Melbourne’s martial arts expert, Shihan George

The appeal of martial arts to the manager of a martial arts gym.

George Kolovos is the manager of a gym that specialises in martial arts in the CBD. His students and staff know him as Shihan (teacher or instructor in English) George. Several times a years, accompanied by some of his students, as a karate instructor George will visit numerous countries all over the world, including Japan, which he visits every year.

-How long have you been in Melbourne?

40 years now. When I was 10 my parents migrated from Greece to Australia, and I’ve been living in Melbourne ever since. Those days I couldn't speak English very well, so I remember it was a little hard for me back then.

-So what do you do in Melbourne?

I manage a martial arts gym near Flinders station, where I mainly teach Karate amongst other things.

                          The gyms near Flinders Street station

-What do you like about Melbourne?

The beauty of the city. There’s a modest amount of green, which I think goes well with the buildings. The public transport is also a plus.

-And what do you dislike about Melbourne?

The weather. I don't think that needs any explanation.

-So tell me how you started your gym.

Well before, we were running Karate classes from a single room at the Melbourne city baths (sports centre). At the very beginning it was just six students in a squash court (laughs). It was just friends and acquaintances practicing together, and then by word of mouth gradually more and more people started to come, so we moved the class to a larger area. When I first started Karate, I had never thought about becoming a teacher, or having my own class. But as I started to teach others, I found that I came to enjoy it. At that time, I was working in a business, which I didn't really like, that had nothing to do with martial arts. And more and more I started to feel that I only wanted to work with Karate. Aside from that I also started to feel that Melbourne was in need of a place where people could learn martial arts like Karate properly. Thus that led to the establishment of this gym 11 years ago on this very location. We now have over a 1000 members coming to this gym. Our range of classes have increased, offering nine disciplines such as Karate, MMA, kickboxing, boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilin Jujitsu, as have the number of classes, which are now over 70 a week 7 days a week. 

                                       Karate practice

-Why do you think you have so many students coming to your gym?

First of all people have begun to realize the importance of health. There are far too many obese people in Australia. There’s a lot of fatty foods around, so many people need to exercise their bodies. But people soon get tired of regular training. Some people want to have some kind of goal, and want to learn something. I think it’s those kinds of people that come to this gym to learn martial arts. There are countless gyms in Melbourne, but there aren’t so many martial arts gyms.

-So what’s the appeal of Karate, and martial arts in general?

Karate training is very useful in building a foundation in many other pursuits. A balance of physical and mental strength can be achieved through Karate training, as well as gaining self-confidence. These aspects are important no matter what you do. For example, whatever job you may have, you need mental strength to endure the pressure, you need physical strength to continue working, and it’s important to have the confidence to believe you can do the job. In that sense Karate is useful in real life too. Training in Karate is also beneficial to doing other sports. Karate uses the whole body and has a variety of movements. Many of Japans tops martial artists come from a Karate background. As I said previously, the appeal of marital arts is that it’s not just regular training, but having a goal and working towards it. Plus the added benefits of becoming stronger.

                        Karate camp in Greece

-I hear you’ve been to Japan several times for Karate meets, what’s your impression of Japan?

The quality of martial arts in Japan is very high. I hope to raise the level of Karate in Australia to that of Japan’s in the future. I also like Japanese people’s character and Japan as a country. But I think the pace of Japanese life is too fast. It felt like everything moved at an incredibly fast rate.

-Could you give us a message for anyone considering taking up Karate or martial arts.

I say this over and over again, it’s important to have some sort of goal and train towards it. For those who don’t want to do just regular training like running or weights, but want to learn something or get something from their workout, then they should try Karate training at least once. And of course I’d be delighted if they came to my gym. We welcome everyone including beginners.

-Thank you very much.

【End of interview】
Three years ago I actually went to this gym for about three months. Compared to back then the number of classes and students has increased dramatically. George is kind, caring, and speaks to his students in a positive manner at the gym. I remember three years ago how he patiently listened to my poor English and spoke to me slowly. I believe that George’s character is also one of the reasons so many people come to this gym.

Interviewer:  Yuko Honbu
Translator:  Garrick Low

Melbourne martial arts 
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