I feel that without developing mental and physical discipline you can never hope to achieve your full potential whether your bias is kumite or kata.Ronnie Christopher
Alongside the likes of Frank Brennan, Elwyn Hall, and George Best, Ronnie Christopher is considered one of the best Shotokan fighters of his era. Blessed with speed, technique, and spirit, he could score with any technique, be it kicks, punches, or takedowns.
Ronnie Christopher was born in Birmingham in February 1960.
When Christopher was aged 9 years old, he was adopted by a Mrs Hegarty. Mrs Hegarty was a school teacher who had four children of her own. By adopting a black child in the 1960s, she alienated some of her neighbours. Some of them even stopped talking to her. Christopher developed a very close relationship with her. In years to come, she would become his biggest supporter.
At the age of 14, Christopher began his first forays into martial arts. He tried various styles, but there was nothing that stuck.
In 1977 Christopher began training at the Birmingham KUGB Shotokan Karate club. He trained under Cyril Cummings, who was a 4th Dan at the time.
Christopher had joined the club because of his friends who were already training there. Initially, he found the training difficult because of the discipline required. He persisted with it and eventually started training five days a week.
In the beginning, Christopher thought Karate was all about free-style fighting. However, over time he realised that there was a lot more to Karate. He credits Cummins with giving him a solid foundation in Shotokan Karate.
By 1979 Christopher had developed into a very good junior competitor. He had performed well at a number of tournaments and had begun to get noticed. He was invited to try out for the KUGB Junior Squad.
During squad training sessions Christopher trained under Andy Sherry at the Red Triangle Dojo in Liverpool. Training sessions were once a month and lasted for around 3–4 hours.
Squad training with Sherry was tough. He pushed his students both mentally and physically. Christopher would sometimes return home physically and emotionally shattered. He credits Sherry with having a big influence on his Karate. Apart from motivating him during tough training sessions, he also helped him develop mentally, physically, and technically. He showed the importance of Karate being a process to develop a person’s mental and physical capacity.
On 21 September 1980, Christopher was graded to 1st Dan by Keinosuke Enoeda.
After plenty of success at a junior level, where he has won European titles in Individual and Team Kumite, Christopher made a successful transition to the KUGB Senior Squad, where he was coached by Enoeda.
By 1984 and Christopher had established himself as one of the top kumite competitors in the KUGB. At the 1984 KUGB National Championships, he made it to the Individual Kumite final where he faked his good friend, the phenomenal Frank Brennan, who won the title and became the KUGB Grand Champion, after also winning the Men’s Individual Kata title.
In 1985 Christopher again met Brennan in the Individual Kumite final at the KUGB National Championships, again finishing runner-up.
Christopher had the opportunity to train in Japan in 1989. He attended Mikio Yahara’s Summer Camp. In what was a great experience for him, the trip helped open his eyes to other aspects of training. The training was extremely tough, with two training sessions a day. He lost around 12 lb in weight.
In 1989 Christopher won his first KUGB National Kumite title. At the KUGB National Championships, he defeated Elwyn Hall, in what is considered one of the best KUGB Kumite finals.
Between 17–18 March 1990, the 7th World Championships (3rd Shoto Cup) took place at the Crowtree Leisure Centre in Sunderland, England. Christopher made it to the Individual Kumite semi-final, where he faced Danish-born Leslie Jensen, who was representing Sweden. During the bout, Christopher was concussed by an uncontrolled punch from the very tall Jensen. He had to retire from the tournament, with Jensen disqualified and Masao Kagawa of Japan, becoming champion.
Christopher’s retirement meant he could not compete in the following day’s Team Kumite final against Japan. The British team, who were also missing George Best made history by defeating a Japanese team coached by Masahiko Tanaka in the final.
In 1991 Christopher faced his nemesis, Frank Brennan in his fourth KUGB National Championships Individual Kumite final. Again Christopher was runner-up to Brennan.
Christopher’s adoptive mother, Mrs Hegerty died in 1991. Her death left a big hole in his life. She had been a big influence on his life and had been his biggest supporter. He threw himself into his training to grieve and get his head together.
By 1993 Christopher had returned to training and competing. At the KUGB National Championships, he won his second KUGB Individual Kumite title. He repeated the feat the following year, capturing his third title.
In 1996 Keinosuke Enoeda and Andy Sherry graded Christopher to 5th Dan. That year he also retired from actively competing.
1996 also saw the publication of Christopher’s book, “Get To Grips With Karate: An Introduction To Competition Karate“, co-authored with Bryan Evans. The following year saw the publication of their second book, “Get To Grips With Competition Karate“.
In 1999 Christopher was made a KUGB Grading Examiner. He found it helped him assess the quality of his students.
Christopher had clubs in Birmingham, Solihull, and Bromsgrove. In 2005 he established the Ruach Shotokan Karate School, becoming Chief Instructor.
An excellent representative of Shotokan Karate, Ronnie Christopher was a top competitor for the KUGB for many years. His battles against the likes of Frank Brennan and Elwyn Hall are legendary. Mainly known for his kumite, he is a well-rounded karateka.
Away from Karate Christopher worked as a doorman and in security for many years.
Very interesting account of Ronnie’s impressive karate accomplishments and his inspiring life. I’d like to correct one error however – at the 7th World championships in Sunderland 1990, it was Leslie Jensen that Ronnie faced in the semi-finals and not Kagawa. He was to face the top Japanese next, but unfortunately ran into a hard jodan (head) punch from Jensen, causing Ronnie concussion and his withdrawal. Ronnie was getting the better of his towering opponent, at one point almost connecting with a spectacular jumping reverse roundhouse kick. Ronnie had said that one of his tactics was to try to kick Jensen in the head as he wouldn’t expect it (being over 7 foot tall!). My personal opinion was that had Ronnie beat Jensen, he would have given Kagawa a run for his money in the final. Ronnie’s aggressive and tricky fighting style made him a very difficult opponent.
Bryan Evans 4th Dan (co author with Ronnie Christopher “Get to grips with Karate.”)
Thank you very much. I have made the necessary changes.
That’s great Patrick. I was training regularly with Ronnie during this time and attended the Sunderland World Championships, so witnessed everything for myself. Ronnie was devastated that he couldn’t make the final on such a historic occasion, but being the humble man he is, he never complained. I interviewed him for Terry O’Neil’s Fighting Arts International and it was my pleasure and good fortune to paint a picture of Ronnie performing a side kick (I’m an artist as well as a martial one) especially for the cover of the magazine, which featured this exclusive interview.
Once again, very good to come across your excellent piece on Ronnie.
Many thanks for a very interesting and informative article about my Sensei.
I would respectfully point out the spelling of Sensei Christopher’s club is as follows: Ruach.
Thanks. I will make the necessary correction.