Grandmaster Ronnie Colwell

Group of men wearing karate clothing in a room with Japanese banners

The Liverpool Shotokan Karate Club 'A' team, 1982. Courtesy of Andrew Colwell.

28 Jan 2016 - 27 Apr 2016
Free exhibition, no booking required

This display looks at the incredible life of Grandmaster Ronnie Colwell.

Born in Toxteth in 1934, Ronnie’s interest in martial arts can be traced back to his life as young boy working on the docks in Garston, after being befriended by a mysterious Japanese dockhand. This chance meeting sparked Ronnie’s interest, leading him to Japan in the 1950s.

On his return to England he established the Liverpool Shotokan Karate Club (LSKC) in Tagus Street, Toxteth, turning an old abandoned boys mission into a world famous Dojo. After its closure in the 1980s, the club has a new home at the Florence Institute, also in Toxteth. Today, the LSKC continues to be a place where everyone is welcome, maintaining Ronnie’s desire to fight racism and social divide.

Ronnie's Samurai armour, made by tailors to the Japanese Royal family, is on display in the Museum of Liverpool's Atrium case.

On display alongside the armour there is a wooden banner called a Bushido, a Japanese word for ‘the way of the warrior’. The Bushido is a code of moral values that samurai warriors must live by, endorsing qualities such as courage, respect and loyalty. A man of enormous dedication, Ronnie was a member of the house of Hikari and this emblem can be seen on both the Bushido and the armour.

The display represents a life of accomplishment and features Ronnie’s 10th Dan certificate. The highest accolade possible in his field, Ronnie was one of only three people in the UK to earn this honour, which was bestowed on him in 2011.

To accompany the Atrium display there is also be a Locker Stories display in the Wondrous Place gallery, featuring several objects that highlight key moments in Ronnie Colwell’s life. This includes medals from the 1959 South East Asian World Championships, where Ronnie was the first ever European competitor, and won several gold and silver medals. In addition there are items from his time as Head Coach for the Junior Olympics gold medal-winning Great Britain karate team from 1984.

Ronnie died in 2015 but his legacy endures as one of the founding fathers of Ju-Jitsu and Shotokan Karate in the UK.