Ernie Molyneux Sensei Biography
Shihan Ernie Molyneux’s first involvement with the Martial Arts was when he was a boy. Although he started by practising Judo, he soon found himself losing interest and decided to leave. A few years later, he started practising boxing and although he found it very good, the class had been geared for those students who had been selected to fight in the Amateur Boxing Association Championships...
Ernie eventually started practising Karate in 1972, when he was 18 years old. He had made some inquiries into Okinawan Karate after seeing an advert for it, which he can still remember today. It read: ‘Classical Okinawan Karate Do’. He 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. It lasted for three hours, starting with a strenuous warm-up, basics and moving basics. The class then went on to practice Kata, Sanchin Kata and Makiwara (Okinawan striking board) and finished with a bout of sparring, the seniors taking on two opponents at a time. 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. Ernie trained at the Dojo until it closed down in 1977. He continued to train with Bob Greenhalgh at his Dojo in Manchester at the same time also teaching at a Dojo in the Childwall District of Liverpool.
It was around this time that Ernie began to participate in tournaments. As a Dojo, it did not enter any tournaments due to the lack of experience of its fighters. Ernie started to train at a Shotokan Karate Dojo once weeks to gain some experience in Kumite. The Dojo had a large number of Black Belts, some being 2nd and 3rd Dans. The Dojo’s kumite was very strong and some of it’s senior fighters went on to become British and European Champions. It wasn’t long before Ernie was invited to fight for its team. In 1978, he fought in his first International Tournament. This was a tour of Scandinavia and Ernie was a 1st Kyu at the time. He said how much he enjoyed fighting and has listed some of the highlights of his tournament career:
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
Shihan Ernie took over the Bournemouth Karate Academy in 1982 which Sensei James Rousseau had been running since 1977.
Over the past 10 years, the Dojo 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. Ernie believes that if they had developed Iri Kumi 10 or 15 years ago, it would have probably been as popular today as Knock Down is in Kyokushinkai.
When 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 to England from South Africa. Bob Greenhalgh, accompanied by a party of Black Belts, travelled to Oxford for a seminar that Sensei James Rousseau was holding. They were so impressed with his technique that when they returned to their Dojo’s, they started to teach what they had been taught. The 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 Ernies’ first involvement with what was to become the International Okinawan Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Federation (IOGKF). From this time on, he trained with several senior foreign instructors. It wasn’t until 1977 that he personally trained with Higaonna Sensei, during his first trip to England for the English Goju-Ryu Karate-Do Association (EGKA). Higaonna Sensei was recovering from an appendix operation so was obviously not at his best, however, the impression that was left embedded in his mind was to remain there to this day, giving him a never-ending source of inspiration.
“I could have never imagined that one person could generate so much power and yet still move with such agility.” - Ernie Molyneux.
Ernie had read articles and had heard comments that had been made by students who had returned from Japan after training with Higaonna Sensei. In his opinion they did him no justice whatsoever. Higaonna Sensei has been a role model for Ernie as well as for many of the instructors in the IOGKF.
In 1978, 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.
There have been times when 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.
If 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. 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.
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.
In 1986, after Ernie was graded to Yondan, he was invited to teach in several European countries, namely Holland, Sweden, Denmark, and Portugal. More recently, he has travelled to Russia, Iceland (photo gallery here) and the Ukraine on behalf of the IOGKF and the concept of it being 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 he continues working with the Higaonna Sensei to preserve Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-Do for future generations. He is also working to give his students the same opportunities that he has had, with the hope that they will follow in his footsteps and represent a style of Karate that has given him so much in life.
“The performance of a single technique is more important than the knowledge of many” - Ernie Molyneux
This article was written by Ernie Molyneux and was originally adapted and published by Dan Price.