Gary Spiers – Applied Karate

English: Calligraphy of the japanese word kara...

English: Calligraphy of the japanese word karatedō. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…a lot of it has to do with the training – that’s the way I see it. The continuous teaching of no-contact and the teaching of long, strenuous exercise, conditions the karate student’s mind to (a) miss the target or else merely touch it, and (b) to place too much stress on fitness levels rather than getting used to avoiding and/or absorbing a certain amount of pain and physical discomfort. Even after years and years of training, most of them have never been bitten, never had their eyes scratched, never been repeatedly hit hard, perhaps winded and then kicked when they are on the floor. A fellow who plays rugby – that’s one of the first things he’s going to do to you, smash into you with his full bodyweight and take all the air out of your body. Gary Spiers in an interview in Terry O’Neill in 1986


I  started training in Kyokushin karate back in the early 1980’s and if there was one publication I considered to be my personal “bible” of martial arts it was Fighting Arts International.  Founded by the great Terry O’Neill in 1972, it was the very best of the UK fighting magazines and a far cry from the What to do when a Samurai Attacks you I style of writing common in many of the American publications of the time. FAI ran until 1997.

Very early on in 1986 I recall reading an article about a New Zealander karateka and professional doorman called Gary Spiers this is a link to all four parts of  the FAI article here   Gary’s story spoke to me in way that perhaps no other martial artist’s history has.

Gary was a violent man and made no bones about it, but he was violent in the same way that a Templar Knight or even a Samurai of old was violent, it was his job. He was good at it as a professional.  Spend a night with Mr Spiers and you were as safe as with your old mum but in his security advisors capacity had decades of front line experience that many ordinary law abiding folks would struggle to understand.

Gary’s attitude would heavily influence my own thinking on self-defence and even know I find myself repeating some of his street wisdom which could apply to any “close encounter” where the other man or men are out to do you harm.

In my opinion Gary Spiers was quite simply in the vanguard of 21st martial arts thought, his philosophy was to use simple effective powerful techniques to put an attacker ‘out of the game’ as soon as possible, because there could be another one ready to kick off a second later. Gary used close in kicks and punches and clearly appreciated the difficulties of working in a pub or club where chairs and tables could be both your friend and your enemy. He knew that he might be facing improvised weapons, broken bottle, table legs, glasses and anything else that might come to hand along with the encounters outside of work which could involve anything the other guy thought to bring to the fight.

He understood that you could not learn your trade without getting hit and hitting people in return and had  a dislike of dojos that confused martial arts training with jogging and aerobic. Both notions I have come to embrace in the last few years. It was Mr S that actually caused me to  start to think less about karate or kung fu than their practical street based applications.  Gary was the guv’nor!  Sad to say he peacefully in his sleep from a heart attack aged 57.  You find some photos Gary did for the article here.

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