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Sensei Mark Carroll

Sensei Mark Carroll (7th Dan)

"Mark started training in 1982 with his Dad, Mick, who trained with him and supported him for many years as an assistant instructor when Mark first started teaching at the Melksham Dojo. Marks family were all involved in martial arts at that time, his younger brother and sister both did Karate while his other sister studied Judo.

Mark achieved his 1st Dan under the guidance of two main instructors, Geoff Croker and Pete Bull. Pete Bull was the most senior instructor who ran two clubs, five days a week as well as special Kumite and Kata classes at weekends. Pete was also the host of many of the senior Japanese instructors who come to his Trowbridge club at the weekend before and/or after the national course at Crystal Palace that took place every year.

Mark achieved his 2nd Dan and 3rd Dan through his own understanding and with his own council although at this time, we were still trying to train with whoever we could and whenever we could. 2nd and 3rd Dan are significant grades, because they are the grades that show how much you understand how the body works and how you have improved your capabilities from 1st Dan.

Mark has a very good understanding of these things and has a very good foundation built thorough his own understanding, whereas a lot of people at this time were merely demonstrating what others had shown them.

Mark was always interested in where other martial arts fitted into Karate and vice versa - he would come to Judo with me at my club, which was old-fashioned in its teaching and still taught Judo as a martial art.

Mark trained for many years in Judo, although he only ever graded once, because his focus was on understand rather than just grading to change the colour of his belt.

Our Judo club was in a Budo association which led to many cross over events where we could try other martial arts such as Jujitsu and Kung Fu. Some of the seniors from a club in Bristol set up a Jujitsu club where Mark and a few others from our Judo club attended regularly.

Mark was often found to be testing the principles of the techniques because the understanding of some of the Jujitsu instructors were not up to dealing with a person who could make the techniques of Karate effective.

All of the above training was for Mark to better understand how peripheral techniques such as throws, arm locks, strangles which were not included in main stream Karate system but could be found and used effectively in Kata.

The training session with Ossaka Sensei in Trowbridge was a moment of great clarity for Mark, after the training session he talked about nothing else for weeks. We did Heian Shodan, which is a very basic Kata, but Ossaka Sensei broke the Kata down to such fine individual components and obviously knew the Kata in such detail, that it made us feel like we had only just started training, instead of our Dan grades which we thought we were quite good at.

A few years later we trained with Sensei Dave Hooper for the first of many times, Dave had trained at the JKA from a very early age to the present day. Dave showed us a way of performing techniques that had a completely different emphasis to anything we had seen before. He took our Karate and showed us that it was completely wrong. He never said we were doing anything wrong, he had trained in Japan all that time and was too polite, but what he showed us meant we either had to change what we were doing or stop training, so we changed what we were doing, and Marks understanding of what was required took on a new depth.

Mark invited Harry Cook to teach for a weekend and to demonstrate and discover his ideas on Bunkai. Harry was a regular columnist in fighting arts magazine which was a popular read at the time. He was also regarded as a very knowledgeable historian with a leaning towards Kata application because his knowledge of the older Kata and how they were performed.

Marks discussions with Harry at this course and a few others that we attended in Scotland, added greatly to his depth of knowledge and to the certainty of what he was looking for was the right path.

Mark has been chasing the idea that Kata is as alive and relevant today as it was when Karate was first taught in the backyard of your house in Okinawa. Mark has the unique ability to tie the Karate of the modern Karate-ka into the relevance of Kata understanding to broaden the scope of what Karate is and how it is still a valuable self defence system. You don't have to make a choice between self-defence, basics and competition work with Mark, because everything is moving towards a single purpose - all the relevance of hip twist and rotation of the body, expansion and contraction of the muscles all go to achieving the most effective technique possible, which you can then apply to any aspect of Karate that you may be working on.

Mark is a very special person in the Karate world, he understands what the bridge is between pretty moves in Kata and what these moves translate into to become effective self defence.

In Okinowa, we were able to train with Tiara Sensei who is 8th dan in Goju Ryu and a renowned Bunkai specialist in a land of Bunkai specialists. He trained us in Goju Ryu and the relation of Kata performance and application is very obvious in that style. In Shotokan (or Japanese Karate as it was referred to in Okinawa) it is very different because Funakoshi Sensei wanted to get Karate into the educational system so some of the sharp edges had to filed off to make it more acceptable and more Japanese. Tiara Sensei was another person who made a big impact on Mark, they discussed many aspects of Karate and agreed on many of the subjects.

Mark is a modern day master in Goju Ryu although he has never practiced the art. Mark has been producing DVD's on Kata for a while now and they are record of how things can be done. Although they are not the finished article, when Mark reviews them he can see his understanding has moved on from when a DVD was produced and how he would do things differently now.

I think Mark is a unique individual who is very underestimated amongst his peers. His depth of knowledge and understanding, his ability to put together a lesson, his insight into what is really going on puts him head and shoulders above most Karate people that I can think of. Mark will always find a way to challenge you, whether it is physically or mentally, he will lead you to a point of greater understanding.

My best compliment would be that, if I was to start training in Karate today, I would want it to be with Mark as my Sensei."

Written by Sensei Steve Manning (6th Dan)