Kingston karate coach hopes Tokyo Olympics will give martial arts much needed boost

By Jack Francklin
February 6 2020, 11.25

Karate coach Alex Horsfall had to use self-defence to dig himself out of a dangerous situation soon after moving to London.

He said: “There was a man who was incredibly rude to an elderly lady on the bus and I told him off.  

“We ended up getting off the bus at the same stop and after walking down the street, I turned around and he had a big machete.  

“I used the best self-defence I knew. I pegged it!”  

Mr Horsfall, 37, from Hereford, runs Kingston based London Karate Limited and has practised the martial art for as long as he can remember.  

His father joined a local karate club whilst he was in the SAS and set up the company, which now has around 1000 students aged four and up, around 28 years ago.

Mr Horsfall did an apprenticeship with his father when he was 18 and has been teaching for 22 years. 

He said: “It is all about character development with us. We very much adhere to the traditional side of things, which is character first, karate second, because the karate will come if you are coachable. 

“We teach respect, discipline, good manners and hard work. Especially with the children, the first thing they learn is to listen and if you can’t listen you can’t learn. 

“It is just about them getting to focus on one thing. We have a lot of kids who have ADHD and autism.  

“They come to karate and nobody notices. 

“We quote our ethos from Gichin FunaKoshi, who said ‘the ultimate aim of karate does not lie in victory or defeat but the perfection of the participants character’.” 

Mr Horsfall, who ranks as a 5th Dan Shukokai Black Belt, said he is looking forward to seeing the sport in Japan at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics but acknowledges shortcomings in both the games and the culture it cultivates. 

He said: “You have some staunch traditional karate people who are adamant it is wrong that is in the Olympics. 

“But I see it this way, it is only going to give karate more exposure. It is going to be good for anyone that does karate. 

“If you go to Japan, everything is about respect. The level of respect in Japan is almost detrimental in some aspects of their culture. 

“The population is dropping because guys are so respectful of a girl, they won’t go up to them ask them out! Everything has its pros and cons.

“It is great to train in Japan, it is a really amazing place. 

“If you go back to the 70’s when karate had its main media exposure and there was nothing much else apart from kung fu, you saw it on the television and thought ‘I want to do that.’ 

“I think that will be the case and people will go to their local club.” 

A form of self-defence will also be in the Olympics and he recognises its importance for his students. 

He said: “We do something called Bunkai which is the application of a kata, which is basically the expression of self-defence moves of karate which are strung together into something quite pretty. 

“In the Olympics, it will be judged on power, balance, control, elegance and the general aesthetic of it. 

“I have many students who have been in violent situations and they have been able to get out of the way, fight or flight situation. 

“I tell them to get out of the way and block things but I am very much of the opinion that if you don’t know what it’s like to get hit, you’ll never respond practically in a violent situation.”  

Mr Horsfall has recently taken up Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and said he is enjoying being a white belt again, being a beginner again and having to learn it from the bottom up. 

“First and foremost, I am a martial artist, because martial art is the broad spectrum. Martial art is the tree and the branch of the tree I am on is karate, but I am happy to go down this branch and others.” 

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