Bill Rattigan

Bill Rattigan is one of the original Geoff Thompson students, stretching right back to the days when bare-knuckle Animal Day session were the norm and mixed martial arts was still in its infancy. Having gone through the physical martial arts forge with some of the toughest fighters in the country (Justin Gray, Lea and Matty Evans, Alan Peasland etc) Bill went on to study spirituality and healing. Here he talks to Martial Arts Illustrated about his transition from the physical to the ethereal.

MAI: Bill, when you first started training with Geoff Thompson you were a professional musician, can you tell us how and why you started training in the martial arts? Bill Rattigan: Can I first say a thank you to Geoff Thompson on behalf of all the lads at training who he has taken under his wing and given so much to, and also on behalf of his larger class, your readers. To the question how and why I started training goes back ten years or so to a time when my children Debra and John attended Geoff’s class for Shotokan Karate in Longford, Coventry. I was approaching forty years of age and although I had always kept a reasonable level of fitness (or so I thought) I decided it was time to start taking things a little easier. Karate was something I had always wanted to try, so I thought I would give it a go for a week or so just to say that I had done it. Little did I know what the next ten years would have in store for me.

How hard were those early sessions, were they as bad as legend has them? How hard is hard? It’s as hard as you make it. When I first started the novices would practice their kata at one end and the experienced players would be at the top end doing circle training, fighting to the ‘death’ for a certain time then two more would take their place and often the first two would say, ‘Fancy another go?’ They would go back in the circle and start again. I thought that they were obviously quite mad. But when I had time to think about it, it dawned on me that anyone who could do this for fun would probably make an incredibly good friend, but also there was the possibility that maybe one day I might be able to achieve this incredible feat

Were there many injuries? On a normal session a mop and bucket for the blood was a regular occurrence with cuts and bruises but nothing major as I recall, no broken bones as boxing gloves were worn and it was before the grappling and throwing.

I believe that you got into sports massage because of your own injuries and now you treat all the lads at Geoff’s club for their injuries?

Yes that’s right. Anyone who has had a pulled muscle in their back or shoulder will know the meaning of the word pain with no sleep for days. I had a pulled muscle in my back from an awkward break fall off a throw that didn’t hurt at first, but later that evening it felt like a knife in my back. My own doctor and the National Health could do nothing for me apart from prescribing pain killers or muscle relaxants. All that had happened was the muscle that had been damaged had gone into spasm, cramp, and as anyone who has had cramp will tell you, you would need morphine to take the pain away. When you get cramp in your calf, you simply straighten your leg and pull back on your toes, this stretches the muscle to relieve the tension, so it is with cramp or muscle spasm in your back, but the problem is that the medical profession seem to know nothing about it. After three long days and sleepless nights I was introduced to Joe Doolan in Coventry who does sports massage and he got rid of the pain instantly with deep massage. I thought to myself, ‘I want to learn more about this’, so I did. For most people out there with a bad back, the chances are that it is soft tissue damage and deep sports massage should help. As with all things use only qualified practitioners.

Did the heavy training affect your ability to make your living as a musician? Not really, I only ever lost two gigs through injury, one on the day I had my cruciate ligament bust in an unfortunate fall but the next night I played on crutches, and once when I cracked a rib and by the time the next weekend came around I strapped myself up real tight and went out and played. It wasn’t easy and it hurt like hell but because of the training I got through and I never lost a day with flu, sore throat or anything like that, I did have them but I got through.

What did a normal session with Geoff consist of? Anything and everything. Because Geoff was still on the door he would turn up every week with a different scenario, sometimes the lesson would start with, ‘Right, get the gloves on’, to get you used to being caught cold, but there would still be starters at one end and experienced fighters at the other. The time devoted to Karate and ‘all in’ fighting was about the same but the beauty of the ‘all in’ was that you could find out your limit in the safety of the gym, although the bouts were competitive, everyone was and still is a bonded friend.

Sounds as though it was quite frightening, what are your thoughts on that type of training now, in retrospect?

Same as now really, if you earned a black belt with Geoff, you knew that he had confidence in you as a fighter and as a person who would not give up and would keep on getting up after the knock down, because everyone goes down on a black belt grading and it is persistence that shows black belt mentality.

Geoff and some of the lads were still working the doors when you first started training with them, what are your thoughts about that?

With all respect to every other martial arts instructor in the area, I am so glad (in fact I think I was guided) to have started my training with Geoff, who at that time was a professional ‘real fighter’ in one of the most violent cities of its time. What you got was not just the fighting in the classes but the background and all the feelings that go with it, why fights happen, how to avoid them and how to win them.

You had a lot of media attention, or at least the club did, because of the very hard teaching methods. I know that there was a lot of TV coverage and media interest. What did you feel about that, was it good for the martial arts?

Yes, in my opinion it was good. The Beatles revolutionised music, Michael Flatly revolutionised traditional dance and Geoff has revoiutionaiised the martial arts, especially the leaning towards training for life in general and the understanding of stress and misplaced aggression and how it affects the well-being of all of us, with TV being the platform to start the spread of this path to enlightenment.

Some people think that the heavy training is thuggish and bad for the martial arts.

Talk to Henry Cooper about heavy sparring and some of the wrestlers of his day about training methods and they will tell you what makes a durable fighter. As you develop the will to continue along with your fighting expertise you create that something extra. Thuggery only comes into it when someone is being forced to fight when they don’t want to or can’t defend themselves properly, and get beaten up.

Does the club still practice the severe training methods? Geoff’s club is now private and by invitation only, apart from his seminars. Once you have stood and been counted, there is no need to undergo the same test again and again.

What about Geoff and the lads, have they also taken their training to a higher, more spiritual level? Yes, the main thrust of the class these days is the application of all this strength, character, durability, understanding and positive attitude into the physical world, this is where you enter into the spiritual.

Considering the fact that the training was always severe and the conditions harsh, the people at the Coventry class have a reputation of being some of the most respectful and gentle people in the martial arts. Quite a polarity. Is it the training that brings the humility or is it the teaching methods? A little of both really. The training is a means by which to grow as an individual and a good teacher should always promote humility and respect for others, especially those who may not be as strong or might need a hand. It seems that the more you achieve, the more you are able to serve those who need help, once again you are looking at the spiritual aspect of it all. The better the teacher, then the more advanced the outcome will be.

What level did you reach, Bill? Considering I was only going to give it a try for a week or two I think my qualifications have exceeded my expectations. I now hold 3rd dan senior instructor BCA; 1st dan Karate; 1st dan Goshinkwai with Dave Turton; grade 3 wrestling coach with Chris Whelan certification, as well as training with Neil Adams and the England Judo team, Glen Smith boxing, Bob Spour Thai Boxing and Rick Young JKD. Quite a busy ten years.

You must have seen the class change dramatically over the years, can you tell us how this transition from very hard physical training to spirituality occurred?

From the very beginning of my involvement with Geoff, I have been impressed by his honesty and respect for all people, weak or strong, and another really big thing for me was the realisation that here was a man fighting all the time, but fighting for the right reasons and against the bad guys, standing up to them and winning. It was possible to be a nice, even gentle person and still be able to fight like xxxx. Through the years, as Geoff grew as a person, this strength of character was able to blossom and become a larger part of his life and it naturally showed its influence in his teachings.

When were you first aware of the change in the class? For me there has always been a gradual change in Geoff and in turn his teaching
in the class as he evolves as a person, as we all do. As he progressed he took us all with him. When Geoff began to get success as a writer, he started to read other authors’ works to learn techniques, from the classics to modern books like the Celestine Prophecy, and he would encourage us all to read also to help expand our minds. If there was a point where you could say something changed I suppose you could say it was here, the training stayed more or less the same, but the message became blatantly spiritual. It is at this time that there came the realisation that not only was it ok to be a nice person but according to

Universal Law and the laws of Karma, it was actually beneficial to your health.

How did you get into spirituality, was it as a consequence of the hard training with Geoff? Hard training is certainly a means to make you ask questions of yourself, why am I doing this, what’s it all for? Reading these books that hinted towards the light and encouraged looking within only seemed to create more questions, but I suppose that’s the idea, to get you to think about things on a deeper level, it certainly worked in my case, it gave me a hunger to find out more. Geoff had always encourage us to look at other ways of thinking and training so when my wife went to a local spiritual church with her mother and received a message from her father who passed away some years before and, believe me it was a good message, I knew I just had to look deeper into this. The job of a medium in a spiritualist church is to prove the existence of life after this life and to my mind they did. I just had to go to the church to look deeper into it. I found out all about immortality, healing, clairvoyance, Universal Law and much more.

Can the two, physical and spiritual, co-exist? Yes, they can and have done since the dawn of time.

Do you still practice any martial arts? Nowhere near the level I have done but I still maintain a certain level of fitness (or so I think).

So you went into sports massage. Did that naturally lend itself to healing? Not necessarily, as massage is physical but the opportunity to help someone in need can open certain healing channels and foster a desire to want to help and a realisation that all things are possible.

So, can you tell us then how you did get into healing? I attended the spiritual church on a regular basis and had access to their library and I would like to point out that most of the books on the subject are still in print and available through most high street bookshops, let me just give you one title Philosophy of Silver Birch edited by Stella Storm. Thjs book will blow you away as it tells you all the major reasons for our existence and what life is all about. The book goes on to explain about out own immortality and the laws of Karma being perfect in their execution. This is in accordance with all the main world religions, to progress towards God, angels from the higher realms conversing with prophets (mediums for the message) and healing as many have done before and since Jesus. The healing appealed to me so I began to study properly in the church and I am now a recognised approved healer registered with the SNU which is the largest Spiritualist organisation of its kind in the world.

Do you think that you might have found this gift without the martial arts? Are there other ways to find spirituality, perhaps better ways?

It’s hard to say, my involvement with Geoff helped greatly and I don’t know if one way is better than another. The spiritual awareness is the realisation that there is more to life than the physical and is often sought by millionaires or retired successful people, generally people who have been there and achieved something and, as you know in martial arts, you have the opportunity to be there and achieve something quite often and generally at a reasonably young age so that you may have longer to develop it. As long as you reach it at some stage of your life, then the job is done.

Is there a danger do you think of becoming too spiritual, of losing your physical elements? The only certainty we face from the moment of our conception is that one day we will leave the physical behind with earthly death and spiritual rebirth. The reason we agree to come to earth is to evolve spiritually which usually comes about through overcoming adversity. It is by living in the physical world, while adhering to exceeded my expectations. I now hold 3rd dan senior instructor BCA; 1st dan Karate; 1st dan Goshinkwai with Dave Turton; grade 3 wrestling coach with Chris Whelan certification, as well as training with Neil Adams and the England Judo team, Glen Smith boxing, Bob Spour Thai Boxing and Rick Young JKD. Quite a busy ten years.

You must have seen the class change dramatically over the years, can you tell us how this transition from very hard physical training to spirituality occurred?

From the very beginning of my involvement with Geoff, I have been impressed by his honesty and respect for all people, weak or strong, and another really big thing for me was the realisation that here was a man fighting all the time, but fighting for the right reasons and against the bad guys, standing up to them and winning. It was possible to be a nice, even gentle person and still be able to fight like xxxx. Through the years, as Geoff grew as a person, this strength of character was able to blossom and become a larger part of his life and it naturally showed its influence in his teachings.

When were you first aware of the change in the class? For me there has always been a gradual change in Geoff and in turn his teaching in the class as he evolves as a person, as we all do. As he progressed he took us all with him. When Geoff began to get success as a writer, he started to read other authors’ works to learn techniques, from the classics to modern books like the Celestine Prophecy, and he would encourage us all to read also to help expand our minds. If there was a point where you could say something changed I suppose you could say it was here, the training stayed more or less the same, but the message became blatantly spiritual. It is at this time that there came the realisation that not only was it ok to be a nice person but according to

Universal Law and the laws of Karma, it was actually beneficial to your health.

How did you get into spirituality, was it as a consequence of the hard training with Geoff? Hard training is certainly a means to make you ask questions of yourself, why am I doing this, what’s it all for? Reading these books that hinted towards the light and encouraged looking within only seemed to create more questions, but I suppose that’s the idea, to get you to think about things on a deeper level, it certainly worked in my case, it gave me a hunger to find out more. Geoff had always encourage us to look at other ways of thinking and training so when my wife went to a local spiritual church with her mother and received a message from her father who passed away some years before and, believe me it was a good message, I knew I just had to look deeper into this. The job of a medium in a spiritualist church is to prove the existence of life after this life and to my mind they did. I just had to go to the church to look deeper into it. I found out all about immortality, healing, clairvoyance, Universal Law and much more.

Can the two, physical and spiritual, co-exist? Yes, they can and have done since the dawn of time.

Do you still practice any martial arts? Nowhere near the level I have done but I still maintain a certain level of fitness (or so I think).

So you went into sports massage. Did that naturally lend itself to healing? Not necessarily, as massage is physical but the opportunity to help someone in need can open certain healing channels and foster a desire to want to help and a realisation that all things are possible.

So, can you tell us then how you did get into healing? I attended the spiritual church on a regular basis and had access to their library and I would like to point out that most of the books on the subject are still in print and available through most high street bookshops, let me just give you one title Philosophy of Silver Birch edited by Stella Storm. Thjs book will blow you away as it tells you all the major reasons for our existence and what life is all about. The book goes on to explain about out own immortality and the laws of Karma being perfect in their execution. This is in accordance with all the main world religions, to progress towards God, angels from the higher realms conversing with prophets (mediums for the message) and healing as many have done before and since Jesus. The healing appealed to me so I began to study properly in the church and I am now a recognised approved healer registered with the SNU which is the largest Spiritualist organisation of its kind in the world.

Do you think that you might have found this gift without the martial arts? Are there other ways to find spirituality, perhaps better ways?

It’s hard to say, my involvement with Geoff helped greatly and I don’t know if one way is better than another. The spiritual awareness is the realisation that there is more to life than the physical and is often sought by millionaires or retired successful people, generally people who have been there and achieved something and, as you know in martial arts, you have the opportunity to be there and achieve something quite often and generally at a reasonably young age so that you may have longer to develop it. As long as you reach it at some stage of your life, then the job is done.

Is there a danger do you think of becoming too spiritual, of losing your physical elements? The only certainty
we face from the moment of our conception is that one day we will leave the physical behind with earthly death and spiritual rebirth. The reason we agree to come to earth is to evolve spiritually which usually comes about through overcoming adversity. It is by living in the physical world, while adhering to spiritual values, that maximum growth can be attained. After this life we return to the spiritual realms and the only thing that we can take with us is the spiritual growth, or otherwise, that we have earned whilst here.

Can anyone be a healer?

Everyone is a healer. Just as everyone can defend themselves to whatever level of their expertise, from playing dead to out and out art of war, the more you practice, the better you get.

Why are the healing and spirituality important? This life and, more to the point, how we live it, is the most important thing for us at the moment. Our time on earth, although it may seem long, is really quite short compared to eternity and is merely a preparation for the spiritual.

What is the actual process of healing, what do you do when you heal someone? The person does not heal, they offer themselves as channels for healing energies and intelligence from the higher levels, just as a mediums offer themselves as a channel for messages, although they are referred to as healers they do not actually heal. A medium, either healer or clairvoyant, works just like a TV set or mobile phone. To put it simply they receive information or energies and pass them on. We all know radio and mobile phone waves are all around us and pass right through us all the time, we cannot see them but we know they are there and that they work. So it is with the spiritual which is on a higher vibration than the physical, much higher than radio waves and the medium or healing medium who tunes into these higher vibrations offers themselves as a channel for this spiritual activity.

Have you had many successes? I have generally been given very good feedback from the people who have received healing through me. The healing itself cannot fail (so long as there is attunement by the medium with the healing energies) because the healing intelligence comes from the spiritual realms through the healing medium to the inner self, the spiritual centre of the person receiving healing. The healing intelligence reminds the core of the patient (immune system) of its responsibility to the well-being of the body and offers help at any level. With what you can call a successful healing, harmony is brought within and penetrates through to the outer levels, if however the illness has gone too far or the person is holding on to stress and anger then the effects may not be seen on the physical outer shell. Although, with serious or terminal illness, peace of mind may be all that is required by the patient’s inner self to prepare for what is ahead.

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