This interview was published in January 2003
We need experienced Martial Artists to stay around and help the younger generation; far too many of them fade away and either stop training and teaching altogether or simply end up training on their own. Therefore I was very happy to see Mick Gooch in fine form after a 14 year absence.
Mick Gooch is one of those Kyokushin “names” from the Medway towns in Kent, along with Paul and Terry Owen, Dennis Jones and Norman King, Mick bought the Kyokushinkai style of Karate to Chatham. Mick is a natural, easy going, likeable guy who can switch on the intensity in his training at the drop of the hat. Twenty years ago I gave him and Norman King a job in the security industry. Norman’s clubs were in the same Leisure Centre’s as mine and as Steve Arniel is a friend of mine, we met annually at the Kyokushin Knockdown Tournaments. Two years ago I acted as a judge along with Mick’s friend, boxer Johnny Armour, to his world record attempt at Crystal Palace of one fingered push ups on a coconut.
Mick became famous for his world record of one finger push ups and appeared on countless television shows in the 1980’s raising a fortune for charity. After burning out and suffering illness he overcame his own adversity to return 14 yrs later for the year 2000 record breaking attempt.
At 46 years of age he looks better than ever and ready to guide the younger generation to prevent them from making the mistakes too many of us made in the past…..
SR Hi Mick… tell me about your introduction to Karate…
MG In the early ‘70’s like many of us, I went to watch the Bruce Lee film “Enter the Dragon” and was captivated by it! I looked around the Medway area for Karate clubs and the style getting to be well known at that time was Kyokushinkai, the clubs were run by brothers Terry and Paul Owen so I joined them.
SR What was your first session like?
MG Well, I didn’t know what to expect, the club was in the Casino Rooms in Rochester and was jam packed with people being taken through the fundamentals. I was so pleased when I got my karategi (suit) and found all the kiai’s (karate shouts) strange – but right from then I knew that Kyokushin Karate was for me and that with effort, I could excel at it.
The training was very hard with thousands of repetitions of each technique but I loved it! I was always pretty fit, I had played football at school and had trained in boxing, but that wasn’t really my cup of tea… Karate really suited me and I quickly became dedicated to it.
SR Tell us about your friends at the time…
MG Dennis Jones, he was a big influence on me – he had such a clever mind! As soon as I met him he became like a mentor to me, we worked together and used to train together – even during our lunch hours we would do a thousand punches! As I became dedicated and stronger it was his idea to do a one fingered push up.
SR So where did you first do it?
MG Dennis encouraged me to do it in my Mum’s kitchen!
SR With Terry and Paul Owen, Dennis Jones and Norman King around, you had a strong supportive group?
MG Yeah… they were top notch! Norman King really helped me out with my kata and free fighting later on – he’s a very good instructor! Ray Pearson of the Tonbridge Karate Club also helped both Dennis and myself through our Black Belt grading and Cyril Andrews of the Seven Sisters helped us to get through our second dan where incidentally I also did the 30 man kumite. I’d also like to mention Liam Keaveney who has helped me throughout my Martial Arts training and the late Jim Carpenter, another Medway Karateka who helped me support so many worthy causes.
SR I’m planning an article on Martial Arts in Medway in the early years, it’d be great to get all the guys together. When did you get to meet Hanshi Steve Arniel?
MG Terry Owen used to talk about Hanshi a lot and say what a great instructor he was and being beginners we didn’t really know what he meant. When he invited him down to the Casino in Rochester the moment he walked into the room his charisma was evident! The atmosphere in the room just changed! We were just mesmerised by him, everything he said was just crystal clear, he really is a brilliant instructor!
SR Did you ever meet Sosai Oyama?
MG Not personally, but I fought in front of him in the Knockdown tournament.
SR What tournaments did you fight in?
MG The first tournaments I fought in were the continuous “clicker” fighting; our original team under Terry Owen including me and Norman came 3rd, we were really pleased! Everyone kept talking about the Knockdowns and when I got to brown belt I decided to have a go. I trained like a nutter for it.. it’s just my way I guess I’m an all or nothing type of guy, I beat 3 black belts on the way up and came 4th.. I’m convinced I could have won it but for an ankle injury – I withdrew, I didn’t have an Instructor there to push me and I regret it to this day.
SR So after Dennis Jones got you to do your first one fingered push up in your mum’s kitchen – how did it progress to the Guiness Book of Records?
MG I remember Bruce Lee used to do one fingered push ups and as he was an idol of mine, I was already doing hundreds of press ups on my fingers gradually taking a finger away at a time until I was on two… then Dennis encouraged me to do just the one…
Hanshi (Steve Arniel) knew that I could do the one fingered press up and at a course told me that he wanted me to develop it as a special drill. He said that I should work on it to set a world record. So that’s what I did!
SR What training regimen did you set?
MG As no one had done it before I had to work it out myself. What I discovered was that you have to keep the strain on the joints all the time to develop them, near enough 24hrs a day! So I did the push ups all the time right through the day wherever I could. I was doing 3,000 a week! The pain was incredible! I had old injuries on my hands because I used to do a lot of breaking techniques as well – my hands would swell up, sometimes I couldn’t close my hands! I couldn’t count the times that I’d get caught at work in the most embarrassing positions (Mick is a painter and decorator)! Then I had to rest for 3 days before an attempt.
SR What supplemental training would you do?
MG I used to thrust my fingers into sand and then into iron filings and dried peas but Hanshi told me to stop that as it was too severe. So I would stick to the fingertip press ups removing one finger at a time as I described earlier. I would do them with weights in a rucksack on my back.
SR How where and when did you set the world record?
MG The first time was at Wembly Arena in 1982 at the European Knockdown Tournament. I managed to do 38 full press ups right down to the floor and right back up, but I still had to do it again for the Guiness book of Records, we decided to do it at the Knockdown Tournament at Crystal Palace in 1984 and there I managed to do 45 and that was recorded by them. In between I managed to do 40 for the “Just Amazing” television show under great duress because I had to break two coconuts and spear a watermelon with my fingers just before the attempt and I damaged my hand! It was extremely painful but I just felt that I had to do it!
SR Then you stopped… why?
MG I was at the pinnacle of my Martial Arts career as such and was training so hard that my immune system was low and I caught a chest infection. It just didn’t seem to get any better and I went to two different doctors who just gave me pills and then I started to develop new symptoms… Eventually I had to go to a top nutritionist in London who diagnosed it as the yeast allergy candida. That really knocked me of my pedestal, I just gave up for a while and it took me 10 years to sort it out! I had to summon up all my warrior spirit to battle it and destroy the negativity.
SR What were the symptoms?
MG Very bad fatigue, a sort of constant “bloated” feeling and like hay fever around the eyes. These symptoms got stronger and stronger as the candida was spreading through the gastro intestinal tract. It became a case of I had to be in complete control of what I was putting in my mouth, now I know all the things that I can’t eat and drink so I stay well away from them. You never get rid of an allergy; you can only keep it under control. I actually feel better now than I’ve ever been!
SR What other television did you do?
MG I did Blue Peter, The Wide Awake Club, doing the alternative record of one finger push ups on a coconut and The Big Breakfast.
SR What made you get back into it after a 14yr break?
MG Originally it was for charity, a little girl called Gemma Smith and a little boy who had cystic fibrosis called Paul Meredith, unfortunately they’re no longer with us, Hanshi Steve Arniel and BKK supported their cause. This time it was for Billy Ripley the footballer who found himself in a wheelchair and Jodie Duff who has spina bifada.
This time it was to be at the 2000 Knockdown Tournament at Crystal Palace and I was very privileged and proud to make the attempt and have you, Steve, and Johnny Armour the WBU Bantamweight World Boxing Champion to be the judges. Johnny is a friend of mine and also of Billy and Jodie and was prepared to do anything to help the cause.
SR How did it feel?
MG A lot of well meaning people were trying to instil fear into my heart and mind by saying that I didn’t want to be doing this in my forties and that I shouldn’t be putting my joints under so much strain and that I would get arthritis etc…But now that I’d beaten the allergy problem – I was ready! Nothing was going to stop me! I worked on my determination and mental focus and proved them all wrong.
My previous record was 16 press ups on a coconut and I had beaten that at an event in Chatham and on the Big Breakfast but at crystal Palace I was counted at 38!
SR I can vouch for that!
MG (Laughs) You certainly can!
SR What about this Paul Lynch who broke your Guiness record?
MG My record was 45 press ups on one finger and his was 125! I can’t believe that anyone could do 125 in the same way as I did 45, I would love to meet him and see exactly how he did it, if it was the same as me then I take my hat off to him, but I just don’t believe it’s possible.
SR Paul, if you read this Mick would love to meet with you! What are your plans now for the future?
MG Through my links in Medway and in the Martial Arts with people like yourself Steve, I would like to help younger Karateka who want to dedicate themselves or specialise in certain areas like record setting to be able to maintain their health and training programmes and not make the mistakes that we, the pioneers, made. Martial Arts should develop their character and make them better people.
SR I couldn’t think of anything better Mick, and anyone better to do that than yourself. I look forward to working with you.