This week in history…(13 March – 19 March)

13 March

On 13 March 1957, Vernon Bell was awarded his black belt in Yoseikan Karate from the Fédération Française de Karaté, under Hiroo Mochizuki and Henri Plee.

Bell had started training with Plee towards the end of 1955. He had made frequent visits to Plee’s Paris dojo. After around eighteen months he graded for his 1st Dan. Bell recalled grading with Jurgen Seydal, Vladimiro Malatesti, and Bernard Cherix, the founders of Karate in Germany, Italy, and Switzerland respectively.

The grading consisted of performing Pinan(Heian) katas in slow motion, then at a fast speed. This was followed by ippon kumite and sanbon kumite.

Bell’s license shows he was awarded his grade on 13 March 1957 and his certificate was dated 1st April 1957.

One final thing to note. Bell had to make the following payments:

  • 3000Fr Fédération Française de Karaté for affiliation fees.
  • 3000Fr to the Japanese Karate Federation Yoseikan for affiliation fees.
  • 2500Fr for his Shodan karate diploma.

On 13 March 1999, Hajime Kazumi was the next fighter to attempt the 100-Man Kumite Challenge. Kazumi is considered by many to be one of the greatest Kyokushin fighters. He completed the challenge in 3 hours and 20 minutes. He won 74 fights (16 by Ippon, 58 by decision); drew 42 fights; and lost 0 fights.

14 March

On 14th March 1946, Michael Billman, a high-ranking Karate administrator, was born in the East End of London.

At school, Billman had been a keen rugby player having trials with the Saracens Rugby Club. On leaving school he took up amateur boxing. In 1969 he began his Karate training at a club run by John Van Weenan in Tottenham, London.

Billman has trained with many top senseis. In 1973 he was promoted to 1st Dan by Hirokazu Kanazawa. In 1976 he was promoted to 2nd Dan by Masao Kawasoe. In 1979 he became one of the first karatekas to be promoted to 3rd Dan by Sadashige Kato. In 2008 he received his 8th Dan from the World Karate Federation.

Billman has held major positions in English, British, European and World Karate. These include:

  • President of the English Karate Federation(EKF)
  • Vice President of the British Karate Federation (BKF)
  • Chairman of the European Karate Federation Technical Commission
  • Member of the World Technical Commission
  • Member World Karate Federation Disciplinary and Legal Commission
  • At the request of the then WKF Technical Commission Chairman, Tsuguo Sakumoto, served on the World Sports Commission.

17 March

On 17 March 1990, the 7th World Championships (3rd Shoto Cup) began at the Crowtree Leisure Centre, Sunderland, England. The two-day tournament saw competitors from thirty countries taking part in seven events, i.e. four individual events and three team events.

The final event of day two was the eagerly anticipated Men’s Team Kumite event. Japan were the defending champions and had not lost a match since the walkout at the 1972 WUKO World Championships. They were coached by JKA legend, Masahiko Tanaka. The team included Men’s Individual Kumite Champion, Masao Kagawa. They faced a strong English team, featuring Frank Brennan and Elwyn Hall. The team was coached by Keinosuke Enoeda and Andy Sherry. They became the first team to defeat the Japanese in the World Championships.

18 March

On 18 March 1964, Keinosuke Enoeda was promoted to 5th Dan, becoming the 25th person to be awarded the rank by the JKA. At the time he was teaching at the JKA Hombu and also at the Tokyo Art School.

On 18 March 1968, Frenchman Christoph Pinna was born in the Saint Sylvestre district of Nice, France. He was one of the best competitors of his generation. Famed for his dynamic kicking ability, he won multiple titles at a European and World level.

On 18 March 1973, Miyuki Miura was promoted to 4th Dan by Mas Oyama. Later that year he was asked by Oyama to attempt the 100-Man Kumite Challenge.

On 18 March 1995, Kenji Yamaki, who would become World Champion later that year, completed the 100-Man Kumite Challenge in 3 hours 27 minutes. He won 83 fights (22 by Ippon, 61 by decision); drew 12 flights; and lost five fights. He started to feel cramps in his legs after his 50th fight. After his 60th fight, his whole body hurt. After his 70th fight, he became groggy and could hardly stand. By this time his spirit and fighting instinct got him through the challenge.

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