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 + Open : Lineage

Lineage

YearsStyleInstructor(s)Total YearsRank
1959 - 1963SavateM. Gassion4 years
1964 - 1974 &
2002 - 2004 &
2010 - 2012
Kenpo Karate Sifu Ramiro Jack Long
Sigung Al Novak
Professor David Coppock
13 years 2 Dan
1975 - 2009 &
2017 - current
Taekwondo Master Marty Mckowski
Grand Master Dan Choi
Master Tony Thompson
Master William Kim
Master Pyong Hoe Koo
Master Ed Fong
Master Julee Peck
38 years 6 Dan
1976 - 1981Hapkido Grand Master Dan Choi
Master Tony Thompson
4 years2 Dan
1988 - 1991Shotokan Karate Master Jim Mather3 years1 Dan

 + Open : My Story

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 nine 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 Master William Chow 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 several 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 Koo I was the Chief 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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 + Open : Self defense concepts

Self defense concepts.

This is a brief article regarding the core aspect of all martial-arts, written from the point of view of a striking style (Taekwondo) as opposed to a grappling style such as Jujitsu. However, the basic principles presented here are widely applicable to all martial art styles.

Just as the purpose of schooling is education rather than recess, the function of all martial-arts is self-defense, not sport. It's the litmus test regarding the validity of the art. Sure, learning Taekwondo or Karate or Kung-Fu is fun activity that promotes health and well-being, but it's root function is to keep you alive in a crisis. Sport martial art is just how we play when we get together.

So, let's chat about self-defense.

Part 1: Mental state.

Avoidance.

The best way of staying out of trouble is to not get into it in the first place. Almost all bad situations can be averted by simply being smart about where and when you go places, and who you hang out with. There are businesses and areas in every municipality that are unsafe to visit, especially at night; I suggest that you stay away from those places if possible. There are also people who seem to be magnets for trouble; at some point it can become too much of a hassle to be with them.

Awareness.

It's a fact of life that not all bad places and people can be avoided. In that situation be confident, we're martial artists after all, and are highly skilled at defending ourselves. Any sign of fear or uncertainty will make you seem weak and a potential victim. So, make eye contact with those around you, smile and enjoy pleasant conversation. At the same time though, guard your back by standing or sitting hear a wall and maintain a defendable distance between yourself and others.

Most important is to be aware of those around you and sense their mood. Watch the movement of people and listen to what's being said. If you pay attention you'll anticipate the actions of others long before anything bad happens.

People rarely start fights they believe they might lose. There's a sort of cost vs. benefit analysis that goes on in the troublemaker's mind before anything starts. If your appearance and manner indicate that the cost to your attacker will be high, chances are they won't bother you.

Tenets.

In Taekwondo, the Tenets are the supporting principals of our art; aspects of our psyche and personality that are crucial to success in the art. Outside of the martial art they are keys to success and harmony in life. As such, they provide good talking points when it comes to self-defense.

Tenet: Courtesy.

Nothing starts trouble faster than disrespect. Be polite, call people Sir, or Ma'am, or Miss – whichever is appropriate. If you encounter an Outlaw Biker wearing a club patch be respectful because they earned the right to wear the club name. There's never a reason for trepidation though, when treated with respect bikers are friendly and the most genuine people you'll ever meet.

If someone seems offended by something you've said or done, a meaningful apology will almost always clear the air.

Tenet: Integrity.

Always tell the truth, and never pretend to be something you're not. If you act like a tough guy, you may well be tested, and if you start a fight with a biker club member his friends will join in; no matter how big and strong you are, or how many black-belt Dan ranks you've earned, there's no winning in that situation.

Tenet: Self Control.

If someone tries to draw you into a fight, don't bite. Remain confident, smile, then turn down the offer of combat. In this case, step away and talk with your hands, using them to separate and keep a safe and workable distance between you and your potential opponent. Remain upbeat and use verbiage to de-escalate the situation.

You're a martial artist and have nothing to prove. If violence seems inevitable, leave the area before it starts if possible.

Tenet: Perseverance.

In terms of self-defense, Perseverance is holding on to your Courtesy, Integrity, and Self-Control while in a challenging situation. Respond with kindness and smiles when confronted with anger or a threat of violence. Keep holding tight to the three previous Tenets until it becomes impossible to do so. Never be the first to attack, instead be prepared to block and counter.

Tenet: Indomitable Spirit.

This is where the rubber meets the road. If you are forced to defend yourself or your family, there are no half measures. Always respond one level higher than your opponent's aggression. Many times, introducing immediate pain to the aggressor will stop the attack before it progresses any further – but sometimes not.

Ask yourself, what are you willing to give to save yourself and your family? How far are you willing to go? If you're not all-in and ready to die if need be to protect those you love, then you should have gotten out before the actual violence started.

Are you ready to gouge eyes, strike the throat and groin, and break the arms and legs of your attacker? If not, you're probably going to end up in the hospital if you're lucky, or the morgue if you're not.

Part 2: Legalities.

Self-defense is defined as the use of reasonable force to protect oneself or members of the family from bodily harm from the attack of an aggressor. The force used in self-defense may be sufficient for protection from apparent harm (not just an empty verbal threat) or to halt any danger from attack but cannot be an excuse to continue the attack or use excessive force.

Reasonable-force is a term associated with defending one's person or property from violent attack, theft, or other type of unlawful aggression. It's defined as the amount of force necessary to protect oneself or one's property.

A person is generally justified in using force that is intended or likely to cause death or great bodily harm if the person reasonably believes such force is necessary to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. The person is also generally justified in using such extreme force to prevent or terminate another's unlawful entry into or attack upon a dwelling, IF:

Pertaining to self-defense, a Felony is:

Part 3: Basic Tactics.

Your goal is not to win or beat up your opponent and his friends, instead your chief aim is to escape by quickly disabling the aggressor, then leaving before his friends show up to help him. This is not a Kung-Fu movie, and you're not Bruce Lee. Disable the attacker so he won't follow you, then get away.

Controlling the space between yourself and your opponent is crucial. The size of the area maintained depends largely on your style of martial-arts. Grappling arts such as Judo and Jujutsu prefer to fight closer in, while Kenpo, Kajukenbo, Karate, and Taekwondo are more effective further away. Whatever that distance is, whoever controls it will usually win the fight.

Concepts:

Your attacker will almost always be bigger and stronger than you are. Therefore, whatever technique you teach, learn, or employ must work for a small person against a much larger opponent. Be prepared to be absolutely ruthless and cunning in your defense.

Whoever grabs you is at a disadvantage. This is because at least one of their appendages is occupied; when someone seizes your wrist, they can't punch you with that same hand. While this is going on, you still have both arms available to counter attack. Whichever way you move your arm, your opponent's grip must follow; therefore, it's possible to raise your grabbed arm into the air, then kick your attacker in the ribs.

Counter attacking the weapon or the body. Whether the initial attack is a punch, kick, or grab, you can choose to either utilize joint-locks and throws on the opponent's appendage, or sweep the attack aside and attack the body. Both are viable choices, the validity of which depends on circumstance.

The no-go zone. Because your opponent will probably be larger and/or stronger than you are, stepping in close to counterattack may not be a good option. A bigger and more powerful opponent can usually escape any submission joint lock. So, unless you're highly skilled in the art of grappling, your best bet is to stay out of an area in front of your attacker that is as wide as his shoulders and as deep as the reach of his arms.

Zero power zones. Every punch or kick has a range where it has maximum power. It's best to move and avoid or block these sorts of attacks outside that area.

Push and pull. If grabbed, the defender can push or pull in the opposite direction of the way they will counterattack. In this case the opponent's response to the initial movement helps the defender.

Use physiology. Make your strikes to areas that count, these points are taught in class. Through practice, a martial-art student learns to see openings and instinctively deliver strikes to sensitive or debilitating areas on the opponent's body.

That's all for now.

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 + Open : Common street attacks

Common street attacks

This is a work in progress that I'll have to get back to when I figure out how to illustrate defenses to these sorts of situations.

My list of the top 30 street attacks

  1. Wrist / arm grab. (cross or straight single and double)
  2. Buddy grab. (arm over shoulder)
  3. Hair grab.
  4. 2 hand chest push, followed by punch.
  5. Roundhouse punch to head.
  6. Sucker punch.
  7. Straight punch to face.
  8. 1 hand clothing grab, followed by punch.
  9. 2 hand clothing grab, followed by head butt.
  10. 2 hand shoulders grab, followed by knee to groin.
  11. #1 angle strike with bottle, glass, ashtray, etc.
  12. 2 attackers – 1 works as a distraction, then 2nd rear attack.
  13. Groin or lower body kick.
  14. Rear armlock.
  15. Side headlock.
  16. Rear headlock. (seated and standing)
  17. Front / rear choke. (in open or against a wall)
  18. Bull rush take down.
  19. Pinned position hands held.
  20. Pinned position choke.
  21. Seated vs. standing attacker.
  22. Seated vs. seated attacker.
  23. Kneeling vs. standing attacker.
  24. Prone vs. standing attacker.
  25. #1 or #2 or #12 club attack.
  26. Front or rear bear hug (arms pinned / not pinned) (pick up)
  27. #3 or #4 slash with knife.
  28. #5 thrust with knife.
  29. #12 knife attack.
  30. Front or rear pistol.

Stay tuned for more.