Gary began his martial art training in Shotokan Karate under the pioneer of British Karate Vernon Bell, in 1981. Gary eventually was awarded his First-Degree Black Belt (Shodan) in 1987 under Vernon Bell. Vernon Bell has unfortunately passed away but his fantastic martial art achievements are now legendary. His story is covered in great detail in the marvellous biography, Shotokan Dawn (written by Dr Clive Layton). He held senior black belts in numerous Japanese martial arts. He was a fantastic teacher and martial arts historian, sadly missed by his students. The Karate taught by Vernon Bell was a very old form of Shotokan, more ‘Jutsu’ orientated, Gary wanted to follow the more modern ‘Do’ version. Gary assisted Vernon Bell with teaching at the Dagenham class in Essex for a couple of years.
On seeing an article in Fighting Arts International about Nick Adamou a senior student for many years of the renowned Shotokan and Tai Chi Chaun Master Kanazawa 10 th Dan; Gary enrolled at Nick Adamou’s classes at the Harrow Leisure Centre, with the blessing of Vernon Bell.
The Karate taught there was very physically demanding and of an excellent standard. Gary persevered to eventually achieve his second Degree Black Belt (Nidan) in March 1989, and was awarded his Third Degree Black Belt (Sandan) in January 1993. The highlight was having the world-renowned Shotokan Master Kanazawa teach when he was over here in the UK, from his home in Japan. Gary enjoyed the regular Black belt classes and weekly private lessons with Nick Adamou. Gary continued with Karate until sustaining a very bad back injury, which prevented him from continuing his training in the art. Having taught Karate, himself for many years in Barking, Stevenage and Central London.
Karate did have limitations for Gary as the main focus was on speed and power. One’s body type can predetermine the speed of techniques it is possible to achieve. A plateau is reached which just cannot generally be broken through. After many years of practise most Karate students either slow down, become injured or just give up. Which is a terrible shame, for them and martial arts in general. The thing is that the training needs to be modified due to growing older, few schools do this though. Some switch to more Jutsu variations of the art when they realise that it is not possible to train in the same way as you get older. A fabulous example of training into older age is the Traditional Karate taught in Okinawa, the home of traditional Karate. Some of the old Masters practise into their eighties and nineties. Because some styles of Karate are very hard on the joints long term and speed is always reducing as we get older. Obviously, there are some notable exceptions to this rule. The hard training can be very detrimental to the immune system later in life. If one continues to train in exactly the same way. Gary now has a mission in life using knowledge of Tai Chi, Biomechanics and good positive posture alignments, is to promote good body usage to individuals or groups enabling them to avoid long term injury. This will enable people to continue to exercise well into older age.
During his days with Nick Adamou, Gary loved doing Tai Chi as part of the syllabus. Although it was a very shortened and a much more basic form. The wonderful health benefits were well known to Gary. Traditional Tai Chi is a fully inclusive discipline that does not rely on speed or power and does not dampen the acquired skills with age. Indeed, it is possible to get even better with age. Gary ran his own classes in Stevenage, Barking and London for many years and was authorised by Nick Adamou to conduct gradings up to 3rd Kyu level.
After some years of not training at all due to back pain, Gary and Janet joined a Tai Chi class in Stevenage. Whilst on holiday in Spain they realised during a Tai Chi lesson there, that the Tai Chi that was being taught in Stevenage lacked a lot of essential key ingredients. Immediately upon their return from holiday Gary and Janet enrolled for classes under Dave Hope. Over the years Gary has become more immersed in the art and no longer suffers with daily back pain. The lineage of the Tai Chi studied can be traced directly back to Master Yang Cheng fu, via Master Chu, who now resides in Switzerland.
Gary and his wife Janet have trained regular with Herman Chan-Pensley a senior student of Master Chu and his son Jonathon both privately and at their instructors’ classes. Gary and Janet now train regular with Bob Fermor. Bob’s Tai Chi lineage is through Master Deng Er Qian whose father trained directly under Yang Cheng-Fu. So, the lineage is a very pure one. As an ex- three times World Weapons Champion and martial artist of world repute, Bob’s Tai Chi is extremely practical based and very different from the more wellbeing approach of the Chan-Pensley’s. Both approaches have much to offer as Gary and Janet continue to train and improve their Tai Chi under the guidance of Bob Fermor and his senior student Dave Watts.