As a martial art Kenpo is beguiling; it features the impact and directness of Karate yet the flowing movements and forms bear more resemblance to Chinese Kung-Fu. What makes Kenpo distinct is a practitioner’s ability to unleash multiple intricate strike, kick and block combinations at speed. It is an art that is constantly evolving with the times and one of its key figures is none other than Hanshi David Wilson.
Under the instruction of Soke Andy McGill, Hanshi Wilson quickly gained prominence as an exceptional Kenpo-Ka and along the way earned Dan grades in a variety of Okinawan and Japanese systems. Wilson took the evolutionary step and devised his own system of Bushin Kenpo which he has taken all over the UK and Europe. Today Hanshi Wilson teaches his Bushin system all over the UK and Europe passing his knowledge onto students eager to learn Kenpo.
Hi David, it’s great to connect with you. Thank you for taking some time out to share with us!
You’re very welcome Ramon, thank you for the opportunity to share my experience within the martial arts.
It’s our honour really. So have you taken a look at our site?
Yes I have, it’s a very interesting site with some great articles and interviews.
Thank you! Let’s start out with some basics if we may, can you tell us when and where were you born?
I was born in Milngavie Scotland in 1958 but from the age of 5 moved to Wood Green in North London where I lived until the age of 19.
OK, great and what is your height and weight?
I’m 5’ 7”, (1.70m) tall and weigh 12 stone 3Ibs (77.5kg).
OK! Now your first combat training came in the form of Boxing and Judo. How old were you when you first started training?
I started my training in the combat arts at about 7 years old.
What attracted you to those particular fighting forms?
Basically these were the only available combat sports within the area as a young boy that I could travel to.
Right. I understand as a boxer you fought in quite a few amateur bouts? Can you tell us a bit more about those?
Oh such a long time ago! I had quite a few bouts as a young boy; they were mainly inter-club for the Alexandra Palace Boxing Club. I also competed for 16F Air Training Corps on a few occasions and at a few evening events hosted by the Shoreditch Boxing Club. Generally mixed results but a very character building experience.
I can imagine! So what led you to take up Kenpo?
I gave up boxing under doctor’s advice at 13 years’ old after smashing three teeth in a street fight and for the next seven years concentrated on weight training and power lifting. It was a friend at training that talked me into trying a Kenpo class mainly as he felt that he needed a friendly face in the dojo. I had no idea what was involved in training in the martial arts other than my limited Judo experience from many years back. Within two lessons I was hooked and my friend gave up!
Interesting! Who would you credit then as having most influenced you in the martial arts and who would you consider your heroes or inspirational figures?
I do not have any heroes but so many fine budo-ka have influenced me over the many years that I have been practising martial arts. However, two men stand out and they are; my Kenpo instructor and close friend Soke Andy McGill and my Ki master Dr Hans Rolbeck (Soke).
Some respected names in the martial arts community there. OK, so, along with your amateur boxing bouts, have you competed in any martial arts tournaments?
I competed in a few area Judo competitions back in the 80’s. I was a silver medallist in the Dartford open back in 1985. All the styles of martial arts I have specialised in are either traditional or combative styles with no sport application.
I see. As well as Kenpo you started training in other martial arts including Goshin JuJitsu and Ki Aikido. How many ‘styles’ have you studied and what level did you attain in each one?
I have studied many styles but the styles I specialised in and graded in are as follows:
- Kenpo Jujitsu 9th Dan
- Bushin Kenpo 9th Dan
- Goshin Ryu Jujitsu 8th Dan
- Ki Jitsu 6th Dan
- Ki-Aikido 6th Dan
- Ki 6th Dan
- Close Quarter Combat 6th Dan
- Aikijitsu 6th Dan
- Nippon Kenpo 5th Dan
- Hapkido 1st Dan
Nice! That’s quite an impressive and varied list there. You seem drawn mainly to Japanese forms specifically Jujitsu-based arts, what is it about them that holds so much appeal?
That’s simply where I started out although I have trained in Chinese styles such as Wing Chun but not specialised in them. Indeed my Bushin Kenpo system is heavily influenced by the knowledge I received training in Wing Chun along with Aikido.
Good to know. We’ll talk more about the Bushin style shortly. So, when did you start teaching Kenpo?
I’ve been teaching classes since about 1985 however I opened my first dojo in Mottingham south London back in 1989.
OK. Can you clarify for us the difference between Kenpo and Kempo? It seems to be a source of confusion for some.
Actually, the only difference is in the translation of the Japanese Kanji to its English form. Both Kenpo & Kempo mean “Fist law” or Law of the fist”.
Well that’s that settled then! You went on to form the North Kent Academy of Martial Arts. Can you tell us how this came about and the decision that led you to form the academy?
Yes. Well basically with the experience and knowledge I had gained I felt that each system either had its weaknesses or was 100% combative. I wanted to slowly work on putting together a counter-attacking system which could be effective within our modern society while hopefully being seen to be within the realms of use of minimum force.
In the early years of the North Kent Academy I was publicly teaching Kenpo & Jujitsu side by side while at my private dojo slowly working on putting together my counter-attacking system aided by a few of my senior students.
Right. Then you went on to found your own system, Bushin Kenpo. Can you tell us a little more about its philosophy and application?
My Bushin system is heavily based on natural movement, movements of avoidance, parries and open hand strikes to strategic targets. The idea behind the system is the use of avoidance movements to avoid the attack to give you a tenth of a second to determine the severity of your counter attack.
Sounds fascinating. What has been the response to Bushin Kenpo?
My Bushin system is very well received on the international seminar circuit although on seminars I often teach traditional styles, the style that best suits the participants.
Make sense. So, how do you feel Bushin Kenpo has evolved since its creation?
It’s forever evolving and growing as do I.
As do we all do I suppose! A quick visit to the movies if we may, who do you most admire in the martial arts movie world? Can you give us your brief views on those you respect whether Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Donnie Yen, Jet Li, Sammo Hung etc or perhaps more of those from Japanese movies?
I have respect for these gentlemen however, I have never been influenced by martial arts or action movies, they are entertainment only in my eyes.
Sure, totally understand. May we ask from that entertainment angle, what are Sensei David Wilson’s favourite kung-fu movies?
Good choices there! So, how often do you train and what do your workouts consist of?
I don’t train so much at my age but teach approximately 18 hours a week and on seminars in mainland Europe at weekends. Admin unfortunately takes up much of the rest of the week.
I see. What’s the most serious injury you’ve ever sustained and how did you set about healing it?
Oh dear, what haven’t I broke! The silliest injury was two years ago when I injured my ligament in my right hand, that took nearly a year to heal with regular physiotherapy.
Strange sometimes how that happens! OK, so, what’s one geeky thing that people don’t really know about you?
I fly a drone.
Cool! What are some of your other hobbies outside of martial arts?
Aerial photography, cinematography and web designing.
A few of your favourite non-martial arts movies?
“Shawshank Redemption”, and “The Green Mile”.
Both solid, powerful stories. What in life do you really like and dislike?
Like: I simply love life and all the challenges it throws at me.
Dislike: Dishonest narrow-minded people and bad manners.
Hehe, don’t we all! What would you say is your proudest accomplishment so far?
In martial arts it is sharing my knowledge and experience and seeing my students progress and develop over the years. In general life, being a proud father and grandfather.
Wonderful. What are you really keen to accomplish in the next 5 years?
It’s not an accomplishment really but just to stay healthy enough to pass on my Bushin system to the instructors within my academy.
That’s a key motivation right there! Where’s the best place to go for people to find out more about you and your training?
That’s great! Well, thank you David for your kind participation in this interview. We hope it gives our readers a solid glimpse into the life of Sensei David Wilson. We wish you all the very best in continuing to teach the highest standards of Bushin Kenpo. Keep up the fine work and keep in touch!