Martial Arts

This page reflects my interest in the martial arts.

The above image was taken from a video I shot in my garage in 2022. Like many of video-based snapshots, it is not of great quality.

I first started studying martial arts to learn self defense. I was a small, unathletic kid, lacking both endurance and strength. I didn't have any confidence when it came to physical activity. Some of my older male cousins and a few of the boys from my church were studying Kenpo Karate. I wanted to join them and my parents were more than happy to oblige. Looking back, I gained a lot more from the arts than just self defense. It has helped define who I am.

In later years, I trained in the arts partly to stay in shape. Now, I study it mostly out of appreciation of the art.

Although I've studied for a long time, I haven't trained as intensely as many of my peers; certainly not at the competitive level. After receiving my black belt in Kenpo Karate, I found myself studying an art for a few years, stopping for awhile, them moving onto something else. I like the idea of starting over in an art that is totally different from anything I've studied before. Some people strive to master an individual art. I prefer the feeling of being overwhelmed with new knowledge and seeing things from a totally different perspective. It certainly keeps me humble. I train because I love the arts, not because I want to master them.

I do not teach the arts and I don't think I would make a good instructor, though I think I would make a pretty decent conditioning coach. I don't consider myself a good martial artist but I believe I am a well-rounded one.

As of 2022, I practice on my own to stay fit and retain muscle memory, but I have not trained in a dojo since 2005.

Kenpo KarateOpen accordion icon
The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. For me, this journey (of a lifetime) began with Kenpo Karate in August 1976.
Me on first day of Karate

I began my martial arts training studying under Sensei G. Arnie Inouye of Sacramento, California. His class was a tight group. Very non-commercial. Most of the time, we trained in Sensei Inouye's garage. Sometimes, we attended a Grandmaster Ed Parker seminar. Arnie (shown below in April 2004) was a true mentor and role model for me.
Arnie and I

I remember moving up through the lower colored belts at the same pace as everyone else and then spending several years as a brown belt. I went through the three levels of junior brown and then the three levels of adult brown. By the time I was an adult brown belt, I was practicing hard, going through all the techniques and kata at home, while also doing lots of physical conditioning, especially on the heavy bag.

During a few short months in 1985, it seemed like everything good hit me: I graduated high school, I graduated vocational school, I got my driver's license, but most importantly, on February 25, I was promoted to shodan (lowest level black belt). That was a moment I will cherish forever.

From 1991 to about 1994, I got tattoos of a dragon and tiger that symbolize my love of the martial arts. To understand their meaning in Kenpo, see YouTube - History of Kenpo starting at 58:21.

During college, I studied other arts, but Kenpo was always my first love and the art I instinctively reverted back to. I led some training sessions outside of the dojo. Click the below image to watch a short video of me from one of those sessions in 1993. Special thanks to cousin Scott for showing up with a video camera that day.
Me doing spinning back kicks, 1993

As of May 2010, Sensei Arnie claims to have promoted over 40 people to black belt since he began teaching. I actually remember his first...back when I was a little kid. He is blessed with a knowledge and mastery of the art that few will ever attain. That is why so many of his students continue to return. One fellow in the below photo, Dale, actually began studying under Arnie in the early 1970s. As long as Arnie is mobile, I expect he will teach. And as long as he continues to teach, he will have a garage full of students eager to learn.
Sensei Arnie and students, May 26, 2010

Nineteen years after my cousin Scott shot that video, I was still practicing my spinning rear kick. I'm slower and less flexible but I could still do it. Click the below image to start a video.
Me doing spinning back kicks, 2012
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Modern Arnis and JujutsuOpen accordion icon
I began studying Modern Arnis under Sensei Joe Bueno in June 1, 1992, shortly after leaving the Marines. Sensei Bueno's art combined the Filipino stick and knife fighting principles as taught by Remy Presas with joint lock techniques of Kodenkan Jujitsu. He also studied some Native American fighting techniques. I think being half Kickapoo helped him more easily gain acceptance with other tribes so he could learn their arts. I wish I could have devoted more time to training with Sensei Bueno but at that point in my life, university studies took a priority to everything.

In the below photo, taken January 1992, Sensei Bueno is standing third from left. The two people on the right are his grandchildren.
Sensei Joe Bueno and students

I met some really fantastic people studying the martial arts. In October 1993, I did a road to Redding, California for a demonstration and to watch a black belt test. In the below picture, from left to right, are me, Ian, Larry, and Larry. Ian earned his black belt that day. That's why he is looking so fly.
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Muay Thai and Jeet Kune DoOpen accordion icon
Once I moved to Maryland in 1995, I wanted to study Muay Thai and Capoeira. I could find neither dojo within a reasonable drive from where I lived. I know Capoeira isn't exactly a great fighting art but I love the agility and flexibility that it instills.

On September 2, 1998, I began training with Sensei Steve Braun in Escrima (sometimes spelled "Eskrima"), Jun Fan Gung Fu, and Muay Thai. This was my first taste of training on the east coast. These arts were blended with other systems as Jeet Kune Do (JKD).

I was taught that unarmed combat has four ranges: kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling. I was experienced with the first two and then learned trapping once I got a taste of Jun Fan Gung Fu, which one can describe as Sijo Bruce Lee's style of Wing Chun. Of all the fighting arts I've studied, trapping is what I consider myself least proficient in. That is still true today.

The Escrima I learned from Sensei Braun was much different than what Sensei Bueno taught me. Both are forms of Filipino stick and knife fighting. Along with Kali, they are sometimes indistinguishable. Sensei Bueno's style was more about finesse and fine details of the art. In contrast, Sensei Braun's interpretation was more combat focused and practical, in my opinion. When we sparred, it was often a less intense version of Dog Brothers style fighting where we would use sticks, kick, punch, and then take someone to the ground while still punching.
Stick fighting with Sensei Braun

Under Sensei Braun, we were a very tight group. We would get together to play laser tag and sometimes hang out socially. One of Sensei Braun's top students was Greg Smith. I've never known anyone who could kick as hard as Greg. But trying to get in close and take him to the ground was also hazardous since he was also an excellent grappler. In the below photo, we gathered for Greg's wedding. From left to right are Jason, Nick Braun, Steve Braun, Greg Smith, and Bob Burgee.
Stick fighting with Sensei Braun

Of the different arts that Sensei Braun taught, my favorite was Muay Thai. I loved its simplicity, power, and effectiveness. It ended up replacing Kenpo as my art of choice. While some arts teach hundreds of ways to attack or defend against an opponent, Muay Thai is more like western boxing in that it focuses on a few very effective moves that one can quickly become proficient in. Click the below image to start a video shot in 2012.
Working combinations on the heavy bag

Sensei Braun's instructor is Ajarn Surachai "Chai" Sirisute (shown below). I attended a few seminars taught by Ajarn Chai, along with one by his son who taught the Thai weapons-based art of Krabi-Krabong.
Master Surachai 'Chai' Sirisute

One thing I love about Muay Thai is the level of physical conditioning. I feel that many Muay Thai practitioners train more like athletes than typical martial artists. This inspired me to write Plyometrics and Interval Training for Muay Thai which was published in the Thai Boxing Association (TBA) newsletter in 2000.

I studied very briefly under Sensei Harouna Soumah who taught Wushu and Jeet Kune Do. He taught me how to do a butterfly kick. I could do one or two pretty good but never got to three in a continuous series.

In the below photo is me (far right), Sensei Soumah (third from right), and his other students at a Guro Dan Inosanto (fourth from right) seminar in July 2000.
At Guro Dan Inosanto seminar, July 2000
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GrapplingOpen accordion icon
My introduction to grappling began when Sensei Joe Bueno introduced me to Jujitsu. But at his dojo, Modern Arnis was the main focus so I didn't get as in-depth of instruction in grappling as I would have preferred. Most of our Jujitsu training centered around joint locks with very little ground fighting. It is what I call "stand up Jujitsu."

In Muay Thai, Sensei Steve Braun taught us to fight from the clinch (grappling range) by obtaining a dominant position called the plum. Unlike western boxing, where a referee breaks up the fighters when they clinch, Muay Thai fighters continue to fight, each trying to gain the upper hand in the plum. I found this to be one of the best things a fighter could learn.

Studying Jeet Kune Do under Sensei Steve Braun introduced me to ground fighting...something I had never formally learned. But it wasn't until I met Sensei Erik Paulson in 2000 that my appreciation for ground fighting really grew. Sensei Paulson (shown third from the right, below) is the first American to win the World Light-Heavy Weight Shooto title in Japan. Unlike many pugilists who may only study one area of fighting such as boxing, wrestling, or kicking, Erik has tempered each aspect of fighting to a level mastered by few.
Me at an Erik Paulson seminar in 2000

In February 2004, I began studying Brazilian Jiu-jitsu (BJJ) (also spelled "Jujitsu") under various instructors at the Baltimore Martial Arts Academy (BMAA) in Ellicott City, Maryland. I consider this my first comprehensive and formal training in grappling and ground fighting. I only studied for a year at this art but the knowledge and skills I gained during that time was some of the best I've obtained during all my martial art schooling.

On August 21, 2004, BJJ black belt Sensei Tita Batista was conducting a seminar at our dojo. Afterwards, Sensei Batista and much of the class came over to where I was living for a cookout. That evening, we watched the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and saw Randy "the Natural" Couture, defend his title against Vitor Belfort. Cookout attendees shown below from left to right are Jason, Jesse (the grandson of Jhoon Rhee), Sensei Kevin, Sensei Tita Batista, Sensei Steve, Dr. Greg, Andy, Junkyard Jimmy (not a BJJ student but still a swell guy).
BJJ cookout attendees
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After the dojoOpen accordion icon
BJJ was the last martial art I studied. I left that in 2005. In my late 30s, I found myself healing slower and more prone to injury. I was lifting weights, kayaking, hiking, and running. Injuries sustained from contact training were keeping me from enjoying my other activities. So I decided it was time to leave the dojo.

That's not to say I don't train on my own. I rarely practice techniques or kata but I keep up with conditioning, fight drills, shadow boxing, lots of heavy bag work, some reflex ball work, and stretching.
Chinese splits between two risers

In October 2010, I got my garage worked on. A new roof was put on and lots of structural improvements were made. All this so I could get solar panels put on. That being the case, I didn't want to damage the panels by hanging a heavy bag on the garage beams and kicking the sh*t out of it. The vibrations would probably not be good for thousands of dollars of electronic circuitry. So I made a freestanding heavy bag stand.

I didn't have to buy any wood. I used what I had lying around. Some of it is made of scraps of LVL beams, cut to about 2" x 2" x infinity. I weighted the base with six 60 pound bags of sand. No part of the stand touches the walls of my garage. Will it hold up to Muay Thai kicks and haymaker punches? Yes, it has been 12 years and I've only had to replace some of the metal hardware.
Freestanding heavy bag stand with Muay Thai heavy bag

In 2020, I ordered a Champs MMA Boxing Reflex Ball. It cost $20 plus tax. Working out with this is a lot of fun. I find it addictive, like playing a good video game. But how is it for developing your boxing skills? That is hard to say. I don't feel like it encourages proper form. But for developing good focus, it is excellent! It came with various interchangable balls that reflect different levels of expertise. I started with the beginner level black ball but found that hard to see so I painted it yellow.

In six weeks, I moved up to using the hard rubber ball that has some heft so I feel like I'm really hitting something. I started throwing hooks, switching stance, and incorporating more footwork. Need to work more on uppercuts.

After five months, I started training with the most advanced ball which they call "beast mode." This one moves fast and I find it exhausting, especially on my shoulders. For some of the easier levels, I can throw hooks, uppercuts, back knuckles, elbow strikes, and do jik chun choy, but for "beast mode," I tend to just stick with jabs and crosses. Click the below image to start a video.
Training with the Reflex Ball, January 2021
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KicksOpen accordion icon
Kicking is definitely not the most important weapon in a martial artist's arsenal. But it generally requires a higher level of conditioning and is sometimes the most difficult thing to master, so I like to maintain these skills, partly for the challenge. Click the below image to start a video that I shot in 2021. What am I doing? It is a flying inward crescent kick followed by sloppy corkscrew punches, a Muay Thai roundhouse kick, and then a spinning back kick.
Jumping, spinning kick combination
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WeaponsOpen accordion icon
Like high kicks, martial art weapons are flashy. That's why I got into them when I was a teenager. The sticks we used for Modern Arnis and Escrima were practial because similar weapons could present themselves as a weapon of opportunity. In contrast, things like the nunchaku (nunchucks) are better suited for Hollywood than realistic self defense. Still, they are cool and my nephews like it when I show off. Click the below image to start a video that I shot in 2016 where I use both double and single nunchaku then end with a high side thrust kick.
High kick after using the nunchaku

Norma's nephew began studying Tae Kwon Do in 2020. He is intrigued with martial art weapons and enjoys watching me use them. He already has foam-covered nunchaku but isn't ready for the real deal yet. So I figured I'd make him a foam-covered three sectional staff (triple staff) for Christmas. I made it to the same dimensions as the wooden set I have.

  • 6' of 1/2" inner diameter pipe insulation: $3.03
  • Eye screws: $1.04
  • Glue: $1.44
  • 6' long 3/4" diameter wooden dowel: $4.12 (already had)
  • Parachute cord or black shoelace (already had)
  • Foam covered three sectional staff

    The foam-covered three sectional staff is very lightweight and catches a lot of wind so it is hard to get much speed. But for a young beginner, it is just the thing for him to use to get a "feel" for the weapon without hurting himself. Click the below image to start a video that I shot in 2020 of me using this foam-covered three sectional staff.
    Using a foam-covered three sectional staff I made

    By the way, of all the different martial art weapons, the three-sectional staff is probably the one I would least want to use in a real fight.

    I hadn't touched my six foot long rattan bo staff for a few years. So in 2019, I decided to see if I could still throw it around and do some other neat stuff that I hadn't done in awhile. I'm not as fast as I used to be but I'm pretty agile for a guy over 50. Click the below image to start a video of me using the bo staff.
    Using the bo staff
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    When it comes to punching, many of the same strikes employed by western boxers are used by martial artists such as the jab, cross, hook, and uppercut. Some fighters may occassionally throw a wild power punch called a "haymaker." I always wondered how this punch got its name. Then I heard that of the various types of farm machines, a haymaker packages a bale of hay and then "spits" it out. Perhaps this throwing of a 40+ pound bale of hay is reminiscent of a power punch. In the photo below, Jimmy, Joyce, and I use a real haymaker on my wife's family farm.

    Me helping make hay on a farm

    I may never use what I've learned to defend myself but that's not a bad thing...actually, I prefer it. It is just good knowing that I can.