13 MAY 1989, Page 48

High life

Count me in


Ichi, ni, san, chi . . . ichi, ni, san, chi. . . . I hear it in my sleep and, come to think of it, throughout the day too. In Japanese it means one, two, three, four, and when Mr Enoeda thinks we're shirk- ing, it's ichi, ni, san, chi, go, roku, hichi, hachi, ku, ju. . . . The Japanese in gener- al, and karate senseis (teachers) in particu- lar, believe that repetition makes for good karatekas, and judging by this week in Crystal Palace's National Sports Centre, we must be getting pretty close to being perfect because I can now count up to 100 and then back to one without any trouble. In truth, however, this year's bunch would be better off counting up to 10,000. We are about 250 black belts, 100 brown ones and some lesser-coloured belts whom I'd rather not talk about. The biannual special karate course is organised by Enoeda sensei, chief European instructor, ex All-Japan champion and a man Kinnock should enlist in place of Trident and Polaris. Mr Enoeda befriended me when back in 1972 I won the Greek all-comers karate championship, and he has been MY chief sensei ever since. This year he is ably assisted by Mr Yahara, known as the greatest fighter not to win the All-Japan championship. The reason for this is be- cause Mr Yahara simply cannot stop an attack until his opponent is down and --- more often than not — out cold. In 513°11 karate it's a no-no, and this is the only reason why Mr Yahara has not won. But he's recognised by his peers as one of the greatest ever, and watching him this week ' know why. His special student — in the manner I am Mr Enoeda's — is my closest Greek friend and probably the best karateka ever to emerge from the Olive Republic, Dimitri Kazakeas, also an ex- champion. But no matter how one looks at i!' Westerners simply cannot do with the hands and feet what the Japanese can. And it has nothing to do with the way we're , built. Japanese karate is tough in a brute' manner but with a soft heart, as they say' and that is what makes good karatekas: In the West the teachers tend to take into account their pupils' sensibilities and other such crap, with obvious results. All this week Dimitri has been waking me IIP around the time of morning I usually collie. home, and we've been driving silent and nervous to Crystal Palace, knowing before the day is out we will have regretted not having stayed in bed. But when the day is over, I feel far better than I've ever felt when wrecked, or even when in love. In fact I'm seriously thinking of giving it all up and going to work for a sensei in a Buddhist monastery in Japan.

And I was about to sign up when last Monday, through a misunderstanding with my friend Caroline Kellett, I walked into a conference room and — as the old cliché has it — thought I had died and had gone to Heaven. I saw my buddy Charlie Glass standing on a podium and giving a speech, reading rather, to the most beautiful girls I have ever seen in my life, and that includes the times I'm wrecked and think that La Dworkin isn't so bad. As it turned out, I had interrupted a meeting of the Kit-Kat Club, the all-female club whose aim is to counter the mindless chit-chat of a cocktail Party by meeting with chosen guest speak- ers for informal talks. The members are quite international, but mostly up-market Brits. Space does not permit me more details, but if you want to see the best legs ever, look at Tania Fox, hear the sexiest voice since Circe's, listen to Catherine Fairweather, etc. etc. Needless to say, I ruined it for Charlie because the Salman Rushdie thing came up and I lost my temper, and now I'm on my way back to Crystal Palace to make amends by counting up to 1,000 million.