Enter the Dragons
It is often the elderly who keep the visions of the past alive. Those who were present back in the day are more often the ones who can separate fact from myth in many areas, especially, in the more esoteric areas, like the Far Eastern based martial arts, where mystery and legend often ends up overshadowing actual history. Supposition, surmise and rumor take on a life of their own, and often supplant truth. History is colored by its re-telling and eventually inhabits the world of fantasy rather than reality. Many people become larger than life and fact gets blown so far out of proportion that the source of their inception is lost in fancy. What I write here, know to be true, because I write from first-hand experience. What I say is not based upon conjecture, rumor or hearsay. I am not promoting someone’s magazine, nor am I being paid for my work. I would like to thank, in advance WorldWideDojo.com and the Legends and Legacies Column for allowing me, (as they have many others) a forum for honest, open reflection.
My name is Donald Miskel. I am the head master of the Black Lotus Martial Arts Association and one of the ‘Patriarchs’ of the International Fighting Arts Association. I am also one of the original members of the Black Dragon Fighting Society founded by John Keehan AKA Count Dante, who is described by Black Belt magazine in his heyday as one of if not ‘The Deadliest Man Alive.” Master Keehan taught the proverbial Dance of Death and other secret related kata collectively called ‘The Kata Dante’ to his students.
I am blessed to see my sixty-fifth year of life. Of those sixty-five years almost fifty-five have been spent in the study of the martial arts. Aside from being a martial artist, I am a minister and pastor. I have attained doctorates in Theology and Christian Counseling. I also have a graduate degree in Divinity and undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Microbiology. I have worked as a Quality Control Chemist, and in the medical and social service field as a psych tech and as a crisis counselor. I don’t say this to brag or boast, but much of my success has been because of my involvement in the martial arts and those people who I met along the way, like my fellow “Dragons.”
These individuals have gone on to become masters and some, even legend. They are men that embraced a common vision and still hold true to that vision to this day. These are the ones that I have known through my early involvement with the old “World Karate Federation” and the birth of the “Black Dragon Fighting Society” in the late nineteen sixties when martial arts in the USA was still in its infancy and pure in spirit. When the world around me was not too often said that I had to ride in the back of the bus and drink from the blacks only water fountain.
My instructor of the gentle arts (which were in no way gentle to the students) was Mas Tamura. From him I learned Judo and Jiu jitsu. It was through him that I met my first karate instructor, Shojiro Sujiama. He was the first Japan Karate Association (JKA) instructor to teach in the Midwest. I studied with him for about a year before I met the man I consider my sensei, Grand Master Douglas Dwyer, and the other men who introduced me to the martial arts philosophy that I follow till this day.
My earliest beginnings were humbling. I grew up in the roughest neighborhoods in the inner city of Chicago’s South Side where urban combat and violence was a constant reality. Poverty and desperation takes its toll on a people. I saw first hand the hard realities that such conditions perpetuate. I learned how to fight because I had to, to survive as a young kid. It was seldom that I met anyone near my age that could stand toe to toe with me. I had anger and rage issues that made me a formidable adversary. I wouldn’t start a fight but it didn’t take much to push me into fight mode. I would fight at the drop of a hat and I did it quite well.
I was more fortunate than some to have a stable family with both a father and mother in the home. They were good parents but their instruction wasn’t enough to negate the unsavory influence of the ‘hood’. In a tough and violent neighborhood I was more violent than most. I had no stopping sense and I would fight kids years older than myself with little provocation. I was well on my way to either getting killed or landing in prison like so many young black men who grow up frustrated without hope and the means to channel their energy constructively, forced to endure such harsh living conditions.
Fortunately two things happened in my life to divert me from a road of sure destruction. My mother began taking my sisters and me to church and it was at about that same time I was introduced to the martial arts. Both were instrumental in steering my life away from those common pitfalls that devoured young and old, alike.
When I met my sensei, Douglas Dwyer he had a karate school on West Sixty-third Street. In the nineteen sixties black folk like me didn’t cross Ashland Avenue but Doug broke many taboos by allowing me to train in his school. I came to find out that it was because of those liberal views that the World Karate Federation, in which he was one of the senior members, was first formed. I had trained with several instructors before coming to Doug’s school but I had never seen a technician like him. Training with him was like training in a Marine Corps boot camp and proved to be just what I needed at the time. However, I actually received my first black belt while in military service but I didn’t really accept it until it was recognized by my sensei, Doug Dwyer.
In those days rank wasn’t recognized just because you had a belt or a rank certificate even if it came from Japan. You had to prove your mettle. I had that opportunity while home on leave. Doug invited one of the instructors from the WKF to help test me for shodan in the organization. I had to fight around twenty of Master Sid Bennett’s brown and black belt students. I won’t elaborate on that grueling experience except to say I won more fights than I lost and my rank was then duly recognized. When it was over I looked like I had gone head first through a mix master. I would have been hard pressed to convince anyone that I had won a single one of the fights.
Doug was a major influence in my life. His instruction not only enhanced my growth in the arts it gave me direction in life outside the dojo. Doug taught Shorei Goju karate but he also introduced us to kobudo and some of the Chinese Kung Fu techniques that began to filter into the system. In kabuto, the usage of traditional Okinawan weapons, I specialized in the sai because it was Doug’s weapon of choice. Like father like son, I suppose and Doug was my ‘father’ in the arts.
It was through Doug Dwyer that I met John Keehan. This was before he took on the “Count Dante” persona. John was another of those extremely well gifted instructors and technicians. He and Doug were roommates and business partners, responsible for training the larger number of karate ka in the sixties and seventies, in the Midwest. Seventy five percent of the black belts in Chicago based karate came through them.
John Keehan and the WKF, along with most of the Midwest karate community ended up ostracized by the West and East Coast karate-ka regardless some of the nation’s most skilled technicians inhabited the Midwest; most namely Chicago. Some speculate that it was because of the aggression that is inherent in the streets of Chicago that karate became practical reality rather than theory. The karate practitioner in Chicago learned to fight by expedient necessity. If you said you could fight you’d better be able to back it up. Thus, we were fighting full contact tournaments while on the West and East Coast they were using a (no contact) point system.
“Kumite San Soo” that was made famous by the martial art film Bloodsport wasn’t a matter of speculation for us. Newspapers, periodicals and some of those martial art experts who claim to be in the know asked me “is it real?” and some suggest it was improbable betraying their ignorance. Of course it was real. It was happening all around us in the BDFS. John Keehan even invited many to participate in such events and held one in public at a University. It is the real beginning of what the general public knows as the MMA, today. The second such affair was held at Medina Temple on the Near North Side of the city in the late eighties.
John Keehan and the WKF became a target of controversy when their tournaments were not held in Whites Only Hotels. Promoters in Chicago didn’t dare jump in the ring to replace a referee to make sure their man, a white man prevailed like what occurred with Grandmaster, Robert Trias, whose interference and biased judging had prevented John Keehan’s student Ray Cooper from becoming the first USKA Black Karate Champion. That kind of interference and racial prejudice was thought acceptable back then. It is what led to founding the WKF and the Black Dragon Fighting Society, under the auspices of the International Fighting Arts Association (IFAA).
So we are clear, no single person can own the International Fighting Arts Association, as it is an association, a society and fraternity, not a private enterprise or even a federation. Here one person does not join the IFAA but an organization joins and is granted recognition. The Soke or headmaster of a system or federation may apply on behalf of his organization. For the most part IFAA members’ (soke) identities are not published in order to avoid politicking and rivalries that get in the way and prevent unity of effort. It was this kind of unity that enabled rival Soke’s to work together to put an end to racism in martial arts. Disputes are settled in private, as are some competitive events, which are meant to be educational, the most famous being the very first MMA matches. Events immortalized by films like Fearless, Yip Man and of course, Bloodsport that brought to the attention of the world the existence of the Black Dragons and the IFAA.
It was under the auspiciousness of John Keehan, also known as Count Dante, that the Black Dragon Fighting Society was born. He had come under the influence of a shadowy figure that lived under an alias and made his rather luxurious home in the back of a laundromat. Only if you were part of the inner circle did you come to know who he really was and his history. He was known by several names, but his true name was Sanzo “The Tiger” Tanaka.
Master Tanaka was a member of the Kokuryukai, the Black Dragon Society of Japan. He made use of his aliases because of legal problems with the Japanese and US governments given his affiliation to that organization and others like it such as, The Pacific Movement of the Eastern World, founded by the Black Dragon Society in Chicago around 1932, and run by Tanaka’s friend, Satokata Takahashiin. Takahashiin reportedly recruited Ashima Takis and his Chinese companion, Moy Liang, into the leadership of the organization. They taught martial arts, in Chicago and nearby, St. Louis.
The PMEW and Black Dragon organization preached worldwide unity of colored races under the leadership of Japan. Thus, they defied convention when in Chicago they trained minorities in various martial arts. Their students are those who they felt could be manipulated into creating civil unrest during a time the US would be at war with Japan, which occurred nine years later (December 7, 1941) at Pearl Harbor. However, in 1933, with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria paved by way of the Black Dragon Society, hostilities broke out between the USA and Japan, made evident by the founding of the Flying Tigers, American fighter pilots who fought the Japanese in China. The training and mixed allegiances in the USA led to numerous problems for many of those involved and thus the Black Dragon Fighting Society was formed. The reason the BDFS doesn’t have a Black Dragon as its emblem is because we are against Black Dragons in regards to it stood for fascism. Yet we call ourselves Black Dragons so as not to forget our roots that are tied to the Black Dragon Society of Japan and men, like Tanaka. He is someone who while quite shady was opposed to fascism. So much so, he was given a different identity and relocated by the US government because during World War II he was a double agent for the allies. His son or relation was the famous US jujitsu Champion trained by Jigoro Kano, Sanzo Seiki, who coincidentally also lived for many years under the alias, Jack Hayward. The identity provided him during World War II, when other Japanese American’s were being sent to internment camps, like Manzanar. Manzanar being the most widely known as the site of one of ten camps where over 110,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned during World War II.
Inspired and invited by Sanzo Tanaka, John Keehan fought in the Black Dragon Club, IFAA Bloodsport style kumite matches overseas. These are bare-knuckle no-holds-barred matches that go by many different names, such as, Vale Tudo. Knowing John Keehan and his flamboyant character as well as Black Belt magazine being known for hyping claims, these early MMA matches have been exaggerated as “death matches.” Some people did get badly hurt and just like in football and other contact sports they had their fair share of fatalities.
John formed the WKF and later the BDFS for similar reasons, wanting to teach minorities and have them fight in such events. He hated the racial and gender inequality of the early sixties and seventies, especially, prevalent in the martial arts. He defied the idea of lineage purity being more important than the actual training, evident when he incorporated Chinese martial arts, boxing, wrestling and anything that worked into his system following Tanaka’s philosophy.
Being open minded, led Sanzo Tanaka to perfect the Tibetan Iron Palm and Death Touch internal fighting arts when he lived and studied in China, in the 1920′s. He taught these arts to John Keehan, senior members of the BDFS, like Dr. Day and one of if not the youngest amongst the Dragons, an enthusiastic fourteen year old boy as big as a man in size and unstoppable spirit, who’d visit from California periodically to study and spar with us. He was Frank Dux of Bloodsport fame.
Having maintained homes in Milwaukee, Southern California and Chicago, Tanaka never stayed in one place too long. Frank accompanied Tanaka and you could say he was the real karate kid. In fact, Pat Johnson who helped write the film and choreographed it met Frank Dux on a film called Force Five and that is where he learned of Frank’s story. The “wax on and wax off” is what Tanaka was famous for teaching all of us. He said we must embrace every movement as an opportunity to train when he had us young guys around. There were more than a few opportunities for “waxing on and waxing off” when you spent time with Master Tanaka.
The BDFS was ahead of its time. It taught a style of brutal and efficient real world techniques and principles that were frowned on at the time. Today, Tanaka and Keehan would be considered cutting edge and innovative.
I had an opportunity to study with John Keehan AKA Count Dante, but things began to become tense with one of our instructors (Jungle) Jim Konservic being killed during the conflict between the Black and Green Dragon Clubs both of whom share a similar history. This was the culmination of a long standing falling out and rivalry. I eventually drifted away from the organization and John Keehan only to return years later.
The teachings impressed upon the BDFS by its founder John Keehan might have been lost but there was one who kept the spark alive. He held on to a vision and refused to let it die. It is because of him that flame burns brightly. His name is Dr. Lawrence Day. In a sense he is the Keeper of the Flame.
Most of my peers weren’t my peers back in the day. I looked up to and idolized these individuals. They outranked me then and most are still my seniors, though I’m trying hard to catch up. Dr. Day was one of those I idolized. He is a superlative karate practitioner, but he gradually made the transition to the Chinese martial arts and eventually became a master of the internal systems of kung Fu. I consider Dr. Day my most senior Grand Master.
It was Grandmaster Day that that kept track of or sought out the Original Surviving Members and keeps us together when we wander. He is the single greatest reason that we still exist as an organization, today.
Along with Dr. Day, one of our most senior Patriarchs of the IFAA who, by the way, was not BDFS but John Keehan’s running mate and is a Dragon by default. He is Grandmaster Michael Felkoff. He’ll probably kill me for saying it but we call him the “most cuddly member” of the group as in, he’d peel the pelt off of a live grizzly. Sounds pretty cuddly to me.
Master Felkoff is an expert practitioner of kung fu, primarily the internal arts. He isn’t large of stature but even in his seventies he isn’t one that you’d want to mess with. He is one of the most senior members of the organization and goes back more years in the martial arts than I would care to reveal. His credentials and experience is legendary. I weigh well over 230 pounds but he still bullies me and anyone else who gets in his way. He’s still able to toss them around like rag dolls. He is a veteran of the Vietnam War (as I am) where he applied his skills in the area of Special Operations. He grew up with close ties to the Chicago underworld and it was through Felkoff’s family associations that John Keehan, often seen with him, was presumed by outsiders to be part of “the outfit.” Rumor has it that it was the outfit who had Felkoff relocate to Las Vegas to look out for their best interests. In reality he is a man of peace. He founded the Chinese Cultural Center, in Chicago, which exists till this day. Dr. Felkoff is a master’s master and is one of my personal inspirations.
Another member of long standing is Master Ernie Reynolds. Master Reynolds is one of the great karate technicians and he is one of the reasons why I became interested in bodybuilding. He was a bodybuilder of championship caliber. Even with his size and mass he was fluid with his technique and deceptively fast. He is an expert sword technician, specializing in the katana and is a master of kung fu practitioner and instructor. He was a veteran of full contact no-holds-barred fighting, long before the UFC came along and the MMA is all the rage. The book Shihan by R. Boyd Moorman is written about Ernie Reynolds. He is the inspiration for me getting involved in the (illegal) pit matches that were held in out of the way places during the late seventies and into the early eighties.
SHIHAN! May not be a book for everyone but for those who walk the martial path with humility and bushido’s philosophy this work will have special appeal. It is written specifically to commemorate the ongoing legacy of legendary martial arts Grandmaster, Dr. Ernie Reynolds. This work was undertaken in order to preserve his legacy among current and future generations of Black Dragons both here and abroad. Nevertheless, some of these contents doubtless will have wide appeal to many others in the broader martial arts community. This is because like my own Ernie’s life was transformed by the martial arts. The reader will gradually come to realize that the abundant gems of wisdom contained therein spring from a life dedicated to the transformation of others through the martial arts.
Another member that I idolized in my youth was Master Victor Moore. Vic Moore was one of, if not the greatest, karate fighter that the U.S. ever produced. He fought and defeated about everyone who was anyone in the golden days of tournament karate. Karate was a different animal back in those days. Karate-ka could really fight. Contact was made with no hand and foot protection. Those days produced some of the greatest competitors of all time and in a world of expert fighters. Vic Moore stood head and shoulders over most.
Vic Moore overcame racial prejudice to the point that he amazed all when he broke down barriers by becoming one of the chief instructors of Master Robert Trias’s “United States Karate Federation” and Master Trias, who is considered the father of American Karate, said that Vic was one of the greatest teachers that he had ever seen. Coming from Master Trias, that’s saying something as Trias was reputed for being a bigot, in certain circles.
Vic Moore was instrumental in creating equality in the martial arts world. Nigel Clarke, The Amsterdam News: “Racism In The Martial Arts, cites him as one of those champions whose fury might have been forgotten due to the racism. He was one of the first and greatest of the African American karate champions. He opened doors and established privileges that many African American martial artists enjoy today. Every minority who practices the martial arts today owes him a debt of gratitude and yet he is treated as “persona non gratis” by the martial art trade journals, like Black Belt magazine.” Personally, I think that the entire martial art community owes him a dept of gratitude.
The most obvious reason for his being treated unfairly is he was a perceptible threat to those publishers that have hyped some individuals as undefeated martial art stars, all of whom Vic bested. Not taking anything away from any them, as they are household names and great talents. Vic is known as “the man who fought them all”; Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Mike Stone, Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace, Mike Foster, etc. They are the revenue streams for many of these martial art magazines that have a conflict of interest. They are in actuality not trade journals like they advertise themselves to be but marketing tools of the merchandising companies the publisher owns. For instance, Black Belt magazine and O’Hara books were owned by the same person, Mito Uyehara.
Another martial arts great that graces our roster and stands beside the martial art magazine stars like Vic Moore, is Master Frank Dux. You don’t really have to say much about Frank when his reputation precedes him and reaches far beyond the martial art world. He is a living legend. His name recognition extends to many people who never practiced the arts. Amongst those who do, many will tell you it is his story turned into the movie classic Bloodsport that inspired them to study martial arts. The film and Frank’s true to life never seen prior fight choreography catapulted Jean Claude Van Damme into fame. His story and talent rescued the martial art film genre from dying on the vine, then being derogatorily called “Chopsockies,” in Hollywood, with the loss of Bruce Lee.
The reason for authenticity of Bloodsport fight scenes is the obvious fact Frank Dux fought in the real life fights of the IFAA and Black Dragon Fighting Society sponsored “Kumites,” as depicted in the film. He accrued a win record that has yet to be equaled and is considered hands down by those really in the know the greatest champion that that event has yet produced.
Vic Moore fought Frank and it was through Frank challenging Vic Moore that he met Sanzo Seki and Sanzo Tanaka and became a Dragon.
In public and private Moore boasts Frank Dux is his most memorable opponent. What makes Frank Dux so memorable was that Frank Dux was the only opponent Vic couldn’t best. That’s not hard to believe if you saw Frank fight back in the day. He was so strong and fast he fought grown men and made them cry in our dojo, our church of pain where we had one rule. Class wasn’t over for you until blood was on the floor. Dr. Day took him in under his wing and was in Franks corner when he won the Kumite, in Nassau, in 1975. Dr. Day says to all his students still today:
Even when the other side cheated Frank still reached deep down in himself and won. Chong Li blinded him just like in the movie but it wasn’t powder but some sort of liniment he put on his body that came out when he sweated. That’s when I knew Frank was a real Dragon because he didn’t panic and lash out. He went deep inside himself and used Fa Jing, the internal energy to calm himself and yet have explosive power, like we were all trained to do by Tanaka and John. It is what made us real Dragons, separated us from the rest who call themselves that because it sounds good and don’t really understand the significance of what it means in terms of ability.
Frank was taught to be a forward thinking twenty first century ninjitsu master with a keen business sense that earned him title of Kentucky Admiral by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Energy & Environment Cabinet. His accomplishments include sustainable energy inventions saving people around the world by providing clean water solutions where there was none to be had before. Inventions he gave away for free when he could have made himself millions of dollars.
It stands to reason though. If “The Book of The Five Rings” and “The Art of War” can be used to sharpen business prowess in corporate America, his teachings lend itself well to demands of modern business.
Like most celebrities he is the subject of sensational claims used in selling products and driving traffic to websites. He is made vulnerable to speculation because like Vic Moore, his ethnicity is deemed not commercial enough for the magazines. His achievements overshadow their stars, given the fact in the US Military Special Warfare community Frank Dux is acknowledged as one of the innovators of modern strategy and tactics. Frank being named a source contributor to notable Special Warfare manuals, including the prominent United States Navy SEAL CFC SPECWAR Manual: K-431-0097, embraced and utilized by Special Forces, globally.
Frank Dux also served as an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Defense funded Multi-jurisdictional Counter Drug Task Force, Criminal Justice Institute, St. Petersburg, Florida. He has also visibly trained SWAT teams and is the instructor of other SWAT and defensive tactics instructors from various police departments and anti-terror units, etc. He served as an unprecedented return keynote speaker regarding defensive tactics for the Federal Law Enforcement Officer’s Association, along with Major General, Ralph Eberhardt USAF (ret) the commander of NORAD, during 9/11.
He has been cited by various military honors processions. On Oct 8, 2011, US House of Representatives, Member of Congress, Jeff Miller, Committee on Armed Services; Select Committee on Intelligence writes Frank Dux: “It is truly an honor for me to recognize and thank you for your sacrifices and service to your country.”
Jeff Miller, is joined by US Representative Steve Southerland, as each presents Frank Dux with Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition that reads: “For the sacrifices you made in cause of freedom.”
This is a follow up to the March 24th, 2011 Military Honors Ceremony, held in Brookside Baptist Church, Nicholasville, Kentucky, where Frank Dux covert service to his country was OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED; with his being presented with a Citation of Valor by both US House of Representatives and Kentucky House of Representatives, whereby in addition to Frank Dux proclaimed by Commonwealth State of Kentucky, a Kentucky Admiral for his energy contributions, he is made a Kentucky Colonel for his military ones. Nicholasville Mayor, Russ Meyer presented Frank Dux a Key to the City.
Many years have passed since John Keehan AKA Count Dante died. Those who know and respect the truth take offense at the cheap shots aimed at defaming his character. Many have hidden behind aliases, for whatever reason reporting falsehoods about Dragon members. For example, I’ve seen it said that John Keehan died from chrome’s disease and in prison. The truth is that John Keehan’s obituary and death certificate documents that he died of shock and hemorrhage, attributed to a peptic ulcer. Weiss Memorial Hospital pronounced him dead on arrival with the ambulance picking him up from his home located at 6145 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, NOT PRISON! Several independent journalists, who do not have a conflict of interest, have established members such as Frank Dux bona fides not to mention that those of us who witnessed his setting world records and participating in the kumite, first hand have never been asked to testify.
Even when provided with the truth, posted in the comments section of a shock and awe websites, the administrators take a cavalier attitude and delete the comments or bury them under other posts so the truth can’t be found easily. Is this done in hopes of rewriting history in order to favor those who really, are business competitors of the actual legendary figures, or those who can’t seem to measure-up and fear we will take the spotlight off of them or their icons?
In terms of ninja masters Master Kim is an enigma even to those who know him, as he is one of, if not the most, prolific author of Martial Art Books in The World. He is a perceived threat to some publishers and their authors, evoking petty jealousy from them and their cult like followers. Made apparent when he is made the subject of baseless online attacks that are steeped in ignorance, speculation and hearsay.
There is a quiet dignity and reserve there that undoubtedly hides some deep water. Anyone who would question Ashida’s knowledge and wisdom should take the time to engage him in conversation. In those areas he stands head and shoulders above any critic and, would be, expert. I suggest sitting and conversing with him because engaging him in any form of physical altercation could prove to be hazardous to one’s health. Quiet and reserved doesn’t translate into weak and ineffectual. He defeated in a televised exhibition match in South Africa a PKA ranked Kickboxing Champion who outweighed him. He is a master of Dante’s Dance of Death. He knows his craft quite well and has a long verifiable history in the arts.
He goes back with the BDFS to the time of the fiery Democratic convention in Chicago and the civil rights movement that made him many enemies who still hold grudges to this day. He is known by those of us who were in Chicago with John Keehan at the time, who recognize how Dante’s persona shows up in Ashida. How he marketed himself to the public in the selling of his books, his being steeped in mystery and controversy. His detractors whole basis of calling him a fake is centered around others false claims and how they rationalize Ashida is a Japanese term and Kim a Korean one. Rationalizing the combining of the two words was a mistake on his part and that makes him illegitimate. Unaware, Ashida Kim is not his name but handle when he fought in karate tournaments. Ashida meaning “big foot” and Kim shortened from “kimchi,” what his foot would do to your face if it landed or what would happen to him if he bent over where he could see his foot during sparring in the dojo, a habit the Dragons broke him of the hard way, turning his inards into “kimchi!”
When I think of both the modern warrior and the more traditional teacher, Master Ron Pierce comes to mind. He fills both rolls admirably with no conflict between the two schools of thought. Grandmaster Pierce begun his martial arts training in 1957 and was an accomplished young martial artist when he met Sijo Emperado in 1967 through his teacher Robert Rapue. At that time Grandmaster Pierce forged a life long bond with Sijo Emperado. Grandmaster Pierce has also trained and study under Yamaguchi the “Cat man” who trained under T. Mitose, Soke’s Father, the late J. Mitose, Soke. Grandmaster Pierce over the decades has trained and is accomplished in a variety of martial arts but teaches Kajukenbo as his foundation Style. His credentials are too numerous to mention so I won’t even try to attempt, as it would take an entire book just to give him a semblance of justice. He now holds the rank of 10TH Dan and along with Kajukembo teaches both Shaolin kung fu and the internal systems of kung fu. His students include Grandmaster Jerry Cook, and his roots go back, through his martial arts lineage, to the “Black Dragon Society” of ancient China.
Our teacher, Sanzo Tanaka’s lineage, can be traced to Katori Shinto-ryu that’s curriculum includes shinobijutsu (ninja training), which is officially recognized by the regulating bodies in Japan that evaluates koryu authenticity.
Unfortunately, the martial arts community, particularly, the area of ninjutsu, has been negatively impacted by posers who dilute the quality of teaching. They create confusion with the backing of corrupt publications and marketing firms that benefit by monopolizing niche markets by misrepresenting their martial arts stars are authentic while inferring the competitors to those stars who will never be featured in the media outlets they control, are not. To the degree, publishers to this day promote stereotyping. Such as, in terms of mastering the martial arts of the Far East, the stereotype an Asian teacher is more authentic than someone who is not is being given validity.
The IFAA and BDFS came about to address the commercialization of martial arts and the inequality that goes along with it and society. This is a very elite club where not everyone is accepted and some people may think a member of ours would have no place in martial arts much less be honored by us. Notwithstanding, we are the one’s who have the verified lineage, history and education to separate myth from fact. Many of our members are negatively impacted because of their legitimacy. Their lineage or knowing the whole truth make them persona non gratis and subject to allegation, in fear of what they may say that undoubtedly lead to embarrassing the trade magazines and those imposters whom they promote as martial artists. When their teaching and actions are not in sync with the material facts, principals and philosophy that defines a martial artist of the Far East.
When you are a Dragon you have access to important material facts that are generally withheld from the public. Certainly hidden by those outsiders more interested in pursuing their own selfish interest. Such as, a magazine publisher claims one Ryuha they market is authentic and “koryu,” all while concealing from the general public to be a Koryu system in Japan, a Ryu-ha’s (budo system) documents must pass muster. Their scrolls must be independently scrutinized by a panel of experts for truthfulness and as a general rule, they must date back prior to the beginning of the Meiji Period, which is 1868. The Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai and Nihon Kobudo Kyokai are the two regulating authorities that determine this, which the IFAA does in its own way with regards to many different systems both new and old.
The mission of the IFAA is rooted in the fact that over the centuries there exist those teachers whom in order to gain an unfair advantage over their competitors claim their system is more authentic, that they alone are solely legitimate and everyone but them is a fraud. We counterbalance such ridiculous claims by offering membership for those affected by such misconduct.
For example, Katori Shinto Ryu has “ninjutsu” in its respective curriculum, and is recognized as being koryu by the two regulating authorities in Japan. But the martial art magazines and online keyboard commandos choose to promote that only the Iga Tokagure Ryuha (that splintered into Bujinkan, Genbukan, Jinenkan, Toshindo) are legitimate Koryu ninjutsu when their alleged Koryu authenticity goes unrecognized by the two Koryu regulating organizations, in Japan. Not for not trying, as Dr. Hatsumi of the Bujinkan did try to become a member of the Nihon Kobudo Shinkokai in the past and he was denied entry, twice. And yet, Dr. Hatsumi, his disciples and unscrupulous media outlets who market his merchandise dare put other people’s lineage in dispute by slandering and libeling their ninjutsu and the person teaching it, declaring them to be a fake, a fraud, when the opposite is really true.
Kumite san soo (no-holds-barred fighting) was embraced by the Dragons to put an end to such ridiculous arguments used in stressing lineage and tradition over real world application. And when our students out of curiosity began to ask questions about ninjutsu, in the 1980′s, and the controversy surrounding it they were empowered by the truth. We were the ones and not the magazines, Internet and certainly not self serving ryu-ha that corrected wrongs by educating them that ninjutsu (or krav maga for that matter) is not a martial art system in and of itself but a generic term, like boxing, fencing, karate or kung fu. Thus, there can be no such thing as fake ninjutsu, since ninjutsu is comprised of many systems or schools of thought. Ninja is a job description and is not a title as being romanticized. Facts the government run Ninja museum in Japan post on its website, years later. Arguably, the BDFS of John Keehan is one of these ninja ruyha, since part of our lineage is after all, Katori Shinto Ryu, the curriculum recognized as a koryu in Japan by the regulating authorities, as aforementioned.
I have mentioned only the Patriarchs of the IFAA Official Black Dragon Fighting Society but there exist many accredited masters and teachers that grace our honor roll. We are vast in knowledge but a few among many. The Grandmasters and heads of several prestigious organizations are representative of our membership. If I started mentioning the great masters and teachers that grace our rosters past and present this essay would become a very long book. I will say that practically any martial art that a person would want to study is represented here. There is something for any and everybody.
We the Dragons, the IFAA, share a lineage that predates the formal organization that was formed in Chicago and elsewhere. It goes back well over a thousand years. We have roots to a most ancient secret society and we strive to implement values and ideals that are worthy of such a lineage. In the nineteen sixties our mission was fighting for racial and gender equality in and outside of the martial arts. We made our bones then by daring to escort young African American men into whites only hotels that hosted karate tournaments. Outnumbered twenty to one, the Dragons, like Dr. Lawrence Day, Michael Felkoff, Ernie Reynolds, Sam Lonewolf, a teenage Frank Dux, staring down the bigots while proclaiming “Hey, we are here to fight our man. One way or another he fights or all of us fights, your choice.”
That kind of courage made it possible for Vic Moore to have the opportunity to face the undefeated Mike Foster back from Japan where Mike took the World Championship title away from the Japanese. Moore took it from him, becoming the first African American to win the coveted World Karate Association Championship title. Look at our ranks and you will find it filled by some the greatest martial art legends there ever was, that you generally won’t read about in the magazines for reasons previously stated.
It is our purpose not to be confrontational but to encourage brotherhood and mutual respect amongst martial artists regardless of styles, systems, lineage or affiliation. Our values supersede race, creed, color, national origin or the rabid commercialization of the arts. We remain an exclusive not very public organization but we are inclusive in our acceptance of our brethren in the arts. Membership is through invitation only but one may ask to be considered and if the opportunity presents itself it would profit any serious martial artist to become an affiliate member. We have a dream and a vision but it is a vision that we want to share with not only other martial artists but also our fellow man. We strive to live and bring harmony of mind, body and spirit to not just ourselves, but all mankind, because the ripples of the pond return to the center; we are those who act not react: The warrior that the sages of the Far East call Black Dragon.
Dr. Donald Miskel
Judan Shodai Soke, BLMAA