Sometimes I feel like I am an old cowboy out of the eagles song “Desperado”, a song by Tim Healy I first heard at a Sunday for Sammygig at the city hall Newcastle ( sing for the Toon!) His heart felt tune brought him and the crowd to tears… (I cried a little); the words are about an old cowboy that should change his ways but is a little reluctant … I really am that cowboy.
I have always prided myself on my teaching , I would give 100% to all my classes, masking the pain and the aches and let people kick me , punch me ,wristlock , throw and choke me. I have been my own uchideshi (live in student) for the past 20 years full time teaching and I have trained for over 30 years.
The AFC (formally the BBD) started so that we had a place to train that was ours, no one to tell you that you had to leave or we were closed for the holidays or there was badminton on. I wanted a place so that martial arts groups could train under the same roof and not bitch about which art is better than the other!
The odd thing about that is that these days a lot of people do a mixture of Arts in this age of MMA; I am proud to say I was the first fulltime club in Newcastle to do mixed martial arts. I am also proud of the fact that I had an open door policy for training that any person from any background could come and train; it was not uncommon to see Wing Chun, kickboxing, Ninjutsu and Escrima all training in the gym at the same time. I am still proud of that, as long as you are nice and respectful to other arts I would welcome anyone.
Over the years I have taught thousands, I have been hurt a lot over the years some by accident some on purpose and it has taken its toll on my body; sometimes people thought that if they hit me as hard as they could I would think they are born again hard or amazing.
I should have let them into my secret… I am human, I hurt the same way as normal people, and I just sometimes show it less! In my sick mind I thought that that is what I was getting paid to do; they were not only getting instruction in the martial arts but I would throw in a free dummy for you to practice on (sometimes I am not the sharpest tool in the box but I thought I was the toughest). This repeated free practice has resulted in me being in constant pain for many years and now long term damage to my back and many other parts of my body.
As I sit here writing this I have a support pillow that I sleep on due to my neck problems, supporting my lower back to ease the pain in it while taking painkillers after painkillers so I don’t hurt! Like the old cowboy I don’t normally take tablets because I like to know where I am with the pain and in general. I did damage my back a few years ago due to an over excited double leg take down that tripped up and spiked me into the ground on 10 mm jigsaw mats. This resulted in a back brace and high medication that did give me pain relieve but left me like a walking zombie and my lovely wife giving me the helpful but stern warning that I must come off them asap due to the tramp like state that had taken over me (beard and pj’s, not unlike the guests on Jeremy Kyle and the crazy driver off Taxi! just not quite with it!)
I have decided to listen to everyone that cares for me and start to take more of a coaching role in running my classes. The Gym has so many standout coaches it is their time to shine, I need to let go of things and marvel in their amazing techniques and getting the next generation to pass on their knowledge. In the 20 years as a full-time coach I have tried my best to help people be who they wanted to be and I have helped people overcome problems. It is true what they say we have fought cried, bled, laughed and hurt together but the family I have in the AFC that I started is the best family in the world. (I may use the term clan!)
I will still be teaching, but not as much as I have done but on the plus side the gym has some amazing coaches that will push the gym to new heights and I can write more and empower more people by the written word as I am working on two books and DVDs to get my message across to a wider population.
I’m a cowboy (on a steel horse I ride) I am not the fastest gun in the west (North East) and I am resting my guns down but they are next to me for when I need them.
I hope my new journey is as great as my past ones , the only thing to do now is gently climb on my horse with these old bones, sink my spurs in and hang on for the ride of my life!!!
See you soon partners
John Atkin (riding on the trail on a horse with no name)