In Memorium - John Kastelan 5th Dan S.K.A
It is very sad to hear of the passing on one of our most valued and long term members of the Szlagowski Karate Association.
John could be considered a 3rd generation in Szlagowski Karate as his direct teacher and instructor was Mr Tony D’Andretti (5th Dan - Tasmanian Devils), who trained under Grandmaster Vladimir Pijov (a direct and the youngest student) of Grandmaster Waldemar Von Szlagowski (Founder and Father of Karate in Australia).
I say this in order to give a sense of priority that John was there in the early days and as such contributed greatly to the formation of the Szlagowski Karate Association - mainly holding the title of Public Officer - a pivotal role for our continuation, and attaining the prestigious rank of 5th Dan.
John allowed us to hold meetings at his household being centrally located to all members, and Francis was always gracious providing afternoon tea!
John was very generous with his time and remained dedicated to the progression of the SKA, realising that it is a fit vehicle for the advancemant of the human character and especially for the self control, determination, and self discipline for the youth.
John always attended Association gradings, assisting with the administration, refereeing, sparring, and was always on hand as a calming and authoritative figure.
We will truely miss this stalwart of Szlagowski Karate and will always remember with fondness his friendship, loyalty and helping and calming nature.
God Bless you my friend and God Bless Francis and your family.
With respect - Jeff Barnes
Memories of John Kastelan.
John was I believe a 1st Dan when I first started training, he was a big strong and skillfull man and generous with his time.
He was one of the Tasmanian Devils (Castle Hill NSW) founded by Sensei Tony D'Andreti.
Along with fellow Tasmanian Devils Rodney Weise and Ray Dalton he made many visits to my Teacher George Pandu's Agarthi Siddha school at Richmond where I was fortunate to train and they contributed much to the school.
All three of them had a great influence on our school, with particular emphasis on myself and Steve Erixon (co founder of the Sammyroo School) who started training at the same time I did.
John was a regular at the Park (where we would meet every 6 weeks for sparring)and was amongst the strongest there and while a very hard and tough man to fight there was no meanness in him, rather an interest in teaching, learning and commitment to S.K.A. John Kastelan was a very good man
John Kastelan did many things in his life apart from Karate - he was also an avid radio controlled model plane enthusiast with many models and served as a flight trainer and office holder in his club..
He ran a succesfull family business for many years, he taught at T.A.F.E, he was a head of a department of a fashion house for many years till his illness forced his retirement.
I also believe his family home is on land that was once his fathers property before being developed and a nearby street is named Kastelan St after his family.
Rest in Peace and Respect John Kastelan - With deep respect. John Cook
Although I hadn't seen John for a long time, I have very fond memories of Blacktown training days and grading's, his presence, warm nature, spirit and incredible experience was a pleasure to witness and learn from.
I send my sincere condolences to his family, and pray for their peace at this very hard and trying time.
Recently received from Kym Reid and Jinen Karate Jitsu S.A.
G'day John, hope you are on the mend.
A photo of John Harman who joined me for the grading of Brian Bellchambers as a Rob Dobson student who hadn't graded since 1984 when I gave him a Shodan. He's been training since 1972. Max Bell and I also started in 1972. John graded to shodan before me, he was training at the club before Rob took it over.
Take care, will speak to you soon
Mb: 0409 800 515
Rob Dobson was an early student of Wally Szlagowski, Wally turned the Club over to him in the late 1960's and which he ran till he moved to South Australia. In S.A he became pivotal in the development of Karate in S.A. in the early 1970's and was a founding member of the A.M.A.A.
The information below is provided by his student and inheritor Kym Reid (Jinen Karate Jitsu S.A.)
In the very early days Wally Szlagowski taught techniques he knew to his first student Peter Laszlo, Peter then optimised these techniques to suit his own unique physical attributes such as size, strength, speed and co-ordination as well as his psychological approach. In doing this Peter used all that Wally had taught him and then added new techniques or enhanced some of the original ones.
Both Wally and Peter taught Rob Dobson who in turn optimised these techniques to suit his own unique physical attributes and psychological approach. To this mix were added techniques learnt from visiting students of other styles and from Japanese sailors etc. There was a very rapid improvement in the standard of the Karate throughout the 1960s, not just at Blacktown, but over the whole of Australia and if you watched the newsreels of the era, the same applied to much of the western world. It is said by many ‘Old Hands’ that they considered the standard of Karate today as no better or in fact not as good as it was in the late 1960s and 70s (mainly because of the erosion of standards caused by ‘Political Correctness’ and threats of litigation).
Rob started learning Karate at Blacktown around 1962. Rob was a ‘natural’ at Karate and developed very quickly into a formidable fighter. In all of the interclub competitions held in those days, Rob never looked like losing a single spar, if you look at some of the videos from those days, you will see Rob’s lightning fast kicks, usually landing in some place other than where his opponent was blocking. After a number of years of outstanding performance Wally called Rob aside and said that as the ‘Top Dog’ (in Wally’s words) he should take the lead role in instructing the other students.
Rob took on this lead instructor role in Blacktown until he completed his University studies in the end of 1969, when he had to move to Adelaide.
About this time (1966) Rob had started his 4 year Bachelor of Engineering degree at the University of NSW. He took leave without pay to complete his first year studies. Also at this time he was approached by a business man by the name of John to teach Karate at a number of locations around Sydney. John had seen Rob fight in a number of interclub contests and considered him to be “Australia’s unbeaten Karate Champion” (newspaper advertisements). So during the 1966 to 1969 period at the peak, there were six clubs under Rob’s instruction, this dramatically increased the number students studying Szlagowski Karate. In those days the Blacktown club had 10 to 15 students of a Saturday afternoon, but with the new clubs set up under Rob’s instruction the total number of students was closer to 100. Although not all of these clubs survived as viable entities, the keener students followed Rob to one of his other clubs.
These students visited Blacktown to undertake their more senior gradings. Many of the Szlagowski “old timers” started at clubs other than Blacktown or Bankstown. One of the best attended clubs over this period was the club at St Barnaba’s church hall (Barney’s Club) in Broadway Sydney. This club was close to Central Railway Station and convenient to transport to all regions and also close enough to the docks to invite visiting Japanese sailor Karate practitioners to train with the club.
In 1967 Rob was awarded a cadetship with Weapons Research Establishment (WRE) in Salisbury S.A. (now Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Salisbury). This meant that he had to spend the long Christmas vacations working in Adelaide. In the 1967 November-December time-frame he met Graham Tuffee (graded first Dan under Moss Hollis) who was at the time running a Karate Club at the Salisbury Youth Centre. Rob was invited to be a guest instructor in Graham’s club for the duration of his stay in Adelaide. Rob visited a number clubs in the Adelaide area in the few months he spent there and concluded that Graham was one of the most proficient practitioners in that region and graded Graham to second Dan.
At the end of 1968 Rob again moved to Adelaide for the long vacation and again trained with the Salisbury Karate Club. At the end of 1969 Rob permanently moved to Adelaide. Graham handed the Salisbury club over to Rob as head instructor and for some time continued to train and instruct also.
In his late teens and early twenties Rob could lift more than his own body weight above his head with one hand and was considered to be very strong by his contemporaries; this strength added a lot of authority to his techniques.
While studying for his engineering degree at the University of NSW as a Cadet of the Weapons Research he began to apply the principles of Engineering and Physics to his Karate techniques, his University training also taught him to challenge the status quo and to examine each of the Karate techniques to see if they could be improved or optimised. Some examples of changes he made are:
In those days Karate in Adelaide was not up to the same standard as it was in Sydney and Rob’s contributions had a very beneficial effect on the standard’s of Adelaide Karate.
Rob taught many gifted and talented students in S.A. of whom he is justifiably proud. Of these Kym Reid has been carrying on the tradition / heritage in S.A. for many years (decades in fact) and more recently David Gooding who has been teaching in Brisbane. Others are Max and Brian
One of the things that concerns Rob is that the frequency and severity of violence today, largely fuelled by drugs and alcohol, is far worse than it was in the 1960s and 1970s, yet the sparring in Karate clubs is not as realistic as it was back in those times. The logical conclusion in his opinion is that Karate students of today will be much less able to defend themselves. That was not a criticism of the Karate instructors, but of the legal system which has put barriers in the way of ‘realism’.
Rob now resides in Canberra enjoying retirement and is currently producing a manual for 4 Wheel drive vehicle tyre specifics.
I drove down from Sydney with my breaking table to visit Kym Reid and his school - Jinen Karate Jitsu and had the pleasure of teaching a little of Szlagowski trademark Tamashiwari, mainly bricks but also some roof tiles and re-breakable boards were also used.
Safety aspects were coverd - ie use dry not damp material, cover your break as there is no point in successfully breaking a brick or tiles then cutting yourself to pieces on the result, also the importance of ensuring the break is set up to be stable as movement is "the enemy"
Kym did a brick and some tiles, Jessica Burford and several others broke their first brick, and several kids broke re-breakable boards.
We all had a good time - but we were faced with the usual problem that Tamashiwari brings - getting rid of the rubble!
From our S.A branch - Jinen Karate Jitsu. - Jessica Burfords Shodan grading from December 2013. Jessica is the first female Shodan of the Jinen branch of S.K.A.
From her Teacher Kym Reid. -
Jessica had trained for many years as a child and after approximately 7 years training at Jinen Karate Jitsu she earned her Shodan. No female had graded to blackbelt before so being the first in our lineage here in SA in 42 years is a great achievement. She currently is doing judo, Goshin Sen Jutsu and JinenRyu kenjutsu and has trained in Silat and a little BJJ.
In November 2013 there were two Shodan Grading’s, one from the Sammyroo school in N.S.W and one from the Jinen Karate Jitsu school in S.A. In my memorie this has not happened before – one male and one female, rather nice balance I think.
Joshua Ransom and Jessica Burford were the successful applicants, on the same weekend, over 1,000 km apart – but from the same family, from the same line and doing the same sort of thing.
I will ask Kym Reid Jessicas instructor to write about her success as I cannot do her justice.
Josh started with a strong demonstration of Tamashiwari showing but strong breaks, then his fights first three energetic then slow to show technique plus a two man fight, kata including Georges own Kata Agarthi Siddha and a demonstration on the Bo then questions from the yudansha.
He faught with spirit and was assisted by Luke Bottle, Ian O'Connor (who had to retire because of a split eyebrow from a clash of heads) John Sloan Darrin Anderson, Michael Whelen, Arron Waters Nicole Groger and Sam. His Bo demonstration showed thoughtfull approach and his Kata performed well. Congratulations are in order.
Josh started learning under our Teacher the late Grandmaster George Pandu and on his death came with John Sloan to Sammyroo. I am George's first student to reach shodan and Josh is his last, I felt emotional so I pulled rank and had a short symbolic fight with him - the first and the last together.
Maria Claeys was the S.K.A's first female Shodan gaining it in 1970. The following year she moved to Holland and only returned to Australia for a holiday a few months ago. We met and traded stories over lunch, I latewr asked her if she could relate something of her past experience and she sent this small (to us) gem - Thanks Maria. - John Cook.
Blacktown Judo & Karate Club 1964- June 1971.
In 1964 started with judo at the age of 14. My teacher was John Capper.
When I was 16 I had a back injury, the lower back so a time out for a couple of month’s.
Started judo again slowly ,but started observing karate. Shortly afterwards I had a talk with Wally and started with karate.
Wally took me under his wing, and I guess, I stayed under his wing.
Wally took it slow with me in the beginning because of my back. Gave me a training schedule to strengthen my back. Then the real training started. 3, 4 times a week. Saturday afternoon about 3 hours.
Bought the karate book “This is Karate by Masutatsu Oyama”, to practice at home.
Wally started me with all the basic techniques. I think very important, they are the balance for the rest of karate.
I remember another girl came to the club. I was so used to training with the guys, that I was to hard on her. So Wally gave me a talk, take it easy Maria.
Wally was a great teacher, I learnt a lot from him. He was like a father.
The training was hard sometimes, didn’t give in. First exercises, running 20 min, techniques, fighting, stances kata, fighting.
We trained mostly outside, bad weather inside, and at the beach. Mind over matter breaking bricks & roof tiles.
One guy used karate for street fighting, Wally heard about this. Took the guy separate for a fight, he never came back.
Wally gave him a lesson. I also remember Russell (Beha ) he used a lot of power and George he came from Poland (actually Macedonian parents & born in Aust) I think.
Trained a lot with Valdimir (Pijov) one day he said to me, I will make you a bet, if you make black belt I will give you a bottle of champagine.
So I received my Black Belt 23 May 1970, got my bottle of champagine with a black ribbon, and Chinese dinner afterwards. It was a great day.
From Rob (Dobson) I learnt to be more grace full with techniques. He made you practice until you did it perfect.
From George I learnt the kata tensho, the karate ibuki breathing method, and extra points fighting.
From Peter Laszlo) extra points with fighting and techniques.
My karate time at Blacktown were the best, great memories. We were like a family.
John it has been a while that I have written in English , so you may change things
Also it has been a long time, more than 40 years , sorry I have forgotten some of the names.
All the Best & Regards
Junior Brown Belt (second Kyu), Grading Wednesday 27/8/13. Brendon, Carina
and Joel Zahra along with Nicholas and Hayden Plew underwent their 2nd Kyu
grading. This is the first time that five members of two families
undertook a task together. All showed strong spirit in kumite and performed
tamashiwari well, Congratulations to all for a good respectable effort.
Apologies to Alan Thomas.
My “old timers” memory has surfaced again as I forgot to post about our last S.K.A gathering training day on July 17th.
The day was centred on a session given by Allan Thomas (Allan served many years as a policeman) on your legal rights and responsibilities in a self-defence situation.
For example I had always thought that if verbally threatened and genuinly felt in danger I had the right of a pre-emptive strike; this is not the case – there has to be physical action against me first.
Alan related that from his experience most real street fights rarely lasted more than 5 seconds or so and were often very nasty. He strongly suggested forgetting high kicks or fancy techniques, in real situations avoid going to ground if possible as your attackers mates would then kick the living daylights out of you, and “K.I.S” – keep it simple and therefore often faster and more effective. He also discussed the value of strong hands to grab, apply pressure etc. – all in all in my opinion a very important session. – Thanks Alan.
Maria Claeys. – A few weeks ago the S.K.A had a very pleasant surprise when Maria contacted us through our webpage. Maria was part of our early days and started training in 1966/67 gaining shodan in 1970 and so becoming the first woman to earn a Szlagowski
Black belt, her name is on the Szlagowski shield..
QUESTION – Maria is most certainly an early Female Karate Shodan – Is she
Australia’s first?? )
In 1971 she went on a six month holiday to visit family in Holland and wound up staying there till a few weeks ago when she to visit Australia for the first time in 42 years.
We, Vladimir Pijov (President), Rob Dobson (past President), Jeff Barnes (V/President) and I (Secretary) arranged to meet and have lunch with her in Chinatown. Vladimir, Rob and Maria apart from Peter Laszlo (overseas) are very early members, and as such were well known to each other.
Marie was “just one of the boys” at the time. She did the same training as all others, whether a 2 mile run, sparring or training in the sea at Palm Beach. She acquitted herself well in kumite – earning a reputation for strong low kicks and was part of a strong group of martial artists. When asked about how challenging it was to earn shodan – she related she felt her 1st kyu grade was harder – she kept both arms covered for two weeks till the bruises faded.
She trained in Shotokan when in Holland and enjoyed that, when asked about the difference (between S.K.A & Shotokan) stated they used lower stances which slowed them down and she felt that S.K.A was the more effective in kumite.
It was a pleasure to meet and greet Maria.