On the road to Damascus
In the final part of my interview with Stephen French, he reveals his ongoing transition “from living in the dark to living in the light”, his training routine and his plans for making the world a better place.
What positives can you draw from your past that are helping you to help others, moving forward?
The experiences I draw from my past that allow me to help others move forwards are very close to my heart and they have seen me come from living in the dark to living in the light.
This is a really complex question that I could write volumes on but I will try to be pertinent and succinct .
“So many young people I meet are damaged. They have no confidence and do not know how to change.”
I mainly try to pass on lessons in self-worth and self-esteem. So many young people I meet are damaged. They have no confidence and do not know how to change.
I have heard it called “PMT” (Positive Mental Attitude) but what it boils down to is listening, finding out where the gaps are in their lives and giving them practical strategies that see them bridge the gap; followed up by positive re-enforcement so they can begin to build a bank of self belief.
“I take all the negatives of my life and I teach how to avoid making my mistakes.”
I have a charity called Kizuna Increase the Peace Trust that developed from the Increase Peace Programme IPP.
There is a concept that I was developing called Peace Though Participation in Sport. That’s our patron in the picture, Evander Holyfield.
We developed the “Gloves – Not Gangs” in the local ABC. I am involved in all these thing as well as lecturing in schools, colleges and universities.
I focus on turning the negatives of my life as a so-called ex-gangster into a positive fact. I have made countless radio and TV appearance, seeing them hang on my every word.
“I do not want government help or money because they would take away the autonomy I need to make a difference.”
I also run my own rehabilitation programme, and I have personally employed scores of ex cons who were ready to go straight – I just keep them out of the gangs.
I have never been an individual to go cap in hand to the establishment and say I am a poor black boy, please help me. I get off my backside and make it happen.
The reason I wrote the book, did the documentaries and opened a production company called Massive Agile Media (MAM): I wanted to get a movie deal in order to raise the £25 million I would need to find to build and autonomously run the Andrew John Memorial Skill Centre. (AJMSC) – Andrew John was my brother, who was brutally murdered in 1991 by being shot 5 times in the back.
This would be a dedicated centre teaching practical skills so that a young man could provide for his family and himself while avoiding becoming a criminal gunman destined for prison or an early grave.
I do not want government help or money because they would take away the autonomy I need to make a difference. I am trying to achieve this goal under my own steam.
“I have been quietly giving back for years.”
I was very close to a deal. My script went to the Cannes Film Festival and then everything came to halt when I was forced to revert to type to save my life and went to prison, and I am now in the process of re-building that particular project.
This was a strategy devised by me after I met Samuel L Jackson when he came to my night club while he was shooting the film “51st State”
Writing the book and getting on TV was done to raise my profile so I could reach a bigger audience with my message. Things never happen by accident – it was and is a means to end, and I am yet to complete the final hurdle, make the movie and raise 25 million
Lionsgate, the film makers, offered to buy the rights to my story for £100,000. I refused. I want an association deal with the big players and a percentage of the box office. This give me the chance of raising the millions needed for AJMSC. I have been quietly giving back for years.
What do you think is the most important quality a martial artist should possess and how will this help them in their everyday life?
The most important quality for me is respect. Self respect and respect for others. Respect in the application of the martial arts they are being taught. The utmost respect for their instructor. Respect is the key to the success of any relationship. That was taught to me by my instructor and ‘pops’, my master who I will always have the deepest respect for, the late Master Ronnie Colwell.
How did you used to prepare mentally for your fights and for other high intensity situations?
It used to take me 6 weeks training every day, resting at weekends, to get to my fighting weight and have excellent conditioning.
The usual road work for cardio vascular benefit, weights, stretching and the key to it all – sparring. I was a super fit, world class athlete.
For my mental preparation I was using visualisation in the early 1980s; I would see myself on the winner podium receiving my trophy.
I fought my first international in Holland and I froze. The enormity of the event overwhelmed me and I went out in first round, first fight.
Then I realised the key to mental preparation is relaxation. All the physical work has been completed and is in the bank.
“Tension in the body impairs free flowing movement. Tension in the mind impairs focused thought on the specific task.”
First I start with the self-talk. I tell myself that the goal I am trying to attain is well with in the limits of my capabilities.
I run through all scenarios in my mind’s eye and then relax, control my breathing till it becomes extremely shallow. It is actual meditation. Then I am ready for the ring.
For me personally in martial arts, in business or any intense situation, you must try to relax and fully focus on the job at hand. Tension in the body impairs free flowing movement. Tension in the mind impairs focused thought on the specific task.
Are you still training in martial arts and what are your current aspirations?
I still train only now I do body maintenance; Monday, Wednesday and Friday with weekends off. I work a lot on the heavy bag to keep up the power of my punches and I swim. I will be kicking and punching the heavy bag till I pop my clogs. (CSoN – Me too, Stephen. Great to see a fighter mentioning the benefits of meditation, visualisation and relaxation as keys to success as well.)
I have already mentioned some of the aspirations I have in terms of getting a movie deal to finance my own skill-centre. I am also a Kizuna Knight, one of the few recipients of the Kizuna gold medal and I wish to continue increasing the membership of the Kizuna Brotherhood.
Chan School interjection – ‘Kizuna’ is the Japanese word for ‘brotherhood’ or ‘kinship’ and describes a group who help each other. Is that right?
Kizuna goes beyond bond or brotherhood or kinship. Kizuna is about the fact that blood may make individuals related but it is loyalty that joins individuals as a family. My fellow Kizuna Knights and I have been family for over 40 years.
World KuboKan Federation (WKF) is another branch of my master’s legacy and I intend to breathe new life into it and keep the “Old Way”Alive and increase the membership.
“I still feel I have not fulfilled my true potential.”
I have a desire to learn how to correctly use the sword he left me and have had some lesson down South before my ‘sabbatical’.
My businesses keep me very busy and my martial arts interest give all the camaraderie a man could ever need.
I have achieved so much in my life and I have a lot of firsts attached to my name – too many to list – but I still feel I have not fulfilled my true potential.
I now aspire to increase the peace and to mentor those young men that are ready to be mentored. My experience has taught me that chasing after individuals who are not ready to change is useless. They must want and be ready for the change themselves. Then and only then will help be of any value. (CSoN – Totally agree with you there.)
Stephen, as a very young and immature man I once considered criminality but decided against it. What is your view on criminality now?
The country is run by criminals. The establishment is riddled with greed and corruption. Blood for Oil, WMD… the war criminal, Tony Blair, reaps the benefit of his war crimes on the western lecture circuit at £1m a pop. He should be in the dock at The Hague. The establishment protect their own and the machine rolls on.
“It’s decadent, not democratic. It is hypocrisy, not democracy, that I see. What do you see?”
David Cameron and his school boy friends are pulling the wool over everybody’s eyes with austerity while he pays £90 for a haircut. It’s decadent, not democratic. It is hypocrisy, not democracy, that I see. What do you see? Criminality, like chess acumen, is all relative. It depends on how you view the world. The fact that you thought of criminality as a way of life does not surprise me. Everyone over the age of 21 is guilty of a criminal act. They just never got caught or had to face the consequences is my opinion – not a fact. Me, I am interested in change powered by choice. I have been branded with so many labels I no longer accept their categorisation of me and they are not fit to judge me. “Only God Can Judge Me” . Those that hold the keys to the kingdom have shown time and time again they can not be trusted. So I will abide by the laws of the land but I will my life on my own terms.
The Fighting Preacher
I am the “Fighting Preacher” and my ministry is to help young men out of the dark and into the light.
It is also, to expose the corrupt individuals in their positions of power who use that power to hold the vast majority of us down.
“I wish to live in peace but I am not pacifist. Peace must be defended and protected and I see myself as a soldier in God’s Army.”
I am a born again Christian and have been since 2009. I am not a dinging dancing Christian. I am like Samson smashing the Philistines with the jaw bone of an ass.
I wish to live in peace but I am not pacifist. Peace must be defended and protected and I see myself as a soldier in God’s Army.
The forces of the dark are all around us and it is very easy to paint the righteous man as wicked and corrupt, and I know without fear of contradiction the leaders of this country masquerade as righteous men when in actuality they are extremely wicked and even more corrupt.
In conclusion I understand that I am subject to the laws of the land and it is my duty to be the best citizen that I can. I have an indomitable sprit. I will never give up. I will never give in and I will never surrender.
This mindset was taught to me by my master, Master Colwell Sensei, and he learned from his master, Master Kanazawa Sensei, and he learned it from his master, Master Gichin Funakoshi Sensei – the founder of Shotokan Karate. It is a Japanese Mind Set of a Samurai.
I will never accept the judgement of the establishment. I see through the veneer of respectability. I see hypocrisy masquerading as democracy.
“I am a man in control of his fears.”
They have the power to arrest me. They have the power to place my physical body in their prisons. They may even kill me but they have no claim to my immortal soul. I am a man in control of his fears. My martial arts training gave me that gift. It is the purest thing in my life and I would have amounted to nothing without it. Only God can judge me.
The only thing that has remained pure and untarnished is my beloved Martial Arts.
The Fighting Preacher
Thanks very much, Stephen
In going through everything that Stephen said in his responses and from our conversations, I have found him to be a deep thinking person with a very strong spirit. I truly believe that, despite the darkness in his background that he does not deny or shy away from, he has massive potential for helping people in the way he wants to. Whatever he has wanted to achieve, he has made it happen. There are definitely still people and institutions who are out to bring him down but I, for one, support him in all the positive work he is now doing.
Thanks again, Mr French. It’s been a pleasure.