An Interview with Dr. Jerry Beasley
Excerpts from Karate International interview
by C.W. Whitlock
Q: You’ve been called the “published authority on American martial arts” by Inside Karate magazine. Black Belt magazine refers to you as the “leading educator” and “scholar of the martial arts.” You’ve been inducted into the coveted Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame as Instructor of the Year, received promotions from martial arts legends like Joe Lewis, Bill Wallace, Wally Jay, G.M. Michael DePasquale, Sr., and you’ve started a one-of-a-kind college curriculum. How did you do all of this?
A: You have to consider the fact that I have been a professional martial artist for 35 years. And I got lucky.
Q: What you call luck, we call hard work. How did you begin?
A: In 1965 or 1966, “The Wild, Wild West” featured Robert Conrad as a martial expert and secret agent. He was my hero. I ordered the Charles Atlas jiujitsu course fromOutdoor Life magazine and studied the pictures. A kid from Arizona moved to our school with some experience in kenpo, so I was able to piece together some karate-like punches and kicks. I bought Mas Oyama’s book, What is Karate, and set up a makiwara board in the woods with a punching bag for boxing. Then in 1968, Master Soo Lee opened a taekwondo class in Radford, Va. I enrolled. I was athletic, conditioned, and flexible, so I had no problems moving to the front of the class.
Q: How long did you study with Master Lee?
A: Very little with Master Lee. The class instructor was a black belt by the name of Whit Davis. Mr. Davis liked boxing and competed in the Jhoon Rhee Nationals with Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, and others. He used to tell us we had to throw combinations like Chuck Norris and move like Joe Lewis. Mr. Davis was a P.E. coach and a super athlete. He liked to show us his muscles. He was all about fighting and little about the art.
Q: I’ve heard that taekwondo was more like karate back then.
A: It was called Korean karate. Kong Soo Do, meaning “empty hand,” and Tang Soo Do, meaning “China Hand,” were good descriptions, but for some reason the teachers called it Tae Kwon Do. We were members of the Korean TKD Moo Duk Kwon association, and our forms were basically Shotokan. Over the years I was able to participate in the transition from Korean karate to ITF style to WTF style, and then a hybrid of the best of each style of TKD.
When Mr. Kim took over the class in 1970, he converted us to Chongi patterns. If Mr. Davis and Master Lee were fighters, Mr. Kim was the artist. He was very graceful and seemed to fly through the air. Mr. Davis helped him set up schools in Virginia and North Carolina. Mr. Kim was a black belt in Judo, so we began to lean major throws, takedowns, and restraints. They call that submissions now.
I traveled with Mr. Kim quite a bit to perform demonstrations and introduce him. His English needed work. By 1971, I was a dedicated martial artist with a black belt in taekwondo. That same year “Billy Jack” became famous, and a friend from another university and I began to exchange techniques in hapkido.
As soon as I had a black belt, I opened my own school.
Q: You studied other arts?
A: Yes, boxing with Mr. Davis. We had all these in-close drills with boxing and weaving. He was a big Joe Lewis fan, so we made some hard contact. Mr. Kim made us practice judo, but we never tested in that style. In high school I was on the baseball and wrestling teams. Then in college I studied jiujitsu and judo. The great thing about attending a large university was that there were a lot of green, brown, and black belts from all styles. We all practiced karate together in the club, then after class we would exchange techniques. I had never seen the Okinawa-te vertical punch until college. Several of my buddies were into the kung fu, so we practiced together. But I never really found a place for it. We were cross trainers before it was popular.
I organized several “All Martial Arts” demonstrations in the early 1970s. If we could find an audience we would give a performance of kata, taekwondo, judo, kickboxing, kung fu, fencing, etc.
In 1973, when full contact karate became popular, I left the ATA and began to teach full contact taekwondo. I was so right side dominant that I found it really hard to get out of my comfort zone. The taekwondo boxing with what was called “safety gear” allowed me to become a more versatile fighter. I learned to move on my feet and use both sides.
That year (1973), I was selected to fight in a college exhibition match with Ho Kwon Kang of Venezuela. Mr. Kang was the ITF world champion for 1973. My hand speed had improved so much that I could set up leg fakes to score with hand strikes. Mr. Kang did not recognize a back fist or ridge hand as an official taekwondo technique, and he had no way to avoid it. I had won wome sparring and kata titles, and with the publicity from the exhibition fight I was invited to the American All-Star Taekwon Do Championship which I won in 1975 and 1976.
Q: When did you receive the B.A. degree?
A: After I graduated with the B.A. in Philosophy in 1973, I joined the ITF with Master Kang. Eventually, I earned my 2nd through 5th dan ranks in the ITF style with various Korean instructors. I remember Mr. James Lee was my favorite. He was a super athlete and a 6th dan even though he was still in his twenties. He was a 5th dan when I met him, and a few years later an ITF certificate for 6th dan arrived n the mail. When Hosik Kang graduated in 1973, he turned over the taekwondo club at Virginia Tech to me as his senior student. The next year I started the full contact sparring since Jhoon Rhee’s safety gear had become popular. The first day of the Fall class this big Korean guy asked if he could spar, but that day we were hands only. My boxing skills were fair by then, and I know how to move out of the way. James kept throwing the bomb, and I would duck and smack him with a jab or a left hook. The bell rang, and we kept at it for about 20 minutes. I was the club instructor, and everyone was watching. Finally, the building manager started turning out the lights, so we quit. After class James revealed to me that he was a 5th dan in ITF. Boy, was I glad he came on “hands only” night! After that James and I partnered up. He taught hyung, and I taught sparring. We split the income fifty-fifty. We trained each day. James was a fighter, so when he received the 6th dan in the mail he told me he was going to move to the WTF. I’m not sure why. That summer I lost contact with him. When I came back to Virginia Tech in 1977 to complete a doctorate I was told that James had returned to Korea. He was a great friend.
In the 1960s-70s, if you were a Korean national teaching in the U.S., you were pretty much guaranteed to advance in dan rank. We had a sizable Korean, Japanese, and Chinese student population at the university. I was very much a part of the Asian community for about 10 years. As a philosophy and sociology major, I found the Asian culture fascinating. Practicing martial arts was a way to promote and enjoy the culture and society. I was so involved in Korean taekwondo at the time that I knew all the forms from both ITF and WTF through 5th dan.
I have trained in quite a few arts, but no method stresses the principles of character development like karate and taekwondo. As a sociologist I have always believed that character development , veracity, self defense, courage under fire, and attributes that surpass all others. For this reason I have formatted techniques and principles from other arts into the classical teaching style.
I entered a doctoral program in education at Virginia Tech in 1977. That year I helped Olympic judo contender Jerry Sheed start judo clubs at Virginia Tech (Blacksburg, Va.) and Radford University (Radford, Va.). Being a college student for almost nine years afforded me the opportunity to become totally involved in martial arts. I studied and taught five animals and wing chun kung fu. And I practiced tai chi under a renowned master from China, Constance Chin. A large university is like a melting pot of cultures and styles, and I took full advantage of the opportunity.
Whenever I was assigned a paper, project, or research in class, I selected a topic about martial arts. I wrote papers about Bushido, Taoism, Buddhism, and various interpretations of pragmatic philosophy. At the master’s level my thesis was “The American Sensei: A Sociological Examination of the Occupational Role of Karate Instructor.” At the doctoral level my dissertation was “Contemporary Karate: An Examination of the Social Relations and Group Configurations in a Modern Day Adaptation of the Ancient Asian Martial Arts.”
Q: It’s impressive that you graduated from Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech is best known as the university that gave the Atlanta Falcons their quarterback, Michael Vick, right?
A: His brother Marcus Vick, also a Virginia Tech student and Tech’s quarterback as well. Virginia Tech is Virginia’s largest university and is best known for football and engineering. It’s a top 30 research institution. In martial arts, Olympian Jerry Shedd (judo) and national forms champion Charlie Lee (TKD) also graduated from Virginia Tech.
Q: Would you classify yourself as a taekwondo instructor in your early years?
A: For many years I taught TKD exclusively, but because I had access to so many Korean instructors at the university I blended the Karate/Kang soo do/tang soo do/moo duk kwon format with kicks from ITF and WTF taekwon do. “Use what works” was and continues to be my prescription. Some people used this philosophy to form American TKD or freestyle TKD. If I were sparring a WTF guy, then I would use kang soo do punches. Against the tang soo guys I used ITF/WTF kicks. There is no one best style. The winner in open competition is the guy who is independent and can adapt to his environment. Styles give us limitations. Typically, WTF guys display poor hand skills because they don’t need to punch in competition. That’s their limitation. I prefer an open style to train each individual according to his best attributes. That always determines success. Most people are limited in their thinking. When they say TKD they think WTF style TKD, or ITF TKD, or AIKIA style TKD. I promote the AIKIA style. “Take from all styles. Use what works.” At any time I might look like WTF or ITF, or not look like TKD at all. It’s when I blend all styles so that I can be all styles (or no style) that I represent the AKIA TKD.
Q: Is it safe to say that you have perfected the art of using JKD to rethink taekwon do?
A: It is as you say.
Q: Is it pretty hard to earn a doctorate?
A: It’s never easy to go to school for eight to nine years, take notes, study, research, take exams, etc. Then there’s the dissertation, which is the hardest work. These were major research projects involving use of the scientific methods. Every few months I had to report to my graduate committee and defend my work. Both the master’s and doctoral defenses were long, drawn-out affairs that were a lot harder than any black belt exam I ever took or gave or judged.
Let me mention that because of the Internet you can now buy the phony “Ph.D.” in all sorts of titles. And a lot of high profile martial artists are claiming the phony Ph.D. degrees. If they only knew what it takes to earn the real doctorate, they might hesitate a little to start using these titles.
Q: you graduated with the Doctor of Education degree in 1980. Did you teach?
A: By that time I was convinced that my career goal was to become a college professor. I chose the Ed.D (Doctor of Education) program over the Ph.D. program to focus on education. Both programs were the same, except less statistics were required in the Ed.D. program. As it turned out I employed the statistical treatments in my research anyway. The Ed.D. was simply more popular at the time.
I introduced taekwondo to Radford University in 1973 and became an adjunct professor in 1974. I have taught there for more than 30 years. In 1980, I opened a full time taekwondo and kickboxing school in Blacksburg, Va. I taught at Radford each day and in Blacksburg each night. We were a pretty hard core school and invited all comers to engage in our brand of full contact fighting. We followed PKA rules except during the clinch you could hold and hit, or sweep, or throw your opponent to the mat. I employed my boxing and judo skills. I now call this trapboxing.
A lot of the college students would find their way to my school. They would always say, “I hear you do the full contact. Can I try?” They would never tell me their rank. Once we got suited up I would let them punch and kick away. I knew they would get tired after the first round, and then I would play with them for the other rounds. It always worked. I fought boxers, karate, taekwondo, wing chun – all styles. I had developed a very high level of comfort in full contact fighting. And the key is foot work, mobility, slipping, and defense. Constant movement is the best defense.
Q: I remember reading in a magazine how you fought in several hundred-round kumite events.
A: To be more specific. I competed several 100-plus rounds of kickboxing. the events were challenging, not because you competed with many opponents but because you challenged yourself to endure. At Radford I taught three classes back to back for years. Each class had a limit of 30 students, and they were always overloaded because they were popular. At least one day each semester I would bring in a couple of helpers and spar the entire class. The helpers kept time, suited up my opponents, and occasionally game me a towel and a sip of water. It takes five hours to spar 100 rounds. So the real challenge was endurance. for almost 20 years I could spar 10-15 rounds three to four times per week. So I was always in shape. We used quality boxing head gear, mouth piece, and 16-ounce gloves for protection. The key to endurance sparring is defense. You can’t afford to get hurt. Once you learn the technique you can rest in a clinch or at a distance if you need to. When my class schedule shifted to two classes back to back I didn’t have enough students for the 100 rounds, so I changed to 60-round kickboxing marathons. I had planned to do 50 rounds when I turned 50 years old, but a foot injury caused a delay. I am now training for 55 rounds when I turn 55! It’s actually harder to go 50 rounds with a 50-year-old body than 100 rounds with a 30-year-old body. Time is the greatest opponent.
Q: You developed a reputation in the field of ninjutsu in the 1980s. How did that happen?
A: But only as a writer and promoter. I never taught ninjutsu. I had published some articles about the history and development of karate in the U.S. Karate was introduced as a secret, deadly art in which the masters were too deadly to actually spar. By the 1960s, Americans had begun to compete and develop a uniquely American version of karate. It was the sport version that made karate popular.
The ninjas started as a deadly, secret art in which the masters were far too deadly to compete. I argued that, without competition or some form of sport outlet, ninjutsu never would become popular or accepted by the martial arts community. I set up a sport ninjutsu organization, published numerous articles, promoted ninjutsu seminars, etc. Still, the nina refused to listen to a college professor. And poof! by 1985, the ninja were gone, regulated to an occasional appearance as a movie assassin or a Halloween character.
I stand by my research. For any art to become highly popular in the U.S., it has better have an outlet for sport competition.
Q: You also developed quite a reputation in the art of jeet kune do. How did that happen?
A: Once again. I approached JKD not as a teacher but as a writer and promoter. In 1981, a book publisher asked me to research and write a book about Bruce lee. He had contact with Larry Hartsell of Charlotte, N.C., who had been one of Lee’s students. Larry had hired Dan Inosanto to teach at the seminar. Dan and I hit it off really well. We where both educators and martial arts instructors. He was single at the time, so he dad plenty of time. He also recognized the importance of working with writers, so we talked for hours after the classes.
I really liked Dan, and I like the kali and JKD. If you are a classically trained martial artist, kali can free up your movements. I published the first article ever written about the Charlotte, N.C. JKD school in 1982 in American Karate andKarate Digest magazines. Because I was a writer I was personally invited to the camps and seminars. I don’t remember paying for anything other than lodging.
At the seminars I trained and took specific notes. My sparring partner and I would then discuss every detail on the way home. On Monday, with all the information fresh in my head, I would teach what I learned to my students. Train, study, practice, teach – this is the formula that I sued to compose articles.
At the 1984 Chicago camp that I trained at, Dan took the time to write out a lesson plan for me to follow in teaching kali to my students. I trained at the Great Smoky Mountains JKD camps in muay thai, wing chun, kali, boxing, and JKD. you didn’t learn a specific art; you learned a concept or at least a few skills. I promoted JKD concepts seminars at Radford University and Virginia Tech with Larry Hartsell and a number of JKD associate instructors from the Inosanto program. In the summer of 1989 or 1990, I promoted a JKD concepts camp, but instead of the Bruce Lee students I hired the second generation associate instructors. I heard later that this made the older guys mad because I didn’t first seek their approval to promote the camp. This caused some in the Inosanto camp to be miffed with me.
At no time did I have an interest in becoming an apprentice instructor. I was there to train, learn, and write articles. By 1987, Dan had a girlfriend who prohibited him from hanging out with the guys. My research was about over anyway. In 1988, I published the first book about the JKD concepts method. Dan and Paula were provided a manuscript to review. I rode with them on the way back from the lake photo shoot in the summer of 1989. The photos can be found on their web site and in my book. Dan endorsed the book before it came out in 1988.
After I promoted the concepts camp I heard that they no longer endorsed my book. I had taken a lot of my time to research and write the first book about the JKD concepts method. Funny how money can cause your friends to turn against you. Some even spread rumors that I had “secretly taped” conversations. Every research technique was alway professional.
Q: Do you consider yourself a jeet kune do instructor?
A: No. I have never taught an art or style and called it JKD. At seminars I have taught a class in trapboxing and Jun Fan Kickboxing, focus pad drills, stick fighting, etc., none of which represent the complete art of JKD. I have lectured on the “Tao” many times. I was attracted to JKD partially because I was a trained philosopher. Bruce Lee had written through riddles, “no way as way,” “to float in totality,” etc. I asked his students what they meant, but everyone had a different answer. Based on my training, observation, and research I came up with my own definition. Many of my definitions like the JKD Matrix and Original JKD have been adopted by most JKD organizations.
As a teacher I must evaluate the needs of my students. I feel that character development is an attribute that has a higher priority than self defense. I have been successful, I hope, in merging the two together. I teach in a classical or traditional manner the realistic self defense skills from a variety of arts. Rather than name each art, I simply will call it karate or taekwondo or martial arts. In my opinion, Bruce Lee was not known for superior character traits and JKD had not been used to influence character development. As a result, I have not elected to adopt a total JKD method. Rather, I use the term JKD “influenced.”
Q: You became the most popular JKD writer and promoter in the 1990s?
A: You say. I wrote a popular JKD column for Karate International for several years. I started it out as a promo for the concepts group. The readers and the publisher told me to focus on Bruce Lee’s JKD, so I helped create the interest in what I called Original JKD, Pre-’73 JKD, etc. My writing became so popular that a music promoter from New Jersey offered me the opportunity to promote the first “Original JKD” camp in 1993. That was the year the Bruce Lee movie, “Dragon,” came out. He paid for much of the initial expense.
I had the support of Ted Wong, Taky Kimura, and Howard Williams, so I promoted the first “non-concepts” camp. Someone from the concepts group wrote a letter toinside Kung Fu calling me and the camp a fake and a fraud so as to stop people from attending. There was strong competitiveness between the concepts and orginal art groups back then. This only drew more attention, so the camp was highly successful. We offered the camp for the next five years to huge profits which were split among the instructors.
Unfortunately, because I promoted the original art the door was forever closed to me by the concepts group. While I have always been a taekwondo, karate, kickboxing, jiujitsu instructor, I found that I was being labeled as an Original JKD instructor. As I said earlier, I never taught an art or style and called it JKD.
I was hired by Panther in 1997 to offer a JKD kickboxing video series. My kickboxing method is JKD influenced. In fact, I was issued a letter of certification to teach the JKD method taught to me by Joe Lewis in 1993. In 1994, Joe partnered with Ted Wong to form a JKD Council, but it was never fully developed. The video series was labeled “JKD Scientific Street Fighting” instead of kickboxing. It’s for all martial artists, not just JKD, who want to improve their sparring and contact fighting. I don’t own the rights to the series, so I have no control over the promotion. I will add that my Jun Fan Kickboxing tapes are a higher level of instruction than what is currently available on video concerning the full contact kickboxing method.
Q: The tapes are popular with karate and taekwondo schools. Is that right?
A: Yes. The JKD series that I teach on the tapes presents a complete nine-level program that can be adapted easily into standard karate/TKD programs. Remember that Bruce was highly influenced by the karate competitors of the 1960s. When you see Bruce Lee in books or movies he is always performing common karate/kung fu-like skills. Bruce Lee was an advanced stand-up martial artist with extraordinary skills. The way he developed his skills (not the skills themselves) is called JKD. Bruce developed his method in the 1960s. It took the rest of us 20 years to catch up to him.
Q: That’s very astute. JKD is the “way he developed his skills,” and not the skills he developed. So is JKD an art or a philosophy?
A: Here’s what I discovered: According to John Little, the official Lee family estate author, Bruce Lee closed his JKD gung fu schools in 1971 and banned the teaching of JKD. Bruce was afraid that students would mistake the physical techniques for the art of JKD. JKD is a philosophy for discovery. I am very influenced by JKD philosophy, but I do not teach JKD as an art or style or as a series of techniques. It is simply, in my opinion, a conceptual framework, a way of looking at things. As a result, my martial arts in general are influenced by JKD philosophy.
Q: tell me about your relationship with Joe Lewis.
A: The reputation of Joe Lewis was taught to me by my first instructor, Mr. Davis. I remember reading in Black Belt about 1970 that Mr. Lewis had knocked out seeral Korean champions in the U.S. vs. Korea grudge match. I had been taught that Americans were inferior to Koreans when it came to fighting. If Joe Lewis could fight back, so could I. I was pretty disconcerted by Korean instructors in the 1960s-70s. they controlled the rank, so I had to play the game.
In 1981, I was able to meet Joe Lewis. Joe had returned home to Knightdale, N.C., after living in Hollywood for 10 years. When I found out he was within driving distance I immediately called him up and set up an interview and sparring session. I consider Joe Lewis to be the most knowledgeable fighting expert in the world. Before karate, he was a wrestler. A weight trained athlete, he looked like a Mr. America contestant in the 1960s. In 1970, Joe created kickboxing. In those early years there were no rules. Knees, elbows, takedowns were all open to interpretation by the referee. Joe didn’t just fight; he knocked people out!
Q: Did you actually train with Joe Lewis?
A: Of course. My sparring partner and I would drive to Raleigh, N.C. We would meet Joe, tell a few jokes, then dress out and spar. I loved to spar, and Joe was perhaps the best in the world. Joe was training for his comeback fights for the PKA. Joe knew that I was a writer, so here again a martial arts personality was willing to open up and give me all the time I wanted. After a workout Joe would critique my level and give me some pointers to work on. We would then clean up and go out to dinner. After dinner we would usually go back to the gym, and I would take some notes for articles.
Joe and I were pretty good friends, and he knew I would cover his backside and write only what was good. I set up quite a few seminars for Joe and negotiated a fight or two. He would often come up to my home in Christiansburg, VA., and stay a few days to train. Today, 25 years later, I teach at his conference and serve on his board of directors.
Q: You and Mr. Lewis started a karate organization?
A: Actually, I had an organization that I called AIKIA, the American Independent Instructor Association. The “K” stands for Korean arts like taekwondo, tang soo do, kong soo do, hapkido, etc. The “K” also stands for karate, kickboxing, kenpo and various “Ki” arts. After all these years under strict Korean control, I decided that if I ever had the chance to begin an organization, I would make it something that I would want to join. I started AIKIA in 1978. Joe joined me in 1983. Bill Wallace joined in about 1990.
AIKIA was the first independent teachers organization in 1978. Today, there are a half dozen organizations which have copied my “independent” name. I created the concept of “no politics.” today, even some of the Korean organizations advertise “no politics.” Still, AIKIA has maintained a leadership role in promoting the mixed-style martial arts. Most of our members are either taekwondo or karate instructors who mix kickboxing, jiujitsu, JKD, hapkido, etc., with their instruction. Although AIKIA is the base association, I developed the American Independent Taekwon Do Federation in 1985 to recognize TKD black belts in AIKIA. Also, I developed the first ever Mixed Martial Arts World Federation to address the particular needs of instructors who teach a blend of kickboxing, grappling, and karate or TKD.
Q: You actually spearheaded the mixed martial arts movement with your Karate College summer camp. How did that get started?
A: In 1986, a promoter in Houston, Texas, hired me and Joe Lewis to referee at his tournament. I told him that if he hired Bill Wallace and Jeff Smith, he would have three of the original PKA champions. He did so. The next year all four of us were hired to teach at a camp in New York. On the way back home I told Jeff Smith that Joe and I were going to hold a camp the next year and asked if he wanted in. He did. I hired Bill Wallace and offered the first Karate College in 1988. After 1990, I started offering a mix of several martial arts. It was highly successful. Every magazine carried a story about the camp.
Q: You seem to have a special way of determining just what the martial arts public wants. First there was the ninja organization, then the Karate College, and the Original JKD camps. All ere very successful. How do you do it?
A: By being a student. I go on what is of interest to me personally. I promote people or arts that I personally respect. this way I can be honest and passionate about what I write about, teach, or promote. The philosophy that I came up under during the 1960s was, “Use what works.” My first teacher, Whit Davis, used this philosophy. The tournament fighters used this philosophy. Joe Lewis and Bruce Lee used this philosophy. Borrow from all styles, and use what works. This was the philosophy of American karate before Bruce Lee coined the term JKD.
Q: Do you see a connection between American Karate’s “use what works” and JKD?
A: Of course. Bruce was greatly influenced by the American tournament champions. He practiced boxing and sparring methods along side Joe Lewis. He learned kicks from Chuck Norris. Jhoon Rhee taught him the spin kicks and how to break boards with the speed break. Wally Jay taught Bruce jiujitsu. In 1962, Professor Jay introduced Bruce to the concept of training outside his system of wing chun gung fu. Gene LeBelle taught Bruce submission holds. One article noted that Bruce was influenced to incorporate the nunchucks after watching George Dillman and Tadashi Yamashita, the tournament weapons champions of the ‘60s. So Bruce was very much influenced by the tournament players of the 1960s.
“Use what works” is simple to understand, it would seem. But because of his study of philosophy, Bruce recognized the more important attributes. I call this the WOO factor. WOO stands for “windows of opportunity.” Each technique has a window of opportunity. A jump spinning hook kick has a very brief WOO. A jab has a very high WOO factor. You can use it under most circumstances. To “absorb what is useful” for an art, you”use what works.” In other words, you delete the skills with low WOO and absorb the skills with high WOO. You end up with a system drawn from many arts, tailor made to your specific attributes. The tournament champions used this method all along. Bruce was better at conceptualizing the method.
Q: We hear a lot about the Jiddu Krishnamurti influence on Bruce Lee. What can you tell us about that?
A: Joe Lewis was the first to tell me that Bruce got all or most of his philosophy from Jiddu Krishnamurti. Bruce hurt his back in late 1970. For six months he was unable to get a good workout, so he read books. Linda Lee says he studied, dissected, and rewrote so much in his Krishnamurti books that it became hart to differentiate between the Krishnamurti and Bruce Lee notes.
Bruce created JKD in 1968. He taught JKD as an art. He promoted guys like Ted Wong to level two, and Dan Inosant and Stirling Silliphant received certification for level three. The levels were assigned according to the number of years completed under Bruce. Obviously, Dan Inosanto is more skilled than screenwriter Stirling Silliphant, but both received certificates for level three in JKD because both completed three years of study under Bruce. Remember that JKD the style only lasted three years from 1968 until 1970, so no one could go higher than three.
In 1970, Bruce converted JKD to Krishnamurti philosophy. The article in the 1971Black Belt claims that JKD is not an art. You can’t learn it. You can only experience it. This is pure Krishnamurti philosophy, but Bruce gave no credit to Krishnamurti. Everyone thought it was all Bruce Lee’s philosophy. By the end of 1971, Bruce had closed all his JKD clubs. He told Dan that Dan could teach JKD to a small group of less than six students, but if he ever went commercial, Bruce would be very disappointed.
The JKD concept represents that year in which Bruce converted his original art to the Krishnamurti philosophy. Staying true to Bruce, Dan would not commercially teach JKD. In seminars he teaches FMA and the Krishnamurti philosophy he labeled as the JKD concept.
Q: We have talked about your college degrees. Tell us about your martial arts ranks.
A: My 1st through 5th dan ranks are in ITF style taekwondo. Also, I have received black belts in hapkido, jiujitsu, karate, tang soo do, moo duk kwan, and a letter of authorization to teach JKD from Joe Lewis. In 1981, I became a student of Joe Lewis. Mr. Lewis promoted me to 6th dan in 1985, 7th dan in 1990, and 8th dan in 1995. My 8th dan was co-signed andco-authorized by bill Wallace and presented to me at Karate College in a surprise ceremony. Inside, I was jumping with joy, but outside I had to maintain a demeanor as emcee for the Karate College graduation ceremony.
I have also received various diplomas from organizations around the world, including a lifetime sokeship council award and several regional Hall of Fame tributes. I consider this just “high profile” stuff.
After quite a few years of a loss of contact, my first taekwondo instructor, Whit Davis, and I accidentally met at a dinner. It was like old friends meeting. He has promoted me to 8th dan in taekwondo moo duk kwan and named me as inheritor and administrative 9th dan to the American Moo Duk Kwan Council. The AMDKC was originally the Virginia branch of the Korean Taekwon Do Moo Duk Kwan Association. Today, it is authorized Roanoke, Va., and sister city Wonju, Korea.
GM Davis is still a tough guy. He and Joe Lewis are two of a kind. In 1999, I was promoted to 9th dan by GM Michael DePasquale, Sr. and Professor Wally Jay through the International Federation of Jiujitsuans (IFOJJ). At the same promotion, Bill Wallce received the 10th dan. I am honored to receive a certificate from GM DePasquale. There is a sort of irony in the fact that Professor Wally Jay was a teacher of Bruce Lee, and I was promoted by one of Bruce Lee’s teachers. I venture to guess that there are no other JKD instructors who can make that claim.
Q: With your connections, I am surprised that you have not received certification from the WTF.
A: I was affiliated with WTF in 1974-1978, with Tae Lee. It was a different organization back then. Today, like everyone else, if I pay the fee I can buy the certificates. You have to have a Korean national to buy the certificates at their prices, which are usually $40 to $50 for a dan certificate. It’s the instructor who cashes in on the price. I have many ITF and WTF dan members who join AIKIA because the WTF prices are so out of the market. The attraction of WTF is the Olympic connection. However, after Dr. Kim was caught embezzling $6 million from the WTF to pay off bribes, the prestige of WTF certificates dropped. I have read that taekwondo will be out of the Olympics in the future. Karate or kickboxing will be introduced to take its place. There is a site on e-Bay where you can buy WTF certificates and WTF seals for $2 each! These organizations are going to have to start cracking down on the scandals and rip-offs. Actually, I think that anyone who has paid hundreds of dollars for certificates has been ripped off.
Q: Would you say you are best known as a promoter, writer, teacher, or administrator?
A: On a national basis, I established a track record as a writer since 1978. I have written most about the philosophy of JKD. In my new book, “Mastering Karate” (Human Kinetics), I merge together the functional quality of JKD with the time honored principles of karate. As a promoter, I think the real attention was cemented with the promotion of the Karate College from 1988 to present. Locally, I am known as a teacher and professor at Radford University. Since I have taught at RU since 1973, there are literally thousands of students now in professional positions who once took a course in taekwondo, karate, jiujitsu, kickboxing, or self defense from me.
Q: Do you have a personal philosophy?
A: My utmost desire is to follow the teaching of Jesus Christ. “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” As an administrator I see myself not as the master, but the servant. I provide the same respect to the 1st dan as I would the 10th dan. I hope that each member of AIKIA and each participant at Karate College will be able to say that they received more than what they paid for. When viewed with a servant’s attitude, honor can be attained even in the lowest rank.
Q: Do you feel like patriotism, God, and country are more popular subjects of conversation today?
A: I accept the theory of “intelligent Design.” I do not see how we can simply exist. We were created. We call that creator God. I see no controversy in that statement. Even though I studied various Asian religions in college, I always came back to the “Intelligent Design: concept. I am glad to see a more accepting attitude toward patriotism and belief in God. At our Karate College we pay a special tribute to our American heroes, guys who have served in the armed forces. Together we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Martial arts is all about core beliefs. Every warrior must serve a master. To serve God as master is a core belief.
Q: Can a student major in martial arts at Radford University?
A: Technically, no college or university will develop a separate department for martial arts when the arts fit so perfectly into physical education, philosophy, etc. At Radford University the student may earn the bachelor’s degree in Exercise, Sport, and Health Education with a major concentration in Sport Studies: Matial Arts. Classes include advanced techniques, philosophy, history, self defense, etc. The student also takes classes in kinesiology, exercise philosophy, training, first aid, and general education courses. A minor or cognate in sport administration, commercial fitness, teaching, coaching, marketing, etc., also are encouraged. Just go to thewww.Radford.edu web site for more information.
Q: Do you offer instruction in other arts at Radford University?
A: In general terms, owners/instructors of karate and taekwondo schools can make a very good living by managing a school. If you have a successful karate or taekwondo program, you can afford to offer other arts like JKD kickboxing, jiujitsu, mixed martial arts,etc. My goal is to turn out black belts with college degrees who have the knowledge and skills to become professional martial artists. They can choose any art or style so long as they understand the history, culture, and teaching methodology behind the profession of martial arts education. What I teach, I simply call martial arts.
I have tried putting a label on it, original JKD, jhapkido, trapboxing, etc. Nothing really works because I am continuously researching and updating my information. I think being a martial arts instructor will one day be a sought-after position. We will be supplying the professional educators from the RU program.
Q: One last question, I promise. Tell me about your U.S. patent for “Road Rage Reducer.”
A: Remember, the first lesson in martial arts is courtesy. The way to stop highway aggression is not legislation or stiffer penalties, but courtesy. We have to change the behavior of drivers. Right now it is a war zone on our highways. To change the way people drive, they must have a specific behavior to perform. This behavior is the act of courtesy. Help other drivers, and earn a reward of a thank you. Courtesy requires a reward.
My program, Road Rage Ranger (www.roadragerangers.com) is designed to signal a courteous message of thank you to other drivers. We are starting a national campaign through martial arts schools to get drivers to”Say two for thank you.”
Q: We’ll talk about that more next time. Thank you, Dr. Beasley.