Ernie Reyes Sr. – Leading By Example
Raised by Filipino immigrant parents, the infectiously optimistic Ernie Reyes Sr. believes he was born to be a martial arts teacher. In the world of martial arts, this is every martial artist’s or aspiring martial arts instructor’s very good fortune. Mr. Reyes shows us, by his example, that anything is possible and, like so many truly legendary figures in martial arts, the qualities of humility and gratitude are the driving forces of his greatness. It is his humble beginnings and an adherence to traditional family values learned through his parents, that allows Ernie Reyes Sr. to positively affect thousands of people by his example. His legacy can be measured by the quality of his own lineage and by the fact that his example has raised the bar and set a standard for excellence for all of us in the martial arts, an example of how to meet and overcome the challenges we face in life.
(G) So, how are you feeling?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) I’m doing pretty well, after my hernia operation. I’m kind of going through the growing pains of being healed. I’ve never stopped training, you know, so it’s been a big mental challenge for me to just sit around and do nothing. I’m going on my third week after the operation. I’ve been training a little bit, but not pushing it too much. Dr. said, it takes approximately 30 days to be healed internally. I’m just trying to stay positive and push forward! You know what I mean?
(G) Yes, I do know. It’s hard when all of a sudden you can’t train, especially when that is what you rely on to help cope with your problems.
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) It can really take your spirit.
(G) If you are up to it, let’s get right to the interview. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see what we’ve been doing online, but one of the things I like to do first is what I call the Message in a Bottle.
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Yes, I’ve seen them, but go ahead and set it up for the interview.
(G) If you had to leave a message to the world, and it doesn’t need to be martial arts related but it CAN be, what would you say?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) I would say that I’ve been very fortunate to be able to find my noble calling and driven purpose in life. I feel that I was born to become a martial arts teacher, and I cherish that very deeply in my heart. I say this because I believe very deeply in my heart and believe that martial arts is one of the greatest and most powerful gifts of life. The reason why I say that is because it really has the power to transforms people’s lives. It’s really not a matter of transforming just kids lives or adults lives; it’s straight across the board. When you have the opportunity to have something so powerful like that, first of all it basically starts off as something physical. But, then it incorporates the most important thing of becoming a full and self-fulfilled human being. From the physical development it starts to transition in developing you mentally, spiritually with good character.
Here is the reason why I say that. Every six months, we have an opportunity to have a Black Belt test. We have about 2000 people show up, about 300 people testing, from kids who are testing to become Junior Black Belts to adults who are testing for their senior Black Belts. The most important thing that inspires and motivates me as a teacher is not just the physical excellence of the test. It’s after the test when we have our students of all ages come up and give a testimonial of how martial arts has transformed their lives in a positive way. We do the test for two days. The first two days consist of a written test, team bonding, and testing our well-rounded West Coast World Martial Association Black Belt curriculum. Immediately right after a 3-hour nighttime Black Belt Show on the second day, we go outside to a soccer field and do (PT) Physical Training, push-ups, sit-ups, wind sprints, crab walks, bear crawls and other conditioning and fitness drills. Then, people come and do the testimonials.
After they do their victory lap some of the testers come up front and center and share their testimonials with the audience. These are some of the most powerful touching stories that anybody could really feel, from a young child or adult. There are some heart felt stories, where a parent, a grandparent or other adult relative had passed away, perhaps less than two weeks before the test, but instead of the child quitting their Black Belt test, they still continued on and took their Black Belt test. They dedicate their Black Belt test in memory of their love one and used it as motivation to take their test to the next level!
There was even one time when one kid was diagnosed with ADHD, convulsions and other mental handicaps. This was the first time I had experienced this, so it was a private test. The bottom line is that his head instructor, Russ Rocchi said, he might have a seizure and we might have to end up dealing with that. So, the kid goes through the test and he was doing fine at the time, he was doing very well, really awesome in fact. He had great focus and I didn’t see any signs of ADHD. But, he had a seizure in between the test. Then, after his seizure he rested a little, we gave him time and he came right back! That was one of the most powerful martial art experiences I have ever seen. The young boy was very courageous and inspiring! Black Belt testers have come up and gave testimonials and shared that martial arts helped them stay away from drugs, alcoholic and gangs or whatever and that taking this test had empowered their life in a positive way. On a fitness life style level, people have lost 75 to 100 pounds because of the Black Belt test gave them a strong purpose, and these extraordinary stories go on and on and on.
The most important thing when I look out there in the audience and see the people that are watching our testimonials, it’s such a diverse group. This makes you realize the real power of martial arts. You see every race, color, and creed out there listening to these testimonials and watching these testers speak from their hearts. We are bringing all these people together, in peace and harmony. This is something that not to many personal development courses or belief systems really have the power to do. When I see that we are doing that, as martial artists because of this gift we were given, I think that this is the reason why I believe we have one of the greatest gifts of life.
(G) I think that’s a pretty good message. Let me ask you to expand on something you said that I found interesting. You talked about peace and harmony of martial arts bringing people together. Do you find that that is a hard concept to sell to people about an activity where is essentially punching and kicking?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Well, It just happens, it is not even the initial intention. It just evolves like that because people of all races, colors and creed come to the school. Then, they watch a Black Belt test and they see students that have been around from four, twelve years, and even thirty years or more all working together in peace and harmony to bring out the best in each other regardless of race. It evolves from the way we start off teaching martial arts. I believe we attract a certain kind of person that wants discipline and respect. Then we create a certain respectful culture that affects them in a positive way. It was not our initial purpose to make that happen, we just follow the martial art way. It’s just happens and you see it out there. That’s why I’m saying that it’s really a miracle to see how martial arts can make that happen. It does it through its own power, if it is taught right, I believe.
(G) If it is taught right, exactly. So what are some of the responsibilities of a good martial arts teacher?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Well, I think that you always have to make sure that you teach the highest values of martial arts training and I was fortunate to have been taught by old school masters. I come from a traditional base, but I am very progressive. My first instructor was Moises Arizmendi, in 1966. He was a Tang Soo Do instructor. Then I met my Grand Master instructor Dan Choi; he was another Tang Soo Do instructor when I attended San Jose State University, where I graduated. There I met my best friend Master Tony Thompson. Eventually all of the Tang Soo Do instructors switched over to Tae Kwon Do. There are so many different Korean styles of martial arts, but most everybody went under the umbrella of Tae Kwon Do basically.
The most important thing that I learned from my first instructors was not only mastery of technique but the highest values in martial arts teaching: Honor, Loyalty, Family and Bravery based upon respect and discipline. These kinds of core values are really important to maintain in teaching, but it didn’t just come from them. This kind of teaching has been around for centuries, it is the core of traditional martial arts training and teaching.
(G) Have you read Jhoon Rhee’s, Trutopia: a Tae Kwon Do philosophy?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Yes, I saw Jhoon Rhee recently and he gave me an autographed copy, which was very nice.
(G) Well, to simplify the main message, Jhoon Rhee talks about how we can avoid conflict by starting every dialogue with an agreement to begin by telling the truth. How important do you think that truth is in both the learning and teaching of martial arts?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) It goes right back to the question of are you still trying to teach respect and discipline in modern times. These are roots of any traditional martial arts training. There are many kinds of martial arts training these days. Some people are into fighting and creating great fighters, which is O.K. and I believe in that. But, to me the “truth” is to be able to have the balance of developing not only black belts in martial arts, but black belts in life. If you want to have truth, then you have to have respect and you must have discipline. If you are teaching those thingsmI mean, how can you teach respect and discipline without being truthful?
(G) What technically appeals to you about Tae Kwon Do?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) When I was coming up, it was the only style available to me. I grew up in Salinas, California, which is a small agricultural town, about 50 miles south of San Jose. So, that was all that was available. The master instructor of the school was Marvin Heath, who was a drill instructor from Fort Ord, California.
Most of the original instructors came from the armed forces, or were taught by members of the armed forces. Even Chuck Norris was a Tang Soo Do instructor. He learned through the military. They all brought it over from Korea. That was all that was available to me, so that’s how I got into it. The next thing I saw was my master Choi, doing all those beautiful jumping and flying kicks. He emphasized that more, and the spinning kicks. I was intrigued with that. Then, I got into the fighting aspects of Tae Kwon Do competitions. In 1977 I was the USA National Tae Kwon Do champion and I took the bronze medal in the third world championships. To be honest with you, at that point I was already doing Mixed Martial Arts myself, even going a little bit against the grain of traditional instructors, because in Old School, you either did Tae Kwon Do or nothing. It took me awhile to even tell my instructor that I was doing other martial arts training. I was already boxing and kickboxing. I was already doing some stick and knife techniques with Grand Master Remy Presas and Mike Inay. I was working out with Anthony Chan who was one of the first to bring Wu Shu over to the United States. As a matter of fact, we even did a demo team with Jet Li. He was on the Bejing Wu Shu team and we did this demonstration at a community center. Their whole team was there, plus my team was there. People think that it’s just Tae Kwon Do, but we’ve been involved for a long time in Mixed Martial Arts training, since the beginning of the 70s.
(G) Aren’t all martial arts Mixed Martial Arts, in a sense?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) To some extent, everybody is kind of borrowing things from everybody. However, in the Old School days everybody identified themselves as being in Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu, or Kung Fu. Even in Kung Fu, everybody says that their style evolved from somewhere else.
(G) I wanted to ask you about this quote I found regarding you. It says, “One of the greatest martial arts masters of the 20th Century.” How do you feel about that?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Again, that was an extraordinary honor. Wesley Snipes had his Masters of the Martial Arts of the 20th Century. He did that in New York and it was a great honor to even be thought of at that level, or at that level, because the others who were in that group were people like Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris, Jhoon Rhee, a lot of the Old School martial artist that were pioneers of martial arts in America. Just to be part of that, in my time was unbelievable. They were really ahead of me. If they were first generation, then I was like the second generation. To be part of that was one of the greatest highlights of my life.
(G) Tell me a story about one of your instructors. Anything come to mind?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.)) I would rather talk about my instructors in general, at this point in time. Here’s the thing: What I remember was that when my instructors were younger everybody was going for black belt without thinking about being old. The choice was between doing it or not doing it, the old factor was never ever considered. It was a matter of willpower and consistency that made us all keep on going for 5-6 days a week with no problem. But, now I’m at a certain point where I’m having a Mastery test next year in 2012 for instructors who have been with me for 35 or 40 years. Now, I’m going to be 65 in February. I’ve never felt old. Being old never enters my mind. I’m always training. I’m always working out. Now, I’m preparing this whole new older group of students to test in May 2012. They are at a wide range of different age, and they ARE instructors. They are teaching students to become black belts.
Now they have to become a student again. They’ve been training a year and a half or two years just to get ready for this Mastery Test. It’s been somewhat challenging for them because they are now feel “old!” That word is a killer word old. We’re talking about one’s legacy and legend. I believe the word can kill one’s legacy and legend. This is because most martial arts people are in agreement with the general masses that old means you are done. That if you are over thirty, you are old. That is a limiting belief that everybody accepts. Now, I’ve got people who are thirty, but some are forty, fifty and sixty. Now it becomes a whole other game. All the excuses and alibis that they come up with and tell me is something they’d never accept from their own students. But now they are giving those excuses to me!
Having to motivate and inspire these instructors that I truly love dearly has made me become a better martial arts teacher because this has created a new and unfamiliar teaching experience that I have never had to deal with before. It makes me think deeply to find ways to help them all succeed at the highest level for their age!
So, that’s been a little bit of a challenge, but they’ve all done really well. Many of them are becoming better martial art technicians and teachers by having to prepare, get out their comfort zones and meet my standards of a Mastery test. I am proud of them all!
We’re all going to get older and that is inevitable. But, the bottom line is are you just going to get older or are you going to get stronger in some way? You can only be as good as you can be, at the age that you are. You will never able to compete with your own younger self. When I take my test when I’m 65, I know that I will be in the best physical shape for me, at that age. Conditioning wise, my body doesn’t have the recovery ability now that I had at twenty, but physique-wise at 65 years old, I’ll have a better physical physic then when I was twenty years old!
(G) By the way, I saw your Demonstration Team at the Mark Geary Roast and they were awesome!
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Thank you.
(G) Looking at your team, I couldn’t help but wonder when I saw the amazing things these young people were doing, how did you feel when you see young kids doing things that probably you didn’t think was possible when you were competing?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Exactly! It’s definitely evolved since the first demonstration team. I had national champions, even at that time, including the youngest child ever to be rated in the adults professional division at 8 years old, Ernie Reyes Jr. George Chung and Cynthia Rothrock were the number one male and female forms champions in the nation.
Then there was myself, Margie Betke, Belinda Davis, Dayton Pang, Darren Pang, and Chuckie Curry. We had all of those people, and they probably could have done all the things that people are doing now, but it evolved. I know one thing is that what we had the opportunity to do back then was open the doors to extreme martial arts. Whatever they are doing now, they were not doing in the beginning. We all planted the seed.
We were some of the first to combine acrobatics, flying, spinning and jump kicks with traditional forms. Our West Coast Demo Team Forms Champions were the ones who created open musical formats, using pop music.
(G) How did that come about? How do you come up with new ideas? What motivates you to move forward, rather than just stick with what you’ve always done?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) For me, it’s just a matter of sensory acuity. I try to be truthful. I ask myself: Does it look better? Is it more dynamic, more exciting? Is it going to make people stronger, faster or better in some kind of way? Is it going to challenge the performers? I haven’t truly been completely up to date on every single new technique, but I have students that are doing that, like Chirs De Vera because competition is their primary focus. To me it’s important to be able to evolve and adapt quickly to any style of martial arts. That’s one of our main focuses at West Coast World Martial Arts Association to be able to develop a personal and professional martial artist who can adapt to any martial arts training. That’s the ultimate goal of what I try to teach and what Master Thompson tries to teach, and all of the heads of our WCWMA associations.
(G) Do the students ever come to you and say, “Here is something that I just made up?”
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Yeah, all the time. That’s what so great about it, because the ultimate goal as a teacher of martial arts is to make sure that you students become better than you. I feel that you have to strive for the rest of your life to become the best you possibly can, and see if the students can become better than that. That’s how things evolve, right?
(G) What is your personal favorite training technique? Or, what is your preference?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) I always make sure, first and foremost that I’m eating the right foods. It’s really important to fuel your body, to make sure that it is taken care of, so that you are eating to win; you are eating to become a champion; you are eating to become a role model. Health and fitness is a huge subject. When sixty percent of the whole United States is obese, now you are throwing children into the mix. Somebody’s got to step up and say “this is not quite right.” All this food we are eating is not quite right. There has to be a better way, a healthier way. To me, the food aspect of it is the most important thing. I go to the gym at least three or four times a week. I do cardio, whether it’s on the bike or elliptical and weight training has always been part of my training, ever since I started. I’ve always been cross-training with weight resistance for the last forty-six years. Then, I just try to stay on top of the current techniques and trends, such as grappling and MMA. I’m not a black belt in it, but I’ve been surrounded by some great martial artists, such as Frank Shamrock and Bob Cook. They have taught us MMA techniques. I actually started with Caesar and Ralph Gracie during the 1995.
I’ve been influenced and studied with so many World Champions, Mike Swain, Bill Wallace, Benny Uriquidez, Jean-Claude Leyeur. In some of the combative arts, Tom Pateri, Frank Gucci, Tony Blauer, Peyton Quinn, Jimmy Tacosa, Dan Innosantos, Richie Costillo,Wally Jay, Sig Kauferauth. So many people have influenced us to evolve into our style of mixed martial arts. I still feel like I have a long way to go. There is so much to learn. I really feel like a white belt.
(G) We all are in some aspect. What do you think about the belt ranking systems?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Like I said, I think martial arts is one of the greatest gifts of life. It transforms people’s lives. It’s transformed all of my friend’s lives and it’s going to transform all of our student’s lives. There is no two ways about it that it’s going to make people better, physically mentally and spiritually, with good character but it depends of each individual instructor to follow the way. All those kinds of benefits are there for people. I don’t have a fighting stable; that’s not my thing, I focus in on teaching the general public masses; this is how we can make a difference in the world. I want to be able to impact as many people’s lives, during my lifetime, as I possibly can. It’s not like we’re not going to try and do the best we can in any area of martial arts training, but if a student wants to focus in an area at a higher level than I can help them by referring them to my special friends that can take them to a higher level.
The belt system is important because, when you are dealing with the masses, you have to set goals. Without these goals, you are not going to be able to retain people. The belt system is really important because we can say, “here’s your target date. Here’s what you need to know in the beginning stages, the intermediate stages, the advanced stages,” all the way to black belt. Then, you want the black belt to know that you don’t want them to stop at their first black belt. To be honest with you, you want your students to know that you want them to be training for the rest of their life. No one will be able to do that without any goal. People are used to having rewards handed to them in some way by graduating, whether it’s first grade, to second grade, junior high school, high school, college, or achieving a doctorate degrees. People are being indoctrinated into systems with goal setting. So, I think it’s vitally important to be able to have a belt system all the way through each color belt level and Black Belt, especially if you are dealing with the general public masses. For myself I have committed to train for life until my last breath.
(G) Do you think belts are more important to children or adults?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) I think it’s important for everybody. It doesn’t matter who it is. You have got to be able to have goals. People need a reward system. With a reward system they will get more motivated and inspired. It’s the simplest thing. I did Bikram Yoga, hot yoga at 110-115 degrees. You are in there for an hour and a half. I had to start off with an introductory program, just ten days. I wanted to see what it was going to be like. I was dying. I never went to my knees, but I was dying. I got out and I wasn’t sure I could do it, but after the third time they wanted to re-up me to a sixty day challenge. “Let’s see if you can do it for sixty days straight.” I said I didn’t want to do it, but the instructor knew who I was and she said, “I’m volunteering you. You’re going to do the sixty day challenge.” So, then I made it sixty days, but I didn’t stop at sixty days. I stopped at 380 days! I went every single day, Christmas, New Year’s, sick or not sick every single day.
What first kept me going was the reward system of getting one little star after each class, during the 60-day challenge. You know, like in grade school when you get a little star next to your name when you do well. That one little star meant so much to me because it meant there was another day that I’d survived what I thought I couldn’t do. It was such a rewarding thing! Everybody who started off, barely hanging on, stayed in there for the whole sixty days because of that little star. With my master martial art class, I did the star thing, by introducing it to my instructors for their attendance. My black belts were coming to class because of the star. It’s unbelievable. I’m talking about adults, senior citizens like me. It’s all about the reward system. For the general public you need a reward system. What kept me going after the 60-day star system, was just the reward that I was setting a streak of 380 days straight that became my own personal martial arts Mastery Test challenge, that I was grateful to have accomplish!
(G) Two things come to mind. One is that one of my Five Principles of Everything is the Principle of Benefit, which says that people need to see that they are getting something out of whatever they are doing. Then, I was thinking about your book, The Little Dragons. Do you train children differently than adults? For young children, a lot of times learning is its own reward.
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) The approach is different. It’s not the Old School way that I was taught. In the old school way, if a student makes a mistake it’s twenty-five push-ups. If they make the same mistake, then, we bring out the shinai, or I reverse punch them in the stomach; then I bring out Mother Love and give you a whack in the butt. That’s Old School mentality. It’s not the best way to teach children. I broke away a little bit from teaching too much of the traditional forms and basic to children. We focus more into something like kickboxing. I still show some of the traditional basics but it’s really simplified. We call them Little Dragons, but they eventually jump all the way up to gold belt. Our system is white, orange then gold. We take kids as young as three years old but it’s hard to get a child that young to focus and concentrate. Classes are only hour for them. They eventually learn to punch, kick, block, and learn more dynamic techniques as time goes on, but the approach, the tonality of the voice is different for children. A teacher also needs to be more patient. Kids are only capable of learning so much, but they are learning the curriculum. It’s not just wasted effort. The techniques they are taught to the kids are the some of the same skill sets of our black belt curriculum.
(G) Did you train your own children according to this method?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) In the beginning I didn’t. I had one of my instructors train my children. It’s very hard for a father to train his own child, but at a certain point I took over. Ernie Jr., for instance had a lot of the Old School discipline training that was different than what we are doing now, but he hung in there really well.
(G) You’ve been interviewed many times over the years. If you were in my shoes right now, what question would you ask yourself?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) How long can you do this? The most important thing I see from those who are legendary and have a legacy to leave behind is that they have the passion and the love. You’ve got to have passion and you’ve got to have love. That passion and love has to be of such an intense, burning desire that you never, ever want to quit. It’s not just about quitting teaching. What ends up happening is that when people get older, they get more into the teaching and they stop the training. I think that what makes somebody really legendary is somebody who teaches and continues to train for the rest of their life. It’s all about each individual’s driven purpose, what they want and what they are doing. My driven purpose stems from my belief that martial arts is one of the greatest gifts of life. I found my driven purpose and I just want to give back to martial arts and give back to the world in some way. I want to be able to continue on this way until my last breath. I’ve had opportunity to learn from some Great Grand Master who have had a big influence one me. Those masters taught, but they also trained until their last breath.
(G) Do you think there is a difference between how you WILL be remembered and how you would like to be remembered?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) That’s a tough question. Everybody has different perceptions. I want to be able to let people know that I gave my heart and soul to live up to the highest level of what we are all trying to achieve an indomitable spirit to never quit. To get into martial arts and not to strive for mastery is not for me. Doing that year after year, decade after decade is a whole other thing. I really tried to live it. I am grateful to be teaching it, to be able to train in it but trying to live it forever is a challenge that only a very extraordinary few ever achieve. To be able to do whatever is necessary, each and every day to become better and better is not an easy task.
(G) Maybe that’s the definition of mastery.
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Exactly. I just want to let everyone know that I gave my heart and soul to all of my students and everyone who I had the opportunity to have cross my path.
(G) And, what about your enemies? Is there anything that you’d like to leave with them?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) I really don’t. I just have compassion for everybody. I wish them all the best. People can say whatever they want, but I don’t have anything bad to say about anybody. I just stay on my positive path, try to create positive energy and try not to be concerned with that.
(G) Is there a group of people, world leaders, business people or whatever who you would like to have get your message about the obvious, positive effect that martial arts training has had on you, as well as your students? In other words, who would you most like to see get your message?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) Well, I’d like to let as many people as possible get some benefit from martial arts training. I just want to make sure that people know that I feel very grateful, for my martial arts life and especially the roots that I came from. My mom and dad were some of the first Filipino immigrants to the United States. They came here in the 1920s, during the Depression they worked so hard in the agricultural fields of Salinas, California and the fish canneries of Monterey earning 15 cents an hour. My parents had to have two jobs just to try to make it all work They eventually opened up a boarding home where they brought in Mexican immigrant from Mexico to work the fields.
My mom and dad would have to get up early 3:30 in the morning, to feed 150 workers. Then my dad would take them out into the fields and work there with them. When I was younger 12 years old, I was out in the fields doing hard labor 10-12 hours a day. My parents really set the basics of the Black Belt mindset for me at a young age. I learned to develop an indomitable spirit to never quit.
(G) What were your parents names?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) My mother was Valentina Reyes. She was born on Valentine’s Day. My father’s name was Ernesto. They both passed away quite a few years ago. I also have seven sisters and one brother. I’m the last of the Mohicans, the youngest of nine children. The majority of my siblings are in Northern California.
(G) Are any of your siblings martial artists?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) No. My brother studied judo when he was in the Air Force.
(G) Of course, the martial arts of the Philippines are a whole subject unto themself. And what about your grandparents?
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) I was just thinking about this. I never knew them. I hang around some older people, but the majority of those I’m around are in their 30s or 40s. When you start to get a little older you probably start to think more about your heritage and that you are becoming a senior citizen. I must be doing something right. My mom lived to 85 and my dad was 77. They worked hard their whole life. Manual labor in the agricultural field was all they knew and eventually managing a labor camp. My parents were from Cebu Philippines, which was known as the mecca of Filipino stick fighting. Maybe one of my great grandparents were escrimadores, stick and knife fighting masters? This is why I think it is important to know your roots and family tree, to be grateful to one’s who came before you.
I just talked to Mark Gerry yesterday about the Great, Grandmaster Al Novak who had his special service yesterday. Grandmaster Novak really didn’t want anybody to be there. He wanted to have a private ceremony with only his immediate family, and Mark was invited. I have a lot of respect for Sifu Mark. I think the reason that all these great grandmasters really appreciate Sifu Mark is because he kept all their legacies alive. He brought a lot of old school masters who were out there, and started to be forgotten, Mark brought them to the forefront. He created a grandmaster association and made them part of that. At my 60th birthday party, they were all there. Now four have passed away out of the five.
Let me just add a few names to the article before we are finished of people who have really been close to me and have been part of my martial arts adventure and legacy. I want to mention and thank all of the head instructors and school owners of the West Coast World Martial Arts Association, they are called Kwan Jang Nims and Bu Kwan Jang Nims, our martial leaders from all across the United States and my best friend Tony Thompson, one of the founders of our organization. Then we have Margie Betke, who is also my long time soul-mate. Then there are my Master Tony Thompson’s and my senior instructors Scott Coker, Diane Murray, Greg Fears, George Calderon, BJ Vinning and our executive team of Donna Bernardi, Smitesh Parmar, Daniel Isozaki and my family: Ernie Jr., Lee Reyes, Destiny Reyes, Espirit, Ki, and my granddaughter Lotus Reyes.
Thank you all for being there during the great times and trying times, your Honor, Loyalty, Family and Bravery is deeply appreciated
Our West Coast World Martial Arts Association Senior Instructors and Leaders are:
Bill Guardino, Jerry Ware, Robert Coulter, Russ Rocchi, Sandy Betke, Hector Rodriguez,
David Hughes, Ricky Jones, Teri Lee, George Fujii, Joe Soltis, Diana Sublett, Scott Smith, David Martin, Mark Prader, Randy Ott, Gary Merlo, Joey Febres, Dan Haney Rob Kitajima, Moises Arizmendi, Manny Din, Jason Cole, Shane Myler, Brian Go, Joachim DeDeken, Riz Angel Tommy Barker, Piercy Bastiany Charlie Espinosa,
CJ Espinosa, Gwen Haney, Sandy Hughes, Mark Mendiola, Zack Dunn, Jovie Fernando, Richard Albano, Ana Smith, Gail Gordon, Michael Zuniga, Chris Erickson, Richard Albano, Peter Malek, Joey Perry, Scott Ross, Chris de Vera, Master Kwan Jang Nim. Our motto is: Train For Life, Pursuit of Mastery!
(G) Well it was an honor and privilege to talk to you and I want to thank you for sharing your thoughts and spending your valuable time with us.
(Ernie Reyes Sr.) I really appreciate, Gordon, you taking the time to do this interview. You are doing great things for the martial arts world.