Joe Lewis, The World’s Greatest Karate Fighter Of All Time

Whenever I ask people, who aren’t involved in martial arts and karate in specific, about the greatest karate fighter they will in most cases name Bruce Lee and/or Chuck Norris.

Joe Lewis? Not really.

That got me thinking.

Without a doubt, Bruce Lee was and Chuck Norris still is a formidable martial artist and fighter.

The exposure both of them received through television and movies made them household names, worldwide.

Again, Joe Lewis? Nope.

What amazes me about Joe Lewis is that as a U.S. Marine stationed in Okinawa in 1965 he started studying Shorin-Ryu Karate at the youthful age of 18 and reportedly attained his black belt in only 7 (seven!) months.

After his military service Joe Lewis returned to the United States and in 1966 he began his unmatched tournament karate career.

At times, he trained with martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who by the way did not compete in any tournaments.

During 1966 to 1974 Joe Lewis competed on the tournament circuit as well as a professional kick-boxer winning national and world titles as a heavyweight fighter. He is considered the “Founding Father of Kickboxing in the Western Hemisphere”.

Throughout his career he fought famous fighters such as Allen Steen, Thomas LaPuppet, Louis Delgado, Skipper Mullins, Victor Moore, Joe Hayes, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and yes, Chuck Norris.

Joe Lewis was an original member of the U.S. World Karate Team that also consisted of Mike Stone, Skipper Mullins, Chuck Norris and his friend and student, Bob Wall.

Joe Lewis starred in a number of action-adventure movies such as “Jaguar Lives” and “Force Five” and has received numerous awards for his achievements in and out of the ring.

In 1983, karate living legend Joe Lewis was chosen by his peers and fellow fighters as “The World’s Greatest Karate Fighter Of All Time”.

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Undefeated In Over 9 Years, Judo Legend Yasuhiro Yamashita

Judo is a traditional Japanese grappling art developed by Jigoro Kano, whereas the competitors try to throw or force their opponent to the mat.

When competing in judo one can score points by performing an effective throw, or by forcing an opponent into submission.

Judo players, a.k.a. judoka, will do their best to gain control of their opponent before applying a throwing or holding technique.

Along with such greats such as Masahiko KimuraYasuhiro Yamashita is considered one of the best judoka ever.
When his home country of Japan boycotted the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow for invading Afghanistan, Yamashita had a winning streak of 194 (!)  fights to his record.
And there went his chance of winning an Olympic gold medal. Yamashita was devastated and even wept on Japanese television.
As the only judoka  from the 1980 Japanese judo team to qualify, Yamashita got his chance four years later at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.
Very unfortunately in an early match of the tournament, Yamashita tore the calf muscle of his right leg. This painful injury did not deter him from continuining and winning this and several consecutive Olympic bouts.
In his final match against Egyptian Mohamed Ali Rashwan, Yamashita won the gold medal despite his calf muscle injury and became a national hero.
Noteworthy is also the fact that Rashwan did not attack Yamashita’s right leg. For his act of fairness he received an award from the International Fairplay Committee.
Yamashita went on to be awarded the Japanese National Prize of Honor and  at the age of only 28 he ended his extraordinary with a whopping 203 total victories in 1985.
Ever since, 9th degree black belt Yasuhiro Yamashita has been an instructor and a trusted advisor for Tokai University and the All Japan Judo Federation as well as the International Judo Federation.
I enjoy watching ’16 Days of Glory’. I hope you do, too.

Antonio Graceffo a.k.a. Brooklyn Monk Is The Martial Arts Globetrotter

Martial arts and foreign travel. What a great combination!

I am still enthusiastic about martial arts, even in my 50s. Why else would I be blogging about the stuff?!

And I am probably just as excited about foreign travel, because I just enjoy constantly learning about all kinds of different cultures and their people. I have been very fortunate to have travelled and experienced first-hand close to 50 or so countries so far. There are still a bunch of places I haven’t been to yet, but will certainly in the foreseeable future. Life is too short not to. What are we here for anyway?! I don’t want to get too philosophical today, maybe another day.

While I am not travelling, but feel like learning more about let’s say Asian countries, I will just venture out to an ethnic restaurant for a yummy meal and strike up a conversation with the people working there.

Just like last night, I met the nicest people, from South China and Indonesia. It was a great experience. The food was fantastic, too.

Well, guys, today it looks like I have come across a guy who is right up our alley.

He is from Brooklyn (man, thinking about it, I was born there, but left the Big Apple decades ago). He is smart, funny, loves martial arts, can’t get rid of the travel bug and is multi-lingual, for starters. Were we separated at birth? Is he my brother from another mother?

He is Antonio Graceffo, also known as Brooklyn Monk.

Following his landmark decision to quit his job on Wall Street in 2001 and become a martial arts student, the book Warrior Odyssey captures his ongoing adventure across the Far East.

Antonio Graceffo is the host of the web TV show, Martial Arts Odyssey and an adventure travel and martial arts author living in Asia.

Antonio has studied Kung Fu at the Shaolin Temple in China, and Muay Thai in Thailand. When not training or writing, he works as a martial arts consultant for TV shows: Human WeaponDigging for the TruthKill Arman, The Art of FightingSamantha Brown’s Asia, and Thai TV shows about Muay Thai Chaiya and the Kun Khmer Champions in Cambodia.

Beyond martial arts, Antonio is also a skilled linguist, with fluency in multiple languages including Thai, Khmer, Mandarin Chinese, German, Spanish, Italian, and French.

Enjoy meeting Anontio Graceffo right here!

Glima – The Icelandic Art Of Wrestling Is Still Hot

I have been wanting to post something about Iceland for some time now. As I have written before, the Swiss, the Turks and many others have their own styles of wrestling.

So, why not the descendants of the Vikings?!

Known as a style of folk wrestling, Glima is considered a national sport.

Glima consists of  several elements that make it different from other styles of wrestling.

Opponents have to stand upright at all times.

It might look like they’re dancing, but opponents actually have to step clockwise around each other. That’s how they create openings for attack and counter-attack and it simply keeps things moving.

It’s frowned upon to fall down on your opponent or to even to shove him with force.

When wrestling, you’re supposed to look across your opponent’s shoulder, as the goal it to wrestle by touch and feel instead of by visuals.

Eight core techniques represent the basics for the approximately fifty ways to throw your opponent.

Fairness and respect for your training partner are considered a code of honor in Glima.

The Icelandic term Glima basically menas wrestling and in a broader sense means struggle.

Historically, Glima called for a fighting style that favored technique over brute force.

Both wrestlers wear a special belt around their waist. Further, belts are worn on the lower thighs of each leg, which connect to the main belt with vertical straps.

Further, a fixed grip is then taken with one hand in the belt and the other in the trousers at thigh height. From this position the Glima wrestler attempts to trip and throw his opponent.

 A thrown wrestler may attempt to land on his feet and hands and if he succeeds in doing so he has not lost the fall. The goal is to make the opponent touch the ground with an area of the body between the elbow and the knee.

Every year the best Glíma sportsmen and women compete for victory in the national tournament where they compete for the trophy “Grettisbelti”, which is the oldest and most prestigious trophy in Iceland.
The national tournament has taken place since 1906 and the winner of the tournament is awarded with the Grettisbelti trophy and the title “Icelandic King of Glíma”.
In the past decade, women have started to participate in a very impressive fashion. Their major tournament is known as “Freyjuglíma” and the winner is crowned as the “Queen of Glíma”.

Eric Oram – The Sifu Behind Robert Downey Jr.’s Return To The Top

The sequel to Sherlock Holmes of 2009 and called ‘A Game of Shadows’  is scheduled to hit movie theaters this December 16 and from what I have seen in the trailer, it should be another good one for us martial arts enthusiasts to watch and enjoy.

Like I said, I have only seen the trailer and of course the fight scenes got my attention.

And as we all know, these and other high-quality fight scenes take a lot of hard work, great choreography, stuntpeople etc.

I counted over 50 (fifty) stunt performers plus stunt coordinators, choreographers and consultants who contributed to Sherlock Holmes 2009 and around 40 (forty) in the sequel scheduled in 2 weeks.

Not surprisingly, I am always trying to find out who are the real movers and shakers behind the scenes.

And my search results in reference to Sherlock Holmes will hopefully find your stamp of approval in exclamations such as “I had no idea!” or “Now, that’s really interesting!” or even “That explains it all!”.

First off, the director getting a lot of highly-served credit is Guy Ritchie, who just so happens to be a martial artist himself. He is trained in Shotokan karate, Judo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. So, the director, meaning the guy with an eye for the big picture and a clear vision of  the final product, has a knack for some high-quality fight scenes. Even though, Sherlock Holmes isn’t really considered an actual action/martial arts movie.

And then there’s the lead actor, Robert Downey Jr. and I think we can all agree he is and has been back on top of his game the last couple of years.

It’s no secret that he was pretty much washed  up and his film career was going down the drain  …. fast.

He had numerous run-ins with the law and his drug problems were out of control.

 And if there was any hope to his personal and professional life, he needed to get cleaned up …. fast.

Many posts ago, I wrote about Robert Downey Jr. and the fact that he has been training in Wing Chun kung fu which has obviously been helping him in so many extraordinary ways, both personally and professionally.

But the connection that I didn’t make was who was behind it all and this is where it get’s really interesting. At least for me, maybe even for you, too.

An absolute world authority on Wing Chun kung fu with roots in Las Vegas and owner of a very impressive academy in West Los Angeles, Sifu Eric Oram originally even trained under Grandmaster William Cheung, who way back in the day actually taught Bruce Lee a thing or two about Wing Chun in his very early years.

Sifu Eric is in high demand for top-quality teaching with law enforcement and military units such as Delta Force, Navy Seals, Marines, FBU Hostage Rescue Units, just to name a few.

And then there’s Robert Downey Jr. who supposedly now ensures that there’s a stipulation in every film contract that he signs guaranteeing that Sifu Eric Oram, with whom he of course he really close friends, is on set as his consultant and trainer.

Here are some clips you might enjoy:


Is Dan Inosanto The World’s Most Versatile Mixed Martial Artist?

Guro Dan Inosanto was one of only three Jeet Kune Do Instructors certified by Bruce Lee way back in the early 70s. They were very close friends until Bruce Lee’s untimely passing.

Guro Dan is said to have taught Bruce quite a bit about Filipino stick fighting as well as nunchaku.

Along with movie career as an actor and stuntman, Guro Dan has been teaching JKD Concepts for close to 40 years now, besides many other styles all over the world.

In my humble opinion, he has made his friend and teacher Bruce Lee mighty proud.

Even at the age of 73, Guro Dan is an avid learner and the eternal student himself.
He has mastered well over 25 different martial arts styles such as Escrima Kali, Jun Fan, American Kenpo under Grandmaster Ed Parker, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Wing Chun, Judo,  and Shooto Wrestling. The list goes on to make you dizzy.

Here he is practicing with BJJ great John Machado:

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He still travels to hold numerous seminars every year to share his vast knowledge
and love for martial arts when he’s not teaching at his school at Marina Del Rey, CA.

So, besides being one of the nicest guys who will ever meet, is Guro Dan Inosanto most probably the world’s most versatile Mixed Martial Artist alive today?

Martial Arts Legend Guro Dan Inosanto & The Martial Arts Reporter At Sifu Francis Fong's Martial Arts Academy

Can This Be The Antidote To America’s Childhood Obesity Epidemic?

No matter how you look at it, America has a serious problem when it comes to the topic of childhood obesity.

Studies show that for the first time in history, this generation might not even live as long as preceding generations.

Childhood obesity is rampant.  In case you haven’t been following this scary trend, read this:

Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. The prevalence of obesity among children aged 6 to 11 years increased from 6.5% in 1980 to 19.6% in 2008. The prevalence of obesity among adolescents aged 12 to 19 years increased from 5.0% to 18.1%.

Obesity is the result of caloric imbalance (too few calories expended for the amount of calories consumed) and is mediated by genetic, behavioral, and environmental factors. Childhood obesity has both immediate and long-term health impacts:

  • Obese youth are more likely to have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. In a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, 70% of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
  • Children and adolescents who are obese are at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological problems such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem.
  • Obese youth are more likely than youth of normal weight to become overweight or obese adults, and therefore more at risk for associated adult health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, several types of cancer, and osteoarthritis.

Healthy lifestyle habits, including healthy eating and physical activity, can lower the risk of becoming obese and developing related diseases.

That sounds like a plan.  And it’s not necessarily a quick-fix and it certainly doesn’t come in a pill.

The earlier kids create this healthy lifestyle the better it is for everyone.

This 10-year old, who created a fitness DVD for kids (and teenagers), seems to be making a real difference.

His name is CJ Senter and he is better known as “The Workout Kid”.

Can Autism Be Overcome By Martial Arts? Just Ask Monique Sciberras.

I’m not sure when I first heard about autism. I’m not even sure that I had even heard about it  before watching the Oscar-winning movie “Rain Man” starring Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise way back in 1988.

I guess you can say that autism got quite a bit of exposure through the film and Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond Babbitt.

Autism is a disorder of neural development. It is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.

According to studies, these signs all begin before a child is three years old.

Autism affects information processing in the brain by altering how nerve cells and their synapses connect and organize; how this occurs is not well understood.

Autism has a strong genetic basis. In some cases, autism is strongly associated with agents that cause birth defects.

It is controversial when it comes to proposed environmental causes, such as heavy metals, pesticides or childhood vaccines.

The global prevalence of autism is about 1–2 per 1,000 people, however, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports approx. 9 per 1,000 children in the United States. The number of people diagnosed with autism has increased dramatically since the 1980s.

And then there’s 10-year old Monique Sciberras from Australia who was diagnosed with mild autism several years ago.

According to her parents, Monique has been able to thrive through her martial arts training and overcome her disability.

She has become a force to reckon with in karate, kung fu, boxing, Muay Thai and weapons.

I came across some video footage that deserves to be shared with you, wherever you may be right now:

For more about Monique Sciberras, click here.

Judo In Japanese Schools – Is It Doing More Harm Than Good?

While researching for a new post, a topic that really got my attention is that together with sumo and kendo, the national sport and martial art of Judo will become compulsory in Japanese schools in 2012.

Just like you reading this post, I am generally enthusiastic about many things involving martial arts.

Especially if you can get kids and teens excited about this kind of education and training, as it in my humble opinion offers more good than harm.

But then I started thinking and reading more about it and I found what has been going on and what will become reality for more Japanese students starting next year rather concerning.

Only between 1983 and 2009, meaning 27 years, there have been 108 fatalities in Japanese school judo which makes it the highest rate by far.

Brain injuries that occur are traumatic and usually fatal. Even ringside boxing doctors are astonished that these injuries happen in school judo.

I read about school judo instructors (and of course I don’t know first-hand if these are isolated cases involving total madmen who have been given responsibilities over minors) that have reportedlychoked students until they went limp, and then threw them to the floor with such force that they suffered severe internal brain bleeding. This kind of injuryis known as an acute subdural hematoma.

One such injury incurred in December 2004, leaving a teen unable to remember anything for almost two years.

The teacher was simply transferred to another junior high school in thesame city, because that’s the standard job transfers among government school teachers.

In another incident in July 2009, the parents of a 12-year-old junior high school student allege that their son died from a similar injury.

After telling his teacher that he had asthma, he was told to wear an antidust mask and forced to spar with the teacher. According to reports, the teachery aggressively threw him to the ground and consequently leaving the boy with a subdural hematoma.

Besides his body covered with bruises, according to his parents, later at the hospital the boy was pronounced brain dead.

Numerous experts are concerned about the frequency of deaths in school judo classes and that it is more than 5 times higher than in any other sport.

What is also alarming is that they have no parallel in other developed nations.

According to the British Judo Association, there have been no deaths or serious brain injuries in judo in the BJA.

And the USA Judo’s Sports Medicine Committee points out that there have been no known traumatic brain injury deaths attributed to judo for all participants under the age of 18. So somehow there appears to be a significant difference in serious brain injury rates in the youth between the U.S. and Japan.

According to reports, the parents of children killed or seriously injured in judo classes in Japan are just met by a wall of silence when pressing for convictions of the alleged perpetrators.

Charges are brought against teachers, but prosecutors simply continue to drop cases again and again.

One would hope that safety improvements would be implemented.

Now that girls will also take part in judo classes, the number of students participating will roughly double.

Consequently, without improving safety for the students, we can expect the death and serious injury rate to double accordingly.

While the All Japan Judo Federation remains playing hookie on the issue, the head of the instruction department at the Kodakan Judo Institute in Tokyo, has been more outspoken.

Writing in the Budo magazine, Mikihiro Mukai argues: “Until now, the judo world has tried to hide things they perceive will be disadvantageous to them. But this trend will worsen the situation, even if we have many discussions about instruction methods, if there is even a single case of death or severe injury, that method is inadequate. There may well be some unfortunate accidents, but we as judo instructors must work to eradicate such problems.

Due to way too many incidents with a very tragic and heart-wrenching outcome as well as without any or almost any consequences for the alleged perpretrators, The Japan Judo Accident Victims Association was founded with a clear mission statement:

“When judo deaths and injuries occur under the supervision of schools, victims and their families often encounter barriers to the investigations into the causes and who was responsible. Japan Judo Accident Victims Association (JJAVA) is a group of judo accident victims, their families, and other concerned people, founded with the mission to support victims and find ways to reduce death and serious injury among students in Japan through introduction of effective safety measures as standard practice in the sport of judo. JJAVA is studying international best practice and developing proposals for an improved safety regime.

Martial arts will soon become compulsory for boys and girls in all public junior high schools in Japan, so it is particularly important to ensure that adequate and appropriate attention is given to safety in judo instruction and practice.”

The school year of 2012 will be here faster than we think.

Jeff Imada, The Genius Behind Great Action Movies

When you talk about movies like Rush Hour, Armageddon, Lethal Weapon 4,  The Bourne Ultimatum, Gone In Sixty SecondsThe Last Samurai, The Fight Club,  just to mention a few, I am sure the action-filled scenes are the first thing that come to mind.

And when you think about it, some of the most popular movies became box-office successes due to the spectacular stunts and fight scenes displayed on the Big Screen.

Without the stunt and fight professionals, who by the way usually aren’t household names like those of the celebrities on the Red Carpet, many movie productions would never turn out the way they do.

One of these professionals, who deserve more credit for what they do and someone  whom I truly admire, is Jeff Imada.

And yes, the movies I listed above were strongly influenced by Jeff Imada. He either did many of the stunts or coordinated them! Man, this guy must have been in hundreds of great movie productions. It’s absolutely mind-boggling!

Beyond Tinseltown, Jeff Imada is highly recognized and  revered on the martial arts circuit for his mastery of Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and Filipino Martial Arts (FMA).

Born in 1955 in Southern California, Jeff Imada started studying martial arts at the age of 15. So, let’s see, that would have been 1970.

That makes it already 40 years of solid martial arts training experience and what I haven’t mentioned so far in this post:

Jeff Imada is a master student/protege of the world-famous, Guro Dan Inosanto. Remember him?

Jeff was also a very good friend of Brandon Lee, back in the day. Later on, he was the primary fight choreographer in Brandon Lee’s successful movie,  ‘The Crow’.

He has been a stuntman, stunt coordinator and fight choreographer in countless movie productions that have become financial box-office hits, also because of his ingenuity and professionalism.

I was reminded of him just some time ago after I heard about ‘The Book Of Eli’ starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis.

In one of the many interviews promoting this movie, Denzel mentioned Dan Inosanto (remember him?) and Jeff Imada in connection with training for the fight scenes.

He’s bringing it, so you better be ready!