4th Degree Senior Black Sash
My early schooling taught me a great deal about what can be accomplished with a just few resources and a desire to learn. I started kindergarten without a grasp of the English language and struggled quite a bit to fit in. Thankfully, my parents introduced me to Sesame Street and I quickly picked up what I needed to catch up to my peers. Since then, I’ve made it a habit to pick up new skills as opportunities present themselves.
As a school-aged kid in the 80’s, I rarely had trouble with bullies. This was because the Asian martial arts were still portrayed in popular media as mystical abilities inherent in Asian peoples. Therefore, troublemakers would often avoid me and draw unfounded conclusions by saying, “Watch out, he’s Japanese—he must know Karate.” It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t Japanese. But it did bother me that I didn’t know how to defend myself.
I first became enamored with Judo and Kendo at the Minami Community Center in Santa Maria, California. They offered Judo classes and the adults had the option of learning Kendo. My mom signed me up for Judo, and after class I would often stay and watch the adults strap on their protective bogu gear and spar with bamboo shinai. Our teacher was an old Japanese master who wore a tattered belt that was colored with an alternating red/white pattern. I had no idea at the time, and learned later on, that he was ranked at a master-level 8th Dan. I was lucky to spend the next 6 years, every Tuesday and Thursday, learning a lot about tumbling, throwing, and pinning. And after each class, I was treated to an ice cream cone at Thrifty’s for only 15 cents! Chocolate Malted Crunch.
My formal Kung-Fu training began when I moved to San Diego for college and walked into White Dragon Martial Arts in La Mesa after a hectic finals week. The founder, Master Nathan Fisher, gave me a tour and I was immediately drawn into the positive atmosphere of serious training. White Dragon displayed everything I had imagined while watching Kung-Fu Theatre on Saturday afternoons in my childhood. I joined the school without hesitation and have trained ever since.
My teacher, Tai-Sifu Don Tittle, taught me that performance counts most in building confidence. For more than two decades, my teacher and I traveled all around the country competing with martial artists of various styles who also found the need to test their skills in competition. Each crucible event opened my eyes to what was lacking in my overall skill. These tests led to improved training methods and a growing sense of confidence.
In 1998, Master Nathan Fisher, my teacher’s teacher, offered me an opportunity to teach professionally. Soon after, I began running the White Dragon Martial Arts School in Mira Mesa under his guidance. I’ve been very lucky to share a lot of what I’ve learned with an eager community of students here in Mira Mesa. My core group has been with me for over a decade. My top student, Sifu Dandamudi, has since been promoted to the level of Sifu at White Dragon Chula Vista. My wife, Mary, has earned her brown fringe in Tai Chi. Serene, my daughter, has earned her senior black sash and is also a part-time instructor. Even my son Thomas, is currently training for his senior black sash test. Passing on what I enjoy most about martial arts to the next generation has become my life’s work.
In my free time, I do Kung-Fu. (Just kidding!) Although the Kung-Fu philosophy is ever-present, I do enjoy other things like playing the guitar and piano. Photography and woodworking have also been big parts of my life, too. And recently, I’ve discovered that there are few things more satisfying than riding a motorcycle on the open road. I really enjoy my family and appreciate the country in which we live. We’ve even vacationed in all 50 states!