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SSC Newspaper : March 2012
30 Strathfield Scene march 2012 people Maximum security Martial arts teacher and former bodyguard Tom Cullen spills the beans on fending off crazed rock fans - and reveals the truth about touring with Gene Simmons of KISS. Tom Cullen, 61 Tom Cullen teaches a form of karate known as Kenpo 4 Kids to children in Strathfield. It’s not just self- defence – he believes that discipline also develops self-esteem and a sense of purpose in life. How did you geT involved in figHTing? I was bullied a lot in school. Growing up in Dublin was difficult. Back then, we had corporal punishment and if we complained to a teacher about being bullied, we were ignored or beaten so I had to learn how to stand up for myself. I was picked on by the bigger kids at school. Learning judo changed my life. How long Have you been TeaCHing and wHere? For around 30 years. I set up my base classes of Kenpo 4 Kids in Strathfield. But I’ve also taught classes in cities across America. Now, I take my students overseas so they can compete in international competitions. Our next trip that’s planned is for a major contest in Disneyland this September. How old were you wHen you sTarTed learning judo? I was five. Soon after I started, my entire family got into it as well. Have you Had any famous pupils? I’ve taught some of the top police officers in the state such as former police commissioners and even the former Strathfield mayor, Tony Maroun. Have you always been a marTial arTs TeaCHer? I was previously in the corporate world in a nine-to-five job. I was teaching classes on the side but when I decided to retire from my day job, I realised I wasn’t ready to become one of those guys who laze around so I decided to dedicate my focus and energy to teaching full time. I’ve also been a bodyguard and security guard for a touring company. wHaT kind of work did you Have To do as a bodyguard? Toearnabitofextracash,Iwasa bodyguard with Frontier Touring Company. I’ve looked after Paul McCartney, Gene Simmons from KISS, Suzi Quatro, the boys from AC/DC and The Police, just to name a few. wHaT was THe mosT inTeresTing THing THaT Happened To you as a bodyguard? All the time when we were on tour, we’d have screaming fans chasing after the stars. So they were always a nightmare to deal with. But it was seeing the boys from KISS without any makeup which was fantastic. They’re just normal blokes. Meeting Gene Simmons was amazing. He doesn’t drink, smoke, or take drugs like some other rockers do. But I think, from what I saw when I toured with him, he was more interested in the ladies than boozing it up. wHaT’s THe mosT imporTanT THing you TeaCH your kids? I teach my kids how to increase their self-esteem and also how to focus. Once they learn how to focus on their martial arts and to centre themselves, they focus in their everyday lives. They concentrate on their homework and do better in school. did your own CHildren learn karaTe? All three of my kids have their black belts, which I am very proud of. Two of them are grown up and my youngest finished high school last year. It’s important for kids to learn these skills because it not only teaches them how to defend themselves, but it also teaches them discipline. How many sTudenTs do you Have? I use to have more than 100 but now I’ve scaled it back to around 40. I can give my individual time and effort to each student. Many parents whom I taught when they were kids now send their kids to train with me. My pupils range from five to 14 and I have an adult class as well. Fighting to help youngsters ... martial arts teacher Tom Cullen, and at left, pictured with some of his young students. for classes, see www.kenpo4kids.com