George Best

I enjoy the mechanics of Kata.

George Best

George Best, not to be confused with the great Northern Irish footballer, is one of the most talented and successful kumite competitors of his generation. Blessed with speed, power and natural athletic ability, Best was known for his fast kicking techniques and the timing of his reverse punch.

Best was born in Manchester.  His father, John, a big Manchester United fan, named him after the Irish football icon.

George Best came from an extremely sporting family. His father, John, was a martial artist who held a 2nd Dan in Judo and a 2nd Dan in Karate (he would eventually hold the rank of 9th Dan). He was also an Amateur Boxing Association coach and accomplished marathon runner.

Best’s siblings were also accomplished in their own right. One of his brothers, Tony, was a top builder. Another brother, John Jr was an amateur boxer, while yet another brother, Ian, was a Junior British Champion and Junior England squad member in Karate. If this was not enough, his sisters were talented badminton players. Bets recalled the friendly rivalry he had with his brothers, trying to see who could do the most push-ups, sit-ups, squat thrusts, etc.

In 1978 Best began training in Shotokan training under the guidance of his father. He was aged 11 at the time. By the age of 13, he had graded to 1st Dan. As a member of the KUGB, he would eventually receive training form Keinosuke Enoeda and Andy Sherry.

As a junior, Best began competing in May 1980. He won many of the junior events he entered and this eventually led to an invitation from Andy Sherry to try out for the Junior England Karate squad.

As would be expected, trying out for the KUGB squad was tough. The training sessions were conducted by Enoeda and Sherry. Enoeda was known for his spirited approach to training and valued this in his students. Prospective squad members were judged not only on their spirit but also on having the correct martial attitude. It goes without saying that their techniques had to be excellent. They had to give nothing but the very best. Sometimes the juniors would have to train with the senior KUGB England squad members.

Best made the squad and his first international event was a friendly tournament against Ireland. Best won all of his kumite matches.

In 1984 Best was selected to compete at the junior European Championships held in Turkey. He was aged 16. The next day Sherry selected him to be a member of the KUGB Senior team, who were also competing in Turkey. The team included the likes of Jimmy and Frank Brennan, Ronnie Christopher, Gary Harford, Ian Roberts and Randolph Williams. Best would go on to be a member of many successful teams representing the KUGB.

Best would later recall that squad selection for the senior KUGB team was always a tough affair. With many top kumite exponents in the UK, no fighter could afford to be complacent.

One of Best’s best tournament successes came at the 1988 JKA World Shotokan Cup held in Brisbane, Australia. As a 21-year-old 2nd Dan he faced Masao Kagawa, a former JKA Grand Champion, twice defeating him. He first faced him in the individual kumite. He won with an ippon, landing with his characteristic roundhouse kick. He would eventually finish third in the event. He next faced Kagawa in the team kumite event. The result was the same and the British team would go on to be runners-up in the event.

Best was also successful in the All-Styles arena. As a member of the KUGB team, he competed and was successful in team and individual events. His successes led to a call up to represent England under team coach Ticky Donovan.

Best’s tournament successes include:

  • European Championships –Individual kumite – 1st place (1986, 1987)
  • World Shotokan Cup – Individual kumite – 3rd place (1988)
  • World Shotokan Cup – Team kumite – 2nd place (1988)
  • World Shotokan Cup – Team kumite – 1st place (1990)

In addition his successes also include:

  • 3 times Senior English Karate Governing Board British All Styles Individual Kumite Champion
  • 2 times EAKF Under 21 European Individual Kumite Champion
  • 3 times Under 21 KUGB Shotokan Cup Individual Kumite Champion
  • Under 21 KUGB Shotokan Cup Individual Grand Champion

In 2005, after being a member of the KUGB for many years, Best left to become the Chief Instructor of Hasha Karate England. Meaning “Champion” Hasha has enabled Best to impart the knowledge he gained as an elite competitor. The association has produced a number of European and World champions.

Today, Best’s time is taken up with being Chief Instructor of Hasha Karate England and conducting courses and seminars around the world.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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