When I was 24 I left the shores of Sydney and did not land again until I was 40 years old. I spent 16 years travelling, training and learning. By the time I was 24 I was already a Black Belt with many years experience and had competed many times. In a way I had out grown the local martial arts scene and was yearning for new challenges. So the best way for me to train, travel and earn a living was to become a flight attendant for Qantas.
It was funny really, for years, while other flight attendants were partying in LA, I was down town patrolling with the Guardian Angels vigilante group or wrestling the Brazillian Ju Jutsu fighters. I would get back on the aircraft after a 5 day stay over in Manila and the rested suntanned crew would ask me what I got up to…I would say I was visiting friends, when really I was down the slums for 5 days honing my knife defensive skills. Many times I would limp back on board after an over night in Tokyo or Nagoya after competing in a “No Rules” tournament, or working up to London, having 36 hours there, competing in the “British Grand Prix” then working home. Sometimes I was so beaten up that a fellow crew member would have to help me back to the aircraft, park me in a seat and hope the head Purser would not notice. One of my toughest rides home was when I had my 2 front teeth knocked out in LA…I had trouble explaining that one..
I was always training overseas jet lagged and suffering from severe lack of sleep. But the desire for truth constantly kept me going. My poor mum, if she only knew what I was really upto. I would keep myself in top condition by running stairs in hotels. I used to enjoy bunning hopping up the Westin Stamford hotel in Singapore, 90 floors of sheer pain. I would do 2 minute rounds, bunning hop for 2, and then shadow box or skip in between floors. I had to be in top shape, and I had to make sure that I was fast and powerful. It was just as well, over the years there were many times that I would have to fight for my survival.
Over the years I developed a network of top martial arts school and training partners world wide. Any one that was a name in martial arts I would seek out and train with them. My travels took me into the depths of Korea, Japan, America, Philippines, Canada, and England, not to mention the hundreds of single schools that I would visit for one off training sessions. I was constantly seeking out a challenge and a way to keep growing and improving. My main drive was to find the one master that could take me to the next level physically, mentally and emotionally. To find that “Mr Miyagi” . The more places I trained, the more skilled I became. I was keen to learn any skills that would enable me as a complete martial artist/fighter. So I often found myself in some very awkward situations, and realised that sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.
My kicking and punching has always been strong, but there were real holes in my defence when I was grabbed or taken to the ground. So I quickly enrolled at Sydney Uni Judo. After a couple of months I was geared up and ready to find some grappling schools. It was about this time that the Gracie Brothers Ju Jitsu had just moved from Brazil to California and had just launched their first video. I got a hold of their number and went to visit Rorian Gracie at their home in Torrance. At that time they were teaching out of their garage and the evenings training consisted of Rickson Gracie (The famous Gracie Champion) wrestling every one for his own training. It was a fine intro to the art of grappling as I did not realise it at the time but Rickson was to become one of best grapplers of all time. I would train with the Gracies on and off over the years but did more extensive training with their cousins, the Machado Brothers.
I would train with many styles and masters but needed more than the physical to keep me interested. The emotional, mental and spiritual growth of each master I met was the gauge as to how long I would remain training at a particular school.
On Patrol with the Guardian Angels in LA
Training with Grandmaster Antonio Illustrisimo