I was first introduced into the sport in 1973; at the time I was doing Judo at the Cherry Leaf club based in Oldham, the club was invited to take part in the Oldham Carnival Parade.
On the float behind us was The Baileys Nightclub float based in Oldham, I saw whom I know now to be Grand Master Woody & Grand Master Toddy, jumping around doing jumping front kicks and spinning back kicks this impressed me so much, because I was from Martial arts background, I needed to know more!
So I called into the Nightclub one evening to talk to them, I found them both to be very friendly, happy and having a lot of fun. It’s true when they say Thailand is the land of smiles, both these guys had all what you would expect of two individuals oozing with talent, and both had their own skills within the style and where not afraid to put it to use. I found them both to have very different personalities Grand Master Woody was very bubbly and mischievous & Grand Master Toddy was a bit deeper and more reserved, after talking to both of them. Over a few weeks I found out from them what they were doing in England and a lot more about their martial art.
They both attended Oldham College, studying English and Engineering and had moved to Oldham from Thailand.
Although they both had a full understanding of Thai Boxing the martial art they were demonstrating at the carnival parade was called Tae Kwon Do, I asked if they gave lessons, they said they were thinking about starting classes but, didn’t have a club or school they just trained at the end of the night in the disco when every one had gone home just for fun and on Saturday mornings at the Nightclub they said I was welcome to join them which I did within a short time.
Their first club was started in 1974 at the Hartford Mill, Featherstall Rd, Werneth, Oldham this club was hard to find, it was on the top floor and you had to walk up 4 sets of stairs and climb through a hole in the breeze block wall, the wall blocked off the room from the staircase this it’s self must have put of most people.
My first impression of the club when I started, was that it was very primitive, I can only imagine that in Thailand training camps were not very posh and set up outside in back yards and small villages and towns, they would not have the luxury of bricks and mortar, when looking around the room you could not help but notice that the windows had no glass, just visqueen (plastic cover) for protection from the weather. (They are bricked up now on the picture shown in the inlay below) in one corner of the room was a big salamander oil heater just stuck there making a lot of smoke but keeping the room quite warm, ceiling to floor metal posts covered in eight foot by four foot blue foam matting tied together with string instead of kick bags, this was one way of conditioning your leg’s just find a part of the mat that had been well used and you would hit the post underneath or one of the string knots, this was not funny but helped you to harden your shins.
I had spoken to Grand Master Toddy on a few occasions, but on this occasion I approached him with a view to joining the club, there were only 2 other people there he asked me about my martial arts background, I told him I had a Black Belt in Judo and a Blue Belt in Kempo, my first lesson started there and then, I was taken by surprise when he asked me to throw him, using my knowledge of Judo, so I went to grab him and he punched me in the solar plexus, I was nearly sick, we both laughed at each other, I wanted to cry really, then with a big smile across his face he said “ A punch is better than a throw any day isn’t it” I replied “a throw has it’s place but the punch did the job on this occasion” “yes” he said “have I put you off yet” I said, “no it would take more than one punch to do that” we both smiled.
I joined the club and started to learn Tae Kwon Do, the only uniform I had was my judo gi as you can see in the picture below, I was standing on the side line watching Grand Master Toddy doing his famous jumping back spinning kick with Grand Master Woody being his target, they both made it look so easy.
Training for the following 12 months was very hard we trained 3 or 4 nights each week, I also started doing the doors at Baileys Night Club with both the Masters and Sak another Thai living in Oldham.
At the Club was the best place to learn more about close quarter combat we would have to remove drunken people who had been fighting and sometimes they turned on us, when the club closed we would start training in the disco again we had so much energy it was a way of letting off steam and us winding down.
As well as all the classes at night and weekend we were doing demos and shows up and down the country.
The Masters were on a mission pushing the art of Tae Kwon Do, and the Thai Culture, we were also busy taking our grading’s. In 1976 they did the Oldham Carnival Parade again, but this time I was part of the show demonstrating the art, it’s culture and at the same time to advertise the club.
It started to get more popular as the weeks went on, so it was decided at this point we should relocate. We found St. Cuthbert’s Church Hall, Fitton Hill Oldham,
This is were I was to take my final few gradings and I attained my Black Belt on 23rd September 1977 this is a day I will remember, for the rest of my life, I had to spar with all the students who were present at brown belt level and Steve Long who had been my best friend for many years and all through our Judo days. He was also going for his Black Belt on the same day, we both then spared with the Thai Masters including the now famous Master Sken (who had just arrived in England from Thailand)
Not many students had this honour within a grading Master Sken warmed up for about an hour frightening or what.
I was first to go the sparring session with Master Sken started respectfully with us both performing a wai (Bowing to each other) we both set off at a fast pace with both of us doing spinning and jumping kicks and various other techniques, at which point Master Sken grabbed me, and locked me around the neck and then spun me round and sent 5 or 6 knees into my body and head, Grand Master Toddy stopped the session at this point (To save me I believe).
Not long after that we started to learn Muay Thai techniques and introduced them into our training along side the more advanced Tae Kwon Do training as you can see from the photo below we are in the bottom right witch was the senior student position when lining up, in 1977 – 1978 we relocated to a bigger hall at St. Margaret’s Church Hall, Chapel Road, Hollinwood, Oldham due to the demand of people wanting to train.
We also opened up the first club in Manchester at the Martial Arts Centre on the top floor on Deansgate and then moved to 48 Laystall Street were Grand Master Toddy’s Academy of Martial Arts was opened.
From Manchester I moved back with Grand Master Woody he had opened up another club on Yorkshire Street, Oldham. Over the top of a Pool Hall. This was to be our home for a long time until I opened my own gym in Oldham at the same time still training with my master my first camp was at Wrexham Close, Hollinwood we were for a number of years then the council closed us down due to the property needing major repairs I went back with my Master who had opened up another club based at Green Hill School, as well as the Pool Hall.
I was approached by some of the Bus drivers from Oldham bus station to teach them self-
So we went along to one of the Committee meetings to ask if we could open up a class. They wanted to know more I explained all about the art and what we would be teaching they said it was a good idea and it would also bring kids in off the street.
So we moved to Holt’s Estate Oldham for a number of years we attracted a lot of students from within the area and all over Oldham and Ashton-
Our last move has took us to the gym we are at now which is still based in Oldham on Fitton Hill estate only down the road from one of the very first clubs to start Thai boxing, we have a full size school gym converted, it has a fully matted floor area and 16 foot boxing ring this is a must for any budding fighter to help them progress.
I started training our students to compete but was reluctant at first just like my Master was he would not let any one compete until they had achieved Black Belt level (Red Pradjeat) so you can understand my feelings.
I still went ahead training and teaching them all the rules and tricks of the trade, we have done very well for a small Camp we have been successful.
In competition we have won championship titles at Area, National and British and also represented England at World level.
The Early Days of Competition
When I started to compete it was with Master Toddy’s and the Thosakan Camp in Manchester the name Thosakan is taken a from the name of a mask which means to look all around, and at the end of my career with Grand Master Woody’s Camp in Oldham which was called Rama, in the beginning only a few of us got the chance to fight due to the grading levels but me and Ronnie Green were, trained for our first tournament in London we trained so hard we did not know what to expect the both of us were naive at the time but trusted our Master and our own abilities, our first competition was in the European full contact championships, we where both from England, but to our surprise Grand Master Toddy had entered us from other country’s this was so we could compete. I came from Wales and Ronnie came from Scotland but the judges kept an eye on us both because we where wearing long blue satin pants and arm bands (Pradjeat ) a traditional Thai boxing mark of respect we also had no shin guards on we were told that we would have to wear some sort of foot protector on the day so we put on some full contact boots, these where their rules so we did as we were told but this did not give us any problem what so ever we just used our shins not our feet, the competition was a knock out style tournament you had to win to go through to the next round we both set off well.
Ronnie beating the Hungarian and me beating the French fighter we both went through to the next round.
Ronnie got the Italian but hit him with a perfect round house across the stomach and winded him the judges said he had used a knee and disqualified him then every one was watching me because we were both from the same camp based in Manchester I got the Yugoslavian I beat him on points.
Revenge for Ronnie which put me in the semi finals I then faced Howard Brown who was the current British European, and World Champion this was my first competition and third fight of the day so I went for it I had nothing to lose it went to points and the judges gave it to him but he lost in the final to the German called Khur.
Coming third in my weight division was a good feeling. Our careers took off fighting in England and aboard we were among the first from England to go aboard and was proud of it, every one laughed and called us for putting on shorts and doing the traditional dance (WAI KRU) but we had done the full contact and kick boxing style and needed to progress within our own sport using what we were being taught
During the following years we were both kept very busy one of the country’s we were invited to was Holland this was good for us both due to Holland being one of the leading countries outside Thailand for this type of sport.
Thai boxing was big here the most famous clubs here are Chakuriki and Mejiro gym being able to compete against the best clubs and fighters in Holland gave us the respect and credibility we were looking for.
On one of these clubs is the Chakuriki gym run by Tom Harinck he matched us both up on his show in Holland against some of the best fighters from around the world, Ronnie got a title shot against the Dutch Champion, Carbine I got a French Cambodian who’s fight record was 45 fights I was not impressed the Dutch fighter had pulled out that weekend, I had come to fight I never got any easy ones and thought it would be good experience for me, this guy’s last fight was in the Lumpinee stadium Thailand, both the fights were to be 5 x 3 mins rounds this was to be a new experience for us both, but we did as we were told, Ronnie lost and I won on points this was a very hard fight for me after the first 2 rounds of kicking it went to knees for all three rounds after I was so tired to say the least.
Along with Holland some other places we both visited to fight were the famous Roger Paschy Yamatsuki club in Paris and invited to Ireland to compete under George Canning’s watch full eye with the IKF. We both held the British Titles at our own weights when I gave up Sandy Holt took over from me and held the Title for some time.
We had numerous other fights up and down the country promoting the sport when I retired I went into teaching along with the official side of the sport / art doing Refereeing and judging, Ronnie stayed with Master Toddy and his career is for him to tell you about.