Published: 14/07/2006 00:00 - Updated: 29/11/2011 10:48

Horror car crash survivor becomes bodyguard to star

Jack (top right) was asked to be bodyguard to martial arts expert and movie star Jean Claude Van Damme when he carried out a tour of the UK.
Jack (top right) was asked to be bodyguard to martial arts expert and movie star Jean Claude Van Damme when he carried out a tour of the UK.

PROMISING athlete Jack Morley thought his sporting career was over after a horror car smash more than 20 years ago which almost claimed his life. But now the 43-year-old held together with pins and pieces of steel is getting a kick out of martial arts and being bodyguard to an international star. Jack has turned his life around after taking up kickboxing at an age when most athletes are starting to think about hanging up their gloves for good. He is so passionate about his martial art that he is now running classes aimed at over-40s who think they are too old or unfit to get involved with sport. Within a few years of walking into the Sansum Black Belt Academy studio in Elgin, Jack was competing for his country on the world stage. And while his instructor, Lee Sansum, encouraged him in the ring, he was also responsible for hooking Jack up with the rich and famous. He was able to set Jack up with a one-off job protecting film star Jean Claude Van Damme while he carried out a promotional tour of the UK. It was a fantastic experience I couldnt believe what I was actually doing. It was enjoyable, but also hard work and quite stressful and Im not sure I could do that full-time, said Jack. The father-of-two had excelled at cricket as a youngster and later developed a passion for rugby. He played at university and for Scotland under-21s, and was offered the chance to turn professional. In 1984 he was training with rugby league club Oldham when he decided to return home for a few days to visit his family in the North of Scotland. Tragedy struck on the A9 just outside Dalwhinnie when Jack overtook a car and smashed head-on into a lorry. He suffered horrendous injuries he broke his neck and back, fractured his skull, broke his ribs, arm and leg, dislocated his foot and smashed his jaw in four places. Incredibly, he actually walked away from the wreckage and took all of three steps before collapsing into the arms of a passing motorist. It was my own fault I was driving far too fast, he said. It took seven months to recover, but even now I still get pain and there are various chunks of metal holding me together. I was told I could not play rugby again. It was a case of stop playing rugby or stop walking because my neck could not stand the pressure any more. My rugby career was over before it started. I did think about doing refereeing, but I did not want to be one of those folk who hang about clubs talking about the good old days and what might have been. In time, I met my wife and we had two children, Alison and Ian. My fitness went downhill, but I did not realise how bad it was until one day when I stood on the scales at home. It went up as far as 24 stones, but I weighed more than that. I knew then something had to give. Jack, a customs and excise officer, tried various diets and fitness regimes but they all fell by the wayside after a matter of weeks. That went on for several years until Jack went to an open day at his daughters school. Sansum Black Belt Academy was staging a demonstration and she was keen to sign up. But standing in the queue, Alison had second thoughts so the instructors recruited Jack instead. He decided to give it a go, but never thought he would last more than one class. I weighed 26 stone, and I had never thought about martial arts before. I just didnt think it would be for me, but I thoroughly enjoyed myself and signed up there and then. I started getting fitter and when I started competing at club level, I really got into it. I had been training twice a week, then it became twice a day. Jack, who now weighs 14-and-a-half stone and is working towards his second dan black belt, was then selected to fight for Scotland and has taken part in numerous national and international championships. He decided to stop competing this year, but was desperate to share his love of kickboxing with others. That is when he and Master Sansum came up with the idea of classes aimed at the over-40s. Master Sansum said: Jack is an inspiration to anyone who thinks they are too unfit or even too old to make the first step to change their life. He is a great coach for our fighters, and I believe he will be a great teacher too. I know of schools in England that are running over-40s classes and they are the biggest classes in the whole school. When you look at it now, 60 is quite young compared to what it was 20 years ago. At the US Open the biggest kickboxing competition in the world there is even an over-50s division. Before setting up his academy, Master Sansum, a former military policeman, worked in London as a bodyguard for Harrods boss Mohammed Al Fayed. He provided personal protection for the rich and famous, and is still involved, to a much lesser extent, in that line of work. When he got the call about Van Dammes visit last year, he was keen to be part of the team, but could not be far from home because his wife was heavily pregnant. I was asked to put together a security team and managed it remotely from up here. At the time, a lot of the guys I would use were out in Iraq, so I was one person short. The only person I could think of was Jack. He was ideal because of the surveillance skills he has gained through his own work, and with a little bit of more specialised training, off he went. I was really proud of him, said Master Sansum. The over-40s classes are held at 7.45pm every Thursday, and Jack can be contacted on (01343) 556556. l.carter@northern-scot.co.uk

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