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The history of Karate in Huddersfield

Wado in the North

It was a school pal of mine who originally talked me into beginning Karate at a local Wado-Ryu club situated just a few miles west of Huddersfield. The small Karate club was typical of many back in the late seventies. It comprised of about twenty mixed grade mambers and was run by John Baxter, who became my first instructor.

Sensei Baxter was a real Karate enthusiast and although at the time he was graded only to brown belt, he could perform Kata Chinto better than anyone. He was a firm believer in the value of basic Karate. Affiliated to EKW (England Karate Wado Kai), the club met twice a week for a gruelling and often laborious two hours worth of basic junzuki (stepping front punch) or basic gyakuzuki (stepping reverse punch). The combinations practised rarely exceeded three techniques and the intermittent set of push ups, sit ups and occassional bare-foot runs usually ensured that newcomers hardly ever stayed the course.


In December 1978, I took the plunge and joined the main Huddersfield Karate club (also affiliated to the EKW), a town centre club which boasted a massive membership with a reputation to match. This was well established club with a vast array of seasoned black belts. Guys whose experience and ability had been forged during Karate’s Golden Age of the early seventies, and who were without doubt worth their salt.


One of them, Ken McGuire, would run to the sports centre in bare feet to train. Another was the awesome Neil Habergam. Neil was a throwback from the Phil Milner days who would always be there on sparring night. Mr Habergam, I remember at 6ft 2in, was always straight to the point both on and off the mats. at the top of the pecking order was none other than fighting John Wright. Altjough by the time I arrived at the club, john had begun to carry a bit of weight – he liked his beer! – he would train hard, sink a couple of pints in the sports centre bar then hit the town and pick on the local bouncers.


The very familiar ‘Dove ‘ synbol which resides on the gi of most every Wado practitioner, signified the ‘Way of Peace’. to my knowledge, this ethos was seldom inplemented at Huddersfield Wado, where among the many characters there existed a good share of capable combatants.


In the spirit of the hit song of the day by pop sensation BA Robinson, ‘they were cool in the kaftan, Wado-Ryu man’.


So Colne Valley Black Belt Academy has a direct lineage to the main Huddersfield original Karate club.


Bob Sykes