Andy Sherry can arguably be called a pioneer of Shotokan Karate in the United Kingdom. He is currently ranked as a 9th Dan, with over fifty years of training in the style of Shotokan. His passion and dedication epitomize all that is good in Karate.
Andrew William Sherry was born on 9 July 1943 in Liverpool, England. At school he was fascinated by Japanese martial arts, reading everything he could find. He took an early interest in Judo and Jujitsu.
Sherry’s martial arts training began at the Alpha Jujitsu School of Jack Britten in 1956. Britten, a veteran of World War One, was known as a colourful character. By 1961 Sherry had attained the rank of an orange belt in Britten’s school.
Aged sixteen, Sherry began training under Fred Gille. In 1959 Gille had been responsible for bringing the new art of Karate to Liverpool, after attending a course run by Vernon Bell of the British Karate Federation (BKF). He was the first BKF member from Liverpool and opened the BKF Liverpool dojo around 1959/60 at the Harold House Jewish Boys Club. The dojo would eventually re-locate to the YMCA Red Triangle in 1963.
Sherry officially joined the BKF Liverpool dojo on 9 June 1961, although he had already been training with Gille for some two years. He was dedicated to his training and would take every opportunity to increase his knowledge. He made frequent trips to train at Bell’s London dojo.
At the time the BKF was affiliated to Yoseikan Karate and no Japanese instructors were residing in the UK. This meant Sherry (and others) would travel to travel to Paris to train with Tetsuji Murakami. Murakami, a gifted martial artist, would eventually reside in the UK and teach for the BKF.
By 1963 Sherry had been a member of the BKF for almost two years. He had progressed steadily through the ranks, having been graded by Bell and Murakami. In December of that year, he was selected to be a member of the first British team to take part in an international tournament. Britain had been invited to participate in the first European Karate tournament, held at the Pierre Coubertin stadium, in Paris. Belgium and France were the other teams, with the event being televised across Europe. Britain made it to the final but lost to France 3-1. Whereas the French team were seasoned competitors consisting mainly of black belts, the British team consisted of brown belts or below. Also, the British team had never participated in freestyle fighting, let alone been involved in a tournament setting.
April of 1965 marked a pivotal moment in British Karate history. The Japan Karate Association (JKA) sent four of their top instructors to give a series of Karate demonstrations across Britain, starting in London. The visiting instructors were Taiji Kase, Hirokazu Kanazawa, Keinosuke Enoeda and Hiroshi Shirai. On 23 April the four instructors gave a Karate masterclass at the St. George’s Hall, Liverpool. All who witnessed the demonstration were in awe at the skill level on display. Sherry along with other Liverpool dojo members witnessed the display.
After the four JKA masters left Liverpool they eventually returned to London where they conducted a number of training sessions before departing the country. Sherry travelled down to London, staying at a bread and breakfast. He attended all of the training sessions.
In 1965 the BKF ceased its association with Yoseikan Karate and became affiliated to the JKA. Hirokazu Kanazawa became the resident instructor of the BKF London dojo. In June of that year, he visited the Liverpool BKF dojo for the first time. All who trained with him were in awe of his technical and teaching ability. Sherry was among the students who trained with him daily during his week-long visit. Kanazawa visited a month later for a week. Again Sherry did not miss the opportunity to train with the JKA master.
Kanazawa also taught at two residential courses run on behalf of the BKF. The first course was held at Grange Farm, located in Chigwell, Essex. The second course was held at Lilleshaw Hall in Shropshire. Sherry attended both courses.
In September of 1965, Kanazawa travelled to the Red Triangle dojo for the third time. On the final day of his visit, he conducted a grading in which Sherry and Joseph Chialton were graded to 2nd kyu, making them the senior grades at the Liverpool dojo.
Towards the end of 1965, Keinosuke Enoeda, a former JKA All-japan Kumite Champion became the resident instructor at the Liverpool dojo. Initially, he intended to stay for only six months. He had been recommended by Kanazawa who had been impressed by the spirit shown during his visits to the Red Triangle Club.
Enoeda’s arrival ushered a major step in the Karate development at the Liverpool club. He was known for his spirit and technical prowess. He was also known for his militaristic approach to training, which involved constant drilling of basic techniques. Some students could not handle this approach and this led to a fall in membership at the club. However, the students that remained would go on to become some of the highest-ranked Shotokan practitioners in the United Kingdom.
Sherry would later recall that it was a time of great development following the arrival of Enoeda at the Red Triangle Club. Sherry would train with him every chance he got. This marked the start of a relationship that would last until Enoeda’s death in 2003.
On 10 February 1966 Sherry along with Chialton became the first students to be graded to 1st Dan by the JKA in Britain. The grading took place at the Red Triangle Club and was conducted by Enoeda. Sherry was aged 22. The achievement was reported by George Harrison on 19 February 1966 in The Liverpool Echo, under the heading “The Black Belts of Liverpool“.
Some members of the BKF had been unhappy for some time at the way the organisation was being run. This was brought to a head when Kanazawa’s year-long contract was not renewed in 1966. This led to some of his devoted students feeling directionless. To address the concerns of some senior BKF members, Bell organised a meeting. In a lively meeting attended by students mainly from the Liverpool and London dojos, the unanimous decision was to continue training with Kanazawa and the JKA. This subsequently lead to split in the BKF and the formation of the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) in 1966., Around two-thirds of the BKF membership joined the new association, Kanazawa and Enoeda were appointed chief instructors, operating from the London and Liverpool dojos respectively.
In 1967, alongside Jack Green and Eddie Whitcher, Sherry was graded to 2nd Dan by Kanazawa and Enoeda at the Crystal Palace. They were the first men in Britain to be awarded this grade by the JKA.
The 1st KUGB Championships were held at the Alexandra Palace on 22 July 1967. Sherry and his teammates from the Liverpool Red Triangle Club dominated the event. Sherry won the kata event, performing the kata Empi. The Liverpool dojo won the team kumite title. The team consisted of Sherry, Allan Smith, Bob Poynton, John Ashton and Terry O’Neill.
The following year at the 2nd KUGB Championships, this time held at the Crystal Palace, Sherry became the first KUGB Grand Champion, winning both the individual kumite and kata titles. He would repeat the feat two years later at the 4th KUGB Championships. From 1967 to 1970 he won the kata title four times and the kumite title twice. He eventually retired from active competition in 1977.
In 1970 Sherry became the first man in Britain to be awarded a JKA 3rd Dan, by Enoeda.
Sherry successfully transitioned from being a competitor to being coach and manager of the KUGB National Team. With superb karateka like Frank Brennan, he led the KUGB to victory at the 1990 World Shotokan Karate Championships, held in Sunderland, England. His team defeated a Japanese team from the JKA that contained the likes of Masao Kagawa. The feat was repeated the following year. In 2007 under his guidance, the England Squad won European and World titles.
With the KUGB growing from strength to strength, Sherry was elected to the position of Chairman of the KUGB. This is a position he still holds.
Following the death of his friend and mentor, Keinosuke Enoeda in 2003, Sherry assumed the position of Chief Instructor of the KUGB. The following year he was awarded his 8th Dan by the KUGB. He had had previously been awarded his 6th Dan by the late Masatoshi Nakayama. In 2013 he was awarded is 9th Dan, making him one of the highest-ranked Shotokan practitioners in the United Kingdom.
Andy Sherry has epitomized all that is good with Karate. He has gone about his training with quiet dedication and passion. His work ethic has shown what is possible with the right mindset. He continues to provide inspiration to all that know him.