This FAQ represents my personal take on GKR and its policies, some of which change occasionally. My answers to some questions may represent nothing more than a regional view of how things are done in Essex, or the South of England, although I believe that my answers mostly reflect .general policy. If any of these issues are of particular importance to you, you may wish to double check with your senior regional instructor.
Becoming a new member
Someone just knocked at my door and tried to sign me up to GKR karate. Do they work for you?
GKR uses door-to-door canvassing as its primary means of recruitment. If the person at the door was from GKR, he or she may have an identity badge, or will most likely be wearing a GKR jacket or other branded GKR clothing item.
If I sign up for a trial membership and don’t like it, can I get my money back?
No. That’s the whole point of the trial membership. You pay a reduced membership fee in order to give karate a try out.
I went to the class to join and the instructor charged more for a membership than the door to door consultant.
Yes. The self defence consultants offer a special discounted price if you sign up with them.
How long does a white membership last?
Currently for four months, after which you will most likely grade to yellow belt and your membership will be upgraded to a full gold lifetime membership.
If you have an expired white membership but wish to train, you should phone the number on the card or contact the relevant regional manager in my contacts page to discuss it. GKR is extremely reasonable on this issue.
How long does a gold membership last?
Is a membership transferable?
Yes, both white and gold memberships can be transferred to a person other than the one named on the card.
Is a membership the same as a licence?
Are GKR students insured?
Yes, GKR has insurance with InterPacific Underwriting Agencies PTY Limited, in New South Wales, Australia. This insurance policy protects GKR students and instructors in all countries in the World except the USA and Canada to the tune of 15 million Australian dollars. I do not know the insurance arrangements for the full-time dojos in the USA, but I’m certain they are well insured as well.
Can GKR really help me lose weight and get fit?
Undoubtedly. The lessons are physical, but not excessive. It’s all a question of how much effort you choose to put into it. You can work up a sweat doing the basics if you try your best, or you can fight for an hour without raising your pulse if you choose to take it easy. If you want to lose weight or get fit, try your hardest at every lesson.
Does GKR really help my child to develop confidence and self discipline?
Yes, yes, yes! Social interaction is good for any child's confidence, especially in an environment where they are achieving steady progress. I have seen so many children derive enormous benefits from their training. It's quite heartwarming actually.
Does GKR have a policy towards the disabled?
GKR takes a compassionate and practical approach to all students. If a student wishes to train, and is able to participate in the class, they are welcome. However, the only time that a line must be drawn, is when a single student’s disability or medical condition makes their participation dangerous to themselves or others, or when their disability occupies a disproportionate amount of the sensei’s time.
I’m sure that you can appreciate that it is unreasonable on the instructor, and unfair to the other students, if a single disabled person, (or a person with extreme psychological challenges) were to dominate the class to the detriment of the other participants. GKR instructors are compassionate and patient, but they are not specifically taught how to teach students with disabilities. That is a specialist skill, which the average instructor in any martial arts style does not have the time to acquire.
Does GKR have a policy about different races or religions?
GKR instructors sign a document that clearly outlines the organisation’s policy of respect and tolerance towards all, regardless of race, religion, gender, age or political views. Except Manchester United supporters.
Does GKR ever close classes?
Yes, but extremely rarely and with very great reluctance. Sometimes halls change ownership or policies on hiring change; sometimes senseis are no longer able to keep teaching and replacements cannot be found; sometimes class sizes remain consistently too small to pay for hall hire costs; and sometimes other things such as building fires, etc, mean that classes are no longer possible. Occasionally, when class sizes shrink, or remain small, two classes may be merged into one.
There are almost always alternate classes within reasonable car travelling distance, although not necessarily on the same day.
What percentage of GKR students are female?
What percentage of GKR students are adults?
At a rough guess, in the order of 25-40%
How many regularly training members does GKR have?
About 40,000 as of November 2009
How often does the average student train?
The average beginner student trains about once per week. Experienced students train twice per week on average. But once they've got the bug, many students train , four, five times a week or even more! The more you train the better you get. Simple.
What is the student to instructor ratio?
On average, somewhere between 10:1 and 20:1
In what countries does GKR operate?
Australia, New Zealand, England, USA
How long does it take to earn a GKR black belt?
An exceptional student can do it in 3 years. The average is about 5 or 6 years. Self defence consultants, who train three times per week minimum, have been known to achieve it in under 2 years.
How long has GKR existed?
Questions about GKR instructors
What grade is my instructor?
It's generally considered impolite to ask, any more than you would ask a school teacher to prove their credentials.
A grade up to third dan is primarily an indication of a martial artist's physical ability, not their knowledge or teaching skills.
Is it true that not all GKR instructors are black belts?
Yes. GKR’s instructor training program accepts trainees at grades below black belt. The trainees are then expected to attend the training class regularly to maintain their standard whilst learning to be an instructor.
Many other styles use pre-black belt students to assist in class, and they don’t even have to take classes in how to teach. Nor are they police checked, as we are.
What grade is a black and white belt?
A black and white belt is not a grade, it denotes someone who is on the instructor training program, and most likely teaches or assists in a class.
If my instructor is not a high dan grade, can they be any good?
Instructor grades can be incredibly misleading. I know respected martial artists in other styles who purport to be 3rd dans after just 5 years of training, and teenagers who have been awarded 6th dans! One world famous motivational speaker even claimed to have "earned" a taekwondo black belt in just three months! Grade is not a remotely reliable indicator of martial ability, and even holding a legitimately high grade can have little to do with teaching ability. The primary requisites to be a good teacher are knowledge, empathy, adaptability, a good teaching manner, and a genune desire to help educate others.
Are your instructors police checked?
In the UK, police checking is an increasing requirement for working with children and vulnerable people, although it is still largely optional in the martial arts industry. As a matter of policy, all GKR instructors who run their own classes are police checked.
Are your instructors first aid trained?
Every dojo will have at least one certified first aider. They are trained to dispense life-preserving care (resuscitation, staunching of bleeding, CPR, etc). The instructors are not trained to deal with non life threatening injuries. Injured students would be expected (and if necessary taken) to seek the care of a medical professional for lesser injuries. Having said that, injuries of any sort in classes are extremely rare, and in 9 years, I have only heard of one life threatening incident, when, against the advice of his doctor and instructor, a man with a heart condition trained, and had a minor heart attack.
How much power does my class instructor have?
A lot, or very little depending on how you look at it.
Like most karate clubs, GKR class instructors do not decide the core syllabus of the ryu (or school). GKR instructors are volunteers not employees or contractors to GKR. They plan and deliver lessons, and administrate collection of class fees. They have no power to dictate policy, or set fees.
However, class instructors can join new students, and in exceptional circumstances, suspend or refuse to teach existing ones. Most importantly, although all instructors must conform to a GKR core syllabus, each of them teaches the class exactly how he or she wants to, with wide latitude for deciding the specific content of each lesson.
Questions about GKR training in general
How often should I train?
At least twice a week if you wish to see the full range of promised benefits, but independant studies show that the optimum is 3.5 times a week. Just do as much as you can!
Is GKR “real” karate.
To answer that, you first have to define what you mean by “real”. Some clubs think karate only has merit if it is full contact. Some clubs only think it is real if you can show a lineage back to dawn of history. Some clubs think that you can only define it as real if the gradings take two days and have a mortality rate. None of these criteria guarantees “realness” or practicality in a self defence situation.
GKR is based upon traditional teaching methods and traditional techniques, primarily taken from the Goju Kai style. It isn’t full contact, but it does teach worthwhile self defence techniques, and effective strikes. GKR students win their fair share of medals in both contact and non-contact tournaments around the world. GKR children have used the karate to prevent themselves being abducted on at least two occasions that I know of. The conflict resolution has made many children bully-proof, whilst hundreds of our older students have protected themselves in serious situations using GKR techniques. That makes it real enough for me!
Such and such an instructor criticised GKR karate. Are they right to do so?
GKR Karate is not perfect, and nor is any other style, however we are constantly striving for improvement, and we take the quality of our instruction very seriously.
It would be fair to say that some of the major karate organisations in the world, or their practitioners are often dismissive of other major styles (not just GKR) it sadly seems to be the nature of the beast, and it has always been, stretching back hundreds of years. Many martial arts instructors arrogantly assume that theirs is the best style. Most have never trained in, nor really know anything about other styles that they put down.
It's a pity that in an industry that claims to teach respect, so many instructors fail to practice what they preach.
What is GKR’s attitude towards other martial arts?
GKR is respectful towards everyone, and other martial artists are no different. GKR is just one part of the global family of martial artists.
If the karate isn’t full contact, how much use is it?
You don’t have to hit or be hit to learn the techniques of striking and blocking. In many situations, a single powerful, well delivered punch or kick or stamp or elbow to the correct point will end a fight. You don’t need to get bruised and hurt in class week after week for years to know where such points are, or how to deliver such a strike.
Having said that, if you never hit anything, your techniques will be weak, and there is a danger they will fail you when needed. For that reason, many instructors will occasionally bring equipment to class, so that the students can practice hitting things in a controlled environment to develop their form and power.
There is value in physical conditioning brought about by actually hitting each other, but there is also evidence that suggests that regular striking can cause many subsequent medical problems, to say nothing of immediate injuries brought about by impacts with other students. Many students do not practice karate for its competitive or combative elements. If you want to condition your hands and develop your strength, get a bag or makiwara and practice at home after class.
The most valuable form of conditioning is psychological, and for that, I recommend entering as many GKR tournaments as possible.
Does GKR have advanced classes?
In some areas, students are invited to attend senior (instructor) training. In other areas, regular tournament classes offer more advanced instruction. In all areas, there are also Next is Black seminars, that are only open to higher grades. Increasingly, there are also be regular dedicated classes for more experienced students.
Additionally, in more established regions, some instructors teach to a higher level, essentially providing advanced classes.
Many areas do offer advanced classes, so if this interests you, consult your regional instructor to find out your best options.
Does GKR do any grappling?
Yes - lots. The katas in our syllabus are packed with grappling. Increasingly, kata applications are being practiced within GKR.
Does GKR do any throwing techniques?
Extremely rarely. The official answer is that it takes enough time to master one art - karate - without taking on the techniques of another - jujitsu. Throws are useful in a one-on-one, refereed competitive environment such as UFC, but a throwing mindset can actually be dangerous on the street, and is wholly impractical against multiple attackers. For that reason, GKR prefers not to dilute our art of karate.
Our kata do contain a few throws, but because we don’t train with mats, we don’t generally practice those throws in our classes.
We do practice sweeps and take downs in many areas, especially at special seminars.
Are GKR grades recognised outside GKR?
It depends what you mean by recognised. There is no universal repository for martial arts grades across all styles. The grade of a student in one style is not valid in a different style. Each has different grading criteria and different syllabi.
If you turn up in a GKR belt at any independent seminar or event (including many competitions), your grade will not be questioned.
Are GKR grades recognised at independent competitions?
It depends upon the circuit. It’s not so much about the grade as the affiliation to which we are members. Some competitions do not require any affiliation, and grades are recognised without proof.
Why do all the grades train in once class together?
Two reasons: first, it enables us to cover hall costs; particularly in areas where relatively few students train. If those classes had to be divided into say, brown belts and above, and red belts and below, it may be that the classes would not be large enough to pay their expenses.
Secondly, there is great benefit to all parties in training in mixed grade groups. Higher grades continually practice their basics, whilst lower grades benefit from the example and guidance of the higher grades.
Why do kids and adults train together?
Because we are a family club, and families like to train together: it brings them closer.
Weekend classes tend to be mixed, as are 6pm -7pm weekday classes. In dojos that have a second weekday class, usually 7.30-9pm, only advanced kids will train in that class with the adults and teens.
Why do you speak Japanese in class?
Because karate comes from Okinawa, which is a prefecture (county) of Japan. The world over, Japanese is used in karate classes, which enables students of different style to use and understand a universal language for their art.
Do I have to learn Japanese?
No, but you'll naturally pick some up as time passes.
Why isn’t GKR a member of the EKGB (English Karate Governing Body) or similar international martial arts governing bodies?
The martial arts world is full of destructive internal politics. Membership of most governing bodies exposes a club to those politics, and entangles them in it. Furthermore, there may be all sorts of arbitrary rules made up, which members must abide by, but have little say in. With over 20,000 students in the UK, it is ridiculous for us to become members of an organisation whose largest other member is 10 percent of our size, yet to have the way we function dictated by them.
Questions about gradings
What are the belts/grades in the GKR grading syllabus?
How comprehensive is GKR's grading syllabus?
GKR is very reliant on kata as a grading criteria. There is no specific criteria for grading, other than the kata that one must perform, and improvement since the previous grade. However, one’s basics or kihon will be tested at every grade, and must demonstrate quality appropriate to the student’s attempted grade. Jiu kumite (free fighting) is usually used to a lesser extent, to assess an adult student's ability as well, especially at higher grades.
Most instructors will also consider less tangible criteria such as training effort, attitude, and improvement since the last grade. On rare occasions, poor attitude or effort during a grading can result in a failed grade.
What kata do I need to grade?
It's different according to your age.
Here's the GKR grading syllabus if you are 12 or under
Here's the GKR grading syllabus if you are 13 or over
Why do karate clubs place so much emphasis upon kata in their gradings?
Probably because kata represent an easily assessable martial activity by which to judge gradings.Also because all of the martial skills of movement, timing, basics, stances, and self defence are theoretically encapsulated within kata, so it makes sense to make them a significant assessment criteria.
Why does GKR have a shodan ho black belt?
It’s a provisional black belt during which students must continue to demonstrate worthiness to progress on to a full black belt. Also, because many students quit at black belt, this intermediate black belt encourages them to continue training.
What does gold writing on a black belt mean?
It denotes that a student is at least first dan rank. The gold writing will usually be their name or part of their name in Japanese on one end, and the club name on the other.
Must I have gold writing on my black belt?
Can I have my name in English on my belt?
No. I suppose it is a tribute to the Japanese heritage of the club that your belt must be written in Japanese.
But my name doesn't translate into Japanese properly
At times like this, it would seem sensible to have the option for your name in English, but it isn't an option. In this situation, I suggest that you don't have your name on your belt.
Why doesn't GKR have stripes or a red and white belt to denote dan grades?
Because once you reach a certain level, you're supposed to be humble to compensate for the enormous skills you now possess. If you still need to prove yourself with stripes or extra colours, then the correct attitude has not been attained.
Personally, I always think stripes on a black belt are a sign of insecurity, although you could argue that it simply enables the higher gardes to take the correct positions when lining up.
How often do students grade?
The amount varies from student to student, depending upon individual progress. Initially, a reasonable student will grade in about 4 months, then again in 5 months, then 6 months. The next few grades will probably be around 6 months apart. After that, the grades become progressively further apart. If you want to grade faster than you do, train more often.
Is it okay to ask when I will be grading?
The recommended way to ask your sensei is to say, "What do I need to work on for my next grading?" Many senseis don't mind if you simply ask how far away you are from grading. The important thing to remember is that grades are a standard to work towards, not an amount of time or classes to be completed.
What's the minimum age for a GKR black belt?
It's nominally 13, but if students are exceptional, they may earn the belt at a younger age.
Does GKR have a junior black belt grade?
No. We only have a single black belt grade. Because gradings are theoretically non-contact, juniors and adults undergo exactly the same test in order to earn their black belts. In practice, adult males will be sparred very hard for their black belt, adult females less so, whilst kids will usually have a far gentler time.
Maybe kids should have to retake at 18...
Why can't I spar as a white belt?
Because you almost certainly lack the skill, techniques and self-control to do so safely.
Why do I have to keep my hands shut when I spar?
Lower grades must keep their hands shut, but higher grades may fight open-handed. This is to protect you from broken fingers caused by poorly timed blocks, particularly of kicks.
Why can't I sweep or do hook kicks until brown belt?
Because these are techniques with a high risk of injuring your opponent. Until you are an experienced martial artist with a good sense of distancing, and the muscle control to back it up, you are prevented from attempting them. Moreover, your priorities should still be upon improvement of your basics during the lower kyu grades.
Why don't we do throws?
Because we don't have mats, so they would be dangerous. Also, because throws are not a significant (or necessary) characteristic of our style of karate.
Why is GKR non-contact?
Primarily for safety. Additionally many students who join GKR are unwilling to risk pain or injury by doing a contact style. Being non-contact also reduces our insurance liabilities.
If GKR is non-contact, how comes there is so much contact at gradings?
Officially gradings should reflect GKR's no-contact policy. However, many senior instructors see contact as an important test of a student's spirit and stamina. The level of contact seems to increase exponentially at black belt gradings.
How am I supposed to build up my conditioning for contact at gradings if we never have contact in classes?
The simple practice of karate.tones and hardens your body over the years. Furthermore, many of the drills we do, whilst not contact in the sense of hitting each other, do toughen the body. If you wish to toughen yourself still further, whenever you spar, you can invite your partner to make light contact, but do not reciprocate unless asked to.
If GKR is non-contact, how come there is contact at tournaments?
Lower grade divisions at tournaments are supposed to be absolutely non-contact, with a range of penalties for infractions, but the truth is, beginners sometimes lack the control to avoid contact.
Contact is often tolerated during black belt and instructor divisions, provided it is not excessive and does not cause injuries. Furthermore, as the speed of both competitors increases, the likelihood of avoiding contact altogether falls to almost zero if the techniques are all delivered with probable effectiveness.
Is GKR really non contact?
No. But it genuinely tries to be for the vast majority of the time, and for those who want it to be non-contact, it usually is. But there are times when it's distinctly contactish - especially for higher grades. This seems to be because in spite of the many justifcations for non-contact, senior instructors like to test their experienced students and instructors with contact kumite.
Why don’t we study kata bunkai (meanings) in detail as part of the standard syllabus?
Bunkai is a very contentious issue, and it’s virtually impossible to find a consensus on what the meaning of kata is. The martial arts world’s greatest minds have spent decades trying to uncover the true meaning of kata, without definitive success.
At the moment, bunkai is occasionally practiced at seminars, or on an arbitrary basis in classes. The problem is, many of the bunkai have been superceded by more effective modern self-defence techniques, so practicing outdated, less effective techniques from katas doesn't make much sense.
What kata does GKR study?
In order from lowest to highest: Taigyoku Shodan, Taigyoku Nidan, Saifa, Bassai Dai, Seiunchin, Empi, Sanseru, Sepai, Hangetsu, Karurunfa, Kanku dai, Shisocin, Kanku Sho, Seisan and Sochin.
Which kata are from Goju and which are from Shotokan (Keishinkan)?
Taigyoku Shodan, Bassai Dai, Empi, Sanseru, Hangetsu, Kanku dai, Kanku Sho, and Sochin are Shotokan Katas
Saifa, Seiunchin, Sanseru, Sepai, Karurunfa, Shisocin, and Seisan are Goju katas
Taigyoku Nidan appears to have been created by Robert Sullivan
It's likely that superempi and sanchin will become part of our syllabus, and there are unsubstantiated rumours that we may also adopt Unsu.
What are the differences between GKR’s Goju and Shotokan katas?
In general the Shotokan katas are explosive with lots of striking, and use linear movements, often delivered at longer range.
The Goju katas are compliant and use softer, circular motions, and have far more grappling in them. They often depend upon technique and finesse rather than power.
Goju katas use sumo, cat and sanchin stances. Shotokan uses horse, back and half moon stances. Both styles use forward stance.
Why do karate clubs place so much emphasis upon kata in their gradings?
Probably because kata represent easily assessable martial exercises by which to judge gradings.Also because all of the martial skills of movement, basics, and self defence are encapsulated within kata, so it makes sense to make them a significant assessment criteria.
Personally, I would like to see self-defence skills incorporated into GKR's gradings as well.
Can I do karate as a subject at school?
There is a GCSE in martial arts in the UK. Although the terms used to stipulate membership of one of just four styles of karate, this is now far more liberally applied, so you can make your case for using GKR as your qualifying style.
You can also use GKR karate as one of the qualifying sports in part of a GCSE in PE. Speak to your teacher about the requirements. You need to have achieved an orange belt standard in karate, and to receive a letter from your sensei confirming your participation in karate. This will then satisfy the requirements as one of your two sports electives.
Do I have to do karate to be a tournament referee/judge?
Yes. You have to be at least a green belt. However, you can be a scorekeeper or timekeeper even if you have never done karate.
Questions about karate in general
Where does karate originate from?
Karate as we know it originated from Okinawa at the start of the 1900s. Okinawa is an island province of Japan, south of Japan and East of China. However, the martial arts upon which karate is based, are thousands of years old. Researchers suggest that they came from
It is probable that the art that became karate is a fusion between a native Okinawan wrestling style and Chinese kung fu.
Is karate Buddhist/Taoist/Hindu?
Some people suggest that karate is anti-Christian because some of its Oriental creators practiced other religions. Karate is no more Buddhist because of that, than Turkish Delight is Islamic because of where it was invented.
If it’s not religious why do you bow so much? Isn’t that worshipping false idols?
No. In karate, a bow is the equivalent of a very sincere handshake, and is used to denote respect, not worship. Japanese people bow to each routinely, and they are certainly not worshipping each other! Again, to suggest that bowing is worshipping false idols because it resembles a position of prayer, is the same as suggesting that every handshake is arm-wrestling because they start with a grip.
GKR has no religious viewpoint. Religious faith is never an issue in the dojo as nothing we do has any religious significance, or requires belief in a particular set of religious values. Respect and courtesy are completely secular.
Is karate the most effective form of self defence?
No. Not being there is the most effective form of self defence.
The most effective martial art is a very subjective judgement, and factors such as the person doing the art, their age, the type of attacker, and many other issues determine effectiveness.
In the right hands, karate is extremely effective, and has saved many lives.
Is karate against God’s will?
No. Jesus may have said to turn the other cheek, but he wasn’t above physical action when he thought circumstances dictated it (when he turned the money-lenders from the temple for example). We teach karate for self defence. We believe that personal safety is the fundamental right of every human being. Jesus’ disciples often acted as his personal bodyguards, and he is not recorded as having reprimanded them every time.
Here’s a simple question if your church/temple/mosque leader was attacked on the street, would he try to defend himself? Of course he would, so doesn’t it make sense in these dangerous times to learn the skills to do so properly?
Learning karate enables you to protect yourself using less violence and more technique.
Doesn’t karate promote violence?
Quite the opposite: it promotes self restraint and peace.
There is a saying, “Cowardice promotes violence”.
Bullies don’t pick on the kids who are confident and can clearly defend themselves do they?
Do I need a licence to practice karate?
No. Most clubs use a licence as a way to denote insurance cover. Clubs are required by law to insure their students.
Does a licence entitle me to use my karate on the street?
No. In any self defence situation, you are entitled to use reasonable force to defend yourself. You do not require a licence to defend yourself.
Does a licence entitle me to kill?
Not unless you are 007. If your only choice is kill or be killed (or seriously maimed), then the law recognises your entitlement to protect yourself and others. You do not require a licence.
Will I get in legal trouble if I use karate on the street?
Not necessarily. Karate practitioners are expected to be more competent fighters, and thus would perhaps be expected not to be so extreme in their responses, nor so quick to violence as untrained people, but if you felt threatened, so long as you use an appropriate level of violence in defending yourself, you should be okay from a legal standpoint.
Having won a conflict, you are not permitted to continue inflicting injury upon the defeated attacker.
Can I use karate at school?
Of course you can. If a bully grabs you, you can use karate to pull free. If a bully punches you, you can block.
But I do not recommend that you start hitting people at school. Teachers find it difficult to work out who was the bad guy, and if the other person has a bloody nose, you are probably going to get in trouble - even if you were only defending yourself. Your first choice should always be to walk or run away from trouble. But if the choice is to fight or get beaten up, I'd say you should fight.
Some people (probably who never got bullied) say that there is always a way to avoid violence, but I don't agree.
Who is the founder of GKR karate
Robert Brian Sullivan
What is his title?
Kancho (it’s Japanese for founder)
Isn’t it against karate tradition to adopt the title of founder when you are just a 2nd dan?
Tradition, smishion! Some people say it's presumptuous to adopt the title as a 2nd dan, but Robert did found GKR when he was a 2nd dan. So he’s the founder. What's the problem?
The Japanese are, or were a highly orderly nation, that tend to be very bound by rules. Sometimes these produce positive traditions, such as the respect and self-discipline of karate, and other times it produces rules for the sake of rules, such as 15 different ways of bowing so that you don't offend anyone. GKR has the sense to take on those traditions which are beneficial, and drop those which are not.
Some people argue that you don’t know enough about karate at 2nd dan to found anything, but tens of thousands of people start karate clubs all the time with far, far less experience than that. Robert had been training 20 years when he founded GKR.
In actual fact, Kancho had the title Shihan (master) until he reached 5th dan.
When did Robert Sullivan start training in martial arts?
When was GKR Karate founded?
Where was GKR founded?
In Adeleide, Australia
What styles did Robert Sullivan primarily train in?
Goju Kai, Goju Ryu, Budokan, Keishinkan
What grades did he achieve in those styles?
He earned a 2nd dan black belt in Keishin Kan, a 1st dan in Budokan, and a 5th kyu in Goju Ryu. His Goju Kai grade is not known. He also holds a refereeing diploma.
What grade is Robert Sullivan now?
8th dan as of 2009
Who awarded Robert Sullivan’s grades in GKR?
He awarded 3rd to 6th dan grades to himself. His 7th and 8th dan was awarded by his senior instructors.
Isn’t that a highly unusual way of grading?
Yes. However, there were political reasons why Robert could not grade under the auspices of other organisations, not least of which was the fact that GKR did not function under affiliation to any other karate style or organisation. How can someone from another style decide if Robert is good enough in a style he invented, to get the next grade?
Whether this increases the validity of self-grading, I’ll leave you to decide. Whilst some martial artists use self-grading as a way to inflate their grades beyond the level that they could achieve in the time since they started, Robert has not done that. He graded to 2nd dan in 1971, and founded GKR 13 years later when he awarded himself a 3rd dan. In the intervening time, he continued training all over the world, and he even had a karate TV show in America.
Grades beyond 3rd dan are usually given for one's contribution to martial arts, and on that score Robert has probably made a greater contribution than any living martial artist. I suspect that only Bruce Lee has been directly responsible for bringing more people into martial arts.
To what extent does Kancho Sullivan’s karate knowledge infuse the organisation?
The syllabus has been primarily designed by him, but the teaching of those techniques, and expanding the technical knowledge of GKR is primarily handled by Stacey Karetsian, the assistant chief instructor; Gavin Samin, senior instructor; and Anthony Ryan, also a senior instructor. It would be fair to say that within the confines of the characteristics that Robert Sullivan laid out, these people have advanced and defined the karate far, far further than Robert ever did. Within each zone and region, senior and local instructors all add their own unique experience into the mix.
Questions about the GKR business
What type of organisation is GKR?
GKR is a family-owned private company registered in Australia.
What is the IGKF?
IGKF stands for International Go Kan Ryu Karate Federation. It appears to be an international steering committee, policy group and represents a clearing house for ideas presented by the leadership of GKR in various territories.
How is GKR structured?
GKR has two sides business and karate. The business is run like a company with an owner at the top, and then tiers of management below as follows:
Robert Sullivan Owner - President
Stacey Karetsian Executive Vice President
Gavin Samin International Vice President
Zone Directors x8
Regional Managers 40+
Self defence consultants 100s
Class Administrators (unpaid) 1000+
The karate side is structured much the same, but with different titles:
Robert Sullivan Chief Instructor
Stacey Karetsian Assistant Chief Instructor and Master
Gavin Samin Senior Instructor
Senior Instructors x8
Regional Instructors 40+
Class Instructors 1000+
The self defence consultants do not necessarily have a formal role in the karate teaching hierarchy, although many do run and teach their own classes.
Who will take over GKR when Robert Sullivan retires?
Although Stacey Karetsian is already responsible for most of the day to day decisions and running of the style, it seems extremely likely that ultimate power of veto will pass to Robert Sullivan’s eldest son Matthew, the only member of the family apart from Robert, who still practices karate. As Stacey Karetsian has had such close control of the business operation, and has been a loyal friend to the Sullivan family for so long, it's virtually inconceivable that this position would change.
Having said that, it’s unusual to see the heads of karate styles retire it seems to be something that you do until the day you die.
How much do class senseis get paid?
They don’t get paid. They teach voluntarily, generally for love of the karate, and out of a genuine desire to contribute.
So what happens to all the class fees?
It goes to pay hall hire, administration, and wages of the managers. A percentage goes on up to head office to keep the senior instructors in mitts and gis too.
Can I do GKR karate as a full time job?
Yes, there is an excellent career path within GKR for enthusiastic, hard working, karate-loving people. It’s one of the few careers where you can guarantee an income of £50-100,000 per year within five years of starting provided you put in the hard work.
There are a number of levels of employment within GKR self defence consultant, assistant regional manager, regional manager, and zone director. Contact your local senior instructor/regional manager if you are interested.