Magazine Feature Article
A Life In The Fighting Arts Written by Dave J. Lomas
A simple basic look at my time in the martial arts that began in 1973!
Not a good title for an article as it makes it sound like it’s yet another me, me, me story about how clever and wise I am at doing and teaching the martial arts over the years, (which I find to be the case with some instructors when given the chance to brag about themselves), but in all honesty I was stuck for a title as it is all about me, me, me anyway.
Having never been asked to tell my life story in the fighting arts before I have to admit getting this article started was something of a challenge for me but here goes.
I had no true idea as to what was truly involved when I attended my very first Kung Fu training session or how it would become part, but not all, of my life - so remembering my very first lesson will always stay with me forever.
Before the class started we were all sheepishly walking into the training room to be met with the two main instructors who were warming themselves up, or should I say showing off, in front of a brand new class of raw beginners with face high side kicks and punches that were very impressive to say the least.
The room was filled with around 40 or so of us and we all just stood, or nervously sat there, watching them having not done anything like this before.
Some of the new beginners clearly showed concern on their faces and commented in a very low voice that they were worried about what they had let themselves in for while on the other side of the room a couple of them displayed arrogant actions and a bravado that was far greater than their level of intelligence.
The first thing they got us to do was to form lines and perform the traditional Kung Fu bow, but before the thought of how easy it was so far had even formed in our minds, they then got us down on the floor and the ‘on the knuckles’ fist press-ups started.
We did not know it at the time, but we had joined a club that had a reputation for being very hard and strict, which the bravado idiots in the class soon found out the hard way when within minutes they were kicked out of the class for swearing, refusing to do the press-ups, as they found it painful on their hands, and being arrogant about it all - never to return again.
It should be noted that back in those days people were joining classes by the hundreds all over the place due to the popularity of the martial arts at the time and if you attempted to join a reputable school of combat that was run by what we call today as ‘old school’ teachers then being kicked out on the spot was not only no great loss money-wise to the instructors but also they knew a few dozen more new beginners were waiting to join and replace them.
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Today of course many clubs, but not all I hasten to add, are more focused on keeping students which has resulted in conduct and standards becoming very low and in some cases, in an attempt to keep students from leaving, allowing students to pick and choose what they want to do or not want to do.
Anyway within just a few short minutes of the class starting we were all exhausted beyond belief and one poor lad who had a pint of beer before attending, to give himself a bit of courage, ended up being sick in the toilets. I don’t recall seeing him attending lessons again after that day.
It was 1973 when I recall that day and I also, like many others I would imagine, had just one thought - will we/I survive to the end of the lesson?
Well of course we all did survive, in a fashion, but many dropped out in those first few weeks leaving just a handful of us original new beginners to guide the new starters that had come along over the future coming months.
My motivation at learning the martial arts back all those years ago was nothing to do with being bullied or some misplaced sense of duty to defend the weak and vulnerable but a simple case of vanity as I wanted to look cool doing all those smart moves in front of the girls. Well I was only 17 when I started and we all know what that’s like at that age don’t we guys?
My other motivation at the time was my mother who had clearly thrown the gauntlet down saying that I would not stick at it and that I would give up within 4 weeks at the most. She was right to a degree as the temptation to give up each and every week was very strong in my mind back then.
Back in the early days I did take part in a few ‘in-house’ competition events but soon found myself looking at the more practical self defence aspects of the martial arts and focusing on what some would call the ‘street-wise’ combat methods of fighting but without losing sight of the more traditional aspects of learning and teaching as I got somewhat closer to opening up my own classes in 1979.
It was at this point in time that I also noticed things had started to change, not just fashion trends and electronic gadgets, but also how the martial arts in general had become more diverse, and sadly, more softer within some clubs that were more interested in money and not quality standards of teaching.
By the time 1984 had come around a lot more children than adults were taking part in classes around the UK, due in the main, to the original film version of ‘Karate Kid’ but this, some would say, turned martial art clubs into glorified babysitters and they ended up, in some cases, spending more time trying to control disruptive kids than getting on with the job of teaching serious martial arts to the grown-ups.
To a degree ‘the writing was on the wall’ as the saying goes and the golden era of the martial arts was fading fast as clubs, and idle money making instructors, began to realise that not only teaching a softer form of martial art helped >>>
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>>> to stop paying customers from leaving but also children were now a vital source of income compared to the adults that attended back in the early 1970’s.
In fact, some would say, it was the start of the fast track grading and teaching methods of the so-called McDojo clubs that we see today.
The diversity of the martial arts by the late 1980’s was now becoming more apparent with classes springing up all over the place covering all sorts of things like Ninja training to kickboxing classes by the start of the 1990’s.
Although many instructors were changing from karate to kickboxing, for example, to ‘cash in’ on the latest fighting fashion trend, often based on the latest martial art movie of the time by the way, I continued to have faith in the practical fighting methods that I was trained in rather than follow such trends. When all said and done it is the fighting techniques and training that counts in the end and not the name of the fighting style.
Although I tried my hand at other fighting styles, and student graded in some of them, like karate, aikido and wing chun, for example, it was the now very rare to find ‘Chin Lum Kung Fu’ style that I stayed with throughout my 40 plus years in the martial arts. But yet again I say it was not the name but the training and technical merits involved that made me continue with that way of doing things and not being tempted to follow a fashionable name.
How many joined ‘Jeet Kune Do’ classes I wonder all those years ago, based on just the name, even though they were most likely joining a rip-off copycat club that was simply cashing-in on the name even though the so-called instructors did not have a clue what they were doing?
Chin Lum, as already stated, is something of a rare fighting style these days but ‘back in the day’ when I first started in Birmingham, my original home city before moving to Tamworth in 1984, many people were trained under this method of combat and I myself trained some four thousand plus people when I became an instructor after learning, not only the fighting aspect, but also how to teach and run classes under the strict eye of my own teacher.
Sadly these days many people in the martial arts have turned what we do into a joke by making claims of great grand-mastership at such a young age or giving themselves such stupid bogus titles like doctor or professor, (as if that counts to old school teachers like me and others), who were around and teaching the arts long before many of them was even born.
It would not be hard to say that some so-called ‘masters’ were not old enough to leave school let alone go to work or teach the fighting arts when I was awarded my 7th black belt way back in 2001 and yet they now make stupid claims of being a 10th Dan after inventing a new martial art name rather than go through the grading system in the proper way and learning their trade first.
I stopped teaching the martial arts way back in December 2009 so these days, thanks to the internet, martial arts magazines and newspapers, I am now more well known for being a writer of various things including social issues than being a teacher of the combat arts, all those years ago, but my memories of those days and all the fun moments, and also hard times, will stay with me forever which is in part why I took up writing so as to put those memories and experiences down on paper for others to see in years to come.
Written by Dave J. Lomas
AKA - Dragonwriter (UK)
All copyrights reserved.
Published - 28th of January 2015
ARTICLE PHOTOS -
Photos used with this article are taken from the Dragon Martial Arts and Tai Wai Martial Arts School Archive Gallery.