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Chronicles of a Street Warrior: A Journey through the Martial Arts Landscape

Updated: Dec 16, 2023

Embarking on my martial arts odyssey wasn't a story of grandeur; it unfolded in the raw crucible of street encounters, where self-preservation became my self-taught curriculum. Absent formal mentors, the streets themselves became my training arena, a canvas later enriched by books and video tapes. The saga commenced with a childhood clash against a formidable bully on my block, and my father's unconventional counsel:

He said "No! Go back and face him. If he pushed you push back. If he does it again punch him in the nose."

And he sent me back out. Sure enough the dude came back to push me around. He pushed I pushed back. He pushed again I busted his nose. He didn't know what to do his nose was bleeding. He would walk away turn around ponder coming back. Eventually he took his bloody nose home. He never messed with me again. Thankfully.

Lesson learned hit first, hit hard.

My dad said "don't start a fight but if you finish a fight you won't get in trouble with me."

School was another issue. I had two kids pick fights with me in kindergarten. Once I tried to climb a fence to avoid a fight got in trouble for trying to avoid a fight. Got in trouble for fights and not fighting. Eventually fighting became inevitable. Being Caucasian growing up in the hood I had to defend myself a lot. Mostly from other white guys who were new at school and wanted the gang members to leave them alone. I'd try to avoid the fight they'd talk big and some even said they took Karate or Judo usually I beat them up anyway. Street fighting experience trumps dojo experience in my young estimation if things. I got known as a brawler or fighter with more wins than losses. I wasn't particularly proud of this. I never really sought out the fights. I had a lot of fights in elementary and Junior high school. I even tried a flying kick to the head of a kid who was running from me after I beat him up. He had started the fight I was in finishing mode.

Some times I wouldn't fight back I just didn't want to fight those are the few days I lost. I was an odd duck. Rough environment. Sometimes I just didn't want to fight. And I wasn't afraid of or bothered by being punched.

At some point I picked up the Tao of Jeet Kune Do and eventually all four of Bruce Lee Fighting Method books as well as the Bruce Lee Fighting Method VHS with Ted Wong and Richard Bustillo. I purchased some training gear and started training with speed bag, bag gloves, and a heavy bag. Then I begun practicing non-telegraphic punches and kicks based on the material in the books. I trained blocking by pushing the bag and slipping as it came at me. And the same with the speed bag I would use to parry. Kick, Punch, Slip, Bob, Move, Parry, and Basic JKD Step Slide, Side Step and Pendulum Footwork. I adopted the strong side forward bai jong stance. I learned early the first too intercept and hit the other person usually wins was my main method was attack until they were down or they fled the scene. If it was a fight, then it was a fight. Rarely did I have to fight gangstas or esse's. Once an essay just hit me because he told his homie he would hit the first white guy he saw. Lucky me. I got chased by essays-locos from time to time. I had friends that were Crips so they didn't mess with me at all. Neither did the Bloods except Junior but he was all tall, a big Samoan dude who just talked trash. Which was amusing since my lack of response annoyed him.

I had an abusive and alcoholic father who would take me to the ground and pound on me most literally a few times to many. He threatened to beat me to a pulp and leave me half dead a couple time. Once I woke up one night to him choking me in my sleep I couldn't scream both his hands were on my neck. One thing about two hands on a neck means my arms are free I swung and knocked him in the head it gave me enough room to scream, my mom came in turned on the light he claimed I was having a nightmare. My parents divorced at the beginning of high school. It was a relief I chose to live with my mom because I didn't feel safe with my father. I'm glad I had the ability to choose. By high school most people left me alone they knew my reputation that I'd win if I fought so other than groups of esse's chasing me I was left alone mostly. I was known as a brawler. This really wasn't a title I wanted.

I started doing wrestling during High School. Doing 4 mile rules and then a 2 hour training session. It was a good grappling foundation. The coach taught us components of Sambo, Greco-Roman Wrestling and Judo untop of our "traditional High School" curriculum. He also taught Martial Arts / Self Defense to our PE class. He was an intriguing person. I started to find the concept of pinning a person to their back seemed strange compared to my actual "fight" experience. I started to want to train in martial arts that included kicking and punching.

The two fights I had in High School got me dubbed Ninja Boy because by this time I was studying Taekwondo working toward my recommended Black Belt for the first time. I enjoyed the Friday Night Sparring and competing in Tournaments the most. I became vice president of the Martial Arts Club with a friend who taught me Aikido and Kendo. In return I taught him TKD. Grand Master J. Pat Burleson also begun teaching us Wadu-Ryu JuJitsu and sharing about his Vale Tudo fight experiences in Europe. I had started to learn Escrima some as well.

Influenced by Bruce Lee's concepts I had read about I begun living the Combat Lifestyle for a solid period of time I would run 4-5 miles a day, watching what I eat, taking vitamins and supplements, lifting weights at the ECHS gym and home gym, taking Weight Training after school,working out on my heavy bag at home, doing my TKD katas, then go cleaning up the dojo, help teach the kids classes and then training for at least two hours a day Monday through Saturday and occasionally doing Tournaments on Sunday. Martial arts helped me a become man of principle, it gave me solid boundaries and I feel it saved my life from the chaos my birth father gave me. Thanks to my instructor Mr. Dan Allegro for all he did to help me, he was like Mr. Miyagi in a way too me. He let me clean up the Dojo, help teach kids classes and then train.

At one point people would travel hours to spar with me from all over the county, it was a lot of fun. Friday Nights was the Fight Night. I was fast, strong, skinny, light and did I say fast. I would out-spar people of much higher rank and experience than me. When. I worked out I always worked on fast twitch long muscles to stay thin fast and strong never to get big. Eventually I begun to live at 24 hour fitness I usually would do circuit training and heavy cardio seeking to build the lean elongated muscles and fast twitch fibers over bulking up so I stayed relatively skinny looking but deceptively strong to people's surprise. It was fun to surprise people.

Back to the only two fights I had in High School which were more the Art of Fighting without Fighting. I had learned how to fight. I was confident, I didn't see the point of fighting. It was basically angry guy picks fight with me I move and let them meet wall. It was pretty funny thus the nickname Ninja Boy arose. The second guy he punched at me, I tossed him into a fence, then he tried a kick I tossed him down the steps, then again at the end of PE not having learned my lesson he tried to punch me as I leaned against the wall I simply moved and allowed him to punch the rough concrete wall and bust his knuckles a teacher saw him he got suspended. Oh I did get in a fight on my block once during this time I Jab, Crossed then Round Kicked the esse' in the head and he was out cold when I kicked him in the head. Fight over. End of fight. Oh and the time the dude I had previously thrown down the steps at school attacked me while I was delivering Newspapers he rushed me. I kicked his butt he was unhappy to say the least. Later he tried to attack me again after I learned Martial Arts. I used the Art of Fighting without Fighting to help him meet obstacles behind me as he sought to assault me.

Enter UFC! Around the time I saw the first UFC I had started training Olympic Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu, and Trapfighting (an offshoot of Shoot Fighting). Trapfighting is a martial art that was a blend of JKD / Wing Chun, Boxing and Shoot Wrestling that emphasized the four zones of combat (kicking, punching, trapping and grappling). A lot of focus was put on trapping methods that were more functional in MMA. The first time I went to the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu gym in San Marcos, CA I put their Blue Belt National Champion in a Leg Lock then the instructor a Gracie come over and turned me into a pretzel. Putting Blue and Purple Belts in BJJ into leg locks became a thing. They weren't very adept at leglock defense in the early 90's. I trained in Jeet Kune Do with a guy who was a student of Jerry Poteet.

In college we would have Midnight Fight Club from time to time. No rules. It was not regulated at all. I remember one fight I'm applying a Rear Naked Choke on a guy he's about to tap and his friend jumps in and stomps on my throat now I am dealing with the second guy and the guy hosting the fight just looks at me and I'm like okay I guess were doing this. I won most my fights except one I lost to a national championship in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu to an Arm Bar (because he was light and moved fast) but he was obviously shaken by how close it was. The second time we met it was a much tougher match for him ending in a double Leg Lock finish. I won the rest easily. Some how the nick name "Ninja Boy" came up again. The time that the guy I had beat in a Midnight Fight threw a ball at the back of my head and I still dodged it kind of made the whole Ninja Boy thing stick even more. I did have a couple unregulated mixed martial arts sparring matches, did a lot of sparring. In one of the fights I got out of a guillotine choke but my neck popped like 18 times but won by arm bar once I got out. Neck hurt for a few months after that. I've since learned better ways to get out of a guillotine.

I had experienced a work injury to my low back in 2000, then a car accident in 2001 that made it worse. So I was out of doing martial arts and most physical activity for a while. I've had chronic pain for near 20 years something that through mindfulness meditation and eating an anti-inflammatory diet along with physical therapy that I've been able to manage without using opioids.

In 2003 I begun training Krav Maga Worldwide in Dallas after having had previous experiences thar made me realize that ground fighting wasn't the end all back when I got stomped on the neck while I had a guy in an rear naked choke by his friend. I eventually trained in Haganah (a derivative of Krav Maga) when I was in Santa Maria, then trained at some Krav Maga conferences here and there.

In 2012 I got jumped by a group guys, I was drunk at a bar. I remained standing and walked away but my face was covered in blood and I was so out of shape and beat up. I hadn't trained in a long time, I felt out of shape, I had developed Asthma and was dealing chronic back pain. I put the hurt on the took a couple of the assailants to the ground, the rest fled as I continued to hurt them one by one. One tried to do a pull guard and I pounded his head and ribs. It was a major wake up call to me though about my health and readiness to fight and not end up covered in my own blood. It was a rough fight. The fact that I got hit in the glasses and had a cut over my eye and was bleeding bad was the worst thing about the fight. I had acquired asthma when I moved to Arizona, something I never had before. Come old age, an unhealthy marriage, kids and gaining some weight. In addition to struggling with PTSD from the violence I experienced growing up. Life was challenging for a while. I've since learn how to overcome those trials through practicing mindfulness and clean eating along with living an active lifestyle.

Also In 2012 I was asked to teach PE (I taught the kids Taekwondo and Krav Maga) and Art at my sons private school and learned my passion to teach Taekwondo / Krav Maga to kids and see them grow. Made me think I needed to get back into training and exercising myself. I guess sometimes I live life by happenstance. I started training Jeet Kune Do for a while under a guy who was a student of Ted Wong.

Then in 2014 I decided to go back and retrain to get my black belt in Taekwondo again with all my injuries, asthma, PTSD and other health issues to prove I could. I worked hard to acquire my Black Belt in Taekwondo in the process I started training in Warrior Kali under Tuhon Apolo Ladra and Warrior Krav Maga with Mr. Anthony Landgren who allowed me to start teaching Krav Maga at one of his academies. I'm thankful to Mr. Landgren for believing in me and all you did for me. During this time I got certified to teach ATA/TAC Krav Maga under Chief Master Daniel Longoria. I would train Kali with anyone I could find including a guy who used to train with Doug Marcaida. I also trained at the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu CTC for a while with Michael Stinson and at the Phoenix Jeet Kune Do Academy with Shahram Moosavi in Kali, JKD and no-gi BJJ. I've become addicted to training.

Going back to Cali. Training Group. I've since moved to San Diego where I've been leading a small personal training group since 2017. I've taught at the UCSD Recreation Center for a while. I also ran an After School Program at Kavod Elementary School for a while. I've also been training with Sifu Paul Vunak since 2017 and now occasionally helping him teach IPTP's in Rapid Assault Tactics and the Golden Goose. I was a student at the Inosanto Academy of Martial Arts for a while driving up to Marina Del Rey to train with Guro Dan Inosanto, twice a week in 2021. I was also traveling to Riverside every other week for a couple years to train with Sensei David Tice in Catch Wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo and JuJitsu.

I am a Full Instructor under Sifu Paul Vunak in Contemporary JKD and FMA. I am an Associate Level Instructor in the Jun Fan Jeet Kune Do Grappling Association under Sifu John Doty. I am a Level 1 Instructor in Israeli Krav Maga under 5th Dan Master Alain Cohen of the Israeli Wingate Institute through the Krav Maga Federation of America. I am a Black Belt in Combat JuJitsu, ShorinJi Ryu JuJitsu and Songahm Taekwon Do. I am Senior 2nd Level Student Coach in Chinatown Jeet Kune Do. I am a 5th Level Professional Grappler. I have Certifications in Military Edged Weapons, Rapid Assault Tactics, Active Shooter / Mass Casualty. I have trained with Darren Levine, Sifu Francis Fong, Guro Burton Richardson, and Guro Daniel Sullivan, among many others.

This has been my journey through the Arts of Martial, why I do what I do and I hope you find my reminiscing interesting. Thanks for everyone who picked fights with me. Thanks to all my teachers. Thanks to those who are on this journey with need. All my losses, the hurt and pain have taught me a lot. Onward and upward. Always forward - Retzev. Always a student. Always be learning. Never full. Never quit. Indomitable spirit. Fight on.

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