Out of the Tiger’s Mouth – Malcolm Phipps
By Emma Robins
Over the years, we’ve met some very lovely people through karate. We’ve met some not very lovely people too, but they are few and far between. Malcolm Phipps is one of the lovely ones. We travel to his dojo at least twice a year to train on open courses with various instructors that he organises and we are always made to feel welcome.
We have been lucky enough to get to know Malcolm and his karate, and now everyone who buys the book ‘Out of the Tiger’s Mouth’ will be able to get to know him too. Malcolm’s personality and sense of humour is injected into each and every paragraph of the book. It details his early life, his introduction to karate, and many of his experiences throughout his life.
The book begins with Malcolm’s views on his early childhood, from being a ‘bastard’ to having more aliases than Jack the Ripper! (You need to read it to get it!) Malcolm describes his early love of football, and tells many amusing childhood stories, and one particular story involved him shooting his younger brother in the head with a home-made crossbow.
Malcolm details his experiences upon joining the Royal Navy at the tender age of fifteen, having fallen in with the wrong type of crowd in his area. After seventeen months, and one bout of fainting, Malcolm passed his exams and joined the Navy proper, and it was in the Navy where he met and married his first wife. Malcolm speaks of his life after leaving the Navy with honesty and openness, even the darker sides of his life.
The book contains six chapters, entitled In The Beginning, Royal Navy, Civvies, Karate, Follow Me and The Final Battle.
In the Chapter entitled ‘Karate’, Malcolm discusses, not surprisingly, the role of karate in his life, explaining his beginning under John Van Weenen, inspired by a viewing of Enter the Dragon, when karate lessons only cost seventy pence! There is a particularly funny tale of a kata performed in a gents’ toilets, but you’ll need to read the book!
He speaks of his time training with Van Weenen, and of grading under Kanazawa Sensei and Asano Sensei, and also of harder times, when he had to choose to leave the SKI, after Van Weenen was no longer teaching there, for the sake of his younger students, and join the ASKA.
He speaks of his training experiences under Enoeda Sensei, Kato Sensei and Kawasoe Sensei amongst others, and of his fifteen minutes of fame starring on Michael Aspel’s Six O’ Clock Show, teaching a group of older ladies self defence, with his second wife Tracey. He also details the birth of SSK, Seishinkai Shotokan Karate, later known as SSKI, after leaving the ASKA in 1984.
This is a book that shares the funny moments of one man’s journey, the not so funny moments, and the downright awful moments, but all are shared with an honesty and openness that is difficult to ignore. Even when discussing his battle with cancer, Malcolm’s interminable sense of humour is present, dealing with things head on and with gusto. This is a book that is really an autobiography, not edited, and not rose tinted, but real.
I have to admit though, that I am loathe to call this a book, as I feel it doesn’t really do justice to the content. It is not written in the formal language that you sometimes associate with autobiographies, where the character gets lost amongst the words. This is more a scrapbook of a life, than a book, and when you are reading, it feels more like you are having a conversation, than reading written words, and this has a massive effect on the book. I finished it in two sittings, and it had me laughing out loud. Malcolm’s sense of humour and joviality is spread thickly in the book, even in some of his darker days.
If you have ever been lucky enough to know Malcolm Phipps, then this book will be all you expected it to be, funny, honest and warm. If you’ve never met him, or just passed by him gently guiding a competitor on the mat of one of the many tournaments we all attend, then you may be surprised to find a humorous, charismatic and honest man, and you may just find yourself saying hello the next time you see him.