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Go Kan Ryu (???, Go Kan-ryu?) or GKR, is a non-contact karate club mixing features of Shotokan and Goju Ryu together into one style of karate. The name of the club roughly translates to the “hard and complete system in the way of the empty hand.” The motto behind the club is “Karate for Everyone”.
The club was founded in Adelaide (Australia), in 1984 by Robert Sullivan, known to the members originally as ‘Shihan’ (a self-awarded title roughly translated as master) but now known as ‘Kancho’ (Founder of the Organisation). He was later joined in 1991 by Stacy Karetsian, who previously attained a Black Belt status in Shotokan. He was later given the title of ‘Shihan’ (Master) by Sullivan in 2000.
Since its inception, GKR has grown significantly and currently has over 50,000+ students training weekly, 1500+ instructors and 400+ full time personnel. Classes take place on a daily basis in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the USA.
Robert Sullivan is the Founder and Chief Instructor of Go-Kan-Ryu Karate ranked as a 7th Dan Black Belt. Born in 1947, Sullivan spent most of his early life growing up in Gosford, New South Wales, and in 1964, he begin training in Goju Kai karate, under 1st Dan Merv Oakley , Sullivan later trained with Hirokazu Kanazawa in Shotokan karate.
He returned home to Australia from America, where he had been teaching karate including a short run on TV, in December 1971 to marry and begin a family. Over the next 13 years Sullivan worked in and starting a number of businesses, but in 1984 he turned his focus back to teaching karate and started Go Kan Ryu karate. His original aim was to build a karate club in Adelaide.
GKR class instructors are called Sensei, the instructor assistants are known as Sempai. Prospective instructors who have at least achieved yellow belt (8th Kyu, the first full grade in the syllabus can be achieved after 12 classes(see below)) may be invited to attend a more intensive ‘S.T.P’ “Sensei/Sempai Training Program.” GKR trains all prospective instructors for an indefinite period in an intensive training program. The prospective instructor must show teaching capabilities and karate skill, before an exam is set, which they must pass to be accepted onto the ‘STP’ “Sensei/Sempai Training Program”. From this point on, the new trainee may be used as a Sempai and later as a temporary stand-in for other regular instructors, they will carry the role of Sempai until the senior instructor “Regional Instructor” deems them competent to stand in or teach their own class. From the point of passing the exam the new Sempai will wear a Black and White (instructor) belt to denote them as Sempai/Sensei until they either grade to “Shodan Ho” (provisional Black Belt) or leave the instructor program. Sensei and Sempai are expected to attend senior training with their “Regional Manager” at least once a week to ensure that they are capable of teaching and performing the entire GKR syllabus and are recommended to train as much as possible.
GKR Karate employs a coloured belt grading system. Each rank is called a Kyu until the black belt grade. The recommended minimum times are listed below (NB: the below times are per belt, not cumulative, although in some cases these may be ignored if the Regional Manager feels that someone is advanced enough):
The Yellow and Orange tips are given as encouragement grades, without requiring formal grading. For instance, the Yellow Tip is given after 6 classes.
As of 1 January 2008 this is now just a guide. If a Sensei believes the student ready then he/she may be graded sooner than the time stated on the above chart and vice versa. However, it is common that gradings do not occur as quickly as per the minimum chart, students can feel disheartened, but shouldn’t it just means they have more time to make better their current karate knowledge, before being asked to learn something new.
As of June 2007, Sullivan is ranked 7th Dan under the Go Kan Ryu syllabus, and Karetsian is a 5th dan. Gavin Samin is the international vice president and senior instructor for GKR, he is currently ranked 4th Dan. Tyrone Coatesis the 3rd dan senior instructor for UK southern zone. While some students may move more quickly through the ranks then others, GKR argues that karate is, above all else, a personal journey; with an individual’s progress from their starting point being more important than specific markers of technical skill. GKR also points out that, unlike many organisations, a student who fails a grading is not asked to pay for subsequent attempts at the grading.
From the age of 13 and over or 6th Kyu (Green Belt) Kata (routines) must be performed to show a significant progress in technique and strength. At each grading a student will perform the Kata for their belt and all the ones for the levels below.