Traditional Uechi- Ryu background
The day I moved to Tallahassee Florida to attend Florida State University, my first order of business was setting up a karate training center, in order to teach and practice my Uechi-Ryu in my new home. To understand why I thought this was so important I need to point out that in the Summer of 1984, I had been invited by Karate’s NGB (the USAKF), to participate in the TEAM USA selections being held in Ripley, Virginia. At this time, I was just seventeen and had been a State Champion and consistent national finalist in the youth divisions for several years. At that time I was the youngest competitor ever to be invited to participate in this prestigious event. I attended the event and after a week of competition, I was selected to represent the USA as part of the ‘team pool’. In those days, each International competition required a ‘fight-off’, and to be included in the fight-off invitation you had to be in this pool. By then I had grown to a 6’1 competitor (Now weighing 189 pounds!). I was in the heavyweight class (though on the extreme low end of it.) In truth, my own selfish interests were what led to the opening of the first FIMA school in Tallahassee. I was heavily into fighting competition and needed to stay in practice. Looking back on those years, it was actually the Uechi kata that kept me in fighting form for the first few years of operating my own school. It took a couple years to develop new students capable of running me around the ring and pushing me to my competitive limits. In the pursuit of this I unwittingly created several State and National champions of my own, even fielding one to compete with TEAM USA. My highlight in Competitive karate was making the USA World Team in 1994, where I competed in the WKF World Karate Championship in Kota Kinabulu, Malaysia. I retired from competition the following year.
Judo and Aikido
My primary disciplines of karate and jujutsu were further augmented when I partnered with the Leon County Judo Club. I trained in Kodokan Judo with Bobby Fukushima and Fred Hand, two of the finest Judo instructors I have yet to come across. This highly competitive Judo Club was responsible for placing two athletes on the 1996 and 2000 Olympic teams and creating a multitude of State and National Champions. Brian Olsen and Atu Hand our local Olympians, were examples of the quality training that was offered at our institute. I trained with these guys to stay in shape, and though I could never hold a candle to their skill levels the process of training was able to further merge and blend these Judo skills I learned with my knowledge of Uechi-Ryu Karate. Later, FIMA Tallahassee opened an additional club offering Aikido, taught by one of my Uechi-Ryu Shodans, Tony Carangi who was also a Sandan at the time in Classical Aikido. From 1984 until 1998, the Florida Institute of Martial Arts operated in Tallahassee as a branch of our West Palm Beach headquarters. Throughout those years, I taught traditional Uechi-Ryu Karate, later joining with George Mattson’s organization during the Uechi-Ryu ‘explosion’. My attempt to unite and reunite politically disenfranchised Uechi schools after Kanei’s death brought me to my first Summerfest and I have continued attending, networking and sharing ideas since that time.
When I became a police officer in 1986, it was a welcome change from being a ‘bouncer’ at a local college bar. At that time, I felt that the only real skill I had was wrangling and controlling bad guys, so it seemed natural that I would gravitate to the types of work that allowed me to do that. I will tell you candidly that I never really thought about being a ‘cop’ as a kid. It wasn’t until I ended up with a few of them in my dojo that the interest and intrigue of the profession drew me in. In fact, my first desire to enter the academy had nothing to do with wanting to become a law enforcement officer. I wanted only to be a better trainer of law enforcement officers, many of whom I had come to know as a karate instructor. Having some level of notoriety due to my US TEAM status, I was immediately recognized and courted by the academy staff while still in the police academy, to “help out” with my own groups defensive tactics portion. I was hired as an academy instructor in defensive tactics even before becoming a police officer. This was definitely the turning point in my life’s ambition and ultimately my career.
The competitive travel circuit had given me an opportunity to network with martial artists from all over the world and has opened my eyes to some of the ‘reality’ of combat. I am cautious using that word, since it means many different things to many different people. For me I was able to understand that the mystery of martial arts, it’s esoteric qualities and fantastic reputation; steeped in stories of mysticism, magic and the common claim of spiritual intimacy with the supernatural world… was far simpler. Already then I was shedding the blanket of mysticism that was wrapped around my mind – some of it from my direct instruction, some of it from hearing and repeating things that others had told me. My experience in fighting Internationally taught me that no nationality had a claim on martial excellence, and that technical prowess was found in hard training, not in the genes. I have been both beaten and have done my share of beating martial artists from nearly every culture and country. I discovered while traveling that there are no martial arts gods – no perfect techniques, and no absolute answers to the solution of human victory or survival.
As I began training police officers, I was forced to look at combat differently than I had ever done in the past. I was now dealing with professionals who might actually use the stuff I taught. It was an amazing weight on my shoulders. The consequences of my tactics actually working were extreme. For me there was no more promoting anything that couldn’t actually be demonstrated and performed. For me the stories of the old sages who lived on the hilltop working miracles with their mystical martial skills were gone. This was my dose of reality and I took on the task of re-inventing my philosophy about defense and re-looking at what was actually important in combat training. In economic terms I became a ‘demand side’ instructor rather than a ‘supply side’ instructor, focusing not on what I knew as an ‘expert’ but rather on what others needed to know to win their battles. I looked at why cops won and lost in order to identify common characteristics and themes of victory. I looked at the physiology of technique and how it would best be executed if you added the elements of stress. I looked at performance based upon non-optimum conditions and tried to craft a philosophy about combat that took into account the possibility of being seriously injured or even killed. My ideal archetype was now mortal, fallible and capable of losing. This was the biggest mental distinction between my old and new training method. Interestingly, for me, every technique still had to pass the “Uechi” test. It had to comply with the foundation of my own fighting experience, because that was all I knew.
As most people know, I have created programs, patented products , copyrighted materials and developed a business out of police tactics. It has been my life’s work since 1986. My reputation has morphed from being the Uechi-Ryu Instructor to being the Police Tactics Expert. My method of instruction today involves a calculated blend of karate, judo and aikido, flavored with bits of kobudo all encased in modern legal theory. I have, unwittingly become eclectic in my approach to combat, which I now find amusing, since I was one of the die-hard claimants of dogmatic practice out of ‘traditional’ necessity. Today I intentionally incorporate ‘change’ into my method of instruction as new technology, new laws, new awareness and new demands are placed on professional combatants (i.e. cops, solders, security personnel). I am no longer just an ‘empty-hand’ enthusiast as I incorporate chemical agents, batons, dart firing stun guns, and firearms into my training regimen. But still Uechi-Ryu remains my compass for proper technical guidance in everything that I create, develop and put out to the profession.
I’m happy to share with our group an overview of how I think our Uechi-Ryu fits into all of this, how it forms the foundation of a solid ‘reality’ base, and how though sometimes it may lack in my opinion, practical application, it is ripe with principle. I can, in particular – give you my take on Sanchin – something I have spent the last few years of Camp listening to, rather than participating in when it comes to academic discussion. As you might guess, I see it a little differently, viewing it through a combative looking glass and analyzing the science behind it for achieving balance, power, mindset and combat endurance. Otherwise, I am happy to sit and listen some more.
Highlighted Competition Experience