John L Sullivan 18581918

John Lawrence Sullivan was born to Irish immigrant parents in Boston, Massachusetts on October 12, 1858. By 1880, he had started fighting, first in exhibitions (usually with gloves) and then in prize rings (with gloves, kid gloves, or bare knuckles). At the time, prizefighting was illegal and promoters nonexistent. The fighters' backers put up the prize money and side bets. Spectators paid admission and a hat was passed to gather money for the fighters. Police often interrupted the bouts, which were as a result frequently staged in undisclosed locations (once even on a barge!).

Sullivan stood 5'10" and weighed just under 200 lbs. in fighting trim. He sported the long handlebar mustache of his era and wore his dark hair short to prevent hair-pulling in the ring. He was the stereotypical celebrity athlete. He drank heavily, womanized, and partied, and saved little for the future. He took crazy dares, shot off guns, and once even ran into a burning building to help salvage furniture. He could also be generous, offering money or goods to those in need.

Sullivan fought under the loose London Prize Ring rules, which featured untimed rounds and allowed standing grapples, throws, and bare knuckles; in fact, he was the last of the bare-knuckle champs. Later, he became the first prizefighter to accept the Marquess of Queensbury rules - the forerunner of today's boxing regulations. Whatever the rules, he wasn't a finesse fighter. He ran down his opponents with his famous bull-like rushes and defeated them with ferocious strength. He participated in 47 prize bouts, with a record of 43-3-1. He fought in a match in France and one in Canada, and in hundreds of exhibitions.

In 1889, just outside New Orleans, Sullivan fought in the last great bare-knuckle boxing championship. He accepted the bout while he wasn't in top form, and hired a noted wrestling and boxing coach to whip him into shape for the reported sum of $10,000! It was money well-spent. Sullivan knocked out his opponent, Jake Kilrain, after 75 brutal rounds under the London Prize Ring rules. This was also Sullivan's greatest moment; he lost his next bout to James J. Corbett, a young fighter known for a bobbing, weaving, and ducking style that would soon characterize all prizefighting. Although Sullivan would win one more bout under the Marquess of Queensbury rules, his career as a boxer was over.

Sullivan died of a heart attack on February 2, 1918.

Funakoshi Gichin (1868-1957)

Funakoshi Gichin was in many ways the father of the modern sport of Karate. Born in Okinawa in 1868, at the dawn of the Meiji Restoration, he was a small and weak child. One of his classmates was the son of a Te (pp. 169170) instructor, and Funakoshi took lessons - at night and in secret, since instruction was still illegal. His health improved, and this turned out to be the first step in what would later become his way of life.

Funakoshi sat for and passed the entrance exams for medical school, but furor over his samurai-class topknot led him to withdraw his application. He later cut off his topknot and became a schoolteacher, drawing on his early education in Chinese classics. Funakoshi continued to study martial arts at night under Azato Yasutsune. Azato was strict, requiring his student to repeat the same kata or drill until it was mastered before moving on to the next. Funakoshi went on to learn from several of Okinawa's top Te instructors.

In 1922, Funakoshi came to Japan as an official ambassador for Karate. He founded a dojo and called it and the style he taught there Shotokan (p. 170), after a nom de plume he used for his poetry (Shoto, or "Pine Wave").

Funakoshi was a great believer in the power of Te and the benefits of Karate as healthy exercise, and attempted to spread the practice of the martial arts to all. He was peaceful, and taught that the martial arts should only be used for self-defense - and even then, only when one's life was in danger. He had little tolerance for exaggerated techniques or myths about "fatal blows," and regarded "iron hand" training as bunk.

Funakoshi constantly refined and improved his style. He believed that each instructor should teach his own way and encouraged a diversity of Karate styles. Indeed, Shotokan is the forerunner of many modern Karate styles - including Kyokushin (pp. 171-172), founded by Funakoshi's student Mas Oyama (p. 24). Funakoshi died in 1957.

Ghulam Muhammad ("Gama") (1878-1960)

Ghulam Muhammad - better known as "The Lion of the Punjab" or simply "Gama" - was born in 1878 to Kashmiri parents in what was then India. Both he and his brother, Imam Bux, became wrestlers. Despite being a Muslim, Gama was accepted into Indian wrestling circles thanks to his enormous skill and power. By age 19, he stood 5'7" and weighed 200 lbs. He fought numerous matches against Indian opponents, defeating or drawing against them all and eventually defeating those capable of drawing against him.

In 1910 (some sources say 1908), Gama traveled to Europe to wrestle. He engaged in several catch-as-catch-can wrestling matches against the best grapplers he could find. These included the 234-lb. American B.F. "Doc" Roller and the 254-lb. Pole Stanislaus "Stanley" Zbyszko. Zbyszko was unable to take the offensive but his weight advantage allowed him to sustain a draw after a match that lasted over two and a half hours. He didn't show for the decision match, so Gama won the John Bull Belt by default.

Gama returned to India, where he had become a celebrity. He met all comers, reigning undefeated as world champion. Zbyszko fought Gama again in 1928 - this time in a traditional Indian dirt pit. Gama quickly disposed of him, throwing him in only six seconds and winning in 42 seconds.

Gama's strength and endurance were legendary. Every day, he would rise hours before dawn - common practice for Indian wrestlers - and begin his routine of 2,000 dands (a kind of pushup) and 4,000 baithaks (deep knee bends). His skill was equally fearsome: few could take the offensive in matches against him, and those who tried lost more quickly than those who chose to delay. His combination of power, stamina, and ability was unmatched.

Gama continued to wrestle until the India-Pakistan partition of 1947. He moved to Pakistan, losing his wealth, trophies, and state pension. He was unable to wrestle against champions because of the bitter political and religious divide the partition created. He died in 1960.

William E. Fairbairn (1885-1960)

William Ewart Fairbairn was born in England in 1885. He served in the Royal Marine Light Infantry from 1901 to 1907. Upon leaving the military, he joined the Shanghai Municipal Police.

In China, Fairbairn came into contact with Chinese and Japanese martial arts. As part of a SWAT-style "flying squad" called in to deal with troublemakers on a routine basis, he was able to put his training to immediate, practical use. Police records document his personal involvement in over 600 altercations! Despite his famous toughness, Fairbairn didn't escape unscathed - in fact, he once survived a beating by Triad hatchet men who left him for dead. This merely encouraged him to further develop his unarmed-combat abilities. He trained his men in "Defendu" - his own style, stripped down for quick instruction and effectiveness. In 1940, he retired from his post.

During World War II, Fairbairn was recruited to teach hand-to-hand combat to U.S. and British commandos, and to members of the OSS. Fairbairn and Eric Anthony Sykes (another member of Fairbairn's Shanghai squad) developed a system of sentry removal and quick, ruthless tactics for dealing with German troops. They also developed a knife -the Sykes-Fairbairn commando knife - for use with their style. Colonel Rex Applegate of the OSS contributed to their style, too, as well as to the pistol, submachine gun, and rifle training used by these special-operations troops. Some of Fairbairn's teachings were published in the book Get Tough. Fairbairn died in 1960.

Boxing Simplified

Boxing Simplified

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