Grandmaster of the Year
On August 1, 2009, I was honored by being inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Grandmaster of the Year in ceremonies held at Grand Ballroom of the Sheraton Downtown Nashville TN.
Receiving the award from Prof. Marty Cale IMAC Hanshi Frank Dux with Grandmaster Lawrence Day
Frank Dux of Bloodsport fame was there with a crew of independent film makers producing a documentary of his exploits since the release of that historic motion picture called Beyond Bloodsport.
But, the star of the show was . Grandmaster Vic Moore. His participation was part of the second reunion of the surviving Original Members of the Black Dragon Fighting Society organized by Grandmaster Lawrence Day of Ft. Walton Beach FL. Of the original twenty-three, only ten remain, eight were in attendance.
Sensei Moore was the first black American Karate Champion. He beat everyone. Mike Stone, famous for training Elvis Presley and his own movie career now, had an undefeated record of 91 wins and no losses. Until he met Sensei Moore. Chuck Norris fell before him. Bill “Superfoot” Wallace was no match for him. At the famous Long Beach Tournament in 1967 where he was discovered, even Bruce Lee could not defeat him.
When Dux and Moore spotted each other across the lobby they greeted each other warmly and immediately began exchanging blocks and parries. “I fought and beat ‘em all. Chuck Norris, Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace, Bruce Lee...Frank Dux was the only person I couldn't beat. And he was still a kid at the time. He learned from me and I said to everyone he was the one to watch. The one who was going to take it all---the real kumite, what we see as Bloodsport.” Moore would later say on camera for the Beyond Bloodsport production.
Lawrence Day, Frank Dux, Chris Bashaw, Ron Pierce, Vic Moore,
Doug Dwyer, Ashida Kim
He was honored with a special Lifetime Achievement Award by the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Grandmaster Lawrence Day told of the time in the turbulent sixties when a tournament was held in an “all-white” hotel, and they refused to admit Moore to the facility, let alone let him participate. To which Day told them, “If you don’t let him in, you will have no tournament. He is the defending champion.” No more discussion was required. During an interview he let one of the larger lads choke him with two hands to demonstrate that even at 66, he could not be hurt. Then he let the man try to lift him off the ground, to prove he could not be moved. And all the while he kept saying it was all in the breathing and the mind, so he could not be stopped. The award was presented by Frank Dux and the entire assembly rose to its feet in a standing ovation for the wisdom and experience of such an outstanding pioneer of American martial arts.
Frank Dux and Vic Moore- old friends having at it in the Sheraton lobby
The only other man they all rose for was Supreme Grandmaster Ciraico “Cacoy” Canete who started learning Escrima at the age of 7. He was born in 1919 and still teaches the armed and unarmed art of Eskrido.
Grandmaster Bustillo and Supreme Grandmaster "Cacoy" Canete
He is the only 12th degree Black Belt and highest ranking member of the Doce Eskrima Club. He too was honored with a special award presented by Grandmaster Richard Bustillo, an original student of the legendary Bruce Lee and a founding member of the Bruce Lee Educational Foundation. GM Bustillo is certified as a law enforcement tactics instructor by the FBI, LA County Sheriff’s Department and the LA Police Department where he functions as a consultant for the LAPD’s Civilian Martial Arts Advisory Panel. GM Bustillo graced the assembled with his rendition of the “only song he knows in English” and we all joined in singing “Happy Birthday” as GM Canete was presented with a birthday cake to celebrate the occasion. It is an honor and a privilege to be numbered among such men.
Ready for class Friday morning
Thursday afternoon Hanshi Dux had presented a seminar for those assembled for the event. Friday morning I was also privileged to demonstrate some of the techniques with which I am familiar. Other Grandmasters like Canete and Bustillo who were present had also held classes for those wishing to learn their styles and study other systems. Among them, Iaido Headmaster and Aikido Shihan Jonathan Bannister.
Also in attendance was Swordmaster Jerry Cook. And, Master Daniel Young of Young’s Martial Arts Academy. As well as, Dr. Christopher Bashaw promoting his new book Shinobi-Modern Ninjutsu Pioneers. It was a wonderful learning opportunity.
Mike Huffman, Ted Molina, Jerry Cook (center), Jonathan Bannister, Severiano Moreno, Kat Banson, OJ Guerra, Rod Eliot
From there we went to the local VA hospital with the film crew and Hanshi Dux. As a veteran himself he knows the boredom that can accompany a hospital stay, and how a visit from a brother-in-arms can brighten up your day. The outing had been organized by Master Joe Cayer, transport and security provided by Master Jr. Cobb, both of the Florida Black Dragon Fighting Society. We were greeted warmly by the staff but not allowed to film due to Homeland Security restrictions at Federal facilities.
Masters Jr. Cobb and Joe Cayer training in Florida
Once inside we met many men, real men, who welcomed us. Hanshi Dux spoke with each in turn. They chatted and smiled and talked of places they had been and friends they had known and lost. One Marine patient had followed Dux career since his service. “He knew more about me than I did myself.” Hanshi remarked later. Once the word got out he was in the building people began popping up to see what was going on. At first it was security. They had an instant rapport with Hanshi Dux and broke into big smiles as soon as they shook his hand. We talked with them for a while after our first visit to the recreation area where Hanshi Dux demonstrated how to unbalance a person with one finger on a young lady from the audience. She was quite amused at how simple it was and told the story of it to everyone who came in afterward. Soon the halls were mildly congested with staff from all over the hospital, come to see a living legend and find him to be as kind and warm hearted and caring as they themselves. Still pictures were taken by the house photographer for the hospital Newsletter. Autographs and DVDs of Bloodsport were handed out to all. Addresses were exchanged, with hugs and handshakes all around, from a representative of a grateful nation to its servicemen who had given so much. Because, you see, it wasn’t about shooting film for a documentary. It was about being there.
Back to the hotel for a series of Black Dragon meetings. In the afternoon I fear we monopolized the coffee bar just off the main lobby shooting pictures of the Original Members, and distributing literature and DVDs to the members in attendance. Must have seemed quite a crew to the hotel staff, the uniforms, the choreography, the camaraderie and fellowship. Even though they had seen similar gatherings before at previous Hall of Fame events, seldom was there a groups so open and dedicated and joyful in their martial arts experience.
Grandmaster Kim and Hanshi Dux signing autographs in the lobby
It has often been said of the Black Dragons that we will let anyone in. We don’t care what your style or rank or color may be. All that matters to us is merit and valor. And, if you cause trouble, we will throw you out just as quick. Because martial arts are not about fighting. They are about self-improvement, about becoming a better person every day. About helping others and empowering the individual to stand up for himself so he can do the right thing. You can’t be the hero of your own life if you live in fear. You must face your fear and let it pass through you, and then there will be nothing. Only then do you stand on the threshold of truth.
Hanshi Dux said during this gathering that one of the things he wanted to do when he was starting out in martial arts long ago was to “fight the best fighter in the world and see if he could stand toe-to-toe with him in the ring, because if he could, he would know it was all worth it.” That man was Master Vic Moore, and they are the best of friends. Frank Dux credits Moore for having forged him into a Champion he is today. After he challenged him as a young man and was not defeated.
To which Grandmaster Moore said , “Back then, we didn’t stop until there was blood on the floor, not like these days where you can't touch the face, groin,...hence, FULL CONTACT KUMITE STYLE FIGHTING using a handkerchief wrapped sponge on the knuckles.” Robert Trias, the Father of American Karate said of Grandmaster Moore many times, “that besides being a great champion, Vic Moore was the best teacher of kara-te he’d seen.” One could have no greater compliment nor proof than his life and legend.
For each member martial arts trains and disciplines the body. All disciplines are respected equally. Exchange of knowledge and mutual respect is the key to harmony. This way, we can work together. We should not have disrespect or fight among ourselves. We need to be strong so we can set a good example for all. We only contest with each other to determine our level of skill. Not to kill, to dominate, to impose our will. Only to test ourselves, against ourselves, so that we may discover ourselves and continue to grow and evolve to become better people. And, we play hard.
As Prof. Cale pointed out in his speech at the induction ceremony, what divides us is politics. Now is not the time for petty disputes over whose teacher was older, faster, smarter, nor how many certificates or trophies you have hanging on the wall. This is the 21st century. What are we going to do now?
We are going to set a good example for all. Wong Fei Hung is the most famous boxer in all of Chinese history. He was also a skilled physician. He was such an example to his people that more movies have been made about him than any other martial artist. He was famous for helping the poor and protecting the weak from oppression. He did not try to change the world. He just made his little corner as good and as kind and as peaceful as possible. And that is what we have always done. No one hates war more than a soldier. The killing, the pain and suffering, the waste of resources and lives. That is why we train. To be ready. To establish, restore, or maintain good order. We don’t like to fight. We love to practice, to test ourselves against each other to make each other strong and fit, to help each other, so we can live good lives and enjoy them. As Master Moore said in one interview. These old schools were what made us men.
Now it is our turn to show the next generation of seekers that Path. My teacher told me, “Ninjitsu is not for everybody, only for those who seek it out.” And this applies to any art, martial or not. We are not a secret organization. We are an organization with secrets. And, we gladly share them with anyone who asks. But, you must ask, and you must be worthy. We do not cast pearls before swine. Grandmaster Ron Pierce of the Pierce Family Martial Arts system said it best while he was demonstrating his Iron Palm technique before the documentary film crew after the ceremonies. “It’s called Ohana, a Hawaiian word that means kinship.” We are family, no one gets left behind. We have uncles and brothers and cousins all over the world.
One reporter for the LA Times when trying to criticize Hanshi Dux
said that he “could find no evidence to support Mr. Dux claim of having
fought in the Kumite and no record to the
Black Dragon Fighting Society
at all.” To which Grandmaster Day replied, “Well, he didn’t look very
hard, ’cause we’re everywhere.” To which Hanshi Dux added, “People
talk about lineage and documentation and credentials all the time as
if they meant something. 329 fights, 16 unbroken world records, and
ready to go again anytime, that’s my credentials. What have you got?”
And, that, is only the beginning. We have both sides of the coin. One of the other inductees this year was Grandmaster David Harris. He was recognized as the Founder of the Shun Shen Tao system. He translates as “The Easy Way” from Mandarin Chinese. It is a devastating martial and healing art based on the Ku Kim System, that he inherited from his teacher. He put on a virtual clinic at the event. Just as everyone came to see Hanshi Dux at the VA, soon the word was out that Grandmaster Harris was in town and using his knowledge of Chinese medicine to help repair old injuries and demonstrate Iron Body so new ones would not occur. He is a gentle man, working quietly along the sidelines, asking no payment or reward, only to help take away the pain of his friends.
David Harris, Ashida Kim, Frank Dux at the Award Banquet
Nor is he alone in this knowledge. As one Black Dragon Member said when speaking with him, “It’s so nice to be able to say Gall Bladder 24 and have the other people you are talking to know what you mean.” This is the Dim Mak, the Poison Hand, the Delayed Death Touch made famous by John Keehan, also known as Count Dante. Frank Dux knew him back in the day. He explained that Count Dante was the name John Keehan fought under in the Kumite and other underground matches of the period. Hanshi Dux was trained by Tiger Tanaka, but he learned the Dim Mak strike shown in Bloodsport where he breaks the bottom brick in a stack of seven from Grandmaster Lawrence Day, a personal student of Grandmaster Doug Dwyer and John Keehan in Chicago in the 1960s. It is a secret technique known only to the Black Dragons. It is the strike with which he stunned the big Samoan in the movie. The ability to penetrate the surface and strike internally. With such power comes great responsibility.
That is why we were there. To be recognized by our peers for having made this journey and come back with this knowledge and experience. To see old friends and make new ones. To recall the old days and tell the tales of high adventure and to make plans for the future. None of us set out long ago to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. We just did the best we could and were lucky. It wasn't always easy, but it was fun.
It is with sincere appreciation that I extend my eternal gratitude and thanks to Prof. Marty Cale and Assistant Vice-President John Terry of the International Martial Arts Councilfor their kind hospitality and the great honor they have bestowed upon me by hosting this annual event and allowing me to participate. It was truly an honor to “run with the big dogs” this weekend. And, to those few misguided souls who threatened to disrupt the festivities by coming down and "kickin' my ass." Looked all over for you guys, couldn't find you anywhere, LOL
Special Hall of Fame Edition Hands of Death Booklets and DVD available from Dojo Press