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Notable Martial Artists


James Mitose
1915 - 1981 Kosho Ryu Kempo

Dr. James Mitose, was a Japanese-American born in Hawaii in 1916. At age five he was sent to Kyushu, Japan, for schooling in his ancestral art of self-defense, called "kosho-ryu kempo," said to be based directly on Shaolin kung-fu. Mitose returned to Hawaii in 1936. In 1942 he organized the Official Self-Defense Club at the Beretania Mission in Honolulu. This club continued under his personal leadership until 1953, when it was assigned to Thomas Young, one of his chief students. Only five of his students-Young, William K.S. Chow, Paul Yamaguchi, Arthur Keawe, and Edward Lowe-attained the rank of black belt. But the kempo arts flourished in Hawaii and later on the west coast of the mainland, where three of Mitose's proteges formed clubs of their own. In 1953, before going to the mainland, Mitose wrote What is Self-Defense, reprinted by his students in 1980.

Mitose moved to the mainland in 1954. From 1954 until 1977, Mitose taught only one student, Terry Lee, for a period of one year. During these twenty-three years, Mitose took many trips to Japan to further his martial studies. According to Thomas Young, he would often stop over to spend a few days with Young in Hawaii on his trips back and forth to Japan. Mitose and Young remained friends for many years.

Late in 1977, Bruce Juchnik was introduced to Mitose by Juchnik's student George Santana. Juchnik studied with Mitose until the latter's death in 1981. Before he died, Mitose awarded Bruce Juchnik full mastery certification (Menkyo Kaiden and Inka Shomei) and gave him the "... power to do whatever (Juchnik Hanshi) thinks is good and right for God, for (Mitose), and for Kosho Shorei, true self-defense, true and pure Karate and Kempo" from that day foreward. No other person received such certification. Some people did receive certification in the philosophical aspects of the art, and were asked to act as representatives, but no one else received certification in Kosho Shorei True and Pure Karate and Kempo, the martial arts aspect of the study, besides Juchnik Hanshi. This period in Kosho Ryu history is described completely in Juchnik Hanshi's second book, To Fall Seven, To Rise Eight.






Robert Trias
1923 - 1989 American Karate

In a world of fly-by-night martial arts masters, where every Tom, Dick, and Chang claimed to be the father of this style or the grandmaster of that art, Robert Trias was an exception. He was not universally-loved, but whatever the many opinions about the man were, one fact remains: Robert Trias perhaps did more for the martial arts in the United States than any man ever, including Bruce Lee.
Trias' long career began when he was a boxing champion in the U.S. Navy while stationed in the British Solomon Islands during World War 11. During that tour of duty, he learned the rare Chinese art of fusing-i chuan from kung fu master Tung Gee Hsing. That knowledge led to his quest to learn other martial arts. Trias traveled to China, Japan, Okinawa, Hawaii, and other locations, training with the likes of James Mitose and Yasuhiro Konishi, acquiring expertise in shuri and shorei-ryu karate, kempo, ju-jitsu and judo. He would later become style head of shuri-ryu karate, the world's recognized top authority on that art.
Trias then returned to Phoenix in 1946, where he opened one of the first karate schools in America, and immediately became the font of knowledge for a nation of aspiring karateka. A few years later, he began the United States Karate Association (USKA), with the intent of disseminating knowledge about the martial arts to the public, organizing the nation's martial artists into a cohesive, powerful body, and carrying the sport to financial health.
Today, the USKA claims more than a half-million members worldwide. Through his teaching, Trias carried the message of the martial arts to millions more across the globe, organizing tournaments, giving seminars, striving tirelessly to communicate karate's ideas of honor, discipline, and respect to new generations. "My purpose is to make the practitioner aware of the changes in karate, from the karate of the past to the karate of today," Trias said in one of his many prepared public statements.
Unfortunately, he never saw all his goals realized. Trias was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1987, and his body weakened as the disease spread. Nonetheless, he continued to teach and give seminars as long as his failing health would allow. Some students spoke of caring for Trias before seminars, giving him shots of morphine to help control his agony during demonstrations which he refused to cancel.
On July 11, 1989, Robert Trias courageous struggle ended as he passed away in a Phoenix hospital at age 67. Since then, efforts to replace him as head of the USKA have been acrimonious and confusing.
However, as unpleasant as the USKA power struggle has been, the infighting and propaganda have not dimmed the image of a great karate pioneer. Though his organization is in some turmoil, Trias' USKA remains strong and popular, and the memory of the man is that of a great master, teacher, and innovator. The late Robert Trias, a father of the martial arts in America, is unquestionably a worthy recipient of the 1989 Black Belt Hall of Fame Honorary Award
Copyright © 1997, Blackbelt Communications, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.




Remy Presas
1936 - 2001 Modern Arnis

A true lover of sports, Mr. Remy A Presas is the man behind Modern Arnis. From the cold tomb of oblivion, Mr. Presas gave new life and meaning to the true Filipino martial art called Arnis. Arnis died with the passage of time as the incontrovertible onslaught of modern living and foreign influences blotted out this gem of the Filipino culture to merely one of the things of the forgotten past. Truly Arnis died with the times. If there were any devout practitioners even worthy of the slightest attention. People then were so overwhelmed by the appeal of other foreign martial arts like judo, jujitsu, and karate, that they would not give a passing look to their own Arnis. Such then was the sad status of the martial art of Arnis.

But fate has it that "Arnis" will not forever stay dead because on December 19, 1936, in the fishing town of Hinigaran, Negro Occidental, a boy was born destined to one day reopen the eyes and hearts of the Filipino martial art lovers to their own true martial art, arnis, an art which has its roots sacredly marked since the beginning of Philippine history itself. This boy was Remy Amador Presas.
At the tender age of six, while learning his alphabet and prayers from his mother, Remy was already learning the fundamentals of "kali", as Arnis was then called, using finely carved wooden canes shaped like swords or daggers. This developed in Remy an immense love for sports which will become and indelible mark of his nature.

In his youth, the fascination of sports in Remy grew so much as to develop in him the adventurerís itch. Not content with the bucolic atmosphere in Hinigaran, at the age of 14 Remy went to the different cities like Cebu, Panay, Bohol , and Leyte, where he pursued his athletic career. In Cebu, he furthered his studied of Arnis under Rodolfo Moncal, and then under Timoteo Marranga and Venacio Bacon. All were Cebuano experts in Arnis, and under them Remy mastered Arnis and the deadly "Balintawak" style of stick fencing. Remyís association with Arnis experts and other renowned athletes in the different parts of the country sharpened his ability in sports.

The popularity of Arnis even transcends Philippine shores that in 1970 Remy was asked to go to Japan and before Itago Police Academy he introduce Arnis. So intrigued and fascinated were the Japanese Police authorities of the art that they exclaimed in admiration of its effectivity.




Angel Cabales
1917 - 1991 Eskrima

Karate has its one-punch knockout. The United States Marine Corps has its eight-second kill. But escrimadors the world over have "three strikes and a man will fall." And for that, they have serrada escrima founder Angel Cabales to thank.
Born in 1917 in the Philippines, Cabales learned about stick fighting from de cuerdas escrima master Felicimo Dizon, a local hero and member of the famous dos pares escrima society. At age 18, Cabales moved from his small village to the lawless seaport of Manila, and continued his training the hard way: in countless death matches and brawls with the scurvy low lives who prowled the docks after dark.
In 1939, Cabales became a seaman and left the Philippines aboard a cargo ship bound for ports unknown. It was aboard this ship that Cabales fought a man who was intent on destroying him, and in three swings of his escrima sticks, Cabales left the man dead. "Three strikes and a man will fall" became Cabales' catchphrase, and the motto of his students in years to come.
Cabales eventually left the sea and settled in San Francisco, where a good number of Filipino families had relocated. He later moved inland to Stockton, California, where he lived for the remainder of his life.
In 1965, Cabales opened the first public Filipino martial arts academy in the United States. He was continually making changes to the de cuerdas style, incorporating techniques he had learned in combat on land and at sea. As he added his own nuances, he also began a ranking system and added a new name to his style: serrada escrima.
Cabales' greatest contribution to his art was perhaps his standardization of the system. Besides creating a rank structure, he based the teaching structure around his style's 12 angles of attack. A student would learn one angle at a time, and be taught offenses and defenses for that angle, before moving on to the next angle of attack. Several speed and accuracy drills were also developed for students who had mastered more than five angles. Cabales also incorporated open-hand self-defense maneuvers for students with knowledge of ten angles of attack or more. The original de cuerdas style had not addressed weaponless self-defense at all.
For the next quarter century, Cabales taught his methods of stick fighting to literally thousands of students. Martial arts notables such as Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo and Graciela Casillas all came to him for his expertise in the Filipino fighting arts.
In 1990, after fighting a series of battles with pneumonia and lung cancer, and suffering several heart attacks, Cabales passed away. Black Belt honors this pioneer who brought escrima to the common martial artist by posthumously naming him the 1991 Weapons instructor of the Year.
Copyright © 1997, Blackbelt Communications, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.




Yip Man
1893 - 1972 Wing Chun

Yip Man (Ye Wen), sometimes rendered as Ip Man, was born Yip Gei-Man (Ye Jiwen) to a wealthy merchant family in Foshan in 1893*. He began learning Wing Chun Kuen sometime between 1906 and 1911* under Chan Wah-Shun who was said to have been teaching out of the Yip Family Ancestral Temple at the time. The old money-changer was nearing the end of his career and much of Yip Man's hands on instruction fell to seniors (most prominently Ng Jung-So), especially after Chan suffered a stroke in 1908 and retired.

Most accounts suggest that, following Chan's death in 1911, Yip went to Hong Kong to attend St. Stephan's College where met and apprenticed himself to his martial uncle, Leung Bik, polishing his skills to a very advanced level. Some of Yip Man's students, however, maintain that this was simply a story created by Yip Man's friend, Lee Man, for promotional purposes and that he refined his skills instead through hard work and personal insight in Foshan. There are also accounts of Yip Man exchanging with friends such as Chu Chong-Man, Cho On, and/or Yuen Kay-San.

Although Yip Man developed an extraordinary reputation for his great Wing Chun Kuen skill, he did not teach for many years. In 1942, however, his resources grew severely depleated under the Japanese occupation and in order to repay a kindness, he took on some students in Yongan including Chow Ywong-Yiu, Kwok Fu, and Lun Gai.

In November, 1949, Yip fled the Communist rise in China to Macao. He soon ventured over to Hong Kong where, in 1950, he began teaching his Wing Chun Kuen to members of the Restaurant Workers Union. To many of his students, his friendly nature and demeanor led him to be called Man Suk (Younger Uncle Man) in the early years and Man Gung (Grandfather Man) later on.

Over his long career in Hong Kong, he taught many, many, outstanding students (with apologies, far to many to list here) who have gone on to teach generations of excellent students in their own right and have spread his style of Wing Chun Kuen around the world. Among some of Yip Man's most famous students were/are, Leung Sheung, Lok Yiu, Tsui Seung-Tin, Wong Shun-Leung, Cheung Chuk-Hing (William Cheung), Lee Siu-Long (Bruce Lee), Ho Kam-Ming, Moy Yat, Leung Ting, and many, many others.




Morihei Ueshiba
1883 - 1969 Aikido

Aikido's founder, Morihei Ueshiba, was born in Japan on December 14, 1883. As a boy, he often saw local thugs beat up his father for political reasons. He set out to make himself strong so that he could take revenge. He devoted himself to hard physical conditioning and eventually to the practice of martial arts, receiving certificates of mastery in several styles of jujitsu, fencing, and spear fighting. In spite of his impressive physical and martial capabilities, however, he felt very dissatisfied. He began delving into religions in hopes of finding a deeper significance to life, all the while continuing to pursue his studies of budo, or the martial arts. By combining his martial training with his religious and political ideologies, he created the modern martial art of aikido. Ueshiba decided on the name "aikido" in 1942 (before that he called his martial art "aikibudo" and "aikinomichi").




Jigoro Kano
1860 - 1938 Founder of Judo

Dr. Jigoro Kano was born in 1860 in Kobe, Japan into a wealthy family. In 1877, as a college student he studied Tenshin-Shinyo Jujitsu under Hachinosuke Fukuda and Masatomo Iso. Fukuda gave Jigoro Kano a heavy iron rod which Kano used to practice bojitsu techniques (stick fighting). After very hard workouts Kano massaged his aching body with a strong foul smelling liniment which he prepared himself. The other students in the dojo referred to him as "Kano the Odoriferous". Fukuda died in 1880 at 52 years of age. Jigoro Kano, his student, tried to keep his dojo open, but realized he needed more training.

Kano then began his studies of Kito-Ryu under Tsunetoshi Iikubo. The Kito-Ryu emphasized nagewaza (throwing techiniques). These techniques complemented the grappling techniques of Tenshin-Shinyo Ryu.

In 1882 Kano founded Kodokan Judo. His system of martial arts (Judo) all but replaced the parent arts of jujitsu in Japan. Dr. Kano, was an educator and was successful in introducing Judo into the Japanese school system.

Dr. Kano traveled the world spreading judo to many nations. He visited the dojo of George Yoshida in New York City in 1920, 1936 and 1938. In 1924, Dr. Kano awarded a sandan to Henry Seishiro Okazaki, the founder of Danzan-Ryu.

Dr. Kano died in 1938 on board the ship SS Hikawa Maru on a return voyage from Cairo where he had met with an Olympic committee. It was his dream to have judo in the Olympic games




Gichin Funakoshi
1868 - 1957 Shotokan

Gichin Funakoshi is widely considered the primary "father" of modern karate due to his efforts to introduce the Okinawan art to mainland Japan, from where it spread to the rest of the world. Born in 1868, he began to study karate at the age of 11, and was a student of the two greatest masters of the time, Azato and Itosu. He grew so proficient that he was initiated into all the major styles of karate in Okinawa at the time. For Master Funakoshi, the word karate eventually took on a deeper and broader meaning through the synthesis of these many methods, becoming karate-do, literally the "way of karate," or of the empty hand. Training in karate-do became an education for life itself.

Master Funakoshi was the first expert to introduce karate-do to mainland Japan. In 1916 he gave a demonstration to the Butokuden in Kyoto, Japan, which at that time was the official center of all martial arts. On March 6, 1921, the Crown Prince, who was later to become the Emperor of Japan, visited Okinawa and Master Funakoshi was asked to demonstrate karate. In the early spring of 1922 Master Funakoshi traveled to Tokyo to present his art at the First National Athletic Exhibition in Tokyo organized by the Ministry of Education. He was strongly urged by several eminent groups and individuals to remain in Japan, and indeed he never did return to Okinawa.

Master Funakoshi taught only one method, a total discipline, which represented a synthesis of Okinawan karate styles. This method became known as Shotokan, literally the clan or the house of Shoto, which was the Master's pen name for his poetry, denoting the sound of the wind blowing through pines.

© 1998, Shotokan Karate of America. All rights reserved.




Bruce Lee
1940 - 1973 Jeet Kune Do

On the morning of November 27, 1940 (in the Chinese year of the Dragon), Lee Jun Fan was born in San Francisco. The mother, Grace had not planned on an American name, and the father, at the time, was performing a popular Chinese opera in New York. So it was one of the Hospital employee who thought of the name Bruce. The mother concurred and from then on it was Bruce Lee. A legend was born. Shortly afterward, the family returned to Hong Kong.
Bruce's Hong Kong film career began when he was only six years old. The director of his father's latest film saw him on the set and was so impressed that he offered him a part in his father's film. This was the beginning, leading to over twenty motion picture roles and steadily increasing popularity among Hong Kong audiences.
Bruce started training in the martial arts mainly to overcome his fear of being humiliated in a street fight. As a teenager he began to get into more and more fights for no reason at all. And if he didn't win he was furious. As a result, under the great master Yip Man's Wing Chun (meaning "beautiful springtime") teachings, Bruce became a proficient martial artist, not to mention a feared street fighter. However, Bruce actually had more than one teacher. As time went by, Bruce grew. His enthusiasm towards martial arts was more apparent. He was young, energetic and competitive. He soon became acquainted with Wing-chun's basic Kung Fu. Since he was very clever, Mr Yip loved him very much and taught him many secret techniques in Win Chun Kung Fu. He became an expert in Wing Chun Kung Fu.

When Bruce was about fourteen, he discovered that "dancing" could be a great deal of fun. He had a real knack for it and rapidly became quite polished, never lacking eager partners. Much of the balance and footwork became evident in his later fighting style. His favorite was the Cha Cha, and he spent many hours practicing extremely complex dance routines. He eventually became the Hong Kong Cha Cha Champion.
At the age of 19, Bruce was becoming more and more involved in street fighting. So in 1959 his parents decide to sent him to live with friends in the United States, Where he would finish high school. While he was staying in Seattle, Bruce was allowed to live in the restaurant's attic in exchange for his services as a busboy and waiter. Bruce finished high school and went on to college. By day he attended the University of Washington and nights he was working in the restaurant. After a few months of this, he decided that this lifestyle was not for him. He quit his job at the restaurant and began teaching Kung-fu. At the age of twenty-two, Bruce authored an extremely unique text which he titled "CHINESE GUNG-FU: The Philosophical Art of SELF-DEFENSE." This book reflected his preocupation with spiritual as well as physical development.
Before Bruce finished his Bachelor Degree in Philosophy, he meet Linda Emery, a pretty blonde coed, enrolled in his class and in 1964 they were married. Shortly afterward, they moved to California. In 1965, Bruce's son, Brandon, was born. Couples years later his daughter Shannon was born.





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