by Stuart Anslow (circa 1998)
When I started training in Taekwon-do I couldn't get enough. Not just of Taekwon-do but of all
martial arts. When asked to perform techniques Mr Bryan would say that we should have 'Blind
Faith' & I did (of sorts) because I had already seen him in action, performing amazing aerial kicks
that I & others aspired to. It wasn't hero worship of any sorts, but a respect for his technical ability
& humbleness. The latter annoying at times because I wanted to see him perform more often.
At the same time I was gaining an interest in competition & I never really worried to much about
winning or losing, it was all about experience & simply having the bottle to step into the arena &
I'm still convinced of this today. Over the years I competed in Taekwon-do tournaments, All Styles
Open events & Kick Boxing contests & in order to gain an insight or maybe a new technique or
strategy to give me an advantage I started to look at other fighters. These were the cream of the
crop. Some still competed, others had just retired, but all were top in their chosen art or sport &
highly acclaimed on the tournament circuits.
Although in the early years I watched martial arts movies (more so than now), I never really
thought 'what a fighter', I enjoyed Bruce Lee films, Jackie Chan, Gordon Lui & Van Damme movies, but
only Phillip Rhee from 'Best Of The Best' fame really got my respect, to me the 'real' fighters ruled.
Off the top of my head I can remember quite a lot, One of my favourite of all time has got to be Alfie 'the
Animal' Lewis, the pioneer of Free Style Karate. He won 99% of all his fights, it was often said that he
beat opponents & referees simply by his reputation & presence, but he was & still is an amazingly gifted
fighter. The fighters I held in such high regard were not just fighters, but entertainers as well. Nicknames
were the order of the day, people like Kenny Walton & Kim Stones (said to have the fastest hook kick
ever, next to Bill Wallace) of Taekwon-do, Peter 'the Overdog' O'Para of Sport Karate, Neville 'the Devil'
Wray & Nathan 'the Megatron' Lewis of Lau Gar Kung Fu, Troy Dorsey (USA Kick Boxing), Tony 'the
Iceman' Sewell (TKD) & Joe 'The Blockbuster' Tierney of Karate.
Like I said, most of these were on the brink of retirement from competition, so the next set
of fighters filled their shoes, people like Mike Lambert (Taekwon-do fighter & the Scotsman
in Van Dammes The Quest), Dave Sheppard, Willy Thomas of Shotokan, Kash 'The Flash'
Gill & Ronnie Green of Thai Boxing, Sharon Gill & Brian Nelson from Lau Gar & many others.
Along the way I watched & read of other great martial artists that I came to respect for their
technical ability or other reasons. People like Sensi Enodea 'the Shotokan Tiger', Master
Sken of Thai Boxing, Austin Goh of Wing Chun, Frank Brennan & Terry O'Neil of Shotokan,
Wally Jay (Jui-Jitsu), Tony Leung (Steel Wire Mantis Kung Fu), Keith Kernspecht &
Emin Boztepe of Wing Tsun, Ticky Donovan of Karate & Earl Blijd (Wu Shu) from Holland,
Plus of course the founders of various arts, like Mas Oyama (Kyokushinkai), General Choi &
Gichen Funokoshi (Shotokan) to name but a few.
Of the last few years I have come to respect people like Geoff Thompson (Karate), Jamie O'Keefe,
Nobuko Takada, Kiyoshi Tamura & Kazuo Yamazaki of Bushido fame, Lenny McClean (Bare
Knuckle Fighting - never lost in over 300 fights), Marco Raus, Rickson Gracie, Lee Hasdell (Shoot
Fighting) & Rick Young (Jeet Kune Do) and there are many others I could mention that I can't
remember their names. Not to mention the pioneers of Taekwon-do such as General Choi, Master
Park Jung Tae, Master Rhee Ki Ha, Master Park Jung Soo amgonst others.
In theses days of over paid football icons & manufactured pop stars these are people who have
earned respect through simply training hard. If you haven't heard of some or even any of the
people I mention I would suggest you get hold of some old martial arts mags or Videos. Most
have been around decades, and after retiring from the sport side (those that competed) many
have become coaches or started their own associations.
It always amazes me how few people that actually practice martial arts never buy a martial arts
magazine of look beyond the confines of the dojang. This was brought to bear last year whilst at
the Mortal Kombat 2 auditions when a certain BUTF black belt (not from our club) asked the great
Alfie 'The Animal' Lewis, Founder of Free Style Karate, 5 times World WAKO Champion, President
of the Free Style Karate Organization & winner of every major competition in this country, and I
quote "Do you do martial arts ?" ....DOH !!! The point is theres a whole wealth of great martial
artists out there, past & present, to aspire to & compare with.
The one thing to learn from all this is that just like you & me they all started from white belt &
became respected world wide.
So don't limit yourself,
don't wait for your ship to come in, swim out & meet it.