INTERVIEW WITH SENSEI JOE TIERNEY
Firstly, I would like to thank you for grading
me for my Third Dan. I am honoured that a fighter with such a mass of
experience and Competition success took time out to grade me.
What was your child hood like growing up
in Bolton and when did you start training in Karate?
Pretty harsh, I was born into a rough part of Bolton and we moved on
to an even rougher area, but my parents were hard workers and taught
me good moral ethics which have stuck with me throughout my life,Being
mixed race in the late 50's and 60's meant you had to bully or be bullied,
you would have to live in this era to know what I mean. Anyway, by my
early teens, by luck or judgement I decided to go on the Martial arts
journey, this was around 1971. I started in Shotokan and took my first
grade with Sensei Andy Sherry. I advanced to green belt, then changed
to Shuko Kai, nothing to do with the style, it was just the new club
was doing tournaments which was more down my street. My path with Sensei
Sherry crossed again in 1979 when I was on th under 21's Allstyles team
and won the European championship.
I was the second smallest person at my primary school and I had at least
one fight every day. Mainly because I hated football and always had
to fight a bigger kid for the position of goal keeper. Did your size
at school make you more aggressive and did this affect you in anyway
on the competition circuit?
Genetically I am small, I get it from my Mothers side. I also get my
aggression from her as well. When she was younger she had a short temper.
Being short black and short tempered obviously contributed to my aggressive
style on the tournament circuits. In some ways it helped, but in some
ways it hindered me. The idea is to control the aggression and channel
it, sometimes I lost the plot and went over the top. But it was good
entertainment and true warrior attitude. I wouldn't change a thing,
I have a few regrets but whatever, my success has been good to me and
I am happy to have achieved what I have.
What is your best memory from your championship days and your worst
Joe: To be honest Jon there are too many good memories and too many
bad ones to actually pin point single memories. The best thing that
championships have done for me is that I have met many people some good,
some bad. I have made some good friends. It has educated me throughout
most of my life I now feel the journey is coming to an end. I need to
know what else lies in store before it is too late. I have spent most
of my life in martial arts, my best friends are martial artists, my
work at Martec is martial arts based. I feel I must venture into something
else, the worst thing is I don't know what. I don't know anything else,
I still like my training (ten years ago it would have been love!) but
there must be something else, or maybe not.
Do you feel you have anything left to achieve in Karate. If so what
is your goal, but if not, will it be hard to maintain your enthusiasm
Joe: No, there is no more to achieve mainly because the arts themselves
aren't going forward. No one is putting back in and I feel some of the
things I have achieved have been demeaned by self proclaimed champions
and governing bodies. If we are truthful with ourselves, most of martial
arts are money oriented now. This isn't a bad thing as long as people
receive value for money, championships aren't what they used to be and
the professional martial artist is wise enough to steer his people away,
because they don't find them productive to what they are trying to achieve
which is a viable business. As for me I will continue to train for myself
because it's good for me. That's what keeps me going and some like minded
people who aren't scared of hearing the truth. Jon:
Many senior Martial Artists seem to become obsessed about Dan Grades.
I sometimes consider wearing a white belt again as I want to maintain
a humble spirit and a willingness to learn, many Karate World champions
are 3rd and 4th dan why do you think some styles and certain fighters
find it necessary to push their dan grades up to 7th, 8th and even 9th
and 10th Dan. I always imagined you had to be 90 years old to hold such
grades. What's your perspective.
Joe: Ha Ha, its not the grade is it, it's upto them, but by putting
another tab on your belt, if that's what you and your system want then
who am I to oppose. I have this dilemma within my own association. Some
of my senior instructors are due to be the same grade as me. I am not
really bothered but I don't want to be the same grade as my Sensei or
some of my peers. The likes of Billy Higgins, who was a pioneer of British
Karate, I can't walk in his shoes. It's just a bit of a circus really
or a race. It should be a journey and in my opinion, there's no rush.
Let your history answer for itself and then you will remain humble,
respect should firstly come from yourself.
At Shuko Karate we have a very open minded view to Martial Arts, we
train with anyone who has got good skill levels. Whether they be Thai
Boxing instructors or Ju Jitsu experts, but I would never consider calling
our club anything apart from a Karate club. Tradition Karate has holds,
sweeps, Strikes, Kicks and a whole abundance of nasty finger strikes
etc. Why do you think cross training has become so common and do you
think it damages Martial Arts to have 10,000 clubs all called different
things -which are essentially the same? Joe: Some of it is like I
said earlier - money orientated. Karate has been around along time,
it's human instinct to experiment. But there's also human ego which
can take over and everyone likes to do their best. My view is, why fix
something that is not broken. I like what I do and I think it is quite
effective and I have passed it down honestly. But todays society is
ever on the look out for new things, I think it is just a sign of the
times. It only damages the arts, because it splits us up even more,
without unity it will never become main stream and I think some people
are happy with that.
I remember watching you fight for the first time, at a Shuko Kai tournament
in Bolton in 1986. At that tournament you fought a Kung Fu fighter and
it was a great contest. High kicks versus the sweep, take down, reverse
punch - you won. I saw another great fight between a brilliant Wado
Ryu Karate fighter - I wish I knew his name, and another kung fu fighter,
they both did the same brilliant spinning leg sweep - fantastic. The
hall was full of predominantly white gis from the Karate fighters with
the odd multi coloured satin Kung Fu suit. I miss those days, freestyle
Karate has drifted away from main stream Karate, or maybe the EKGB and
its affiliates has drifted away from us. Would you like to help build
bridges between Freestyle Karate and the WUKO based clubs?
It would be nice, especially for up and coming students, but alas there
is a lot of bigotry in Martial arts it's no secret, everyone knows it
is there. There are to many chiefs and not enough Indians. I would have
at one time loved to have seen everyone together, with about three different
modes of combat to suit every style and I tried. I made the shift from
WUKO into sport karate and then into freestyle to show people that change
is possible, but no one took me on. Remember I am not the best in my
field, I would like to think I was a world class martial artist, but
I did not have the clout to bring people together on this scale. Sadly
I do not think it will happen in my life time unless there is an enormous
carrot for the powers that be.
You once told me that Karate had always been there for you. When girl
friends left or life was hard, you could always turn back to your Karate
training. Does this still apply?
Joe: Ha Ha unfortunately Jon, my perpective has changed, because
I am getting older and those girl friends probably left because of Karate
- ha ha. Seriously and honestly, like I said earlier I need to see more
of life. Thirty three years of martial arts is an achievement I am proud
of. I don't just turn up to training now, I watch myself on video and
smile and think that was good and it seems to do the trick. Training
and teaching is a lot more subtle now.
I read an interview you did with Peter Lewis from fighters magazine,
there was a sense of disappointment that there were so many charlatans
out there in our Martial arts world,. I hope you would never let this
disappointment lead to you giving up training and instructing. I hope
you can put my mind at rest?
No of course not, if you let these people effect you they will bring
you down to their level. Let them get on with it, what I would like
to say and believe is my message is more pure. I will always train,
but the level will be affected by nature (age). I would always like
to pass on my knowledge and perhaps touch a few people. It is a big
thrill still to be asked to do seminars, as you know Jon, I am really
a big entertainer at heart, so put your mind at rest. I will contribute
a bit more.
Is there any other advice you would like to pass on to our web site
Listen to your parents, you owe them your life. Be as honest as you
can be, trust is an amazing attribute, try not to be gullable. Question
things you don't understand in a polite way especially if you are talking
to your Sensei. Enjoy your life you only get one chance ( I think )
it's later than you think. Take more chances, don't get bogged down
with what society expects of you. Try not worry it makes you old. Unless
it's life threatening then take more chances ha ha. Enjoy what you are
doing, but remember enjoyment is only a moment, you have to work hard
to get the next one. Keep the faith. Joe Tierney
Thank you very much Sensei Joe Tierney for doing this interview, all
the very best to you and your family and friends and we hope Shorai
Freestyle Karate and Martec Martial arts equipment keeps striding forward.
I am sometimes grateful that life never gave me any great talents, well
nothing obvious, such as been a world class martial artist. This lack
of any particular talent has meant I will always try and have a go at
anything. If you have been one of the best in your field like Boris
Becker, Wayne Rooney or Joe Tierney it must be hard to find the next
step on life's journey, once such a huge step into World championship
arenas or into great stadiums is over. It is sad to see the likes of
Maradonna, George Best and Alex Higgins wasting their remaining life.
I personally think it is because they find it impossible to find anything
else to try, or maybe never even bothered looking. My advice to anyone
and to all of us, would be education is the key. Learning new skills
keeps our minds fresh and our spirits young. I was computer illiterate
5 or 6 years ago, but I hope this web site is an indication that you
can learn new skills. I knew a women who learnt to swim in her sixties
and another who walked to Everest base camp at the age of 67. I always
like to see more mature faces coming through our Dojo doors, as it is
once again an indication of an enterprising spirit. I always try to
build on the past, keeping what is good, but adding to it with new skills.
I would like to send our best wishes to Sensei Joe Tierney who in my
eyes will always be one of my favorite fighters and who I believe has
a lot to offer within Karate and more importantly life generally. On
a separate matter if anyone would like to add their club names (mainly
amateur clubs - this must not be about financial gain) to a list of
open minded Martial arts clubs who would be prepared to train with both
Traditional Karate fighters and Freestyle fighters please email us by
we are stronger. I will start the new page soon.