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Ten-minute chat
  1. Pip Boydell


Pip Boydell is the founder and director of Animal Medical Centre Referral Services (AMCRS) in Manchester; he is a vet with many interests, from music to kickboxing.

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Tell us a bit about yourself.

Having qualified in 1984, I co-founded AMCRS in 1990. It was the first dedicated referral practice in the UK, and the first to have an in-house brain scanner.

As a frequent guest speaker on my favourite topics – philosophy, comparative ophthalmology and neurology – I get to travel the world. Closer to home, I am a member of an actively gigging rock band, The Bruise Brothers, who may be seen at some of the smaller festivals later this summer, as well as being a current WKC British kickboxing champion, having scooped four gold medals at the British championships earlier this year. As a qualified motorcycle mechanic, my preferred mode of transport is my ex-army Harley. This year I managed to get my diving qualification in time to lecture on the SPVS Scubascene, and I have just enrolled on a three-year sound recording course.

What kind of music do you play?

My musical interests emanate from punk rock days, and I have been in some sort of a band ever since then. I worked my way through vet school as a DJ on pirate radio, at private parties and as band support, to qualify without a debt, which was unusual even in those days.

The current act involves between two and five musicians, with a variety of sets ranging from original blues-based rockabilly-type stuff, through glam and rock variations to a more traditional party rock format. I play guitar and sing. My mum thinks we're great, but opinion is divided. We are available for weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals and biker parties, and have been known to play at European veterinary congresses where I am lecturing.

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How did you get involved in kickboxing?

Kickboxing took off as a way of moving out of the festering slobbiness that follows retirement from physical sports, in my case rugby and American football. The discipline to go to the gym on a regular basis on one's own tends to wane and was easily replaced by training with a return to aggressive physical contact and peer pressure.

Competing is a natural stage in a martial artist's development, and I spent three years on the UK circuit getting a frequent bloody nose and the occasional medal. I moved into more traditional aspects of kung fu several years ago and, having turned pro two years ago, I teach ancient and modern Chinese martial arts at my own club in south Manchester. One aspect of the discipline involves traditional weaponry. I compete and demonstrate the applications of a variety of armaments, from broadswords and butterfly swords to spears, knives and horseback archery (I do not ride!). I have had a couple of stick fights and have a duel scheduled against a museum curator in Leeds to compare the Chinese and European forms of poleaxe. Cross training is a natural progression, and I have also had (and won) a couple of mixed martial arts fights.

However, at the age of 51, the fighting side must give way to a greater emphasis on self-defence and lifestyle. I pay more attention to diet and realise that my overall philosophy is a combination of Daoism and Confucianism. My life balance has adjusted to allow three-plus hours' training every day. The various gyms are quite close to the practice so that I can remain on-call. Interns are not required to train, but it is encouraged!

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What's the best piece of advice you have been given?

Do not live to regret not trying something (Humphrey Littleton).

What has been your proudest moment?

Winning gold medals in both fight categories at the British Kickboxing Championships in 2005.

… and your worst?

Playing American football for Edinburgh. I had got through the British team trials and had appeared as a centre-page spread in a national magazine. In a televised game I had scored two touchdowns and was just about to catch a long scoring pass, three or four metres away from a television camera. The ball went into my grasp and bobbled gently out. I have had nightmares ever since.

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