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Jan 13, 2020

AL DORAN - MARTIAL ARTS COMMANDO


Posted by: Dan

I last played rugby when I was 16. I quit because in a game with fellow students, I ended up at the bottom of a 'loose ruck' and one of them started to stamp on my trapped left hand with his aluminium studded rugby boots. It was painful; I wasn't ok to play rugby again. I started doing some cross country running, but found it boring.

My 2nd brother John was tall and rangey and later became Scottish hurdling international. One Saturday morn my mother drove me in her car to pick up my brother John at Bellahouston Sports Centrewhen he finished his athletics

My mother pointed to a handful of guys of different ages and sizes; all dressed in white cotton pyjamas which were secured at the waist by a belt. I wanted to be able to do what the pyjama gang were doing. I went right back to the centre on the following evening to sign up for the karate club.

The 2 main instructors were Al Doran, a 37 year old, tall and lean ex=commando with tattoos of daggers on his arms and Danny Bryceland, a former British Kumite [karate competition fighting] champion. Al was the brains of the outfit. He was also secretary to the European Karate Board.

The style taught was Shotokan. It was very direct and linear After about 3 months I attended a weekend workshop given by Sensei Kato. At the end of the course we had a grading. I was awarded temporary 9th kyu [level]; this was the lowest level possible. Kato almost always would pick a big Scots guy to demonstrate on; invariably he'd hurt the guy.

A few months later we had a seminar from Keinosuke Enoeda, who was based in London. Enoeda was hard, but fair. Kato was skilful, but Enoeda was a different level.

Things changed a few months when it seemed none of the big Japanese Shotokan masters was available, Al announced he had invited a Paris based master called Nanbu to give the next seminar.

Some weeks later, we turn up at the centre and are greeted by Al, who was accompanied by a bespectacled boyish looking Japanese: Yoshinao Nanbu. Nanbu was wearing baggy white pyjamas.

In 1963 Nanbu had won the Japanese universities kumite championship. For a while he taught shito-ryu for a few years, but after a few years, he developed his own style of karate, known as Sankukai. It is a blend of karate, aikido and kendo.

Nanbu split the club. Most of the more experienced guys went with Danny. I went with Al; I preferred him as a man. Eventually I became one of Al's assistants and helped with the juniors as well as the beginners. In return Al would give me some special training, including meditation and weapons.

After a little under 3 years, Nanbu graded me to Shodan [first Dan black belt]. Immediately my shodan was announced, Al took off his black belt and tied it round my waist in front of everybody. He then announced that he had arranged for me to stay at the dojo of his friend, the Father of European Karate, Henri Plee. This was incredible.

I trained at Sensei Plee's dojo with his senior people in the morning then I'd have a coffee before taking part in a week of Okinawan Goju-ryu. I also trained with Dominique Valera's assistant, with Nanbu and his assistants and watched Sensei Kase give a master class in kata application.

My father was a senior politician and as well as being Senior Magistrate and Deputy Lord Provost of the City of Glasgow and a lot more. Glasgow was in a bad way economically. Al's furniture business was in a bad way also. One night Al took me aside and asked to be put in contact with the Chairman of the  Manpower Services Commission for Scotland.

The Chairman was Doctor Dan Docherty. Al was given the help he needed. Funny, my father never once saw me do martial arts.

Al was an excellent mentor, but sometimes he got it wrong. He smoked cigarettes before every class and used to say 'an old dog can't learn new tricks'.

Al was the first person I met who had tattoos. I got my eagle tattoo in Hong Kong in 1977.

Wait a minute.

The blazer badge of my posh Jesuit school is a goldeh eagle...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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