Bob in the words of Peter Smith, 7th Degree Master
Bob Johnson`s White Tiger system (Tai Gik koon) is an anomaly, strictly speaking it shouldn`t exist.
Bob`s system consists of elements of Wing Chun, Baqua Chang (Pakua), Ripping Tiger, Karate, and is very strongly influenced by several secret Indian and Sikh fighting arts such as Muka Basi, Khalsa, and many others.
Now that`s a lot of names and to be frank, hearing all of those names can be off putting, to say it has all of those elements tends to make one think that it`s trying to sound special. It gives the impression of a jack of all trades and master of none. It sounds ostentatious, in this era especially, when to many `Kung Fu` is looked down the nose at by mixed martial arts and all the `real` systems out there, in fact, to have all of those names banded together above sounds ridiculous and actually loses kudos not adds to it.
And yet, it does have those elements, not the long slow protracted movements of many styles, not the pretty jumping kicks, not the endless flowing artistic forms. Bob`s system has the minutiae, the effective direct swift combinations that strike vital targets, finishing fights swiftly as one would need to on a battlefield. And the genius of Bob, the thing which makes him a master, was he put all of that together, he saw the gold hidden in those systems and as a fighter, he was able to draw the nuggets together and create something unique.
When I said above that Bob`s system is an anomaly and that it shouldn`t exist, I perhaps need to explain that statement.
In these times, people often cross train in several arts, a bit of Judo or Ju jitsu to help their ground work, some boxing for the hands, maybe some kung Fu just for the art, (see I`m being derogatory too) and some taekwondo or karate for the kicks. It`s easy these days, people make a lot of money from being open and welcoming to stylists from other systems.
But the reason Bob`s system is an anomaly is because everything was very, very different in the late 1940s 50s and 60s when Bob learned his trade. Martial arts then were hidden. Most people had never heard of them outside a bit of judo/ wrestling or boxing. Finding a teacher was impossible, the Easterners simply didn`t teach Westerners. If a person was fortunate enough to find the golden nugget of a teacher, you dedicated yourself to learning that Art. Once accepted, it was unlikely you ever stopped, because it was that hard to find a teacher. Being a member of a martial system was like a brother hood, more accurately it was like belonging to a religion. You were taught the mysterious arts secrets and you didn’t teach them to anyone else either, that was sacre sanct.
Whatever your teacher said was the truth, you didn’t question it, as the old Japanese instructors used to say `You Do, you do`! Nothing else, just like a soldier, simply obey the command. Students held their instructors in awe and you were usually told that your system was the best. In my early days of Karate in the mid seventies I was told along with the whole class that a brown belt in our style could beat a black belt in any other style, such was the quality of our style and its teachers and training. And….despite how ridiculous it sounds now, you believed it. Loyalty to your art was paramount, very rarely did anyone ever go and train elsewhere outside of their style, other clubs within your system were fine, but not other systems.
A friend of mine a great martial artist and human being, speaks of us having to be shape shifters in life, he meant that to grow, we have to let go of what we think we know and totally immerse ourselves in something new, do it as a beginner, and shape shift into that new thing we are learning. An example he gave me, was that as a lifelong Karateka, he took a year off and trained every day, seven days a week in Judo under Neil Adams, the ex world champion. So he shape shifted from a Karateka to a Judo player for a year. In so doing he grew enormously, he added to his martial arts skills and as a person, by becoming a beginner, he kept his humility.
Bob Johnson was a shape shifter, he was a shape shifter at a time when it shouldn`t have been able to be done. It was a time when people were beaten up for doing it by instructors of their old style, because it was perceived as a slight on their master, the height of disrespect.
Bob once said to a student, `You have to go out and get knowledge`, he spoke with experience, Bob travelled from England to Hong Kong to Korea to New Zealand and India and possibly even Ceylon, to get the knowledge of what would become his art. Each time he shape shifted to learn what each new teacher had to show. He was put through severe trials, often just to be accepted into a school was a major trial. One time in India, after being denied entry he decided to sit outside the school for a couple of days whilst, legend has it, the students at the instruction of their master, threw urine and waste over him from the windows and roof. Bobs love of fighting and determination to go ever deeper into the potential of the martial arts drove him on. Eventually he made the ultimate shape shift, he became himself when he put all that knowledge together and created his own style.
People like Bob are rare, they live on the edge and as Geoff Thompson said, `Create an allowing for the rest of us when we hear their stories`. Almost forgotten now, this teacher and fighters art still exists. taught by Gordon Hooke and his instructors, why not save yourself a life time`s searching and shape shift into one of their students and begin your journey, don`t expect it to be easy though, nothing worthwhile ever is.
7th Degree Master in Tai Gik Kuen (Bob`s white tiger)
4th Degree Zenyogkido