10 years on...IOGKF remembers Shihan David Lambert

By: David Lambert – IOGKF Australia

A Mans a Man for all that...



10 Year memorial tribute

dad copy.jpg

1957 - 2000




On May 27th, 2000 the IOGKF suffered a great loss with the passing of senior instructor, Sensei David Lambert, who at the time was an IOGKF executive member and Chief Instructor for Australia. 10 years on from that tragic day, we pay tribute to a sorely missed IOGKF member...

Watch the tribute video & photo collection for Shihan David Lambert below:

Profile on Shihan David Lambert:

Shihan Lambert was born on the 7th of November, 1957 in the county of Fife, in Scotland. He was the second son of five Children to John and Mary Lambert.

He left school in 1972 to work as an apprentice bricklayer and it was around the same time Sensei Lambert discovered Karate.

Sensei Lambert’s older brother John had been training in Karate for two years under instructor James Johnston. The training was very severe and the club, which was run at the Fife sports Institute, was under the control of the British Karate Federation (BKF), which was headed by Vernon Bell.
A few years later the BKF diminished and the club fell under the Scottish Karate Board of Control (SKB). James Johnston, after seeing a demonstration of Goju-kai was put into contact with a man named Peter Rousseau - this was the clubs first introduction to Okinawan Goju-ryu.

Over the next few years, Sensei Lambert, along with Brother John and friend James Flannigan, would be instructed by Mr. Peter Rousseau, Mr. Hiromi Suzuki and Peter’s brother, Mr. James Rousseau.

In 1979, in Poole, seeing the need to form an International organization due to his growing reputation and following, Master Morio Higaonna visited England and formed the International Okinawan Goju-ryu Karate-do Federation (IOGKF). An organization dedicated to the preservation of the true Karate and philosophy of Miyagi Chojun Sensei. This would be the beginning of a lifelong friend ship between Master Higaonna and Sensei Lambert.

See the rare footage of the 1996 IOGKF Asian Pacific Demonstration video of Higaonna Sensei & Sensei Lambert below:

Sensei John Lambert and Sensei James Flannigan formed the Scottish Goju-ryu Karate Association and became chief Instructors for Scotland, under the IOGKF.

Sensei Lambert tested for his Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Alicante, Spain the following year under Master Higaonna  - this was the first time anyone from Scotland had ever tested outside of the UK.

He sat his Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt) in Leopoldsburg, Belgium the year after, shortly before taking up residence in Australia.

Not long after arriving, he met his wife Angela and eventually built a home in Goulburn and opened his Karate Dojo at JT’s fitness centre, which was located in Knox Street, Goulburn.

In 1985 he journeyed to South Africa for the 4th IOGKF World Gasshuku where he sat his Sandan (3rd Degree Black Belt), again under Higaonna Sensei.

Four years after Sensei Lambert sat his Yondan (4th Degree) and his Godan (5th Degree) five years after that.

Sensei Lambert also received a rare honour when he passed the test for Shihan (Masters degree) under Higaonna Sensei in the early 1990’s. This honour has only been passed onto a selected few, many of which are still IOGKF instructors today.

Before this in 1991, Higaonna Sensei appointed Sensei Lambert as Chief Instructor for Australia and a few years after that, IOGKF International executive committee member for the Asian Pacific and Oceania region. He was also promoted to Chief Referee for the IOGKF tournament circuit and held the position at the 1998 IOGKF World Championships in Okinawa.

 A dojo was soon after built onto the back of his Goulburn home and the Lambert ‘Bujutsukan’ Dojo was established. Sensei Lambert nurtured many great students in his dojo who were successful tournament competitors and who have gone on to open their own clubs.

Sensei Lambert also had the honour of teaching and demonstrating at large scale events all across the globe, including in Okinawa at the 1998 World Budosai Festival and many Miyagi Chojun Festivals in North America.

See Highlights of Shihan Lambert teaching his speciality of Yakusoku Kumite below:

Shihan Lambert fell ill in early 2000 and sadly passed away in the early morning of May 27 the same year. He left behind him a gaping hole in the IOGKF world, but a wonderful legacy for all students to follow, through his home dojo and famous training methods.

The amazing friendship shared between him and his Sensei, exists still with his remaining family. A large stone sits in Lambert’s dojo from Higaonna Sensei with a special engraving. Higaonna Sensei also sent Lambert his Rokudan (6th Degree) certificate after his passing.

As a tribute to Shihan Lambert, the IOGKF created the Shihan David Lambert memorial trophy. The award is presented at the IOGKF Miyagi Chojun Festival to the person who has shown the most spirit throughout the training event. A replica of the trophy sits in his dojo in Goulburn, Australia.

Another tribute is the IOGKF Australia ‘Shihan David Lambert club championship shield’. Around once a year an IOGKF tournament is held in honour of Shihan Lambert and used to promote friendly relations between young dojo members.

Sensei Lambert's final actual Black Belt was left to his family. In November 2003, he was inducted into the Goulburn region sporting hall of fame. Although it was made clear Karate is not a sport, his son David John proudly accepted the award on his father's behalf. The Lambert family have placed Sensei Lambert's belt on display in the Goulburn RSL club, where the hall of fame is located, along with a list of his achievements and a large photograph. The belt sits alongside awards from Olympic medallists and 1st grade Rugby League and Rugby Union players.

Memories of my Father – by: David John Lambert – IOGKF Australia

It is hard to believe that 10 years have gone by since my father’s passing. In some respects it feels it feels like only yesterday and in others it feels like an eternity since he has been with us. He was a very kind, strong and talented person & instructor and I feel very honoured to be given the opportunity to write some memories about him here.


My personal involvement in Karate has been since a little after my third birthday, however my father had a Gi made for me when I was about 6 months old! So I guess you could say he was keen for me to practice Karate. I didn’t really understand what Karate was and what my father did as a young child. All I knew was there was this part of the house that I never went into, where a lot of loud screaming and thumps came from and that was where Dad went after he finished work. I now know this part of our house to be our Dojo and those loud screams to be kiai’s.

I began training soon after with a friend of mine from pre-school. From the moment we were at training we were under strict discipline and when I look back the training we did was very intense for our age - Lots of basics, Kata and Kumite. But when I think about how my father taught, he really had a great vibe about him that excited us for training and we really tried hard not to let him down. I can remember being really little and asking him ‘When do I stop calling you Sensei?’ He smiled at me and said, ‘How about when we’re in the Dojo you call me Sensei and here in the house I’ll be Dad?’ and that’s the way it was. When we were in the Dojo he was the Sensei and I was the student.

After a while I became a bit of an assistant to my Dad at the Pee-Wee and later the boys (over 10 years old) classes. I helped teach Kata when needed and I was taught how to referee Iri Kumi. I would always open up the Dojo before he would arrive. I would change the date stamp, sweep the floor and make sure everyone would behave until our Sensei would enter through the back door. Before this, he would always cut my sister, him and I a piece of cheddar cheese and pour us a large glass of orange juice.

My father taught at our Dojo 5 nights per week, before this he would work at a large distribution centre from 6:00am – 3:30pm. By the time he drove the 15 minutes home, he only had 45 minutes before the afternoon classes started. I would always be sure to have our family computer loaded up so he would have time to have a cup of tea with my mother and then answer a few emails.

When I was around 8 years old, I became quite lazy with my training. I just showed up, but didn’t really put in much effort. I remember sitting on our front lawn one summer’s day with my father, we were fixing my bike tire which I had punctured for about the 7th time that week. He said to me out of nowhere ‘do you want to keep doing Karate? Because I don’t want you there if you don’t want to be.’ I could have very easily turned and said I think I’ve had enough, but I felt like a quitter and I really felt like I would have let him down. I told him I wanted to continue. I think this was one of the turning points in my own training. I realised I had become lazy and began putting in the extra effort. It was also around this time that I began to learn more about the Kata’s from him. I also began attending more sessions.


He was a really powerfully built man. He had no wrist, only forearm muscle and his legs were like billiard table legs. He also had an incredibly strong grip and was very agile for a man of his weight and size. I think a lot this came from his gym work and hojo undo training. From my research both here in Australia and back in his homeland of Scotland and from discussions with my uncle and people like Sensei Jim Flannigan and Andy Anderson, their early years of training were quite demanding. Sensei Jim described the early years as being like ‘stuntman training’. It was incredibly physical. Kyu grading’s included 10 mile barefoot runs, sometimes through the snow, and they were constantly struck at full force. I was told that between my father, my uncle and Sensei Jim, they dreaded when a new student showed up, because they knew their instructors would want to show off by really laying into them. So it is no wonder that they all developed a strong ‘never give up’ spirit and became extremely tough.


006.jpg 004.jpg

If it were not for what I can only describe as ‘super human strength’, both my sister and I would not be here today. I will share a few stories that stand out for me.

Firstly, when our home Dojo was first build in the early 90’s, there was no plaster board put up on the inside of the roof. It was just open, so you could look up at the trusses and framework of the building. After a few years we decided to go and plaster board the roof closed. The actual boards were ordered; each sheet was about 10 metres wide and 5 metres high and they were stacked against the back wall of the Dojo.

One night after training had finished my sister, my father and I entered the Dojo through the back entrance. We walked across the floor, past the plaster boards to the office, got whatever it was we needed to get and began to leave. As we left, my sister and I were playing and running around a bit. We were in front of the plaster boards. Our stomping and jumping must have wobbled the boards as they started falling forward, with us right underneath! My sister and I both saw this happening and froze with fear and I remember closing my eyes and dropping onto one knee. We heard a really loud bang, but we didn’t feel anything. I remember opening my eyes, turning and seeing the biggest pair of eyes I had ever seen looking back.

My Father, like any father, had thrown himself in front of the boards to protect us – we should have been crushed. He ordered us to ‘move and get right out of the way’! The combined weight of the boards, some 500+ kilos had nearly put Dad on the floor, but he never lost his footing. I don’t know how, but spread his arms wide and shuffled his feet slowly out into Shiko Dachi. I remember as clear as day him looking at his left hand, then his right, then taking 3 short sharp breathes and then pushing back with all his might. Moving just from his hips, he pushed the entire weight of the boards back against the wall and secured them. It still sticks out in my memory to this day as one of the most incredible physical efforts I have ever seen.

I remember another episode when we were quite young. My grandmother lives up a small hill and around the corner from our house. My younger sister & I went visiting one day and rode our push bikes. Afterwards we began riding home; as we came down the hill, my sister Tara began to pick up a lot of speed. Being only 5 years old at the time, her bike wasn’t a ‘push peddle’ one. It worked on the principle that if the back wheel moved then so did the peddles!

 As she roared down the hill, the peddles began going too fast for her little legs to keep up with. At the bottom of the street there was a large box trailer parked on the side of the road and Tara was heading straight for it. I really felt helpless because I knew she was going to hit it and I knew she was going to be hurt very badly. Out of nowhere, like in a superhero movie, Dad’s car screeched to a halt in the middle of the street – I still remember the noise of the hand break being ripped on! Out of the car he flew at what seemed like 100 miles an hour. Right before the trailer, he got in front of Tara and not only did he stop her, but he picked the entire bike up off the road with Tara still on it. My sister also testifies to having seen the biggest eyes in the world at that moment.

When he would practice Kata or if he was reacting to an attack, his eyes would look like they had electricity flowing through them. It was like the glare of a tiger as it attacks it prey.


Someone once said to me that my father had a switch. When the switch was off, he was like Clark Kent, mild mannered – a nice guy. But when the switch was flicked on this powerful beast would erupt out of nowhere and he would be like Superman. It was at many times, scary to watch. When this look was on his face it was hard to look him in the eye.

His speed is still something I am still in awe about. In one corner of our Dojo is a set of shelves where all our Nigire Gam jars were and are still to this day, stored. Sitting on the middle shelf at the time were two Okinawan lions. Whilst teaching a girls class one night, which I was doing some extra training at, he was explaining about Kata at the opposite end of the Dojo. I have no idea what caused it, but a loud creak came out of the middle shelf and a second later it began to collapse. That switch flicked on again and my father took off running. He somehow managed to catch a Nigire Game Jar under each arm. As if this wasn’t good enough, with the two Okinawan Lions still falling towards the ground, out went his foot like a Kansetsu geri and somehow he managed to catch and balance one of the lions on his foot.

I remember later that evening when we went home how he was so disappointed that he had been unable to stop the other lion from hitting the floor. I think everyone at that class thought that his effort was reasonable enough! The Lion statue that hit the ground only lost a small chip out of its base and both of them still have a place in our Dojo today.

As a father he was really great, but he was quite strict on me. I guess you could say I was quite a soft child and a bit of a show pony and I think this used to push his buttons a little. I don’t think that was what his plan for me in life was. But I will admit, I did used to push the buttons from time to time.

When he fell ill, it was quite a shock. He kept high spirits and soon after he was diagnosed my Uncles John and James came out from Scotland. This was the first time I met Sensei John Lambert. Shortly after they left for home, the diagnosis became the worst. I really saw some true examples of courage, bravery and determination. I also witnessed the true love between my parents. My Mother did the most courageous job nursing him in our home and nothing could ever repay her for this. He fought very courageously and he stayed really strong mentally, right until the end.

I remember while he was ill, I had a little run in with a kid in my street. I came home quite angry and fired up. He made me kneel next to where he was sitting and he lectured me and calmed me right down. He never lost his personality and the martial arts aura that surrounded him.

Not long after his passing, Higaonna Sensei, Alanna and my Uncle came to stay with us for a few days and pay their respects. I cannot express how much I appreciated this. Higaonna Sensei and Alanna bought me a Jackie Chan playstation game and Higaonna Sensei actually sat on the floor with me for hours while I played with it!

During his stay Sensei wanted to train in the Dojo. Both my Uncle John and I would have loved to have trained in the Dojo with him, but we could tell Sensei wanted to be alone. Sensei trained in the Dojo for a couple of hours, leaving a big split in our hard oak Makiwara. Afterwards he returned and told my mother that he could feel my father’s presence while he was training. This was the ultimate tribute to my father.

After his passing, the Dojo was left to a few of the senior students, all of whom have since moved on. I began teaching classes at the Dojo in 2004 and I took over as the head instructor in 2007. It is a great honour for me to continue my first Sensei’s traditions in his only Dojo, which is the oldest martial arts school in our area. This is something I am really proud of.

Before I practiced Karate because my father did, but now I practice because I choose too. Higaonna Sensei has gone out of his way to treat me as if I were one of his own and I can never repay him for not only the kindness he has shown me, but also for the hard training he has put me through. Many IOGKF senior instructors like Nakamura Sensei, Sensei Bakkies and many more, as well as our Australian Instructors have shown me similar treatment and I thank them for this. My uncle, Sensei John Lambert also continues to support me in every aspect of my life and has really taken me under his wing.

To me, it doesn’t really feel like my father has left because his spirit thrives through his Dojo and the IOGKF family around the world.

Thank you for this opportunity.