...years of age, that is. Also still pushing weights, not daisies, so I've much to be thankful for even when the universe throws little reminders my way regarding entropy and duration and all that.

My favourite modern book on physical training is probably this one, written by two former US Olympic judo coaches. I particularly like the incorporation of Karl Gotch's wrestling calisthenics (as popularised by the not-always-popular Matt Furey, but used by top American and Japanese grapplers for decades now) along with weight training. John Saylor, on his blog, expresses puzzlement about self-defence-oriented martial artists lacking the athleticism of those who compete. I couldn't agree more, even though my cardio is nowhere near the level it ought to be right now.

One of the many judoka appearing in the book's photos is Dr AnnMaria De Mars, whose blogs are well worth a read. She's a tech entrepreneur, she's taught maths at every level from young kids to post-docs, been a working engineer and a software developer (she still codes), and possesses four academic degrees despite starting life on the wrong side of the tracks. She was also the first American to win the judo world championship (regardless of gender), in 1984. And one of her daughters is the judo/MMA legend, Ronda Rousey.

For pure personal nostalgia in the physical training world, however, I can't get any better than this book, written by the guy who designed the weights room at Birmingham University, where in 1975 I first started serious (by my standards) weight training. You'll note that the benches lack upholstery, and cardio machines are non-existent in the weights room.

Howard Payne was a faculty member. He was also an Olympian and multiple Commonwealth Games competitor, won Commonwealth gold in the hammer throwing, and was multiple times West Midlands regional powerlifting champion. 

(You'll hear people say that in the 1970s athletes were discouraged from lifting weights because of the "it will slow you down" fallacy. The all-styles karate UK team captain, Ticky Donovan, said exactly that right in front of me in 1978 or '79, and to be fair, he was astoundingly fast: he must have hit me about two hundred times during the three minutes that he fought me. I was the person he chose to fight (use as a mobile punchbag) in front of all the other trainees, at the end of a weekend training course at Aston University. He was a terrific karateka, but in this he was wrong, and the Birmingham University athletes knew this. (I'd also trained once with Terry O'Neill at Cyril Cummins' dojo, and Terry was like a transporter-accident-melding of Arnie Schwarzenegger and Bruce Lee. He produced picture-perfect technique when dropping people for real, when working as a bouncer in the violent old days in Liverpool, as well as in international competition.))

I recognise and remember most of the athletes pictured in Howard Payne's book, though I only knew one or two by name. (One of them was a wado-ryu black belt.) The photos would all have been taken while I was training there. The book appeared in 1979.

Some postscripts:

1) I should add that Ticky Donovan didn't actually hurt me, but instead hit me so often that my brain short-circuited: the same effect that escrima fighters attempt to produce with rapid sequences of stick-fighting strikes rather than single heavy blows. Ticky's control was as amazing as his timing, distancing and technical brilliance.

 2) There's a fandom link for anyone who attended a Liverpool Eastercon at the notorious Adelphi Hotel. Yvonne and I checked in there once at 2 a.m. and it was a war zone outside. A drunk, aggressive young lady smashed the glass of the locked revolving doors, and eventually got inside the hotel that the staff had tried to keep her out of. In another incident around the same time, and that I initially misinterpreted, a young woman knocked on the door screaming for help, while a bloodied, bare-chested man came running up behind her. I thought he was her attacker, but in fact they were both fleeing a total psycho who was in pursuit. (The psycho had torn the shirt off this innocent guy's back!) The source of the trouble, I believe, was the Banyan Club that was located below the hotel; and that was where Terry O'Neill worked the doors. Sooner him than me.

Both the dealers' room (I seem to recall) and at least one fan's hotel room were burgled during that con...

3) Remember the maxim: the older I get, the tougher I used to be. Although there's an opposite saying about old age and sneakiness...   ;-)

4) One of the guys pictured in Howard Payne's book was a local Brummie (inhabitant of Birmingham) who was actually still at school, or so I was told, rather than a university student. Years later, when I watched the Commonwealth Games on TV, he'd come out of retirement to compete in the shot putt aged forty or so (as far as I recall) but his day job was strength and conditioning coach at Stanford University in the States. Not bad!

5) In Paradox, which first appeared 21 years ago – my second published novel – Tom Corcorigan learns the "Five Sigmas" of fighting from Maestro da Silva. I eventually added a sixth to the list, as you can see in the first photo overhead. 

(This was long before I ever heard business consultants talking about 6 Sigma and, for pity's sake, 6 Sigma black belts, which used to sound like an insult to me... until I decided I didn't care. Likewise coding dojos. Coding kata, however, is not an insult, because "kata" in Japanese has a much broader scope than martial arts. And in fact, the notion of dan grades can also apply to things like playing Go or formal flower arrangement... just not with coloured belts.)

... Stay strong, stay safe, everyone!


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