5th Degree Senior Black Sash
I grew up in Oceanside, California, which is a San Diego beach town perhaps best known for its location next to Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton. With the exception of a short stint on California’s Central Coast, I’ve lived in San Diego County pretty much my entire life.
As a kid, I saw plenty of martial arts movies. Saturday afternoon Kung Fu Theater was a weekly highlight, and of course, Bruce Lee was an inspiration along with the many heroes of the old Shaw Brothers Movies. I was always impressed by their extraordinary fighting skills as well as their courage, tenacity, and dedication. Mostly, I was drawn to the idea that heroes fight for causes larger than themselves.
However, as a kid I also suffered from chronic asthma, a condition that would prevent me from being physically active on the same level as my friends and classmates. I was unable to play many sports or even try martial arts as my condition required the use of daily medications and regular visits to the hospital. My asthma improved as I got older, but I was on various medications well into my teen years.
Having a chronic asthmatic condition was not the only health problem that I had. While I was in college, at the age of 20, I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. At the time of its discovery, the cancer had already metastasized to my lymphatic system and its subsequent treatment and surgeries left me 40 pounds lighter. The recovery would take over a year and cause me to temporarily drop out of school. It was during this time that I decided that I wanted to live a life not so ordinary. I made up my mind to finish college and become healthy. I also wanted to pursue my many interests like travel, surfing, guitar, and the study of martial arts. So, once I started feeling better, I decided to begin my formal martial arts training at the White Dragon School in La Mesa, CA in 1994.
I trained at White Dragon La Mesa while attending SDSU. My days were filled with classroom studies while my evenings were filled with Kung-Fu and Kickboxing Classes. I graduated from SDSU with a degree in Professional Studies and Fine Arts, and then later enrolled at National University to study education. I found a job in an elementary school classroom working with special needs children. During this time, I was invited to enter White Dragon’s Instructor Training Program, and after completion I became a part time instructor. Later, I was offered a position at White Dragon Clairemont where I have been teaching full time for over 15 years.
In 2002 I was promoted by my teacher, Master Nathan Fisher, and his teacher Grandmaster Doc Fai Wong to the level of Sifu, making me Seventh Generation in the Choy Li Fut Kung-Fu lineage and Fifth Generation in the Yang Family Tai Chi lineage. I’ve enjoyed my many years of competing nationally and internationally including the International Open Kung-Fu Championship, Plum Blossom International Championship, First Traditional Wushu Championship and the World Tai Chi Chuan Championship.
More importantly, my students have achieved some of the highest honors including overall grand champion awards at the Dragon Cup Championship and the international Chinese Martial Arts Championship (ICMAC). In 2006, my students won the overall Grand Championship in both the Men's & Women's Southern Kung-Fu Divisions. My team was also awarded the first ever Sportsmanship Award in the history of the tournament. In 2012, one of my top students, Jerime VanDergriff was promoted to the level of Sifu and charged with running our newest location in San Marcos, CA.
I believe that the kung-fu lifestyle has played a major role in helping me to become fit, strong, and healthy. A healthy life has allowed me to pursue other interests in life like surfing, cycling, and being outdoors. It has also led me to develop a passion for traditional Chinese Lion Dance. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to build up a team made up of students and instructors that share the same enthusiasm. Watching our team perform at Lunar New Year, weddings, and other cultural events, is always a thrill. The best part about being a Sifu is making a difference in the lives of my students and others around me.