How did you get here? What path did you take?

Discussion in 'General Martial Arts Talk' started by JP3, May 26, 2019.

  1. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    The "What makes your Primary art Primary" thread got me to thinking, generally a bad idea but hey. We've got a LOT of high-end, longtime practitioners of various types and methods on here at MT. It is sometimes fun to get a bit of somebody's history by piecing it together from a nugget here, a strand of story there.
    t
    But, I thought that I'd just ask. For example, how did Gerry Seymour get so deep into NGA that he went in, came out, got other stuff, then went back inside?

    That's kjust an example. There's got to be some great stuff in that story, and that's just one personality with a long history out of hundreds available to us here. So, let's do some bio-graphing, eh? I'm sure that the blurbs, I'm not asking y'all for a novel, will create and cause some questions... and I'm hoping for some good stories to flow out of those.

    Blurb No. 1 - JP3

    So, born in '68 in Houston, normal horrible kid who was, apparently, too smart for his own good, that's what they told me, anyway and did normal horrible kid stuff until I was 8. Got ambushed outside the school by a kid named Chris Whittington (yes, i straight up named him), and went crying home to Mama. It's what you do when you're 8.

    What mom's normally do with a crying 8 year old just didn't seem to be in the cards from my Mama, though. She (she was Director of Nursing at a long-term facility in Missouri), as she introduced me to my first aikido instructor. There I was, 8 y/o kid in a traditional Ueshiba/Hambu style dojo, floundering around in a gi too big for me and trying to learn falls, rolls, throws, something to do with wrists and this almost manic thing about being balanced. I did that for 2 years.

    The aikido instructor moved away to K.C., so I traded in the aikido gi for a Shotokan gi… then a goju-ryu gi (no, I didn't need to actually trade it in, I used the same one) as those schools first opened, then closed. It surprises me they closed, as looking back on it, it was Chuck Norris' movie heyday. Ah well. Did the Karate thing as a kid, progressed average, for a kid I guess. Then high school rolled around and high school cheerleaders were always seeming to be around the high school atheletes... so... soccer, basketball, baseball and cross-country became interesting. Scroll forward to college.

    Walked onto the college Basketball team, which was cool. Nearly flunking out due to practice was not. Mama (remember her?) insisted I give up the dream of going to the NBA (kidding), so to "have something to do," I started in TKD. Well, as TKD as the American Taekwondo Association can be back in the day. Stuck with then to second dan, which took a minute. While doing that, moved back to Houston and started hapkido training alongside the TKD, which was all good.

    Got my paramedic's license during this time frame, and went back to Missouri chasing a Life Flight job. Buka, this is where I gave up the idea of working the door any longer, and also when I started Muay Thai.

    Ended up not getting the Life Flight job, and moving back down to Houston, and ended up in law school... in Tulsa. That's where, in '95, I started trading teaching TKD for judo classes as a student. THAT was fun! About 5 years of dual training in judo/TKD in this time frame, then back to Houston... now married.

    Catch meningitis, go into coma, wake up legally blind. No fun. Start Tomiki aikido. That's '99.

    Kept doing judo, not doing TKD any longer as I'm absolutely NO FUN to spar with.... "Oops, my bad. Didn't mean to hit you at all, much less that hard. I'll call the doctor...". Stick with the Tomiki aikido/aikijutsu since then.

    Last year I found myself on the mat... not enjoying being there or the first time in 42 years. Figured I'd give it a week, as maybe I was just ina funk. Two more classes, still just going through the motions, irritated with "needing to be there," not a good sign. Talked to my wife about it and she said, "just take some time away. You've got those folks ina good place, they can run themselves for a while." So, i did. Been off the mat for a year and I'm starting to get the twitch to get back... which is why I'm probably posting this. There ya go.

    Your turn, if you're willing.
     
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  2. skribs

    skribs Senior Master

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    Started Taekwondo when I was 7. As I said in the other thread, I joined up at the YMCA. After a couple months, my Mom joined, and a few more months and my Dad joined as well. I ended up with my green belt. That school was one of the really hard core "you have to earn your black belt" type of schools, to the point where there were 28 tests required to get your black belt. I think besides the Master and his Wife (who was the Chief Instructor at the YMCA class), we had like 1 or 2 other people get their black belt while I was there. Black belts were rare at this school.

    When I was 11, I quit to do wrestling. Did that my 3 years of middle school.

    Cut to age 23. I hadn't done any sports since I was 14, and between getting my driver's license (never had to walk or ride my bike places) and working an IT job, I'd put on 50 pounds since I graduated high school. I'm a short dude (5'5" - 5'6" depending on the day), so 50 pounds is quite a bit for me. So I started going to the gym. The gym isn't that much fun, so I'd have to fight with myself to go, and after a few months I stopped.

    Cut to age 24. I needed something that was fun to do for exercise. So I joined Taekwondo as a white belt again. Between my obsessive personality and my lack of a social life, I was able to practice 3-4 hours a day at home, in addition to 3 classes a week. I signed up for special classes like Sparring Club and Hapkido. Even got my parents back in.

    About a year after I started back up, one of our Instructors left, and our Assistant Instructor was getting ready to leave. My Master had me take on an internship to become an instructor. Now instead of practicing 3-4 hours a day, I was teaching 3-4 hours a day. I was only a blue belt, but I was teaching even red belts. They respected me because my Master said I was an instructor, even though I was a lower belt than them. (Only kid that ever disrespected me when I started teaching was a yellow belt, which I thought it would be the red belts and the other blue belts).

    Now here I am at the same school, 6 years later, almost age 31. I have my 3rd degree black belt in Taekwondo. I mentioned earlier that my old school was very hard in requirements to get black belt. My new school has less tests, but more stuff to memorize for each test, so it kind of balances out. (It's also hard to compare because I came in already knowing a lot, and because I'm much older now). I have my Green belt in Hapkido and am going for my Blue belt next month. I'm in charge of my school's demonstration team.

    Right now, I don't really have plans to branch out. I plan to keep going here, I plan to at least get my 5th degree in TKD and 3rd degree in HKD. I love the dojang and the people here, and I'm excited to continue to learn.
     
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  3. Anarax

    Anarax 2nd Black Belt

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    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and being so transparent about it. Your story is very inspirational and insightful.
     
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  4. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    Served as a US Marine in Okinawa in the 80s. Worked with Uezu Angi Sensei, a leading Isshinryu instructor, but did not train with him. He was a Japanese Security Guard at the base I was a Military Policeman at. So I knew of Isshinryu from that.

    Years later, started training Wado in Lakewood, CO. Only lasted a few months. Lazy, I guess.

    Age 46, was fat and contracted diabetes. Knew I had to exercise and lose weight. Saw an Isshinryu dojo down the street. Remembered the style from Okinawa. Stopped in.

    12 years later...still there. White belt to 3rd Dan. Still much to learn.
     
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  5. DocWard

    DocWard Blue Belt

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    I was always fascinated with the martial arts. I was an impressionable kid of 6-9 during the initial run of Kung Fu on TV. My oldest sister dated a guy for awhile that studied, although I was much to young to understand or recall what style. I was the youngest of five, with an older brother with health issues, and older sisters with behavioral issues, so I sort of grew up just being pointed in the right direction, as opposed to truly guided or encouraged. I was unable to try out a number of things that I wanted to do as a kid, and only received seemingly half-hearted support in the few I did try. I actually had a fair amount of bitterness over the years, before realizing it was neither helpful nor healthy.

    Fast forward to adult life, and the idea of the martial arts still sounded fun. In college, I ended up in the Army Reserve, and was activated for Desert Storm. After training to deploy to Saudi Arabia, a change of plans caused us to be diverted to San Antonio to be on "standby." A long story in itself, but I finally got the opportunity while there to try the martial arts. The dojo trained both Goju-Ryu and some FMA based stick-fighting. I didn't train long enough to achieve any rank, but knew I enjoyed it, and it was a great stress relief. When I learned my unit was being deactivated and I would be heading back to Ohio, I asked the sensei if he knew of any schools in my area, and he said he didn't, but if I couldn't find one, to try Kenpo instead.

    Back in Ohio, I finished up undergrad, taking a course overload so I could graduate without adding an extra year. Still in the Army Reserve, I had limited time to look for a dojo. There had been a Kenpo dojo where I went to college, but it had closed. I looked at a Tang Soo Do dojo barely within driving distance, and spent much of the free lesson listening to the sensei bad mouth Kenpo, and play up the Tang Soo Do connection to Chuck Norris. Interestingly, I hadn't mentioned my interest in Kenpo to him. I decided if he needed to tear down another art to build up his own, I didn't need it. A martial art would wait.

    After finishing undergrad, I moved to the city I now live in, and started law school. A quick look through the Yellow Pages (remember those?) revealed a Kenpo dojo in town, not far away. A little research and a few questions revealed the school was well established and respected in town. The instructor, a Vietnam Vet, and I got along well. Three introductory lessons (taken with my wife) revealed it to be something I enjoyed. She enjoyed it as well, and earned her yellow belt before becoming pregnant. Kids and her primary passion of competitive horseback riding stopped her from going further, but I digress.

    I juggled martial arts training with marriage, law school, the Army Reserve (now in the headquarters element of a Special Forces unit), and then later marriage, kids, and a career at the county prosecutor's office for a long time. Eventually, as I began working toward my black belt, the juggling became too much, due in part to the work at the office and the addition of re-enlisting and training as a medic in the Army National Guard. I took a break. A long break. A twenty year break. to be accurate.

    During that time, I trained a little bit, and there were a couple of other guys in my unit who studied other styles that I would spar some with during training. While attending an event a few years back, my oldest daughter and I met the sensei of a local school that trained in Aikijujutsu. My daughter was interested in it, so I agreed to give it a try with her. We got through one belt level, but despite having thick mats and learning good form, the rolls and techniques left my shoulders, left injured during training for my final deployment, screaming. Every night after training was an ibuprofen night. It was OK, but I also found myself during training realizing how much I enjoyed Kenpo instead.

    I toyed with the idea of returning to Kenpo, but the years away meant I had forgotten so much, and I was more than a little embarrassed and intimidated about the idea of returning. Oddly, the moment that prompted me to return was also a very sad one for me. I had taken guitar lessons for a number of years, although I am still not particularly good. It took the place of Kenpo as my weekly stress relief, and my instructor, Rob, became a good friend. He taught me, my wife, and both of my daughters. He was my age, and we had a lot in common in our musical interests, although he was an amazing guitarist. Rob passed away after a heart attack just after New Year. He tried to stay fit, and looked far healthier than I, but like many, fell prey to a congenital issue. Once he passed away, I just didn't feel like playing, and my guitars were put in their cases.

    Searching for something else to take the place of guitar, I decided that it was foolish of me to let my embarrassment and intimidation keep me from doing something I knew I enjoyed. I walked through the door of the dojo again a couple of weeks after the new year began, and talked to Dan about resuming my journey. I decided before I walked in that if it meant swallowing my pride and starting fresh, then so be it. Kenpo has felt "right" to me from the beginning. I've been attracted to the "hard/soft" aspect of it, and it seems to make sense to me. So, here I am, and it will always be my primary art.
     
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  6. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Born in 1970, I was a quiet kid - always reading, and pretty awkward around other kids until I got to know them. I was one of the kids bullies focused on, which wasn't really a big deal at the small private school (my mom worked at the church, so we could actually afford it) I started at. But I transferred to public school in 6th grade, and the bullying got much worse. My dad signed me up for Karate (no idea what branch) at the YMCA shortly thereafter (I'd have been 12). That was my first exposure, and though I didn't learn much, it did seem to help my self-esteem and willingness to fight back. That instructor moved, ending the program.

    Not long after, a friend of my dad's started teaching Judo again, using the gym at the college where he taught. I jumped in immediately, and this was my first exposure to MA where I'd chosen it, and really got into it. I really enjoyed the training, and when he also started offering Shotokan Karate classes, I joined those, too. I was probably training 3x per week. This time, I was actually learning more. I had a friend who was a wrestler, and he and I would roll from time to time (the Judo classes had a lot of ground work). He outweighed me by a couple of weight classes and was a few inches taller, so I learned to work with what I had. After some time (I really can't remember how long - I trained 2 years, I think, but it might be shorter), the instructor moved to Jordan to teach (he was a mathematics professor), so that training ended, too. I kept tinkering and toying from time to time, especially rolling with my wrestler friend.

    Then, during a summer PE class (I refused to give Phys Ed any time in my regular school schedule, so had to take it over the summers), a martial arts instructor came in to give a demo. He showed us some falls and rolls, and asked if anyone had any MA experience. I told him I had some Judo, and became his uke (he took it pretty easy, and was clearly feeling out what I could take). He also found out one of the muscular guys was a wrestler, and he showed us some of what he could do with him. The instructor was a small guy (probably 5' 7"), but managed to maul the wrestler pretty easily, and I was impressed by the control he showed in his throws and takedowns on me. I went that year and signed up at his dojo. That was my introduction to Nihon Goshin Aikido.

    I trained under that instructor for a few months, then had some minor surgery (freshman year of college by now), and ended up not going back to classes for a few months. When I decided to start back, the instructor had moved, and one of his senior students owned the school. I trained under that instructor and one of his shodan for 2-3 years, then he closed the school (he had another about 30 minutes away that was his real focus). Another instructor - another student of my first instructor - re-opened the school (the building was still owned by the guy I started training under), and I was back training as soon as I found out (about 3 months out).

    I trained with that instructor for about 9 years, maybe 10, and he's the one who awarded my shodan (and teaching certificate). I taught at his school, both kids (we all had to when learning to teach) and adults (what I really enjoyed doing) for a couple of years. During that time, I managed to go to a few seminars outside the art, seeing what others were doing, and each time it subtly changed my approach to NGA. A Yanagi-ryu seminar got me paying more attention to weight-dropping. A mixed arts seminar got me looking harder at ground work (an MMA guy was teaching mount escapes), balance (a Taiji guy and a TCMA instructor both had some good thoughts there), and proper entry to technique (from Shen Chuan). That seminar was also my first intro to FMA and Silat.

    Along the way in my training, I had a lot of absences - business travel sometimes meant I didn't get to the dojo for a couple of weeks, or even longer. Then there'd be down time, and I'd be in the dojo 3-6 days a week. That schedule led to me not being in a hurry to test (I was often taking time to knock the rust off) and to guide my own progress (my irregular attendance meant I didn't get the benefit of the spaced delivery the instructor provided in the classes). It also taught me to think more about what I was doing - I had to figure out how to get some practice in, without any equipment, and make it useful to what I was doing.

    Several years after I'd gotten my shodan, there were some splits in the NGA world. This ended up with my instructor leaving the NGAA, which took away my last tie to that curriculum. Over several years, I re-examined everything I'd learned and taught, looking for a better way for me...something that worked better for people learning from me. During this time, I rarely trained formally in NGA. I practiced what I had, but spent more time learning FMA and BJJ basics and examining what others were teaching.

    In the end (assuming where I have settled is somewhere near "the end" as far as curriculum design is concerned), I settled on an approach to NGA that relies more on strikes, threw out the "club" work to replace it with basic stickwork from FMA, and swapped out a bunch of drills for things I found more useful or fit better with my approach. I started teaching first at a Y, then moved to a community recreation center, and later to a Shorin-ryu dojo, where I teach now.
     
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  7. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Might be the most enjoyment I've ever had reading a thread. I'm writing mine now, but my memory ain't what it used to be. And I'm off to work.
     
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  8. Headhunter

    Headhunter Senior Master

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    Okay let's try this,

    Went to a rough school with a bunch f criminals and drug dealers. So I started at a boxing gym when I was 12. Enjoyed it well enough but felt there wasn't enough street moves so joined American kenpo at 13. Did kenpo and boxing for years got up to 1st brown belt and had boxing matches through my teenage years and early 20s, then the boxing gym shut down so I joined kickboxing and competed there for years. I still kept up with kenpo but never took the black belt test as it wasn't that appealing as black belts have to teach and I wasn't interested in teaching. Eventually wanted to try some mma sodid BJJ as well and won one Mma fight.

    Retired from fighting late 20s. Continued to train kenpo boxing and kickboxing just for fitness and something to do. Got married and had kids so eventually it sort of faded out apart from teaching my kids and takinh
    No them to class.

    Then my wife was killed by a drink driver and I fell deep into depression and was drinking far to much, I was never a drinker before but now it was awful. Put on a load of weight then one day went to a kickboxing gym with my daughter and could see how unhealthy I'd gotten then motivated myself to get back in shape. Started running, weights hitting thr bag practicing karate katas. Started getting back in shape by self trainings eventually got back in the gyms training and got my black 3 years ago now.

    I have since started training more seriously in bjj, Muay Thai and predominately Krav Maga where I have gained a p2 and assist with kids classes.
     
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  9. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    Good on ya. Inspirational that you went through the darkness and came out the other side.
     
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  10. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I posted a similar answer in the “What has changed for you” thread but I will try not to overlap.

    I started MDK TKD in 1984. I had never considered MA’s when a good friend told me about a new school opening in our small town and he wanted me to try it with him. I was raised on a large farm and I was fresh out of college where I play scholarship sports and was in good shape, so I thought. The level of non-aerobic exercise and stretching was a new challenge for me, one that I absolutely feel in love with.

    The instructor at the school I started at essentially disappeared around 1986 and by that time, myself another red belt were teaching all the classes. With our GM’s blessing we moved into another building where the entire student body moved with us.

    Things continued to go very well and class size continued to grow to over 120 students by 1987. We expanded our Dojang by knocking out a wall, doubling our square footage (all done with student sweat equity).

    I had gotten into a good workout/teaching routine where I was able to train under our GM 10-12 hours/week and as much as practical I would teach/practice any new curriculum in class. We grew a fantastic group of upper belts and a few black belts by 1988 and the school really reached a mass where it was kind of on auto-pilot.

    I was very much in the tournament scene from the beginning of my training. In 86 it was announced that TKD would be a demonstration sport at the 88 Olympics. I studied the requirements and scoring rules and entered the circuit. I loved sparring and while I was usually not the most physically gifted in a match I had a great chess game. I placed in the TN USTU tourney in 86, 87, & 88. Went to the Nationals in Indianapolis and the Trials in Pensacola in 88. I got to meet some really great people in the Sport side of TKD. Unfortunately, some not so great as well. It was a political theatre back then.

    I peaked after 1988 and all but quit competing. The school was still doing well and the time away from tourney training and competing allowed me to dig deep into the traditional TKD my GM taught (he was never very happy about my level of competition). I tested for my 4th Dan Kukkkiwon in 1995. In 1996 Tuhon McGrath moved to Nashville to teach defensive tactics to Davidson and surrounding county LEO. I trained for three years (receiving my BB) until he moved back to San Francisco. I competed in a few Kali tournaments which are Very different.

    As a side note, all this took place while working full time LEO. In 96 I changed jobs and started traveling to most U.S. states, Canada, Mexico, and Malaysia. I had to dramatically cut down on my teaching hours at our Dojang. This gave me the opportunity to workout at other schools of various styles which was great experience and insight. I dabbled enough in Kung Fu to earn a green sash.

    My “real” work world had become a tremendous drain on my time, not to mention I got married in 1991 and we had our son in 1993. I retained ownership of the strip mall our Dojang is in but sold the Martial Arts business to two of our BB’s. That relationship is still good and strong to this day.

    I segued from working at the corporate level in process engineering to owning an industrial automation company. We also inherited/purchased our family farm along with other acreage over the years so cattle and crop farming is a big part of life.

    In 2001 I was hit head-on by a dump truck and everything changed. Among other things I completely lost about 10-12 years memories before the wreck and new memories don’t store correctly. If you count back from the date of accident those are the biggest years of my young life. Blah, blah, blah. After a very long rehab I slowly started going to classes at our main school. Mostly just observing and answering questions where I could. I eventually got back on the floor and have been working for about 10 years. Earlier this year I test for 5th Dan, 24 years after my last test.

    For most of it, hopefully with the exception of the accident, I doubt my path was all that different from others. Lots of work in the school, lots of life outside the classroom. I did compete at a very high level which, along with the sheer joy of competition, it opened many doors along the way that greatly benefitted our local and branch schools and public programs.

    TKD, for many reasons is difficult for my body now. If there was a Kali school within a reasonable distance I may be inclined to get back in, but TKD is part of my DNA now.

    To summarize, how did I get here? Solely by God’s grace. If you don’t by in, that is your prerogative. Had we each walked a few miles in the others shoes we might understand why. How did I get to where I am on my MA path? In the very beginning by zero effort on my part. I was aimless and just went along with a friend. But it stuck for me and not my friend. An inordinate amount of opportunity fell my way; I fully acknowledge that. Buying our strip malls where our Dojang is, the circumstances with my original teacher that led me into teaching, being hard-headed enough to compete at large, great family work ethic, Tuhon coming to Nashville, and many more. Hell, on a good day I can find a silver lining from the accident. My heart stopped twice and I blead out at the scene. Had there not been a paramedic (instead of emt)on the ambulance to fill me full of fluids and zap my heart, end of story (their words, not mine). Had life flight not been called by the fire department first responders right away, end of story (heart stopped again on the helicopter ride to Vanderbilt.

    I would have to say there are a great many that went before me and created the path. It has been difficult at times to stay on it and move forward, but every bit of the journey has been immensely enjoyable.

    My apologies for getting down into my life details but I know no other way to get to the current point in the story. If other details of the story are preferred let me know and I will try to provide them.
     
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  11. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    In reading others' stories, I'm reminded how comparatively easy my path has been. I'm thankful for that, and quite impressed by the struggles others have either overcome or just worked in spite of.
     
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  12. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    That's one tough but fascinating journey, brother. Every time I see a dump truck coming the other way I get antsy. Always have, they just scare me.

    Back in 88 my friend Arlene Limas won gold in those Olympics. What a great kid, terrific fighter. Did you ever run into Arlene? She's on my left.

    ArleneandBarbara.jpg
     
  13. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    I'm with Gerry, I've had a really easy path. Reading some of the things you guys went through took me aback. Big respect to all of you having come through it all. Just wow.
     
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  14. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    I remember her well. She had an infectious personality. She was awarded USTU woman of the year in 1990 I think. I am not certain but I think it was at the same ceremony I was awarded a letter of commendation from Un Yong Kim.
     
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  15. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    Yes, she really did have an infectious personality. When she was being awarded her gold medal the sound system went down while playing America's National Anthem. Arlene had been singing along and started singing louder. The whole crowd sang with her. Gave me serious chicken skin watching that on TV, still gives me chicken skin thinking about it.

    I haven't seen Arlene since she was twenty years old, but man I love that kid. We trained in South Africa together back in the day. Such a joy to be around, such a joy to train with. I honestly can't think of Arlene without smiling. Just can't be done.

    And, man, what a seriously nasty side kick she has. Cut you in half with either leg. Loved sparring with her.
     
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  16. Danny T

    Danny T Senior Master

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    [QUOTE="Buka, post: 1963775, member: 26001"
    Back in 88 my friend Arlene Limas won gold in those Olympics. What a great kid, terrific fighter. Did you ever run into Arlene? She's on my left.
    [/QUOTE]
    arlene-limas.jpeg
     
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  17. JR 137

    JR 137 Senior Master

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    How did I get here?

    My mother was introduced to my father by his uncle. They went on a few dates, decided to take the relationship to the next level, and... I’m sure you can figure out the rest without me getting disgusted by the thought of my parents...

    Too late. Thanks a lot.
     
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  18. dvcochran

    dvcochran Senior Master

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    What I wouldn't have given to have been there with her. I still remember her getting a standing knockout from her repeated side kicks in Pensacola. She could flip it like a whip. Wicked. Everyone approached it like a job. Just do the work. But I think she enjoyed the whole process more than most.
     
  19. JP3

    JP3 Master Black Belt

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    Man, now you've got me thinking about your mom and dad... doing stuff. Just wrong. Why'd you have to threadjack us and take us here?

    Looking forward to a few more personalities dropping a bit of history on us. Good stuff, above everyone who's dropped in their $0.02 so far, I appreciate it.
     
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  20. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    This won't be a linear story, it will kind of jump around, just like my Martial career did. :)

    I saw Ed Parker on The Lucy Show in 63 and that was it, I was pretty much hooked, that's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I dabbled around with anyone who knew anything about Martial Arts, but there wasn't much around me at the time. The first time I trained in an actual school it was Greek Gojo Ryu, went for about a year, but it was just too far away and I didn't have a car. Then a dojo opened in an adjoining suburb of Boston, and I found a home. A couple of months later a boxing gym opened two blocks away. I remember my Karate mind feeling threatened by the boxing gym. So I used to practice in front of the dojo mirror. Throwing rising blocks to block their imaginary jabs. (yes, I was that foolish a kid)

    Started going to the boxing gym in the afternoon and the dojo at night. I was living at home, going to a local college, and working part time in a pool hall. I didn't have to pay for Karate as I started teaching very early. Not because I actually knew anything, but I spoke well and could get ideas across, something the chief instructor didn't know how to do at all. The boxing gym, The South Side was an old fashioned boxing gym, and it was cheap. There were a lot of good boxers there, an Olympian, a few guys who fought pro, a lot of amateurs. Freddy Roache and his brothers trained there as kids when I was there. Their locker was next to mine. Their dad, Mister Roache, taught them. Marvin Hagler stopped in once in a while and sparred with everyone.

    Any night the dojo wasn't open I worked in the pool hall making money so I could go to tournaments, I'd be sitting behind the counter reading Mas Oyama Karate books as I smoked a cigar.

    At the dojo, a guy that was friends with my instructor would stop by every once in a while and work with me on his art, which was Fu Jow Pai Kung Fu. I loved it. I loved anything that had to do with Martial Arts. Whatever art someone was trying to teach me I was fully in. There weren't enough hours in the day so something had to go. I took the obvious route, I left college. Again, not the brightest of young men.

    I was promoted to black belt in American Karate in nineteen seventy four. Got a job in the Boston Public School System the same week, right as the desegregation of Boston public schools was taking place. The job title was "transitional security aide", we were basically bouncers. The job was perfect for me as it ran from 8 a.m until one thirty, gave plenty of time to train, AND, you pretty much fought at work in the riots every week. It was absolutely crazy. Sure, they were high school kids, but some of them were in their twenties, there was a lot of violence, a lot of chances to use martial arts for the good, especially since you weren't trying to hurt them, just control them and keep anyone from killing anybody else. In doing this, if it worked, I kept doing it, if it didn't I'd eventually stop doing it. Started doing the same thing in the dojo.

    Sometime in the late seventies I got certified by the state to teach Defensive Tactics to police. Had a whole lot of fun doing that. I was a "Motor Skills Design Instructor" which is a fancy smancy name for a "DT guy". I actually had a certificate from the state that said that. But I think the dog ate it. What was interesting to me, and which I love - they didn't tell me what to teach, they just certified me to teach.
    For a period of fifteen years, four different black belts of mine, all of whom were Boston cops, were the full time DT instructors at the Academy. I would go up and assist them as a private contractor. I didn't become a cop until later.

    In 73 I first met Joe Lewis at George Pesare's Kenpo school in Providence Rhode Island. He was supposed to teach a seminar, but the seminar was rescheduled. Everybody was informed of the new date except for Joe Lewis himself and a half dozen of us.
    So he taught us anyway, no charge just a bunch of Karate guys working out. Everyone knew Joe Lewis from the Karate magazines. He was the guy. He was nothing like I had pictured in my mind. He was far more cerebral than anyone would have guessed. He was extremely calm and soft spoken. When he moved, it was like an explosion. Unlike anyone I've seen since.

    We worked out for five hours, not hard drilling, he was teaching us movement. Blew my mind. Changed everything I did from that moment going forward. I started to seek him out, train with him every chance I got. He changed everything I knew of Karate and especially of fighting.

    Twenty years later when Joe would come to New England to teach seminars at peoples schools he would stay at my house. I don't kid when I say that I learned as much about fighting right there in my kitchen as I did in any dojo. And some times when he'd have a day between seminars he would just come down the dojo and teach a class. Unbelievable. And my dojo at this time was that pool hall I mentioned earlier. That place stayed open for thirty six years. Twenty of them as a good school. I will always miss Joe Lewis. He was a truly great Martial Artist, a good man, but he was also one seriously scary mother F'r. (in a nice way)

    In the late seventies kickboxing became big in New England. One of the promoters approached me and asked if I wanted a three rounder, two minute rounds. Five hundred bucks. I said "You mean to tell me you'll give me five hundred bucks for six minutes of work? Where the hell do I sign?" That was pretty awesome. Especially since they paid you in cash. But, ain't there always a "but"? This was in Massachusetts. There's a lot of politics in Massachusetts. A lot of the old boxing guard had cush jobs at the State House. Kickboxing shows had started to outdraw boxing shows by a wide margin. Couldn't very well have that, now could we? Massachusetts passed a bill outlawing kickboxing. The bill actually said that kicking was dirty fighting. It was over turned several years later, but for a few years I had to go out of state to kickbox.

    And in a strange turn of events - twenty five years later, those same boxing cronies, still politically connected, became MMA judges. And guess who taught a series of clinics to teach them how to judge MMA? Me and a friend's nephew, who was a Gracie purple belt.

    Speaking of which, in ninety one, I had been studying Jeet Kune Do part time for a couple years while teaching American Karate. My Jeet instructor said "plan on spending all day Saturday and Sunday here, I want you to meet and train with one of my teachers". I figured he was talking Jeet Kune Do, his teacher was Paul Vunak at the time, and I'm thinking cool, always wanted to meet him. So I went. But it wasn't his Jeet instructor, it was his grappling instructor. And that's how I first met Rickson Gracie. Those first two days I couldn't even sleep at night. I kept staring at the ceiling whispering "wow, that stuff is nuts". And it was awesome. And nobody even knew what a Gracie was back then. After training with him a dozen times, I brought my wife. She was one of my black belts. Rickson took her under his wing and partnered with her every time we trained. She has a better rear naked choke than I do because of that. And, yes, I'm insanely jealous.

    In seventy six I was at a tournament and was wearing a t-shirt that I had had made that said "God bless a kickboxer". Somebody tapped my shoulder and asked "Where can I get one of those shirts?" I turned around. It was Bill Wallace. Told him I'd have one for him at a tournie he was appearing at the following week if he'd teach me stuff. So he taught me stuff. Years later we were on the same fighting team for a bit. He is one serious Martial Artist, one seriously intelligent man. And I don't actually get along with Bill too greatly, but man, he is something when it comes to anything Martial related or movement related. (Masters degree in Kinesiology)

    In 83 I had an ethics question that I wanted somebody with weight in the martial world to advise me on. Ed Parker taught a buddy of mine, I had met Ed several times. My buddy was hosting him for a seminar and I went just to talk to Ed. Talk we did, for about an hour, delaying the Black Belt portion of the seminar. When one of the higher ranked guys reminded Ed of the time, Ed turned and said, "yes, and you see I'm busy at the moment and when I'm done here we'll start." When it did start, Ed put me in font and used me as his Uki all day. Told me it would be a good lesson for people getting too big for their britches." Ed was an awesome guy. When I think of him I remember his laugh, because he was the easiest guy to tell a joke to, and I remember his love for Italian food. I miss Ed. He was a rock star. And I'll tell you what, the guys hands were fast, real fast, they felt like fricken' hammers. He could smack. He helped me a great deal.

    Right around nineteen eighty, somebody bought the building my dojo was in and evicted us. Oh man, did that suck. Fortunately, I had made a lot of friends on the tournament circuit and a group of us would go to the dojos of friends of ours, all over the place, all kinds of styles. We mostly went on sparring nights, but sometimes for classes. If I had never competed, I would never had met and become friends with all the people I did. And I don't know what the heck would have happened over that three year period, maybe I would have been out of the arts. Some of the places were Kempo, some Okinawan, TKD, Kung Fu, some boxing, heck, hard to remember them all now. I even went to a Kung Fu wedding at a Mantis school that I sometimes visited. It was very cool, a nice ceremony.

    In the early eighties Billy Blanks moved to Massachusetts. We started training together and became sparring partners for five years until he moved to L.A. Changed my game so much I can't begin to tell you. I met so many folks through Billy it blows my mind. He was the best man when my wife and I were married. Met her in 78 in a dojo.

    First moved to Hawaii in ninety four. Our dogs had to spend 120 days in quarantine on Oahu. We stayed there and took full care of them. While there we visited Relson Gracie's school at the University of Hawaii. Next thing I know my wife and I are at Relson's house watching Rickson videos in his living room, then taking privates in his garage from of his purple belts, John

    After quarantine we finally got to Maui. A dojo had just opened a few months earlier. A Rickson Gracie school. Again, luck I have no right to have. Go figure.

    Throughout the rest of the nineties, I'd fly to L.A and spend a week at Billy's every month. I'd teach privates to pay for airfare and stay at Billy's house. He had the busiest gym/dojo I've ever seen. Heck, busiest I'd even heard about. Had a lot of fun, taught a lot of people, wrote some movies for Billy in between classes. I remember the first time I was at Billy's L.A dojo - the building had originally been a bank building. A big one. One of the rooms had previously been a large vault. Now it was a bag room. There were twenty heavy bags hanging in there. Nice bags. Anyway, I went in and started using a bag. I used to get seriously immersed when I did bag work. Didn't really pay attention to my surroundings. Soon all the bags were taken. Nice sounds, twenty people hitting bags. Kind of like a waterfall sound. Except there were chains clanging and there was background music.

    At some point I take a rest and just hold onto the bag. There, on the bag to my left was Carlos Palomino, former welter weight champ and a Boxing Hall of Fame member, and on my right is Sugar Ray Leonard. I had to pinch myself because I thought I was dreaming. I trained with both of them a bunch of times. Used to love working combinations with Ray. He taught me a lot.

    A couple days later Billy, Ray, Shaq (this was at the beginning of his Lakers career) and I went out and did some road work. A film crew happened to be driving by, saw Shaq, pulled over and started filming. Nobody had any comment. They shoved a mic in my face and asked me who I was. I told them I was nobody, just the token white guy. The others giggled at that one.

    In 03, maybe 04, I met Tom Sotis, a knife instructor. To this day the best knife man I've ever seen. I'm still learning so much about something I really knew nothing about. Sometimes we'd train at the dojo, or somebody elses dojo, but most of the time we'd train at his house. He lived in Rhode island but it was a short drive for being in another state. He mostly trains military and letter agency guys now, but still teaches any of his old crew any time we want. I gotta get back to that, it's a lot of fun and a heck of workout. And I’m pretty good at it. Unusual for me as I never had much talent with tradition Martial weapons.

    Throughout all this I'd go to seminars of just about anyone. Heck, it's only a day, sometimes a few, sometimes just part of a day. Always picked something up, met a lot of folks which led to meeting and learning from a lot of other folks. Went to a lot of week long seminars, training camp things, why not, I had the opportunity and the time. I'd be crazy not to. Best thing about the long ones....you know how if you go to a really good seminar, the next day or so you'll snap your fingers and say, "I wish I had remembered to ask him such and such"? With the week long ones you sometimes actually remember.

    The Uechi folks in Massachusetts used to put on a terrific week long training camp. They'd bring in people from all over, all kinds of styles, and all kinds of people. It would be in a huge indoor area, with everybody broken up into groups. You know, a Shotokan guy over there, Rory Miller over there, a boxer over there, a sword guy here, a kung fu guy there. You could go to everyone and spend as much time as you want. These would go from like 10 a.m until five, a break for an hour and then into the night.

    Sometime in the midst of this crazy trip of mine the internet came into being. Ho-lee craparoni, this was something else. Within ten years I could see, study, read about all kinds of Martial Arts. And talk to people online about what they did. Still blows my mind what we have at our fingertips today. Blows my mind chatting with all you guys, too. Never could have imagined that in a million years.

    Been fun so far.
     
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