Richard Amos

I feel that competition is very healthy and in line with human nature, and as Karate is for one’s entire life, there is time during that life when you should compete.

Richard Amos

One of only a few foreigners who have passed the JKA Instructors Course, Richard Amos is also one of the few non-Japanese men to have taught at the JKA Hombu. A much-in-demand instructor, he leads one of the most respected Shotokan associations in the world.

Richard Amos was born on 15 March 1963 in Chelmsford, England. Growing up he was influenced by the craze around Bruce Lee. Also influenced by David Carradine’s Kung Fu series, he bought every magazine he could find on Bruce Lee. He had wanted to learn Kung Fu. Unfortunately, there were no classes local to him.

However, Amos’ mother found a Shotokan Karate class at the Chelmsford YMCA for him to try.

Amos started training at the Chelmsford Dojo of Dot and Charles Naylor. The couple were longtime members of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB). Charles Naylor was a 3rd Dan at the time and one of Keinosuke Enoeda’s first students in Liverpool. He was also the Secretary of the KUGB.

Dot Naylor was one of the first women to be awarded a Karate black belt in England. She taught the children’s classes at the Chelmsford dojo and became Amos’ first teacher. Sometimes Enoeda would also visit the dojo.

By his own admission, Amos was not a natural at Karate. However, he worked hard and was dedicated to his training. Through his perseverance, he began to improve.

The KUGB regularly held spring and summer courses at Crystal Palace, London. Many of the top Japanese instructors were invited to teach the courses. Amos loved training with these instructors and dreamt of going to train in Japan.

By 1979 Amos was a brown belt. In May 1979 a KUGB Spring Training Course was held at Crystal Palace. Gradings were also held. He attempted his grading for black belt in front of a grading panel consisting of Keinosuke Enoeda, Taiji Kase, Hiroshi Shirai, Masao Kawasoe, and Hideo Tomita. Unfortunately, Amos failed his grading attempt.

Wanting to get better, Amos started visiting the famous Liverpool Red Triangle dojo, during his holidays, to train with the likes of Andy Sherry and Frank Brennan. On his visits to Liverpool Amos would stay at the home of Dot Naylor’s parents.

In September 1979 Amos started an apprenticeship with the Shell Oil Company. Shortly after starting his new job, he attempted his black belt grading for a second time, at a KUGB Training Course held at Crystal Palace. This time he was successful and was promoted to 1st Dan by Enoeda.

In 1981 the 3rd IAKF World Championships were held in Bremen, Germany. Amos had the opportunity to travel to Germany to watch the tournament. He had the chance to see his heroes, Frank Brennan, Terry O’Neill, Bob Poynton, and Billy Higgins compete.

Amos was awarded his 2nd Dan in 1981. That year he was also invited to join the KUGB Junior Karate Team. He would travel to train with Enoeda and Sherry at the Liverpool Red Triangle Dojo.

Amos represented the KUGB National side in several international tournaments and was successful. He competed in two European Championships, placing Third in Team Kata, at the Championships held in Ghent, Belgium.

In 1983 the 4th IAKF World Championships were held in Cairo, Egypt. Again, Amos travelled to the tournament to support the KUGB team. He was mesmerised by the performances of Yoshiharu Osaka and Mikio Yahara, in the Men’s Individual Kata event, which was won by Osaka. After seeing the quality of their movements, knew he had to go to Japan to train.

Team Kata was introduced into the KUGB National Championships for the first time in 1983. Amos was part of a team, consisting of Alan Parrish and Gary Mills, that won the first-ever Team Kata title. They repeated the feat the following two years.

In 1984 Amos was awarded his 3rd Dan. Shortly after, he transitioned to the Senior KUGB squad. By this time he was training at Enoeda’s London dojo.

Amos had started to grow disillusioned with training in the UK. After seeing the likes of Osaka and Yahara, he had wanted to train in Japan.

Wanting to travel, Amos moved to New York in 1986. He started training at the Manhattan Dojo of Masataka Mori. The atmosphere at this dojo was austere and very different to the atmosphere he had experienced in the UK. Mori had arrived in New York in 1968 after a five-year stay in Hawaii as Chief Instructor of the Karate Association of Hawaii.

Amos also trained at Alex Sternberg’s dojo in Queens. He enjoyed training at this dojo.

While in New York Amos tried his hand at becoming an actor. He worked as a waiter in between auditions.

John Mullin had been practising Karate in the New York area since 1960. A student of Mori since 1968, he had a dojo in Staten Island, where he ran an early morning class.

By 1988 Amos had realised that his future lay in Karate, rather than pursuing a career in acting. Wanting to improve his Karate even further, he approached Mullin, to train at his Staten Island dojo. He also knew that Mullin had trained in Japan. Both men enjoyed training with each other.

In January 1989, Amos fulfilled his dream of moving to Japan. He arrived in Tokyo, not knowing anyone, and unable to read or speak Japanese.

Amos made his way to Masatoshi Nakayama’s Hoitsugan dojo. Minoru Kawawada had taken over the running of the dojo, following Nakayama’s death in 1987.

Amos was allowed to stay at the dojo’s dormitory. This would be his home for the next year and a half. In time he immersed himself in Japanese culture and made some very good friends.

In Japan, Amos immersed himself in his Karate training. His training consisted of training under Kawawada at the Hoitsugun dojo early in the morning. He would then go to the JKA Hombu to train in the Foreigners class. He would return to the Hoitsugan dojo, training in every class on offer at the dojo.

In September 1989, Amos was selected to represent the Hoitsugan dojo in Team Kata, at the 32nd JKA All Japan Championships. The team finished in second place.

By 1991 Amos had been in Japan for two years. In April he was invited to join the JKA Instructors Course. He had been training regularly, twice a day, and this had not gone unnoticed. He joined the course around the time of the JKA split, following the death of Masatoshi Nakayama.

Amos was a part of the JKA Matsuno faction led by Tetsuhiko Asai. His main instructors on the course were Asai, Keigo Abe, and Akihito Isaka. Sometimes he would have lessons with Mikio Yahara and Masao Kagawa.

In what may seem a little strange, Amos’ classes took place at the same time as classes held by the opposing Nakahara faction, at the Hombu dojo. He would sometimes see classes led by Masaaki Ueki, Masahiko Tanaka, Yoshiharu Osaka, Minoru Kawawada, Tatsuya Naka, Tomio Imamura, and Seizo Izumiya.

Amos competed in a number of JKA All Japan Championships. He placed in the top three positions in kumite, on several occasions.

On 15 March 1994 Amos became only the second westerner to graduate from the JKA Instructors Course. The graduation took place on the day of his 31st birthday. He felt a sense of achievement, after surviving the extremely hard training.

On graduating from the Instructors Course, Amos had a chance to teach at the JKA Hombu. He did this for the next four years.

Although Amos had a great life in Japan, he felt he had achieved all he could there. In 1998, he left Japan.

By 2000 Amos had established himself as a Karate instructor, with a good reputation internationally. He had returned to New York, Where he opened a dojo in Manhattan, in September 2000.

Amos had resumed his close relationship with John Mullin. In 2001 they co-founded the World Traditional Karate Organisation (WTKO), alongside Fred Serricchio, and Ed van Veen.

The WTKO is an organisation that was established to be free of the politics and egos that plague many Shotokan groups. Although an independent organisation, the WTKO formed close ties with Keigo Abe’s JSKA. Mullin became the Executive Chairman of the WTKO, with Amos becoming Chief Instructor. Amos’ dojo became the Hombu of the WTKO.

In 2001 the 1st WTKO World Championships were held.

On 28 April 2019 Amos was awarded his 8th Dan.

28 July 2020 saw the publication of Amos’ book, ‘Chasing Bushido: How I Learned to Just Say Osu‘. The book is a memoir of his time in Karate.

Richard Amos is one of only a few foreigners to have passed the JKA Instructors Course, and one of only a few foreigners to have taught at the JKA Hombu. A much-in-demand instructor, he leads one of the most well respected associations in the world.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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