It was 1974 when I first walked into a karate dojo, a nervous insecure 15 year old feeling totally out of his depth in football shorts and a loose top. I was surrounded by guys in white uniforms doing the most amazing moves I'd only ever seen in the movies. They were so fast, so powerful and so skilled that I skulked into a corner and tried to hide.
The punches and kicks were blisteringly sharp; no way would these guys get pushed around by school bullies I thought as I watched the breathtaking combinations of hand and foot blur around me, somehow magical and magnificent.
This was what I wanted the power and grace of karate, the ultimate fighting system with its high kicks, deadly strikes and cat-like stealth.
My first lesson was embarrassing in the extreme as I ape the basic stances and moves clumsily, splitting my pants within two minutes and failing to produce a blood curdling scream. I couldn't get the hang of the basic blocks and punches at all and felt useless but sensei was very patient; we were new to this it took time.
The Japanese terminology didn't help. In all the books I'd read by Americans they used English terms like 'snap kick', 'straddle stance' and 'thrust punch' but in the dojo we had to learn a totally alien language. In traditional karate Japanese terms were used even for counting.
For a kid who struggled with Welsh it was an added nightmare and I didn't think I'd stick it out, I even told my mum as such but for some reason I kept going back, the school bullies most likely as they never gave up giving me a hard time.
Most of the boys who started with me quit within weeks but I forged ahead learning the stances, the basics, the katas and how to spar. Sparring was the worst. We were supposed to demonstrate control but the kicks and blows I took were full power, they hurt and I ended up my ass every lesson so I had to learn to hit back and hit back hard to acquire spirit.
"Karate is about confidence," I was told, "What use are all these moves if you haven't the guts to use them when it counts?
So I worked my way through the coloured belts all 15 of them, we had 2 white, 3 green, 2 red, 2 purple and 3 brown and for each one you had to fight and win that fight usually against a bigger guy with a higher belt around his middle some insane thug who'd try to kick your head off.
Pretty soon the school bullies paled into insignificance, I could beat them easily usually one move would do, so my fear was reserved for my karate colleagues expert sin inflicting pain and boy did they enjoy doing it.
Fast forward to a cold October in 1977, I awoke feeling sick and needing the loo endlessly. It was the day of my black belt grading and I'd been told it would be hard and that most people failed in their first attempt.
"You may lose a few teeth and a bloody nose is inevitable so bring lots of paper towels and a bucket," sensei sneered by this point he was Welsh Freestyle Champion and I'd seen him win it in a brutal, bloody, agonizing event where injuries and knockouts were common.
My grading began on the beach with a long run bare foot over freezing cold sand, it seemed to go on forever and on the way back I had to run through the sea getting soaked with icy water and cutting the soles of my feet on small stones and shells.
In the dojo came a round of press ups, sit ups, squats and rope climbs that made every muscle burn with fatigue but this was just the start.
When the Japanese master arrived from out of town we had to kneel in zazen for what felt like a year my knees in agony on the hard cold floor. Then it was up to do basics dozens of punches and kicks across the room at high speed in very low stances.
Breathless and soaked in sweat we were allowed a brief respect before donning mitts and instep protectors for kumite, this is ritualised violence literally a fight to the finish. I sparred with a lad called Ian sweeping him 3 times, then a kid called Mac who I felled with several kicks.
So I was matched with Fuji a young Japanese black belt frightening fit with a thousand yard stare and massive knuckles, a college champion who was said to be unbeatable. Terrified I refused to let him kick the crap out of me like he'd done with so many others, determined to prove myself I went out to face him.
Even before the match I gave a piercing warrior scream and saw his eyes widen, "Who the fuck is this guy," said his face and that's just what I wanted a psychological advantage like Muhammad Ali always seemed to have.
At the nod I flew at Fuji kicking like a maniac head, body, head and body, I punched him between the eyes and swept him, down he went with a crash startled and dazed. The master looked on also surprised then a cold smile played over his lips and he nodded at me once just the once but it was enough – I'd earned his respect.
Fuji got up but I proceeded to batter him all over the dojo never letting up, bloodying his nose and mouth and felling him twice more with a side kick then a spinning leg sweep (my specialty back then).
Needless to say I ended up feeling proud of myself, nobody else had won all their fights and even sensei was impressed, "Bloody hell lad you really want that belt don't you?"
I did it was a mark of my success a milestone, I hadn't come to fail for me being a black belt was the pinnacle of my life at that time; what else had I been training for? When you set yourself a goal you have to go for it 100% or what's the point? I wasn't there to try I was there to achieve and nobody was going to stand in my way not even Fuji, whose left eye I'd closed with my fist.
So what if he was a champion he was in my way so he could fuck off, this was about me not him and at 18 I burned with ambition I was a karate expert.
The next year sensei entered me for the Welsh Championships, he felt I was ready that I'd won enough local events coming first almost every time.
The event was held in Cardiff so he drove me down in his own car a rare privilege as he'd never done this for anyone before. He'd taught me all his fighting secrets and had me spar for hours against all his top grades and even against himself.
I was scared, Christ I was shitting myself, I'd be up against the best in Wales the top blokes and they were all hard, getting hurt was more than likely and often men ended up in hospital with broken jaws, ribs, ruptures, lost teeth and concussion. Back then tournaments were rough and vicious with zero control; everyone wanted to win so they hit hard and took no prisoners.
"You can do this," said sensei as we got changed, "The master is here to watch you," he was right the fierce 8th Dan who'd graded me was in the audience, he was giving a demo then would be one of the judges, he would award the trophies.
I won my first fight and my second and my third; each time I attacked like a maniac giving the other guy no chance and yes I used full power knocking men down sometimes out cold. Then came the final and Gethin Jones my rival, he was 6 years older with a face like a demon and muscles pumped up from digging coal out of mines.
He sneered at me a callow youth, how did I think I could beat him a man who'd beaten my sensei and many other masters? But I faced him defiantly refusing to back down or be intimidated, I was fit I was trained and I burned with passion, no way was I going home with a silver medal a runner up, that was insulting it was a failure.
I flew at Gethin and punched his teeth knocking his ugly head right back and splitting his top lip, it cost me a point. Then I kicked him so hard he staggered and fell off the mat, my next kick sent him flying into some chairs.
I was warned about control but was too fired up to listen, victory burned through me. Gethin hurt me with a shot then put me down with a sweep but I was up quickly, I hit him in the chest then spun and kicked the side of his head, down he went in a stiff heap.
The ref gazed at me then him he wasn't sure what to do but Gethin made no attempt to rise, he was out cold sparko and I stood there panting wondering if I'd be disqualified or if Gethin was dead, had I killed him?
They brought him around eventually just in time to see me raise my trophy, I was 19 years old and Welsh Champion, I almost burst with pride. Sensei had been 23 when he won this title and nobody as young as me had ever competed for it before much less won it.
Yet again it felt like the ultimate prize, like I'd never do anything greater like beating Gethin was the summit of my life, how wrong can you be.
In 1979 full-contact karate arrived in Britain it was called kick boxing and had been huge in America for years, it mixed karate kicks with boxing punches and bouts were in the ring with rounds. The big names back then were Chuck Norris, Bill Wallace and Jeff Smith.
In the UK the biggest name was Steve Babbs who won the light heavyweight title in 1975 and had been defending it ever since beating all his challengers with ease. Unlike them he was a good boxer with crisp jabs and hooks whereas they fought karate style with their hands low and chins exposed.
Over 5 rounds they ran out of gas but Steve who did road and bag work had amazing stamina he was an athlete a pro, in many ways he was ahead of his time. Coming from a boxing background he trained full-time and this marked him out from his challengers, guys who trained maybe 3 nights a week doing katas but who couldn't take a decent punch.
I wanted to fight Babbs I wanted to beat him but knew that to do so would require hard preparation and not in the dojo. I found a good trainer in Frank Lewis who had a gym with a ring, he trained boxers and it was men like this I needed to spar against to get match ready.
The jump from dojo to ring was hard very hard as was fighting with gloves and getting hit with hooks and uppercuts, but I was determined to make a go of it to prove myself. At first I could barely last a round in the ring without becoming winded, but over time I pushed this to two then three.
I added kicks to my boxing and eventually was joined by Ed and Mick two other potential kick boxers. Frank Lewis regarded us as an aberration he didn't think we'd last; to veteran like him karate was a joke. He saw us punching air and doing katas and called us pansies so I stopped doing katas and focused on the hard stuff – bag, pad and sparring plus I began running in the mornings like Babbs did no matter how hard it blew or rained.
If he could do it then I could do it; this was how a champion trained and I fixated on that silver belt he wore around his middle, the British title, one day it would be mine.
When I told Frank of my plans he just nodded wisely but next weekend drove me up to Manchester to see Steve defending his title against Ivan Morris.
A typical martial arts guy of the period Ivan threw lots of kicks in the first round, high flashy stuff that looked amazing but just tires you out very quickly.
He had no guard, no head movement and zip all stamina so that by round four it was all over. Pinned against the ropes he was taking a pasting when the referee stopped it, both eyes cut and mouth leaking gore.
Babbs had worked behind his jab and picked Ivan off with 2 and 3 punch combos to head and body. He didn't kick much and never with his left leg I noticed, his boxing skills were good but he wasn't a lethal one punch hitter like Ernie Shavers or George Foreman.
If anything he was a cagey counter puncher he used the ring well and conserved energy, but he didn't like being in a clinch. In my view Ivan's failures were
1 He didn't crowd Steve enough
2 Didn't use enough body shots
3 Didn't take the initiative from the first bell
4 had no answer for those stiff jabs.
To beat Babbs you had to attack him from the first bell, rock him out of his rhythm, get inside and rough him up. He was good but not unbeatable and I felt sure I could beat him; in time.
"So what do you think are you ready for him," Frank asked on the way home? The answer was no, not yet, I lacked experience, ring craft, I needed seasoning some tough fights.
"Two years maybe," I said. Ivan had gone into the title fight with only 3 contests behind him this wasn't anywhere near enough, especially as his record was one win, one draw and one loss – hardly inspiring stuff.
When I fought Babbs I wanted to be unbeaten and fought a good variety of men – jabbers, sluggers, spoilers and kickers – I had to be ready for anything and prepare wisely. There was no point going into such a fight just to give a brave showing; I wanted to win to be a champion.
My debut in the ring was on an icy October in 1979 against Don Howard, a grizzled, balding ex miner with hooded eyes, fat lips and cauliflower ears. He'd been a pro boxer who'd converted to karate without setting the world on fire; tough but hardly top flight.
I kept him on the end of my jab in the first round, feeling him out and using only front kicks. It was early in the second when I exploded a right cross on his chin and saw him wobble alarmingly. Flicking out two more jabs to measure him I planted the next haymaker between his eyes.
Don fell into the ropes and slid down them sideways his face slack and eyes misty, I knew he wasn't getting up and he didn't. It had been relatively easy yet at the end I felt exhausted, utterly drained due to nerves like I'd gone 12 rounds not just 2.
Frank was full of praise and I got a good write up in COMBAT but it was early days, one win meant nothing it was a start a baby step. I was glad I'd won and losing would have been a disaster but didn't let it go to my head.
Six weeks later I faced Peter Cuthbert a tough shotokan guy and heavily muscled with a long sharp face and some brutal kicks. He came out kicking from the bell a mix of round and sidekicks but I used lateral movement and kept out of range.
Following me Peter swung crude haymakers at my head, sliding inside these I worked him to the body to rob his legs of energy and it worked, the kicks got fewer and fewer. My jab opened a cut over his left eye and bloodied his nose but I kept the bombs back until round two when I caught him with a sharp left that made him totter back on his heels.
Good I knew I could hurt him that was encouraging, the next bomb was a right that hit his cheek not his jaw but he still went down for a 7 count. Up but groggy he tried to cover but I wasn't having that and three punches later he was done, face down in a neutral corner.
Two fights and two knockouts I was feeling pleased with myself, at least I knew I had a good dig and could finish a guy when the chips were down plus neither Don or Peter had really hurt me, I'd finished both fights unmarked.
The following March saw me in against a very different type of fighter, slick and slippery Nathan Normal was anything but he could duck and dive with the best of them and was known as hard to tag. Fighting him would be a real learning curve, easy wins taught you nothing and were ultimately pointless I needed a stiff test and Nathan provided it.
Evading my best shots he swivelled and squirmed like an eel, firing off kicks at impossible angles and catching me with long loping punches that seemed to come from his boots. You could get very tired very soon chasing a guy like this and I knew I had to stop hitting and missing.
In the second round I nailed him with a good sidekick one of my best and he flew into the ropes so I kicked him again and put in a left hook. Down he went to take a breather, his lip cut and eyes a bit glassy. Few nailed him cleanly and he didn't like it.
He kept out of my way until the bell but limped back to his corner head shaking, I wondered if he'd come out for the third but he did shoved by his trainer but still limping. I jabbed him hard finding my range and biding my time, two good body punches made him hang on gulping for air.
Shoving him off I hooked him a few times then sent him floor wards with an outer crescent kick, something I'd been working on, it was from kung fu not karate and I'd learned it from a guy in the gym.
I wanted Nathan to get up so I could try it again maybe with the other leg but he didn't being counted out on his back blinking against the lights.
I had hoped he'd last a bit longer maybe take me the distance, then again I didn't want to lose a dodgy decision and they were very common in 1980, I'd settle for my third win in a row.
Next up was Fred Solange a coloured guy in eye catching orange pants; he had a bit more experience than most having taken part in savate matches in France with some success. Savate was French foot fighting and dated from the 19th century, it was tough and bloody in the extreme so I knew Fred would be no push over.
Right from the bell he was at me, head down he banged away loping hooks and uppercuts very Nigel Benn he was a slugger an attacker, when he kicked he kept them to body height and they hurt. He bulled me around the ring giving me no chance to collect my wits and precious little to hit back.
In round two I danced around him Ali-style flicking out jabs, feinting and spooking. Fred liked a static target he wasn't so effective against a dancer and soon my punches marked his scowling features, face reddening and swelling he tried to pin me on the ropes but I wasn't having any of that.
The first good shot I landed was near the bell a right fisted bolo punch that put him down in his own corner, legs rubbery and eyes out of focus. It was a relief to know he could be hurt and that I had the dig to do it.
In the third he was more cautious, his right eye badly swollen there were fewer kicks and he was wary of my power. Keeping him on the end of the jab I suddenly threw a good kick of my own a roundhouse aimed at the body, but he ducked at the same time so it caught him flush in the face.
Dropping like a stone he didn't so much as twitch a she was counted out and the crowd erupted, impressed by the one kick kayo as was I, it had looked and felt spectacular and given me my fourth win in a row.
At this time a promoter made it known to us that he happily stage a bout between me and Babbs; I refused knowing I wasn't ready. I'd beaten four pretty average guys but Babbs was a different kettle of fish and I wasn't up to his level yet.
"But what if someone else beats him," Frank worried?
"Good luck to them but I'm not taking a title fight too early, I'm still too crude I need the rough edges filing off."
Frank thought I was crazy but I knew it was the right thing to do, in life everything's about timing. Anyway the longer I put it off the more public interest would grow and the bigger the purse it would command.
That said things almost blew up in my face with my next bout against Toru 'the tiger' Takeda, a short chunky Tysoneque fighter from Tokyo who'd had a lot of success in the Far East but was largely unknown in the UK. He was said to be a bit of a banger and this proved to be a real understatement a she almost banged me into history.
The first round was quiet enough with him huffing and puffing onto my jabs, swinging and missing and looking a bit clumsy if not clueless. I won the round easily and felt confident I was going to outsmart this holy terror.
However round two was a completely different story, near the end of it my concentration lapsed I'm not sure why but the roof fell on me, the sky fell on me, my head exploded and everything went white snowy white. I lost contact with my entire body I couldn't feel it at all.
As the whiteness eased I saw this blurred ghost over me his arm going up and down in slow motion, his voice a sluggish echo he seemed to be counting.
Still unable to get my arms or legs to work I lay there wondering if this was death and just what the hell had happened to me?
Finally my brain and nervous system reconnected, I rolled onto my elbows and pushed up feeling about 99 years old, I got onto both knees then one knees then I grabbed a rope to haul my leaden body upright.
I fell into the ropes facing the wrong way my vision still blurred, parts of it in shadow. Not sure where I was or even who I was I lost control of my bladder as the ref yelled something at me, I think he was asking questions...hell was this a quiz?
I turned unable to speak or move properly, the ref held up some fingers about 16 I think then this gong went off making me jerk with shock, was it the dinner gong?
My team leapt in to guide me to a stool; it was the bell I'd been saved by the bell.
"Jesus are you okay," Frank cried his face riven with panic? He said other things but I can't remember what they were an icy sponge hit my face reactivating numb brain cells and cool liquid entered my mouth to spit out but I swallowed it.
"One hell of a punch," somebody said, "Thought it had taken his head off."
A punch I'd been hit, Takeda had nailed me with one of his famous neutron bombs that explained a lot. Nobody had hit me so hard before, I didn't know a man could unleash such power. Oh boy I was in a state, dizzy and woozy with triple vision and piss in my boots.
I hadn't been counted out though not this time but if he nailed me again...
"Neil you want to carry on," asked Frank was he serious of course I did I wasn't blowing my unbeaten record that easily, Toru would have to kill me.
My memory of the rest of the fight is patchy at best, scattered fragments of me jabbing him, side kicking him, ducking, holding but keeping busy; him swinging and missing or else hitting my body or my high guard which I never dropped again.
Toru soon got tired his mouth open and nostrils flaring but I hadn't the juice to take him out and didn't want to risk a shooting war so I kept busy hustling, jabbing and occasionally kicking that short thick body of his which was like a rock.
At the final bell he was cut in 3 places, his left eye was a lump of round red meat and I still had little idea where I was. I thought the near knockout would swing it for him, I hadn't put him over but the verdict was a shock I won by a unanimous decision.
Back then karate fights weren't filmed but everyone I spoke to said I'd outworked Toru, the knockdown aside he'd had little success and hadn't used enough kicks with those stubby legs of his whereas I'd landed plenty of side and round kicks and jabbed his ugly head off.
Even so I'd been lucky, that mental lapse had almost cost me dearly; if Babbs had been my opponent that night I knew the outcome would have been very different and my shortcomings had been brutally exposed.
Unlike Toru Steve would have pressed home his advantage, picked me apart and found another kill-shot. I felt embarrassed and ashamed wallowing around on the canvas like a drunk, suckered by a punch that came all the way from the ocean one that should never have got within a whisker of me.
When I returned to the gym it was to train with pro boxers of quality not karate guys, the really good fighters the contenders, the bangers. I had to sharpen up a lot, tighten my defence and learn to ride hard punches.
I didn't fight again for 3 months and then it was in a real boxing bout no kicks against Leroy 'the harbinger of' Doom. Leroy Doom was a sleek black kid who could box and hit and spoil, he'd never be a champion but he was tough, tricky and full of attitude.
I didn't want an easy win I wanted a tough challenge and Leroy provided it, making me miss often by swaying and weaving out of range Ali-style then coming back with good solid counters.
My jabs landed and my body punches but my hooks and uppercuts were often just a bit short. Upping my work rate I got closer, pressuring him and using combinations that he didn't like.
That said he went up a gear to hitting back hard and often forcing me to defend and even hold at one point. He wasn't in Toru's league when it came to power but he was smarter and more adaptable, he didn't let me get away with anything.
He rocked me in the second, I nailed him in the third, then my nose began to bleed – not to heavily but I was swallowing blood and that's never a great idea.
I tried to take him out in the fourth but he was too canny dodging and ducking like the old pro he was making me miss then tying me up.
In the last round we both went for broke, he was behind and needed to stop me to win and some good left hooks rocked me back on my heels one almost had me over. My counters made his knees wobble and tore out his gum guard just before the bell, which flew over the top rope to where Bey Logan was sat writing a report about the fight for COMBAT.
I got the verdict and Leroy looked disgusted thinking he'd won or at least forced a draw, Bey backed me up producing the gum guard it had two front teeth wedge inside of it proof I'd made an impact on the harbinger of doom.
It was my second full distance fight and whilst it would have been nice to have all knockouts I knew I had to build my stamina for a championship bout, to take setbacks and come back, to mix it with a guy who knew his onions.
"Take a break," Frank advised, "It isn't good to fight too often pace yourself or you'll start picking up injuries," accepting this advice I chose to take a sabbatical away from the fight game to gather my energy and think about my next move.
Babbs was still champion and looked in no danger of being unseated so he would keep. I went away, fell in love, fell out of love, wrote up some notes about life as a kick boxer and taught a few classes for my old mate Tony Edwards.
I was still unbeaten still a contender and COMBAT had begun speculating on the outcome of a Babbs-Davies title fight, who would win and how because we were the two top guys at our weight and it was the only money fight that made sense.
In December 1981 I chose to challenge Mel Jones for his Welsh title, I felt the time had come to hold a regional belt and that Mel was ripe for the taking. Since winning the crown 2 years earlier he hadn't defended it and seemed prone to injuries. Yes this does sound cynical but in the fight game you have to take your chances when they present themselves.
A title plus being unbeaten would make me more commercially viable plus such a fight would be filmed by Japanese TV and thus create a video record. The Japanese loved kick boxing and over there it was shown at prime time thus raising my profile even more.
Rake thin with long sandy hair and big bug eyes Mel was an odd looking guy who always wore gold pants in the ring, his trainer was his wife and they were both black belts in a style called Lau Gar, which would go on to dominate the tournament scene in the 80s and beyond.
I didn't expect Mel's opening move a leaping side kick aimed at my head, the first time anyone in the ring had tried this on me and of course it missed by a mile but it got the crowd going and allowed Mel to show boat.
Keeping tight I boxed him landing to head and body, dodged his spinning kicks and put in sold front snap kicks of my own that I knew would land. By round three his body was badly bruised and his left eye cut, breathing hard he began to clinch a lot.
I sensed he had a stamina problem and from the way he was limping there was something wrong with his right knee or ankle so I circled him, forcing him to keep moving and used high kicks to keep his guard up whilst crashing home solid hooks to the ribs.
In round five Mel went down from a relatively light uppercut; he beat the count but seemed demoralised and kept looking at his corner in a glum fashion always a bad sign by any fighter as it means he's losing hope.
When I floored him again the towel floated in and I was Welsh Champion. I felt euphoric, having dominated the contest and becoming only the second guy to beat Mel; Babbs was the other one and I had stopped Mel something Steve had failed to do.
I fought again in April 1982 on a bill in Cardiff that was topped by the Babbs versus Jim Godfrey title bout, I wanted to see Steve in action but more importantly I wanted him to see me it was a psychological thing, plus our styles would be compared.
My opponent Isaac Purejoy was a 32 year old American touring Europe, black with a huge afro hairstyle he wore pants covered in stars and stripes and had been beating guys from France, Germany and other countries.
He was flamboyant and cocky but getting on in karate terms, most guys were retired at 30 in those days as their knees packed up on them after years of abuse and hard training.
Isaac was in good shape but looked tired to me, his European tour had taken it out of him 9 fights in 9 months is a punishing schedule for anyone and I felt he was ripe for the taking.
That said he dominated the opening round of our match with flashy multiple round kicks off the right leg (his trade mark), keeping his hands low he fired off snappy punches with both hands but many of these missed.
In round two I went to work on his body slamming in hard hooks to the soft, fleshy expanse that he didn't like at all, nor was he keen on the uppercuts I used to snap his head back and send spray into the air.
By round four he was cut and gulping for air, the round kicks had all but gone and his responses lacked much in the way of power. A good shot felled him near the ropes and he sat there looking forlorn, blood running down his chin.
I expected him to get up as he wasn't concussed but he just sat and watched the referee's arm and amidst a hail of boos was counted out; interest in the fight gone.
It was an unsatisfactory ending for me, yes it was a kayo but he could have made more of a go of it and showed more spirit, his was a tame surrender.
Even so I'd won inside the distance and was still on track, now I'd take my seat and watch Babbs; he was thought to have a tough customer on his hands a surly Geordie with a wicked left hook.
As it turned out the Geordie was only good a tone thing – soaking up punishment, which he did for five rounds as Babbs clouted him with everything in his arsenal from hooks and uppercuts to front, side and back kicks.
The one sided affair was ended by the referee amidst cat calls and stamping feet with Jim being led back to his corner head bowed.
I knew what had happened, he had frozen in boxing terms he'd 'swallowed' lost his nerve it can happen to guys not used to the big occasion the mind goes blank and they just get battered. Maybe he was overawed by Babbs (lots of guys were), but whatever it was Steve's 12th successful defence.
"Who next," screamed the headline in COMBAT, "Steve seems to be scraping the barrel these days after a one sided and pointless TKO win over joyless Jim Godfrey; can anyone give the champ a real fight?"
Good old Bey Logan came up with an answer in his article a sting in the tail, he did a profile of me complete with photos taken over the last 2 years of me training and winning. The drum beat for Babbs-Davies was underway, we seemed destined to collide and my moment of glory was just months away. After all who else did Steve have to fight, where else could he go unless he retired and he clearly didn't want to?
When Steve finally signed to fight me on September 22nd that year I felt a nag of terror; this was it then there was no backing down now it was the culmination of a dream that had begun back in 1979 when I made my debut, I was getting my shot at the great man.
As well as the intense back breaking training to get ready I also began doing something else that in 1982 was highly unusual. It was something I'd heard Muhammad Ali mention in an article for The Ring and it had also been echoed by a top American karate ace of yesteryear Chuck Norris.
Both greats had pictured in their minds the outcome of fights before they happened, in other words they had mentally rehearsed what they were going to do in advance by relaxing and picturing the result they wanted.
Visualisation, common for athletes now, was regarded as crazy in 1982 it was something hippies did, new age freaks and other people on the fringes of society no serious person took it seriously.
Yet Ali had and Chuck had, both swore by it and you couldn't knock their success rates so there had to be something in it. If so I aimed to try it to every night began visualising myself fighting and beating Babbs, seeing what he'd do and what I'd do, how I'd counter his moves and shut him down, landing all my best shots and dominating the fight, taking control and roughing him up. I didn't tell anyone about this not even Frank, he was too old-school and would never understand.
This was private, secret stuff and the more I did it the more confident of the outcome I became, my punches and kicks took on a new intensity I began using different angles, catching sparring partners with shots that had never worked before.
My whole way of moving, standing and attacking altered as I reprogrammed first my mind then my entire nervous system, I became faster, slicker, able to cut off the ring more effectively and people began to notice.
"Where did you learn this stuff," Frank asked one day but I just grinned back at him not willing to talk about mental pictures or positive thinking; you didn't back in the 80s.
I began to believe really believe I could beat Babbs that I was the better man, sure he was unbeaten but so was I. Okay he'd beaten 12 challengers but 13 was an unlucky number and his time was up, he had to lose some day so why not to me?
As the big day drew closer the fear hit me, knifing into my guts like a long cold blade. I felt such terror and doubt, I began to question myself for the first time, could I do this or was I deluding myself what made me think I could beat such a great champ?
I've come to recognise this process now, this avalanche of negative thinking that falls on us just as we're about to make a breakthrough of any kind and bust out of a comfort zone. It's like some part of us wants to hold us back to cling to the familiar the easy and not grow or evolve.
Be safe it says, stick with what you know, crawl back under your stone and don't be an ass.
Plus the martial arts media were all behind Babbs, with the exception of Bey Logan (god bless him) the writers all picked Steve to win to wipe me out. Babbs himself predicted an easy win calling me stiff, flat footed and predictable a second rate fighter.
Part of me believed it, after all what had I achieved compared to him the British champ for 7 years who had turned away all challengers.
Then I thought "snap out of it Davies and pull yourself together you're younger, stronger, more determined and with a knockout punch in either fist you can do this believe in yourself."
On the night my knees were knocking as I made my lonely way to the ring in a red top, hood up and head down, I was praying for deliverance.
Muted cheers a few boos from the packed capacity audience, I felt like I was going to the gallows but there was no turning back now.
Dressed in a purple robe with gold lettering Steve appeared, loud music exploded and a spotlight picked him out – muscular, afro hair, eyes full of steel and that title belt held proudly above his head that 12 men had failed to take off him.
He was a legend, the longest reigning British kick boxing champion ever with the most defences, a record that still stands. He was 28 and at his peak with no intention of stepping aside certainly not for me.
In the ring he danced about, swung his arms and rolled his neck giving the audience a show, Ali might be gone but Babbs was still around and still the boss.
Ignoring me he played to the gallery, whipping himself up into a frenzy, playing the 'big man' and loving it. His disco music continue right up until the announcements which back then was who we were and how many fights we'd won, Babbs had won twice as many as me and I shrank inside my red pants feeling insignificant and weak, a fool heading for a beating.
Babbs turned and looked at me at last his eyes flashing menace and purpose, his chest huge and long arms thickly muscled; he might have been facing Marvin Hagler and of the two he was scarier.
The ref called us over for instructions, I didn't hear them all I was aware of was Steve glaring and chewing on his guard like a hungry pit bull.
I think we touched gloves or maybe he shoved me because I tottered back on watery legs my bowels threatening to erupt.
"You okay," Frank asked, I don't think I replied or could trust myself to respond in any cogent way no I wasn't okay not now, the moment of truth had come and it was sickening.
At the bell Babbs came out steaming his whole body poised for action, I was slower less certain. I felt his glove brush my chin and I was down, sat on my arse put over with his first punch and it hadn't been that hard. Oh the shame of, I almost died with embarrassment.
Frank's face was white and Bey Logan's eyes were out on stalks, grinning Babbs edged back to a neutral corner. I got up at 6 and shook myself down, come on Davies get a grip what's wrong with you?
As he came in again I was ready, head down and guar dup I absorbed a fusillade of punches maybe 7 or 8 then my left hook exploded up and round catching him in the face, the impact jolting me from shoulder to spine but boy it felt good to land and the crowd went crazy.
Fired up I fired 2 more shots but he was out of range, closing in I worked him to the body driving in hard lumps to those prodigious abs then swinging for the head.
No fool Steve knew how to make me miss or to cover up, but at least one good dig got through as his head shot back in a spray. No way was I letting him settle into a rhythm or gather his wits, I had to keep the pressure up and take the fight to him. I side kicked but he dodged aside, I spun and back kicked but he was too fly, my spinning back fist caught him though high on the head and stung by it he fired back, driving me to the ropes with 2 head shots and 2 body punches.
The crowd were going mental at the fierce pace of the fight and I knew we couldn't sustain this for long; we were knocking lumps out of each other.
Ducking one his kicks I caught him with an uppercut to the jaw and his head jerked up, my follow up punch didn't land cleanly though but having enough room to kick I caught him in the body and heard him grunt, his pain audible. So he could he hurt that was good to know.
At the bell he was pressuring me, bashing my guard and we were both breathing heavily.
"He's cut," Frank told me and it was true Babbs had a towel over his right eye and it was scarlet, I had cut him it was first blood to me. He'd put me over but I'd made him pay and my morale soared.
In the second I came out faster, closing in I left hooked him again knowing him vulnerable to this blow. Knees wobbling he clinched and some of his blood wetted my hair, the cut over his eye wasn't big but it was leaking heavily.
Shoving him off I punched at it hoping to widen the wound but he stung me with jabs, his jab hard and sharp he could pop it out all night long.
Bobbing and weaving I slammed him to his ribs then tried a head kick, my kick missed but his didn't sending me careering into a corner. Flowing in he tried to pin me there and open up but I wasn't having that, uppercutting hard I made him back off then tried another left.
He almost went down almost but managed to stagger himself upright, he barely had when I was all over him hooking hard with both gloves pounding him to the ropes.
Fair play to Steve though he was tough and shrewd, he recovered fast and had cat-like reflexes making me miss and tired myself before firing back with his own well placed shots.
"Don't burn yourself out," said Frank, "Pick your shots better."
"Is his cut worse," I asked?
"Yeah just a bit but watch his counters," an ice pack was applied to my swelling left cheek and cut lip.
Round three was quieter it had to be as we were both tired, Steve used his jab and I scored with 2 and 3 punch clusters, neither of us kicked much as kicking knackers you like nothing else.
In the fourth he rocked me with a great right cross it was a peach of a punch and I should have avoided it, stumbling I touched the canvas with a glove and got an 8 count. When he tried to repeat his success I tightened my guard and bored in, launching another big left.
Rocked he circled me mouth open and eye bleeding we were both wary now aware of each other's power, we sought openings and tried hard not to make mistakes but near the bell he made one dropping his right glove an inch or so.
My blow smashed home hard catching his cheek not his jaw and he sagged onto the bottom rope eyes glassy, before I could hit him again the bell sounded and he had to be helped to his corner by two men.
"Good shot that really nailed him," Frank was delighted, "But keep it tight."
I nodded tired but determined, this was a 7 round fight and we were at the start of round 5, if it went to points how had I done was I ahead could I sustain my pressure and hurt him again?
He had to be tired to due to this insane pace and all the hard blows we'd exchanged, then again he'd won some bouts on points so he wasn't worried by the distance like I was.
At the buzzer I stood up, ten seconds to the bell I had to act confident and look fit, combat was as much psychology as stamina.
Babbs remained seated, he didn't get up in fact his head was down and his team huddled. The ref looked over then walked over, he was frowning, asking something. There was a brief conference, some heated words, and Babbs still didn't look up.
The ref turned to look at the time keeper, he shouted something, what was going on where was the bell; I was eager to get on with this?
Frank hovered on the ring apron he too looked confused; the crowd grew restive and noisy with stamping feet. Then the ref stood in the centre of the ring, waved his arms and pointed to me.
I was bewildered but Frank wasn't, "It's over its bloody over, he isn't coming out he's quit," he hugged me, "We've won you've done it kid."
Won I'd won I didn't get it why would Babbs quit, how could this be happening surely I had to knock him out, but the ref said to me, "Well done you're the champ," and the MC got in as a microphone was lowered on a wire.
He ordered his quiet and said that Babbs could not come out for round 5 due to an injury, the winner by TKO was...was me, I'd won I was the champion. Tears jumped to my eyes, a lump filled my throat and I stood there in shock as that silver belt was put around my middle – British light heavyweight champion. It was 22nd September 1982.
Beating Babbs made me famous in the martial arts world, I was courted by the magazines they all wanted to talk to me and so did a TV station in the USA. Unlike in Britain the US had masses of stations and some were devoted to fighting sports, they had shown my fight in full.
The Todd Hawkins show was filmed in New York and they wanted me as a star guest one week after the bout while I was still sore and bruised. Frank wanted me to do it, the show would be good exposure and as the new champion I had to cash in on my raised profile.
Todd turned out to be a short bald guy with squinting eyes and a grating accent but he was watched by over 6 million viewers and I found being on TV didn't scare me as much as I thought. I even got to show off some of my favourite karate moves in the studio and the audience went wild as I threw kicks and punches.
Todd even asked me to teach him a few move son camera, and I think this was what led Jerry Garcia to contact me.
President of Kick Action a production company in LA Jerry wondered if I'd be interested in doing a workout video. He'd worked with a number of actors and did good quality work that had impressed me in the past so I agreed to a meeting.
A slim, white haired man with 7 black belts Jerry struck me as charming, dynamic and full of good ideas. He wanted to film me indoors and outdoors using mountain and lake locations with a music sound track, good dubbing and a proper script.
He was ahead of his time as didn't make cheap, tacky videos but good, fun, informative stuff slickly packaged. I was won over and agreed to film the video with some sexy female students and a male sparring partner in and around LA in June 1983.
Jerry hired a top director called Cal Wallingham who paid a lot of attention to detail, shooting and reshooting scenes until they were just right and this fastidious approach really paid off.
Jerry even hired me a drama coach as talking on camera while demonstrating karate isn't easy as I soon learned. We filmed 6 segments covering traditional karate, freestyle and pad work. The female models had all done karate before so this made it easier.
One of them was Dayne Pride a fitness/action model and a stunning blond with amazing abs and we'd be working together again one day. Only 19 she had an amazing confidence and work ethic and was already west coast karate champion; something she never failed to mention.
The video KICK YOURSELF FIT was released on June 28th and was an instant best seller, within 4 days it was top of the fitness chart which in LA is really saying something. It raised my profile so of course I did more TV shows to promote it and myself.
Jerry was all for doing a follow up and I readily agreed as I wanted to show off more complex moves and maybe some katas but then came the phone call.
American accent but with an Italian lilt very suave and sexy, she asked if we could meet at this high class coffee bar on Rodeo Drive where the cheapest drink was twenty dollars, then again she did offer to pay.
Rafaela Del Santos was no ordinary woman even in a city of beautiful brainy go-ahead women. At 25 she was already CEO of a major film company that made feature films, mostly action thrillers set in the Far East.
Tall with raven black hair down to her buttocks she had dark skin and lush lips with big eyes that seemed to drink you in and she got straight to the point.
"I want to do a movie with you, a karate flick as I think you'd be perfect for the lead role."
I sat there stunned, me in a movie it seemed impossible even insane?
"But I can't act," I remember saying.
"Oh yes you can, more importantly you have looks and charisma," she'd seen me on TV and watched KICK YOURSELF FIT thinking it superb. "Neil you're wasted doing fitness videos, you have star quality."
"What makes you think such a film would be popular," I asked?
"Hollywood has just released a film called 'karate kid' and it's doing serious money, martial arts are back in vogue after years of cheap ninja crap."
I wasn't convinced but Rafaela was a very persuasive woman used to getting her own way in a tough business dominated by alpha males, she had this script that she thought was ideal for me it was called SUPER FIGHTER was would be filmed in Thailand in 1984.
The lead character was Ken Dark a roving kick boxer who gets offered a shot at Japan's top fighter Sakura, a man who has never lost. To make things more complicated Ken is sleeping with Sakura's wife Pepe.
A Yakuza thug Sakura has Pepe abducted, "Take a dive or she gets killed," is the threat so most of the movie is me hunting for Pepe then at the end fighting Sakura no holds barred in the ring.
Rafaela convinced me to make the film; it was too good a chance to miss. But what about my British title, a rematch with Babbs or a shot at someone else?
In the end it was a hard choice but I retired from the ring and gave up my title without ever defending it, I knew this movie was what I wanted to do that it was a fantastic opportunity that would never come again.
The character of Ken Dark fascinated me, a deeply troubled man haunted by his past but who was brilliant at karate – intense, ferocious but sharp witted he was like a karate version of James Bond on a much smaller budget.
Rafaela was honest with me the movie would probably go straight onto video, which in 1984 meant VHS, that said video sales could make a lot of money and such films were often reissued for showing in small cinemas that catered for martial arts fans, some won awards and stars could go on to better things.
So in March 1984 I arrived in Bangkok to begin a 38 day shoot in and around the city using all the glamorous locations we could find. The fights/training would be choreographed by Chi Man Ching a Hong Kong trained expert with a kick boxing background.
Right away I got along with Ching famously, we were on the same wavelength and our ideas were surprisingly similar about what we wanted to do mixing ring style fighting with street fighting and classical karate to make Dark look sleek and well rounded.
He even agreed to let me do KANKU DAI kata next to a lake, it was my favourite at the time and shot from several angles it looked superb with me stripped to the waist showing off my muscles and heavily oiled skin. This of course was the opening scene of the film a great routine, still one of my favourites.
The producers hired a great bunch of guys for me to fight including two Thai national champions and experts in kyokushinkai, goju and wado plus some kung fu regulars. The betters Ken's rivals were the better he would look, that was the logic and I believe it worked.
The female lead Pepe was played by the enchanting Nia Yamaguchi, a sweet willowy girl who was a brilliant actress, back then she knew no martial arts and that's how we wanted it, Pepe was to be vulnerable and in need of rescue.
There was a lot of fighting in the script as Dark takes on punks, drunks, bullies and gangsters of all kinds in his quest to rescue Pepe concluding with the epic final duel him versus Sakura.
The film title underwent many changes from KILLER WARRIOR to URBAN WARRIOR and finally just FIGHTER the title we all settled upon. The script began as pretty basic but with rewrites (many of which I added to) we got a more articulate and intelligent feel for western viewers.
I wanted to get away from the usual "fuck you asshole" lines common at the time followed by 200 kicks and punches. Dark was a smart guy, tough but shrewd and we needed to show this.
The final battle with Sakura was intense and ferocious; most of it took place in crippling heat and had to be reshot many times. Sakura is beating Dark when Ken lands some telling blows injuring him, then Ken is injured to. The fight veers one way then the other with both guys getting pretty badly banged up before Dark lands the finishing shots.
We were heavily influenced by the Rocky movies popular at the time, but I wanted to get away from the sickening smaltz of Stallone and keep Dark raw and relevant with no twee speeches or flag waving.
After 38 days I felt we had a good product in the bag, FIGHTER felt classier than most of the chop socky stuff being released by other companies and Rafaela was pleased to, she felt her faith in me had been vindicated.
In Nia and Ching I'd made lifelong friends and I felt we'd be working together one day soon. The film was a big break for all of us not just me and we had high hopes the fans would lap it up.
FIGHTER stood out because of its humour, romance, good dialogue, scenery and high production values. The initial budget of just one million boosted to three million so we could use better locations, a top director of photography and have a catchy film score.
As predicted it went straight to video but my god sales exploded from day one, very soon we'd sold over 15 million copies in Japan, China, Thailand, Korea and even the US. In the states we got the hoped-for theatrical release and sales jumped even higher.
Eventually FIGHTER made 20 million dollars and a delighted Rafaela invited me to her home in Milan with the news there was to be a sequel KNOCKOUT to be filmed in 1985.
Pleased with the success of my debut I returned to the UK to learn Babbs had won the heavyweight title, this didn't surprise me at all but I had no desire to fight him again or anyone else, my life had moved on and now I was a celebrity at least on video.
FIGHTER would never be on the BBC or win at Cannes but it had garnered me a legion of fans eager to see more of Ken Dark, and I was keen to play him again to expand the character and flesh him out and do more great fights with Chi Man Ching.
Filming on KNOCKOUT began the following spring also in Thailand due to favourable tax rules and plenty of good fighters; Rafaela was in a happy mood announcing she was pregnant with her first child.
Ching was back as stunt coordinator, we had the same director and producer plus a new top bad guy in Braxton the American world champion Dark was to challenge in the finale.
However instead of Nia Yamaguchi as female lead a powerful blond American was brought in, Dayne Pride who I'd met on KICK YOURSELF FIT and she was just as brash and forthright if not more so.
Dayne saw herself as a big star if not the biggest star in the film and her attitude soon rubbed people the wrong way, plus she didn't like the heat, the flies, the food or the Thai people.
The plot was about me fighting Braxton and Dayne fighting his sister for the ladies world title. Again there were plenty of gangsters, thugs and troublemakers to wade through.
As before I found the script a bit thin and soon began to beef it up with proper conversations and even some Zen philosophy. We established that Ken came from a broken home and hadn't seen his father for years leading to some bitterness.
The moment I upgraded my character up Dayne wanted some back story for her own whose name was Sarah, so she complained to the producer believing she should have a more prominent role.
He told her firmly that I was the star that the film was about Ken Dark not Sarah she was a support character, if Dayne didn't like this she knew what she could do.
My respect for the man increased a hundred fold and we got on the film with Dayne still grousing and bitching. That said she was brilliant in her fight scenes using a mix of taekwondo, kick boxing and judo all of which she was skilled in.
In the story we were supposed to be lovers, which stretched my acting ability to the limit and then some. Nia had been okay but Dayne was high maintenance, let's just say she was a gal who liked to be on top.
That said the final fight against Braxton was another classic, a terrific mix of styles with plenty of gore and some high speed exchanges. Ken of course wins the world title despite being injured.
When he finally wrapped I was exhausted not just physically but mentally and emotionally. KNOCKOUT had a bigger budget than the first film and whilst it would still end up on video we had high expectations.
When it made 200 million dollars I was gobsmacked, I think everyone was; this was a mainstream feature film total and I was thrilled, just so long as I didn't have to act with Dayne again. Surely she wouldn't be back in the third film, and there was to be a third film surely; how could we just quit?
But Rafaela lost her baby, stepped down as CEO and the third film didn't materialise. It was devastating news all round as I wasn't ready to say goodbye to Ken Dark just yet.
He'd be back though just in a different format, until then I had a career to consolidate.
Cannon Films offered me PRESSURE POINT a thriller in which I played a British agent called James Corbett who infiltrates a martial arts organisation heavily involved in drug smuggling. Corbett was a kind of 007 figure but with martial arts skills and a more modest attitude towards women.
He was still super cool and suave but not as sexist; he even donated to charities and gave money to beggars.
The main threat in the story is called 'Hercules' a super steroid that induces amazing strength and insane rage, so several of the bad guys are pumped up and hard to deal with.
Luckily my character Corbett can do a variety of martial arts including aikido, French savate and something called atemi or attacking pressure points hence the title.
To teach me all the things Cannon brought in various experts such as Pierre St Martin a champion in savate, Yukio Ozuki an aikido 6th Dan and Mike Shutt a Canadian skilled in pressure point fighting and acupuncture.
I had 4 weeks training with them all before the 40 day shoot commenced in Vancouver in March 1986. God it was cold I remember that, bitterly cold due to snow, ice and blood curdling winds.
Luckily there weren't many outdoor scenes and most of the fights were in cafes, gyms and warehouses against hugely muscled stunt guys including ex boxer Ryan Perello who at 17 stones towered over me, then there was pro wrestler Yo Hallam who was the ugliest guy I'd ever seen in my life with his facial tattoos and odd red eyes.
The top bad guy and big boss was played by sport karate ace Marv Jericho and we had one hell of a scrap up and down these corridors, in a lift and on a rooftop from which he fell to his 'death'. We choreographed it between us swapping kicks, chops and chokes that would have killed a dozen men.
My female co-star was the gorgeous Suzanne Somers, a stunningly attractive and well endowed blond actress who played the role of Ellie Thorson a journalist nosing into the activities of the bad guys, not a healthy thing to do.
We shared a rather heated love-making scene that got pretty athletic, but it was the trend in the 80s to have at least one gratuitous sex scene and I for one wasn't going to complain.
Cannon were delighted with the final product, Yoram Globus one of the top execs telling me I was as good as James Bond. A nice thing to say but I knew my acting needed development and when PRESSURE POINT ended I hired a top drama coach Helen Nixon to work with me on all aspects of my performance.
PRESSURE POINT had the biggest budget so far but didn't do well in cinemas or on video, I'm not sure why but it failed to scale the heights of Ken Dark and I knew agent Corbett wouldn't be back any time soon.
I threw myself into Helen's drama classes rounding my persona and adding more humour and hopefully some sex appeal. Playing macho action stars was fine but I wanted to evolve as an actor, to play more sophisticated roles possibly even move beyond karate at some stage.
I didn't want to remain stuck like Jean Claude or Cynthia Rothrock, neither of whom really escaped the genre; there had to be life after low budget videos.
Then in 1987 Rafaela contacted me, she was over her miscarriage, had a new boyfriend and was keen to revive Ken Dark, not in a movie but a TV series.
I hadn't even thought of doing regular TV, it was different from action videos in many ways – more dialogue, no swearing, toned down violence, more characters and ongoing themes.
"I'm not sure I can do 22 episodes," I said the standard length back then for US shows and a killer regime.
"We're not doing that many," she assured me, "I can't say yet until the finance is in place but it will be about 10, you can cope with 10 can't you?"
I supposed so, it was still a lot but could Ken Dark sustain so many stories was he rich and diverse enough? I wanted to see a series overview; I had to know where the series was going.
Luckily Rafaela mailed me the first three scripts and looking through them I could see how much care and attention the writers had lavished on my character and where they wanted to take Ken Dark.
There were one or two small points but we soon ironed these out and Rafaela hired top director Sam Kingslake who had a long pedigree when it came to high-octane TV shows. It was he who hired my trainer for the series Ryuko Yamashita a 7th Dan in Shorin style karate.
He set about teaching me some new katas and in the opening credits I was do a different one on some high place like a rooftop, hill side or balcony.
Ryuko, a wiry 40 year old with a shaven head, was a stickler for detail so my performances were pretty sharp, I did rohai, ananku, wanduan, passai, hachuko and a bo staff routine.
People still comment on these even to this day at fan conventions where I constantly get invited to be grilled by enthusiasts who want to know every tiny detail.
Filming began in early 1987 on seven episodes, and best of all my friend Nia Yamaguchi was brought back as Ken's love interest now a roving photographer so she could follow him around to various locations.
We shot in LA, Bali, Tokyo and Bangkok and the stories were very strong I felt. Having retired as world champion Ken helped out various people, often his fitness or martial arts buddies being terrorized by various villains.
In one episode Nia had a vicious stalker played one-eyed actor Ken Leechman, a very sinister looking guy skilled with knives. Fans talk about this all the time especially our fight kali sticks versus live blades which was a hair raising thing to do at the time as Ken missed vital point son by a cat's whisker.
In another episode I was actually choked out by Russian grappler Igor Ruffad who got a bit carried away Amazingly muscled he had been a KGB assassin once, or so he claimed and he was another ugly bloke who made a perfect bad guy.
At the end I began to teach Nia's character self-defence so she could look after herself, and she overcome a sexy female villain played by Amanda Patriot in a steamy scene where they rolled across a carpet, down some steps and onto the beach where Nia finished Amanda off in front of astonished tourists.
When he wrapped the shoot I was delighted and the good news was that a top US station had bought the rights to show DARK at a prime time slot thus guaranteeing a big audience.
We were up against some very good shows including LA Law and Miami Vice but drew a respectable Nielson Rating and so much publicity that I did a raft of talk shows including Mike Carlin and Geraldo.
I also earned some decent money, far more than the Ken Dark movies had generated so I bought a home near the beach in LA, a big sprawling place with a massive games room that I converted into my own dojo.
Being famous at this point I couldn't just walk into a public dojo or I'd get mobbed so all my training was in secret, including my sessions with Ryuko at his studio in North Hollywood where he taught me more of his style.
The production company wanted a second season this time 8 episodes and I signed up without hesitation for a shoot to begin in early 1988. Nia returned as Pepe, now a green belt and Tom Steel joined us as a private eye called Mars whom I sometimes helped out when he needed a bit of muscle.
Mars dealt with some very shady characters so danger was never far from the agenda, especially if he trod on the wrong toes.
My fights in the season included taking on a Chinese kung fu master, a kick boxer, an expert in Pentjak Silat, an escrima champion and various oversized heavies who seemed to get bigger with each story.
Nia had a couple of fights to against a bitchy TV reporter and a female wrestler. Ken Leechman was back having escaped from prison to menace both Nia and myself with his evil blades and this time fell to his death off a cliff in Honolulu.
I think the best fight I did was with kick boxing legend Benny Urquidez playing a gangland enforcer, we slugged it out in a makeshift arena when Benny taking it easy on me I'm happy to say, although the finished product looked savage and bloody in the extreme.
I couldn't believe it when I was nominated for a golden globe, and was even more surprised to win it.
At the award ceremony in Hollywood I was given by trophy by none other than Chuck Norris, one of my all time heroes and a film star himself at this time. Shaking my hand warmly he told me how much he loved the show and would be happy to play a cameo in it if asked.
When I mentioned this to Rafaela she thought it was a great idea as for season 3 they wanted to bring in some famous faces to help boost ratings even more.
People lined up where Chuck, Dolph Lundgren, Cynthia Rothrock, David Carradine and even William Shatner.
8 more episodes were scripted and Nia agreed to return as Pepe but for the last time, she'd grown tired of the character and wanted to move on so we were to have a tearful goodbye scene in episode 8.
I tried to convince her to stick with the show but she told me she wanted to have a baby and had been offered a long-term role in a prestigious American soap.
It broke my heart to see her go and I think that DARK lost its appeal for me after this, Nia was so essential to the mix, the chemistry between is really added sparkle to the show.
Tom Steel didn't return as he'd been offered a plum role in a film, and whilst I was sorry to see him go the big guest stars more than made up for it.
I decided that season 3 would be my farewell to but didn't mention it to Rafaela, deciding to see how the ratings went. Season 2 had been a bit down and we needed a boost hence the big names.
Chuck dutifully turned up and even helped me to beat up some bad guys; David Carradine was good in his scenes to using his flamboyant kung fu skills as a villain whom Dark had to overcome.
Bill Shatner said he'd do a show but pulled out at the last minute so we used another actor who was actually better for our needs. Cynthia turned up as Nia's long lost friend missing for years and this influenced Nia's decision to finally move on in an episode called DELIVERY which fans talk about a lot.
"Maybe we should call it a day," I mentioned to Rafaela over lunch but she was adamant.
"The backers want a 4th season and you're so good at this."
"But we've lost Nia and the series won't be the same."
"Don't panic Neil we'll find you another girlfriend."
Meanwhile I spent the rest of 1989 making a movie with Chuck Norris, it was his idea and he'd asked for me especially thinking we had a terrific rapport.
The thought of working with an icon like Chuck was too good to miss especially when I read the script where he would play an aging karate ace and my mentor. His character was called Toledo and I was Brit (very original), the whole thing was about corruption in big time sports karate.
Chuck wants to clean up the game but has some powerful enemies in Mike Stone, Hugh O'Brien and Jim Kelly. I was a new guy, green as grass who Chuck rescues from a beating and we join forces.
One thing I do recall from working on this film were Chuck's breathtaking workouts, he did two hours every day of running, skipping, bag work, sparring and practising all the kicks in his system and there were a lot. He did them at full intensity including all the spinning and leaping kicks.
"Chuck you'll wear out your joints," I said after one particularly gruelling session but he just shrugged saying he had to maintain his edge.
Many years later he would have a double hip replacement and no wonder, but at the time we filmed he was at the peak of his powers and a force to be reckoned with.
HOLLYWOOD KARATE had a decent budget and a cinematic release, Chuck co-wrote it with his brother Aaron and Mike Pressberger (who went on to pen some top thrillers). I enjoyed working with Chuck who was a consummate pro and we got on well, mind you he had some rather old fashioned right-wing views and saw himself as another John Wayne.
In Chuck's mind America was the world's policeman; it could do no wrong something he tried to reflect in his on screen roles. Not sharing this opinion I avoided the topic preferring to learn from Chuck.
As our film got a general release we went on a short our of big US cities to promote it together and I was impressed by his energy and enthusiasm, he never seemed to get bored answering the same questions.
By this time Chuck had his fighting system that he called chuck-fu-do a mix of martial arts, street brawling and movie mayhem and I set myself the task of learning from this old master.
He said he was impressed by DARK and wanted to do his own TV show about a Texas Ranger, a role he'd played some years back in LONE WOLF McQUADE.
HOLLYWOOD KARATE made decent money and raised my profile by a few notches; I felt it would open lots of doors as despite the clichéd plot it had some terrific fights and chases plus some witty one liner's between Chuck and myself.
Next up though was season 4 of DARK which we all knew would be the last, with falling ratings it felt like the end of the line. Which was why I was surprised that we got 13 episodes, the biggest season so far, we were going out in style.
Ironically this last season contained some of our most memorable story lines and a new female love interest for me played by Kathy Leon a stunning blond with an amazing tan and more muscles than me. She'd risen through the usual cheer leader, beauty queen and fitness route but was smart and shrewd.
Her style was Chinese Kenpo which made a nice contrast to my rather linear karate being soft and circular, so we showed it off as much as we could. Kathy played an ex cop who couldn't resist chasing bad guys and we often shared fight scenes.
Season 4 featured the triad, a psychotic gang of hell's angels, a team of robbers who were all ex boxers, an insane US action star who wanted to do it for real and at the end I got to return to the UK to help out my family against some nasties led by Dennis Waterman.
I was very pleased by the style and tone of the season and hoped it might save DARK but it didn't, the film company pulled the plug and the show was dead except for the fans who kept it alive with conventions and demands for a DVD box set.
I said a sad farewell to Kathy (who'd been brilliant) and figured I'd never play Ken Dark again. I'd enjoyed the character but maybe it was time to move on after two movies and a four year series.
I took a break to do some travelling, fall in love and spend some of my cash before receiving an offer I couldn't refuse.
ALL ACTION HEROES was a great script by Joel Silver and best of all he'd convinced Patrick Swayze to do it. I'd been a big fan of Pat since ROAD HOUSE where he played a martial arts trained bouncer or cooler as they call them in the states.
In the new film he'd have a similar persona and get to show off his moves, but this time the action took place in Toronto where the 44 day shoot took place amidst a blizzard. We tried to make this work for us by doing chases on snow sleds and skis as well as a nightmare fight scene in this yard full of ice and sludge where none of us could stay upright for more than ten seconds.
I soon learned that whilst he was well muscled and a hard hitter Pat had a serious disability, his left knee which had been wrecked in a football accident years earlier so that any stress he subjected the joint to caused it to swell up horrifically and have to be drained (not a process for the faint hearted).
That said he was a good sport and didn't cry off any of the stunts and there were plenty of these including chases, climbs, falls and some slippery fights.
I thought I was fit but had to up my game with Pat who was highly demanding and a perfectionist, questioning every line he had and coming up with his own ideas as to how scenes should run.
The plot was about a crooked property developer played by Eric Roberts who is forcing tenants out of this street by illegal means.
Pat played Wolf a sort of urban idealist who agrees to help them because his parents were once thrown out of their home leading to his dad's suicide.
My character was Reaper a tourist/drifter who Wolf hates on sight but they grow to respect each other. Reaper's girlfriend is one of the tenants and by saving her from some of Eric's heavies he becomes a target of the property company.
In one scene Pat and had this getting-to-know-you fight scene that began with fists and feet then progressed to sticks, whips and swords. It was pretty hairy and Pat got totally carried away with it, he lunged at me with his sword (a bloody big and sharp thing) and I felt this hot rush of air above my eyes.
When the director called cut everyone was staring at me, "You look different," Pat chuckled so I glanced in a mirror to find that he'd shaved my eyebrows off all of them. I had to wear fake ones for the rest of the movie.
I didn't enjoy working with Pat as much as Chuck but it was still a learning curve and of course his name ensured a cinematic release, more fun was our female co-star Neve Mason-Brooks a British born but Canadian based beauty who went on to run a very successful chain of yoga studios.
She played a yoga teacher in the film and as we shared an interest in this we became close doing shooting, she certainly made the chilly evenings pass quicker but I was glad to escape Toronto for somewhere warmer.
Pat and I didn't promote the film together, we divided the cities up amongst ourselves and did them separately, I got mostly west coast which suited me fine.
The text from Jerry Garcia was a surprise, I hadn't seen him in a decade and his proposal surprised me to. He wanted to do a new updated and longer version of KICK YOURSELF FIT with a more varied content that would include traditional as well as freestyle moves. Given my raised public profile he felt it would be a big seller and I agreed.
We shot the new video in and around LA with a new team of models male and female and this time I included some classical karate moves plus the kata Hakucho; there had been no kata in the original. This new KICK YOURSELF FIT was twice as long with 7 sections and was a DVD with a new music theme and some brilliant graphics by Tom Wiseman.
It foreshadowed the 'karate workout' videos I would do some years later and as before it went to number one in the fitness chart staying there for 17 weeks.
Given Jerry's untimely death in 1994 I was glad I'd worked with him on another project and if my film career ever dried up at least I'd be able to front workout videos.
However my career didn't dry up and another exciting project was just around the corner waiting for me.
Working with Cynthia Rothrock on HIS AND HERS KARATE was lots of fun mostly because Cyn is such a funny, lively, professional performer brilliant at martial arts and with a wicked sense of humour.
She's done loads of different styles and was without doubt one of the most skilled martial arts women I've ever met with no ego or side to her at all despite the fact she'd made over 20 films when we worked together and was already a veteran.
In the movie Cyn and I are hired by this mysterious unseen guy (voiced by John Hurt) to deal with major drug dealer Chet Wilde played by David Carradine.
It was great to work with David again and we had this amazing fight scene on a high rope bridge that made me literally sick with fear. I don't do heights at all and this bloody bridge was shaking around like crazy in this cross winds.
Nothing bothers David and he took it in his stride but I needed lots of retakes especially to do the kicks, chops and throws required by the script.
Cyn got to take on various villains and demonstrate a breathtaking wu shu form that starts empty hand and morphs into sticks then hook swords.
David demonstrated his famous LOHAN form, which he learned from his teacher Kam Yuen during the kung fu TV series.
Whilst working on the movie I started to get a lot of discomfort in my joints especially hips, knees and lower back, as the shoot continued these got worse and painkillers wouldn't touch any of it.
It got so bad that in one training scene with Cynthia I collapsed on my side clutching my hips in agony, I couldn't even get up let alone continue training.
"I'll call a doctor," she said but I persuaded her not to as I hate doctors and hospitals, and gradually the pain subsided enough for me to complete the scene.
Even so it was a wake-up call and I knew there was a serious problem that had to be faced, pills weren't the answer and I dreaded surgery on my joints as it might mean the end of my career.
Eventually I confided in David and he told me to contact Kam, "He's a healer and can really help, I had the same problem."
So when we were finished I flew to LA to seek out Kam Yuen, a real polymath who was once an aeronautics engineer then a stunt man, kung fu teacher and healer.
Skilled in the use of acupuncture, massage, herbs, movement and energy transmission through the hands Kam began to treat me, looking at my weight and diet in detail before teaching me some chi kung exercises that I had to do daily, simple soft movements combined with breathing.
I did the Jade Buddha sequence of moves which are really relaxing as well as the dragon-tiger series, these are more vigorous but help to stretch and strengthen the back and hips without putting too much pressure on them.
These really helped a lot so he began teach me his tai chi forms like taming the tiger, the crane form and the snake chi set; each is a routine in its own right but soft and flowing.
Kam said all the hard, snapping karate moves I'd done over the years had stressed my joints and ligaments, my tendons were enflamed and needed to be nourished with chi the life force.
He advised me to give up my hard martial arts training for six months and only go back to it gradually. I was to do chi kung and tai chi only along with some simple yoga stretches.
"Your body needs time to heal," he said, "Or you'll end up needing knee and hip replacements."
Not wanting to endure this I followed his regimen faithfully and found I enjoyed it, the chi kung and tai chi systems were fascinating and unlike anything I'd done before. By the end of just three months I felt so much better I joined one of Kam's kung fu classes and began to formally study his system properly starting at white belt.
The tai mantis system was very different from hard Japanese karate with more open-hand, circular movements, and higher stances and of course totally different katas. It seemed both more complex and simpler to do with no loud shouts, grunts or joint damaging gymnastics.
I learned ling po, pung po, Buddha fist and northern inter-linking fist amongst others and still practise them today.
Karate is very regimented and done in military lines but the way Kam teaches is totally different, sometimes the students form a circle or just train where they are. There is no shouting and nobody is punished for making mistakes.
Kam and I became firm friends and began socializing; when the time came I took a yellow belt then a green belt as I was keen to progress through the system and learn more of it.
Kam taught lots of actors, writers and movie people and all of them had interesting lives and stories to tell. David had skimmed through the system but never formally studied it or taken gradings; he had learned some of the katas but forgotten them. That said he was my senior a she'd been doing the art longer.
One day after David, Kam and I did a demo on long Beach David took me to one side and asked me if I'd be interested in doing a project with him.
The terms 'kung fu' and 'Caine' were copyrighted to Warner but the nickname Grasshopper couldn't be and his idea was to film a series of short parables using Grasshopper as the title, each segment would be 20 minutes in length and star him and me as ourselves.
He would be the teacher and I the student and each segment would have a theme like hatred, fear, ambition, pride and so on which we'd explore through martial arts usually a fight against some moron or hothead such as a karate jock, hell's angel, bully, big mouth or bar room brawler.
We filmed 7 episodes in 1997 and sold them to a network through David's then agent Mia Petrov of the MPA talent agency. GRASSHOPPER had nothing to do with the kung fu series old or new, it was contemporary and both David and I sank money into it to source locations and hire other actors.
We co-wrote the episodes ourselves and our first season was well received, with many fans thinking it was based on real life and that David was my actual guru; some even thought the stories were true; they weren't but did reflect real experiences the two of us had gone through.
In one story we take on this bullying karate oaf called Joe whom David tames with pressure point strikes using virtually no force at all whilst Joe hurls full blast punches and kicks at him.
Then I took on these three bikers in a car lot, at first I'm not doing too well as I'm stiff and classical using fixed stances but eventually I start to flow and move more naturally.
The scariest fight scene was in a burning barn with some redneck farmer trying to impale me with a pitch fork, we used a real fork in the scene and the actor involved was a bit of a head case shoving those prongs into bales of hay and wooden timbers and almost into me.
David eventually called cut and had a talk to the guy, who turned out to be high on something and thought I was the man who'd run off with his wife ten years earlier.
I enjoyed GRASSHOPPER so much that I signed up for a second season in 1998 which kept to the same basic formula of master and student, lessons and parables, David and myself wandering around taking on a variety of bullies and ego maniacs.
The most famous was set in Paris and saw us encounter this French kick boxing ace who thought he was god's gift to the world, fans always remember this one as David humbly refuses to fight Pierre until Pierre has beaten me first.
Everyone else in the gym, all these macho kick boxing types call David a coward so he wipes them out until only Pierre is left, ego evaporating Pierre decides he doesn't fancy me at all and tosses the gym keys at our feet.
Another favourite involved Korean karate master Hwang Kee who is taking a class at this outdoor camping location when he comes across David and me doing soft tai chi movements and contemptuous as they look so weak compared to his Hapkido.
Cue another challenge for master and pupil and the humbling of another arrogant upstart. Fans always mention this episode as one of their all-time favourites.
My own favourite was the one in which David is training me in a barn whilst suspended upside down from a high beam by no obvious means.
I go through my moves on the ground then have to climb up ropes and beams to reach him and suspend myself in the same way; at first I can't do it as it seems impossible to defy gravity.
Eventually I learn to harness my chi my inner life force, which is the secret of all David's amazing powers. We had a lot of fun doing this as David got dizzy being upside down all the time and I'm terrified of heights.
Come 1999 we were back for a third season and by now had a cult following, the internet was around by this time and fans speculated endlessly on what we'd get up to they even posted suggestions and a couple of these were so good that we used them.
One involved a rodeo in which we take on this cocky redneck cowboy with strong right-wing views who calls David 'hippy' throughout until he learns some humility and so does his pet bull.
The second involved these man and wife taekwondo couple who believe they are perfect, they live in a swish Beverly Hills mansion to which we're invited as 'ground staff' and promptly patronised to the gills.
David decides it's time they were taught a lesson and I agree but this lesson involves taking on not only our bosses but their bodyguards and hangers on.
This story was the most martial arts intensive episode we did and both David and I ended up covered in cuts and bruises to make the fights as realistic looking as possible.
Another good episode featured an unbeaten competition champion who sees himself as the future and David very much the past, a duel between them seems unavoidable and it takes place on these sand dunes with big drops on either side.
Fighting on sand is a nightmare let me tell you, the sand gets everywhere in your mouth, eyes, ears and pants you just can't get rid of the stuff. Plus sand chafes your feet really badly after several takes and this fight needed more than most.
Even so we did a good show and Mike Hart (the baddie) became a good friend, he really was extremely good on those dunes I don't think he lost balance once and I was very jealous.
It turned out he lived just up the coast in a beach-front property so we retired there for some much needed cool drinks and showers.
I thought GRASSHOPPER would get a fourth season but it didn't, the production company had a better idea they wanted to expand the characters we played into a bigger format a more detailed project and the name of it would be SHAOLIN DANCERS.
The premise of this was that once again as the seeker I'd track David down to his remote Canadian refuge which is camouflaged to blend in with the trees and scenery. I'd rescue him from some heavies and find that inside the refuge was this amazing rabbit warren of rooms and chambers.
Each part would hold a surprise, a memory and a lesson the whole place would represent the master's life and wisdom. David would be older now and semi-retired (which he was in 2001 when we did the filming), and the rural Vancouver setting really added something to the series.
We did three feature length episodes and these introduced a bad guy called Brockton who owns a logging company that is tearing down all the trees.
Against him is a protest group led by David's adopted daughter Lisa Nyugen and she turns out to be Brockton's real biological daughter from back when he was a GI in Vietnam.
Needless to say Brockton and David don't like each other personally or politically and Lisa gets caught in the middle, falling for me in the end.
Finally a group of trained experts are sent to the refuge to take us all out and a desperate duel ensues – myself, David and Lisa against a ninja, a soldier, an Apache and a deadly femme fatale in charge of them Brockton's other daughter.
Fighting styles featured included kung fu, karate, krav maga, JKD, wrestling, knife fighting and military close quarter combat.
SHAOLIN DANCERS was a big hit and scored high enough ratings to justify a second season in 2002, however by this time David had received a call from a certain Quentin Tarantino who wanted him in a new movie called 'kill bill' which would be very high profile and propel David back into the big time.
"I have to do it," he told me, "This is too good a chance to miss."
I agreed in his place I'd jump at it to, "But what about our series," I asked?
"I'll appear in a smaller capacity, you be the star now," he said so that's what happened when SHAOLIN DANCERS returned I took the lead saving a mysterious girl called Abi from some thugs and getting drawn into her dangerous life.
Abi turns out to be Brockton's wife and is desperate to escape from a loveless marriage, she hopes I can help and I think we need to consult my master but where is David? Part of the story involves tracking him down, now a hermit he has all but withdrawn from the outside world.
What made this story interesting was Abi herself; she was a mystery and a paradox a mix of vulnerable and cunning, hurt yet savvy, honest yet also devious. It needed a brilliant actress to play the part and we got one in Olivia Hebo a stunning blond ex gymnast who added layers of complexity to the character.
In the end Abi turns out to be evil, she shoots David who falls into a lake. Is he dead, has she killed him; we intended to answer this in a third segment but it was never made?
Ratings were good and fans excited but the production company wanted David back but he was too committed to 'kill bill' which had grown into a two-film deal so what they came up with for me was SHAOLIN WEST.
I played an aging martial arts enthusiast on the fringes of the television world who is in LA to meet various people who have inspired him over the years. These include kung fu experts, actors and motivational writers.
David appeared briefly in 2 segments, Kam was also involved as were a number of top black belts, writers, performers and directors.
Much was made of my age, at 45 I was a good bit older than most of the cast and whilst fit they regarded me as a relic; this became a series joke and was mentioned in every one of the 10 episodes.
I had a lot of fun doing SHAOLIN WEST which had more comedic elements than my previous projects and also took several pot shots at George W Bush and how repressive America was becoming.
One story featured secret police, surveillance and a car chase. Another was on a film set where the stunt guys test me in all sorts of ways, then there was the tale featuring Quentin Tarantino himself in which David and I stage a brilliant rooftop fight scene with a blood curdling 12 story fall at the end.
I was very pleased with the overall project and felt it was my best work but although it got high ratings there was no second season and with David hyping 'kill bill' we didn't work together again for some time.
Instead I knew it was time to move on to different projects with different people, in the film world you're always moving on you have to as the business never stands still.
I'd become a fan of master Wong Kiew Kit the Penang based kung fu master whom I'd met thanks to actor Jeff Yang one of his top US students. Now living in London Jeff had an idea for a story featuring Wong that would be filmed in Penang.
"I can't write the script but I think you could Neil and that you'd an ideal choice to star in it," Jeff introduced me to Carl Cotton a film producer who was also a fan of the master his company Cotton Collective had some rich backers including a Malaysian bank MDX.
It was they who eventually funded 8 SILK BROCADE the title of the film which in 2006 I went to Penang to shoot over a 55 day period.
Once again I was the seeker of truth, a rich westerner who turns up in town to train with Wong at his temple only to get involved in the rivalry between Wong and the shantung black tiger school represented by my hotel bell boy Pao, with whom I have several fights.
He beats me in the first one I need healing, so I'm taken to Wong who not only heals me but teaches me vibrational kung fu a very high level form of combat using the mind, soul and chi.
Also starring in the film and the female lead is Dr Sun a tai chi expert who impresses me with her skill; she too becomes a friend and mentor teaching me how to do the 8 silk brocade chi kung form properly.
I beat Pao in a rematch, going to the shantung dojo to do it then Wong teaches me these sacred symbols, literally keys to amazing powers that he wants me to take back to the west.
My love interest in the plot is sexy black girl Patrice but our affair doesn't interfere with the action and we say a tearful farewell at the airport.
A mix of mysticism, psychic powers and martial arts 8 SILK was a new departure for me as it included many supernatural elements. It wasn't a huge commercial success immediately but over the years since has become something of a cult on DVD and download.
As well as the shaolin wahnam system it features various types of tai chi, chi kung, hsing yi and the tiger style. I felt it was flamboyant and high octane with some great performances throughout by the entire cast, we even get to see Wong levitate over a rooftop.
Cotton Collective were so impressed that they signed me up to a second film this time set in London, a city in the grip of political paranoia, racism and armed police. 18 LOHAN would also feature Wong's system but not Wong himself, this time my sifu would be a black Londoner called Max who has several run ins with the brutal racist cops as well as a local gangster.
18 LOHAN was a darker, edgier type of film of gloomy interiors, grim streets, burning cars, circling helicopters and frightened people under the heel of emergency powers. It was filmed in 2008 just after the London terror attack when fear, doubt and paranoia ran rampant and a Brazilian tourist was accidentally shot dead by armed cops.
Styles featured in the story, as well as shaolin, included dragon fist, crane fist, white eyebrow, mantis and karate. The bad guys all did karate for some reason, part of an evil dojo run by a psychopath who in the end I have to fight in a deadly duel.
One of my most violent films 18 LOHAN also features guns, swords and even an attempt to run me over, which happily was taken care of by my stunt doubles ( I had 3 of these in the end.)
The fascist cops who held London in a grip of fear were armed with billy clubs and electro-shock devices called tazers, the ones we use din the film were duds and we added the special effects, sparks and noises later by dubbing.
Controversial the film upset a lot of people but this only made it more popular and I won an award at the Locust film festival, the first and only time I've ever won anything as an actor, or a writer for that matter.
Then I got a call from David, he wanted me to come to Thailand to film what he called "Our last hurrah," it turned out to be an action, conspiracy thriller that was oddly prophetic in nature.
CRITICAL saw David return to his role of being my master, this time holed up in a hotel being hunted by killers working for a global secret society the illuminati, made popular by the books of David Icke, amongst others.
Marked for death David asks me to join him for one last adventure on the astral plane, with us is another of his students a Thai girl called Bobbi, played by Chinese actor Cecily Tang a real life black belt in kick boxing and amazingly fit.
One scene had Cecily and myself scaling the outside of the hotel to reach David, something that made me feel physically sick as I hate heights. I could have used a stunt man but in the end decided to do it myself.
Cecily wasn't crying off (she was looking forward to it) so how could I? That said I was ill before the shoot and certainly afterwards where I needed the loo urgently and some strong meds to calm my nerves. Wouldn't you know it, it was blowing a gale on the day a strong cross wind buffeted Cecily and myself as we made our accent.
We were to climb this rusty looking gutter to a balcony then swing ourselves up and over onto the balcony, which wasn't very wide nor was it too secure a sit too blew in the wind.
I thought we could do the climb in one take but no such luck, we had to repeat the climb twice more, each time my guts and bowels threatened to erupt.
Our dialogue was dubbed on afterwards, quite a bit afterwards in my case.
On the astral all 3 of us enter this wild cowboy town not unlike the sets David used in his old seventies series, we even got some of the seventies actors to appear in it.
There is a punch up in the bar, the use of gas to escape, shots and then we levitate from the rooftop to a coral where the final showdown takes place.
In the end David accepts his fate and tells me this is goodbye, I am to take Bobbi and flee back to earth. I don't want to leave him but Bobbi drags me away.
Just 4 weeks later on June 3rd 2009 David was found dead in a room at the NAI LERT PARK hotel, he had apparently hanged himself during some kind of auto erotic sex ritual.
I was stunned, David would never commit suicide he didn't believe in it and he wasn't into kinky sex games. Plus the speedy way the body was removed and the sealing of the room hinted at a cover up, as did lurid reports in the tabloids who were fed stories of such dishonestly it was unbelievable.
The whole thing stank of a staged murder, but as to who committed it we may never know. Personally I have my suspicions and they involve a covert wing of the US military.
David was a vehement critic of President Bush and his war mongering and profiteering. It was well known that Bush was furious about this, especially when David challenged him live on a TV talk show, leaving Bush tongue tied and red faced.
David rarely lost debates he was too intelligent and well informed, unlike Bush who was a right-wing xenophobic oaf of the worst kind, a pygmy in the pocket of the arms industry, who bankrolled him into office so he could create wars for them and he did, one after another.
So yeah I agree with the conspiracy brigade, David was murdered, silenced like many other liberal voices then and now. Bitterly upset by David's untimely death as we had become good friends during the many projects we worked on I considered my own future wondering where I went next.
As It turned out this was a step backwards into the world of fitness videos only this time my show would be called KARATE WORKOUT and it would occupy me right across the next two years.
A company called Budo Unlimited hired me to do a series of karate videos that covered everything about the art from warm ups and basics to sparring, bag work and kata.
They gave me a lot of leeway in writing my own scripts and provided some impressive gyms and outdoor locations such as Greece, Spain, the South of France and central London where I recorded many sessions at the top class Banquet Gymnasium that would be used by our 2012 Olympic hopefuls.
KARATE WORKOUT began as a couple of videos and grew into seven covering a host of defences, exercises and katas, all were hugely popular and helping me as my co trainer were two brilliant martial artists Rob Sox and Katya Lesko both in their twenties and both black belts.