My favourite Sensei of all time HAS to be Terry O’Neill.
I have trained with him more times than I can count, and I’ve watched with admiration as he has matured into one of the world’s finest teachers.
He’s a big guy, and he uses his physical stature to his maximum advantage. The more mature visitor might recall his many famous fights in the KUGB national championships, and in particular his encounter in the 1977 final with Steve Cattle (sadly now deceased way before his time) at Crystal Palace where he performed a rolling Kakato Geri that was one of the most spectacular and innovative techniques ever witnessed at a championship. Oh, and by the way, yes it scored and won him the title!
Sensei O’Neill won the KUGB National Championships Individual Kumite title in 1972, 73, 74, 75, 77, and 1978. He was three times the KUGB Grand Champion and from 1967 to 1981, he was a member of the Red Triangle Team who were KUGB National Team Champions on no less than 13 occasions. In the early ’70s, he was quite rightly recognized as one of the World’s most fearsome competitors. A master of innovation and tactical surprise, he had a dynamic and flamboyant fighting style that few could beat.
Tragically, his run as a competition fighter came to an abrupt end in 1982, when he seriously damaged the ligaments of his knee in an International match against Italy.
His work in the movie business, with legends such as Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sean Connery never went to his head – he is the same old warm Liverpudlian (complete with their typical sense of humour) we’ve all come to know and love.
I was incredibly fortunate to have gotten to know him much better than I ever thought I would
In my early karate career, I was scared witless of Sensei O’Neill. Today, I have come to know him better as a person, and I ain’t scared no more! Not that I’d want to come across him in a dark alleyway! It’s just that I’ve become exposed to many different types of teacher now, and, believe it or not, Terry has mellowed a little these days! He still commands respect in the dojo, but he is more likely to reprimand anyone deserving with humour rather than a shinae!
I was incredibly fortunate to have gotten to know him much better than I ever thought I would as we spent time chatting after training at the 2013 ‘Train with the Champions’ course at Lancaster University.
Unlike some high-ranking Sensei, Terry is totally open to questions during class
I haven’t spoken much about his technique here, have I? Maybe it’s because it speaks for itself? Suffice to say, if you want to know how to use karate to get out of a difficult situation, Sensei O’Neill is your man! Unlike some high-ranking Sensei, Terry is totally open to questions during class (and even more so after). His thought is that his only role in class is to ‘know more karate than anyone else’, so why not make that knowledge available and take questions?
I am always one of the first to ask questions during class, and maybe that’s what brought me to his attention during the ‘Train with the Champions’ week. No matter what, Sensei took the time to consider the question each time and provide a thought-provoking answer.
In 1972, he founded the premier UK Martial Arts magazine ”Fighting Arts International”, which achieved a world-wide reputation as one of the few really serious and influential magazines on the subject.
His acting credits include:
Movies: “Entrapment”, “Gangs of New York”, “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”, “Conan The Destroyer”, “Dragonheart” and “Quills”.
TV: ”Civvies”, ”Comics”, and ”The Governor”.
He has also acted as martial arts consultant on many other films. I am immensely proud to call him my friend.