Sensei Gary Stewart passes 7th Dan in Tokyo Japan

Westmister JKA Karate Club’s Instructor becomes 7th Dan in the Japan Karate Association

On Saturday 22 April 2023, Sensei Gary Stewart was successful in becoming the first JKA student from England to achieve the senior rank of 7th Dan. The examination was held at the headquarters of the Japan Karate Association in Tokyo, under the watchful eyes of Ueki Shuseki Shihan (10th Dan JKA Chief Instructor) and Imamura Shihan (8th Dan JKA Vice Chief Instructor).

Sensei Gary arrived in Japan on April 16, allowing himself 4-days to adjust to the 8-hour time difference. Prior to the start of the official training camp, there was the opportunity to get in some additional practice at the HQ dojo with Sensei’s Ogura, Shiina, Taniyama, Shimizu and Ogane.

2023 marks the 20-year anniversary of Sensei Enoeda’s passing, so Sensei Gary arranged to meet Sensei Ohta (JKA England Chief Instructor) at JKA HQ so they could travel together to pay their respects at Sensei Enoeda’s memorial. On arrival, Sensei Ohta met with the priest and handed him two beautifully decorated envelopes draped in black ribbons; one was to pay for the up-keep of the shrine (which Sensei Ohta does annually), and the other was a special payment because it was the 20-year anniversary. The visit lasted for about an hour as the memorial stone was cleaned and incense was burned; this was a very touching moment and Sensei Gary felt privileged to be there.

It was now almost time for the JKA Spring Training Camp to begin and JKA members from around the world had started to arrive in Tokyo. This was the first major gathering at JKA HQ since the Covid pandemic and everything seemed to be falling back into place.

As always, the Gasshuku (Training Camp) was superbly organised and included a very informative seminar for Judges at the Bunkyo Sports Hall. Japanese University students attended to compete against each other, allowing for the Judges to practice under the watchful eyes of the HQ Instructors; plenty of feedback was given!

Prior to the examinations, the candidates were put into groups of three; Sensei Gary was in a group with Sensei Johan La Grange (Chief instructor of JKA South Africa), who was also testing for 7th Dan. With the sound advice from Sensei Jim Wood ringing in his ears “Put your crash helmet on and get stuck in” Sensei Gary waited for his name to be called.

Sensei Gary had been training regularly with Sensei Ohta prior to travelling to Japan, so felt well prepared. The examination seemed to go well, and Sensei Gary felt happy with his Kihon, Kata and Kumite; but it was now time to wait and see if the examiners felt the same.

All the candidates waited patiently for the results, and the announcement eventually came over two and a half hours later; the first name to be called “Gary Stewart: Pass Nana Dan”.

At the end of a very successful trip to Japan, Sensei Gary said “I owe it all to Sensei Enoeda and of course the person who has guided me for over 40 years; Sensei Ohta! I’m forever grateful”.