Inside Kung-Fu

“Legacy of Their Own”

ikf-feb-2008By Dave Cater

February 2008

Pg. 26-31


No year in recent martial arts history has robbed us of so many great names. From Lily to Larry, David to Daniel, Madame Yu to Bong Soo, they dropped like fallen warriors so quickly we barely had time to mourn one before the next was taken from us. One moment we were talking to them, and the next minute we were talking about them.

And these weren’t your garden-variety marital artists, either; rather, they were legends in their own time – masters and sifu and sensei that spent lifetimes accomplishing great things and creating a better world through martial arts.

If there’s any consolation, it’s the realization that this year’s group of Inside Kung-Fu Hall of Fame recipients is just as noteworthy for their martial arts accomplishments, “Man of the Year” Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming and “Woman of the Year” Addy Hernandez have been industry leaders for years, while “Instructor of the Year” Adriano Emperado remains one of the most-respected teachers of his generation.

In 2007 alone, “Competitor of the Year” Jonathan Wang emerged as a force with which to be reckoned on the open circuit, while the great Randy Couture shocked Gabriel Gonzaga and Gather Time to capture “Grappler of the Year” honors. And finally, long overdue “Writer of the Year” honors go to John Steven Soet, who has chronicled the lives and legacies of these past and present legends.


2007 2005 2003 2001 1999

Jerry Poteet Nick Gracenin Dennis Brown Hawkins Cheung Wesley Snipes

Hui Liu Lily Lau Graciela Casillas Wang Jurong Lucia Rijker

Doc-Fai Wong Richard Lee Glenn C. Hart Tak Wah Eng Pui Chan

Seming Ma Elaina Maxwell Team Evergreen Jeanne Chinn Cung Le

Jennifer Tijong Collin Lee David Tadman Pat Rice Burt Richardson

Jose Paman Terry Wilson Gerald Okamura Ric Meyers Jackie Chan

Matt Hughes Ronaldo “Jacare” Xande Ribeiro Mark Kerr Shannon Lee

de Souza Kazuyoshi Ishii

2006 2004 2002 2000 1998

John S.S. Leong Henry Look Donnie Yen William C.C. Chen Chuck Norris

Ming Qui Wei Qi He Michiko Nishiwaki S.L. Martin Michelle Yeoh

Tiffany Reyes Carter Williams Lu Xiaoling Mimi Chan Huang, Chien-Liang

Samara Simmerman Tiffany Chen Ziyi Zhang Wallid Ismail Maurice Smith

Jimmy Wong Angie Rivera Travis Wong Anita Lopez

Jose Fraguas Jeff Chinn Jou, Tsung Hwa Martha Burr

Dean Lister Scott Coker Robert Dreeben Gene LeBell

Tito Ortiz Century Martial Arts


He has been a martial arts and publishing giant for more than three decades. With Yang’s Martial Arts Academy (YMAA) schools dotting every corner of the world, and senior instructors creating equally large names for themselves, Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming could have easily called it quits, proclaimed a “job very well done” and quietly disappeared into the martial arts fabric.

No one would have blamed Dr. Yang for letting someone else handle the kung-fu reins. All the white crane and tai chi master has done since coming to America in 1974 is establish 50 schools in more than 16 countries, written more than 30 books and produced over 40 DVDs. That’s a lifetime of service for even the heartiest of martial arts souls.

But for the man whom Inside Kung-Fu called “one of the 100 people who have made the greatest impact in martial arts in the past 100 years,” going quietly into that good night was never his style. Nope. For the man who earned a doctorate in mechanical engineering from Purdue University there were still plenty of goals to meet and promises to keep.

One such promise, made to the late, great tai chi master Jou, Tsung-Hwa, involved establishing a full-time martial arts retreat where young students with a desire to learn both the physical and spiritual aspects of Chinese martial arts could study day and night without the pressures of work or family.

For Dr. Yang, 60, his dream has turned into the YMAA Retreat Center, which sits on 240 acres of remote woodlands in Northern California, isolated from the distractions of modern society. The Center’s established infrastructure includes a solar array for sustainable, off-the-grid power; a spring-fed well; and facilities for living and training. Far from his home in Massachusetts, this quiet place in the forest is entirely dedicated to what Dr. Yang describes as his final mission: to transmit his complete knowledge to the next generation of teachers and preserve the Chinese martial and healing arts.

“Today’s martial arts society, all they teach is martial arts. But part of martial arts training is morality—they ignore it completely,” Dr. Yang said in a recent IKF interview. “It’s a kind of self-discipline, and it’s disappearing. So I need to use martial arts as an educational tool. To teach a new generation about what is morality. Morality is not only to yourself, but also to the people. It’s a mutual relationship. These kinds of things are disappearing.

For 35 years, Dr. Yang has taught the benefits of Chinese culture and popularized traditional martial arts throughout the world. He is in a unique position: Carrying the legacy of the generation of the old masters and possessing a keen understanding of a new generation, he has dedicated his life to bridging the East and the West, and researching the ancient arts with a modern scientific perspective.

Soon he will marry the two philosophies and hope for the birth of a new generation of old-generation practitioners. Dr. Yang’s legacy was solid long before he adopted the Retreat project. This just adds fuel to his already-glowing legacy.


Not since the days of the legendary Graciela Casillas has a female practitioner so captured our hearts and minds. Beautiful and deadly, Hernandez has taken the martial arts world by storm. A combination of fitness and function, Addy is earning the respect of her peers with a no-nonsense attitude built by years of dogged commitment and training.

An Inside Kung-Fu columnist and Unique Publications DVD author, Hernandez began her martial arts training in 1994 under KI Fighting Concepts founder (an IKF columnist) Joseph Simonet. Training in both kenpo karate and Filipino stickfighting, Addy also found time to study Yang-style tai chi and meditation.

The grueling years of early mornings and late nights paid off with multiple black belts in myriad styles. Today, Hernandez holds fourth-degree black belts in KI Fighting Concepts and doce pares; a third-degree black belt in Tracy’s Kenpo karate; and a second-degree black belt in escrido. She also is a certified instructor in Yang-style tai chi.

Hernandez continues to expand her knowledge and abilities by stretching her mental, physical and philosophical boundaries.

She promotes, organizes and teaches at Wind and Rock, one of the fastest-growing, most highly acclaimed martial arts training camps in the country. She has also been an active participant in Simonet’s many public appearances and seminars coast to coast. She also has appeared on two Inside Kung-Fu covers in the past three years.

Most martial artists would be content to rest on these lofty laurels. But Hernandez, who also teaches yoga and runs marathons, insists she’s just beginning.

“I can honestly say I’ve barely scratched the surface in my training,” Addy explained. “The more I learn, the more I want to learn. It’s as if each martial arts door leads to another.”

The secret, she insists, is to remain balanced and maintain a solid focus on the goal at hand.

“Finding balance and peace in one’s life is all about making the right choices,” she notes. “I am convinced that I can make positive choices, which will almost always produce harmonious results. Certainly, life confronts us with many challenges and sometimes seemingly insurmountable obstacles. I am, however, a believer in the old adage, ‘chance favors the prepared mind.’”

When the time came, Hernandez was prepared for her latest challenge—a DVD for Unique Publications called, “A Cut Above.” The DVD illuminates what can happen when a blade finds its way into the hands of a skilled practitioner.

While Addy Hernandez is a relative newcomer to the world of martial arts, she is anything but a neophyte. Combing the drive of a beginner with the desire of a hardened veteran, Hernandez will only get better, stronger and more polished in the decades to come.


He spends much of his time in a wheelchair these days, but few sifu stand taller in the martial arts world that the incomparable Adriano Emperado. For nearly 60 years, the name Emperado has meant martial arts supremacy; the style of kajukenbo a living, breathing testament to the greatness of so many before him.

Today, Emperado’s kajukenbo is famous throughout the world for its tough-as-nails fighting foundation. Not surprising, actually, considering his rough-and-tumble Hawaiian background and training under the great warrior himself, William K.S. Chow.

Born in Honolulu’s turbulent Palama section in 1926, Emperado spent his formative years in boxing, escrima and judo before joining Chow and eventually becoming “Thunderbolt’s” first black belt.

Emperado opened his first kajukenbo school in 1950 and charged students just $2 per month. The workouts there were legendary; in fact, it is said that class was not over until there was blood on the floor. “You have to experience pain before you can give it,” Emperado said in a 1994 IKF interview. “You have to know what your technique can do.”

Great techniques performed by a great technician proved a perfect combination. Emperado’s fame led to key assignments in law enforcement: 14 years as a harbor policeman; a year with the Hawaii Attorney General’s office; and bodyguard for the governor. Soon, Emperado’s Kajukenbo Self Defense Institute of Hawaii was the largest chain of karate schools in the islands. Emperado brought his skills, as well as several other Chow disciples to America, when he moved to the Mainland in 1969.

For the past 30-plus years, Emperado’s kajukenbo has become a thriving martial art and one of the most-influential styles in the world. Once a year, 3,000 strong gather to pay tribute to their grandmaster. While he sits, they stand and honor one of the greats of all time.


Had it not been for politics—and a strong addition to a form—Jonathan Wang might be preparing for his coming-out party. As it is, he will have to remain one of America’s best-kept martial arts secrets. Wang was primed and ready to make the Beijing Olympics his personal kung-fu playground while showing the world that Americans indeed can compete on a world stage. And what better stage than the Olympic Games, in the birthplace of kung-fu, doing what he loves best.

Sadly, as they say the best-laid plans of mice and men, as well as those unsuspecting athletes, often go awry. Beijing’s inability to push its home sport into the mix, combined with the addition of “Dan du” movements, which make tai chi more gymnastic, was more than Wang could overcome. For Wang, who runs the Beijing Tai-Chi & Kung Fu Academy in Santa Monica, Calif., the most he can hope for now is the personal pride that comes from being one of the best in the world.

His international results over the past year tell an amazing story of success at every level. Wang enjoyed arguably the greatest single year of competitive kung-fu in Western Chinese martial arts history. Son of the world-renowned tai chi master Daniel Y. Wang, the 35-year-old Jonathan Wang collected an astounding 75 gold medals participating in some of the world’s most-prestigious events.

Among his crowning achievements were Internal Grand Champion honors at the 2nd International Traditional, Kung Fu & Wushu Tournament; Internal Grand Champion at the USAWKF National Tournament; Internal Grand Champion at the 10th Annual Dallas Taiji Legacy; Internal Grand Champion at the Dan Diego Grand Nationals International Martial Arts Competition; and International Grand Champion at the Hong Kong 10th Annual Reunification Tournament.

Wang, however, won’t let something like an Olympic snub keep him from learning and growing. A licensed acupuncturist and holder of a master’s in Oriental Medicine, Wang plans to continue training in Beijing several times a year. Which only goes to show that Jonathan Wang does not need the glory of Olympic Gold to prove his worth in the world of kung-fu.


He clips the “wings” of the fleetest, strips power from the strongest and makes mere athletes yearn for yesteryear. He’s not only nasty, ruthless and impartial, he may be the most hated man on the planet. He is Father Time.

But not even Father Time can handle UFC heavyweight champion Randy Couture, because a regular fighter Randy Couture is not. He’s indifferent to reputations and welcomes seemingly insurmountable challenges, which is why he looked Father Time square in the eyes recently and submitted him—once again. Defying age, predictions and the odds, Couture, 44, scored a convincing TKO over Gabriel Gonzaga at UFC 74 in late August and retained his heavyweight title.

“I am not really here for titles,” said Couture. “The hardware is nice and the title is icing on the cake, but it’s more about performance.”

That impressive performance followed his heavyweight title-clinching victory of Tim Sylvia last March.

“Not bad for an old man,” said Couture, immediately after the Sylvia fight. Not bad, indeed.

“He’s [Couture] a unique individual,” said Dana White, UFC president. “You do not see many competing at 44. He’s a freak of nature. He’s an incredible athlete, fighter and human being. I have nothing but respect for Randy Couture.”

The Couture freight train doesn’t show any signs of slowing, prompting some to wonder how long he’ll fight and speculate as to whom can take away the crown.

“Do I think I’ll still be fighting when I’m 50?” said Couture. “No.” White feels otherwise.

“Yes, I honestly do,” he said. “The guy is a freak. He’s an amazing fighter and a monster.”

Although the UFC heavyweight division has beefed up recently, White isn’t sure anyone poses a threat, although he says there could be some “good match-ups” for Couture. When asked whom he sees, Couture uttered the “F” word, as in Fedor Emelianenko.

“I want to fight the best guy in the world,” he said. “And Fedor is the best in the heavyweight division. Bring him on.”

If and when that happens, don’t be surprised if Couture again beats two opponents on the same night—Fedor Emelianenko and …Father Time.


John S. Soet entered the world of martial arts at the age of 16 as a student of the legendary Chuck Norris. Eventually, he earned black belts in shotokan and hapkido, and studied various other arts for more than 20 years. At the same time, he pursued a career in film, journalism and television, earning a bachelor’s in communications from Loyola University and a master’s in professional writing from the University of Southern California.

In the early years of his film career, he was able to work in such exotic locations as Hong Kong and Manila, and directed a series of low-budget films. Among his accomplishments are Fire in the Night (featuring martial arts legend Graciela Casillas), Eliminator Woman (with Karen Sheperd, Jerry Trimble and Michele Qissi), and Southern Fired Shakespeare, which own the gold medal for Best Short subject at the Houston Film festival (the same award previous won by both Steven Spielberg for Amblin and George Lucas for THX1138).

In 1987, he took on a new challenge as editor of Inside Karate magazine, and served in that position for the next 11 years. During his tenure, he was instrumental in launching several new magazines, including Master Series and Inside Martial Arts. He also authored Martial Arts Around the World I and II. In 1998, he was aksed to head up Unique Publications’ video department. Within four years, he expanded the library from less than 300 to nearly 700 videos, making Unique Publications the world’s largest producer of martial arts video.

Today, Soet remains one of the most respected voices in martial arts, a published author many times over and a long-overdue choice as “Writer of the Year.”


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January 2009


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