martial arts Biography

I know that it’s been awhile since I posted last……I’ve been quite busy getting settled into Canada, starting a job search and networking. In addition, I have been working with two eager Modern Arnis students in Mike and David. In addition, I have been teaching my wife, Mary-Anne, Modern Arnis as well and she loves it, especially the tapi tapi!  I thought that this would be an appropriate time to post my martial arts biography.

My journey in the martial arts started in December of 1982 with my introduction into Kwan Ying Do Gung Fu in my hometown of Barberton, Ohio. This system was taught by Grandmaster Feeman Ong, who traveled frequently to Taiwan for additional training. I was introduced to this martial art through one of my high school friends, Mike Fleming, and by Steve Ong (son of the grandmaster), who was a year ahead of me. I trained in this martial art from December of 1982 through August, 1983, when I left Barberton in order to attend the University of Notre Dame. I also trained in the summer of 1984 and 1985. My two main instructors were Bob Keen and David Jacobs, two tough gentlemen. Lots of emphasis was put on stances, conditioning, and forms. The below link provides a description of this martial art style:

Kwan Ying Do

After I entered the University of Notre Dame in the fall of 1983, I joined the Notre Dame Martial Arts Institute (NDMAI) under the instructorship of G. Rogers Cooper and Sang D. Kim. Under these two phenomenal martial artists, I learned a blend of Vee Jiu Jitsu ’65 and Chung Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do. G. Rogers Cooper is the son of Grandmaster Robert J. Cooper whose ingenuity led to the blending of the aforementioned two martial arts systems. Through this blended system, I gained a tremendous grounding in foundational techniques and an appreciation for cross training in different martial art styles. Sang Kim was a Korean warrior and served as an assistant instructor to G. Rogers. About G. Rogers (whom we knew as Gary back then), what can I say ? He is an absolutely phenomenal martial artist and one of the best I have ever seen. His talent was just out of this world and it’s a reflection of the superb training he received from his father, Professor Cooper. I eventually earned the rank of Rokudan (6th degree) as a result of my studies with the NDMAI. While with the NDMAI, I formed many friendships (such as Drew Sandler, Brian Weidmann, Brian McCarthy, Billy Curran, Jim Hoff, Paul Novak, Brookes Ebetsch, Kate Noll, Dan Westmeyer, Jason Thomas and many others) that last to this day and hope to maintain now that I’m in Canada. I also met incredible martial artists such as Thurman Miller, Jose Velez, David Rivera, and Mike Medina.

Also, while at Notre Dame, I also joined the Aikido club, which was taught by Brian Weidman and Brian McCarthy. I was part of this club for three semesters and enjoyed a seminar by Irving Faust, who came out from Albany NY. Brian McCarthy lived in Japan for four years, training in Aikido and Shorinjin Kempo. Brian Weidmann still trains in Aikido and has had the opportunity of training at the Hombu Dojo and considers Aikido to be his true passion.

After graduating from Notre Dame Law School and moving to Columbus, Ohio, I bounced around in different martial art styles for a number of years. I studied Tracy Kenpo Karate under Herb “Superb” Lamprecht at his school on West 5th Ave in Columbus from 1990 through December of 1996, achieving Shodan at that time. I learned the value of the defensive aspects of kenpo sparring (many hours of this!). The kenpo folks are very tough when it comes to sparring. Herb is a great Kenpo stylist and a phenomenal human being.

During this time frame, I was introduced to pressure points by my ND friend Brian McCarthy when he invited me to attend a Rick Clark seminar in Albany, NY. Rick had a varied background in the martial arts having studied Modern Arnis, Judo, Chung Do Kwan TKD, and pressure points. As a result, I attended a number of his seminars and went to two camps where I learned the basics of kata breakdown and bunkai. I have not seen Rick for quite some time but I can tell you that he’s a very good martial artist and has a seminar following in Europe. I’d like to get back into this since the kata of Chung Do Kwan TKD basically comes from Shotokan karate, which has its origins in Okinawa. Long story short, much of the pressure point stuff being taught is based largely on Okinawan karate forms. So, I’d like to investigate this stuff further but it’s on the backburner.

Around 1996, a co worker of mine, Sterling Gill, introduced me to Gracie Jiu Jitsu and I started attending classes at the House of the Rock on the east side of Columbus. All told, I was in Gracie JJ for a total of 6 to 8 months under Jeff Hudson, a very skilled player. While there, I attended a seminar with Relson Gracie. Talk about unbelievable!! However, a number of considerations caused me to stop training in Gracie JJ. First and foremost was that it was too expensive to study Gracie JJ and Tracy Kenpo Karate at the same time. Having just moved into a house in northwest Columbus, the money was a bit tight. The second consideration was the feeling on my part that my stand up game was not satisfactory to me. I had resolved to leave Kenpo behind after getting shodan in that art and move in another direction. Since my stand up game was not satisfactory, that meant that I needed to put Gracie JJ on hold and investigate other possibilities. I’d like to get back into Gracie or Machado JJ someday as this martial art is breathtakingly beautiful.

In the meantime, I had privately trained with various members of the NDMAI (such as Laurie McNeilly, Kate Noll, Stuart Tyner, Jennifer Kovass, Drew Sandler, Brookes Ebetsch, Paul Novak, Brendan Burns, and Dan Westmeyer) over the years in the basement of my house….nearly all of them coming to Columbus to attend graduate or law school at Ohio State, or just visiting Columbus. This gave me the chance to hone my Vee JJ and Chung Do Kwan TKD background.

I have to admit that, after I got out of Kenpo Karate, I was bouncing around and trying to fill this undefinable gap in my martial arts. I knew that it had something to do with my stand up game. But I couldn’t quite clearly define it. That would change when I met Dan McConnell through the Filipino martial art of Modern Arnis.

I came to Modern Arnis in 1998 in Columbus, Ohio (where I previously lived before moving to Canada). I had noticed a posting on the Escrima Digest announcing the first annual Remy Presas seminar in Hilliard, a suburb of Columbus. The seminar was being hosted by Guro Dan McConnell (now Master McConnell) in April of 1998. I e-mailed him and he invited me to his Arnis class in the first week of February 1998 at the Hilliard Martial Arts Center (referred to as HMAC) and the rest is history. I fell in love with this art. I was introduced to it by Dan and through his friendship and guidance, I attended many Modern Arnis classes at the HMAC, camps, and seminars over the years, steadily accumulating knowledge in this fantastic art. As a result of Dan’s and others’ guidance, I was eventually promoted to Lakan Tatlo. Also, Dan was instrumental in getting me on the IMAF Board of Directors, for which I am grateful. I also was fortunate enough to have attended a number of seminars and camps with Professor Remy Presas, the founder of the art of Modern Arnis, with Master Dan. In my opinion, Professor is one of the all time great martial artists.

It should be mentioned that I met many martial artists through Master Dan such as the current Masters of Tapi Tapi, Tony Marcial, Lynn Carper, Will Higginbotham, Frank Hreha, Herman and Shannon Suwanda, and Kelly Worden. I have fond memories at having attended seminars by Herman Suwanda in Dayton along with Dan. I’ll never forget the shock when I learned of Herman and Shannon’s death, particularly in light of the fact that Dan was arranging to bring them to Columbus for a seminar. And the Kelly Worden weekends? Talk about rocking and rolling !! I’m sure that there are others that I have forgotten to mention. Needless to say, I met a lot of people through Dan !

Since the untimely death of Professor Presas in August of 2001, I have continued to attend many Modern Arnis seminars and camps over the years. Instructors have included the IMAF Masters of Tapi Tapi and Master Dan. In addition, Dan has had Datu Kelly Worden in Columbus from Seattle for a number of weekend camps. In addition, I will be seeing Master Chuck Gauss in Michigan as often as I can for additional training, driving to Detroit from Toronto on the weekends. In addition, I have been training a couple of guys up here and hope to expand this into a training group.

How did I end up in Canada? I met my wife, Mary-Anne, through e-harmony and we got married in May of 2006. She is a life long resident of the Toronto area. We decided to move to the Toronto, Canada area after weighing many factors, the most important which was the family factor. I was fortunate enough to be introduced to two great guys, Mike and David, through Brian Zawilinski. Mike and David have had Master Zawilinski up for a couple of seminars after contacting him through the IMAF website. After hearing that Mary-Anne was from the same area, Master Brian arranged to introduce me to Mike and David. Since I moved here, I have been working with them and sharing our mutual enthusiasm for Modern Arnis.

In future postings, I will talk about the history, philosophy, concepts and techniques of Modern Arnis.


One thought on “My martial arts biography

  • November 16, 2007 at 12:49 am

    There are those in the know who know better. Then there are those not in the know who think that they might be in the know, and as such, with limited information, take it upon themselves to make summary judgements on the character of others.

    I doubt that martial philosophy, or, better said, eastern philosophies, are about one up manship. In the case of Master Dan and Guru Brian, I gather that both are superior martial artists with much to teach all of us, albeit with different methods, focus, and with years of experience and masterful skill, in differing schools of the art.

    It is my understanding that these two gentleman have had a longstanding friendship and comraderie, both providing the “stuff” of friendship to each other. But who can measure the balance of exchanges in a friendship? Who would want to? Who would want to degrade a friendship by allowing the power of external forces and circumstantial change to cause a misalignment?

    What observer (and martial artist), standing by and calling themself a friend to either or both, could readily judge one or the other without getting their facts straight, when there is more to the picture than meets the eye.

    As to the perceived omission or oversight – that Guru Brian was disrespecting a teacher – and friend – in his blog, I would attribute that more readily to haste, or on the other hand, projection on the part of the reader. In any case, regrettable.

    Both are great men, both deserve untold kudos, and both deserve our respect, even (or especially) if they make mistakes.


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