6th Dan Kyoshi
Hon. President Tora Judo Kai
My judo career began with the formation of the BP (Llandarcy) Judo Club in 1954 where our instructors were Alan Petherbridge and Russ Lewis, Dan grades from Swansea Samurai Judo Club, both destined later to become international competitors.
In Jan 1958, having gained BJA green belt status, I moved to London to pursue my engineering studies at Woolwich Polytechnic and joined their judo club where our instructor was 2nd Dan John Waite who introduced me to the London Judo Society (LJS). At the LJS I attended classes by some of the all time greats such as Eric Dominy, Charles Palmer, and George Chew and trained with many others who later became stars. The most memorable occasion was a master class with Gunji Koizumi the founder of the London Budokwai. The teacher who had greatest influence on my judo was Senta Yamada, a high grade visiting instructor from Japan.
My engineering course comprised alternate six monthly periods in college and industry which enabled me to return to Llandarcy and also to attend clubs in and around Colchester and Bath. I always carried my judo-gi on my travels and visited as many clubs as possible.
In 1961 I took permanent employment with BP in their London office and played a major part in setting up a new judo club of which I became secretary. Phil Davis our 1st Dan instructor was also a member of the LJS. During my time in London I visited many judo clubs including the Budokwai and Renshuden. Our BP club members were drawn from many different clubs and associations which introduced me to the world of judo outside the BJA. I was awarded my blue belt in June 1960 and my brown belt in April 1963.
Black belt gradings at the LJS were major events which drew hopeful candidates from all parts of the country. Many entered but only a few would go home with coveted black belts. Gradings were contest-orientated and it was the responsibility of the club sensei to prepare candidates in all other necessary aspects of judo before approving their entry. Entering black belt gradings was considered essential preparation for LJS brown belts aspiring to Dan grade status and provided me with some of my toughest contest experience. On several occasions I was selected to be in the final line-ups for first and second Dan gradings.
In June 1965 I moved to Bristol to join the National Smelting Corporation at Avonmouth and became a member of Bristol Judokwai. Shortly afterwards I sustained a broken arm which together with increasing work commitments severely curtailed my judo career. In spite of numerous attempts to restart my career over the next few years I stopped practising but always retained a keen interest in judo.
In 1983 my sons started judo lessons at the Robin Cousins Sports Centre in Avonmouth and I joined them as a white belt. Our instructor was Bob Bridges, a former student of Otani Sensei and a third Dan who had his own club which was called Bushido Bristol and belonged to the Universal Budo Association (UBA) which followed the teachings of Kenshiro Abbe.
I joined Bushido and the UBA in November 1983 as an orange belt and progressed through the grades of Blue belt in May 1984, brown belt in January 1985 and was awarded my black belt in May 1985 by Stan Griffiths, 6th Dan and president of the UBA.
By the end of 1985 Sensei Bridges had taken Bushido Bristol out of the UBA and joined the World-British Federation of Martial Arts. In 1991 I was awarded by 2nd Dan grade. A further change took Bushido into the British Kempo Ju-Jitsu Association (BKJJA) in 1993.
Gaining my Dan grades enabled me to extend my judo experience to coaching and refereeing at inter-club and open competitions in and around the Bristol area and as far a field as Birmingham. I took over the running of the Bushido club at Shirehampton which Bob Bridges was proposing to close and also the instructor role at the Avonmouth Sports Centre.
In 1994 I separated from Bushido Bristol and successfully formed and ran my own judo school, Tora Judo Kai, which was based in Shirehampton. We retained our membership of the BKJJA until October 1998 when I accepted an invitation from Sensei Bill Burnside, President of the International Budo Council (IBC), to join his association.
In April 1999 I was promoted to 4th Dan and in April 2004 received my 5th Dan grade.
In 2005 I was awarded the status of 5th Dan Kyoshi for my contribution to junior teaching at the IBC Annual Easter Courses.
In April 2007 I decided to take a break from active Judo whilst I considered my future involvement.
Tora Judo Kai, now located in Pill, continues to progress under the direction of my son Steve Chappell, 4th Dan Judo, 3rd Dan Ju-Jitsu, who also runs Bushido Bristol at Hanham having taken over when Bob Bridges retired.