Ernie Molyneux Sensei, 8th DAN IOGKF
EGKA´s Chief Instructor
Sensei Ernie´s first involvement with the martial arts was practising Judo as a boy. He soon found himself losing interest and decided to leave. A few years later he joined a boxing club and although he found it very enjoyable, the class had been geared for those students who had been selected to fight in the Amateur Boxing Association Championships.
Sensei Ernie eventually came to karate in 1972 when he was 18 years old. He had seen an advert for "Classical Okinawan Karate Do" and decided to go along and watch a class, not only to satisfy his curiosity but also with the hope that it would be the style of martial art that he had been looking for.
The Dojo was situated close to the Docks of Liverpool on the outskirts of China Town. The class that he watched left such an impression on him that he couldn´t wait to join. The lesson in those days lasted for three hours, starting with a strenuous warm-up, basics and moving basics. The class then went on to practice kata, Sanchin, a session on the Makiwara (Okinawan striking board) and finished with a bout of sparring, the seniors taking on two opponents at a time. Sensei Ernie threw himself into this close quarter combat style of karate, practising it seven days a week. The instructor who ran the Dojo was a professional Karate-ka called Bob Greenhalgh. Sensei Ernie trained at the dojo until it closed down in 1977 when Bob Greenhalgh moved his Dojo to Manchester. Sensei Ernie by this time was teaching at a Dojo in the Childwall district of Liverpool.
His own dojo did not enter any tournaments owing to a lack of experience. To gain the necessary kumite skills, Sensei Ernie started training at a local Shotokan Karate Dojo once a week. This dojo had a large number of Black Belts, and the standard of the Dojo´s kumite was very high. Some of it´s senior fighters went on to become British and European Champions. It wasn´t long before Sensei Ernie was invited to fight for its team. His tournament career successes include:
Quarter Finalist - 1974/75 British All Styles under 21´s
3rd - 1978/79 British National Championships
2nd - 1981/82 European Goju-Ryu Championships Team Kumite
3rd - 1982/83 European Goju-Ryu Championships Individual Mid Weight Kumite
1st - 1983/84 European Goju-Ryu Championships Team Kumite
3rd - 1984/85 European Goju-Ryu Championships Team Kumite Kata
1st - 1989/90 1st Miyagi Chojun Festival Open Kumite
1st - 1990/91 Mid West England Individual Kata
1st - 1990/92 Mid West England Individual Kata
1st - 1990/92 Mid West England Team Kata
When Sensei Ernie began practising the Martial Arts there was not such a wide variety of styles for people to practice as there are today. Shotokan Karate was the most popular style in Liverpool at the time, however, Goju-Ryu Karate was still very well respected. The realisation of the depth of Karate had dawned upon him and he wanted to learn as much about it´s history as he could.
In 1974, Bob Greenhalgh had heard from a friend that a 5th Dan Okinawa Goju-Ryu Instructor called James Rousseau had recently arrived in England from South Africa. Bob Greenhalgh, accompanied by a party of black belts, travelled to Oxford to attend a Sensei James Rousseau seminar. They were so impressed with his technique and training ideas that they incorporated what they had learned into the own teaching approach. Their students soon began to notice a change in their Kata with the introduction of Bunkai. They were also exposed to the introduction of Hojo Undo, where as before they had only used weights.
This was Sensei Ernie´s first involvement with nucleus of individuals that were later to form the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation (IOGKF). It wasn´t until 1977 that he personally trained with Morio Higaonna Sensei (IOGKF Chief Instructor) during his first trip to England with the EGKA. Higaonna Sensei was recovering from an appendix operation at the time and therefore not at his best. Even so, the impression left with Sensei Ernie of training with Higaonna Sensei on that occasion remains with him to this day giving him a never-ending source of inspiration.
In 1978, Sensei Ernie took his Shodan under the instruction of Sensei James Rousseau. His Dan gradings since then have been in line with the IOGKF time-scale. 1978 (1st Dan), 1980 (2nd Dan), 1982 (3rd Dan), 1986 (4th Dan) 1991 (5th Dan) and (6th Dan) 1997, (7th Dan) 2002.
In 1982 James Rousseau invited Sensei Ernie to take over the running of the Bournemouth Karate Academy (BKA) which had been founded in 1977.
Under Sensei Ernie, the BKA has seen it´s fair share of success. It boasts an impressive collection of trophies from both national and international tournaments in both Kata and Kumite. Sensei Ernie believes that if they had developed Iri Kumi 20 years ago, it would have probably been as popular today as Knock Down is in Kyokushinkai.
There have been times when Sensei Ernie´s students have approached him to ask what motivates him to continue training so religiously. Ernie said he could never imagine not training in Goju-Ryu Karate and the only thing that would stop him from doing so would be an injury. As he has become older he has to listen to his body more carefully, but even hip replacements and hernia operations fail to keep him from attending the Dojo.
If Sensei Ernie notices any sign of a student becoming despondent with their training, he always makes an effort to find out why, inquiring whether they have a health or personal problem. He often tells his students that if they find they are becoming bored with their training they should recall how they felt when they first started, when every technique they learnt was new and challenging. Sensei Ernie says that he enjoys teaching Karate as much as he does being taught it. He feels that he still has so much to learn about Karate and Budo.
Sensei Ernie´s thoughts on traditional Karate are rather mixed. He has always been interested in history and tradition and feels that with Karate this is no exception so long as people train sincerely and do not try to hide behind the fact that because they practice traditional Karate they should not participate in tournaments or practice Ju-Kumite. On the other hand, he thinks that as a Martial Artist, you should not ignore progress. If you can acquire an effective technique from another style and incorporate it into your own, then why not? He feels that many people who practice "Traditional Karate" build themselves big reputations from training briefly with more than one master and from writing articles and books. Ernie said that he too liked to learn new things, but felt that the performance of a single technique was more important than the knowledge of many.
After Sensei Ernie was graded to Yondan, he was invited to teach in many European countries - even as far afield as Russia. The concept of it being amongst one family has never felt stronger for him.
As for the future, as chief instructor for England and a member of the IOGKF executive committee, Sensei Ernie continues working with Higaonna Sensei to preserve Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do for future generations. He is also working hard to give his students the same opportunities that he enjoyed, with the hope that they will follow in his footsteps and represent a style of Karate that has given him so much in life.