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Interview with Lloyd Allen of PowerSports Gym & The Bristol Death Squad

Mrs Enso has been training around the city in her time back in the UK and has caught up with some old friends and training partners getting the low down on what they are up to these days. This week she was at PowerSports Gym chatting with a well known face around these parts Lloyd Allen.

Shelley: (Sitting down at the end of a hard session) Hey, how you doing, Its really great to be back here in this gym I’ve always found it really friendly. So, Lloyd how long have you been training?

Lloyd: I’ve been training for 45 years now.

Shelley: FORTY FIVE YEARS WOW!!! That is crazy!

Yes, I started training many years before you were even born (sniggers)

It really was! So how do you keep yourself SO fit?

Well I do a lot of outside training and I do a lot of other sports too…..

Like what?

Badminton, Cricket.

How do you find time for it all? I can sometimes only squeeze in a couple of sessions a week!

Well, I’ve always really loved Kickboxing and Kung Fu and I always try and keep myself fit even if I am not doing kickboxing.

Is that Lau Gar Kung Fu?

Lau Gar Yup.

So, when I train here it feels a bit like a party actually with the music and the moves ….

….Well, that is what we try to create, let people feel confident and relaxed and I always think, when they start feeling relaxed, that is when you get the best out of them. We like to get the feeling its like a party, if people are tense and stiff its no good, you can’t get what you want out of them. Once they feel relaxed you can get more across, it’s hard work but they enjoy doing it. The music really helps, the beat of the music gets everyone going and they don’t realise how much hard work they are doing.

That is very true! You feel it afterwards though. (laughs) What about the footwork?

Yeah, the foot work it is like dancing, we try and be quick on the feet, we do lots of running and sprinting and everything else because in semi contact we need the speed and the timing, you’ve got to be able to have that sudden burst to explode when you need it.

Is there much difference in terms of training from points sparring to semi contact to full contact?

In the points sparring we tend to emphasize speed and timing, that’s where the sprinting comes in, being able to explode from one part to the next. For Full Contact its not so much the speed and more about the stamina, to make it through the rounds, you have to be able to give and take in full contact, in the points spar you don’t have time to give and take its got to be get in quick BAM first one in gets it.

Full contact is usually the last resort, we start with Semi, the points sparring, then work up to light continuous, then full contact. For the full contact you have to condition your body of course, because you have to be able to take it, its not a case of the first one to score in full contact, where as points it’s the first one to connect. People get to train all three sides of course so if your speed goes you can move on to the next thing, where you might be slower but you can go further.

There seems to be very much a team spirit so how do you train that team spirit?

Well, the music helps it gets that good vibe, it keeps you going, keeps you happy, until it stops then you want to stop (laughs). We train together like a team and that is important especially if at competition you have a team fight, the first fight is as important as the last. So you have got to be able to encourage all the fighters that come up, not just one or two. So if he gets hit, we feel it on the side line, so we will be behind them at all times, we get behind them shouting instructions and giving them confidence when they are fighting.

Have you had any absolute plonkers ever come into the club over the years?

I’ve had some people come in who think they are tough, and you can usually test them out in the first few rounds. They think they can do this or that and they brag about what they can do. Then we do the workout, then they realise we are going to do the workout THEN fight, you say come on put the gloves on and they are thinking WHAT how can we fight after we’ve just trained! (Laughs). If you brag about what you can do, then I already know what you can do and what you are going to do, which helps me, so you don’t go shouting off about it all. People bragging about what they can do is just talk, Action is better than words. (knowing smiles and giggles all round).

When did you get into competition, The Death Squad, how did it come about?

It started off when I first took over the club, there was a chap who was teaching, Winston Greenwood, and he turned to professional boxing, I was the next senior. The fighters we had in the club at that time, because we were training so hard, they were keen to go into competition and get some medals or something. So it became my job to find some competitions to enter, at first we started fighting in karate tournaments because they were open so anyone could enter. However because we were kickboxers and it was for karate they didn’t really want us to win or it looks bad on karate….

So the judges were biased?

….Yeah, the judges wanted Karate to win so we realise we need to be twice as good as them to beat them. The judges were not giving us points, they would pretend they had not seen it or whatever. It got to the point though where the crowd were seeing it and backing us, so if we weren’t getting points they were booing the judges, so they had to change it. It got to the point where we were beating all the karate guys but the Tournament was good for them because they got to promote with our name The DEATH SQUAD is inviting any other club to come and fight them.

Where did the name come from?

It comes from a guy in Cardiff called Una Wellington, he use to promotes the tournaments over there. Because of the way we fought in the tournaments, we use to go there to win, if there was six of us in a line then six of us would win. I use to fight number one, and it all went along in order, we had one female fighter Sharon Gill….

….She looks exactly the same as she did then!

…she was our last fighter in the line and we would have five wins and she was the last to fight and she’d make the six, and we would support each other. That’s how we done it and then people would be like “I don’t wanna fight that lot” . Then people outside who hadn’t seen us wanted to bring their club down and challenge us to a fight, so in a sense it was making it good for the tournament and we had people from Liverpool and Manchester coming down to take us on. So that is how we got called the Bristol Death Squad!

Who were the original six?

Me, my brother Phil Allen, Keith, Nathan Lewis, Sean Veira, Sharon Gill and Stan Moore. We had an A B and C team as well not just the one team. Because of the way we was fighting they created the England Squad and they took all our A team and then the B team was so good they took all of them for the England B team, so when they were all fighting internationally on the BKFA they were all the Bristol Death Squad.

Where were you fighting abroad?

We were fighting in the European Championships, so we travelled all around Europe for years then we went to places like the States, if it weren’t for kickboxing I wouldn’t know so many countries.

How did you get into refereeing?

After I stopped fighting on the international team I thought I want to put something back into it as I knew so much. There was already a lot of England Coaches so I thought being a Referee, we were supposed to supply 2 Refs each time we took a team abroad. They said that a good Referee was always from a good fighting background. So from that I went on to being head of the Great Britain Referees. I had to go to seminars and get the information if they had changed the rules or anything and come back and brief the Squad.

What did you find most challenging in that role?

Well, to be honest, what I found in Refereeing is, you have got to be positive got to be sure of your technique, give what you see, the minute you change your decision or if you are unsure you become a bad referee. You have to give what you see, not what the fighter tells you, if they say they did this or that but you didn’t see it, if you didn’t see it you can’t give it.

Out of all the fights you have seen over the years, do any stick in your mind, positively or negatively?

There are two top fighters we had Alfie Lewis and Kevin Brueton and they were brilliant!

What made them Brilliant?

Their technique and the way they trained, They trained like we do in Bristol, give 100% all of the time. Because he was doing it longer than I had I always look at him like a role model, same as Neville Grey my senior instructor he was another one that introduced axe kicks and things like that, so it was good for us to see that and take that back, bring it to the club and work on that. Every fight is always different so you can always take something from their and you are learning all the time.

It’s amazing what the Death Squad has achieved and done.

Well I found that what made our fighting better is because we just kept competing. We started in competitions where we weren’t winning nothing at all, so we had to train that much harder to win. Then once we started winning they started to respect us and then they didn’t want to fight us! They would see our row and they’d be thinking, I don’t want to fight him, or him, so, they would be switching their teams around all the time, we all use to fight in the same order all the time no matter what. At the start you have a list and that is what order you should be in. We use to find the opposite team would have switched around to try and balance the fighters. You shouldn’t look at the fighter and think I’ll put 3 with 5 or whatever. Because I was the number 1 fighter I had to set an example and win my first fight. Then the second fighter would come up and do the same and then they are thinking there is no weak link here, no matter what order they are going to win!

Did you never feel the pressure?

No not really, I never felt the pressure. We were on a buzz, we didn’t want to lose, we didn’t want to let the team down. So as I was the number one so I had to go out and win and then the pressure is on number 2 and so on. So when it gets to 4 and 5 they don’t want to let the team down we all feed off of each other.

When you see so many people come and go, you see some people have success and some not what is that difference?

The ones that do well are the ones that listen, ones that listen to you, you coach and they listen and you can see the difference in what they do. I’ve been coaching Kung Fu over 40 years and over that time I have had over 30 world champions. If this was boxing and I had 30 world champions I could have retired a Looong time ago. (Both laughing)

What I get out of it is that I get to see my student progress and get better than me, not as good as me but better, I always train people to be better than me. I try to keep my standards high, same on the exercise, if I ask anybody to do anything I make sure I can do it myself first before I ask them. That way the people who want to get somewhere can see how hard we train and what needs to be done so they know what the training is about and why they are world champion. I always say to people its not getting there it is the journey to there that is important. It’s not the black belt that is important it is the journey to the black belt that is important. So much work you got to put in, and you have to be prepared to give and take, you can’t always win every fight. You win you lose, its always good to lose so you can work on why you have lost and improve but if you just keep winning, you are up here and then all of a sudden one day you are gonna lose and drop (motions hand down) then you are thinking I thought I was top but now I’m down here. I always say start at the bottom and work your way to the top, rather than trying to start at the top and just stay there.

How did you come to know Sean Veira?

He was one of my first students, he started off when I first opened the club, he was a close friend with my brother Phil and that’s where it started off they have been with me for a long time and Sean has gone on to be 6 times world champion and the same with Sharon Gill and Nathan they all have 3 or 4 world championships, but at the same time they still remember where they started from. Sean may have a few classes himself but he still sees me as his Instructor and he has a lot of respect for me and I have a lot of respect for him. The same with Nathan, they all know where they started from and they all know whatever they have learnt they all know they started with me. I always think self praise is no praise but people know where they came from and I don’t need to go around telling anybody. Nathan even does stuff in the movies and he always talks about training here this is where he started and he always has good stuff to say about me.

You’ve got a lot to say too, at Stan’s funeral your speech was beautiful and really heartfelt. Everything you said was just perfectly Stan.

You liked that? Well Stan, well he was my cousin and with me the way I train as well, its like Dani I’ve got my daughter trains down there and my brothers whatever, and every one of them I taught martial arts. If its my kids I want them to be the best and if they have their own club I want them to go on and do what I do, so I push them a little bit harder and if they are my cousins or whatever I want their standards to be as good as mine or better.

What was Stan like in the kickboxing world?

He was very good Stan, he wasn’t the type of person who wanted to take gradings, but I said to him in order to fight the higher levels you have to do the gradings or you will only be fighting at the lower levels. He wasn’t interested in the syllabus side of things he just wanted to fight.

Did he fight with a big smile on his face?

Yeah, we use to beat people up and just laugh in their face, but that would make them more mad. He had a long reach on him Stan and he was well known for the back fist, he would just stand back and just smack ‘em like that (motions a back fist). He was well known for that (ponders thoughtfully with a smile).

So, how much longer do you think you will be running this club for?

How much longer, people said to me when I was in my 30’s how much longer and I would say “How long is a piece of string?” I always think if I can still walk I will carry on, that’s what keeps me going. If I was to stop doing what I was doing now I’d probably just be at home sat around eating and drinking. If I am the instructor it gives me the incentive to keep training, they look up to you and they think if I am 40 and he is 20 years older and he is still going that gives them the incentive to keep going too, and then age becomes just a number. At the end of the day you are as young as you feel. What I find is if you stop, say you stop for 10 years and then you come back again its not the same. You start thinking I use to do this, I use to do that, and I can’t, you get injuries and then as you get older the injuries last longer, but if you are training on a regular basis then you get use to it. Its like an elastic band if you use it all the time it stays supple and soft if you put it down for too long and pick it up it snaps. The same with chewing gum, you chew it its soft, if you leave it goes all hard and it snaps. So exercise everyday and keep yourself fit and your mind active.

Great analogy and thank you so much for the chat and the training tonight its been amazing!