Recounting a personal journey back...
George Ciechanowicz is the founder, developer and chief instructor of the Kin Shin Kai. He first commenced his martial arts training in 1972 at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia where he still currently resides. His first lesson was conducted by Shihan Eddie Emmin even then a living legend of Australian Kyokushin Karate.
He found Kyokushin unsatisfying and particularly unsophisticated so when his dojo instructor Con Athanassiou came back late 1973 having switched affiliation to the Goju Kensha of Master Tadahiko Ohtsuka he was not the slightest bit put out.
On the contrary Goju Kensha was everything Kyokushin was not and he continued his training with great enthusiasm and in late 1978 was awarded his Shodan (first level black belt). Around a year later he took over as instructor of the La Trobe Uni club.
In 1980 he found the Goju Kensha training in Australia was being taken in a sport karate direction by the senior student at the time. In an effort to re-affirm for himself what correct practise was he made his first visit to Japan in 1981 shortly after achieving his 2nd dan. He trained for 7 weeks at the So Honbu (headquarters dojo) in Tokyo and met a number of teachers who guide him to this day, the standout being Master Tadahiko Ohtsuka himself.
During this visit he not only re-affirmed his understanding of proper technical development but also received instruction in Beijing 24 tai chi, Ba Gua Zhang of Wang Shu Chin and the Ba Dua Jin chi kung exercises. This commenced a love of the Chinese internal martial arts which continues to this day. Along the way this has brought him under the influence of such internal masters as Yang Ming Shi, Chen Xiao Wang, Wong Fu Lai and Zhu Tian Cai.
IN 1985 he made his second visit to Japan with Jim Sumarac and David Zarb and trained not only in the Goju syllabus but also in the three Naif’hanchi kata and the Chen 38 and New Frame cannon fist tai chi forms. The latter two at the time were only recently learned by Ohtsuka sensei himself at the newly accessible Chen village in China. Subsequent to this visit George was awarded 3rd dan.
However from around this time he became dissatisfied with the training in Australia which he saw as being not really rooted in practical self defense. He realized that despite their lip service otherwise, this lack of reality applied to all the karate styles he had encountered at the time. Over the next 10 or more years he slowly developed ideas and methods for how he could transform the wonderful principles and tools he had learned from master Ohtsuka into something very practical.
While he achieved his 4th dan in 1993 and his 5th dan in 1997 his two truly exciting martial moments of this decade were the seniors visiting from the Goju Kensha so-honbu dojo (particularly Ohtsuka sensei himself), and also meeting Patrick McCarthy. McCarthy sensei had seen the same inconsistencies and during a 10 year stay in Asia trained and researched to find what had gone wrong. This included a wealth of first hand experience and first hand training with scores of Japanese, Okinawan and Chinese masters. As a result of his research he clearly re-articulated that karate and its kata in particular were originally designed to deal with the common acts of everyday violence wreaked throughout history by one person upon another.
The point was that it wasn’t necessary to transform karate into a practical self defense method but rather that original ‘Old School’ karate was designed to do exactly that. It was just a matter of working to reconstruct this kind of karate practise based on a number of things including investigating what the few remaining masters familiar with old school karate could teach us.
In 2004 George was awarded 6th dan, and in 2011 7th dan in karate by Hanshi McCarthy.
Shihan George continues to systematize his own teaching in this practical direction and continues to be passionate about the martial arts as a tool for self defense and wholistic health. In particular he is keen to help drive the renaissance in classical ‘Old School’ karate.
He firmly believes that the martial arts cannot be regarded as teachings set in stone but rather must constantly develop and improve. Indeed this happens uncosciously even with those who would like to believe otherwise as they inevitably do & teach things a little differently without being aware of it. Better to take conscious control of the process than have it happen accidentally and indiscriminately.
George derives great satisfaction from seeing his own students develop and he looks forward to one or more of his students eventually moving the development of Kin Shin Kai far beyond what he himself has achieved.
He still draws inspiration from Ohtsuka sensei and his teaching and traveled to Tokyo in 2007 & 2008 to further that connection. He regards the late Hanshi Ohtsuka as his karate father and is extremely grateful for the mentoring and example which enabled him to maintain his martial arts passion.
With regard to the debate on lineage ("who was the masters geunine successor?") shihan George would counsel that it is useless to debate who was anointed by the Master or, if you like, who is the real ‘Keeper of the style’. This has been particularly a bone of contention in the Goju Ryu lineage.
Anyone who has been in the position to contemplate a successor will realize that it is impossible to pass on all of ones knowledge and experience to any one person so there will never be a successor who will know all that the master knew although undoubtedly there may be talented students who get it much more than others.
Thus while it is better to learn from the best possible, judge the person by who they are and what they are teaching and don't get dazzled by their 'affiliation to the master' and lineage.
In fact 'affiliation to the master' often stifles the ability of local teachers to adapt self defense practises to suit local needs. A local Japan affiliated Karate organisation upon being questioned as to what that affiliation meant said "We do what the Japanese tell us!". They were proud of this and didn't see the real issues that those seeking a vibrant, practical self defense Martial art would come up against in such a situation.
Shihan George has explored many other martial arts during his journey including Aikido, Iaido, Ju Jutsu, Judo, Silat, Tae Kwon Do, Yamaneryu Bojustu and a variety of karate.
Along the way George has also trained, qualified & practiced in a range of generally wholistic health modalities including acupuncture, various tactile therapies, sport medicine and principles of coaching and management of issues resolution. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in music & philosophy and also a Diploma of Education.
He is married to Grainne, a feisty Irish redhead from Sligo and although they have no biological children he regards all his students as being his karate children and wishes the best for them accordingly.