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Cardiff Character: Steven Rosser

The shihan of Pontypool Goshinkwai discusses a 30-year legacy club and keeping samurai art alive in the valleys of South Wales

Steve in the kitchen of his home which he shares with his wife of 18 years, Barbara

Every journey starts with the first step. In the kitchen of his home which he shares with his wife of 18 years, Barbara, Steven Rosser talks of his life-long obsession with martial arts. It’s a journey that led him to goshinkwai and the path continues to this day.

Leaders of Pontypool Goshinkwai
Steven Rosser, shihan of Pontypool Goshinkwai Ryu Yawara Remmei, sits on the right. Mike Brown, soke dai, is on the left

“All I can say is from the very first time I walked onto the mat, that was it. The feeling was right, like returning home,” he smiles, a hand gesturing around the steaming coffee cradled in the other. “It felt good then and that feeling is still there.”

How did a born-and-raised valleys lad come to find an ancient samurai art? “Well, comic books are to blame,” Steve laughs.

He was first introduced aged eight after reading instructions on jiu-jitsu moves in an issue of Commando. He began practising on his bed. “The old kind of bed,” says Steve. “Made from metal and springs.” His father, imagining destruction or injury, searched for a club his eager son could join.

“As luck would have it, my dad discovered a judo club at the factory where he worked,” he explains. Here began a 59-year affair with martial arts.

A life on the mat

Despite a few diversions – exploring judo and aikido before settling on goshinkwai ryu yawara remmei in 1984 – Steve has always returned to the mat. “I was fortunate to meet people who could feed my interest and guide me on the way,” he muses.

“I was fortunate to meet people who could feed my interest”

Goshinkwai Certificates
Goshinkwai translates to ‘by way of body defence’
Goshinkwai Certificates
Images captured throughout 30 years of Pontypool Goshinkwai Ryu Yawara Remmei

In 2007, Steve earned his seventh dan in goshinkwai, a martial art that uses grappling and footwork. This enabled him to instruct others in this form of self-defence derived from ancient techniques.

“I remember starting to teach was daunting for me,” says Steve. “I wasn’t used to the limelight.”

Yet, he grew into his leadership role and became shihan, or technical advisor, of Pontypool Goshinkwai Ryu Yawara Remmei in 2007.  

“To be a caretaker of this legacy is almost a dream,” says Steve, eyes crinkling into a smile.

“You gotta kill your ego to be any good”

He demonstrates a few moves – a swipe to the jugular, a swift kick to the kneecap – with the grace of a dancer waltzing the floor.

“You gotta kill your ego to be any good,” says Steve. “A lot of people can’t do that because they are important to themselves.”

Celebrating 30 years of Pontypool Goshinkwai Ryu Yawara Remmei

Keeping the legacy alive

As the goshinkwai club turns 30, where does Steve see himself – and it – in 10 years? “Well,” he thinks. “In 10 years, I’ll be 77. How long should I continue to train before I step aside and let the youth take over? A tricky question. It would be a huge gap in my life.”

Steve is less sure of what the future holds for the club. Unfortunately, attendance has declined with three to five regular members attending twice-weekly classes. Steve remains hopeful it can be sustained for another generation.

He takes a final sip of his coffee, pausing a while. “Our name ends in ryu. In the olden days, a ryu consisted of a master and a student. Like a family,” he says. “The bonus of a small class is that individual strengths and weaknesses can be catered for and progress is almost guaranteed.”

Steve places his empty cup onto the kitchen counter. “No-one knows what the future holds but for our small band of brothers, the sun is shining.”

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