Chief Examiner/Club Founder
One day in 1972, aged 15, I had just finished work at my Saturday job and when I was about 200 yards from home I was set upon. I had no idea how to defend myself and arrived home bruised and beaten, and feeling very vulnerable. That night I was watching David Carradine in his greatest film Kung Fu and I really took this film to my heart, and decided there and then to learn some kind of self defence.
I started learning judo, which I did until I reached yellow belt. After that I tried my hand at karate, Tae Kwondo, Wado ryu and Kung Fu. Although I enjoyed these martial arts I never really understood what the katas were for, or what the principles of the katas were. I used to look at books showing monks working very close together and I wondered why we didn’t work like that. One minute we were learning katas and the next we would be jumping around doing what amounted to kick boxing. We weren’t using the katas for combat; they seemed to be just for show.
So my quest to learn what martial arts was about took me to London to learn from a Chinese master I had seen in a magazine. He taught traditional Wing Chun Kung Fu and I heard this was a very effective system. I spent 3 years with this master until one day when sparring with a guy that did bak mei I found that the Wing Chun I had been taught did not work against him. My opponent could move very quickly, was not rigid and his movements could flow. I presented my guard with one foot forward, was in a very rigid position facing him and he just swept my leg, and I was down in a flash. So that gave me reason to wonder if the traditional Wing Chun I had been taught actually worked against someone that moves very quickly.
About this time, in 1977, there was an Australian instructor advertising the 3rd form of Wing Chun, so I went to see him. What I learned from him in one day was more than I had learnt in three years with the previous Master.
During the previous training I was never taught to think for myself or to be able to improvise, because you always relied on what the instructor said. With the new master I learned the Sui Lim Tao form (small imagination or small thought form).
Then I went on to the Chum Kui form (bridging the gap), and then the Bil Jee form (flying fingers and power training form). In 1981 I achieved my black belt and then began instructing. I opened a club at the Southampton Cricket Club. My first night I had about 60 people attending. I was shocked but happy so many people wanted to learn, though I might have to give some of the credit to the late great Bruce Lee for his amazing movies that were inspiring people at the time. Over the next few years I held classes in a variety of places until in 1993 I moved to the unit in Emsworth Road, and I named my club The Academy of Martial Arts.
It has been an incredible journey, and I have taught many students, and a few famous faces along the way, including a Gladiator contestant, a Hampshire cricketer, a saints footballer and an actor who has since gone on to feature in Hollywood films and computer games. I can also list amongst my past students the Marines and the Territorial Army. I think in this day and age everyone should learn how to defend themselves. People think martial arts is just jumping and kicking, and punching the air, but it is not. If you learn the right method of training you will see that Martial Arts is a real art as well as a devastating way of defending yourself. At the Academy of Martial Arts, due to years of experience, we have found the right method to teach you all the secrets that lie in the forms of three levels of Wing Chun, and how to apply these forms in a combat situation. People might worry that the training will be hard, but the hardest part of training is getting there.