My name is Joel Castasus, and I am the dojo owner of the Shorin Martial Arts Bristol Dojo (Kodokan Matsubayashi Ryu Bristol).
I'd like to share a little bit about my motivation for learning and teaching karate and how it has impacted my life, shaping me into who I am today.
During my childhood, I faced persistent health issues, leading to frequent visits to the local clinic and hospital. I was notably frail and underweight for my age, which I attribute to a combination of unfavourable genetics (my brother passed away from bone cancer at the age of 7), substandard living conditions (my father was a heavy smoker), and insufficient nutrition due to economic constraints. I distinctly recall being selected to participate in the School Nutrition Program, a memory that brings a sense of joy as I perceived it as a chance for free food. At the time, I lacked an understanding of why this was necessary. Adding to my circumstances, I am naturally an introvert—though neither I nor those around me were familiar with the term then—and this aspect presented its own set of challenges as I navigated through my upbringing.
My introverted nature, coupled with my physical vulnerabilities, made me an easy target for bullies. To sum it up, my childhood was marked by adversity. My aspiration was to gain strength, achieve good health, and ultimately become a kind of superhero capable of overcoming these challenges. Although this ambition may sound naive, it's important to remember that I was just a child, and this dream held a certain logic. In my childlike reasoning, martial arts appeared to be the pathway to strength.
My introduction to Karate occurred when a classmate invited me to a free Karate session at a local church hall in the Philippines. That first experience was quite daunting, and the memory that lingers involves overcoming difficulties. Given my vulnerabilities, lack of athleticism, coordination issues, and shyness, the endeavour was tough. Yet, the Sensei leading the session was exceptional—approachable, humorous, and welcoming—and the senior students exhibited the same spirit. As the weeks and months passed, the challenges persisted, but I persevered, training consistently until the difficulty became familiar, almost normal. As the saying goes, the rest is history.
Over the years, life's changes and my own exploration led me to explore various martial arts styles, including Taekwondo, Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), kickboxing, and sports karate. These endeavours exposed me to diverse individuals and groups, and I gleaned insights into different dojo philosophies, martial arts styles, and instructor approaches. My quest revolved around discovering techniques, embracing simplicity, admiring elegance, practising natural movements, striving for effectiveness, delving into history and culture, and honing the art of mentorship.
My journey of seeking and finding eventually led me to Matsubayashi Ryu Karate (Shorin Ryu), which resonated with my character and fulfilled my aspirations as both a martial artist and an individual. As the owner of a dojo in Bristol, I bear the privilege and responsibility of introducing you to authentic Okinawan Karate to the best of my knowledge and abilities. I am keen to share the art that transformed and enriched my life, in the hopes that it might hold the same potential for you or your loved ones. Please don't hesitate to reach out to me, as everyone is welcome.
On November 20, 2022, I embarked on a journey to Okinawa, Japan, to undergo my Sandan (3rd Dan) examination. I am delighted to report that I successfully passed the test and received a renewed license to teach authentic Okinawan Karate and Kobudo in Bristol. The grading panel comprised distinguished figures such as Yoshitaka Taira Sensei, 10th Dan, WMKA president and chairman of the Okinawa Karate Federation; Toshimitsu Arakaki Sensei, 10th Dan, Vice-President WMKA; and Iwao Tome Sensei, 9th Dan WMKA. Stay tuned for forthcoming photos and additional details.
Matsubayashi Ryu Bristol Dojo Owner
"Karate reminds me of where I came from...
and showed me where I can go"
- Shorin Bristol