I started training in late 1969, in Judo. I wasn’t a great fan of any outdoor games in the winter and the indoor alternative at Eastwood High School was Judo. My first Judo teacher at the UK Secondary School, was Sensei Brian Ferrant. Sensei Ferrant also had a full time martial arts centre in Leigh On Sea. After several months of training I found it was something I really enjoyed and I joined his full time dojo. After a while I became interested in other martial arts taught at this centre and actively went out to train at many clubs. Caedmon Hall was the name of Sensei Ferrant’s Dojo and the social element and girlfriends kept me going there on a regular basis for over 7 years.
In 1974 I achieved black belt status with Fudoshin Mr. Bob Lawrence, at his Lindisfarn Dojo, Westcliff. It was an exciting time with the new kung fu movies and the Bruce Lee revelation that really kept me motivated. I found everything from the TV Kung Fu series to Enter the Dragon absolutely captivating, from the martial arts moves to the philosophy. I wanted to train and train and endeavored to do just that in many styles and systems.
The biggest problem was if any instructor found I was training elsewhere, I was usually reprimanded, to the point on some occasions of being a traitor. I realized martial arts was a political minefield and kept my training at different clubs and schools very quiet.
Over a few years I trained in Judo, JKD, Karate, Kung Fu, Jujitsu, Kempo, Taekwondo, Aikido & Freestyle Martial Arts, and had the good fortune to be taught by some great instructors and martial arts champions including Brian Ferrant, Sidney Scott, Ed Parker, Robert Lawrence, Silvio Simac, Alan Davies, Richard De Bordes, James McNeil, Pele Reid, Wayne Turner, Ron Meader and Dave Carnell.
I have never been a great fan of grade’s and realize the belts or sashes are a reference to a systems syllabus or list of techniques and personal skill levels. I was awarded my 7th Dan for contributions to martial arts and at 47 year’s young I have never skipped a grade. In addition to my various martial arts grades, I have been awarded a Professional Trainers Certificate from The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, a qualified hypnotherapist and taught within the MOD Perimeter on Foulness Island. My most important awards go back over many years and are a thank-you from clubs and martial artists who I have helped. I always feel a sense of achievement when some one appreciates what I have done and shows it, I just feel it was worthwhile doing it.
I wouldn’t say I have a favorite style or system, although most instructors tell me their system is best. My personal view is martial artists develop themselves and choose or create a system that fits their attributes exactly, so all instructors are correct in that their chosen system is best for them. I do my best not to be a stylist and have a practical approach to martial arts and its realistic applications in both competition and self-defense. I don’t like the limitations of syllabus, I prefer the unlimited techniques and tried and tested strategies, so I can develop a person to be as effective as they can be in the shortest time frame.
The martial arts market is a huge market and the values and strength in unity are often quoted. I want to be a martial artist who helps the market develop so it attracts more investment through sponsorship and helping communities develop. Networking is the answer and the creation of the World Wide Web makes the world shrink every day. Communities need fitness, confidence, self-discipline and better health. Martial arts facilitates that. Modern day martial arts and old philosophies show martial artists are more guardians of peace and harmony and only ever resort to anything physical if there is no other option. The great thing is all martial arts have a theme of discipline and pursuit of peace as their fundamental philosophies. For children, martial arts are exciting and create confidence, adults can enhance their health and fitness as they learn self-defense.
The development of martial arts in the UK and the World as a singular market is important to attract support. Many other activities develop because of the market size and accessibility. When they have events, the top guys in that activity are clearly seen and with competitions they can benefit from winning a major prize. The investment helps raise the profile of the activity professionally and drives up standards providing additional funds and support that help local communities develop safely and provides a constant flow of new students that keep schools alive and kicking.
In addition to my instructors, I have had the honour and pleasure in working with some of the great martial artists from around the world. I would like to convey my thanks to these martial artists and organizations for their help and advice: Adam James & Bob Wall from World Black Belt, Alan Goldberg and Pete Ticali from Action Martial Arts Magazine, Silvio Simac, Jimmy Kirk, Steve Timperley, Scott Smith, Simon Brooker, Trevor Middleton, Andy Manwaring, Paul Kean, Matt McLachlan, George Jaffray, Steven Pinfold & Dale Lockens.
Submitted by: Paul Griffin