The Ishinryu Story

Sensei Ticky Donovan

David ‘Ticky’ Donovan OBE is a renowned British karate competitor and coach. He was the coach and manager of the British and English national karate teams from 1977 until his retirement from that role in 2008. During his tenure as coach Britain won numerous European and World championship team gold medals. It was for his achievements as a coach that he was awarded the O.B.E. in 1991. Ticky Donovan currently holds an 8th Dan black belt. He is based in Loughton, Essex.

In 1973 Ticky formed his own style of Karate known as Ishinryu which means ‘All of one Heart’. This style has had significant competition success over the years and continues to be practiced at a number of UK clubs as well as in Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

On 28 March 2009 Karate England held a testimonial evening for Ticky, with many senior karateka present, including Steve Arneil, Dave Hazard, Tyrone Whyte, and Aiden Trimble.

Early Days

Ticky attended his first Karate lesson aged eighteen in 1965 at Tatsuo Suzuki’s Clapham Common club. Having previously trained in boxing Ticky found karate ‘slow’ and was ready to quit after his first lesson. However, he changed his mind after seeing a dynamic demonstration from the legendary Tatsuo Suzuki himself and from that point on was hooked. Ticky stayed with Wado Ryu for over three years, training with Tatsuo Suzuki and Len Palmer.

When Mister Suzuki and Len Palmer, unfortunately, they parted company both men wanted him to stay with them and Ticky’s loyalties were split as Mr. Suzuki was a great instructor and Len Palmer had helped Ticky in various ways. Ticky stayed with Len but did not forget Mr. Suzuki and the fundamentals he had been taught. When Mr. Kanazawa came over the group switched to Shotokan and at this point, Ticky trained with Kanazawa and Enoeda but fate was to play a hand again as Mr. Kanazawa went to Germany and Mr. Enoeda to Liverpool. To make matters worse Ticky broke a bone in his hand at the selections for the European Championships and decided to give up karate completely.

After six months out of the Dojo, Ticky got ‘the bug’ once more and the nearest Karate club to him was Steve Arneil’s Kyokushinkai dojo in Stratford, where a lot of his friends trained. Ticky found the atmosphere electric, changed to Kyokushinkai and trained in the style for nearly four years, taking his second Dan with Mas Oyama.

The Birth of Ishinryu

The Kyokushinkai years were a great time for Ticky but unfortunately splits came and so Ticky decided the time was right to leave and open his own Dojo; a Dojo that saw the beginning of the now famous Ishinryu style. Ticky remembers that he wanted a name that meant “open mind’ but when translated it came out as “empty head” and the idea was quickly scrapped. Meeting a Japanese Judoka while on holiday he came up with the name Ishinryu meaning “everybody with one heart” Ticky asked if there was an Ishinryu style in Japan and he said no, and Ishinryu was born. (Not to be confused with the Okinawan Isshin-ryu karate system), recognised by The World Karate Federation.

At first, Ticky simply used Ishinryu as a club name. However inspired by the suggestion of Mr. Kimura (a famous Shukokai instructor) Ishinryu was incorporated as a style integrating what Ticky had learned from previous karate instructors – Ishinryu became a unique style developed from Kyokushinkai, Wado-, and Shotokan.

The first Ishinryu club was formed in Dagenham. Other clubs soon emerged with Peter Dennis opening an Ishinryu club in Basildon; Will Verner opening in East Ham, and Tyrone White opening in Stratford. Administration in the early days of Ishinryu was taken care of by Fred Kidd, a well-respected friend of Ticky’s who had previously trained with him in Kyokushinkai.

Ishinryu today

Ticky Donovan still plays a very active role in running the style he formed in 1973. The original Dagenham Ishinryu Dojo still exists as the [Woodlane] club and has been joined by many others in the UK and abroad. Today Ishinryu Karate is taught as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

Since 1976 Ticky Donovan has hosted an annual [Open Summer Course] at Clacton in Essex. This course takes place in the last week of June.

Achievements as a competitor

British champion 1973, 1974, 1975

World team champion 1976

Achievements as British team coach

Consecutive World championship titles: Taipei 1982, Holland 1984, Australia 1986, Cairo 1988, Mexico 1990 and many more Individual and team titles – making him the best Worlds Best Coach