There are obviously some absolutely fantastic Sensei around and some really fantastic karateka around. However, I do not think especially in this day and age of so much choice with regards to the proliferation of Martial Arts, and a propensity towards activities that deliver a quick fix, that the natural temptation is to meet the demand by scarifying the integrity of what and how we do what we do.Elwyn Hall
Elwyn Hall is perhaps one of the most dynamic and exciting fighters to come out of the British Isles. Watching Hall compete was never disappointing. An expressive fighter, every match was similar to watching a great artist painting a masterpiece. His bouts allowed him to express his unique artistry and aggressiveness in equal measures. His aggressive all-out attacking style showed that Karate is primarily a martial art and not just a sport.
Hall was born on 18th June 1966 in Lewisham, South London. His family were originally from Jamaica. His father, an electrician, had joined the RAF during the Second World War, aged only seventeen. A disciplined man he was regularly doing fifty press-ups a day, well into his eighties. However, it was his mother that instilled a sense of fairness and justice into him and his brother.
As a kid Hall was a bundle of energy and constantly got into fights. In 1977 he began training with the husband and wife team of Jim and Val Patterson. They ran a Shotokan Karate club affiliated to Ray Fuller’s Thames Organisation. The club, situated locally to where Hall lived, attracted all the neighbourhood kids.
The Patterson couple shared the teaching duties at the club. Val, who had received her Dan grade from Keinosuke Enoeda, ran the physically hard training sessions. Jim’s sessions tended to be more technical in nature. He would go on to become a mentor to the young Hall, who would also come to see him as a second father.
Initially, Hall was not a Karate natural. Being full of energy he found practising Karate basics a little restrictive. It comes as no surprise that he enjoyed kumite more. However, over time he came to appreciate the importance of basics. He stuck with his training, even though many of the kids who started with him had stopped training.
Some of Hall’s fondest memories were of Jim Patterson taking him to watch the KUGB National Championships held at Crystal Palace. He recalls seeing some of the KUGB greats, such as Terry O’Neill, Billy Higgins, Steve Cattle and Frank Brennan. These men inspired him. He desperately wanted to compete. However, Jim Patterson felt it was not the right time for him to do so.
In 1981, aged fifteen, Hall entered his first tournament. It was a local Thames Organisation tournament. He scored an ippon on his first-ever opponent.
Hall eventually entered two ‘Champion of the Future’ events that were run by England team coach, Ticky Donovan. He won both tournaments. This earned him a spot on the under-21 England squad and a trip to compete for the team in a tournament held in Rome. However, in his first fight for the team, he was disqualified.
By 1984 Hall had become a little disillusioned with the tournament scene. He felt that his hard-nosed style of fighting did match the type of tournaments he competed in. He felt they lacked a certain amount of realism and was like playing a game of tag.
Jim Patterson felt it was now time for Hall to expand his horizons by leaving the comfort of the dojo and training with other instructors. He suggested that Hall visit some of the KUGB clubs who practised a strong style of Shotokan Karate. Hall started visiting a number of small KUGB clubs, a few weeks at a time to train. He did not officially join the KUGB during this time.
Over the next couple of years Hall trained with some of the best KUGB instructors. He trained with the exceptional technician, Masao Kawasoe for almost two years, at his Earls Court dojo. The instructor who had a big influence on him and made him see Karate in a new light was Dave Hazard. Hazard had accomplished much in the martial arts. He was one of the first westerners to attend the infamous JKA Instructors Course, in Japan. Hall would train with him during the week at Hazard’s East London dojo and the weekends at his Brighton dojo.
Hall also trained with Keinosuke Enoeda, at his Marshall Street dojo, based in London. Hall has described Enoeda as “a physical manifestation of determination and willpower“. Enoeda, famed for his big martial spirit, was an inspirational instructor to Hall.
Hall took part in his first KUGB National Championships in 1984. At the tournament held at Crystal Palace, he made it to the quarter-finals. He ended up losing against Frank Brennan. Brennan went on to become that year’s Grand Champion, winning both the kumite and kata events for the sixth time. Even though he lost, he found that his style of fighting was better suited to this type of competition. He wanted to develop the type of skill displayed by Brennan.
Following his performance at the KUGB National Champions, Hall was invited by Andy Sherry to train on the Junior KUGB squad. The age range of the junior squad ranged between sixteen and twenty-one years. Training sessions were intense and were driven by Keinosuke Enoeda and Sherry. The squad which also featured the likes of George Best and Ronnie Christopher would also train with the senior KUGB squad.
With the junior KUGB squad Hall began to find tournament success. At the 1985 Junior European Championships, held in Turkey, he helped the team to gold in the team kumite event. He also won a bronze medal in the individual kumite event. The following year Hall represented both the Junior and Senior KUGB teams at the European Championships held in Sunderland. Both teams were team kumite champions.
Hall’s all-out aggressive style had earned him a somewhat unwanted reputation for being a bad boy. He had been disqualified from a number of tournaments for excessive use of force. At the 1987 KUGB National Championships, he reached his first KUGB kumite final where faced Ian Roberts. In the final, the 21-year-old Hall was holding his own, until a reverse punch split open Roberts’ cheek. Referee, Enoeda, had no choice but to disqualify him for excessive use of force.
Hall had the opportunity to face many of the top KUGB fighters of his era, in some memorable fighters. These fighters included Ian Roberts, George Best, Frank Brennan, Gary Harford, Randy Williams and Ronnie Christopher, who he faced in the 1989 final of the KUGB National Championships. Although he lost the match it was one of his most memorable fights.
1990 was a brilliant year for Hall. At the KUGB National Championships, he defeated the great Frank Brennan in the final. Later that year he represented Great Britain at the 3rd Shoto Cup (the JKA World Championships) held in Sunderland, England. The British kumite team consisted of Hall, Brennan, Dean Hodgkin, Ronnie Canning and Gary Harford. In the Team Kumite final against Japan, Hall got the British team off to a good start by defeating his bigger Japanese opponent. The British team made history by becoming the first non-Japanese team to win the Team Kumite title.
Unfortunately, Hall had to give up his competitive career due to persistent knee injuries. He had to do this to prolong his Karate training. Always a competitor, he explored the sport of boxing. However, this did not pan out due to hand injuries he sustained during training.
Hall’s tournament successes include:
- JKA World Championships (Shoto Cup) – Team kumite – 1st place (1990)
- KUGB National Championships – Individual Kumite – 1st place (1990)
- KUGB National Championships – Individual Kumite – 2nd place (1987, 1989)
- KUGB Southern Area Championships – Individual Kumite – 1st place (1986)
- ESKA European Championships – Team kumite – 1st place (1986)
- ESKA European Championships – Team kumite – 2nd place
- ESKA Under 21 European Championships – Individual kumite – 3rd place (1985)
- ESKA Under 21 European Championships – Team kumite – 1st place (1985)
- ESKA Under 21 European Championships – Team kumite – 1st place (1986)
- EKGB All Styles Championships – Individual kumite – 1st place
- EKGB All Styles Championships – Team kumite – 1st place
Elwyn Hall may not have won loads of titles, but he will always be in the discussion of the best British fighters. A controlled ball of fury, he will always signify the gold standard of Shotokan kumite.