Billy Higgins may not have as high a profile as some other British karateka of his generation. However, among his peers and those in the know, he is highly respected and one of the best tournament fighters Britain has produced. A very skilled fighter, famed for his lightning fast techniques, he enjoyed a long and distinguished competitive career at international level. He is the winner of multiple titles at European and World level.
William ‘Billy’ Higgins was born on 14 August 1945 in Bootle, England. At school he had been a keen boxer. He had also been interested in football and gymnastics.
In 1965 Higgins and a friend witnessed a free-sparring session at a Wado-ryu class run by Martin Stott. They were so impressed that they joined Stott’s club the next night.
Higgins threw himself into his training and by 1970 had earned his 1st Dan in Wado-ryu Karate. By 1972 he had earned his 2nd Dan. However, he was beginning to run into issues with his training. To get advanced training meant travelling south to London from Bootle, situated in the North West of England. London was where he could train with senior instructors such as Wado-ryu master, Tatsuo Suzuki. This was proving increasingly difficult to do.
Higgins competitive career had began on the local tournament scene from the time he was a purple belt. He was eventually called up to represent the national side. In 1970 he represented Great Britain at the European Karate Championships held in Hamburg, Germany. As part of the squad he awarded a bronze medal in the individual kumite event.
In 1972 Higgins switched styles from Wado-ryu to Shotokan Karate. He joined the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB), training at clubs based in Liverpool and Kirby.
At the 1972 European Karate Championships held in Brussels, Belgium, Higgins was part of the British team that lost to the eventual winners, France, in the Team Kumite final. That same year he came second in the kumite event at the WUKO All Styles World Championships held in Paris.
In 1975 Higgins captained the British All Styles Karate team, managed by Steve Arneil, at the World Championships held in Long Beach, California. The team also included Terry O’Neill, David ‘Ticky’ Donovan and Bob Rhodes. The team became the first non-Japanese team to be crowned Team Kumite World Champions. That same Higgins was also crowned European Karate Champion in the -75kg kumite event, held in Ostend, Belgium.
1976 saw Higgins continue his dominance at the European Karate Championships. At the championships held in Tehran, Iran, he won medals in the individual and team kumite events. In the same year he was crowned European All styles kumite champion.
In Black Belt Magazine’s 9th Annual Yearbook, published in October 1976, Higgins alongside fellow Englishmen Eugene Codrington, Brian Fitkin and Ticky Donovan, was named as one of the “Top Ten European Karateka”. Since 1973 he had regularly featured in Black Belt Magazine’s top ten list.
Higgins continued competing into the 1980s. He was a part of the team that won a Team Kuite title at the 1981 European Championships. In a stellar tournament career his major honors include:
- World Championships, Individual Kumite – 2nd place (1972)
- World Championships, Team Kumite – 1st place (1975)
- World Championships, Team Kumite, 3rd place (1972, 1977, 1980)
- European Championships, Individual Kumite – 1st place (1974, 1975,1976)
- European Championships, Individual Kumite – 2nd place (1974)
- European Championships, Individual Kumite – 3rd place (1970, 1973)
- European Championships, Team Kumite – 1st place (1974, 1976, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981)
- European Championships, Team Kumite – 2nd place (1972)
- European Championships, Team Kumite – 3rd place (1977)
On retiring from competitive Karate, Higgins eventually became a coach for the English Karate Board (EKB) squad and also a squad coach for the KUGB Scottish and Southern Regions. Currently ranked as an 8th Dan, he is a Grading Examiner and qualified international referee. In 2007 he was part of the coaching setup, including Andy Sherry, which coached the British team to European and World Championship titles.