Randy Williams 6th Dan
It was with great sadness that I learned of Sensei Randy Williams’ passing. There are certain names that transcend associations, organisations and even countries and become ‘household’ names within the karate community – due to their exceptional ability and skill – and Randy Williams in one absolute example of this.
In February 2012, Sensei Randy Williams passed away. Within this ‘Tribute’, I would like to pay homage to one of the UK’s finest karate exponents.
Born in 1956, Randy Williams started his journey in Shotokan Karate under Sensei Bob Rhodes in 1975 within the excellent Leeds Shotokan Karate Club. Learning the training was ‘not as easy as it looked on screen’ and being ‘surprised at the amount of hard work and dedication that was needed’ [www.leedsshotokankarate.co.uk], he stopped training after 6 months, returning again however 1978. This was to mark a journey in Shotokan Karate that would last 34 years, until his passing in February 2012.
Internationally, the K.U.G.B (Karate Union of Great Britain) built an incredible reputation for the standard of its competitors. This standard and reputation was built and set as a consequence of pioneering excellence from the Union’s senior instructors. To this day, the K.U.G.B has an impeccable competitive record, to which Randy was soon to become a part of.
After several years of training and reaching the grade of brown belt, in 1982, Randy made the trip to the world renowned Red Triangle Dojo in Liverpool where squad selection for the National Squad was taking place. On this occasion, Randy did not make the squad, but was successful the following year, becoming a member of the revered K.U.G.B National Squad.
After passing his Shodan grading in April 1982, Randy’s first international trip as part of the National Squad took him to Munich, Germany. Fighting within the team, he helped take the squad to 3rd Place. This trip was followed by Randy being included within the British Team that was compiled to compete at the WSKA World Championships held in Cairo. Fellow team mates within the British Squad included the likes of Frank Brennan, Bob Poynton, Steve Cattle and George Godfrey; so Randy was definitely in good company.
This was followed with Randy representing Leeds Karate Club at the K.U.G.B National Championships, held within Crystal Palace, home of some of the biggest and most significant karate events in UK karate history. The K.U.G.B National Championships – to this day – is an event that platforms exceptional talent, and is the showcase of some of the world’s finest shotokan karate. Here, Randy took 1st place in the Team Kumite Category.
Randy’s international competitive career included being present at events hosted in Germany, Turkey, Holland, USA and Sweden, and taking impressive titles at the ESKA Championships in 1986 and 1987 [Sunderland]. Randy kept his position on the K.U.G.B National Squad for an impressive eight years, building a level of skill and ability that is rarely paralleled, but that secured him a reputation that led to him being a ‘household’ name, not solely within the KUGB, but throughout the world. Below is a short (incomprehensive) list of some of the other highlights on Randy’s competitive record:
- 1st Individual Kumite - Shotokan Cup 1991
- 1st Individual Kumite - Shotokan Cup 1992
- 1st Individual Kumite - Shotokan Cup 1993
- 1st Individual Kumite – KUGB National Championships 1996
The list above and the other achievements detailed within the article are just a short few titles Randy achieved, to simply convey the standard of Randy’s karate. After winning the K.U.G.B National Kumite title in 1996, he retired from competing as an individual, but participated until 2000 as a team member.
The year 2000 also represented a period of change for the Leeds Karate Club. In August 2000, Randy took over from Bob Rhodes as the instructor at the dojo. Under the leadership of Randy, the club continued the impressive reputation that had been earned under Bob Rhodes, continuing to include National Squad members and National Champions.
In October 2006, Randy Williams earned the grade of 6th Dan [Rokudan]. Of his role in the Leeds Karate Club, and Leeds University Karate Club (also formerly run by K.U.G.B Senior Instructor - Bob Rhodes), Randy Williams stated ‘It gives me great pleasure to be able to pass on some of the knowledge passed down to me from my senior instructors, and experience I gained through my years of training. All I wish for is that I am able to train for many years to come, and turn out good well-disciplined and successful karatekas’ [www.leedsshotokankarate.co.uk]. This inspirational statement is highly indicative of Randy’s attitude towards karate and karate instruction.
[Biography compiled from reading material on www.leedsshotokankarate.co.uk, www.kugb.org, www.bobrhodeskarate.com]
Below are tributes to Randy Williams from a few that were close to him from Matt Price, and Nick Heald.
‘Randy Williams: Quiet and Confident’
By Matt Price
When I moved with my family to Harrogate, North Yorkshire at the age of 11 and resumed my training in Shotokan Karate at the Harrogate Shotokan Karate Club, I would hear whispered mentions of the Leeds Shotokan Karate Club instructed by Sensei Bob Rhodes. The Harrogate members would talk in hushed tones of the feared dojo and its outstanding competitor, Randy Williams. I remember going through to Leeds to do a kyu grading and seeing Randy on the course, his quiet presence immediately intimidating us visitors.
A couple of years later, when I decided to dedicate myself to karate, I started making a weekly trek through to the Leeds Club. Coming from sleepy Harrogate, I was immediately taken aback by the ‘characters’ training in Leeds. There were many tough karateka there, some brash and overbearing, but the most skilled of them was quiet and confident; this was Randy.
Randy at the time had a huge afro haircut and was extremely lean and muscular. Coming as I did from Harrogate, I had never encountered a West-Indian accent before and could not make out a word he said. I remember my father watching the end of a session I was training in - under Randy - and asking me on the drive home what Randy had been saying to me in the class, I had to reply that I had no idea and had just nodded as I didn’t want to upset him. My father agreed that was probably the best thing to do.
The more I continued training there, the more I understood him. He had an excellent sense of humour and would never mind being the butt of some of the jokes (but you would never push it too far!), the similarity between him and Billy Ocean the 80s-90s soul singer was a personal favourite. Randy would give you his cross look, but finish with a laugh.
Spending my youth training 3-4 times a week with Randy was invaluable to my development as a competitor, and it took me years to eventfully score a point on him; his timing on gyaku-zuki acting like a force field.
When he took a lesson, he always led by example and when he hit you, it hurt!
As a competitor, he was known for his fantastically timed punch, but he would often shock his opponent with his lightning-fast ushiro mawashi geri.
Randy, as I have already said and most people who knew him will tell you, was a quiet, strong man. He loved his karate and was always super-supportive to me as a competitor. He had fantastic rhythm and was always amongst the first onto the dance floor. He was also an excellent salsa dancer and would show you a few moves if you asked.
I, along with Nick Heald, visited him the day before he died. He was obviously fading fast, but he was staying strong. He just wanted to talk karate. He wanted no fuss or sympathy.
Everybody who met him liked him.
‘Randy Williams: Brave warrior’s heart’
By Nick Heald
I first met Randy Williams around 1982 or 1983. I’d started training in 1981 at Scott Hall Sports Centre in Leeds, which was one of a number of Dojos run by Bob Rhodes and his Leeds Shotokan Karate Club. Bob only visited once every few weeks as his senior students ran the classes there for him.
Randy started training at the Sports Centre after I’d been there a year or so. He was a Brown Belt at the time. Perhaps a year or so later the regular instructor at the Sports Centre, Geoff Fletcher, had to leave as he was relocating, due to work. Randy and a chap by the name of Kevin Rushworth took over as the instructors there. And so for the formative years of my Karate, Randy was my regular instructor.
The very first competition I entered was the North East Open in Sunderland in February 1984. Randy won the Male Kumite, which was obviously very inspiring to see your instructor lead by example and do the business.
An enduring memory of mine came a year or so later. I’d been selected onto the KUGB Junior Squad in 1985 and the Senior Squad used to train on those sessions too. That meant I’d travel over to Liverpool with Randy. We were driving home in his white Opel Manta sports car that he had at that time. As we crossed the top of the Penines on the M62, Meat Loaf’s ‘Bat Out of Hell’ came on the Radio. We turned the Radio right up (well I did, Meat Loaf was hardly Randy’s choice of music!) and we sped up to 100mph blasting back to Leeds as quick as we could!! Those trips to Liverpool together always followed the same pattern. Neither of us would speak going there as we were both nervous as hell, and we’d not shut up coming home because we were exhilarated to have got through it, and that moment just summed up that thrill.
Randy was always a quiet, humble man. However, this hid a steely determination and competitive character that saw him win many titles both Nationally and Internationally. He had a fluid, relaxed way of fighting and had a lightning fast counter punch. His natural timing was certainly amongst the best I’ve seen over 30 years of Karate.
A more recent memory of the man was when the LKA Team went to Florida to train pre-Nationals in 2007. Typically, going to America involves the art of being able to queue. Whilst doing that waiting an eternity to board a plane, Randy treated all the LKA girls to a Salsa lesson to pass the time!
Randy was always a very private individual who kept things to himself. Typical of this was how he treated the illness that was ultimately to take his life. He largely kept this to himself and fought his own personal battle. I only found out he had Cancer a month before he died. I saw him in the Hospice the day before he died and whilst Matt and I were with him he took a phone call. I don’t know who it was on the line, but the words Randy spoke just seemed to sum him up. He just told the chap that he was really grateful for the call but that he didn’t want any fuss and that he just had to try deal with it the way Randy was, and just get on with things. That seemed to sum Randy up, a brave warrior’s heart, but someone who was content to quietly get on with things with the minimum of fuss.
I think Randy will be remembered as an excellent Karateka, competitor and much loved and respected instructor.