Those who knew and trained with Steve Cattle described him as one of the best karateka to come out of the UK. Standing 5ft 6in he was affectionately nicknamed ‘Stumpy’ by his friends. However, what he lacked in height he more than made up in sheer tenacity, spirit and technique. Always having to fight opponents much bigger than him, he was never found lacking in the bravery department. Highly respected he was known for his exceptional timing and immense Karate knowledge.
Born on 15 May 1947 in York, he was christened Stephen John Cattle. He began studying Judo in 1960 as a twelve-year-old. He trained under Dave Peake, an accomplished judoka who would go on to win international honors representing Great Britain.
Although small in comparison to some of his opponents, Cattle displayed his characteristic tenacity in his study of Judo. In 1966 he was selected to represent Britain at the European Student Judo Championships. He became the European Lightweight Champion. The following year he was selected to represent Britain at the World Student Games held in Japan. He stayed in Japan for three months, training at Tenri University, a premier Judo university noted for producing many Judo Olympians. He would later recall that it was the hardest training he ever did. On his return to the UK, he decided to shift his focus to Karate, as the further he moved into Judo the bigger his opponents became.
Cattle’s Karate journey began in 1962 when he applied for British Karate Federation membership, joining Gordon Thompson’s York Kenshinkan dojo. Thompson had trained with Vernon Bell’s BKF and had trained with Tetsuji Murakami. He would go on to be a founding member of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB).
In 1965 the JKA sent Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda and Hiroshi Shirai on a world tour to help promote the JKA’s version of Shotokan Karate. On their stop in the UK, they gave a number of demonstrations and courses. Cattle attended one of these courses and like many of the attendees became hooked on this style of Karate.
Cattle moved to Liverpool in 1966 to study Theology at the C. F. Mott Teacher Training College. Part of his reason for studying in Liverpool was to also train with Andy Sherry and Enoeda, now residing in the UK and who was the chief instructor at the Red Triangle Club. That year Cattle entered his first tournament as a brown belt. At the ABKA All-Styles tournament held in London, he lost his very first fight. He learnt from this. At the first British Universities’ Karate Federation (BUKF) held at Liverpool University in 1968, he helped C. F. Mott College to the team kumite title and also won the individual kumite title. The event was open to all styles of Karate. The following year C. F. Mott College retained their team kumite title. This time Cattle won the individual kata title.
Cattle would eventually go on to represent the KUGB National team and also the British All Styles Team.
For the next couple of years Cattle dedicated himself to his Karate. Like Kase, Kanazawa and Enoeda, his earlier Judo practice influenced his Karate.
In 1970 Cattle was awarded his 2nd Dan in Judo. That same year he made it onto the KUGB National team. He would remain a member of the squad until 1984.
After his first tournament lost in 1966, Cattle had improved to become a well-rounded competitor in both kata and kumite. He worked on his timing, until it became an important part of his arsenal for which he was known. In 1971 he became SKU kata champion and also the first BKCC All Styles champion. The following year he retained his SKU kata title.
Towards the end of 1972, Cattle, now a 3rd Dan, established the Kirkdale and Bootle Karate Club, alongside Sandy Hopkins. The club was an offshoot of the Liverpool Red Triangle Club. He had been approached by the Kirkdale Community Centre, where the club was located, to start up a club
In 1973 Cattle was selected to represent Britain as a member of the All Styles team at the European Karate Championships held in Valencia, Spain. He reached the final of the –65-kg event, losing to Roger Paschy of France, in a match that went into overtime.
As a member of the Kirkdale Club Cattle won two KUGB National titles, first in 1974 and then in 1981. He finally retired from active competition in 1989. His tournament successes include:
- European Championships, Individual kumite (-65-kg)- 2nd place (1973)
- BKCC All Styles Championships, Individual kumite – 1st place (1971)
- SKU Championships, Individual kata – 1st place (1971, 1972)
- KUGB Nationa Championships, Individual kumite – 1st place (1974, 1981)
- KUGB Nationa Championships, Individual kumite – 2nd place (1977, 1982, 1983)
- KUGB National Championships, Individual kata – 2nd place (1973, 1974, 1976, 1977, 1978 )
- KUGB National Championships, Team Kumite – 2nd place (1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1985, 1986)
In the January of 1991, Cattle left the KUGB and JKA to join Taiji Kase’s World Shotokan Karate Association (WSKA). He established the English Shotokan Academy (ESA) which was affiliated to the WSKA.He had been with the KUGB for twenty-five years. As a 5th Dan he had been a squad member in the National side, a senior instructor and also a grading examiner.
Cattle was a keen historian of Karate and a fountain of Karate knowledge. He wrote articles for a number of magazines, including Shotokan Karate Magazine. He was not blinded by style. He made it a point to know katas and their bunkai from the varrious Karate styles and not just Shotokan. He had a deep respect for the JKA. However, he was an outspoken critic of them when he felt it was merited. One area he had a lot to say on was the changes made to some kata by the JKA.
Cattle suffered from a number of health issues. While teaching in Kenya he contracted malaria. He also had both of his hips replaced. A true measure of the man was that he did not let any of these setbacks hold him back.
On 21 February 1995, Steve Cattle, aged only 47 years, died. He had been training in Luxembourg with Taiji Kase and was on his way back to the UK via train. He had an epileptic fit onboard the train and died shortly after. He was survived by his wife and three children. At the time of his death he had reached the rank of 6th Dan.
A measure of how well-respected Cattle was, were the many tributes received following his death, from his peers in the Karate world. Magazines such as Traditional Karate, Shotokan Karate Magazine and Fighting Arts international all published glowing tributes to him. Known for his great spirit, he always gave 100%, inspiring teammates and students alike. Many believed he still had much to offer the Karate world through his never ending quest for knowledge and self-improvement.