I recall meeting Tim in 1985 or 86 after getting back from Taiwan, Tim’s younger daughter Deborah reminded me that she recalled me in or around 1983 —- and that may have been during my sabbatical between my Taiwan visits of 82 and 84.
For me meeting with Tim was a life changing experience as I had just come back from Taiwan and was re-thinking my own cultural identity. Living in Taiwan taught me that though I had been fascinated with China I simply was not Chinese and did not want to have the Chinese way of life. I had encountered and studied many things in the culture mainly the language and martial arts, but also the behavioral mores (which R.W. Smith had given me an orientation to) and I had – since about the age of 11- when I started doing Tae Kwon Do been fascinated with things Asian, particularly things Chinese . But I was satisfied with my martial arts studies there feeling I had gotten ahold of what I was after. And also I – like many others – encountered Chinese racism toward the white man as well. So I had a better grasp of what I was not — culturally. In spite of this I had a pact with my Chinese teacher (who was probably the least racist man I have ever known having survived war in the South Pacific) to continue to train in the U.S. and remain in contact with him.
So I had inherited a Traditional Chinese Art and the responsibility that goes with that. But I knew the “Chinese Behavior Game” and knew that was not appropriate for America and also in actuality not appropriate for me personally. So I was growing more and more curious about any kind of Western parallel to Chinese Martial Arts or even Chinese Thought and Philosophy. Chinese arts are heavily influenced by Buddhist and Taoist concepts and these had also influenced me and still do. But I met a man who looked at me frankly and said to me, “Everything you find in Asia – the mysticism of nature and the human insight and wisdom, you can find in the West but it is among the Celts.” That man was Tim Geoghegan.
At the time I was recovering from my Taiwan experiences I was working at my family’s bookshop and one of the customers mentioned to me he was interested in “Knife Fighting”. At the time I knew nothing about that but knew a man who had a sort of mixed martial arts school (before it was called that) nearby. I knew the man had studied with Dan Inosanto and those involved with him. So I sent this book customer to the “Mixed Martial Arts” guy. The book customer came back the following week and said, “There is a man visiting who does wrestling, a big strong guy.” Well, I thought I was not interested in that as it did not sound very sophisticated and I felt the kind of work Dan Inosanto was doing was a departure from the traditional old world approaches which I valued more highly than “New Martial Arts”. So I said, “No, I am not interested.” And the customer came back later and said, “You know you really ought to meet this guy…” And I thought in my mind, “No”. Then the customer said, “This guys knows old Irish poetry.” And at that moment a light went on in my head. I don’t know why. Then I said, “O.K. I want to meet him.”
So I went to this martial arts school for a weekend workshop and while I was standing in the sort of lobby a short wide grey haired man with curly hair came in and walked up to me and said, “Hi, I’m Tim”. I said I was Allen and we shook hands. And he was very gentle and wide as a door. About five foot ten. Must have been about 190 pounds. Big hands like my father. Blue eyes. Big square head. And I thought, “Nice guy.” Everybody else dripped in on time and we went into the gym and started warming up. I had learned Baitaks (deep squats) and Hands (Circular Push Ups). I had taught myself these from looking at Robert Smith’s “Asian Fighting Arts” book and I liked those exercises and started warming up with them. The others were standing around doing stretches like runners do; grubbing your back leg while standing and stretching your quads-that kind of thing. Tim looked at me and said to the class, “Do what he is doing. Allen you lead the warm up.” So I did. After warming up we began to look at how to take the wrist and listening to Tim gave me the impression he knew about a lot of stuff. The flyer for the workshop said he had wrestled all over the world and was an Osteopath. So I had a clue about him. But as he talked something else spoke inside me and so I said to Tim, “Can you tell us about diet and what to eat and conditioning?” and Tim, without breaking a beat while showing the holds and walking around started lecturing about diet and water and water filters and proteins and carbs and sleep. It was very natural and very spontaneous and un-affected. No drama. And the information was simple and useful. I realized that Tim dealt with essentials and what was useful – not high flying theories. And on top of that he could convert it to others in simple terms, without acting superior or putting on airs. So all of this about him was hitting me. I was becoming impressed with the wrestling too. I up to that point had no high school wrestling experience of any kind and in fact was not interested in wrestling because it seemed unsophisticated, ungraceful and unintelligent. But Tim was showing these holds with an ingenuity and an understanding of the human body which I realized was simply amazing.
And he was doing it while lecturing intermittently about any thing I suggested! I asked about vitamins, fasting, cholesterol, and out would roll a clear concise paragraph. And then he would go back to the holds. Someone filmed that workshop and I don’t know what happened to the film but it was at Kelly McClung’s school and Kelly was really a great athlete. Looking back I wished I had been more appreciative of him. At the time I felt his skill was more of the muscle building variety and not technically sophisticated. I know better now. I don’t know what happened to him.
Anyway after two days of this I was “sold”. I asked Tim if I could come up to see him in Black Mountain, North Carolina and he said, “Of course.” And that began a ten year relationship of me driving back and forth between Atlanta and Black Mountain.
So I learned about many things from Tim but our first four hour conversation basically was about Rites of Passage for young men and how that is really needed in modern times, Shamanism and its meanings and Irish Culture and its content and relation to Asia. And he knew about the history of Magic and Medicine and had studied Yoga extensively in Ireland eventually going to India to be initiated as both a Yogi and a wrestler. So having said that and with permission from his family to discuss some of his adventures I will try to give a picture of this man who changed my life. I thank his oldest daughter Vern and his younger Daughter Debbie for guiding me in what I write below and if there is anything untoward in what I write I trust that they will let me know. I have for the sake of privacy left out much of Tim’s family life but follow mainly his biography as regards his physical training path.
Tim was his wrestling name, his formal name was “James Charles” and he was born in Augacashel County, Leitrim, Ireland in 1922. His father was also known for his strength. He had three brothers and three sisters. About his father he said, “My father could box with the best of them and could jump up and touch both feet at the level of his forehead.” Dad was also a powerful weightlifter. In fact all of the sons were too. Tim said he lost his father when his father tried to lift his car back onto an icy road.
Ireland, at the time of Tim’s birth was in a kind of Celtic Renaissance. The literary movement now known as “The Celtic Twilight” was being born of the friendship of William Butler Yeats, Oliver Gogarty, George Russell and their great patron Lady Gregory. The theater was experimenting with pure Celtic themes, Russell and Yeats were both thoroughly involved with promoting the research and development of Irish Culture in particular the study of Irish Legends and Mythology and this was on a wave of strong Irish Nationalism. So the terrorist war or “Independence Movement” against the English occupation of Ireland was going on during this time too. It was a lively volatile time, at least in the cities. Also World War One was ended and the first research was being done on “Shell Shock”, the term of the time used for Past Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The World too was going through a lot; inventions by Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla were happening, the “Captains of Industry” who were to become the Banking Elite of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Rothschild—-were all moving into position on the world stage. Mystics were coming from the East as were their teachings; Blavatsky, Gurdjieff, Duenov, Steiner, Hanish. The Fox sisters were in New York “communicating with the dead”, and Sherlock Holmes author Conan Doyle was in heavy correspondence with magician Harry Houdini debating proofs of the spiritual world.
So this was the world Tim was born in and the wave he would ride. He came from a boxing and athletic family as we have said and his father had part in the local tradition as a “Cross Roads Boxer”. Every Sunday after church there would be a gathering at the Cross Roads. After Tim’s father died he stepped in to take his place. Tim said he had thirty of forty of these fights but they were clean. By “clean” he meant if you knocked your man down you stopped. There was no “finishing” or kicking him or piling on top of a man after you knocked him down. In fact after the fifth you would go have a meal together. This was the way of Gentlemen of the time and Tim felt that was best. In fact he felt England and America were much less civilized because the fighting was often done with rancor and as a result – often used dirty tactics. The fights were really to test and show skill levels. Tim’s technique was to use the jab to lift up the chin, and then to use the right in the solar plexus.
But he said you needed to be patient and take some time to measure your man and see how he moved and responded. And watch his eyes because they will blaze when he goes for the attack. Besides his father Tim had spent some time with world lightweight champion Jimmy Wilde and so he was well tutored and had good judgement about the use of the straight left hand and also what is illegal now – the parry with the open palm.
Eventually Tim took an interest in wrestling, especially when the bloodier style of boxing came into Ireland from England and America. He also reminded me that many men in that time had no trainers; they were self motivated and this in itself he believed made them better men. When Tim began weight lifting he found he could make pretty rapid progress lifting “whatever they could find!” and he also had the advice of the man who invented the first plate barbells Thomas Inch.
When he was nineteen at 5’10 he was two hundred and ten pounds. He began his wrestling studies with Pat Gibbon who weighted three hundred and thirty. After six weeks he was able to pin him. He then traveled to England to look at the regional styles there and did Cornish and Cumberland and Westmoreland styles. These are all standing wrestling methods based simply on the old farmers traditions of throwing each other down from specific set grips. Contests were usually in the Spring planting and Autumn harvest times. What is noteworthy about Cornish Wrestling and it’s close cousin in France “Gouren” is that it is jacketed-the same as Japanese Judo. But they don’t have a reinforced collar as on a Gi. And where as in Judo there is a level of sophistication in off balancing and finding weak angles in the old styles some of the throws really are pure strength throws resembling farmers throwing heavy feed sacks with or without any leverage at all! in other words they are very tough throws and completely rely on a strong back and little to no reaction of the opponent. Sometime during this time Tim found Riley’s “Snake Pit” in Wigan, England and worked with Billy Riley. It was here he learned submission wrestling now sometimes called “Catch” wrestling. In this style we have tactics to make a man cry out in submission or go unconscious and there are follow up holds with ground work.
Also during this time he continued to work with strength training and defeated John Moriarty who was, at that time the strongest man in Ireland. 1943 saw Tim graduating from Presentation Brothers School and he went to Dunmanway, Cork to join John Duffy’s Circus. At this time he got access to all the typical strength equipment of the day; barbells, kettle bells and all the various hand weights now used. Previous to this he was lifting the back ends of cars up, creamery urns, felling trees to lift up the ends in high reps, holding ropes with weights tied in the middle-that sort of thing!
Tim recalled the days of the circus were long days; up at 5 am and tending the horses to proceed at a three mile per hour crawl to the next town. The towns were usually sold out as Tim recalled “There was no television in those days…” He learned other things too. One thing was the circus acrobat could – with a basket over each foot – walk on a tight rope or what we call a “Slack Line”…He could also tumble, work the trapeze with great skill. Tim was impressed with this but what really impressed him was the man’s easy going nature and sense of humor. What Tim noted was that the balance the man had learned from acrobatics seemed to have been absorbed into him psychologically. This really impressed Tim and he said, “It is the physical balance and understanding generated from this training that made him a beautiful being…” And Tim believed anybody with sufficient motivation could develop the same thing. He called this capacity “Totality of Being.” And this was a central concept in everything I learned from him too.
Among the feats of strength Tim performed during his time with Duffy the following he spoke of;
“I successfully resisted the power of two giant Clydesdales pulling in opposite directions…
-pulled a double decker bus full of people…with my teeth…
-swung a man who weighed 240 lbs around my body with a chain attached to my midsection
-rip a deck of cards (bought by a neutral party) in half while it was still in the box
-rip a deck of cards out of the box-into quarters
-tear in half big city phone directories from the closed glued side
-support two men standing on a plank across my neck
-support a truck driving across my throat
and a probably unique feat was –
“I’d take a 56 pound weight, one in each hand, and climb up three chairs, jumping over the back of the third chair, onto a see-saw with a 140 pound bar at the other end. When my
bodyweight hit the board I’d let go of the dumbbells and catch the barbell that had been shot up by the other end of the board – on my neck…”(p.165 Gilbey)
– a benefit for the poor of Belfast a Dr. Hunter of Queens University would hold the “Turkey Fest” . Tim would participate in these shows. It was during one
of these shows that Tim hurt his pelvis supporting the ramp for the draft horse. The incident seems to have been about the envy from one of his fellow circus employees.
And there at the Duffy Circus Envy awaited. It seems Tim and this other fellow had “eyes” for the same girl. Well, the said, “other fellow” was riding the horse that Tim was supporting. The trick was like this; Tim got under a sort of small bridge and supported it from the center with his feet-laying on his back. The “other fellow” would ride the horse onto the “bridge”. The horse was not small as it was a draft horse so this was indeed quite a feat. Tim told me the horse was a 12-1500 lb horse. At any rate once the horse was centered on the bridge Tim would leg press it – rider and all-several times. I was told by a reader of mine to emphasize this action among weight lifters is not a “squat” but a “Leg Press”. Though Tim and I both spoke of the POSITION of the body as a “Squatting Position”, one extremely important for hip and leg development and also digestion.
Seems the rider literally walked the horse off the side- forcing it to jump and in doing so twisting Tim’s legs and low back awfully. In fact his fifth lumbar bone and sacrum were so turned as to render him unable to walk.
Though dragging his left leg behind him – he was able to continue to do some of his circus routines and he managed to get through the week. Then he went to Dublin where the Doctors told him he would need six months in a body cast and the rest of his life on crutches. A friend told him to go see Dr. Byrne. Byrne, an Osteopath, had
lived and studied in India for twenty five years while serving as a High Court Judge for the British Administration. Byrne was now in Dublin and well respected as a hands-on Osteopath.
(the author feels obligated to write this as many modern Osteopaths now behave the same way as Doctors handing out pills and avoiding hands on therapies). Tim went to see him with his friend. Tim’s friend and Dr. Byrne strapped Tim down on the table with a wide belt to stabilize his sacrum. Then they began to pull on him until a sound was heard which Tim said was “like a millstone”. The belt was loosened and Tim said, “As soon as my feet touched the floor I knew I was healed”. As he was about to go out the door Dr. Byrne said, “Wait a minute-you owe me something!”. Tim said, “What do I owe you?”. And Byrne said, “Your life.” Tim said, “What do you want me to do?” and Byrne said, “Become an Osteopath”.
From this time began Tim’s foundational studies of Yoga with Dr. Byrne and later Osteopathic technique from Dr. F. Taylor in England. I suspect Dr. Byrne was an associate of John Woodruff-as Tim directed me to study Woodruff’s book on the chakras which was a response to Theosophical speculations on the matter- Woodruff’s pen name was Arthur Avalon (died in 1936-Tim would have been 14 years old when Woodruff died).
So as Tim departed the “Cross Roads” he not only went into Wrestling he went into Yoga and Osteopathy as well. And sometime in this period he did some extensive traveling. He
spent time studying various kinds of traditional wisdom, apparently with some leads from Dr. Byrne. His travels took him from the British Isles through India, Malaysia, Japan, Australia, North and South Africa and also North and South America. These trips were not to my knowledge all in one “go” as it were but were probably broken into two or three main trips over the years. Some of his traveling was done on the wrestling circuit and other trips were on his own. His early traveling seems to have been primarily to India, Africa and the Middle East. He was invited to Morocco to study Sufism and eventually was initiated as a Bektashi Sufi in Rabat, N. Africa. Here he watched the Sufis of the Rahai do their sword dances where they slice their bodies as they dance without bleeding. He also went into Egypt where he saw Dr. Tarah Bey buried alive in a coffin for six hours. It was Bey who taught Tim about some of the meditation practices of the Coptic Christians. In India Tim met with Sri Bijnananda for Tantric study and Yogi Rammamamda for Kundalini Yoga study. He also met with wrestlers there and while traveling had to maintain his reps of squats (Bhaitaks) and circular push-ups (Dands). Once on returning to his wrestling Guru he was questioned, “So have you managed to stay in shape?” and there and then Tim had to do – non-stop about 800 circular push ups.
He told me there was a literal trough of mud under his belly from his own sweat! but he passed the test and was able to continue to study with the Guru. He found the wrestlers in India had something he had not really learned about – flexibility. And he took the lesson to heart though he himself was not particularly flexible due to all his strength training and power lifting.From 1945-1946 Tim opened a gym in Dublin and then it seems he did his trip to the Africa and the Middle East around 1947-1948. After 1948 he went into professional wrestling “full time” but worked on some academic degrees in his spare time.
From 1945-1946 Tim opened a gym in Dublin and then it seems he did his trip to the Africa and the Middle East around 1947-1948. After 1948 he went into professional wrestling “full time” but worked on some academic degrees in his spare time.
Chapter 3; Reading and Wrestling
From 1949 to 1950 Tim was managed by famed wrestler Strangler Lewis and learned a great deal from him. It was Lewis who got Tim into Canada where Tim established a reputation
from the use of his “Sleeper Hold”.
While in India in 1995 I visited with Tara Singh who – though now known as an actor – was in Tim’s time a well known Indian wrestler. Singh remembered Tim in Canada — and had fond memories of bouts with him.
Though his opponents often were as heavy as 250 lbs. Tim-at 210 lbs. found he could level the wrestling field
with his sleeper. At one time he had 20 men all unconscious in the ring. He even used the hold on Harold “Oddjob” Sakata of James Bond movie fame. (p. 169. Interview with John F. Gilbey, Robert W. Smith in “World Wrestling…”).
“When I first came to America, the pro wrestling tycoon Paul Bowser sent Wilbur Nead (AAU national heavyweight champ in 1940) to test me at the Boston YMCA. Nead tried everything
he knew to take me off my feet but failed. Every time he leg dived me I’d face – lock him and twist his neck into a dangerous position. Frustrated, he said, “You know, you’re doingsomething that no one has ever done before.” I told him maybe not in America, but in Europe that was a routine respond to a leg -dive. He was a helluva leg wrestler and we becamegood friends…there were some good grapplers involved in the pro wrestling trade. And not just in the promotion end, but some were like me – trying to earn a living while studying for a career”.
“When I traveled around by train to the wrestling venues I always took my medical books with me and studied. When I was off, I’d seek out a library and spend much time there. I lived in libraries. I remember especially the library at the University of London where I spent hundred of hours pursuing leads my teachers gave me. I’d go in at 11a.m. and sometimes forget to eat and rush out to wrestle at 9p.m. with an empty stomach…Combining books and athletics got me degrees and certificates in osteopathy, physiotherapy, hypnotherapy, psychology,Hatha and Raja Yoga and Jujitsu, among other disciplines. I searched for knowledge and achieved a bit, though whether it has mellowed and evolved into wisdom is not for me to say”.
From what I have been able to gather between 1950-1960 Tim was Wrestling in both Canada and London and probably did one of his major world tours then. I know from what he told me he wrestled in the British Isles as well as the U.S. and also went East to Iran, Pakistan and probably other parts of India and Turkey as well as Japan. I do not know if he wrestled in Eastern Europe or Russia.
I have constructed a loose chronology of what I know of his activities as follows;
1950 “Geoghegan bids for the mat” (Wrestling in the U.S.)
1960-Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; “Bishops Hall Lectures” on Stress and Use of East and West Techniques in Coping”
1962-“Geoghegan goes after Rogers Crown”from a wrestling flyer.
1953-1963 special studies for certification of hypnosis under Maurice Nicoll
(under auspices of Univ of London)
1960-The Experience of the Christ Child of the Andes-this was a mystical experience Tim had which was during the time he worked with Gene Savoy developing a curriculum for Savoy’s “Priests of the Sun”.
1963-64 visits to Leeds to study Osteopathy
1965-S.P.A.N. Lectures at Univ of California.
1970-Lectures Emory Univ “Eastern Approaches to Body-Mind Health”
1975-Univ of CA University of Reno, Nevada – Lectures re Behavioral Science and East and West Approaches to Hypnosis. During this time he also worked further with
Gene Savoy and Cosalargy teaching of SPAN to him.
1978-Lectures in Atlanta at Center for Religion and Life on Rejuvenation and Transformation
1979-Buck Stove Co. “Stress Management”
1981-82 Univ of Syracuse “Pain Control Workshops for Gerontology”
1981-Working at the Human Dimensions Center in Black Mt and then The Energy Clinic.
1983/85?-Allen Pittman meets him -gets certificate in “Combat Wrestling”. Kelly McClung and Harry Johnston trained with Tim at this time as well
Some of the readers may find the following overview of Tim’s “SPAN” method interesting and helpful in that it will give them a sense of how he saw his experiences and training and how they were integrated.
WHAT HE CALLED IT; S.P.A.N. (Soma/Body, Pathos/Emotions, Nous/Mind)
“A correlation of various Eastern and Western systems relation to the body, emotions and mind.
The system presents and evaluates the strengths and weaknesses and parallels of the various
philosophies and techniques of the East and West on physiological, emotional and psychological levels”.
1. SOMA (Body) includes techniques of-
Hatha Yoga (but connecting it in a circle to all yoga forms)
Boxing—in the old upright British style specializing in the straight left and right cross.
Weight Lifting-combining pure power and endurance.
Shiatsu—from a Zen Buddhist monk named Kesutu Higashi, this also included acupuncture and jujitsu.
Miscellaneous Bodywork of Japan and Afghanistan
2. PATHOS (Emotions)
These techniques are all about achieving emotional balance
Bhakti Yoga-Tim regarded this as a pure path.
Witchcraft-in its reconstructed form he considered it of mixed intention
and too pre-occupied with Power over others. Tim knew “Old Watkins” at Watkins bookshop in London and so also knew the stories of Aleister Crowley and his antics of being invisible by dressing as a fairy…dressed like this C. went into Old Watkins bookshop and there grabbed a stack of books tip toeing out. Watkins ignored him because C. had given him thousands of pounds over the years…later C. bragged about how he “became invisible”. Tim also decried C. for raping a girl while doing the Abramelin ritual thus bringing shadows so dark it was said one could not see through the windows of his house. A worker on his farm nearly cut his leg off in a freak accident the same day. Tim was respectful of the mind and ritual and though Crowley was playing with fire and not in a good way.
Mantra Yoga-mainly using the Bija or “Seed” mantras found in the six organ sounds of the Hindus and their sounds for the four primary elements of fire, water, earth and air. Tim recognized Transcendental Meditation as a valid mind quieting method but he did not like the money making aspect of it nor the Guru aspect which he felt was not appropriate for those raised in western cultures.
Wilhelm Reich -Orgone-Tim believed Reich was “on it” as regards muscular tension in the body but Tim would not attribute sexual energy as core energy but core energy as a life force which branches into sexual energy. He also recognized Mesmer was onto it as well as others.
Of all of these he regarded the meditations of Michael Haughton on the Kabbala as the most effective;
even superior to Yoga forms as regards people in Western Cultures.
3. NOUS (Mind)
These include Academic Education but also include
Hypnotism – following the work of Maurice Nicoll and others
Kabbala – in the tradition taught to him by Michael Haughton
Gnani Yoga-being the Yoga of discrimination-part of the wheel of yogic teaching Tim put under the umbrella term of “Raja Yoga”. This would include philosophical and theological debate.
Scientology-during Tim’s time Hubbard’s Dianetics was just taking form and the use
of the “E-meter” Tim thought clever but expensive. Tim’s idea was a person should make one for themselves and use. He gave instructions on how to do it. He saw the validity of Hubbard’s concept of the Engram and how to get rid of it.
Arica-Tim recognized Oscar Ichazo as an able teacher who knew what he was doing and he also recognized the methodology of Arica especially in comparison to the work of Gurdjieff.
4. SPIRIT (not in the formal title of SPAN but leading to it)
“turning our attention upward to the face of God…” is the way Tim phrases it and saw it as the final stage of meditation and all the various techniques listed above.