Sensei John Lambert IOGKF Scotland Chief Instructor
(With a bit more history rather than profile)
One of the few remaining IOGKF founding Chief instructors, Sensei John Lambert, shares his accomplished Karate profile with the newsletter, along with rare accounts and a look in to the early days of IOGKF International. A very interesting look at the beginnings of Karate in Britian…
As a youth back in the early 1970s, I was involved with some very unsavoury characters, which were less than angelic, this included me too.
Involved in under age alcohol consumption, street brawls and even some gang confrontation, I was very fortunate not to have been tagged with a criminal record. This was the general culture in the area I was raised in, not any real money around and not very much to occupy young people, recipe for the devils work.
October 1973, I woke up one morning, I thought, “I need to get away from this lifestyle”. Destiny kicked in on this day, a friend at college had a contact for a Karate class being run in Glenrothes, some 10 miles from my home town, why not, thought I.
This class was in the Fife Institute, where we are still based to this day, it was an exhausting, enjoyable and sober activity and before I knew where I was, I was hooked and out of trouble. My first instructor was James S. Johnston and he was a hard task master in and out of the dojo. We were under the umbrella of the British Karate Federation, headed by V. C. F. Bell, practicing Yosiekan, which at that time was really a mix of a few traditional styles.
I was training 7 days a week at this time and was incredibly fit too, at almost all these sessions, my training partner and lifelong friend, Sensei Jim Flannigan, accompanied me on some of our incredible Karate experiences around the globe in the years to come.
Around the middle of 1974, my late brother Shihan David Lambert joined us and he too was smitten with the training bug.
Not long after this, it was decided that we would no longer be members of the BKF and go for a Scottish organisation, we then became SYKF (Scottish Yosiekan Karate Federation) still headed by Mr. Johnston. At the end of 1974, we were given and introduction to Peter Rousseau, who became a visiting instructor to SYKF for around 18 months; it was Peter who graded Sensei Jim Flannigan and I in December 1975, to Shodan.
1975/76 also saw the introduction of our first experience under a Japanese instructor, Hiromi Suzuki, who at that time was based in Stockholm, Sweden. He visited and trained us on numerous occasions over the next year or so, we were impressed with the Kata standard and skills that were passed on from Mr Suzuki and really felt our Karate was growing. There were some issues that were running around in the background between Mr. Johnston and Mr. Suzuki, so company was parted in late 1977.
Sensei James Rousseau and Sensei Teruo Chinen were to become our new task masters for the foreseeable future and we were to have many visits from them over this period. Training was taken to a new level from here and the amount of Karate knowledge was expanding. This saw time for yet another organisation name change; we became SAGA (Scottish Amateur Goju Ryu Association). Over the next couple of years we just continued to flourish. I think it was around 1978, that Higaonna Sensei was teaching in London, Mr Johnston and another black belt were off to London to train with Sensei, but after some years passing, Higaonna Sensei advised me they did not train, only watched.
1979 saw the first International Gasshuku, held in Poole and the birth of the IOGKF! The Gasshuku was a fantastic experience, training and meeting with so many other students from around the globe, all with the same target in mind, to train with Sensei and learn!. This was my first introduction to so many of what are now the IOGKF seniors, Higaonna Sensei, Sensei Bakkies, Sensei Ernie, just to mention a couple. It was also here I met a very young Sensei Luis Nunes, who at the time was a kyu grade from Portugal.
This was also the first IOGKF two week Gasshuku. Week one was Black belts only and week two was for all grades. These two week sessions were very gruelling, the training was hard but very worthwhile.
The 1st European Gasshuku was the next IOGKF family get together, organised by the then Spanish chief instructor, Sensei Onaga and held in the seaside resort of Alicante. This was a very hard, hot and educational Gasshuku, held in the middle of July. Many of the Europeans who were not used to this type of heat did actually suffer at the training.
The only downside to this Gasshuku, was many of the fair skinned students, including myself, thought it was a great opportunity to get into a pair of trunks and enjoy the sun, sea and sand. Yes, that’s correct, sunburn under a Gi with lots sweat does not make for good training - a lesson learned by many!
My brother was a bit darker skinned than some of us and did not suffer the dreaded burn, which was just as well, as he achieved his Shodan on this Gasshuku, after a very testing black belt grading.
This Gasshuku gave many students the bug for overseas training with Sensei and meeting up with friends on a yearly basis.
The first mass invasion from IOGKF students to Okinawa was 1981, with many people attending from around the globe. Sensei Jim Flannigan was the Scottish contingency for this event, as I remained at home to help with our latest project, my daughter Pauline.
I could really break into a gallop here, talking about the range, diversity and numerous locations of Gasshuku that followed, but that is history and I am sure many people from the early days will remember very well.
It was after attending these Gasshuku, that some of us were becoming disillusioned by SAGA (Scottish Association) and decided to make a break away group, eventually becoming what we are now, SGKA (Scottish Goju-ryu Karate Association)
We spent the next few years seeing many visits by our Scottish students to London, training with Sensei James and Sensei George and also had numerous visits from them to our shores.
SGKA hosted the European Gasshuku in Glenrothes in 1984, which was a great event enjoyed by many.
By this time my brother David, had decided to emigrate from Scotland to Australia, where he transferred his skills and became Chief Instructor there. His legacy and passion for Goju Ryu is being carried on by his son, D J Lambert, who is known to us all.
Our organisation and I are proud to have supported Higaonna Sensei and the IOGKF for the past 31 years and look forward to the continuation of this tradition.
I could, along with many other IOGKF members, write a book on our history, our training, our Gasshuku and of course some of the very memorable social events and Sayonara parties, but, I think I will leave it there.
My best and sincere wishes to the IOGKF family and I trust we will continue to grow from strength to strength.