Interview with Gavin Mulholland

For Shihan Gavin Mulholland martial arts was in the blood and very much a family affair. Born in 1962 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Gavin trained with his father (an unarmed combat instructor for the military) and his brothers from an early age. When the family moved to England he found himself under the tutelage of the legendary Kim Roberts. His Sensei’s no-nonsense tough-as-nails training regimen helped Gavin onto a path that would see him grow into formidable karate-ka. His travels to the Far East, especially Japan could be likened to Kyokushin founder Mas Oyama’s journey of discovery. Already earning the respect of his peers, Gavin and his friend and fellow Kim Roberts student Shihan Dan Lewis established the Daigaku Karate Kai (DKK) teaching Goju –Ryu Karate with schools based around the country. His philosophy of hard training and striving for excellence as well as a lust and passion for life embody the spirit of DKK and life in general.

When I first met Gavin Mulholland it was at the 2016 DKK Summer School, he was standing at the top of a field before a class of 70 plus Karate students and instructors leading the day’s warm up drills. As a novice standing at the very back I could hear instructions bellowed all the way to the back and already noticed a presence about this man. After witnessing my first 30-man Kumite (in which students had to face a line-up of 30 opponents and fight each one 1 minute for the rank of Nidan and to be awarded the coveted black dogi) Shihan Gavin had given me some sage advice which made me realise that at 45 I was not too old to progress in Karate and someday face my 30-man challenge on the field of truth. Since then I have come to admire Shihan Gavin as a formidable Sensei whose knowledge and skill in Karate is awe inspiring and exemplary. Speaking to fellow students I learned that I wasn’t the only one to be star-struck by this imposing-looking yet very humble down-to-earth guy whose praise, whenever offered, is high praise indeed.  The opportunity to interview my Shihan for Kung Fu Kingdom was a nerve-wracking yet privileged experience…

Hi Gavin for taking time out for this interview I know you’re a busy man these days!

My pleasure Ramon.

So, let’s get started; I know you read the interview we did with Shihan Tony Bailey.

Yes, Tony Bailey is an interesting guy and the interview is good!

Thank you! So, how old were you when you first started your martial arts training?

Well I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t training. My dad was in the military teaching unarmed combat and I’ve got three brothers. The four of us have always trained. He was very into Judo as well so right from the start, we were always training.

Great environment to start in! As well as judo what specific styles and techniques did your father teach as part of his unarmed combat instruction?

I’d say it was normal, unarmed combat stuff mixed up with judo because he and a guy called Bill Norris set up a club in Limavady called the Ken-Cho-Kai in the 1950’s and 60’s. That was kind of an outreach to the sort of combination of military and civilian together. It also brought together a lot of Catholics and Protestants training together which at the time was going bad again. At the time there was no instruction in the martial arts, it was very limited back in the 50’s you just got whatever you could from wherever you could; I think Bill Norris was a brown-belt, considered one of the highest grades in Ireland at the time.

Interesting I didn’t know that. How did you come to take up Karate?

I think I was 17 at this point and already trained in various forms. I watched this Goju demonstration with Kim Roberts, Dave Arnold and Mick Lambert. I didn’t know anything about Goju at the time, I didn’t even know there were different styles of karate as I’d never done karate. So, I watched this demo and it was just awesome. Mick Lambert punched a paving slab in half in a street once – and I was on the receiving end of this later in life. I watched Dave Arnold and Kim Roberts in this demo, and Kim was going to hit Dave with a chair. Unfortunately, it went wrong, and he actually hit him for real. They ended up just scrapping with chairs and tables in front of a fete at school and it was just wonderful. So, I thought that’s the guy I want to train with. Now at this time Dave Arnold was teaching on the Isle of Wight and Kim was teaching in Southampton where I was living at the time. I went up to talk to Kim and he wouldn’t speak to me, he just walked off. I ended up talking to Dave Arnold and he said, “look he’s just grumpy, he’s like that, go along anyway”. So, I did and I’ve been training with him ever since.

Nice story. So, would you consider Kim Roberts a great influence on your martial development?

Definitely, yes, I would. As well as Dave and Mick there was Nick Hughes. I trained with Nick for some time and he was a real influence. In terms of my karate training, I would say Kim taught me everything I know, others helped me understand elements of it, whilst Nick rooted it in streetwise efficiency.”

DKK Tournament 2017

That’s amazing. Now I understand Sensei Roberts has a reputation for being very VERY tough. How did you find learning karate under him?

Well a couple of things, first I didn’t know any different, I didn’t know there were different styles and second, I’ve told him this before, but I actually hated him Ramon and I didn’t speak to Kim really until I was about a brown belt. I thought he was just being so harsh that I thought he was trying to get rid of me whereas in truth he was probably trying to straighten me out a little bit, and he probably didn’t even notice I was there, that’s just the way he was. I kept coming back to spite Kim in many ways because I didn’t want to be pushed out by him. In all that though I hugely admired him, and his abilities were remarkable, he was far beyond anything else and anyone around at the time.

Right OK, sounds like an amazing guy it’s a shame I would welcome the opportunity to train with him someday.

He is quite reclusive now training wise, but I don’t think I’ve closed the gap on Kim from the day I started training with him.

Interesting, but what do you mean by you haven’t closed the gap?

He’s developed his own training, he is as far ahead of me now as he’s ever been.

Wow! OK let’s talk about your travels because I understand you went travelling around the Far East and related some of your experiences at Summer School. Can you tell us more about your travels, especially your experiences training in Japanese dojos?

Well when I went out to Japan I took with me a letter of introduction from Kim, not to anyone specifically just “this is my student, take him in”, and Kim warned me that the Japanese would just want to fight you and with a fairly big westerner in there they would just want to fight. That was pretty much the case, not everywhere though.

Now I’d heard horror stories about people training in Japan and not being allowed to train, but I never went anywhere that didn’t let me train. Now what I did was I hitchhiked from the top to the bottom of Japan, from Hakkoda north of Morioka down as far as Yoshima and trained every night, wherever I stopped that’s where I would train. It was hard enough to find a karate dojo let alone Goju so I made a conscious decision that I wasn’t going to limit myself to any style. Whichever dojo I could find that’s where I would train from kendo to judo, and in some places, I didn’t know what they were doing to be honest because I didn’t know the language well enough to understand what they were teaching.

I was welcomed at most places and some of them, yes, they were just out to fight and as soon as they saw me they’d beat me up. One place I went to they said, “yes you fight all brown belts, all black belts, and then sensei” and that was about fifteen against me. In other places there was mostly kata based styles, and it was just fantastic, I had a great time. I was a 2nd Dan at the time but the interesting thing was no one ever asked me my grade and I think some of the horror stories came out of people going as low grades; I think if I had gone as a yellow belt it would have been exactly the same, I would have had to fight all the brown belts, the black belts, and the teacher so it worked out well for me. It was brilliant.

Sounds to me like grade wasn’t anywhere near as important as ability and how you handled yourself against the opponents they set you up against?

I don’t know if that’s true actually because I don’t know what would’ve happened if they’d realised I was sort of a novice, I don’t know if they’d take that pressure. I went back on more than one occasion and they gave me a black belt. I don’t know actually, I certainly never felt abused anywhere. Sure, I got a few kickings along the way but that’s fine as it was always done within acceptable limits. Besides I got worse from Kim anyway, and you guys get worse as well. I was prepared, as you would be!

Gavin Mulholland -teaching

Gavin Mulholland -teaching

That’s true. So, let’s talk about DKK. It was founded over 25 years ago with Dan Lewis. How did that all come about?

Dan also started training with Kim back in the late 80’s and we met there, along with a guy called Stuart Gent who was training on the Isle of Wight, there were three of us who originally set up DKK. Kim then moved to France, and we’d been a year or so with him abroad; that was when we made the decision to split with Kim. So, I wrote to Kim and said look “I don’t know how you’re going to take this, but we’ve decided we’re going to go our own way. However, you take it you’re always welcome in my home and you’ll be welcome at any dojo we run”. We left properly, I did the right thing, I wrote to him and told him, and he wrote back to say of course, and so we set up.

It’s called “Daigaku Karate Kai”. The word Daigaku means ‘University’ but in the wider context it means place of learning; we were both University clubs at the time so that’s how the name Daigaku Kai came about. We originally set up with the three of us, Stuart moved on and we’ve been running it together ever since.

So, what are the club’s philosophy and principles when it comes to practice and training?

Well we set up with the intention of excellence and that is what we have. I often hear karate teachers telling people how hard they had it in their day and their students couldn’t hack the training they went through. My answer to that is always “if you’re any good why are you robbing your students of the training that got you to where you are. You’ve just removed hard training so what are you replacing it with?” And I honestly say that I could put any of our black belts back in time with us and they would cut the mustard.

Yes the training is hard but it’s the same approach we went through so the standard is the same. We set out to maintain the standards and we make sure that all people can fight, make sure that karate is what it’s supposed to be, that it’s useful to people and not just an aesthetic performance. We have failed people before, we’ve failed whole gradings before, but that is the philosophy of it, that there is a standard to reach and it’s down to you to reach that standard. We give you lots of help to get there but it’s down to you, and come test time, it’s a test, it’s not a class we’re not there to help you in fact we are there to try and fail you.

That’s certainly true, judging by my last grading I almost thought I was going to break but thankfully I didn’t. So, do you feel it is important then for martial artists in general especially Karate-kas to compete in tournaments and matches?

That’s a good question, I’m conflicted on it; I think it’s a good idea, it’s another level again in facing someone who’s trying to beat you and that doesn’t happen in the class. Alright you fight but not attempting to win in the same way, so I think it is. But whether you have to do it or not I don’t know, as long as the training is hard I don’t think you have to compete, but I do think it’s a useful tool.

Have you yourself competed?

Yes, we always did, we’ve always competed in various styles. We’ve done full contact, semi-contact, and no rules with MFS – Modern Fighting Systems which was a kind of limited rules fighting format. We used to do tournaments, we did all sorts, we used to fight full-contact and semi-contact.

In fact, I was taught a lesson once by a semi contact fighter and it never left me really – I think he was part of Alfie Lewis’ team, Liverpool Freestyle and we were fighting them. The way it works with team competition is that you have five guys you have to face, you get up one by one, so you know you’re going to have to fight at some point. I saw the guy I was going to have to fight go up to the wall and put his leg straight up the wall.

They were wearing these silk, red silk suits and that’s like red rags to a bull so I thought as soon as it starts I am just going to punch him in the face and knock him out, bearing in mind it’s semi-contact, cheating if you will. Anyway, when it started I just lunged at him. I took a swing at him and he sidestepped then kicked me in the face twice, gently, and he won. I then went over and shook his hand. I just have a respect for semi-contact, not that I like doing it, it’s not my style but for the first time I saw the level of skill they have and since that day I’ve never disrespected semi contact.

Gavin Mulholland with fellow karate pro Iain Abernethy

Gavin Mulholland with fellow karate pro Iain Abernethy

I’ll bet that’s quite a story. So like Shihan Lewis (and Shihan Tony Bailey) you’ve spent a number of years working on the door in security. How did that come about? Do you still work on the door?

I don’t, no. Most people in those days did, those who did Karate worked on the door. It was just an extension of what you did, it was a pressure test of your technique. In the early days of DKK in order to get your black belt you had to do 6 months on the door. Of course, as we got bigger it became unmanageable and now it’s no longer a requirement, nor do I think it is necessary but yes, we always did. I worked in Portsmouth, Southampton and all round and then London. I stopped doing it the day my boy Tiger was born. The very day he was born I didn’t want to do it anymore. It’s weird because up until he was born I felt entirely invincible, and the moment he was here I was entirely vulnerable. I felt it strongly and I just didn’t want to do it. What I did go on to do beyond that for a number of years was train the door staff but eventually stopped doing that about two years ago. It then became a requirement to pass people I wouldn’t work with personally and it was much more about knowing where the fire extinguishers were than throwing violent people out, the job just changed. It was a good role for a while but it’s just not for me anymore.

Fair enough I don’t suppose you care to share some stories of how you handled any particularly tricky situations?

Well I mean, war stories, everyone’s got them but I’ll give you a funnier one than a war story!
At the University, we used to do all the security for the Students’ Union and every Freshers’ Fair The Taekwondo club have got brilliant videos of all their tournaments; they do all the jumping flying kicks and everything, but Goju doesn’t really look that good. So, what we did was slice together security footage from the Students’ Union of us scrapping in the foyer, throwing people out and head-butting them, dragging people out, we put that together instead. We didn’t get any students join us as a result but it was funny nonetheless.

[Laughs] I bet it was! So, onto your book “Four Shades of Black”. It’s quite a comprehensive look at the Goju system what inspired you to write the book, and how long did it take you altogether?

In terms of actual writing it didn’t take that long to put together but in terms of understanding it, that took many, many years. It sounds weird, arrogant even but what inspired me to write it was ignorance of the level at which people seemed to misunderstand karate, misunderstood what we were doing, misunderstood the drills and misunderstood the purpose of it. I am not saying I’m the one with all the answers but I needed it down so that people could see it is an actual system and it’s necessary because in this day and age it seems like anyone can teach anything, and you know with reality self-defence it seems you show people some wrist locks and that’s the system but that isn’t a system.

Goju is a training program, I wanted to get that out there to show people what can be done with an actual system. The one thing that I think DKK proves time and time again, it’s not my skills or Dan’s skills but that we can replicate it in you guys and that’s the trick of it. It’s not just our level of skill that, year after year, produce good people, strong karate-ka but because we have a system and that system is outlaid in “Four Shades of Black” and that system’s outlaid in the Goju syllabus.

Gavin Mulholland karate

Gavin Mulholland karate

In the book you state that kata is the map, and Bunkai is the compass so I see what you mean but how does Goju karate differ from systems like Shotokan?

Well I can only tell you at a surface level because I don’t have enough experience in either of those systems to make that level of comment but Goju is older than both of those and when karate got taken to mainland Japan it got chopped to pieces, and mostly through Shotokan. Now Shotokan was put together specifically to teach spirit to the Japanese youth, and it used Karate-like techniques.

It’s in Funakoshi’s own books in which he said, “Shotokan is more important for development of the spirit than the fighter.” Now that was a new approach because it had been about the fighter before. It was getting the youth ready to join the military in the run up to the Second World War, Shotokan used a very militaristic approach to karate. One example is that if you look at shikodachi (lower horse stance) in Shotokan it’s used as a stress position, you know you put people down there and they have to punch from there, stand there for a long time and that hurts. Now that builds spirit in people – and we do use it like that occasionally as well. Building spirit in people is good when you’re looking to build soldiers but as a fighting technique it has no value whatsoever just standing in that stance; it doesn’t strengthen your legs in the way that they said; you need to do full squats for that, but it doesn’t have any fighting application.

Now in Goju it has complete fighting application because we would only ever use it to pull someone down or to pick them up because it’s about vertical lines of power so it’s a practical fighting stance for us whereas they would use it as a stress position to do what Funakoshi talked about, developing the spirit. That’s a very specific example of Shotokan, it’s also the reason why there are so many off shoots from Shotokan as subsequent instructors sort of recognised the gaps in it and tried to fill them in by putting throws or some grappling back in and hence you have a new system. They weren’t accidentally taken out of Shotokan they were deliberately taken out to make a specific program, yet they also wanted to be recognised as a martial art in Japan. At the time, Japan had grappling arts and throwing arts and they wanted a purely striking and kicking one which is where the misunderstanding about karate has come from.

Karate like many martial arts is a constantly evolving system, it’s changing and modernising so with that in mind are you planning a follow up book at all?

Well I question myself for what purpose I would write the book anyway if I am honest, even the first, like why did I write it? I mean you guys get this stuff anyway, my students will get this stuff so do I care about non-students reading it? I don’t know but there is a plan for the book and I’ll write it even if I don’t publish it, because I want to. The goal is to understand every single thing in the syllabus, every single element must be understood that’s the goal so yes, maybe there will be a book I don’t know for whom or what purpose I’d write it. If that makes sense.

Understood. So, staying on the subject of modernising karate at Summer School you’ve talked about self-defence and adapting to modern dangers. This year you specifically raised the issue of adapting to the dangers of terrorism and you have some strong views on this. Would you care to share that with our readers, maybe offer some advice?

Yes certainly, but first and foremost I would say that this isn’t a detachment of karate it depends on what you think karate is. To me, karate was set up to defend yourself, it’s the threat that’s changed so although you talk about karate developing, it’s not, the mind-set is the same, to defend yourself against the threat. Now years ago, that threat might have been a samurai and today it’s someone driving a van. So, I think this is traditional karate so that I would stress first and foremost, THIS IS karate and traditional karate at that. What we covered was a few simple things like there is no point about being paranoid about all of this. It’s about looking at all manner of threats and what you could possibly do about it.

The first thing is, (I’ll take a Londoner’s perspective because that’s where I live) the chances of getting caught up in an actual attack are very, very low. The chances of getting caught up in the disruption of an attack are reasonably high, so it makes sense to me that at work or wherever you are in the day, you have a bag and in that bag, you have clothes, shoes, a map, and some water, and you are capable of walking home for five or seven miles; you know the direction, you know how to walk home. Now that might seem obvious to some people but in London, people take the tube and they actually don’t know where they are, you just get in one tube station and come out of the next so having that stuff with you, to walk home and get out of the situation is the first thing.

Another thing is simple, the chance of you getting hit on a bridge by a van or car are slim, but you’ve got to try and put yourself in the mindset of the terrorist; what is it that they want? They want newspaper and media coverage, that’s what they want. The second thing they want is casualties, they want to hit as many people as possible and get as much coverage. What’s going to give you the most coverage is an iconic attack, they want to be known as the “London Bridge bomber” or “Westminster attacker”, you don’t want to bomb somewhere no one has ever heard of, so they’re going to hit big tourist spots, that’s where an attack is more likely. For some reason they’re using bridges, so what I was saying was that if you have to walk across Westminster Bridge just keep your eyes open and walk across it quickly. The other thing is walk facing the traffic, I mean we were always taught this as kids anyway. You may not be able to avoid a van that comes up on the pavement and into a crowd but you’ve definitely got a better chance to see it so you will walk always facing the traffic and not with your back to it. Simple things like that will make the difference. So, move quickly across the bridge, walk facing the traffic and keep your attention sharp until you get out of those areas.

Where else is trouble going to happen? It’s going to happen in the doorway of clubs, you look at that stabbing; people outside smoking they’re going to get hit first so if you’re in a club or a restaurant, even if you don’t stand by the door, you take a table when you’re in, you sit with your back to the wall so you can see the door, really simple awareness stuff.

That’s useful and a good mindset to have, thank you. I think after that serious note we’ll move on; do you enjoy martial arts movies?

No not really! Well it’s not true that I don’t enjoy martial arts movies I just wouldn’t put them in a category of movies that I enjoy. I do like “Fighter in the Wind” it’s very political as are all Bruce Lee’s movies. He [Mas Oyama] is very much a Korean beating-up Japanese in that movie, but it’s a good movie though. Bruce Lee is always in Chinese gear and the baddies are all in Japanese gear. I do like some of Kurosawa’s stuff, “Seven Samurai” is a great film.

Certainly is. How about training, you’re very busy but do you get much time to train yourself each week?

I train every day, 1-3 hours a day. When you start training you have a training time period, you go to a dojo and you train, but it has to become an everyday thing, you look for ways to train. The start of that for me really was at Nidan. Some people in my opinion should never take another escalator, never take the lift, always walk, you carry your stuff it’s all training, you train all the time.

Real-world functionality! And what are your favourite exercises, training techniques that you find suit you best?

My favourite exercise is squats (no doubt about them!) weights, basic weight stuff; so deadlifts, squats, bench press, the basics. I also like the Makiwara (padded striking post).

Now in all your years of practicing karate, competing, training, have you ever been injured? What’s the most serious injury you’ve sustained?

I can’t remember, I’ve broken bones in my hand I think, broken my nose, lips, black eyes, mostly what’s gotten broken has been my hands I guess.I shattered the bone that runs from your thumb knuckle upper-cutting someone who was sort of covering with his elbows and I hit him on his elbows when I went to upper-cut him, resulting in breaking the bone in my hand. I think I‘ve broken my hand trying to do Tamashiwara (breaking techniques).

Do you pay much attention to nutrition, if so what kind of diet do you follow?

I stick to high protein if I’m on a gaining phase but beyond that no, just making sure you eat vegetables and not too much rubbish.

So just a few more fun things about you and how you like to spend your leisure time. I understand you sing, in a band?

Yes, well I play with my brothers in the band, we’ve always played together. Something we’ve done together all our lives is that we’ve played music. We didn’t have a TV when we moved to England, but we always had instruments everywhere, so we always played together. The band’s called the Watch snatchers with two of my brothers at the moment. Yeah, it’s really good!

What type of music do you play?

It’s an Irish band, so some traditionally Irish stuff with some modern stuff of our own.

I know you performed at the British Martial Arts Awards in April how was that for you guys?

Yeah that was really good, it was a weird bringing together of two of my worlds really, but it was really good. I enjoyed it a lot. The thing with martial artists is they are good people, they know how to enjoy themselves. They’re not embarrassed and they will dance, a lot of the English don’t dance unless they are drunk but martial artists they really know how to enjoy themselves, they’re not ashamed to get up and dance, have a laugh. It’s one of the reasons why I like being around those people!

It’s interesting that you say that, what is it about martial arts that makes them feel less inhibited like that?

They know who they are. Most people, well, when people are false and lying, telling fibs about what they’ve done and where they’ve been it’s because they don’t yet know who they are, which is why you get it a lot in teenagers. To be honest if you don’t find out who you are it doesn’t go away: you get old men lying and telling you war stories and stuff they’ve done that didn’t happen. What the martial arts will do, if the furnace is hot enough is show you who you are and nowhere is this more obvious than in the 30-man [30-man Kumite] where you’re utterly exposed which is why it’s a very emotional experience for everybody involved. Once you know who you are it becomes less important to you what other people think you are, so you’re not embarrassed to do anything, not embarrassed to dance or get up and sing, you learn to love life and that’s the real beauty of martial arts really, it goes into your normal life. While there are a lot of harsh people involved in martial arts, and they’re serious, they know how to enjoy themselves as well.

We have a real passion for life you say?

Yeah, I think so!

Agreed! What’s one geeky thing about you that people don’t know?

I’m pretty public, I don’t think there’s anything people don’t know about me, there’s not a part of me that’s not out there, I think everyone kind of knows, well, I am a fellow of the Research Association. I was a psychology lecturer at the same time I was working on the door. Yeah that must be geeky.

Really? Never knew that. So, on reflection about life; what do you like and dislike?

I like the outdoors, I like wilderness I like what that does for people. I dislike the opposite – more of a pet hate – I dislike people lost in their phones to the extent in which people are living a vicarious life through their handsets now, that’s my big dislike. It removes from them the ability to talk to each other and you know, that how you date now is online, that’s how you get everything. I think it’s robbing people of their ability to just live life really, I know they think it enables it but I’m not so sure it does. You see rows of them on the tube and on the bus and they’re just staring at their hands instead of looking at the window and that’s something I hate.

OK so looking back then, what is your proudest accomplishment so far?

Interesting question. I guess DKK in all its glory is something that myself and Dan are both extremely proud of, so I guess it’s you guys and the way DKK has brought people like Dave, Tunde, and Caroline [DKK students] through is a source of pride to us. No doubt.

Superb. So, what do you hope to accomplish over the next five years?

The truth is I don’t think like that and I never have. I don’t look to the future and I haven’t ever really planned for it I’ll just take what comes and make the best of it.

So, you pretty much take a Zen approach to the future…

Whatever comes my way I make the very best of it and do what I can, trying to enhance the good and forget the bad.

What warrior wisdom quote has really resonated with you and helped shape and mold you up to this point?

Well there is something, it’s not really a quote from a famous master it’s from a book, a novel I don’t know who wrote it and I don’t know the name of it. I read it years ago.

I think a priest had been kidnapped by a convict and was escaping over the Italian Alps. The convict says to the priest, “I don’t believe in God.” The priest says, “Oh okay tell me about this God you don’t believe in.” The convict asks, “what do you mean?” the priest says, “Well this God you don’t believe in, tell me about him.” “Well”, the convict says, “I don’t believe there’s an old man sitting on a cloud with a beard” and the priest says [puts on a slight Irish accent] “that’s alright I don’t believe in him either.”

And that to me was utterly profound and life changing because it applies everywhere, it applies when people say, “karate doesn’t work” and I say “Okay, tell me about this karate that doesn’t work for you.” or “you know I don’t believe in martial arts”. “Good, what martial arts do you not believe in?” Just the concept of; Great! you don’t believe in something…tell me about this thing you don’t believe in…and it changed the way I look at religion, at martial arts, everything really, and that’s just a wonderful quote.

Fascinating, will look out for the book. Is there any special message or nugget of wisdom you’d care to share with those reading right now?

It’s the simplest wisdom of all; the secret of training is training, it’s that simple. Read by all means, read copiously but your reading should not exceed your training. Turn up and train every day. Training has to become a habit; if you have a choice whether to go or not, you won’t go because things get in the way, kids, work, you have to be walking through the dojo door before you even know you are there, you have to train, and the secret of training is…training.

Nice to end on a solid rule! Thank you, Shihan, for taking the time to speak to us, it’s been a real privilege.

My pleasure Ramon.

Ever since he first saw the great Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon on the big screen whilst living in Iran, Ramon has been fascinated with martial arts, and at age 6 attended classes in Kan Zen Ryu Karate under Sensei Reza Pirasteh. When he moved to the UK, martial arts came calling in his early teens in the shape of the mysterious art of Ki Aikido which he studied for five years. Since then he has practiced Feng Shou Kung Fu, Lee Style Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Kickboxing before returning to Aikido, studying under Sensei Michael Narey. As well as Bruce Lee, Ramon is a big fan of martial arts actors Jackie Chan, Cynthia Rothrock, Jeff Wincott, Richard Norman and Tadashi Yamashita to name a few. Ramon is an aspiring writer and when he is not honing his craft he likes to go out running, hiking and is still trying to count to ten in Japanese.

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