blinded when a bottle exploded in his hand. The freak accident prevented him from taking part in physical sports for a number of years, much to his frustration.
Thompson was finally cleared by doctors to participate in sports in June of 1969. Eager to do something new he decided to try his hand at Karate. For the first two years of his training, he trained at various clubs with various instructors.
Aged eighteen Thompson enrolled at the Judokan Club in Hammersmith, where he started to learn Wado-ryu under Bob Wignall. Wado-ryu had been introduced into the UK in 1963 by Tatsuo Suzuki, a direct student of Hironiri Ohtsuka, the founder of Wado-ryu. Wignall was an early student of Suzuki.
Thompson loved his training. He eventually started training with Tatsuo Suzuki at his King’s Cross dojo. During this time he had the opportunity to train with many of the first Wado-ryu instructors to arrive in the UK with Suzuki. This included Tadayuki Maeda and Masafumi Shiomitsu, two very talented karatekas.
By 1973 Thompson had achieved his 1st Dan and was running two small clubs. That year the Wado-ryu organisation in the UK split into two opposing factions. Thompson initially tried training with both factions as he deeply respected the heads of each faction. However, in the end, had to choose one faction over the other.
Thompson had become disillusioned with the way Wado-ryu was being run in the UK. This led him to sever all ties with Wado-ryu in the UK. He started exploring other styles and training with various instructors so as to broaden his horizons. This led him to become one of the first Englishman to break away from a major style and form his own style of Karate.
After officially leaving the Wado-ryu group in 1978 Thompson formed the Washinkai Karate-Do Renmei organisation. The name Washinkai was derived from three parts. ‘Wa’ for harmony and to acknowledge one’s roots; ‘Shin’ for the heart, mind and spirit working together; and ‘Kai’ for group, organisation or home.
By 1978 Thompson had five Karate clubs spread across London. That same year he instituted the inaugural Washinkai Instructors Course.
Always looking to improve his Karate, Thompson travelled to Japan to broaden his knowledge. During his time there he had the opportunity to train in various styles of Karate, including Shotokan, Gojo-ryu, Shito-ryu, and Wado-ryu. Initially, he faced some difficulties due to the language barrier and being a foreigner. However, once these overcome it proved to be a fruitful experience.
In 1991 the English Karate Governing Body (EKGB) was founded. The aim of the body was to provide clear guidelines for Karate in England, in terms of teaching and coaching. The body also provided accreditation for officials officiating at tournaments around the country. Thompson’s BTKA was a founding member of the body. He later joined the EKGB Technical Committee in 1996. He eventually became the bodies Chairman. During his time at the EKGB until its demise in 2005 he achieved the following:
- Helped establish a number of City & Guilds Non-Vocational Qualifications in Sport and Recreation – Coaching (Karate)
- He helped introduce a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check within the EKGB
- He introduced the first medical commission for the EKGB which allowed doctors to be chosen from a pool to provide support at all EKGB Championships.
The BTKA continues to flourish as an association. With clubs across the South of England and in Wales, the BTKA has also established an international presence in the Republic of Ireland and Spain. In 2017 the Association celebrated its 40th anniversary.
On a personal level, Thompson has continued his training and is willing to improve. In 1998 he was awarded his 7th Dan. In 2007 he was awarded his 8th Dan and in 2017 his 9th Dan. Having written a number of books on Karate practice, in 2015 his autobiography “Fighting Spirit: Karate – My Way of Life” was published. He is also a director for the English Karate Federation (EKF), which is recognised as the governing body of English Karate.
Since he first started Karate in 1969, Karate has gone on to become a fundamental part of Chris Thompson’s life. Being one of the first British instructors to set up his own association he has been at the heart of English Karate, trying to give back to the art he loves so much.