This is the introduction to the four-part interviews series, that Terry O’Neill conducted with Gary Spiers as the subject. The series commenced in FIGHTING ARTS MAGAZINE in 1986. It is re-published here with permission of Terry.
“Yes I do make my living out of fighting, and it’s true that a large percentage of my oppenents end up in the hospital, because I’m good at what I do…..I have spent the past twenty-five years learning do do just that….and no, I do not see anything wrong in using Karate for that purpose….to me that’s what the martial arts are for, for heaven’s sake!”
The opening quote is indicative of the hard-line approach expressed by interviewee, Gary Spiers during our four and a half hours of taped conversation. l met this big New Zealander in 1970 in Tokyo, where he was living at the time. Discovering that we had a lot in common – a mutual love of karate and we both had been employed in the physical security field – we became friends. When he was ready to leave Japan, l encouraged him to come to England. This he did, settled in Liverpool and he has been here ever since (we can’t get rid of him – only joking). We began training together and he started teaching his style of karate – Goju-Kai.
During the first year of his stay, Gary tried to obtain work in his trade – as a slaughterman butcher, but due to the high unemployment situation in the area, he was unsuccessful and soon found himself back at his old job of what is commonly termed ‘bouncing’, or ‘minding’ on night club doors. That’s what I was doing at the time – which left my days free for Karate, and I had no difficulty at all in finding Gary ‘Security work’ in Liverpool, which has probably the largest percentage of night clubs, discotheques etc. of anywhere in Gt Britain. He was tailor-made for the job actually… With his size: around 6 foot and 240 Ibs. (at that time, nowadays he is 280 lbs. plus – that’s 20 stone!)… his ability: along with lots of wrestling and judo ‘know how, he’d left Japan with a sandan (3rd degree Black Belt) from Master Gogen Yamaguchi (‘The Cat’).. .and his experience: he’d worked for years on night spots and working mens clubs in Australia.
For a period of time, Gary operated several successful karate dojo and even earned a placing in the all-styles British Karate Team, which he represented in the heavyweight division (of course!) in Europe. However it was not long before this powerful, karate-ka’s ability at quelling disturbances and Sorting-out previously ‘unsort-outable’ thugs and villains, earned him a quite formidable reputation. This in turn, let to an increasing demand for his services in and around Liverpool – a city that unarguably has more than its fair share of ‘hard cases’…even the scousers who can’t fight want to! Gary has, consequently become more and more heavily involved in this dangerous vocation, which he terms as a professional security advisor… “Bouncers are bra-less ladies out jogging aren’t they?”
He still practices karate (and teaches several small groups of students) but it is now a work-related karate … that is to say its not the usual balanced blend that most other practitioners of the art adhere to. From the first rei (bow) to the last rei of the practice, Gary specifically gears his training to his line of work -which is close range personal combat in ‘live’ situations. As a consequence, his karate is actually a lot better than it looks. The style and correctness of form that earned him his yondan (4th degree) from Master Yamaguchi in 1975 has deteriorated, but commensurate with this loss of “appearance has been an increase in the knowledge, ability and general street ‘savvy that keeps him – most of the time anyway -in one piece Paying scant attention to finesse, his 1986 brand of combat-karate (my description – not his) is crude, limited in repertoire, often messy and always vicious… but then the people it is designed to cater for, all have that last commodity in abundance.
Whatever qualities it lacks though, effectiveness is not one of them. Over the years, a number of people have attempted to stab and slash Gary with assorted blades – some have succeeded, as is evidenced by an interesting collection of scars (interspersed between his even more interesting network of Maori style tattoos). He has been hit with clubs, barstools, bottles and some objects he didn’t even see-just felt… and been the subject of gang attacks – some spontaneous. but others have been specifically orchestrated Â with him as a target
I also personally know of several quite hair-raising incidents/encounters that the interviewee has had, that he most definitely has no Wish to talk about. All I will say about them is that Gary was never the instigator, but the people who were… suffered considerably. And deservedly so in my opinion, but the authorities, who became involved, saw only the final results.., so that will be all on that subject. The point is, how he managed to survive some very nasty attacks in the manner in which he did, amazed even me… and l did the same job for 17 years.
Whether or not you agree with what Gary Spiers does for a living or whether you find his attitude, views and behaviour harsh, or in fact question the rationale that motivates him, is not of prime concern to me. What is, as Editor of ‘F.A.I.’ is that readers find his story interesting… I hope you do.
The full interview can be read in my bookÂ Working With Warriors