It’s been a while since Marcus Trower passed away in 2019, and it’s only really now I feel able to write something to pay tribute to him and his life that will hopefully do him justice.
I first met Marcus in 1986 when he joined my boxing and Muay Thai club in Merstham, near Redhill in Surrey. The curriculum covered boxing, Muay Thai and stick fighting. The club was an off-shoot hybrid from the Thai Boxing club I trained at, and I was the coach by default as no one else wanted to do it.
I was a young teacher, and my teacher had given me the following advice; to spar with every new club member on the first night they came. That way, we all know where we stood and if they got naughty to smack them. During our sparring, Marcus did something probably more of a mistake than everything malicious, and I shin-kicked him in the head a little harder than I should have.
Despite the rocky introduction, post-training, we got to go to the local pub and became firm friends. It became clear during our post-training conversations in the pub or at his house that Marcus was more intelligent than I. I used to tease him by asking him a question, and if he did not know, I would fake disbelief and remind him that he was the most intelligent person I know. That good humour teasing was something that reminded part of our relationship for its duration.
In Muay Thai, the coach will often pick a range for the student to excel at based on their body type and in my case, I was so tall it was clinch range. The Thai clinch is a range where the grappling aspect can be trained full out, and despite being smaller than me, Marcus always caused me problems in grappling, and he seemed to enjoy the grappling element more than the striking part of the art.
During this period, Marcus was in a dusty second-hand bookshop in Fulham, London. He found a book by EJ Harrison on Wrestling. I know this because whenever we met for training around his house, he would tell me about it. I never thought much about why we trained, but Marcus always searched for the answer. He was a natural researcher and started visiting bookshops and museums. This research resulted in an extensive book collection and a pile of A4 notes and notebooks.
Marcus realised something profound we were in danger of losing something very precious, our grappling heritage. In these early days, Marcus would track down former folk style or old school Catch as catch can wrestlers who were often in their seventies. We would visit them; they would often demonstrate in their living rooms whilst being interviewed. During this period, it’s fair to say Marcus’s research focus was on Great Britain. He quickly expanded that research and travelled to Thailand, India, Mongolia and Brazil, basically any country where people wrestled, and it turned out they wrestled in most countries and cultures.
I did my best to keep in touch with him, and I often caught up with his father, Bernard, as we travelled to work in London on the train. From time to time, Marcus would teach grappling in my MMA class. Marcus would return from his travels and show me his research notes that had become a potential book and his excellent photos; he had natural talent. Marcus’s book, The Last Wrestlers, covers most of this and details his journey. I recommend reading that because that’s his story to tell.
Marcus, the person, was brilliant, articulate, caring and a great encourager. He had many friends and was a great interviewer because he cared. When we met up for our stay-in-touch catch-ups, Marcus used to tease me that I was in the book, but he had now taken me out to encourage me to write my own story. Marcus’ influence on my life and others was so significant and positive he is the first person people ask about when I meet former students. Marcus encouraged me to write, research and do my own thing. I think he won our long-running humour battle.
I realise this tribute is martial artsy, but that’s the context of my meeting with Marcus; he would have edited this tribute while explaining the writing rules again. The truth is I was lucky to have met him, and his contribution to my life outside of martial arts was also enormous. He is very much missed by many, and a little of him lives on in all of us.
“The whole world loses something whenever someone is stopped from doing what it is they were sent here to do”. The Last Wrestlers by Marcus Trower. 1967 to 2019.
The Last Wrestlers: A Far Flung Journey In Search of a Manly Art
Top photo from Hana Fazel.
A fantastic, well-written tribute: Marcus Trower 30 June 1967 – 05 June 2019 – Commas, Characters and Crime Scenes (marcustrowereditor.com)