Custodian to a Legacy
Certified 2nd Generation Jun Fan Gung Fu / Jeet Kune Do Full Instructor Sifu Paul S. Lewis
by Richard Bennett, AMAM
HOW IT ALL BEGAN FOR ME…
By the last year of Junior High School, I’d already had a few successful schoolyard fights.
Thanks to a sudden growth period, I found myself as one of the bigger kids in 8th Grade, which I often used to my advantage. Even though I didn’t consider myself as any kind of schoolyard bully, I did begin to subconsciously throw my weight around a bit more freely.
Ironically, that year I was also unanimously voted in as the student-body Class President.
After graduating, nearly all of my friends and I wound up attending the same high school together. I found myself truly enjoying my first year there…it began as an easy transition.
However, before the start of my sophomore year, my parents unexpectedly announced that we were to move to the far side of the locale, just outside of my beloved school’s district.
I was to change schools and leave all my close friends behind…I was devastated!
We ended up residing ten miles away into a town home, back to living wall-to-wall again, and I learned to hate it!
Sometimes, during the night, you could hear the next door neighbors doing the Wild Thing through the thin walls of my own bedroom! The walls in that place seemed very thin.
I went through my final stages of puberty there…an irritable boy in need of a good distraction.
A SOURCE OF INSPIRATION…
My first and long time attempt at a diversion was with music. I found myself wanting to be a famous rock & roll singer. It was fun for a while!
However, at the time, I lacked the necessary discipline to become highly skilled at it. I did try reasonably hard to develop my talent with some moderate successes, but I was really only fooling myself.
Around that time I went to a movie theater to see the film, Billy Jack starring Tom Laughlin.
I was astonished to see his ass-kicking Native American “half-breed” character standing up to defend the rights of others with the aid of his slick and effective Hapkido on the big screen!
As one of the only Jewish kids in school, sometimes faced with childish mockery and the occasional racist remarks, the impression it made on me stayed with me for a long time afterward. I became a fan of all the sequels as well.
Only Bruce Lee’s film work has ever made that similar kind of impact on me since.
During that time I learned much about the current major movie star martial artists. I began to admire some of them and started mimicking their movements as I tried to identify the various nuances of their fighting styles. My friends and I would occasionally play-act out some of the choreography together.
The way that many of them could move their bodies was fascinating to me…I felt drawn towards martial arts.
The only first-hand introduction to the martial arts that I’d had up to then was when I was a ten year old kid playing at the Westminster Boys Club.
There, I was taught only a limited generic form of self defense.
Because I was still in an awkward stage of physical growth, I felt too nervous and intimidated to commit myself to it long enough and soon stopped attending class there.
As I grew, I’d often thought about taking more self defense classes elsewhere, but had become so mentally suppressed under my older brothers’ thumb, by then that I was too afraid that I’d get hurt or fail miserably.
When my oppressive brother finally moved out and I’d managed to make a few friends at my new school, where I had no interest in taking part in any team sports, I then became a little more serious about getting back into some formal training.
For some reason, I tried to keep my training a secret from the rest of my family…especially from my relentless older brother!
This is when I began to seek out a more reputable training source for the first time.
It was then that I took my first actual Karate lessons from another schoolmate's father. It seems like I owe my start to one of my classmates…thanks Dale!
Ted Uyekawa was in his lush garden, teaching his son how to place a dead fish carcass in to the soil under a freshly planted shrub to aid its growth, when Dale’s mother escorted me into their large backyard for the first time.
After nervously watching them for nearly 15 minutes, I began to relax a bit. I started to realize what a patient man Mr. Uyekawa was underneath his slightly weathered appearance. The way in which he explained to his young son his ancestral reason’s for doing things a certain way seemed to make perfect sense to me as I continued to listen to his calm and caring voice.
When he finally turned his attention towards me and looked directly at me with those reassuring eyes of his, I somehow felt I knew he was someone I could completely trust.
He welcomed me to the neighborhood and thanked me for becoming a friend to his son. I shyly looked towards Dale sheepishly and smiled. He then asked me why I wanted to learn to better defend myself and I opened up to him.
I told him of the torment my older brother put me through both mentally and physically, I explained to him of the time my brother intentionally tricked me and purposely broke my nose with a “Palm-Strike” he’d learned from a neighbor who’d studied Judo, and of my constant mistrust for him…how it had forever changed my life!
I spoke about the mild anger that I’d had towards my parents for taking me away from my previously close schoolmates at such an important time I my young life, of my unease with all the new gang elements I was doing my best to avoid around my new neighborhood and at our school.
I told him how I hated being the new kid who didn’t seem to fit in…after all, I was an outsider there and it was difficult to adjust to. Mr. Uyekawa simply sat there and occasionally nodded as he listened to me, as if he completely understood, until I’d finished my whole story. Then he cleared his throat a little before he spoke…First he explained to me how easy it was to learn how to fight properly and how difficult it was to avoid being in one after learning how to do it. He spoke of egos and changing attitudes.
He also spoke of truth and honesty, devotion and loyalty…and of keeping secrets, which I knew how to do well. Mr. Uyekawa made me promise to keep many of his training methods a secret, to which I remained loyal.
He agreed to take me on as his student and I was thrilled! Dale and I were to be his only students. We started training the following Saturday morning.
Sensei Uyekawa handed Dale and I a lawn rake, a broom plus a few plastic bags, then he instructed us to pick up all the fallen leaves under some over-grown trees in the rear of their yard, which seemed quite large to us youngsters. It only took us around thirty minutes in the warm Southern California sun to complete this task. When we were done he had more chores for us…he always had more for us to do.
After two hours or so of such work every Saturday morning, he’d finally invite us into his converted garage to begin our martial arts workout. Every Saturday and occasionally on Sundays, he’d train us for approximately four hours in there.
During the summer we’d sometimes train outside in his freshly raked backyard. It was fun!
He taught us how to punch without breaking ours hands and how to kick without losing our balance and fall down. He introduced us to the “Simple Direct Attack” and what he called the “Five-Fingers Rule” within that first year. He managed to give me a very solid foundation…he taught us a lot. He always amazed Dale and me with his seemingly effortless ability to suddenly come to life and execute a flowing series of techniques in a flash!
Mr. Uyekawa was a great teacher…I got into several fights in high school and no one would ever come close to beating me. The training he gave to me would later save my life!
After over two years of that backyard training, the Uyekawa’s suddenly announced that they planned on moving too far away for me to continue training with them. I was very disappointed!
I began to take some introductory Judo lessons at the local YMCA.
After a week of this I decided it wasn’t for me. Because I missed the Uyekawa’s and still had an impatient mind, I felt uncomfortable wearing those Gi uniforms and learning so much boring ancient history about another culture. It all felt very dull to me then.
I just wanted to learn how to fight!
Back then, there wasn’t even a martial arts gym, no commercial chain of schools on nearly every street corner like there is today. There were none close to my home. In those days I had to ride my bicycle for several miles in order to find one.
Finally I found a Kenpo Dojo near my area that didn't demand you be on a contract to them, that actually had one of those crusty “old salts” teaching there. This instructor spoke clearly and seemed to focus more on combative techniques rather than on more of the endless Kata forms that all of the other studios that I’d visited were always dwelling upon. This Sensei somehow faintly reminded me a little bit of old Mr. Uyekawa too.
I knew my parents wouldn’t pay for more lessons so I had to get a job to afford it.
After about a year of training there, I began to notice the repetition in his teaching program and realized that his knowledge and his system had reached its limit. I was only a Blue-Belt when I began tagging him much more often than he’d liked me to during our sparring sessions. He even began to completely avoid me during those sparring sessions in order to “save face” in front of this other students. By then, all of his upper belts were now unable to even lay a hand on me, making a structured Belt Level System seem redundant to me.
It turned out that his school had no great secret training methods in its repertoire nor anything really inventive left for me to discover. This Sensei had nothing more valuable left for me to learn from him.
That’s when I stopped looking at my instructors as some sort of omnipotent human beings and realized that they may have as many limitations as I did!
I became bored again. Still, I continued my training there for close to another year, mainly because there was no other martial arts school nearby, but also because I could no longer actually afford any more lessons at the time.
THE MEASURE OF A MAN…
It was a chilly night in 1981. I was 18 years old and on my way to see a rock concert at the Los Angeles Forum for the first time, with one of my best friends’ ex-girlfriends. A night I’ll never forget!
She told me she’d wanted me to ask her out for quite some time. She was so pretty that I just could not resist asking her out on a date soon after they’d broken up...a decision that I will always regret!
I admit to feeling a bit guilty about it as we searched for parking at the sold-out event. By the time we arrived, the well-lighted lot was so full that we were forced to search about a mile or two away into the darker neighborhoods across from the Grounds.
It was a great concert, which we both thoroughly enjoyed! After the show, we walked all the way back in the cold night air towards where we remembered parking.
When we finally found a familiar looking street, we spotted my old Duster through the light fog parked there under a dimming street-light about 25 yards down.
Halfway to my car, I had to duck in to some bushes along the sidewalk to take a quick leak, before the long drive home to Orange County.
It was so cold out that night, I encouraged my date to take my car keys and begin to warm my car and herself up inside it, while I took care of my business there.
As I was finishing, I suddenly heard the squeaking of athletic shoes upon cement coming from the direction of the car amidst the shouting of my date’s alert!
I could see three youths yanking her little Disco purse, containing my wallet, away from her petite grasp. Once they had it freed, they pushed her hard against the door of my car and ran off!
It only took them a few seconds before they all sped off on foot in the opposite direction.
I was on my school’s track-team and fresh off recent Karate lessons and found myself running after them in a flash! I followed them at top speed down two more poorly lit neighborhood streets, around the back of a closed liquor store.
As I rounded its dark corner, one of the punks suddenly slammed a heavy piece of wood into the right side of my face…only sheer adrenalin kept me from being knocked out right then!
Almost as if it all was happening in slow-motion, I went into action…
Without thinking, I quickly attacked the largest of the three whom happened to be nearest to me, with a perfectly executed punch on the nose, which dropped him to his knees. Without any hesitation, I gave him a swift chop to his throat that sent him to the ground gasping for breath!Then, I launched myself towards the third attacker and Side-Kicked him so hard that I'm sure I felt his ribs crack! I then moved rapidly around him, using him as a shield in case any of the others came at me.
As fast as lightning, I advanced towards the first guy who was still there holding the piece of wood. As I moved, the third guy somehow managed to painfully run away, holding his arms around his damaged ribcage.
After seeing me easily taking out his other accomplices so rapidly, the first attacker dropped his wooden weapon and also ran off around the other side of the store and into the night, leaving the crime scene.
I was lucky that he must have been startled enough not to think of coming at me again from behind, while my back was briefly turned, with the heavy piece of wood he held or I may have been finished!
I picked up my date’s purse, which was lying against the urine-stained wall next to the dropped piece of wood, and headed back to my car where my date was crying hysterically. I quietly drove us home as she tended to my bleeding face.
Ironically, we never spoke again after that night. Much later on, I finally heard that she’d gotten back together with my now ex-best friend. A lesson was learned by me that night.
The scar I still bear, on my cheek, shines brighter with age.
REALITY, A NEW BEGINNING…
From late 1981-1983, I moved to a suburb of Chicago to begin working for a graphics company. I was 19 years old without a solid means of supporting myself, so this was a gamble that I'd hoped would pay off. However, I hated being there in much colder weather in a place that I knew very little about...I had no idea of what to expect there.
First off, I was asked to cut my nice long hair down to a short conservative businessman's cut. So, I reluctantly complied to please my new bosses to somehow fit in better with the environment that now surrounded me. I conformed without much complaint.
Days seemed to drag on for me in Schaumburg. I became restless and unhappy, but alas, I was stuck there for the moment.
In an effort to cure my boredom, I sought out a local martial arts school. The nearest was a Hapkido dojo that also taught some Judo, which was fine. That is where I was first introduced to Kickboxing and finally No-Hold Barred competitions.
I began to cross-train a bit and wound up doing some training at other gyms on a minimal basis. At first, I don't think I was overly into getting serious about my martial arts training, it was just that I was bored and it helped to entertain me. Later that first year is when other began to notice I was getting fairly good at it.
The second year of living outside of Chicago is when my training all began to come together. I had won a local free-form competition and my instructors were giving me some personal attention. They tried to influence me to enter more fights under their coaching, but I decided to go out and register on my own, only representing myself, wearing no affiliated logos or uniforms from any of the places I'd been training at...this was the rebellious side of me showing through.
During my stay in Illinois, I won two consecutive No-Holds Barred championships, which were brutal, plus a few additional Kickboxing trophy's. The second win happened on the night before Halloween, and I ended up getting a cracked rib, which forced me to stay immobilized in bed on the night of the holiday. Because I was still into keeping my Martial Arts experiences a secret, my roommates thought it was peculiar that I refused to join them in the celebrations. Other than that injury, these were the first sports-related martial arts competitions I'd ever entered, and I was lucky to be fast enough to not allow much contact upon my person; instead I was able to overcome my unfortunate opponents within each of the 1st rounds!
By early 1983, I moved back to Southern California because I had made some serious enemies in Chicago; also I wanted to attend the US Music Festival.
Back at home on the west coast, I slowly lost immediate interest in martial arts training, only playing around with a local group on a limited basis. I dropped out of any outside training until my 20th birthday when I bought my first book by Bruce Lee. The text was simple and direct and filled with easy-to-follow diagrams.
I devoured it over and over, and I was eager to incorporate this additional information into my newly revitalized arsenal! I soon purchased Lee’s entire book collection and began to study every page carefully.
I practiced “Entering into Kicking into Punching into Trapping into Grappling” daily, without the availability of any knowledgeable training partners. Finally, after moving back home, I started training with another friend at a newly opened Kung Fu studio and began developing more of my fighting skills.
The Sifu there relentlessly trained us in many techniques he’d learned while in the U.S. Marines. These included some of what he’d said were taught to Special (Secret) Services: Quick Takedowns, disabling-strikes and pressure-points. It proved to be fairly rough stuff for young guys like us, but I learned to revel in it!
This teacher was the first to help me to make more of a distinction between what he called Sport or Point-Karate and combative martial arts.
I received some very good training there!
I was disappointed when our Sifu suddenly died a year into my training from a heart-attack at the age of fifty years old. He was a good man.
Again, I let my training fall to the way-side for a while.
THE CIRCLE OF LIFE…
Once more, I went back to trying my hand at becoming successful in the music business. After a while, my band had reached a certain level of notoriety around Los Angeles. Our songs were being played on local radio stations and I was becoming more involved with a nice girl, but we were also beginning to party too much.
At that time, my martial arts training had become only a secondary notion. A few years later, we got married and I forgot all about martial arts training for a while.
Just over five years later, the band and my marriage both broke up and I again found myself in need of a good diversion, so I sought out a decent martial arts trainer once again.
By then, I'd moved to Costa Mesa, California and began taking more free introductory lessons around my area before finally finding Dojo that focused mostly on Karate-Kickboxing.
I was always cross-training in different systems, including, Hwa Rang Do, Hapkido, and Gung Fu, among several other more eclectic martial arts systems.
The Chief Instructor there had spent time in Korea and claimed to have been a retired former champion. He was a really nice and sincere guy. I’d get excited whenever he began reciting some of the quotes from some of the books by Bruce Lee, that I’d read!
At last I’d found an instructor that I felt comfortable with and resumed my training there. There, I was able to refine more of my skills and I was given the opportunity to spar with a variety of talented individuals. I was able to exchange some useful training information there, which helped me to excel even more!
However, I soon ended up having to move away and the need for training had to be put on hold due to a lack of work causing me serious financial woes.
BACK ON MY FEET AGAIN…
About a year later, I was back at work and living with some new friends that I’d made.
One of my roommates there had been taking Tae Kwon Do lessons close to our house and had learned of my interest in martial arts. He invited me to come by their Dojang for a free class, so I accepted his invitation.
I was immediately impressed by the Sa Ba Nim and the amount of freestyle sparring they engaged in! They used these wonderful chest-protectors that enabled their students to spar at close to full contact to the body.
Although the training there consisted of learning a lot of Poomse forms and enduring a certain amount of traditional Korean language and history, I found myself admiring their highly organized way of teaching and began to appreciate the instructors’ sincere patience and heavy nurturing of all the students.
I felt very welcome there.
I finally signed my first and only monthly contract in a Belt Level System and quickly began my training there that very week.
My main instructor was a fairly young Korean guy named Woon Choi, whom was said to have been a 1983 World Tae Kwon Do Champion. He had a lot of great kicks, including one I called the “Helicopter ” that he used effectively. He could do some amazing combination kicking!
He once told me, when that he was in high school in Korea, his Master occasionally trained Chuck Norris. Choi said his teacher would always pair him with Norris for their sparring sessions, reporting that the famous actor wasn’t a very good kicker and was always easily beaten…Woon Choi was no liar and I believed him! All of my instructors there seemed to genuinely care about my progress and under their attentive guidance I excelled! I became faster on my feet than I ever was before. Because of this, I was able to become a 1993 California State Open TKD Champion.
I do owe it all to my fast-footwork and the combination kicking that I learned at U.S. Tae Kwon Do…thank you Master Woon Choi!
After four years of training in Tae Kwon Do, I again felt the limitations of a classical system.
By then, I had my First-Dan and had gained some true insight of my own towards such rigid systems. I no longer saw a need for it at all…it had become confining to me and I became completely bored by it.
Meanwhile, I’d been continuing to cross-train in a variety of other martial arts. I like to call that time my personal Martial Arts Crusades.
I’d visit as many other studio’s as possible in order to discover more tangible insights and fighting-concepts. I sought out the “Truth” about my own abilities as a martial artist. I wanted to find out what might really work well for me as an individual.
By that time, my home library of related books and reference materials had grown large. One day, while reading one of them, for the first time I noticed that some of the authors had included their direct contact info inside the Index…some even printed their phone numbers inside of them.
So, I started to make contact by calling them directly to pursue more training opportunities. I took a ton of lessons from a variety of noteworthy instructors all over Los Angeles and Orange Counties during those years, and as a result, my confidence level grew!
I also began to revisit the writings and film work of Bruce Lee in search of that original “Truth” I’d started out seeking and followed a path towards a revelation of sorts.
I started to strip away anything that seemed useless and really rediscovered my own limitations in order to evoke a higher degree of any latent abilities, which may have subsided during my long phase of commercialized and sports-related martial arts training.
I looked inward, much deeper than before, and began to realize that the path my training had been on up to then had lead me in circles and that in order to begin moving forward I needed to do a lot more research and productive training.
I needed to change my own path!
I continued to enter a variety of competitions and tournaments, including some brutal “No-Holds Barred” bouts, during that period in order to experiment in a more full contact environment, where I didn’t have to be overly concerned about whom got hurt.
So far, I’d never been beaten in any of these intense competitions, always making all my wins look too easy against my opponents! I was becoming over-confident.
On a day that changed my life, an associate called me to say that he’d heard about a local Amateur Kickboxing match that was free to enter. He explained that he was thinking of entering it and wanted me to come along for support. I too was interested and wanted to finally attend an actual formal kickboxing event, so I agreed to join him.
Back then, there weren’t many such gyms or good competitions in my area, so this would be sort of a treat for me! Hours before the competition, I called my contact to learn more of the event’s details. After speaking with him, I decided to enter as well.
Diving right in has always been an excellent way for me to learn first hand! You can sometimes gain so much by making such fool-hearty decisions like that. However, I was not well-prepared for this type of extensive competition!
I’d become too bogged down by all the time I’d spent up to then by my recent attachment to my former Dojang, I’d fallen into the classical miasma that Bruce Lee himself had previously written about. Real Kickboxing required a whole different training regimen, which I was lacking in.
Before that first match, I’d never even worn those big padded 14 ounce boxing gloves; nor did I ever wrist wrap my semi-closed fists before…they were to add to my downfall that day!
My opponent, a top student of a guy I once did some training with, was experienced and came straight at me with confidence, once the bell rang!
I thought I was ready for him though…he stopped right in front of me and unloaded his fists of fury. As he did, I rapidly brought both my hands up hard and tight to protect my face, anticipating a chance to counter-attack.
My big mistake was that I hadn’t correctly estimated the thickness of those big Boxing gloves.
As I slammed them both together, the force that I created against their thickness unexpectedly caused my hands to reflect themselves outwards an extra inch or so, leaving a small gap between them right in front of my face.
This allowed my able opponent a split second to punch me hard right in my nose!
My eyes watered enough to blur my vision for several long seconds and I was forced to retreat around the ring as he continued throwing combination punches all over my body! I attempted to cover up as best as I could until I began to regain some composure while he continued to swing away at me.
After a long minute of dancing around him, I finally was able to come back at him with some excellent combination-kick s that saved me for the time being. I even managed a nice surprise Back-Kick, which fractured at least one of his ribs!
I had begun to turn the fight around into my favor and was pounding him up against the ropes, I began taunting him when the bell finally sounded, ending the first round.
Before the second round began, I had my strategy ready in my mind. I knew I had damaged my opponents’ ribcage and that he was nearly finished. So, when the bell sounded again, I literally launched myself out of my corner a couple of steps at him when the Referee halted me and stopped the clock.
He was gesturing towards my face, which confused me, and sent me back to my corner.
At the time, I didn’t understand what he was saying to me and my associates on my side of the ring. All the white-noise in my ears and my mouthpiece made it difficult for me to easily communicate with any of them.
My friends were trying to tell me that blood had been trickling from my freshly broken nose, so I attempted to ask them if they could stop the flow of blood so that the round could continue. But, they must have thought I meant, “Could you stop the fight?” and, before I could react, one of them threw in the towel!
Thus, ending my first ever Kickboxing match…I’d technically lost my first fight and I was upset! It took me a very long time to come to terms with my loss…the whole scenario continued to reply itself inside my mind for years afterward.
I continued to blame my associates for tossing in that towel so quickly on that day!
In the mid 1990’s, I started some free-form training with a few friends who’d told me of a guy named Thomas Cruse in Mission Viejo. Cruse was an instructor who’d been certified by a guy I’d read about some time prior named Paul Vunak.
I’d also previously watched a very cool Knife-Fighting training video on Vunak that was very impressive!
A respected 2nd Generation Instructor, Vunak was a direct student of Guro Dan Inosanto, a famous former 1st Generation Jeet Kune Do Instructor who was a direct student of the late great Bruce Lee!
Later on, Vunak established his effective Progressive Fighting Systems. He’d taught his P.F.S. to the FBI, Law Enforcement Officers, Navy Seals, and various Military types.
Here was the real deal at last!
Vunak and Cruse were truly great instructors, and they were the first to encourage me to develop myself as an instructor. Much of the effective combative techniques and fighting concepts that I’d only rarely touched upon were thoroughly examined there on a weekly basis. My own overall training shifted gears with them and I really excelled under their tutelage!
Although I couldn’t really afford their rates, I did train consistently with P.F.S. for almost a full year. What I learned there had reshaped my entire outlook on what really worked best for me as an individual martial artist in the worst-case scenario’s of an actual street-fight.
Paul and Thomas at P.F.S. not only helped me to effect positive changes, they greatly affected my whole outlook on my martial arts training.
Later, when I had secured a consistent source of income, I decided to seek out a more direct source of Jeet Kune Do training.
After meeting grappling pioneer and J.K.D. icon Sifu Larry Hartsell, a highly respected 1st Generation Bruce Lee student, at one of his Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Grappling Association seminars, I asked him if he’d take me on as one of his private students and he accepted me!
Training with Larry Hartsell, over at the famous Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts, has become one of the greatest highlights of my entire life!
Larry’s teaching method was quite unlike any I’d experienced so far…his amazing insights and seemingly unlimited martial arts arsenal were nearly unmatched in my experience, although he’d never admit to being that good, as humble as he always was. Larry's approach offered no gaps.
He taught me to always remember to give fair credit to my instructors and to never show off, which I never forget to do.
Through Larry’s kindness and generosity, I’ve learned so much more than I’d ever dreamed!
Larry has also given me the awesome opportunity to meet the legendary “Judo” Gene LeBell and his number one protege, the amazing Gokor Chivichyan, to whom I have become a loyal student and trusted friend. Training with Gene and Gokor is astonishing because they each offer a wealth of unique information! These days, I still continue to humbly learn all I can from them both.
I feel that I owe everything I've become to Larry Hartsell, not only making become the best I’ve ever been, but also for treating me like a good friend. Through him I have become a legitimately Certified Full 2nd Generation Jun Fan Gung Fu / Jeet Kune Do Instructor! I will remain a proud member of his JFJKDGA organization for all time.
In recent years, I've also become an occasional student of Sifu Richard Bustillo, another respected original J.K.D. alumni, over at his well-established I.M.B. Academy Academy in Torrance, California. Bustillo is a great guy with a friendly personality and I enjoy training with him, he offers great insights, taught me things I'd been missing before the times I trained with him! Bustillo has a diverse martial arts background and is a specialist in the Filipino systems. He offers excellent training opportunities, I.M.B. Academy is well-equipped.
These days I’m busy teaching comprehensive Mixed-Martial Arts to a growing number of my own loyal students here at Elite MMA and Self-Defense Academy in Santa Fe Springs, California.
In addition, I’m still an evolving student over at Gene LeBell and Gokor’s Hayastan Dojo in North Hollywood, where some of the best in the world also train!
The training that Sensei Gene and Gokor provide is quite unique. The advanced grappling and submissions I am able to learn from them sets me apart from many other martial artists that I continue to encounter...simply said, what Gene and Gokor both have so graciously given me is worth more than it's weight in gold! They have enabled me to advance beyond my dreams, while filling my arsenal with unlimited potential.
More than merely my teachers, I am blessed to be welcomed by Gene LeBell and Gokor Chivichyan as a trusted friend.
Meanwhile, I still continue my cross-training as much as possible in order to stay fresh and filled with new ideas and training concepts from multiple sources, which I freely pass along to all my students during each of the classes I provide to them.
Also, I'm kept very busy producing my highly entertaining internationally acclaimed online publication called: AMERICAN MARTIAL ARTS MOVEMENT, which is located online at WWW.AMAM-MAGAZINE.COM.
This quirky magazine is completely paperless. A.M.A.M. Magazine features captivating content, often filled with humor and irony, is available online for free. Once logged on, reader's will find some exclusive original articles, reviews and interviews with respected martial artists and industry leaders.
Now, a global success, I am proud to report that AMAM-MAGAZINE.COM is often considered among the top martial arts publications online!
I would never have gotten this far if it were not for the generosity of all my trainers and supporters…I might still be lost within a myriad of mostly useless information without a tangible sense of direction, still struggling to find the absolute “Truth” in my own martial arts training and personal direction.
I would especially like to thank my chief instructors: Larry Hartsell, Gene Lebell, Gokor Chivichyan and Richard Bustillo. For without their expert guidance, I most certainly would never have recently been inducted into the Martial Arts Masters Hall of Fame.
I wish to thank you all so very much for all you have done for me!
“It seems to me, the path towards developing true individuality is often found by becoming more in sync with the truth about oneself.”
To contact Sifu Paul S. Lewis, send your Emails to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Custodian to a Legacy
An exclusive interview with Sifu Paul S. Lewis by Richard Bennett, AMAM
AMAM: What do you think of the about the continually growing popularity of MMA ?
PSL: I think it’s great! It’s healthy for the sport. It has a positive effect on all forms of martial arts around the globe.
AMAM: Any tangible effects happening in your own locale?
PSL: Getting all the promoters and MMA organizations to be legally sanctioned helped it to gain a very solid foothold here in California. Its revenue’s have grown as a result!
AMAM: What would you say is the biggest problem in MMA right now? How about the best aspect of the sport today?
PSL: Well … some would likely say that where there’s potential big bucks, corruption may soon rear its ugly head!
I can say that today’s evolved MMA is giving many young fighters a fair chance to get out there and really compete and gain some recognition. Undoubtedly, it has given many championship fighters rewarding and good-paying careers.
AMAM: Who do you think is the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world right now and why?
PSL: My choice constantly changes along with the influx of newer talent. More than one.
AMAM: As a fan, what impresses you most about watching martial arts in action, and what do you think about the effect of MMA on the interest in martial arts training around the world?
PSL: Well … I’m interested in learning more about the bio-mechanics involved in the human body relating to the execution of martial arts techniques. Learning more about this seems to help me discover more potential, and limitations, within my own body. It enlightens me to better understand it.
The first effect that MMA has generated is the awareness. People can now witness what may really work for different fighters.
It may help those training to have more insight towards themselves and their own training approaches.
AMAM: As a skilled trainer, what can you say about how the sport is being taught today?
PSL: I think it’s being taught very well in most camps. The effective knowledge base has now had enough time to become more widespread and readily available.
AMAM: What do you think about the different/coaches/training teams out there, which one is most impressive to you?
PSL: Gokor Chivichyan trains some very tough fighters. His team win 95% of all their fights. Gokor is the best ever!
AMAM: How are things at Steve Rodarte's Elite MMA and Self-Defense Academy in Santa Fe Springs, California going for you these days? What is the ultimate goal there?
PSL: I have more students there now. In addition I was able to certify two of my students as Beginner Level JKD instructors a few years back.
The gym has been working hard to develop worthy MMA fighters. The intention is to have them ready to compete next year.
AMAM: What’s the most important thing a fighter can do to prepare for a fight?
PSL: One word - Endurance!
Besides all your regular training, I’d have a fighter seriously step up on the cardio and conditioning in preparation for a fight.
There is nothing worse than having plenty of ability, but no more gas in the tank… it freaks a lot of fighters out!
AMAM: What elements of martial arts are misunderstood or under taught in MMA training?
PSL: Good question. From my humble opinion, based on my Jeet Kune Do background, I’d like to see some more Trapping going on in MMA. Not the traditionally taught Wing Chun-styled version, but, more the modified Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do stuff. I teach it the way Larry Hartsell it taught to me. This consists mainly of what Bruce Lee taught him. Intercept, tie up, hit hard and often! Trapping-Range is where a lot of serious damage can occur, I say this because it works well when accompanied by the proper footwork and some complimentary grappling knowledge. It might help to save a lot of N.H.B. Cage Fighters from receiving so many unfortunate hits when in-fighting.
AMAM: Why haven't we seen much JKD Trapping being effectively used in MMA?
PSL: Perhaps because Bruce Lee only kept rather small groups of students, some of the original techniques he used may have become lost or diluted over time. To an extent, the specific training information he taught directly to his 1st generation students may no longer be as clear today. Just like if I tell you a story today, you tell someone else and they tell someone else, on and on down generations...the information is bound to become a bit reinterpreted over time. Though some revisions can be truly worthwhile, certain bio-mechanics remain certain. I have found Trapping being taught ineffectively in most schools I've visited. This might be because Trapping takes practice, lots of it, to get it right in genuine action. Most give up on it long before they learn the true beauty of it.
AMAM: Do you have a favorite style or technique?
PSL: Any technique is a good one if I’m able to execute it thoroughly. I do favor my direct JKD training, but have always been an avid cross-trainer of mixed-martial arts and I also have black belts in other systems. Instead of relying on a limited amount of possibilities, I try to flow fluidly into my increasing personal arsenal, allowing techniques to instantly come to me as needed.
AMAM: Who were your martial arts role models growing up? How did you first get into martial arts?
PSL: The first influence for me as a kid was not Bruce Lee. Before I know of him I saw the movie “Billy Jack” with Tom Laughlin. Wow, that was pretty cool Hapkido on the big screen in English, man! Soon, I began looking for teaching sources and got myself started.
AMAM: When was your first actual fighting experience?
PSL: My first fighting experience was in the schoolyards and neighborhoods. Once I learned I was fast, I became a bit of a young bully to those who’d dare mock me for being a bit of a “rocker” in school. It wasn’t until my teens when I discovered tournaments and sporting competitions. Later, I got into amateur Kickboxing. Back in the day, I also fought in some wild No-Holds Barred (Long before the UFC) matches in rough warehouses in San Pedro and in Chicago, during the early 1980's. Those few in attendance said my fights were spectacular…I did win them all in the early seconds of the 1st Rounds. However, I think the biggest purse was only 100 dollars! Later, in the 1990's I continued my winning streak in various competitions, only losing once, and finally retired 14-1. I have always been bold. I think it was my defiant attitude that got me into bloody street fights throughout my youth … but, I have mellowed greatly with age.
AMAM: As a matter of style, do you prefer a more power-driven approach, or are you more of a tactician? Would you classify yourself as a brawler or a boxer, a striker or a grappler?
PSL: Yes. (Laughs) In JKD we learn to flow from one fighting-range into another at will…that’s my goal. In the introduction of “King of the Ring” by Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, he talks about the differences of being a checkers or chess player when confronted with an opponent…great stuff by someone who knows and has proven it! However, both are good too. I try to emphasize the importance of all five fingers on both hands…one finger for kicking, one for punching, one for grappling, and still another for Trapping. Plus, one thumb to enable them all. All ranges of combat should be thoroughly addressed.
AMAM: How has JKD worked in your MMA training with your students?
PSL: Good! I’m lucky to have taken so many Private training sessions with my Sifu Larry Hartsell! Hartsell was a renowned student and friend of Bruce Lee's. Training with Larry was like learning guitar from a virtuoso like Eddie Van Halen or taking piano lesson from someone as accomplished as Elton John, simply amazing! He made me into a better instructor, martial artist and overall person. So, now I can pass some of his extensive martial arts knowledge to my own students. I am eternally grateful to him! I'm also extremely fortunate to have become a devoted student and good friend to “Judo” Gene LeBell and Gokor Chivichyan. I learn so much from both of them! Being able to train with the “Godfather of Grappling” is an honor, and Gokor is the very best ever...I'm totally indebted to them! My aim is to help carry on their great legacy.
AMAM: Please describe Sensei Gene LeBell.
PSL: I can tell you, Gene is a helluva character and one of the kindest people I know. I've also studied some with Richard Bustillo and Paul Vunak.
AMAM: Sifu, you've trained with some of the most respected martial arts minds I know. Thanks for introducing me to Sifu Larry Hartsell, Sensei Gene Lebell, Sensei Gokor Chivichyan and Sifu Richard Bustillo.
Thank you Sifu Lewis for taking the time to allow me to conduct this interview with you...good luck with AMAM-MAGAZINE.COM and all of your endeavors!
PSL: It was my pleasure, thank you!
To learn more about JKD / MMA training with Sifu Paul S. Lewis, please see the links below: