By Simon Kenny
Can you tell the readers about your martial arts background?
Well previous to martial arts I was involved in a lot of weight training and that is what really led me to taking up the martial arts. I was about 14 years old at school and one of the lads there called Alf Whenman, he was always an upright kind of fella with a big chest and walked with a spring in his step and I asked him, “how can I get a big chest like yours” ? and he got me doing press ups, I remember the first day I did, 2 sets of 3 and 1 set of 2 and the next day I was sore and stiff and when I asked him what that was about he said it was just my muscles were lazy, keep doing it and it will go away. So I was doing press ups every night and then eventually I saw an advert in the paper, “Charles Atlas” so I sent for the course. I Think the first course was chest work, press ups between chairs, all kinds of dyamic tension exercises and sit ups. I carried on with that for quite a while, then the local school, the youth club there had a weight training room so I started doing weights, eventually I ended up taking the class.
Then whilst at a place I used to work, Waterworths, green grocer shop, this massive 20 stone fella walked in called John Cuppello, I think at the time he was Britain's strongest youth, he was only 19 years old, 20 stone, bench pressing about 410 lbs at the time. Now he took me down to Sunfis health studio’s that was in Stockport, Manchester, that’s where I met, again Alf Whenman, Stef was in charge, there was a fella called Alex who took over later, but there was some giants there, Earl Maynard he won Mr Universe 1964, Paul Winter he was a Mr Universe, they have both done films, Earl has been in quite a few films, Paul Winter was in a film with Mark Forrest or Lou Degni called ‘Machiste’. There was a fella called Big Joe squatting about 500 or 600 lbs, Big Calvin, he was massive. Kevin Healey, he was a jiu jitsu ka, his son John actively trains with me now. Another one of the big guys was Bruce Russell, he used to do the cabaret circuits, I always called him Britain’s Mario Lanza, fantastic voice, in fact his son Robert is a damn good Thai fighter. I used to go to the gym by push bike or bus, all the guys would be there come rain, hail, sunshine, monsoon or earthquake. That is, was and should be a lesson to anybody, persistence.
This the led to the martial arts?
Yes, I sent for a course by Leung Fu called ‘Kung Fu Karato Atado’. That was a course I sent for from Malaysia. Anyway I hung a punch bag between the old air raid shelter and the toilet and was doing all my punches and elbows and that kind of stuff. I even erected a pole in the corner, with an old eiderdown wrapped around it as a punching post. I was still continuing with the weights and I started going to a place called Princess road school in Moss Side, I met another great weight lifter called Ken Podesta, at the time he was the British power lifting champion and the British Olympic champion both in the same year, that was in the light weight class. From then on my training changed, I went more for the power sets, I won’t give the routine away( laughing), that included the bench press, the squat and the dead lift.
Then I came across an old magazine article by John McCallum from an old American magazine called’ Strength and Health’, and it gave an article on fractional relaxation and auto suggestion. Basically it was relaxing your body in stages from head to foot and gave a deep state of relaxation and then you suggest to yourself, you know to your sub conscious mind, maybe I’m going to increase my bench press or my squat by 5 lb. I did this every single workout and also Ken had a different way of teaching for power training, totally different from anything I had ever done before and with a combination of Ken’s routine and this fractional relaxation my bench press went from 135lbs to 270lbs and my squat went from 170lbs up to 370lbs.
Anyway I saw some article on the martial arts, Karate and I thought the martial arts was all to do with the mind you know all the mystique involved with it. So with me doing all this fractional relaxation and mind over body to increase my performance in sport, I thought I’d give Karate a go, I thought that would be the next step to self development.
So You took up Karate?
Well I worked with my father at a place called Ferranti’s in Wythenshawe Manchester, and there was a lad there called Roy Askell who was doing Karate. So my dad introduced me to him, you know I wasn’t quite sure what was involved so he jumped up and kicked the door frame (laughs), and I thought wow I’d like some of that. Then he said, look throw a punch and I thought give over man, I’m bench pressing close to 300lbs I’d rip your head off, anyway he said no just throw a punch, so I did do, it was only a wild swing, I didn’t know how to punch and he just blocked it and kicked me in the face, and I thought that was pretty impressive, he was only about 8 stone.
So there was a beginners course starting in Manchester, Milton Hall, Deansgate and the instructor there was a guy called Martin Stott, teaching Wado Ryu, I had to wait three weeks to start. When I first walked in my first impression upon seeing about thirty people wearing the white suits and red belts( I didn’t know they were only beginners). Marching up and down and the crack of the cloth and every on shouting I was really impressed with it.
When was that?
This was April 1968, I trained there for a couple of months then one of the top brown belts named Bill Taylor, he was opening a club at the YMCA, Peter Street Manchester, so I went with him. He was teaching Wado Ryu and I think there was a bit of Shotokan with it.
Then in about 1969, Shukokai came to England, there was Chojiro Tani, and Shigeru Kimura and basically we changed over to Shukokai. Then Bill Taylor left and I just took over the gym at the YMCA. Also I was training on a Tuesday and a Thursday with a guy called Roy Stanhope at the TAVR building in Ardwick Green, Manchester so basically I was teaching the class what Roy was teaching me the night before. This went on for quite a while and then all the great’s started coming down, Roy Stanhope, Peter Consterdine, Pete was brilliant, Mick Shuttleworth, you know there was quite a few people coming down there.
Then just before taking my black belt I started taking private lessons with Peter Consterdine. I had some great times with Pete, it really, really opened me up, more responsible for that free way of thinking, free way of doing the sparring it was totally different from the normal contest work. I used to spar with people like Graham Noble another great martial artist and then I just started playing around with other systems then I did Tai Chi with Rose Lee, that was organised by Danny Connor, I was surprised to see people like Terry O’Neil in the same class, I think everybody was starting to open up in those days, this was about 1973.
Then I started training with a man called Sit Be Wong, his system was called Hoi Lam Kuen or Hai Nam Chuen, it means South China Fist, it was his own family style. This was a combination of Thai boxing, Choy Lay Fut, Wing Chun, Tae Kwon Do. I was doing that for quite a while in fact Pete Consterdine came to some of the classes too. I had the gym at the YMCA at the time and then I opened another one on Chester Road in Manchester and in walks Alf my old school chum who first started me off with the press ups and along with him came a lad called Tony Hattersley. I had only known him for about a week and I said I fancy going to Hong Kong and he said I’ll go with you, so about three weeks later we were in Hong Kong.
Did you train any martial arts over there?
Well we met one of our friends there called Yu Min Gwong, we went to Bruce Lee’s house, he had died about 2 months before and did a general tour of all the martial arts clubs in Hong Kong, the Wing Chun clubs, people who had actually trained in the same gym as Bruce Lee. We spent about three weeks there and then went to Thailand, then back to Hong Kong and then we went home. Then about four months later I went back to Thailand to do the Thai boxing, I spent about three months there training in the Thai.
When I came back I met a Korean guy called Kim and I was doing Hap Ki Do and Tae Kwon do for a few months, all in all I’ve been back to Bangkok about 8 times. On the last trip the intention was to do a complete tour of Indonesia, Malaysia, Jakarta, Java and come back through the Philippines, but Tony had been there before as a suspected hippy (laughs), it was wrote on his passport in either Thai or Malaysian I can’t think so he wasn’t allowed through so we just spent more time in Thailand.
Then in about 1980/81 I was working at Oriental World, the martial arts shop in Manchester, run by Danny Connor and his sister Pat, I met Alan Lamb and started doing Escrima and Wing Chun. We used to do 2 hours in the morning and 1 hour at night, then I’d go home for an hour and recap on all the stuff.
Prior to that I’d done a few seminars with Joe Cheng, Simon Lau, he used to do privates over Danny’s shop, there was me, Danny, Pete Consterdine. I just did different martial arts over the period, then probably about the same time about 1980, that old friend of mine John Cupello, was running a gym on Deansgate called the Apollo Health Centre and a guy called Cliff Twemlow used to train there and Chris Quentin who used to play Brian Tilsley in Coronation Street. At the time Cliff had just finished writing a book called ‘Tuxedo Warrior’ and he was looking for somebody to help him with the fight scenes for the film and John put my name forward, I suppose my short film career is thanks to John Cupello. He put me in touch with Cliff to work on some stick routines for ‘The Tuxedo Warrior’ and I ended up going to Africa to do the film.
Who starred in the film?
There was John Wyman, he was from one of the ‘Bond’ films, there was James Coburn’s son, Holly Palance, that was Jack Palance’s daughter, Roy Boyd from ‘Crossroads’, Carol Royal and also quite a few famous African people too. Ken Gampu, he had done quite a few films.
So did you have to join equity?
Well I already had my equity card since 1972, as I had done a bit of TV work and extra work for Yorkshire TV and BBC, so I just renewed my equity card and off we went to Africa.
So where did your film career go from there?
After filming in Africa we came back to Manchester, doing some film transfer from 35mm to video at a place called ‘Holliday Brothers’ in Cheadle Hulme and they saw the fight scenes and asked me if I would do some instructional videos. I did four instructional video’s on the ‘Master Class’ series, only very basic, nothing much to speak about. From there I did a film in Manchester called ‘GBH’ about the life of a doorman. We did quite a few other test shots for films like ‘Hogans Champion, ‘Mason’s War’, ‘Harrison Moments’, then eventually we got off the ground with a film called ‘Target Eve Island’ and we all went to the Caribbean and shot it out there. With us went John Ryan, he ended up going to the states and buying a ranch. He has done quite a few films and quite a few Walt Disney film, ‘The Last Warrior’, ‘Delta Force 3’. He did a film with Sean Connery called ‘The Medicine Man’, Then he came to England and did a stint in Coronation Street and I think he has just finished a film in Australia. So he’s doing very well for himself now.
Then we went off to Ibiza to do a film called ‘The Ibiza Connection’, that was with Fiona Fullerton and a few other well known people, I can’t recall their names now. The next film was called ‘The Eye Of Satan’, that was filmed in and around Manchester, my only recollection of that is walking across a river at 7 o’clock in the morning with snow on the ground freezing to death (laughs). Then we did ‘GBH 2’, but at the time there was a programme on TV called GBH, so we couldn’t use the name so I think we changed it to ‘The Manchester Mandate’. I remember doing some fight scenes in the high rise flats in town, I think it was Africa or Asia House, and we were doing some fight scene near the lift and there were fire extinguishers and all sorts going on and somebody happened to pass and think it was real and called the police. (laughing). After that I did a nunchaku instructional video with a pal of mine called Max Beasley, he’s been in quite a few films with me. Then it kind of fizzled out. The last film I did was about 4 years ago in Alderley edge and Style country park. That was about a load of hoodlums roaming through the woods doing various damaging things and general fight scenes. Then unfortunately Cliff Twemlow died, so I didn’t bother doing any films since then.
You are now regarded as JKD man, what prompted you to move in this direction?
Well I started martial arts in April 1968, and a few months later I’m on a train going down to Angelsey with my wife for a holiday, and I happened to pick up a copy of Black Belt magazine and on of the articles was called “Is Kato’s form of Kung Fu genuine” or something like that. I had never even heard of Bruce Lee before but the article was of great interest to me. Then about 2 years later, I picked up a copy of Black Belt magazine and there was an article by Bruce, called “Liberate yourself from Classical Karate”, and it just blew my head away. It was just the philosophy behind the whole thing, and I started following the concepts laid down in the magazine, that’s why as I said before I went to Hong Kong and did the Wing Chun, the Thai Boxing, the Hoi Lam Kuen, I did Tai chi but that didn’t really blend in with what we were doing. I did Hapkido, Tae Kwon Do. But I noticed that the Hapkido, Tae Kwon Do and Karate were pretty much the same, but the Wing Chun was a different avenue out. Then I was doing the Escrima, that kind of assisted the hand work for empty hand. About 1981 I left the Shukokai movement, I was kind of doing my own thing anyway, I guess I was like the black sheep of the martial arts. In 1981 Pete Consterdine and Danny Connor had Danny Inosanto over at the YMCA where I was teaching, but unfortunately I missed that I was in the far east again training.
Then in about 1990 a really good friend and my instructor Rick Young had Dan Inosanto over to his club in Edinburgh and that’s when it all started really. He also had seminars with Rick Faye who was the assistant to Larry Hartsell on his seminar tours. Then Rick started coming down to my gym, he’s been down about 15 times. Thanks to Rick, he let us have Rick Faye from the Minnesota Kali group, who is a full instructor under Dan, he has been coming to the gym doing seminars for the last 8 years. We’ve had Larry Hartsell coming once or twice a year for a good 5 or 6 years and we’ve had Daniel Lee you know so my JKD has come from there, I’ve had private lessons with each of those. I’ve got to really thank Rick Young for everything, as regards the JKD, he has really been a helpful person and he is one of the most talented martial artists I have ever met, he can put his hand to anything. Thanks Rick, thanks for everything I really owe you. He is really the reason why I have been exposed to JKD and luckily, thankfully about 3 years ago he made me an instructor under him.
So your lineage in the JKD family tree comes through Rick Young ?
Yes. Bruce Lee only certified 3 people in his whole life, that was Taky Kimura, Dan Inosanto and James Yimm Lee. Rick Young is a full instructor under Dan Inosanto and I am an instructor under Rick, so I get my lineage down the L.A line. So we have Bruce Lee to Dan Inosanto to Rick Young to myself.
Dan Inosanto is not a recognised member of the newly formed Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Nucleus. Because various disputes. What are your thoughts on the nucleus?
It’s not that Dan is not a recognised member, I think he doesn’t want to be in it(laughs). Its up to the individual they can choose whatever they like. Some choose Thai boxing, some choose shotokan, some choose tai chi, some choose Jun Fan JKD. See in those early days it was a system, Jun Fan is a method, a progression, What was being taught in Oakland was totally different than the stuff he was progressing through and evolving through and teaching in Seattle and L.A. He was changing every month. So what I think could happen ion the future is that the 68 group might argue with the 64 group and the 64 group might argue with the 62 group, I mean he was continually evolving. If you’re going to say your teaching the original Jun Fan, what year are you talking about? The 62, the 64 or the 66?
I think about 67/68 when he formed the term Jeet Kune Do, that’s when it ceased to become a method and became more of a personal development and Dan was with him almost right up until his death still training with him, so I think he would have the handle on things. The JFJKD nucleus, the head is obviously Taky Kimura, but the rest of them, even though some had trained with Bruce, well everyone of them has been trained and certified by Dan Inosanto.
What do you consider to be the most important aspect of the martial arts as a whole?
Different people train for different reasons. Some train to improve their health, fitness, some do it for co ordination. Some train for the sports side of it, some train for self defence, some do it as a social thing just to get out of the house for a few hours, there’s many, many reasons. So really martial arts can be all things to all men. I think if your going to train someone martial arts for the art side of it then you would have to teach them differently to someone who is going into tournaments or contest. Then you would train a person differently for survival. You take whatever you want from it. It’s like Rick Young always says, “a lot of people don’t know why they are training”, they don’t know why and what for, so I would sit down and think, what you want out of martial arts and train towards that goal.
What in your opinion do you consider to be the most effective martial art for street combat?
Every martial art, stripped of its non essentials would be effective for street fighting if you’ve trained properly with it. All martial arts hurt if they are done right. It doesn’t matter if it’s a grappling art, judo , jiu jitsu, wrestling or if its karate, boxing or Thai boxing, they all work and they all hurt if its done properly. I think its just down to the individuals attributes. For example a lot of people do a left hook in boxing but there’s people like Tyson and Henry Cooper who have took it to a higher level. Like Guru Dan says there’s a time when tai chi will beat wing chun, there’s a time when wing chun will beat tai chi. There’s a time when a grappler will beat a boxer and when a boxer will beat a grappler, again its just down to the individual, the attributes. That’s why I like the JKD, because they don’t just train the technique, they train the attributes, co ordination, speed, strength, timing, spatial relationship. They don’t just walk around saying move faster, they will break down speed into, physical speed, reaction speed, inter action speed, perceptual speed, mental speed, they will break the whole thing down and work in each individual part. A lot of systems don’t bother with body mechanics, a lot of systems don’t have a lot of footwork drills which are very important.
If I was to choose one, myself, personally and I’m not saying this is the best one I would choose the Kali Silat, especially the close quarter stuff. There are quite a few tapes out by Paul Vunak, ‘Headbutts, knees and elbows’ and ‘The straight blast’, I don’t think you can go far wrong with those, they are the first 2 I would recommend, for close quarter, that’s in my personal opinion but there again it depends on the individual. Spinning kicks are great, but if your caught in a phone box they are a waste of time. Close quarter work is good but if your 20 yards apart and he’s holding a stick, you’ve got to cover the ground to get up close, so I don’t think there is any one effective or any one truth. It’s like the moon shines on everybody. There’s an old Burmese saying that not one system or style or country or religion or whatever has a monopoly on the truth. A good saying from Danny Connor as well “when it rains everyone’s flag gets wet” (laughs)
Do you have a set diet or take supplements?
Yeah I take supplements everyday, I take all groups. Fish oils, they give you vitamin A and vitaminD. B complex, that’s an anti toxin, vitamin C, that’s an anti toxin, I have about 1000 mg’ s a day and vitamin E or wheatgerm, that’s also an anti toxin. I also have various protein drinks, if I am ever doing any weight training I will always include a protein supplement, because any sort of a workout without protein is really a waste of a workout.
How often do you train?
I still do the martial arts about once or twice a week, I’ve just started back on the weights again with a pal of mine Karl Tanswell. I’ve been on the weights for about 4 months now and my bench press is up to 270 lbs. I hope to get back to my original strength when I was a nipper, I did eventually get to 315 lbs so I’ve got 45lbs to go. I do the weights twice a week. I run in the mountains and the hills twice a week, that’s for the heart and the lungs. The run takes about 1 hour and 50 minutes, I’ve no idea how many miles it is, but I enjoy running in the hills, it’s a lot better than pounding the streets, sucking up car fumes. I’m going to start doing yoga again now, with me getting a little bit older now, I mean I’m 53 now. I don’t particularly feel old but I think you should change the way you train when you get older I am going to go more for keeping the body supple. As long as you’ve got your heart and lungs working and your keeping you strength up and your keeping supple I don’t think you can go far wrong really.
What do you consider to be you greatest achievement in the martial arts?
The first thing that springs to mind, or what’s foremost in my mind is being certified in JKD by Rick. I can remember in the early seventies when I was teaching Shukokai, I used to sit down and draw imaginary posters of Jeet Kune Do and think I’d love to be an instructor in that, it would be great just to be a part of it. Now 25 years later thanks to Rick its possible, it’s something I’ve always wanted for the last 25 years. I mean in those days it was in some far off country, the States, it was just an impossible dream come true. All the seminars we’ve had off Rick Young, Rick Faye, Larry Hartsell and going to seminars with people like Dan Inosanto its just opened up a whole new vast area of learning. I know your supposed to chip away at the unessential’s and if we did that we would be left with about 6 techniques which is good, in a confrontation if you got too many things going through your head, if there is too much clutter you won’t react. It is best to have one decent punch, one decent elbow, one decent knee and one or two decent kicks. Headbutt’s, knees and elbows, close range, just work on the essentials. What people don’t realise when they come in the gym and see millions of techniques is that they are training methods, again its attribute building. I mean nobody’s going to go through the movements of hubud or lap sao or chi sao in the streets or in the gym in sparring, we know that, it is just a training method. If you’ve been pounding the bag for hours a day for years and years, there comes a point when you think, well today I’m not in the mood for blasting, I’m a bit down a bit tired but you want to train, do footwork drills, do the hubud, do locking drills, stick drills, timing drills, reaction drills, speed drills, you know it’s just a way to train.
My only other great achievement, well it’s not really for me because I’ve not achieved it. But when you get people coming in the class not fit, no co ordination and 6 months later or a year later you see someone who is like a trained athlete, that’s brilliant, but there a again that’s something they have achieved. I wouldn’t say it’s gratifying, I’m not in it for gratification, I’m just in it to help people and see them grow.
Have you any personal goals or ambitions?
No, I haven’t really got any; I am just doing what I have always done. I’ve got a gym, I don’t have to get up at half 6 in the morning and work from 8 till 5, then come home and watch TV until I fall asleep, go to bed, wake up go to work etc. I’m just, I’m free and that’s what’s most important to me. Ambitions, well different training methods, to elevate the level of fitness and co ordination in the gym, that’s what it’s all down to really, getting new things that will improve students, friends in the gym, it's great. Nothing to do with going out and being violent or getting in the ring and beating peoples brains out, its just peoples personal growth, that’s the important thing.
Do you have any personal philosophies and beliefs?
Again, I haven’t really got any. I know sometimes when I am in the gym people say I am a bit of a philosopher but I have never really thought about that I just say what comes to mind. As far as beliefs go I have never really thought about it. If you’re talking about religion, I’ve not really got one. I am certainly more of a spiritual person than a religious one and if I was to follow any faith then it would be the American Indian way, you know being one with the land, Wakantanka, that’s why I probably spend so much time in the hills. To understand that you’ve got to spend 7 years up in the hills on your own, it cant really be put down on paper, it is more of a personal thing. It reminds me of an old Zen saying. You’re hanging off a tree by your teeth that are what the feeling is. Then someone asks you what it feels like, and you have to open your mouth to answer, then you fall off the tree and you’ve lost the feeling. That’s why sometimes I prefer to go to the hills on my own, because peoples heads are full of too much clutter about the stress of work and the bills they have to pay and that’s not the kind of feeling you should go to the hills with. You have to be in tune with things, like I said I do go there for a run, but when I am running I am not thinking well there’s 20 minutes gone, there’s my heart rate, there’s my aerobic session gone or I’ll just knock 30 seconds off this timing thing, that doesn’t even enter my mind. I see people on pavements, pounding away sucking in car fumes or I see people training to knock 30 seconds of a run to be the best, I think you should just run through woodlands and hills with a big smile on your face (laughs). It’s difficult to explain really, you have to experience it. Having said that everyone’s experience is different because we are all different.
How would you like to see your JKD or your club developing in the future?
Like I said before different training methods, I’m not looking for different techniques just different ways to train them. It’s like Olympic records in the 1920’s, since then they have been broken every year so you know, just different ways to improve oneself personally, not for a contest. The only contest really is with yourself. Just different training methods, not because we are bored with the ones we have got, its variation on the same theme.
To be quite honest with you its not something I think about. A thing that’s happened with me throughout my life is that if you want something or need something, be it a grappling instructor or a silat instructor or a stick instructor, you just want something and suddenly out of the blue it turns up. I think really wanting something and you cant have it, you get really upset with yourself and depressed, things just seem to happen when you. want them to.
Are there any criteria involved when studying JKD or can anyone be taught?
The beauty about JKD is that any one can learn it. Like I said before there’s no point in a 25 stone fat man wanting to jump up and learn a style that involves gymnastics and spinning kicks, he’s got to go where his personal attributes lie. There’s no point in a 7 stone girl a style that’s based purely on physical power and strength, she’s got to take a different avenue of approach. Therefore everyone’s JKD is different, it’s a personal growth a personal development. Some may lean more towards the grappling, some might lean towards footwork, evasive techniques, some might like to do explosive attacks, some might want to be a counter punch fighter, some are hitters, some are kickers, but that’s obviously in the gym, out there on the cobbles it’s a different story. Yes anyone can learn, even somebody in a wheelchair, obviously they couldn’t take part in a class session they would have to have private tuition. That’s why at the gym we are trying to cover everything for everybody. I handle the class sessions in the evening. Karl Tanswell takes the private lessons for people with special needs or children. Some women prefer to have a women’s only class, that’s taken care of. Some people want private tuition because they work in the evenings. We have weapons classes. Then there’s Mike Tesler who takes the spiritual development classes, which is good for the kali as the 12th level is spiritual. He also teaches meditation, spiritual awareness and the healing arts, Chinese, American Indian and Tibetan. At least seven are training to be healers under mikes guidance. So JKD is for everybody and at the gym we try to cater for everybody. Also in the same building there is Master Chu teaching Hung Gar kung fu and lion dancing and also Chinese herbal medicine. There is a tai Chi group. Jeff who takes the Praying Mantis classes. There’s Karate group and Kung Fu defence group with Lee Tran and the owner of the building Ken Van Dang who has made it all possible for us to be under the same roof, right in the heart of Manchester. Ken also has a martial arts shop next door.
Do you screen your students, are you selective?
No, not really, the beginners course date is set and the people turn up. You can always tell the good from the bad, the good ones get in the bad don’t its as simple as that. I worked on the doors of nightclubs for 8 years every night and you kind of get an instinct for people. When I walk in a room straight away I know who’s who and what’s what, it’s just an instinct you get when you have lived in that environment for 8 years. The nutter’s don’t get in, definitely not. Why I say that, I’m not thinking I wont teach him he’s a nutter, its that it upsets the balance, the harmony in the gym, ours is more of a family group, where people can go to have fun, to relax. People can be intense when they train, but anybody who upsets the balance, they’re not on. See you don’t get a chance in life to choose your family, to choose your brothers and sisters or your mother and father, you are just born into that situation. But in the gym you get to choose your martial arts brother or sister and that’s great, you can choose your family in the gym and I choose who I let through the door. I have loads of different ways of politely pointing people somewhere else. I wont go in detail in case somebody comes in(laughing), they will know what I’m doing. But I have ways. I suppose in a way I do screen them but not in an interview sense it’s just an instinct, I’ve been doing it 30 years.
What have you gained out of martial arts?
Freedom, definitely on the list. I’m free all day every day to do what I want. I used to work before. I’m not saying martial arts isn’t work, but I used to have to get up go to work, come home fall asleep etc. Then I got made redundant and that was great. I just opened a little gym with about 6 or 7 students, I was getting by, but the important thing was I was free. I did go back to work once for about a year, that was alright but I would be getting driven to work by my dad and I used to think I was missing something. I’d see people jogging as I am going to work (sighs). Then one day I was sat in work at about half past 4 and I looked at all the people and all the bickering, all the politics all the little things that made no sense, and I realised I would be stuck in there until I was 65 years old and then I would be put out to pasture. When I first went back there the first thing I asked was “where’s Fred”, a fella I used to know. “oh, he retired and died 2 weeks later”, wow. I looked down and I seen Peter working everyday and weekends for his beer and cigarette money. It seemed his whole life was spent in those four walls. I realised I was making somebody else rich and fat. And I thought no, that’s something I could never do. People say I’m lucky, that I’ve got such a free way of living and I say no I made a conscious decision about 30 years ago. Its not going against the establishment, I wasn’t’ saying “no I don’t want to do that”. It was just a conscious decision about the way I want to live my life. After all you’ve only got one. That’s the way I want to do it, the way I have done it.
Have you achieved all you want or is there is there something more out there?
Again its something I never think about. I’m sure something will crop up that I want to get into, but you can guarantee it will turn up, that’s always the way its been. As regards there being something more out there, well it’s not something I can really answer, I don’t really think along those lines. Things just happen by themselves. If something turns up or if there’s something I want I know it will do.
What is the most impressive thing you have ever witnessed in the martial arts?
In the early 70’s when I was young I saw Shigeru Kimura perform a kata called ‘Annanko’ and it just blew me away, the sheer force and speed, I have never seen anything like it up until 4 or 5 years ago when I was hosting a seminar for Rick Young. He happened to be showing me something but rather than seeing it being done on somebody else it was being done on me, and I can tell you the man would literally blow you away. It was like a rapid machine gun fire of headbutts, knees, punches and elbows. Rapid fire, boom, boom, boom ,boom, boom, boom ,boom, but behind it was this dumper truck coming at you at 70 miles an hour, just awesome, incredible. That is the most impressive thing I have ever witnessed, just incredible.(laughing). The man’s awesome.
What are your opinions on the UFC and the like?
Well you cant really call it a fight it should be called a match, because one person has the option to walk away, in a fight you have no choice. I cant really see the point in watching two men beat the shit out of each other. Its like amateur boxing, there’s two guys pumping shit out of each other and there’s guys sat round tables eating steak and drinking wine. You might as well go back to the coliseum days, no I’ve no interest in things like that. Obviously some of them are brilliant athletes, like the Gracies and the Shamrocks, but there’s no point me going in, I’d probably get wasted anyway. Its like a quote from Rick Faye, he says people like the Gracies don’t threaten him, for the simple reason that he is not going to get in the ring with them.
Who do you hold respect for within the martial arts?
Well its going to come up again, Rick Young, I have to thank Rick for everything that has happened to me, opening the doors, arranging the seminars. I wouldn’t have met people like Dan Inosanto, Larry Hartsell, Paul Vunak, and the rest of the guys. I have never known a man so modest, almost humble as Rick Young, he’s awesome. This sounds like a love affair doesn’t it( laughing). I have just got total respect for the man, total.
People like Dan Inosanto 62 years of age, rolling around on the mat with Mechado’s wearing his green belt. A man who places himself in situations. Like he might do a savate class because he knows that’s one area that might need working on. Brilliant. Brilliant.
What are your thoughts on Bruce Lee?
I could write a book on that. Briefly, at the time 1968- 1972 he was doing things not a lot of people were doing . Now I am not saying there were not other people doing what he was doing. But he was the instigator. He was the reason that contact kickboxing came around, the Joe Lewis phase. Brilliant. Brilliant. The philosophy, training methods, like Dan said he was 50 years ahead of his time, definitely.
How long will you go on practicing martial arts?
I suppose until they put me in my box(laughs). I have never known any other way really, I think I was 23 when I started doing martial arts under instruction, I just don’t know any other way. There’s sometimes when I don’t train for 3 or 4 months but I am still showing things in the gym. I mean I don’t really show things hard and fast and pose in the gym. I am not there to show what I can do, I am there to show the art and help people grow. How long will I go on, until they put me in my box.
What is the worst advice you have been given?
Trust a woman(laughing). I don’t know, I have been given loads of advice over the year that has been crap, but I know its crap so I just ignore it. In one ear out the other. No I can’t answer that.
What is the best advice you have been given?
The best advice I got was from the Black Belt magazine article by Bruce about 1972, ‘Liberate yourself from classical karate’. That was the best advice and I have never looked back. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with classical karate, but it is where it has led me in my life, where I have finished up, what I am doing now is because I liberated myself. These days it seems people may want to liberate themselves from classical Jun Fan, but I won’t go into that.
What is the best advice you would give to up and coming martial artists?
I don’t know because I don’t know them personally, each individual will need their own advice appertaining to what is their strength or weakness. You can’t generalize on something like that, no disrespect to your question. I have people phoning me up asking “how long does it take to be proficient in the martial arts” and I always answer them the same way, its not advice I can give over the phone because everyone is different. Anybody who gives you a specific date is lying. You can’t give somebody a time limit unless you have spent time with them. You do get a feel for people’s bodies. I can stand next to someone and get a feeling for them. I’m not psychic but you just know, it’s hard to explain but you just know what they need to improve. So when I am walking up and down the line I am not dictating some style or doctrine, I am giving them personally what they need at that moment, its something you know by experience.
Do you have anything to add?
Yes, when you asked me what advice I would give to up and coming martial artists. Well for people who are just starting out I would say get a list of most clubs in your area and go and watch and get a feel for the gym. Is it a big macho gym where people are smacking their shins and beating each other up? Is it a nice environment where you would go regularly? Look at the training methods, does it suit what you want? Do you want it for martial art? Do you want it for survival? Is it cloaked in mystery, where you have to wait 10 years before they show you a secret form, or some other bull shit or is it a genuine place where people are going. You see really, like I said before everyone is an individual, some people prefer the environment of a tai chi class. Some prefer the environment of ring training, some may like the mystique of practicing forms and kata. Others like the physical approach like doing bagwork and others like to put on the motorbike helmets and really go for it. I would have a look at a lot of gyms in your area before you choose. I always say to people when they come to my gym “ have a look first, see whether you like it whether it suits you” if not I can guide them in the right direction. I’m not a big advice giver but I’ll give you a couple of quotes that may help.
First from Rick Faye “Relax, have fun, enjoy yourself and train hard”.
Another quote from Rick Faye as regards teaching “ The art of the teacher is to be a communicator and guide, this involves the ability to reach students and improve their lives in many ways. To create the ultimate fighter has never been the goal in this art. To create better people, who in turn go out and create others is the goal we should all have as instructors. I have always believed that whatever an instructor leaves behind him, is how they should be measured”
A quote from Rick Young “a lot of people don’t know why they are training”
So find out what you want from your training and find an instructor who can guide and point you in that direction which leads to the final quote.
It’s an old American Indian saying that says “the instructor or guide should place the student in an environment, where the truth will present itself"