My interest in the martial arts started at a very young age back in the late 1960's. I actually started training in martial arts during 1975 in Kokomo, Indiana where I grew up. I trained mostly with a few close friends of mine namely, John Todd Allen who was studying Okinawan Karate and John K. Anderson who studied Pai Lum Kung Fu at the Kokomo Fire Dragon Kung Fu School. I trained with them mostly in basements, garages and back yards of various friends. Todd Allen, who is now a 4th Degree Black Belt in Karate, still teaches select students in Bloomington, Indiana. In 1976 I began formal instruction under Sensei Ray Murphy in the style of Shorin-ryu Okinawan Karate. Even though it is a wonderful style with a lot of advantages over many other Martial Art systems, I wanted more than it could offer. An eye opening incident involving a couple of the leading Black Belts at the Dojo caused me to re-evaluate a great many things and brought to my attention weaknesses within that system and a good many others styles as well. I wanted a system that had few, if any weaknesses and was good at everything, punching, kicking, ground, short range, long range, flips and throws, pressure points, joint locks; everything.
I began an intensive investigation into various systems and styles. I kept finding that a great multitude of styles came either directly or indirectly from Shaolin. After looking into a great many systems and styles, I had settled on learning either Northern Shaolin Kung- Fu (which had over 1500 years behind it) or Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do (which was very new). Northern Shaolin 5 Animal Sifu's were very rare and hard to find but Jeet Kune Do Instructors were even harder to find as there were only 3 or 4 on the earth at that time. After careful thought, I proceeded to look for a top notch Shaolin Sifu and in 1977 I found Sifu Glenn C. Wilson in Southern Florida and after speaking to him on the phone, I moved there immediately and started my Shaolin training under the guidance of Sifu Wilson in Homestead Florida. Being a 8 time U.S. Champion and a 5 time World Champion competitor in Shaolin Kung Fu no doubt contributed heavily to Sifu Wilson's no nonsense style of teaching. When I wasn't working, I was at the Kwoon or out practicing what I had been taught.
At the end of 1978 I decided to enter the military with the U.S. Army and eventually became a member of an elite Army unit. I continued my Shaolin Training under Si-Fu J.P. Wong receiving my Black Sash in 1981. During my tour of duty, I instructed various military and commando units (U.S. and other) and personnel from other countries in hand to hand combat applications. I also instructed individuals and small groups such as W.A.R. (Women Against Rape) classes and Self Defense to children while in Europe. I was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army after completing my enlistment and moved to Texas.
I found working with troubled youth very fulfilling and pursued this in a variety of ways continuing to train in my off time. Rewarding as these jobs were, after much persistence from friends and others to teach them, I decided to open a Kung-Fu School in Lufkin, Texas. I learned that Sifu Wong had been promoted to Master and was stationed at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, thus I was able to go, test for and win my 2nd Level Black Sash. During the years of 1984-1988 I continued teaching and found time to get married and have 3 wonderful children. In 1986 Si-Gung (Master) Wong was transferred. I was fortunate enough to be able to re-unite under Si-Gung Glenn Wilson who had moved his school to Seabrook, Texas. In 1987, I was honored to receive a Black Sash degree from Si-Gung Wilson and Si-Tai-Gung (10th Level Grandmaster) John C.Y.Tsai in Shaolin Chuan Fa. This was very special to me as it was with Si-Gung Wilson that I had first started to train with in the Shaolin Arts and who had first impressed upon me the spirit of Shaolin. I trained many students during this time but among my best were Martin Smith and his two boys Mark and David who became life long friends. In 1988 I opened another Kung-Fu school in Tyler Texas and in1989 I received a promotion from Master Wong who was kind enough to travel and test me at my new school.
It was shortly after this that an unfortunate string of events, not the least of were the death of my daughter, a divorce, and a severe injury from an accident forced me to stop teaching Kung-Fu all together for many years. During this dark time, I never gave up and constantly put to use physically as well as mentally that which I had been taught both by the Army and my Shaolin Masters thus continually surprising my doctors and physical therapists by greatly surpassing their gloomy prognosis for me. I took a lot of pleasure in proving them wrong time and time again. I credit much of my recovery to the wisdom and knowledgeable teaching from Si-Gung's Wilson and Wong. Though I did not teach, I kept well studied and over the years I built up my physical and meditative work out routine, healed and continued to improve.
In 1994 I started teaching again, a very small and select group of friends. One of them, David Pocai, became a close friend and we worked out often usually over at his place. The year 1996 was a great year as I married a truly wonderful woman from the Philippines named Rose and started a family. David married his long time high school sweet heart, Rebecca and started a family as well. From 1996 to 2000 David and I trained a lot with some students joining our little group as others left. David stopped Kung-Fu for a couple of years due to a terrible car accident that hurt his back very badly. In an unrelated crash, I was saddened to learn of Master Wong's passing due to a fatal car accident.
In 2000 my dream of studying Bruce Lee's Jeet Kune Do became a reality as I was accepted as a student under Sifu Mike Goldberg. Sifu Goldberg was a great teacher and showed a lot of personal interest in his students and learning was a joy but I soon found out why people who have trained for many years in a particular system usually never start over in another style as it is very difficult to break old habits and re-learn especially in something as revolutionary as JKD! Occasional training visits from Grandmaster's Tim Tackett (second generation student of Bruce Lee) and Bob Bremer (original student of Bruce Lee) were nothing less than awe inspiring to myself and to others as well and were always well received and enjoyed.
In June of 2001 my daughter Kimberly was born and a few years later in February of 2004 my son Christopher joined the family. David and also had a daughter Lilith who was just a few months older than Kimberly. At the tender age of 3 our daughters began formal Shaolin Training along with David who had recovered from his injuries. From that point on our little group has grown into a small school even though we have never advertised anywhere.
In 2007 while at the Taiji Legacy Kung-Fu Tournament in Plano, Texas I was re-introduced to Sijo Rusty Gray (9th Level Grandmaster). I had first met Sijo Gray way back in the Florida days with Si-fu Glenn Wilson and then later again in Seabrook, Texas along with Grand Master John C.Y. Tsai. Sijo Gray had been a colleague and student of Master Wilson (who now holds the rank of Grandmaster 10th Level) since the passing of Great Grandmaster (10th Level) Daniel K Pai. I was invited by Sijo Gray to have our school join his Gray Dragon-White Tiger Association and to train with them. I also had the pleasure to meet Master Lordous Radelat who lives only a couple of miles from me and who held a 3rd degree black belt in Gojo Ryu Karate and a 5th Level Black Sash in Shaolin under Sijo Gray. I took up the Sijo Gray's offer and Master Lordous and I went up to Tennessee for training and testing. With time, hard work and diligence, those in the marital arts become more learned, experienced and polished. The result and recognition of such is promotion in rank thus on August 25, 2007 Shipoo Lordous was promoted to 6th Level Black Sash and I was promoted to 5th Level Black Sash by Sijo Gray. After being invited back for additional training, I was honored by Sijo Gray and the other Board Members of the Association by being appointed to the Board of Directors. I have also been honored with the position of being the United States South Western Director of the Gray Dragon-White Tiger Association and have since received my 7th level Black Sash (which is my current rank) by Sijo Rusty Gray and Co-founder Grand Master Jim Thompson with the approval, backing and signatures of the Board of Directors some of who include, Grandmasters Bruce Linville, John Dufrese, Chuck Burnett and Jimmy Tarpley.
The fact that our little school has grown and continues to grow here in Fort Worth, Texas is a testament to the potency and necessity of Shaolin in the 21st Century. We have named our school Shaolin Tao Kung-Fu Academy and have issued Shaolin Tao Kung-Fu Academy Identification Cards to all students, had our own shirts and patches custom made and have now even put up a website. In the true spirit of Shaolin, we are rooted in tradition but continue to move progressively forward by embracing truth, testing theories and utilizing practical applications of techniques while tempering these with the wisdom handed down to us for over 1500 years. The students studying here are first rate and I am proud of each and every one of them and the progress that they are making preparing them for the many things that sometimes comes to us in life. I continually strive and can only hope to be the kind of teacher to my students that my teachers have been to me and thus be able to instill into them those valuable lessons which can help them to endure, survive and overcome the hardships and challenges that often come in life allowing them the quality of life and the ability to enjoy it!