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Ted Harris

 

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Ted Harris was born in Birmingham in 1929, and joined the Royal Navy just before the end of the Second World War at the age of fourteen. He served on HMS Belfast which supported the Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944 and then formed part of the British Pacific Fleet for the assault on Japan. By the time HMS Belfast arrived in Sydney for a final refit in August 1945 the Japanese surrendered on the 15th August 1945. Belfast remained in the Far East cruising to a number of ports in Japan shortly after.  Joan Harris (Ted’s wife) stated that these included Hiroshima and Nagasaki about six months after the atom bombs had been dropped and that Ted had taken photos of these places. Belfast then sailed to China and Malaya before returning to Portsmouth on 20th August 1947. Ted then left the Royal Navy and spent the next few years in the merchant navy until 1949.

When Ted left the navy he settled down and was married in the following year of 1950. He started working as a window cleaner in Birmingham and built up a very good reputation that within four short years he received a letter from a cleaning company in Coventry offering him a job. This family owned business was called Hocton’s and Ted’s wife Joan stated that this even included a house in Burnaby Road for them. They moved to Burnaby Road in November 1954 and Ted started working for Hocktons as a window cleaner and was soon a foreman within the company.

By the early 60’s Ted had started studying Wado Ryu Karate. Ted’s good friend was another window cleaner called Frank Flood. Frank had his own business and would often meet Ted on their rounds and have lunch together. Around 1966 a new bloke started working for Frank Flood called Tom Carey. Tom had also studied Karate in the past, but had recently converted his clubs to Kung Fu after studying under Bob Johnson of Leicester. Tom invited Frank Flood to try out his Kung Fu class and see what he thought. Frank enjoyed the Kung Fu and shortly after, invited his good friend Ted Harris to come down and try it out.


After a trial lesson, Ted was impressed and decided to join Tom’s club. Ted changed styles, and started Tiger Ripping Kung Fu at the Binley Oak, Paynes Lane in Coventry. Although Master Tom Carey ran this class, one of his assistant instructors called Ken Hyland was responsible for teaching all the new novices that started.

Ted was starting to prove himself to Tom as a tough and reliable character. Tom would often use Ted to demonstrate techniques and moves on because he would do things correctly and never whinged or complained. Ted was very knowledgeable when it came to Kung Fu. He knew all his syllabus and forms like the back of his hand and his forms were inch perfect in their movements. He showed great skill and control, and has been described as a forms man.

Ted worked hard and achieved his Black sash grade from Tom Carey in 1970. Later that year, Tom decided to give Ted the class at the Railway tavern pub in Nuneaton after the previous instructor (Bill Carey, Tom Carey’s brother) had to retire due to a severe hand injury. Bill Carey was moving a fridge at his home when it slipped and landed on his right hand fracturing the bone. He went to the hospital and after an examination they stated it wasn’t broken at the time. Bill was getting a lot of pain from this hand injury and so he was unable to not only teach the Kung Fu, but he could not work as well. His job was hairdressing and he was unable to use his right hand for holding scissors and cutting hair. Initially Tom asked Ted Harris if he could look after the Nuneaton class while Bill was injured and Ted agreed. After several months Bills hand was not improving and so he decided that he couldn’t commit to running th eNuneaton class anymore. After telling Tom this bad news, Tom asked Ted if he would take on the Railway Tavern class on a permanent basis to which he agreed.

Ted kept the training hard and admission was the same as his Sifu’s, through introduction only. This class was held up stairs in the function room of the RailwayTavern pub. Ted maintained this class until 1975 when the pub was taken over by new management. The new landlord was not keen on Kung Fu and made it awkward for Ted by continually leaving the tables and chairs out in the function room. After a short while, Ted decided that enough was enough and to look for a new venue.

This new venue was the Pavilion in Keresley Village, just past the Golden Eagle pub on Howat Road. This venue had been used previously by two of Ted’s students, Mick Proctor, and John Holden. Due to other commitments in John’s life at that time, he handed this class over to Ted, and Ted now had an alternative to the railwayTavern. Many of Ted’s students moved with him, as well as Ted gaining a few new ones, who had trained under John Holden. At this time, some of Ted’s students included, Jim Nesmith, Terry Wilkins, Glynn Morris, Frank Copland, David Golding, John Burkinshaw, etc. All these former students said the same thing, after years of conditioning, Ted had arms of steel, and when he blocked or hit you, you would know about it.

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Ted Harris and John Holden

By late1979 Ted had decided that it was time for him to retire from teaching formal classes, but kept involved with his students who had their own clubs by now. After a few years Ted was taking more of a back seat and was virtually retired leaving his students in control. On the 10th of July 1982, John Holden and Bob Jones arranged a retirement presentation for Ted. This was at one of Bob Jones’s clubs at the Merica Sporting Club on Lockhurst Lane in Coventry. At this presentation Ted was given a trophy from his students for his hard work and dedication to the clubs over the many years he had given to Kung Fu. Ted maintained some involvement after this teaching on a one to one basis from his garage and for several years he would visit the different clubs that his students had set up.

In 1982 Ted Harris became the Chief Instructor after Master Ken Hyland decided to retire. Ted was to carry on as the Chief Instructor involved with gradings, administration and various functions for a couple of years before then passing these duties over to his highest ranking student, John Holden.

The photo of Ted was taken in 1987 at a competition organised by Dave Porter. The competition was held at the Purcell Road Scout Hut, in Henley Green,Coventry, and Ted presented the trophies at the end.


In 1996, Ted passed away and was buried in his local cemetery at Foleshill in Coventry.