Interview

An Interview with: KUGB England International Sensei Greg Hegarty

I’m happy  to interview a long time karate friend and Sensei who has been in the game for a very long time, 5th Dan Sensei Greg Hegarty who is currently on the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB) England Squad.  He has won numerous titles with the below to name, but a few
 Sensei Greg Hegarty 5th Dan KUGB
• 5 Time Central Region Grand Champion ( KATA & KUMITE)
• 3 Time National Champion
• 3 Time Shotokan Cup Champion (British Individual Championships)
• 2 Time UK Grand Slam Champion
Thanks for taking the time to speak with me Greg, could you tell us a little about how you got in to karate?

Yes,  I began training at the age of 6 years old, as you know Ronnie Christopher is my uncle, and my brother Stuart trained also, so I spent a lot of my early years watching Karate and attending competitions supporting them both. From what I’ve been told I would constantly nag Ronnie to let me start (I eventually wore him down). I was always interested in sports whether it be watching or participating. It didn’t matter what sport it was. But like most young boys I loved football and would spend hours over the park playing with Stuart and my cousins.
I also did a bit of gymnastics which I was reasonably good at. But it began to interfere with my Karate. So it had to go! Hahaha”

So would I be right in thinking that sports came naturally to you?
I don’t know about sports coming naturally to me but I think it’s the same with anything if you are interested in something you tend to put more effort into it.
You mentioned you eventually wore Ronnie down.  Did he not want you to start?
 Greg Heagarty competing in Kata at just 13 years old
I don’t think it was a case of Ronnie not wanting me to train it was more like I started asking as soon as I could talk! Hahaha. Remember at that time karate was very much an adult environment particularly at our club there wasn’t any children my age.
That leads me nicely to my next question because I always remember Ronnie saying that from a young age you were always treated with the same kind of aggression and ferocity as the adults. How much, if any did this benefit your karate to make you successful within the art.
Yes I think it did and still does benefit my karate because I believe you need to have that realism within your training particularly with competitions now focusing on the sport aspect over martial spirit.
Do you feel the tough love  approach to training you received benefited you for your karate successes?
I don’t really class it as “tough love” there was definitely a mixture. If I needed a kick up the backside I got one and if I needed encouragement or an arm round my shoulder that was there to. I was very fortunate that my Sensei knew me and my personality very well, sometimes better than I did myself.
 Winning the British Championship
Could you tell us a bit about your rise to the England Squad?
Yes I trained at Cocksmoor Woods from late 80s competing in Kata until I was 12 as they didn’t have Kumite for under that age.  I came 3rd in the central regions in my 1st competition in children’s kata.  My first Kumite event was the 1991 KUGB Nationals at Crystal Palace where I came 2nd in under 5ft category and I was subsequently invited to train on the junior squad at the age of 14.
Did you ever stop training at any point?
I never had a break from karate but relaxed my training a bit through my adolescent years with other distractions.  Before last year the last time I competed was 2003 due to the birth of my son Thomas and having a whole load of other priorities. Around that time I had also been told that I required hip surgery which I thought had put an end to me competing, but, some time after I got a 2nd opinion and was told that actually I don’t yet.  This gave me the hunger to compete again and now I’m back on the senior squad this year!
 Greg winning the Central Regions Kumite Championships 2014
Would you say that your hip replacement scare has given you a desire to seize the moment and not leave anything until it’s too late?
Yes it definitely has given me a wakeup call.  As I said before last year the last time I competed was in 2003. It was never the plan to retire back then, I was only planning on having a year off the squad, but various things happened in my life that made the decision for me. So when I got the all clear with my hips I started to up my training and got the bug again.
  
How is the training for the England squad and how do you manage to fit in whilst being a Dad and running your own club?
I am really enjoying the training, obviously it is very hard (mentally as well as physically) but after the time out I had I relish the opportunity to train under in my opinion two of the best karate exponents in the World Sensei’s Andy Sherry and Frank Brennan).  It is very difficult juggling family life, training, and running the club (as well as holding down a full time job), but if you want it bad enough you make time and put yourself out.  So it consists of training before work and teaching straight after.   It also helps that I have a very understanding wife ha ha.
 ESKA Championships England Team 2000
I bet it does!  Can you tell us a little about your club?
Yes I started the club just over 3 years ago in Solihull and its growing very nicely I now have over 60 members training at various venues 4 times a week. I have 7 students that have achieved Shodan all being graded by Sensei Andy Sherry 9th Dan (Chief Instructor of the KUGB. Watching the progress of all my students as they move through the grades is something I am extremely proud of but not only that, one of my students has gone on to win a KUGB National title which for such a young club is a fantastic achievement.
That’s fantastic and looks like the Solihull Karate Academy is going from strength to strength so congratulations!
Finally I’d just like to thank you personally for the memories of my first senior fight at 16. Ronnie told me that it wasn’t normal for most to fight at that age in the Seniors. He had to get permission off my dad for me to go in!  In that very competition before the fight you said wait for the attack and use gyakuzuki timing on the attack.  I did it and it  ultimately secured the wazari for the win.  I also have fond memories of the bronze in the team Kumite at the Central’s fighting alongside yourself and Harry.
Thanks for taking the time out for the interview Greg, Osu!
 

Thank you Matt

If you’re thinking about starting karate and live in the Solihull area Sensei Greg Hegarty is accepting new karateka at the Solihull Karate Academy. You can visit their club’s website at Solihull Karate Academy (opens in new window) You can also contact the club on 07879 242 793 or email them at solihullkarate@hotmail.co.uk

Reporter Edit* Since going to publish Greg Sensei finished 3rd at this years British Championships held on 2nd May at the NIA, congratulations!

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An Interview with: Welsh World Champion Luke Howard

My first interview is with respected Karateka, Welsh International Luke Howard who is the current IKU Senior World Champion. Many thanks for taking the time out to speak with me.

Image of World Champion Luke Howard

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I started karate around 15 years ago at the age of 6. My parents thought it was very important to be involved in sport and had me try out various sports, but once I tried karate I seemed at home and we knew it was the sport for me! Karate has been an important part of my life as I have travelled, fought in and seen many countries around the world such as Brazil, Italy, Slovenia, Romania and Portugal to name a few. Karate has also developed and disciplined me as a person as well as an athlete and has prepared me for many aspects of everyday life.

What are your upcoming plans within the karate world?

With karate Wales being affiliated to the IKU, WUKF and now the UWK (United World Karate) we have many opportunities and events available to us over the upcoming year and future! I plan on attending many of these Events next year, especially the 1st UWK World Championships which will be held in São Paulo, Brazil and will be a big step forward for the karate World. In the future I would also like to continue my karate career into teaching and coaching karateka to enjoy the lifestyle and success that I have had myself!

You’ve recently come back from Poland, can you tell us a bit about your visit?

My visit to Poland took us to the city Szczecin for the WUKF Junior World Championships. Having turned 21 in August earlier this year, I was unable to enter the event, but still travelled out to support and help coach the squad. It was a different experience being on the coaches side of the squad, but was as rewarding helping to coach some promising young athletes to World medals and titles!

Image of Luke Howard winning  the IKU World Championship

What is your proudest moment throughout your karate career?

My proudest moment in karate so far has to be winning the IKU senior world championships earlier this year in Brazil! After winning the under 21 World Championships just 6 months earlier I thought it would be a hard feeling to beat, but after some extremely tough and challenging fights with athletes from all over the World, to come out as IKU World Champion, especially in Brazil, was a very proud moment for me! Another very proud moment was just recently in London at the IKU Junior European championships where I was coaching with karate Wales. I was honoured to present medals to many talented fighters including some friends such as European and World Champions Maddie Moore and Shauna Carroll.

You recently did a seminar with an old training friend of mine Sensei Tom Davies at his South Staffs Karate club, was that your first seminar?

Tom invited me up to South Staffs Karate to take a seminar shortly after Brazil and it was an honour to be invited up for my first seminar! There was a very friendly and welcoming atmosphere and I thoroughly enjoyed working with the students there seeing plenty of potential showing through. I look forward to taking many more seminars and helping aspiring young karateka to achieve their goals and dreams!

Image of Luke with Stephen and Unel Wellington SenseisHow often do you train?

I train 5 nights a week at the KenBuKan Martial Arts Centre in Swansea under Welsh karate legends Stephen and Unel Wellington. In addition to this I am busy being away most weekends to compete at various events in Britain and Internationally!

 

Do you have a favourite technique?

Ura Mawashi geri is my favourite technique although I understand the necessity of being proficient in all aspects and techniques in Kumite, I’ll always have a soft spot for kicks in general but most of all hook kicks!

Image of Luke Howard performing kick

Do you have any viewpoint on karate being in the Olympics?

I think it would be great if karate achieved the Olympic dream, but with the division it faces at the moment I don’t think there is much hope for that. A great chance for unity in karate comes with the recently formed United World Karate (UWK) having been formed by 7 major World bodies working towards that Olympic dream! It would benefit karate and all karateka greatly if it achieved inclusion into the Olympics, but the only way forward is through total unity.

Do you prefer Kata or Kumite?

I only compete in Kumite at competition as fighting is my passion, but I also thoroughly enjoy kata as well. I think Kata and basics are very important in helping fighters develop. I train frequently in Kata as well as Kumite.

There will be a lot of young Karateka hoping to be the next Luke Howard, what advice can you give them?

The main advice I can give to young karateka is to train hard, compete frequently and keep challenging yourself! It’s good to practice and try out new strategies and techniques so you have a wider range of techniques to use in Kumite.

Thanks for taking some time out to give us an insight in to Luke Howard, it is much appreciated. Osu