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Mervyn O’Donnell – SKDUN

Mervyn O’Donnell

Mervyn O’Donnell

Board member & Country director For England

Mervyn O'Donnell      

Born 1946.

July 1967                    Commenced training in July 1967 in a Kykoshinkai beginners course in London.

September 1967          On moving to Portsmouth in September I joined the Portsmouth Karate club which practiced JKA Shotokan Karate. The club at that time was affiliated to the Karate Union of Great Britain (KUGB). At the time this was the largest governing body in Europe. (26.000 members at its peak).

Senseis Enoeda, Kanazawa, Takahashi and Sumi were regular visitors to the                                  Portsmouth and other local clubs. During this period, although only a junior                               Kyu grade, I was one of the seniors at the club and so took my turn in                                            instructing the members. This would entail training in London with one of                                                 the Japanese Senseis and then trying to pass on that knowledge to the other                                   club members.

                                    For the next three to four years I trained at the Portsmouth, Blackfriars, Marshall St and Budokai clubs. The latter three being with the various Japanese Senseis. In each year I spent some five to six months in                                                    London.

                                    This was a time in which the enthusiastic students of Karate trained five, six or even seven days a week. I was fortunate to be at University at that time and so was able to take every opportunity to train.         

                                    During this time, I was also able to attend the KUGB summer courses at Crystal Palace. Hence, I was able to benefit from instruction from Senseis  Nakayama, Kase, Shirai, and the other masters that visited for the                                                   course.

Dec 1970                    I Passed my Shodan grade at the Blackfriars Dojo. The examiners were Sensei’s Kato and Ochi.

                                    I recollect that just after attaining the Shodan grade, Sensei Kato taught me Nijushiho Kata.

March 1971 to February 1974

                                    With graduation from University and work location I was unable to train on a regular basis at the Dojo for some three years. I of course carried on with home training, as and  when possible.


March 1974                I resumed formal Dojo training in 1974 at the Portsmouth Dojo and have trained continuously since then. In this time, I have had the usual injuries and operations, but continued to train as appropriate until in good health again.

                                    In 1975 I started helping with the instruction at a growing number of clubs on the South coast of England. During this time, I was again training or instructing five or six times a week visiting Brighton, Eastleigh, IOW,                                            Basingstoke and regularly Selsey on one or two evenings a week.

                                    I found this time to be particularly beneficial in understanding people and the various ways in which people learn best.

September 1975          Attained Ni Dan on the Autumn course at Crystal Palace. Sensei Enoeda was the chief grading examiner.                                

1976 to 1982               Unfortunately this was a time of political unrest in the KUGB and it appeared that certain people in the KUGB hierarchy wanted to rely on the Japanese Senseis less and less. The main group of clubs that I was associated with were very unhappy about this and after working hard to resolve various issues felt it necessary to leave the KUGB and form our own association. The objective being to practice Shotokan Karate as taught by the Japanese Sensei that we had grown to respect and admire so much.

April 1982 to March 2016

                                    This new organisation was the South of England Karate Union (SEKU) and was formed in 1982. I was elected to be the Secretary and senior grading examiner.

                                    In March 1982 I started my own club just outside of Portsmouth.

This club has now been running for almost thirty-nine years and I now have students that are grand children of the original members. Over the years the membership of the club has stayed between 80 and 120 members. In addition to this there are a group of more senior grades (Sandan, Yondan and Godan) that regularly visit for training.

                                    As SEKU Secretary I also looked after the organising and running of their Championships. There were typically four championships a year. The largest usually having some 500 competitors.

November 2003 to November 2011

                                    In November 2003 I retired from my position as Senior Lecturer in Mathematics and Electrical engineering. I then commenced my 3rd career as a full time Karate ka. 

                                    During this time my wife worked in Holland. I started a Karate club in Gouda (Holland) and this ran until we returned to England. We found the Dutch students to be very enthusiastic and very capable in their Karate                                                 techniques.

                                    During these years I travelled on a weekly basis between the two countries and a typical week consisted of the following.

                                    Monday and Tuesday:         Teaching in Holland.

                                    Wednesday:                           Teaching at the Portchester          Karate Club                                                                18:30 to 21:30  (This consisted of Children and Adult classes).

                                    Thursday:                                Teaching at an after-school club.

                                    Friday:                                      Teaching at the Portchester Karate Club                                                                 18:30 to 21:30

                                    Saturday:                                 Teaching at the Portchester Karate Club                                

                                    During this time, I organised multiple exchange visits between the English Karateka and the Dutch students.

                                    In addition, I would be teaching on the various SEKU courses.

March 2016 to date     Following a few very difficult years within SEKU, I decided that if I was to remain true to what I believed the Karate ethos was, then I would have to leave. I resigned from SEKU in March of that year and started a new                                                 organisation; Rengokai Shotokan Karate.

The main objectives of this organisation are to promote Shotokan Karate in a way that all members can make good progress in such a manner that is appropriate to the age, health, fitness and mental ability of each person.

                                    Since starting Rengokai I have reunited with various fellow Karate students from the early days and found this to be very invigorating.

Joining the SKDUN has provided my membership the mechanism to take part in European and international events. It is now some four and a half years since joining. In that time Rengokai members have attended seven World/European Championships, two Belgium Championships and four home championships plus several Referee/judging courses.    

At 74 years of age I had thought I would start to spend more time gardening and sailing, with of course personal training at home. However instead of this I am enjoying the challenge and hard work in developing the organisation and encourage/support the club Senseis in their own development.

                                    Since joining SKDUN the Rengokai members have developed their knowledge by attending and graduating through referee and Judges courses and examinations.

Dates of Dan gradings

Sho Dan                      17-12-1970                 Senseis Kato and Ochi

Ni Dan                         12-09-1975                 Senseis Enoeda, Kato, Tanaka, Osaka, Shirai, Kawazoe.

San Dan                      03-04-1982                 SEKU Grading panel and promotion

Yon Dan                     03-09-1985                 SEKU Grading panel and promotion; ratified by EKC, WUKO and English Karate Governing Body (EKGB)                                        

Go Dan                       05-03-1990                 SEKU Grading panel and promotion; ratified by WUKO & EKGB

Roku Dan                    12-04-1997                 SEKU Grading panel and promotion

Shichi Dan                  10-09-2006                 SEKU Grading panel and promotion

Hachi Dan                   6-10-2016                   SKDUN Technical Panel headed by Namiki Sensei.

Employment career:

1970                  Graduated BSC Hons, in Electrical/Communications Engineering.

1970 – 1976    Development Engineer in British Telecoms, London

1976 – 1980    Engineering training manager in British Telecoms, London

1980 – 1982    Engineering Manager of the International Retransmission Centre, London.

1982 – 2003    Lecturer in Engineering Mathematics and Electrical Principles, Portsmouth.

2003 – to date  Development of Karate in Holland, Portsmouth and the South coast.