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Master Al Wharton reaches karate pinnacle

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Bermuda group: John Neal, left, Eugene Ford, Alaia Wharton-Davis, Master Al Wharton, Carlton Wellman, John O’Doherty, Harry O Simmons

Master Al Wharton has recently been awarded the highest rank of tenth Dan (Judan) in Uechi Ryu Karate Do at Winterfest in Orlando, Florida.

Wharton was presented with the highest rank in this Okinawan system of Karate by the International Uechi Ryu Karate Federation and is the first Bermudian to be honoured within the IUKF both in Bermuda and the United Kingdom.

Wharton started his martial arts journey in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1969 at the Mattson Academy of Karate under Master George E. Mattson, who brought Uechi Ryu to North America from Okinawa, Japan, after being stationed there.

After a year of training in Uechi Ryu, a classmate informed Wharton that he had seen a wonderful demonstration of Chinese martial arts, was invited to attend a training session and wanted him to come along.

It wes there that Wharton met Master Chin Bing Cheung, who became his teacher in Bak Sil Lum (Northern Shaolin). He then trained every day, with four times a week dedicated to Uechi Ryu and three days devoted to Bak Sil Lum, deleiberatley not telling either teacher he was practising another system.

Wharton advanced under both codes and competed in many kumite tournaments under the guidance of Jim Maloney and with advanced classes taught by Mattson. He continued to train and compete in both disciplines until he left Boston in 1975, when he returned to Bermuda.

Master Al Wharton, kneeling centre, upon his return to Bermuda

Upon returning to the island, Wharton set about perfecting what he learned from Master Chin, performing demonstrations and competing in many tournaments in Bermuda and abroad. He began teaching Bak Sil Lum in 1976, establishing Bermuda Arts and Fitness Academy, which was one of the first Martial arts academies on the island.

He supplemented that by also starting to teach Uechi Ryu Karate in 1977 and in his early years studied Shotokan Karate with Kazumi Tabata and captained and coached the Bermuda Karate team in many WUKO world championships. He later studied the fundamentals of Chen Tai Chi, and Hau Shan Pai Qi Gong.

Wharton has taught hundreds of students in more than 50 plus years on the island and has been recognised twice by the Bermuda Government for his contribution to martial arts, which includes hosting many tournaments, seminars and demonstrations as well as introducing some of the finest masters of martial arts to Bermuda's shores.

Wharton has also proven to be a teacher’s teacher, setting the foundation for the advancement of many of his students who have become teachers in their own right. He can be credited with introducing Kung Fu, and Uechi Ryu Karate to Bermuda with some the finest practitioners coming under his instruction.

MAster Al Wharton now

He was inducted into the Uechi Hall Of Fame in 1982 and created a DVD Sechin Combat Bunkai as part of his contribution to the Uechi-Ryu Community for his 8th Dan and contributed a Kata, detailed patterns of movements practiced either solo or in pairs, of his own creation called Kinsei at his 10th Dan Ceremony at Winterfest. For those reasons he was also awarded the Title of Hanshi, along with his Judan rank.

Master Al is now living in England with his family and has no plans to retire as he is about to embark on teaching his own online courses within the Mattson Academy’s online programme.

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Published April 04, 2024 at 7:59 am (Updated April 04, 2024 at 8:32 am)

Master Al Wharton reaches karate pinnacle

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