Archive Page 2

22
Jan
09

Way of the Blade- IKF August 2007

Inside Kung-Fu

Way of the Blade

ikf-august-20071By Addy Hernandez

August 2007

Pg. 24

My martial arts training began in the early summer of my 17th year. I was a bright-eyed, impressionable, high school senior ready to conquer the world. I wanted to leave my past behind and strive full throttle into the future. Paradoxically, fate had already intervened as my past and future were on a collision course in which my reality would be forever forged.

From the beginning, training with sifu Joseph Simonet was physically, mentally and emotionally challenging. Intuitively, he seemed to know my limitation – real or imagined. Sifu Simonet introduced me to several training methods. We boxed, grappled, weight-trained, ran, hiked and worked endless rounds of focus pad combinations. I learned aspects of wing chun, silat, kenpo, doce pares and Yang-style tai chi. Each art offered a unique and challenging expression of fighting dynamics. My passion for the martial arts was insatiable as several years of training ensued.

One day during a private lesson, sifu Simonet handed me a training blade and asked me to show him my knife fighting skills. I assured him , I didn’t know any knife fighting techniques or methods. “Actually, it’s everything you know,” he replied. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” I said. Unbeknown to me, sifu had specifically taught me techniques and methods of movements, which were translatable to knife application. My jurus from silat, my kenpo techniques, the stick drills, everything became knife. My astonishment soon turned into delight, as I realized edged weapons had already been an integral part of my life.

I was born in Mexico in 1976. I was just four years old when my mother died while giving birth to my baby sister. With five very young children, my father packed up and headed north to America in search of work in the orchards of Washington State.

My father is a hard-working man, proud of his craft and Mexican heritage. He grew his own vegetables and butchered livestock to feed his family. Of all the children, I was the one who did not shy from the process of butchering our animals. Very early on, I would learn the skills by watching my father kill, skin, gut and clean animals. For me using an ax, knife and machete became a natural and necessary part of growing up. I would cut off the head of chickens using an ax and then clean and bone them with the sharpest knife my father owned. I have cut up rabbits, pigs, turkeys, deer and even a bear. It was not unusual to see my father and me side by side cutting down alfalfa and corn stocks with a machete. The use of edged tools has always been a part of my Mexican culture.

Growing up, I wanted to be like all the “American kids.” Being young and immature, I was sometimes embarrassed that we slaughtered our animals for food. Now, as a woman and martial artist, I have come to appreciate my heritage with pride and renewed respect.

It was when I was six or seven that I first witnessed an underground Mexican pastime –cockfighting. During harvest every fall my father would hire dozens of workers to pick apples. This was a time of excitement as well as long, hard hours in the orchard. At night the men would gather to drink, play music and gamble on cockfights. The scene of men gathered around a circle of rope yelling and cheering during these cockfights is both surreal and vivid. These vicious rituals would often end with dead or several injured roosters.

Unfortunately, there were some mean who would cheat to win at any cost. In cockfighting, the cheaters would secretly attach thin razors to the cock’s feet, which of course would destroy its opponent by slashing it into a bloody mess. On one particular night, the crowd was loud and frenzied. Apparently, two cheaters had been caught. In punishment, they were forced to arm each rooster with razors and fight. Here I was, a young girl, witnessing a vicious reality of contesting with blades. My recollection of the night ended in chaos, spurting blood and yelling men.

The next day, I asked my father about the cheaters and the fighting, “Papa, I don’t understand. Who was the winner of the fight?” In a somber voice my father replied, “Hija, in a real cockfight with blades – the winner is the second one who dies.”

Through my father and our culture’s necessity to survive, killing and cutting up animals taught me respect in the blade and a strong value for life. Through sifu Simonet and my passion in the martial arts, I understand the lethality of bladework through osmosis and practical self-defense application. The philosophy of these two men has merged and allowed me to forge my own way of the blade.

22
Jan
09

Choosing a Knife- IKF June 2007

ikf-june-2007Inside Kung-Fu

“Choosing a Knife”

By Addy Hernandez

June 2007

Carrying a weapon for self-defense is a serious commitment. If you are going to trust your life to a piece of gear, you owe it to yourself to choose that gear carefully. When it comes to choosing a knife for personal defense, there are some specific qualities you should consider.

Strength tops the list of qualities that a good self-defense knife should have – particularly if it is a folding knife. The design, engineering and quality of execution of a folding knife lock all affect a knife’s inherent strength and its ability to withstand the physical stresses of powerful cuts and thrusts. A lock failure could cause a folding knife to not only live up to its name at the wrong time, but it could also cost you a few fingers in the process.

Functionality is another necessary characteristic. The blade style, shape of the point, edge geometry and sharpness all have a direct bearing on how well the knife actually cuts and punctures when employed in a high-speed defensive situation. The best way to understand this quality is through actual test cutting on targets that replicate the body parts you would be cutting with your style of knife tactics. For example, if you focus on disabling cuts that target the connective tissues of the arms and legs, you can make test targets using meat roasts wrapped in plastic (to simulate skin) and covered with clothing. If your knife performs well and creates the depth of cut necessary to hit your preferred targets, you’ve validated the functionality of your knife. You’ll also have a realistic understanding of the true destructive power of your blade.

Another aspect of functionality has to do with the shape and construction of the knife’s handle. A good knife handle must provide you with a secure grip and allow you to manage the shock that is transferred back into your hand during full-power cuts and thrusts. Slippery, poorly shaped handles can compromise your control of the knife and, in extreme cases, could even result in self-inflicted cuts. Imagine thrusting full force at a soft-tissue target and hitting solid bone. If the shape and material of your knife handle won’t allow you to positively manage that type of shock, you need to keep shopping.

Convenient carry must also be a prerequisite of a defensive knife. To ensure that the knife is available when you need it, it should be carried in a comfortable, accessible location on your body at all times. That carry position must work with all the styles of clothing and allow you to carry the knife in a consistent location on your body. Many knife collectors brag about their “rotation” of knives, and often have a different carry knife (or knives) and carry style for every day of the week. Knife players who truly understand self-defense, however, know that the rapid deployment of a knife is a critical component in effective fighting. Always carrying your knife in the same position is one of the keys to rapid deployment, since reflexes are based on consistent, repetitive actions.

Quick, reliable deployment of a knife begins with carry location, but there is more to it than that. That’s why “deploy-ability” – a combination of design characteristics that allow the knife to be rapidly drawn and opened to a ready position – is also an essential quality of a personal defense knife. For folding knives, this usually means a combination of a clothing clip and some type of hole, stud or disk in the blade that allows it to be opened with one hand. For fixed blades, it’s typically a synergy of knife and sheath design that supports comfortable concealed carry and a fast reflexive draw.

The final basic quality of a good personal defense knife is that it is legal to carry in the areas in which you operate. Research of the knife laws in your area – both state and municipal – will help define the types of knives and methods of carry that are legally permissible. In many cases, the terminology of the laws may seem unclear, but if you focus on key elements like blade length restrictions on double-edged blades and other specific characteristics, you can usually get a pretty good idea of what is and isn’t legal.

By choosing a knife that clearly falls within these parameters, you will not only be able to defend your life and the lives of your loved ones, but you will be in a much better position to justify your actions in court. And unfortunately in today’s world, defending your actions just as real a challenge as defending your safety. Do your research, choose your knife wisely and you’ll be well prepared to do both.

22
Jan
09

Size Matters- IKF April 2007

Inside Kung-Fu

“Size Matters”

ikf-april-2007By Addy Hernandez

April 2007

Pg. 24

Let’s fact it: in self-defense, size does matter. Like it or not, your size, your attacker’s size and the relative difference between the two have a tremendous effect on how much damage you can inflict on each other.

This problem affects all martial artists, but it is of particular concern to women, because most of our attackers will be larger and stronger than we are. Understanding, accepting and preparing for this disadvantage is critical to any sound women’s self-defense plan.

Many martial arts claim that their technique, combined with only minimal force, can help a small person overcome a much larger one. For example, it is often said that to perform aikido technique, the practitioner only needs the strength to life 16 pounds. In theory, that sounds great. The problem is that it takes years of practice and training to develop the reflexes, timing and finesse to know exactly how to apply those 16 pounds of force in the chaos of a real attack.

Some simple techniques – like eye strikes and kicks to the knee – can allow a smaller defender to cause serious damage and can help compensate for a disparity of size or strength. However, these techniques are target specific and still require a significant degree of speed and strength to deliver.

The ultimate weapon for women’s self-defense is something that requires little skill, almost no strength and can literally destroy any body part it touches. The ultimate women’s weapon – and the ultimate self-defense equalizer – is the knife.

According to a medical study conducted by the Welsh National School of Medicine, a sharply pointed knife blade can penetrate human skin with as little as half a kilogram (1.1 pounds) of pressure. They determined this figure by using a specially designed knife with a scale built into it to perform penetration tests on actual human cadavers. While clothing will create some additional resistance, the sharp edge and point of a knife still offer a tremendous amount of destructive power when applied with only minimal force. And, as previously noted, this destructive power applies to literally any body part that the blade touches.

Although any cut you deliver to an attacker can help keep you safe, the best tactic for applying the knife in self-defense is based on the Filipino martial arts strategy of “defanging the snake” – targeting the attacker’s attacking limbs. Normally, this is interpreted as cutting the wrist or forearm to disarm his weapon, but its functional application goes well beyond that. The key is to understand basic human anatomy.

The human body moves because muscles contract. When muscles contract they pull on tendons that are attached to bones. Cutting a tendon – which is similar to a cable – immediately detaches the muscle from the bone, disabling or completely crippling the motor function normally provided by that muscle. Cutting the muscle itself can also produce the same result by destroying the integrity of the muscle and preventing it form contracting. Either way, the result is an immediate loss of the motor function of the joints powered by those muscles and tendons. This happens instantly and is not dependent upon blood loss, pain or any reaction-based effects.

Let’s say an attacker attempts to strike you with a weapon. As he extends his arm toward you, you simply evade and cut the muscles or flexor tendons on the inside of his wrist. The result is an immediate loss of his ability to grip anything with that hand. This same tactic could be used against any type of grabbing attack or attempted abduction. Assuming that your attacker is physically larger and stronger, and that you are justified in using a knife for self-defense, a single cut to his inner wrist offers and immediate release from any choking or grabbing attack.

Similarly, any deep cut to the quadriceps muscle just above the knee immediately destroys an attacker’s ability to support weight on that leg, typically dropping him to one knee and offering an excellent opportunity to escape.

One common criticism of the knife as a defensive weapon for women is that an attacker can disarm you and use it against you. If you introduce a knife into a self-defense situation, you are doing so because you are in fear of suffering death or serious bodily injury. To keep yourself safe in such a situation, anything you do must be done with conviction and ruthless self-confidence. Develop that attitude and combine it with the destructive power of a sharp knife, and you have a solution for the ultimate self-defense equalizer.

22
Jan
09

A Week of a Lifetime- IKF March 2008

ikf-march-2008Inside Kung-Fu

“Week of a Lifetime Part 1”

By Joseph Simonet

March 2008

Pg. 24

In the spring of 1986, I saw an ad in Inside Kung-Fu magazine offering a weeklong workshop/seminar on wooden dummy training. The location of the seminar was at a lodge on Whistler Mountain, British Columbia, Canada. The seminar was to be taught by master Wang Kiu, an original core student from grandmaster Yip Man himself. Finally, I thought, a unique opportunity to train hands-on with a real kung-fu master from China. I jumped at the chance.

By 1986, I had been dabbling in non-classical wing chun for about three-to-four years. I built my first wooden dummy (crude as it was) in 1982. At the time, Seattle, Wash., was a melting pot of martial arts practitioners, especially wing chun-based arts.

James DeMile was teaching his Wing Chun Do, as were some of his students. There were several derivations of Bruce Lee’s methods being taught by local legends such as Jesse Glover, Ed Hart and Taky Kimura. I never had the opportunity to train with any of these teachers. However, I trained with some of their students.

The non-classical wing chun being taught in those days was heavy-loaded chi sau, thousands of straight punches and a general attitude of aggression. Some of the classes were taught in closed-door, underground perversity. The word was that these men were tough with a no-nonsense, take-no-prisoners kind of approach. This, of course, fell right into my perspective of training at that time.

Nevertheless, I was limited (if not blackballed) in my ability to train with the top guns. In some cases, I was flat-out denied even an opportunity to meet these men. So, I decided to go around them. Whenever people, situations or any particular obstacle confronts me, I become more resolved in my pursuit of my ultimate goal to evolve and succeed. After all, success is the best revenge, and it’s the only one that pays.

So , when the wooden dummy training seminar became available, I was elated to say the least. The weeklong training camp was hosted by Dr. Khoe and his staff from the University of British Columbia. Dr. Khoe was a professor of engineering at U.B.C. The training with master Wang Kiu and Dr. Khoe was a stark contrast in comparison to Seattle’s non-classical approach. These men were highly educated, esteemed professionals in their own right, exemplifying competence and humility.

For five days, Dr. Khoe and his staff patiently assisted us beginners every step of the way. Master Wang Kiu was as highly evolved a teacher as he was a practitioner of wing chun. On one occasion, I was getting upset and impatient with myself, letting my ego get in the way. Wang Kiu came up and assisted me with great agility. He calmed me down and corrected my movement, I thanked him for his help and he said, “Just relax, don’t worry, there are 1,000 doors to the same room.”

The original form taught was the 108 classical mook jong. There are 10 sections, with each of the first nine sections having 10 movements and with section 10 having 18. We were taught two sections per day. Learning this form was a huge challenge for me; most of the movements were quite different from anything I had done before.

Thankfully, the sequences were taught in a linear and logical order. I as able to mimic the entire form by the time I left Friday night. To ensure that I wouldn’t forget it, I stopped along the way home to seattle (a four-hour drive) and practiced the 10 sections in the air. One of the places I stopped to work the form was atop a waterfall in the mountains of British Columbia. I hiked along a river and found this incredible waterfall. Being energized by the week’s rich experience, I hiked up to the top of this waterfall and did the 108 Mook Jong 10 times in the air (without a dummy). In between sets, I did 100 straight punches. I was mentally and physically exhausted by the time I was done. After that workout, I made a promise to myself: I would never forget this treasured form and I would always practice it.

So, for an entire year I performed the 108 classical set at lease once for 365 days straight. Without a doubt, the event of that week’s training and the ensuing 365 continuous days of training had an indelible impact on my training and my entire year.

Note: In part II, which will appear in the May issue, I will examine the physical differences between wing chun and non-classical wing chun. I will also share some of my training experiences and commitment perspectives.

22
Jan
09

Sustained Effort- IKF May 2007

Inside Kung-Fu

“Sustained Effort”

ikf-may-2007By Joseph Simonet

May 2007

Pg 24

Recently, after a vigorous training session at my martial arts gym, a young student of mine (early 20s) asked to talk to me in private. “Well of course,” I replied, “what’s on your mind”?

How do you do it”? He asked.

“Do what?”

“How do you stay so positive, so upbeat and energetic? Here you are twice my age, and you’re fitter, stronger and seemingly happier than me. Oftentimes, I feel like I’m at the end of my rope and you’re always talking about how it’s just the beginning. I feel like I need direction, motivation, hope, something I can hold on to. What’s your secret?”

“Well” I replied, “The simple answer is ‘sustained effort’ and ‘when in doubt, train.’ Through life’s ups and downs, in these uncertain times, training my mind and body has been an enormous foundation that I can stand upon with certainty.”

“No offense sifu, but aren’t you a little old to still be training do hard? I mean seriously, you’re older than my dad and he doesn’t even work out, not like you anyway.”

“No offense taken,” I answered.

I proceeded to explain to the young man that self-doubt has destroyed many people’s lives. Many unfulfilled dreams have been a result of self-doubt and a lack of motivation and discipline. “Keep training,” I said, “no matter how challenging or difficult life seems sometimes.”

Later that evening, I thought about my student and what we had talked about. I was about 20 years old when some old guy (about my age now) explained to me how “it’s such a shame we have to waste our youth on the young.” How ironic. I am now the “old guy” and here I am, caught in a full circle chain of events.

Looking back at my life, I realize I have had to endure several heartaches and trials to get to this point. I feel in love, got married, then divorced. I raised my children into fine adults. I buried my grandparents, buried my father and buried my brother. I became addicted. I got sober. I made money. I lost money. I had moments of triumph and also got my teeth knocked out. I achieved black belt status only to get thrown out of systems by teachers I revered. I have been sued and slandered. I have read books and have authored books. I have traveled the world and back again, and so on.

I have lived over a half-century, only to realize I am just starting to figure things out. Yes, it is only the beginning, and through it all, I have never stopped training my martial arts. Whenever life’s challenges got me down, or dealt me a blow, when joy turned into sadness and doubt, my training kept me on task. I have survived several course corrections, but never have I abandoned ship.

I have been very fortunate to have had many great martial arts teachers and students in my life. Several times in my career I have studied multiple systems at the same time. For instance, in 1976 I was studying goju and hung gar as I was teaching kenpo karate. Sound confusing? I suppose it was, but I was 22 years old and had an insatiable desire to learn. It was the learning, training and discipline that fueled my motivation that kept my life on track. In 1992, I was training pentjak silat, Yang-style tai chi, boxing, and working out with a high school wrestling team all while furthering my development of the “Slam set – The Art and Science of Mook Jong.” Once again, the common thread was sustained effort.

Cross-training with weightlifting has also been a powerful and essential ingredient not only to my martial prowess, but also to my positive state of mind. I started lifting seriously when I was 15. By the age of 16, I could bench press 310 pounds. I was obsessed with lifting. Looking back at my obsession, I now realize that no matter what negativity was coming at me – alcoholic parents, peer pressure, social upheaval (i.e., Vietnam, civil unrest) – weightlifting gave me a sense of control and empowerment. As my poundage increased, so did my confidence and self-worth.

My advice to anyone reading this column is to start training, stay training and encourage others to do the same. Oftentimes, in martial arts as well as life itself, we get bogged down by injury, politics, dissenting opinions and self-doubt. Train diligently; sharpen your skills and open your mind. As a Chinese master once told me, “There are a thousand doors to the same room.” I suggest that hard work, discipline, rigorous martial arts practice, supplemented with cross-training with a lifelong commitment to sustained effort is the key to unlocking your door.

22
Jan
09

Master of All Trades -IKF March 2007

ikf-march-2007Inside Kung-Fu

“Master of All Trades”

By Joseph Simonet

March 2007

Pg. 24

Last year Inside Kung-Fu magazine asked me to appear on one of its covers with an accompanying interview. My initial reply was, “Absolutely.” However, soon after “hurray” came my question: “Are you sure you want me on the cover? Am I qualified? The editor replied quickly and matter-of-factly: “Look, enough people hate you so you must be doing something right.”

Fast forward to today. My partner, Addy Hernandez, and I are now being asked to share a monthly column. “Absolutely,” was our immediate reply. Sound familiar? Of course, the same questioned followed: “Are we qualified?” This time the editor said, “I believe you are. However, there are critics who question your credentials and think you’re a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. It’s up to you to convince doubters that your martial skill, credentials, insight, innovation and past instructors are worthy of ‘master’ or ‘expert witness’ status. Good luck.”

First, to my critics and doubters I would ask: ‘How many of you have actually met and trained with me?” My guess is probably none. Addy and I have taught seminars for New York to Shanghai, Houston to Minneapolis, and everywhere in between. The feedback we get from every seminar is, “Amazing,” “Thank you,” “That was incredible.” I’m born-again martial artist. Not once has anyone questioned my knowledge and ability face to face.

So, am I a jack-of-all-trades, master of none? To really answer the question I would have to first reply with another question. “Who can observe the observer?”

It has been my experience that “the biggest trap of all is the one you do not know you are in.” More often than not, a critic will project his abilities, values and/or lack thereof onto others without the prospective of truth or objectivity. My suggestion to all my critics would be to come over, talk and train with me, then express your critique. All I know is that after 35 years of training in the martial arts, I truly feel like a beginner.

The definition of a qualification and/or credential has become blurred with the changing tides in the martial arts. Is it a stamp of approval on the a certificate that some other so-called expert gave you? If so, I have several on my wall. Or, are credentials the accumulation of a lifetime of events, people, places, poignant insights and bruises – physically and otherwise – you have experienced along the way?

Looking back on my martial arts journey, in 1972, I was privileged enough to observe and meet master Gogen Yamaguchi at the Heck Edmusen Pavilion at the University of Washington in Seattle. As a young man, Yamaguchi studied several martial arts systems such as judo, kendo, iaido, jodo and kusarigama as well as goju. Though he was known as a goju master, he was never considered a jack-of-all-trades. Why not? What made him different?

My 35-year background in the martial arts has been laden with multiple martial arts systems. For instance, I have been in kenpo karate for 34 years. Wing chun gung-fu, mook jong (wooden dummy) training and the Filipino arts have been a part of my training for 24 years. I have studied Yang-style tai chi for 20 years and pentjak silat for the last 15 years. All the while, I have been enveloped in the physical culture of fitness and weight training. I have been able to bench press 300-plus pounds consecutively for the last 37 years.

I believe credentials and life experiences are imperative to be considered a master. However, I also believe you must have physical prowess, an ability to teach, a high fitness level and the conceptual ability to innovate. All my certificates, instructors and places of travel throughout my martial arts career have simply amounted to my continued education.

Today, I am extracting essential elements from all the arts I have studied and synthesizing them into what I call “The Art and Science of Mook Jong (ASMJ).” The fundamental aspects of The Art and Science of Mook Jong are that it must be teachable, learnable, practical and marketable. Within this foundational formula is the “seamless transitional integration” of al the aforementioned arts and training methods.

The process behind “seamless transitional integration” is for the practitioner to move from empty hand to blade, to club and back again in a natural and spontaneous flow. This process achievable because our skill sets and training methods call upon nearly identical motor skills and attributes. Individual training in The Art and Science of Mook Jong is done by working the wooden dummy forms “Slam Set,” “Blade Set” and “Club Set.” Partner training consists of two-person drills such as, “Argument of Movement” empty hand and “Point Counterpoint” applied with a knife and repeated utilizing a club.

At this point, I do not consider myself a jack-of-all-trades; nor do I consider myself a master. I would define myself a master. I would define myself as a pursuer of truth and a scientist, which inevitably means I am an innovator striving for martial arts excellence. I will proceed along my own path regardless of doubters, critics or those putting their own interests above martial arts.

Joseph Simonet and Addy Hernandez will be sharing insight on training tips, philosophy, innovative ideas and concepts each moth beginning with this issue.

21
Jan
09

INSIDE KUNG-FU WOMAN OF THE YEAR – ADDY HERNANDEZ

Inside Kung-Fu

“Legacy of Their Own”

ikf-feb-2008By Dave Cater

February 2008

Pg. 26-31

THE LATEST CLASS OF IKF HALL OF FAME HONOREES HAS CARVED THEIR OWN MARTIAL ARTS NICHE.

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.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

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

MAN OF THE YEAR > DR. YANG, JWING-MING<

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.

WOMAN OF THE YEAR > ADDY HERNANDEZ<

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.

>ADRIANO EMPERADO< INSTRUCTOR OF THE YEAR

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.

>JONATHAN WANG< COMEPETITOR OF THE YEAR

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.

>RANDY COUTURE< GRAPPLER OF THE YEAR

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 STEVEN SOET< WRITER OF THE YEAR

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.”