Alan Richard Bainbridge
Inducted into the A.M.A.H.O.F.(Inc) for 2005
Instructor of the Year – Shotokan
Shihan Alan Richard Bainbridge was born 30th July 1943 in Newark, Nottinghamshire, England, a healthy 8lbs 10 oz. He was struck down by poliomyelitis at just 9 months of age and was completely paralyzed. Doctors informed his parents that he would never walk again and would be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Having very determined parents, they would place things that he really wanted in front of him and encourage him to move. After a few years he was moving to pick things up and he painted with his toes.
When he was 10 years old he started school for the first time. Special movement classes helped him to do all the things kids are able to do and at 12 years of age he started cross country running in which he excelled.
At the age of 15 years he left school and started working at a local Ford garage as a panel beater and car spray painter. He had a paper round at the same time which he would do before going to work and would also deliver on weekends. This helped him to buy a new racing bike and replace the old “hand me down” bike belonging first to his sister. His family consisted of nine members.
While at work, he learnt to drive in and around the yard at the tender age of 16 years. He was only 4feet 6 inches tall and weighed only 4 stone 7lbs due to the polio. He needed to carry a cushion to sit on to see over the steering wheel. This career would see him manage one of the biggest Body Paint shops in England.
At 18 years he achieved his goal of purchasing a new bike. He then started voluntary work at Dorewood House, a local rest home, doing general maintenance duties and running errands for some of the residents of the home.
He liked and tried most sports and in 1964 he met up with an old friend from school, Vince, who had been in the Armed forces and who had trained karate with a style called Wado Ryu which was just next to the camp. He was a 1st Dan Black Belt at the time and they would see each other every couple of weeks when Vince came to visit his grandparents. He became interested enough in karate to ask Vince to show him a few moves and they would work together for a few hours each day in the backyard or in the garage. There was no other karate clubs anywhere around. Unfortunately in April 1965 Vince was involved in a car accident and was killed. So his karate was abruptly ended.
In September 1965, he was married to wife Annette. He was holding down two jobs as the other love in his life, car racing, was taking over his time and money. By 1966 he was winning regularly but the expense was taking it’s toll, also the hours to keep the car in top condition were long. By 1969 he had notched up 78 wins and many podium finishes.
In December 1969 , he had a blow out on a corner and rolled his car five times. This happened in front of his young wife and after a lot of discussion he decided to sell up and move on while he was on top (or the bottom so to speak). After selling all the racing gear, trailers, spare engines, etc… he had a nice deposit for his first house and a new car, but no sport.
For two months he was running to keep fit. In February 1970 he saw an advertisement in the local paper for karate which was starting up in the local sports hall. His and his brother-in-law went along and joined in that night. Having done Wado Ryu with Vince, he easily picked it up as the Kata’s and moves were very much the same. The Style of karate was called Shotokan and whether it was the instructors or the sense of training again, he was completely hooked and was doing it every night of the week.
After only five weeks he passed his first grading under Japanese Sensei Asano 6th Dan. He was involved in running the club although only a green belt, when the regular black belt was not available due to his travelling around. When he was a 3rd kyu brown belt the instructor announced one night that he was closing the club because of the number of students training and the distance he had to travel to get to the club. Another brown belt Colin , a 1st kyu, who had come from another club, and he decided then and there that they would keep the Newark club going. When Colin failed his black belt, he gave up karate and Alan found himself with a Shotokan club of his very own. Initially it was very hard going and he would very often put his own money in to pay for the dojo rent. As with his normal determination on things in life he never gave up. He took the club from a membership of 12 to a membership of over 200, with 60 black belts.
At the request of the Karate Union of Great Britain ( K.U.G.B ) he started another club at Lincoln, a town about 18 miles away from Newark. This club also became very successful. Alan would travel all over the country for training and seminars.
In 1974 Alan met Kawasoe Sensei who double graded him to 4th kyu and then was amazed that he could travel home 75 miles that night and be back travelling a further 112 miles the next day to train with the sensei again. After class he was asked to come and share a meal with Kawasoe and another sensei called George. Alan was of course very honoured. He replied by inviting them to his home for a home cooked meal. Their friendship has been like brothers outside the dojo ever since.
Alan went on to train with all the top Japanese instructors including the late great Master Nakayama. Also the cream of British Internationals , Sensei’s Andy Sherry , Billy Higgins , Terry O’Neil , Steve Cattle (now deceased) and the brilliant Frank Brennan – 12 times National champion.
1980 was a very busy year with training seminars for judging accreditation which Alan passed in 1982 and 3 years later passed his National Referee certificate also training for all the competitions and going for another Dan grade.
In 1981 the Newark Talking Newspaper asked Alan to help raise funds to purchase tapes for blind people. His club raised 1140 Pounds with a “Kick-a-thon” and they were very pleased to hand the Newspaper their cheque. The Talking Newspaper is still in existence to this day. The club decided to do some sort of charity event each year and to give the money to different Charity Organisations i.e.: Cancer research , The Blind Institute , The Heart Foundation , Under-privileged Children , and the R.S.P.C.A.
One of Alan’s biggest challenges was when a young paperboy , Stuart Gough , was murdered while doing his paper round in Birmingham. Alan offered to do free self defence / karate lessons for all the paper boys and girls in Newark and Lincoln . With the local paper on board , the TV news got involved and before he knew it the whole country was involved and clubs from all styles and creeds were doing the same thing and to this day no children have been killed again whilst doing their paper round.
A special training session took place to celebrate his club winning 200 trophies in 1984, the fees paid at this session were donated to a local teacher who had been run over by a car after being knocked off his bike. He never walked again and his teaching career was ended as well. He sponsored another “kick-a-thon” and personally did 2210 kicks and presented the teacher with a cheque for 1580 pounds.
Alan started a club in Gibraltar in 1984, for a friend who was living there . He would spend a week there every three months and also visiting Cyprus helping one of his students who had started a club there while in the Armed Forces as a nurse. His students were encouraged to travel and participate in any courses around the country and to go into any competitions they chose. The students have given him fantastic satisfaction and have gone on to be people of marvellous sportsmanship and some of his greatest moments from karate have been raising money for people in a worse position than he was. Alan taught the youngest black belt in Shotokan who was only 7 years and 11 months in 1989. Alan had three students in different training squads in the United Kingdom at one time.
During one of their black belt training sessions with Enoeda Sensei , 8th dan, he shouted to the class of 400 students to gather around, thinking that he was going to show them how he would like a particular move to be executed, he shouted at Alan “how old are you?” Alan replied “nearly 45 sensei” , he again shouted at the top of his voice “you train like a young boy ” and promptly dismissed everyone back to their places. This to Alan was highest of praise.
Alan made his first visit to Australia in 1987. Teaching and training in Cairns, Sunshine Coast , Brisbane, Sydney and the Gold Coast. With his wife they returned to Australia for a holiday in 1988. By this time he had his own Panel & Spray shop, a glass sunroof business , a fleet of wedding cars and a karate widow. He was spending 12 to 14 hours a day out of the house. It was while he was on holiday on the Gold Coast he decided it would be a good time to take up another challenge, to leave the U.K and come down under to Australia to live. They emigrated in November l969. Alan left behind clubs that have maintained the very high standard that he expected, that still fundraise for charities and instructors who started at 6 years old and who are now 4th Dans and have families of their own.
Upon arriving in Australia , his first 11 days were spent in Cairns , helping a friend from England. They then moved to the Gold Coast in Queensland and for 6 weeks trained with Sensei Sumi of the J.K.A. Alan missed training his own students so when he had the opportunity to start a club of his own, he formed the A.S.K.A (Australian Shotokan Karate Academy) with the backing of Kawasoe Sensei , at the senior citizens hall at Labrador , which remains the main honbu to this day. Alan wanted to do his own thing without restrictions, believing instructors need to cater for all ages sensibly. After getting the club going his life was at full steam ahead. He became a Security Officer at a large shopping centre, training 3 times a week even though he had promised his wife he would be doing less. However it was Annette who suggested he do free self defence lessons for women like he had done in the UK after a woman was raped on the Gold Coast. Again the local papers and TV came on board to help and since then Alan has done free courses for hotels, where the female staff work late at night.
Alan’s sponsorship and voluntary work never stops, raising money for the senior citizens, helping the young kids off the street, doing talks at neighbourhood watch meetings and setting up seminars and clinics for students to learn how to referee and judge for all the different styles, not just Shotokan. His biggest pleasure in life right now is the voluntary work he does at the Alzheimers Association for two days a week. The rewards are so satisfying. If there is one thing he has learnt from his life and Martial Arts is that, if we all give a little or a lot and we don’t worry about ego our lives will be fulfilled forever.