Bill Burgar's Karate History
I started training in Shotokan Karate at Bennetts End Community Centre in Hemel Hempstead in September 1979 with Malcolm Phipps. I progressed through the grades (see grading record below) attaining my 1st dan black belt in 1983 just prior to going to Reading University.
In 1984 I founded the Reading University Shotokan Karate Club where I taught for the rest of my time at university and for a number of years afterwards. While at University I also studied Aikido for a short while. After I was moved to Hemel Hempstead (by Nortel for whom I was working at the time) I travelled to Reading to teach but had to relinquish the primary instructorship at the club because it was impossible to attend three times a week as I had in the past. I then started a club in High Wycombe that I ran successfully for a few years.
Around 1983 I started publishing a small circulation magazine call Dojo Magazine. It sold enough to cover costs but the main advantage was that I was invited to attend a great many courses with senior instructors that I may not have otherwise been able to attend. Most notable and my favourite was Hirokazu Kanazawa with whom I was fortunate to train a good number of times.
In the early 1990s the internet was getting started and I became friends with Rick Clark, a martial arts instructor from the USA. He was teaching a blend of vital point karate, grappling and weapons work and I invited him over to the UK and organised his first tour of the country. We travelled to around about 10 different clubs over a two week period. The next few years were a great learning time for me. Not only did I learn much from Rick (he came to the UK regularly in subsequent years and has continued to visit to this day) but also from the new friends I made through my association with Rick. Rick encouraged me to cross train in other martial arts and I studied Aikido for a short time renewing the interest I'd started at University. I also trained with other leading martial artists who were researching kata deeply, most notably Patrick McCarthy and Vince Morris.
In 1997 I started an experiment to train in just one kata the way the old karate masters did nearly two hundred years ago. After a number of years had passed people were curious about what I was doing but I'd never have long enough with them to describe exactly what I had discovered. At that point I decided to write a book so I could share what I'd learned with anyone who was interested. I wrote the book over about an 18 month period, mostly late at night as work with Telephonetics was hectic at that time. I published the book in 2003 and it has sold well since. Three of the people I regard as my mentors wrote forewords for the book: Rick Clark, Patrick McCarthy and Vince Morris.
During my time working on a single kata I developed the habit of solo training which I continue today. I occasionally teach courses when invited to do so.
You can read an interview with me and look up various articles I've written for magazines and websites. I've been published many times in Shotokan Karate Magazine and Traditional Karate Magazine and various other magazines around the world. I ran my own small karate magazine called Dojo Magazine for a few years in the 1980s. I recommend searching for both Burgar and Burger (the latter being the incorrect spelling but which is unfortunately often used). Other resources on the web include a pilot I did for a podcast which you can see below and on youtube.
- 9th and 8th Kyu White Belt 19 December 1979
- 7th Kyu Yellow Belt 24 April 1980
- 6 Kyu Green Belt 24 July 1980
- 5 Kyu Purple Belt 10 December 1980
- 4th Kyu Purple Belt with white stripe 2 April 1981
- 3rd Kyu Brown Belt 15 July 1981
- 2nd Kyu Brown Belt with white tag 16 June 1982
- 1st Kyu Brown Belt with white stripe 5 December 1982
- 1st Dan Black Belt 4 September 1983
- 2nd Dan Black Belt 8 September 1985
- 3rd Dan Black Belt 4 September 1988
- 4th Dan Black Belt 1 September 1992
- 5th Dan Black Belt 1995
- 6th Dan Black Belt 24 June 2000
My book Five Years, One Kata (330 pages) was published in 2003 and is still selling well. It is a book for advanced karateka typically 2nd dan and above.
In modern karate it is usual to study many kata (typically for most styles around 25 or 30 kata). However, when karate was practised in secret prior to 1880 it was usual for a karate master to know just one or two kata. I decided to run an experiment to try training with just one kata for an extended period. Initially I set out to train for one year but, as I went deeper into the kata the time period extended, and at the point that I wrote the book (as the title suggests) I'd been training virtually exclusively in the one kata for five years.
This was a very unusual method of training compared to the modern way and the discoveries I made during that time were of great interest to my peers and I'm pleased to say quite influential.