SP ARCHIVES: Earlham Street

Sammy wrote: In your autobiography you mention that you and your students took on and defeated a range of challengers at your Earlham St gym.

Were these fights bareknuckle, anything-goes – like the early UFCs – or more ‘sporting’ contests – like mma now, with rounds, gloves etc – and were they pre-arranged or did people just turn up and fight?

Also what types of fighters tried their luck? During that era I’d imagine karate and kung fu guys, some boxers and judoka, and a few streetfighters – but maybe I’m completely wrong!

Steve’s reply was mysteriously deleted from self-protection.com, and not by us. 

Steve wrote: The fights were sometimes with gloves and sometimes without. We sometimes had rounds and conventions and sometimes we didn’t, it was just anything goes. I began experimenting with full contact fighting around1973 and from 1975 when I broke from Japan and stopped karate practice, to 1981 when we closed, it gradually became more hardcore.

Fights were decided on the feet and on the ground, much depending on who the fighter was or where the situation ended up. Sometimes the fights would go from the gym floor to the showers, through the dressing room and out the other side to the gym floor again.

The fights were between club members, visitors, and challenges. Styles were all different types of guys. It was central in the West End in Cambridge Circus, so we had a lot of visitors from all over the world.

All the knockouts and contact was intentional. Groin kicks, etc. Nothing accidental.

This quote from Nick Stone, who runs the successful Bulldog Clubs in Australia just about sums it up. http://www.fatherdave.org/article/article_200.html

“I very first saw Thai boxing when I was probably about twenty and a guy called Steve Morris, who is very, very well known in karate circles, as being one of the hard men of karate and other styles of martial arts. He’s a very well respected man, Steve Morris. And a friend took me up to Leicester Square to see his Thai boxing. He called it ‘Thai boxing’ or it might have been ‘Goju-Ryu’. It might just have been ‘fight school’, I think, but i was totally in awe of what they were doing. They were kicking each other in the groin and knocking each other out and it was full on. It was really scary, and I thought, ‘I’m not into that’, and I said ‘I’m not doing it!'”

Here’s a clip from Nick Stone on You Tube so you can see he’s the real deal.


Bottom line, it was real hardcore training and fighting at Earlham Street. Before, during and after the session there was a lot of vomiting. You could hear it echoing in the toilet.

I couldn’t do it now. I’d have the law on to me.

Sammy wrote: Did any of the defeated outside challengers ask to join up after they were beaten, or did they limp off never to be seen again?

Tom O’Shaughnessy wrote: Intimidation – Domination

Let me tell a story about 9 Earlham Street. At Earlham Street we had a Wing Chun dummy made from an oak tree. It weighed several hundred pounds. It was tied to a column that ran through the building (the gym was on the second floor). Steve would work out on the dummy with such ferocity that I could hear it as I walked down Shafsbory Avenue! By the time I got to Cambridge Circus the noise got louder. You could see people stop and look for the noise! As anyone who is familiar with this area, knows this is a very busy area, but still you could hear him beating the crap out of this wooden dummy. When I got to the entrance of the club, the people on the ground floor and other floors said to me that we had to get him to stop. The whole building was shaking, the windows were vibrating, and things on the upper floors were falling off shelves.

One day there was a ring at the doorbell and it was some guy who had come to fight. He said he was some umpteenth Dan. We showed him to the changing room. While he was getting dressed he was boasting of all the men that he’d fought and beaten. He put on his gee with a huge black belt that had lots of stripes (or notches). INTIMIDATION??? I asked him if he was just here for a workout. He said no, he had come from half way around the world to fight the man (Steve). He came out into the gym and started warming up. He was stretching, doing full splits, shadow punching and kicking straight up. He was doing every kick imaginable, round, spinning, jumping. At the end, he looked at me all cocky!

He asked me, “Where’s Morris?” He turned to the speed ball, punched it one time and he said “What the hell is that thing?” We had hung a bowling ball in its place. He’d gone the big bag and did a beautiful high round kick. He let out a shout as he fell to the ground! He said “What the F**K is in that thing, rocks???!!!”
I answered him, “Yes, among other things!”

 Out Popped Steve from his office, he went over to the speed ball (bowling ball) hit it a few times. And then punches and kicks the big bag for about five minutes and has it dancing all over the place (no gloves). Then on to the dummy (no not that dummy, he comes later). Steve beats the crap out of the Wing Chun Dummy, low kicks, blocks, punches and so on. INTIMIDATION! While Steve was warming up, I was watching this guy and he turned a whiter shade of pale and I could just see all the spirit drain out of him. Steve turned to him with a smile and said, “Let’s do it!” Steve threw a kick to the groin, the guy went to block it with his arm but his arm and groin went the same direction- UP!!! End of fight! DOMINATION!

We carried him back to the changing room. He told me that this was not real fighting, not proper. He went to the hospital. He had a broken arm, and they had to reset his family jewels (OUCH). I hope this gives you a small insight into EARLHAM STREET.

Steve wrote: Yeah, I remember Pat O’Keeffe the kickboxer who used to train at Earlham Street, I read an article once and he said that when he first came he thought there was somebody doing demolition work in the building! It was me working out on your dummy, and the sandbag I’d tied on to the bottom of it.

I think the funnier story about that, though, is that Terry O’Neill came down with a friend and he saw the bowling ball and he said, ‘You don’t fucking punch that, do you, Morris?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, course I do, but I wear gloves.’ So he said, ‘Ah, that fucking explains it.’ I went in the office and put on my gloves, which were a pair of leather driving gloves with the linings ripped out. I think that’s when O’Neill started calling me ‘Mad and Mighty Morris.’

About the intimidation–I knew there were kung fu clubs in the area, so I used to open the window on purpose and see how much racket I could create. And then I’d measure my power by how far down Shaftsbury Avenue you could hear me on your way to the gym!

And that black bag claimed a few hands. Danny O’Connor and Bruce Frantzis came down once and walked in as I was giving that bag stick, and they must have thought it was just a normal, packed bag. Bruce Frantzis took a shot at it and his face contorted. I had that bag until recently; it’s on the cover of Traditional Karate. Trish got it reconditioned for me, straps and everything. But then some fucker nicked it during the last years at Bourne Hill where all kinds of stuff was going on behind my back with Erika Dubow and Bob Ashing.

But the best story, Tom, is your story of how you and Mick actually acquired the tree that was used to make that Wing Chun dummy! Wasn’t it some sort of holy tree?

Sammy wrote: Thanks a lot Steve and Tom for taking the time to reply. I appreciate it.

I’ll tell the guys I train some of these stories about your Earlham St club next time they start feeling sorry for themselves!

We train pretty hard but don’t fight ‘anything goes’ challenge matches… or hit bloody bowling balls!!

We grapple full contact quite often, box/kickbox full contact once in a while, and (where did I get this idea?….!) break the fight down into snapshots so we can work certain exchanges at full pelt.

Even so, we’ve had quite a few injuries in the last year. A broken leg, a broken collarbone, snapped knee ligaments, a dislocated shoulder, broken ribs and a broken nose…

Nobody has sued or filed a claim, and all the injured guys have been back training after recovering. Luckily we’ve got a great bunch of lads training!

I feel bad about these injuries from a training (and possilble legal) point of view, but our guys make it clear they don’t want things watered down too much.

Rob Mac wrote: Steve, what are the differences between what you did then and what you are doing now? And if there are any difference why did you change?

Steve wrote: In those days we were just fighting, and as we went along we learned from our mistakes. It was a lot of trial and error.

Now I’ve got a method. I’ve got an approach to training, and naturally it draws on that experience in Earlham Street but also draws on a lot of other stuff.

What we do now is not like it was then. What I started to realise is that by just fighting, you could only ever be as good as the guy who came through the door to challenge you. I had to find a way of raising the level of myself and my guys without waiting for a new type of opponent to come in the gym. I had to find a way to train in anticipation of fighting the very best, and fighting a lot of different types. And after Earlham Street closed, I only trained myself. I was training horses professionally, and I had to find ways of raising my performance outside of a gym environment. So my method has evolved a great deal on the basis of that journey.

Now our training is much more specific to what you need to do in a fight, against different stylistic and physical types. I’ve been in isolation since 1981 and except for teaching some Muay Thai and karate guys, and doing the odd seminar, Primal is the first opportunity in that time that I’ve had to train guys on a regular, consistent basis. I’ve been working on all this stuff and now I’m finally getting to put it into practice.

And, because the results are feeding back into my own process of development as a teacher, every week it’s continuing to evolve. The stuff we’re doing, as far as I know, nobody else in the world is doing it.

RobMac wrote: So would you say Earlham st was alot of trial and error? If sowhat would say you’ve disgarded? The punching of extremely hard objects for example?

Steve wrote: It’s not so much what I discarded, it’s how I formulate the training now. The lesson I learnt is that you don’t lose anything by experimenting. It either works or it doesn’t. Don’t stick to a formula. Let your imagination run wild, as long as you’re testing it.

I’ve stopped hitting hard things in the sense of breaking bricks and hitting bowling balls, but I always like to have the bag hard. Because you’ve really got to work at the penetration then. And you learn to overcome that reflex to pull back.

Tom O’Shaughnessy wrote: The Holy Tree

When the Wu Shu team came out of China in 1972, they preformed at Wembley Stadium/ Empire Pool. I was on the management at Wembley and was over seeing the Chinese Delegates laying out the equipment for the show. Being a diligent manager I came back to the stadium at 2:00am one night with a friend of ours name Mick Woollard, a master carpenter. We took the specifications of the Wing Chun Dummy equipment (incase it went missing of course). Next we needed to find a tree. The local vicar had a large orchard, so we went there and removed one of the trees and made an exact replica of the dummy. With the rest of the wood we made a variety of weapons including Tonfa, Oar, Nunchaku, Bo and Jo. The Nunchakus were used in the series of Nunchaku films we made in the ‘70’s.
Steve kept breaking them, so we decided that we’d make him a special set. We made them from Lignum Vitae. This is the heaviest and most dense wood in the world. (It sinks in water!) In the famous shot of Steve BREAKING SIX BRICKS THAT WERE STANDING ON END, he used this special set of Nunchakus. As you can see from the photo he broke the bricks, what you can not see is that he also demolished the Nunchakus. On the subject of the Nunchaku movies, if you have not seen them you should acquire a set from Steve, as the content has not been matched even after 35 years.

Impi wrote: Having read a book called Esoteric Warriors by Alex Kozma, I was intrigued to see an interview with a guy called Chris Chappell who claims that he was the kickboxing champion of your school Earlham st. Is this true? How did you rate him? what kind of fighting was he doing.

Steve wrote: We had competitions and it’s possible he won one of them, but he wasn’t ‘The Kickboxing Champion’. Chris could fight. He was a good standup fighter. He was also at the time, I think, a dancer–can’t remember if it was ballet or modern dance. Neat kicks, neat punches.

But the best fighters in the gym were Mark Tobin, Vince Jauncey, Glen Muldoon (who should have turned pro), Kong Futek, and before them was a guy called Jose Fontoura. Glen also had a friend but I can’t remember his name, and he was also very good. They were the top guns. Pat O’Keefe came out of this club as well.

Chris was OK, he was in the mix, everybody at Earlham Street could fight. If you couldn’t fight, you weren’t there. Tom Crudgington once told me names of a few professional fighters who had come out of Earlham Street, but you know how I am with names! I just looked at him with a blank expression. We had so many guys through those doors over the years.

Tom, the image of you two guys nicking this poor Vicar’s tree–well, it was a great dummy! Don’t know what happened to it…

As for the nunchaku film, I’ll have to explain about that. I got swindled by some guy, and it’s all over the place for sale and I haven’t seen a penny of the money. So you wouldn’t be doing me a favour if you bought it.

One day I’ll stick it up on You Tube for nothing. Tom owns the copyrights.

It really set the benchmark of nunchaku. A lot of what you see today on nunchaku is based on that movie.

Vincent Jauncey wrote: I remember Chris Chappell. The only reason he won the fightsin Earlham St was because I was away on holidays ! When I came back he had left .
But I did fight him later on down the road but PKA rules and beat him! He missed out on my low kicks and knees. Lucky for him!!
He told me after the fight he had been scared stiff to fight me after all he had heard at Earlam st.

Steve wrote: Yeah Vince, you know what they say. When the cat’s away…

I tell you what, you guys remember more about this stuff than I do. Andy Dunne was telling me the other day of some stuff I used to do and he’s going over it in great detail and I’m trying to dig in there and find it in my memory…

He was going on about how everybody had to bring Doc Marten boots to class and the reason was because I think through Tom I’d got this board made with three cylindrical brackets in a triangle, with fence posts inserted in them. They were affixed to a board, under which I’d put a carpet so it could slide around the floor. And then I had them kicking this thing every which way but loose…they were on the floor, on their backs, you name it. Trying to break the posts. I’d got the idea out of kung fu. They put the posts in the ground but I thought that was too fixed.

I’d forgotten completely about it until Andy started going on about and suddenly a bell rang. Now a couple of days later and it’s all coming back to me, the things we used to get up to.

Do you remember Vince how I’d seen the Folies-Bergere dancers and the male dancers in particular were unbelievable. They all did this little hop as they were swinging their legs. I thought what a fucking great idea, and I had all you guys again swinging your legs every way you could and I even think you got some of your aerobic fitness work out of that.

Another time I saw this Kossack troupe doing their stuff and so again: what a great idea. So I interpreted the movment of the Kossack as ground fighting, and along with the stuff I’d seen at the Wu Shu show in the early 1970s I came up with something that kind of resembled breakdancing or Capoeira. And that was a long time ago.


It was like a laboratory.

Vincent wrote: I remember doing all sorts of crazy fun stuff training with you on Sat afternoons!!
One thing I remember was sparring with the Kendo gear on!! I did’nt want to kick to the head, it hurt so much hitting that metal Kendo head gaurd!!
Also one fighter you forgot who trained with you was Keith (dreadlocks) had those 2 battles with Kong Fu Tak. He won the british title, was a tough bugger, those fights with Kong were exellent !

Steve wrote: keith yeah i remember him. i remember one sparring session we had , I drove him into the showers through one door, through the dressing room where some guys were getting changed, and then out the other door. Great fighter. What title was it?

Vincent wrote: I think he was Britsh Muay Thai champion !!

Steve wrote: that’s pretty good, don’t you think?

Kong was another one with a title in Muay Thai wasn’t he?

There’s something very funny Vince, you gotta know this. Some guys on the forums over here, they often ask with regard to my training methods or my credentials as a trainer, ‘Who’s he ever trained?’ Yeah, Keith had a lot of attitude, strong guy. We had a lot of good guys at Earlham Street.

And not all of them turned pro. Mark Tobin and Glen Muldoon and there was a black guy who used to come with Glen, he was another great fighter.

I’m sure some more are going to pop up.

Vincent wrote: I think Keith was also PKA British champ as well. Not that any of us thought that PKA meant much . Ie : no leg kicks, and having to wear shin foot gaurds!
Kong Was def HK champion, lost a horrible dec for the british title, and was rated in the top 10 in the world !!
I remember after I brought Ronnie Green down to train with you, he loved the training and said to me that you are “ahead of your time !!”
Ronnie there is a fighter who has really got nothing out of all his achievements !! I still keep in touch with him, and he has been over to see me a couple of times, but things aren’t going well for him !!

Steve wrote: I’m really sorry to hear that about Ronnie. He was a great fighter. It’s not right. There are so many plonkers out there.
When you speak to him, give him my best regards. Nice guy.