“I believe every era has its significance and the same holds true for Martial Artists and sportsmen.”
In February 2013 the UKWCKFA learnt of the tragic passing of Sifu Brian ‘Bobby’ Beach. Bobby was an eﬀervescent character, full of life and a very humourous man.
Bobby hailed from Lowestoft, but began his training in Colchester under the guidance of Master James Sinclair.
Bobby and his great friend and training partner, Kevin Oldman, went on to become some the most senior and respected Wing Chun Kuen students in the Assoc.
Master Sinclair can still recall teaching Bobby and Kevin and remembers their tireless energy and enthusiasm. Bobby and Kevin travelled from Lowestoft to wherever they could to learn more from Master Sinclair. They were an integral part of the demonstration team and never complained that a session was too hard.
To this day Bobby remains one of only 4 people in the history of the UK Wing Chun Kung Fu Assoc. to have passed the Muk Yahn Jong grading.
Bobby was a much loved teacher and taught a very popular kids class where he inspired many young people to believe in themselves. It only seems ﬁtting that we allow some of those students to make their own feeling known.
But ﬁrst his close friend and Kung Fu Brother
Where do I start ?
How can I write a eulogy for my best friend, that I have known for so long?
We ﬁrst met around 27 years ago at a local Chinese Kempo Kung Fu club in Lowestoft. I had been at the club a few years and Bobby joined thereafter. We, along with others, soon realised there were better styles out there which were more recognised.
We searched for a ‘no nonsense’ style that appealed to us both. We thought Muay Thai or Wing Chun were what we were looking for but there were no clubs around with ‘legitimate’ instructors. So we joined a local Taekwondo club ( WTF ) for a while before I saw an article featuring Sifu James Sinclair on the cover of Martial Arts Illustrated.
I remember contacting him and expressing my interest and being informed that the next course nearest to me was Colchester in Essex. Well that was about an hour and 30 mins away down the A12 and on a Sunday morning at 10.00 am start !
But this was what I wanted. I had read articles and books on Wing Chun and had even roped my younger brother into trying to learn ‘lok-sau’ from a book!
Anyway, Bobby heard I was starting and asked if he could come too, so he completed the application form and we started that very ﬁrst lesson on Sunday the 19 th March 1989.
From that moment on our friendship grew, through the hours and hours of practice we put into our training through our love of the style. We trained very hard for hours every day for years to come. I remember we took our 1 st & 2 nd grading one evening in Chelmsford in January 1990 ( 31 st I think ? ). Boy that was hard. You try taking a grading after travelling in a car for almost 2 hours !
Somehow we passed ! – nothing special from what I recall but we passed. Well, then our training got harder. I remember us, each doing a thousand centre line punches on Bobby’s mum’s driveway without dropping our arms. Not bad you might think, but we had wrist weights on! Boy we trained hard. We had even worn the concrete ﬂoor in Bobby’s mum’s garage through the continuous repetition of combinations.
We opened up a branch in Lowestoft in March 1990, with Norwich opening in October 1990. This required a different challenge, to pass on our love of such a fantastic ‘interest’ we had in an incredibly fascinating and thought provoking style. We opened further clubs in the years to follow including: Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Great Yarmouth, Cambridge & Beccles.
Gradually we started to reap the rewards of our diligent training 6, sometimes 7 days a week. We set our sights on the 3 rd test – we trained every day for hours on end for around 12 weeks ( we were both unemployed / students at the time, which was fortunate ). We would see a move in a lesson, or ‘stumble across’ one during training and try to incorporate it with the hand & leg combinations. We You Will would drill and drill and drill the move NOT until we either liked it or dumped it.
We would video record most of the training sessions to study the moves and our progression. We boarded out Bobby’s garage walls with hardboard, and even had a mirror ﬁtted on top of one of them, allowing us to ﬁght against the walls and mirror. It was fantastic learning to ﬁght with your back to the wall. You couldn’t run or hide! You had to rely on your knowledge and the principles you believed in –economy of motion / centre line / simultaneous attack & defence, and put them to use whilst trying to look artistic and showing Wing Chun.
Lok-Sau, became such a pleasure. It’s basically an isolated short sequence of moves which are mirrored between the 2 Wing Chun students, with variables being restricted. The speed and control attained through repeating the attacking Laap-Sau and strike, followed by the defensive phase of Bong-Sau & rear guard with multiple options of subsequent techniques gave you a sense of awe.
We took our 3 rd test grading in late 1992 and sailed through with great scores, which reﬂected the hours of diligent training we undertook. Next was the 4 th test!
Again we were fortunate to have the time to dedicate to our training and even shaved our heads for the October test in 1993. To be fair, neither of us looked that great with a no. 2 shaved head, but this we thought was appropriate for that level grading, as one’s hair couldn’t be pulled and also when in a clinch, the stubble on the head could be rubbed in the opponents face. That’s what should be done we thought, so we did it.
Again we were successful in the grading and were rewarded with good passes through our hard work.
Looking back you could say we felt proud of our achievements and what you might say is how we showcased Sifu James Sinclair’s approach to Wing Chun and tried to set a bench mark for students to aim for and supersede. Although our gradings were far from perfect, they weren’t bad considering the circumstances.
Since those gradings, some 20 to 21 years ago I don’t think many students have attempted let alone pass the 3rd or 4 th tests, which is a testament to our hard work back in the early 90’s.
In 1994 mine and Bobby’s lives changed forever. My father passed away after a short illness and Bobby became a father.
Circumstances had changed and we had to change our training and teaching. However Bobby and I trained hard towards the 5 th Wooden Dummy test.
Only Sifu Mark Phillips and Sifu Eric Wilson, whom we revered when we started way back in 1989 as the top instructors of the association, had passed. Both of which were of great character and were mentors in our studies of Wing Chun, with whom Bobby and I had the utmost respect for, and still do.
However approaching the grading I sustained an injury and had to pull out. Bobby faced our Sifu all alone! How daunting! But he was successful in front of his students, thus becoming only the 3 rd person in the association to pass the Wooden Dummy grading. I later went on to pass the dummy test, and Bobby would rib me relentlessly saying he scored higher than me!
We were only talking in January this year (2013) about completing the art. However it was not meant to be.
Bobby taught hundreds of students through the years and loved to pass on his knowledge to others. His enthusiasm to teach was infectious and Bobby started a children’s class in Lowestoft.
Bobby and I started working together in 1999 for a national company. However In 2000 Bobby had an opportunity to work abroad, which he did for approx. 1 year. He came back in January 2002 and we once again worked together and did so as business partners through to his passing in February 2013.
Bobby had the same approach to work as he did his Wing Chun – hard work! I cannot remember either of us taking a day off work ‘sick’. We would often work weekends and frequently did paperwork in the evenings. We would speak almost every day.
More recently Bobby had channelled his efforts into managing the Hearts of Oak football team on Saturdays where he was very successful. He went on to win the 2004 Suffolk Junior Cup at Ipswich Town Football Stadium, namely Portman Road, which surpassed the numerous league titles etc. he won.
Although Bobby had been successful in Wing Chun and football I think his greatest achievements, however, were his 2 daughters. Abigail & Aliya. He was so proud of them both. He spoke with great affection and love for the 2 girls in his life, more so than anything else. My heart goes out to them both.
Bobby gave 100 % to all he did. He would do anything for his family and friends, literally anything. He touched the lives of so many people during his 42 years.
When I think of him these next few words come to mind – perhaps they will remind you too of him and put a smile on your face –
Kentucky, Jaffa Cakes, Chocolate, more Kentucky!, Blind as a bat!, Jewellery, designer clothes, a mirror, tweezers, Las Vegas, wind surﬁng, snow boarding, sun-beds, lads holidays, nights out, Boney M and a bottle of wine, rollerskating, swimming, FIFA, COD, squinty eyes or cheeky smile. Caring, loving, Bossy! laughing, shouting, Happy or Grumpy – there was no In between.
For me, I am going to remember the good times, the happy times, for every day the sadness and pain return my memories along with support from others will help me come to terms with the loss. I will dig out all my videos of our training and try to get them on Youtube for all to see. Hopefully they will inspire some people out there to start a journey which we undertook, and reap the same rewards.
Life to me is about making new memories and reliving the old ones. Well now we can only relive the old ones, by reminiscing with others or through photos and videos. But for some of us Bobby has given us those treasured memories, which help make us who we are. You may be gone in body & soul, but you will always be in our hearts mate.
Thank you for the good times mate, the memories will stay forever. Perhaps not quite a legacy but you will always be out there in the ‘cloud’, available to see through the footage on the net.
So I will ﬁnish off with what my little daughter said to me, quite simply ….
‘I will miss Bobby’ ….
It was with extreme sadness that we heard of the death of Sifu Bobby Beach. I together with my husband and eldest son trained with Bobby a number of years ago. He was the best teacher one could hope for and he guided me through my ﬁrst and second tests with immeasurable patience. He was always very gracious and humble blaming his teaching technique rather than my inadequacies when I struggled to grasp what he was showing me.
There were occasions when I was unable to make his classes, and so that i wouldn’t miss out, he generously found the time to come to our house to give me one to one tuition.
I will always be grateful for what he taught me and the conﬁdence he gave me and am so very glad Master Sinclair is to dedicate an Instructors award in his memory.
R.I.P Sifu Beach you are sadly missed.
Bobby wasn’t just my Sifu, he was also a friend, a mentor, a role model and probably the biggest inﬂuence in my life (other than my parents) that shaped me into the person that I am today.
When I ﬁrst joined the wing chun class that Bobby ran, I was 10 years old, had recently moved to a new town where I had no friends and spent much of my time on my own. I wasn’t conﬁdent or outgoing but Bob changed that virtually overnight.
The class that Bobby ran was fairly unique for wing chun at the time. As well as the adults classes he had adapted the way he taught, so that children were able to train in the style and I was very proud to work my way right through the children’s class and become one of the ﬁrst children in the country to pass adult gradings at prelim and siu nim tao levels.
It was his manner, attitude and larger than life persona made every lesson amazing. He had a knack of pushing you to be better, quicker, stronger and yet it was always fun.
Through training with Bob and through my friendship with him he gave me conﬁdence, taught me respect and made me realise that it if I worked hard and applied myself I was capable of anything!!
I can honestly say that I would not be the person that I am, if it wasn’t for Bobby Beach. I will always remember him for all the things he did for me and his positive upbeat attitude.