+ Open : Background Summary

Background Summary

School and competition history

I ran my own Martial Art School from 1982 - 1990. This was truly one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.

From 1970-1974 and again from 1982-1987 I competed mostly in California in Freestyle Karate (open to ALL Martial Art styles) both Sparring and Form divisions.

During my competition career I made a goal of winning 100 1st place trophies, and I accomplished this goal.

I also won Grand Championships at:

I also placed 2nd at the West Coast National Championships in 1984, and also trained and competed in Full Contact Karate within the PKA (Professional Karate Association).

Through the years I have been privileged to train with several legends of the Martial Arts.

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 + Open : Lineage

Lineage (55 years total experience)

YearsStyleInstructor(s)Total Years
1959 - 1962SavateM. Gassion4 years
1963 - 1974 &
2002 - 2006
Kenpo Karate Master Professor Ramiro Jack Long
Professor Davic Coppock
12 years
1974 - 2010Taekwondo / Hapkido Master Marty Mckowski
Grand Master Dan Choi
Master Tony Thompson
Master William Kim
Grand Master Pyong Hoe Koo
Master Ed Fong
Master Julee Peck
36 years
1978 - 1990Shotokan KarateMaster Jim Mather3 years

 + Open : My Story

Close Article

My Martial Art training history, aka "What a long strange trip it's been"

There have been many times when riding a motorcycle was not a significant aspect of my life and only amounted to simple transportation. My wife and children, along with my career as a Design Engineer all pulled me in different directions, and the only free-time recreation I had time for was training in the Martial Arts.

Just as it was with riding motorcycles, it was my father that got me started training in the Martial Arts. He came back from The War (WW 2) with a strong appreciation of the French fighting style called Savate. This is an art that was derived from street fighting at around the turn of the 19th century. According to my father, soldiers fighting in Europe during the war were told that if a Frenchman came at them with a knife or even without one, they should shoot him before he got too close.

When I was very young my father discovered that one of our neighbors was a Savate practitioner, and was able to convince him to teach myself and another neighbor boy about my age. So, in 1959 at the age of five I started training in Savate. Unfortunately, however Mr. Gassion was an elderly gentleman, and passed from this world when I was about eight years old. Not long after Mr. Gassion's passing a Kenpo Karate instructor named Jack Long started teaching twice a week in the back room of a local restaurant, and I soon joined his classes.

Master Long told us that he had received his 3rd Dan rank from Master John Keehan, who had made himself sort of a cult hero by calling himself Count Dante the Deadliest Man Alive. Master Long trained with Master Keehan during a period of time that is known in Martial Art history as the "Dojo Wars". This was a period of time when Martial Art schools (Dojos) would challenge each other over territory, and would invade other schools and brawl with their students. There were also many Challenge Matches where senior students for different schools would meet secretly and fight. Challenge Matches were bare knuckle no rules fights, and often traditional martial arts weapons came into play. These fights usually were quite bloody.

At that time, it never occurred to me to question Master Long further about his martial art lineage. Much later I would find out by talking with Great Grand Master Al Novak that Master Long had trained for a time with Professor Ralph Castro in his Shaolin style Kenpo, and later with Master Ed Parker where Master Long had adopted some small parts of Master Parker's American Kenpo Karate System.

Master Long had an aversion to using weapons in his fighting style. We were taught to disarm an armed opponent and briefly use their weapon against them. However, we were taught to dispose of the weapon once our opponent was incapacitated. I don't know where his aversion to weapons came from, but I speculate it had something to do with what went on during the Dojo Wars. It could be that someone he knew was injured or killed by such a weapon, on the other hand it could be that Master Long feared the overconfidence that can comes with using a weapon, and worried that it would be our undoing.

Training was much harder back in those days that it is now. Law suits were unheard of, and so injuries were common. Examples of this hard training abound, but to give some sort of perspective I will cite two; first, we learned to fall on bare rough concrete rather than on the soft padded mats used today; and second, at the conclusion of class every day, we were punched HARD in to solar plexus to test our chi/ki, or inner strength. Training like this was common place back then, but it would be illegal today.

I trained with Master Long into the mid 70's, and was one of his top students when I left. During that time, I competed quite a lot by sparring at local tournaments, and I also accepted and fought in several Challenge Matches as well.

By the late 70's my career had started to take off and it became necessary for me to move closer to work. This move made it nearly impossible to continue training with Master Long, and so I switched Martial Art styles to that of Taekwondo.

Why did I change Martial Art styles? As it turns out this also relates to something my father taught me. As I was training with Master Long, he would often say that if I had only one teacher, I would never progress beyond what he could teach. So, it was that I started training in Taekwondo with Master Marty Mackowski in San Mateo California.

My time with Master Mackowski was unfortunately short, as another career change took me far to the south and I had to change schools once again. In time, I started training with Master Dan Choi in San Jose.

Training with Master Choi was nearly as tough as it was with Master Long. It became a running joke around the studio that on our Friday "Fight Nights" there needed to be an EMT waiting outside to treat the injured. In time. I trained with Master Choi for five years.

I would have stayed with Master Choi, however I happily married a lovely woman and soon moved to the east SF bay area. For a while I trained with Master William Kim but distance soon became an issue there as well.

It was during this time that I opened my own Martial Art School in San Ramon CA. I have always enjoyed teaching the Martial Arts, and having my own school allowed me to marry the lessons I had learned from Savate and Kenpo Karate with the teachings of Taekwondo.

Balancing my family against my career and teaching at my school was incredibly difficult, but I really loved my students and that made the effort worthwhile. Like all small businesses, mine started out small but within a couple of years I was approaching 200 students.

After about 4 years it became very apparent that my home life was really suffering; I simply had too many fires that I needed to keep going. So, it was that very sadly I sold my school to a Taekwondo Master named Pyong Ho Koo, and stepped away from the primary teaching role. While with Master Kook I was the Head Instructor at his Pleasanton CA school.

My career took me south to San Jose CA, and I was forced to leave Master Koo's school. In San Jose I started studying with Master Ed Fong. After training with Master Fong for several years, my career took me east to Raleigh North Carolina.

Once we found our home in Raleigh we were extremely lucky to find an amazing Taekwondo school run by Master Julee Peck. Master Peck runs a "Family School" of the type that's typical these days, however she is an amazing practitioner and an incredible instructor, also as a female Martial Artist she proved to be an excellent example for my youngest daughter. My daughter earned her 1st Dan Black Belt with Master Peck, this event made me very proud.

After about six years working in Raleigh I was transferred back to the SF bay area. We purchased a new home in Redwood City, and I was soon shocked to discover that Master Long was still teaching Karate just down the road from where we lived. It wasn't long after that discovery that I started training with him again.

When I originally started training with Master Long he was a 3rd Dan Black Belt, and when I saw him again he had earned his 9th Dan Black Belt through Great Grand Master Al Novak. Like all of us Master Long is a flawed human being, however his skill as a Martial Artist is undeniable. In all my years of training I have never encountered anyone that can come close to his hand speed; simply put Master Long is a deadly human being. He's a short and unassuming guy, but if you happen to mess with him he will very quickly and efficiently kill you. I continued to train with Master Long for about four years.

I retired from my career as a Design Engineer in 2006 and shortly thereafter moved to Colorado. Trained on my own for several years, then decided to seek out a Kenpo school. I trained with Professor David Coppock for just a bit over a year before incurring an injury that forced me to quit. I've since started up at a local Taekwondo school close to my home, but my years of training and injuries are adding up, and I fear that my final days of training are fast approaching.

Over my years of training I've cracked two vertebrae, broken my ankle, wrist, elbow, thumb, fingers, my ribs twice, and my nose four times. I've had both knees dislocated, with my left knee having that experience twice. I've had more bone bruises, lumps, cuts, and contusions than I can count. All I can say about that is, "you should have seen the other guy". Once I finally retire, I know that I will miss training. I will miss the strategy of combat, the precision of form, and the comradery that comes with sharing misery with my training partners.

What a long, strange trip it's been.

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