Aaron Turner

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I started training in Camberley, Surrey, in 1991 (at the grand old age of 30!), so over 20 years ago at the time of writing. Considering how long I’ve been doing martial arts, I’m really not that good (in theory I should be well on my way to 6th dan by now!) I’ve never been that fanatical, never really bothered with grading, I just enjoy training, enjoy learning new things. Everybody does martial arts for a different reason – to each his own!

My first martial art was Wu Shu (my instructor was one of six people sent to China to bring Wu Shu back to the UK). Wu Shu is the proper name for Kung Fu and is a “soft” Chinese martial art, focussing on breathing, internal conditioning and the most incredible forms (sometimes called patterns or kata) you’ve ever seen. Advanced Wu Shu forms are essentially gymnastics (there are back somersaults!) and you have to be very, very fit! Ever heard of the Shaolin Monks? That’s Wu Shu! As well as Wu Shu, my instructor taught kickboxing (but only semi-contact), and so I became very flexible (much less so these days!), hence my famous high kicks. As befits his Wu Shu background, my instructor focussed more on personal development – self-control, self-discipline, self-confidence, self-respect and respect for others – much more than the idea that “winning is everything”. These are “old school” martial arts values.

In 1997 I joined a new gym in Weybridge, Surrey, and a new karate-based kickboxing class, essentially at random, but I really lucked out. My new instructor had passed SAS selection 23 years previously, was a senior officer in the Parachute regiment and, as well as doing a lot of training with the Police etc ran some elite counter-terrorism unit within the UK security services. This guy was 5th dan Judo, 2nd dan Jiu-Jitsu, and had even spent 18 months inside the Shaolin temple, running up the mountain to the Buddha every morning. Up to that point I had been completely terrible at self-defence (I never could get those locks right!) but I learned so much from this guy – the Use Of Force Continuum (basically, how to apply self-defence and still stay within UK law), how to fight with a knife, unarmed defence against knife, unarmed defence against handgun, how to break necks, snap spines, pull hands off, rupture an opponent’s femoral artery with your bare hand – all good stuff!

These experiences taught me that there are sort-of-OK martial arts instructors, really good martial arts instructors, and then there are “world-class” martial arts instructors – Bruce Lee types – and that if you ever get a chance to train with Bruce Lee types you will learn things from them that you will never learn from any other martial arts instructor, even a really good one. So I started looking around for other world-class instructors from whom I might be able to absorb some new wisdom or other. I trained for a year with Brian Dossett, a famous Jiu-Jitsu master, and with Tai Chi Grandmaster Akira Lim (who had himself trained with Bruce Lee personally!) for another year. A 4th dan Taekwondo instructor let me join his weekly sparring class (boy those guys can kick!) and I did a weekend Taekwondo seminar in Bedford featuring another ex-SAS instructor. This time I learned that the SAS expect it to take 2,600 repetitions to learn “unconscious competence” (which basically means programming your brain so that you can do some physical action perfectly as a trained reflex without having to think about it), as well as how to break someone’s arm in three places, which is so painful that the human brain’s RAS (Reticular Activation System) usually triggers unconsciousness. At Seni, in 2007, I did a fantastic 2.5 hour seminar with Robin Horsfall, an ex-SAS guy who shot and killed one of the terrorist leaders in the 1980 Iranian Embassy siege. In the first 60 seconds he taught us how to pull a man’s ear off – and it sort of went on from there!

My first Muay Thai instructor, back in 2000, was Richard Fenwick, and in 2005, on moving to Northampton, I joined Nak Soo at Rough & Ready. It very quickly became obvious to me that Jon Graham and Tim Thomas are the type of world-class martial artists that I have always tried to seek out. Most definitely an old fat guy now, I’ve never had any more than a few interclub fights, but, being full contact, Muay Thai is the perfect training style for any self-defence enthusiast and, being so friendly, the Nak Soo family at Rough & Ready is the perfect Muay Thai training environment!