Tag Archives: korean karate

After 50 Years He Passes his Black Belt Test!

Newsletter 972

Can You Believe It? This Guy Got a Black Belt!

The guy’s name is Russ Holder,
and his earning a black belt is definitely
one of the sweetest wins I have ever had
since I started the martial arts back in 1967.

Russ sent me an email a few years back,
it concerned the Kang Duk Won.
Kang Duk Won means ‘House for Espousing Virtue.’
I had studied kenpo for a few years,
then a friend took me to the Kang Duk Won
and the top of my head blew right off.
I had never even imagined an energy like this school.

The instructor,
Robert J. (Bob) Babich
was simply the best martial artist I have ever seen.
After 50 years experience,
and having seen and met a LOT of martial artists,
after working for the mags,
this is quite a statement.

And the people at the Kang Duk Won,
This was before the MA got popular,
there were no strip mall dojos,
and only the most diligent,
hard working,
Craziest people studied there.
I drove fifty miles for a class,
suffered bone bruises, contusions,
and definitely a few concussions.
And loved it,
and never wanted it to end.

Bob had studied with Don Buck,
and Mas Oyama,
and he conducted classes that were totally unbelievable.
And this bozo guy,
this Russ fellow,
wrote me and said,
‘Hey, we probably worked out together.’
comparing notes,
it was obvious we worked out together.
He knew about the sweat,
the pain in the bones,
the unbelievable exhilaration
one of Bob’s work outs created.

So we have talked over the years,
shared stories,
taken each other back to that point in our lives
where everything mattered,
and nothing mattered.

Russ was a biker,
(is a biker!)
one of those guys that the newspapers slandered,
but who you could trust with your life.
A man as good as his word,
and worth more than a handshake.

So go here…


Poke around,
see the pics,
read the wins.
It only took Russ 50 years,
but he earned his black belt.

So many people start and quit.
So many people are in it because ‘it’s cool.’
Russ was in it for the art.
something was boiling in his bones,
and it came out after 50 years,
50 years to black belt,
but what a journey, eh?

Congrats, Russ.
You are old school and more than cool.
And I hope that people understand what you’ve done.
A humble bow to you.

Here’s a website I set up to teach the Kang Duk Won,


Have a great work out!



Hi Al,

Your Kang Duk Won orange-belt course is amazing!

People say that kids are supposed to learn faster than adults, and
that is generally true. But I have the feeling that I’m learning way
faster than when I was a kid!
It is not astonishing, I can train when I want, I can “see the
teacher” showing me” the forms and techniques as many time I want,
thus I’m more motivated and there is no culpability with missing a
lesson or anything.

Plus, Your course is clear and complete. For the first time, I came to
really understand, and see the usefulness, of what I’m doing! It is
very simple yet very complete, a true joy to go trough.  What a change
for me!

“If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
– Bruce Lee

Barack Obama to Sign Black Belt Certificate!

How Politics Ruins the Martial Arts

So how would you like your black belt certificate signed by Barack Obama? Cool, eh? I mean, the president signing your black belt certificate!

Except, you see, the president doesn’t know Karate. Or AIkido. Or Tai Chi Chuan or Krav Maga or…he doesn’t know ANY martial Art! He merely signed your martial arts promotion so you woujld vote for him!

 // How valuable is your black belt certificate now, eh?

Now, we know this is satire, except, let’s look at a little history behind the martial arts satire.

In Korea, back in the forties and fifties, the martial arts flourished. Some of the most powerful Karate int he world came out of that era. Then a fellow name of Choi Hong Hi decided that Korea needed its own martial art. So he invented Taekwondo. It wasnt’ very good, as evidenced by three facts.

One, the forms were changed after that, better forms were made.

Two, a lot of people wouldn’t go with the new system, they felt that it wasn’t as good as the old.

Three, in Korea Taekwondo is taught to people as sort of a baby system, and the real martial arts are taught later on, and, I hate to say it, in a lot of cases, only to people of the Korean race.

It’s true. A rank form of racism. In the martial arts.

But you will have a hard time proving it, the Koreans certainly won’t opt to it.

But, that is just one instance of a martial art being changed for political reasons. Something that really worked being thrown out (or reserved, in this case) while a lesser art is foisted upon people to create ‘nationalistic pride,’ among other things.

In communist countries, a few decades ago, only the military, or communist party officials and their family, were allowed to learn Martial Arts. Another instance of martial arts by politics.

Let me make a point here: in this country there a LOT of people who think martial arts should be regulated, and this goes down even to the selection of techniques that is taught.

And, here is the cruelty behind this bonehead reasoning…these people propose regulation so that the government won’t regulate us.

Regulation of art, of martial art, for politics.

Well, you know my opinion. As the owner of Monster Martial Arts I believe in going to a flesh smacking dojo and eschewing ALL politics. And, when you have your basics in, heck, as soon as you start, you should start exploring other options, and ordering a course from me, testing in the martial arts by video with me, is ABSO-FRIGGIN-LUTELY free of politics.

It’s the knowledge that’s important here, not who signs your certificate, or whetehre you have filled in the forms in triplicate, or whether you show proper depth of bow to some bonehead who stopped learning martial arts a decade ago, when he figured out he could get people to bow down and throw money at him.

Just my opinion of course. You’re certainly free to go get your black belt certificate signed by BarackObama…heck, it’s not like politics could really hurt the martial arts, right?

Check out Matrix Karate if you want a TOTALLY non-political martial arts system.

And don’t forget to subscribe to this blog in the sidebar.

Are Old Time Martial Arts Better?

Was It Really Better in the Old Days?

You always hear the term about ‘the good, old days.’ And, in the martial arts, this is really true. I always hear people thinking back to when men were men, and sheep were…you know.

But it is a legitimate question.

On one hand, you have the great arts coming out of the orient. I was studying back in the sixties and seventies, so the main arts were judo and karate, with a smattering of Kung Fu. We studied in in dirty dojos and did manic drills. We brooked no nonsense, and we were patient with beginners.

On the other hand, you have designer water, contracts and classes in the Y, at the gym, down on the corner, and in every friend’s garage.

So, my personal opinion is that the martial arts were better. I started at a McDojo, then went to a classical korean Karate school (Kang Duk Won).

The McDojo was the state of art to come, with thick mats and air conditioning and tournament freestyle and contracts and good looking chickies.

The Kang Duk Won had a mat that had been ripped and stitched so many times it was like walking across Frankenstein’s face. The bag went to the cobbler’s every week. We packed out own bags for better texture and weight and resistance to our endless kicks. Warn’t no chickies allowed.

The McDojo had shiny trophies, high fives for points, and you pressed your gi before class.

The Kang Duk Won you did hundreds of kicks, you didn’t wash your gi, and you couldn’t press the clutch down because your shins were so badly bruised.

In modern times we have scientific achievements that enable one to get more strength in the muscle.

Of course, modern times has a lot of junk science and internet gimmicks, so…?

Now, it’s pretty obvious which way I am biased. I was there, I don’t think alzheimer’s has obscured my memories of those old work outs, and I have seen modern schools that teach 18 arts on their front sign, but are a jumble of bags and exercise equipment inside.

But, nobody made me God, and if you think otherwise, then go ahead and tear me a new one. Heck, I might even learn something!

And, if you are old school like me, then feel free to leave your memory. Heck, it might just become legend!

If you want to read more about old time martial arts and the Kang Duk Won, try KangDukWon.com!

Bob Babich, Mas Oyama, and the Kang Duk Won

Behind the Scenes at the Kang Duk Won

This post concerning Mas Oyama, Don Buck, and other early pioneers in American Karate, was actually written by Master Instructor BJ. I didn’t know some of this, and there is no way I can compete with the original words presented here. I suggest you do a little googling of the names involved to pad out what you’re about to read. It is well worth it. The original post appeared on KangDukWon.com.

The Story of the Kang Duk Won in America

Sifu Al, you probably know this already but when teenage Don Buck started training with Duke Moore in 1946 fresh out of the US Navy where Don was the US Navy Pacific Fleet 137lb Champion and also wrestled and studied Combat Judo & Defendu.

duke moore, don buck,mas oyama, kang duk won,karate,kenpo

From the Hawaiian Karate Museum, John D. Pell collection. John Pell, Don Buck, Mas Oyama, Gosei Yamaguchi.

By the Mid-50s Don Buck was a Body Building champion and San Francisco Cop in addition to being a black belt in Moore’s Judo & JJ.   Buck & Moore started studying Shorinji Ryu Karate with one of Duke’s teachers, Richard Kim.  One of Kim’s Korean student’s came to the US to work as a Pro Wrestler.  Of course I’m talking about Mas Oyama.

BTW, Mas Oyama’s Karate and Masahiko- Gracie JJ Defeater- Kimura Judo workout partners in the Early 1950’s were Tak Kubota and Taiji Kase!  In fact the gnarled hand on one of Mas Oyama’s early books- ghost written by Don Draeger- was actually Kubota’s.

After WWII Kimura worked as a Pro Wrestler in Europe and N&S America.  He hooked Mas Oyama up with some wrestling promoters here in the US and Mexico so Oyama could make some money.

Mas Oyama set his US base up in San Francisco where he could continue his training with his Sensei Richard Kim.  While not wrestling Oyama lived with Kim’s JJ student Duke Moore and taught/worked out with Duke Moore and Don Buck everyday he was in San Francisco for 4-6 hour workouts.

After a little over a year Mas went back to Japan and promoted both Duke Moore and Don Buck to their Shodan ranks.  Buck opened his own Dojo in 1957 where he only taught Kyokushin Karate making his Dojo the first Oyama Style Karate Dojo to open in the US.  ***Please note that Bobby Lowe has the distinction of opening the first Kyokushin dojo OUTSIDE of Japan.***

mas oyama,norman rha,kang duk won karate

Mas Oyama showing impeccable breaking technique.

When Don Buck opened his Dojo doors in 1957 one of his first students, and Black Belts, was one Robert Babich. A year of two later Richard Kim had a skinny Korean Black belt fresh off the boat from Korea show up at his San Francisco Dojo.  As Kim was about to leave for Japan so he sent the young Korean to his student’s, Duke Moore, Budokan dojo where Moore promptly sent the Korean to Don Buck.

The young Korean didn’t speak much English but Don Buck told him to go change into his Dogi.  When the Korean returned Buck noticed a patch with a fist on the Korean’s uniform.  Don Buck asked what the patch said and young Korean replied something like, “Kang Duk Won Kwon Bup Kong Soo Do.”

After sparring and defeating Buck’s students he squared off with Buck himself.  Buck knocked the Korean down a few times but the Korean kept getting up and he finally knocked the much bigger and stronger Buck across the dojo floor and down.  Buck got back up smiling and told the Korean, “Your hired! What is your name?”  The young Kang Duk Won fighter said, “Norman Rha” and bowed slightly to Buck!

Buck was opening a couple of new Dojo locations and he hired Rha (Rha Jong-nam) and assigned Robert Babich to assist Rha with running the new Dojo.

However, the soft whip-like Tong Bei style punching and much deeper Chaun Fa stances of Rha’s Kang Duk Won Kong Soo Do were so much different than Oyama’s power punching that sometime after Babich earned his Shodan from Don Buck it was decided that Babich should open just his own dojo with Rha so as not to create differences of style with the Kyokushin students.  So they left Don Buck’s American Kyokushin Dojo’s to open their own KDW school.

As Rha was a poor Medical School student he and Babich shared an apartment with the agreement that Rha would teach Babich KDW in return for help learning English.  It should be noted that anytime in the 60’s and early 70’s Babich promoted students to Black Belt the Tracy Brother’s would try to hire the new KDW black belts to run one of their Tracy Brother’s Chinese Kenpo Schools.

The Tracy’s only hired the BEST fighters, both as teachers and Association School Coaches (Joe Lewis & Al Dacascos for example),  as school challenges were common and they didn’t want to loose their schools students, $$$, to another challenging school.  Babich’s KDW academy in San Jose, CA had a reputation of turning out some of the toughest fighters on the West Coast.

It is interesting to note, at least for me,  that Babich didn’t include Sanchin or Tensho in his Kwon Bop Karate that he taught in the 1970’s and 80’s until he closed down his San Jose Dojo.  Why I don’t know???


Thanks, BJ, for this wonderful bit of writing.

The reason Bob didn’t include Sanchin and Tensho, in my opinion, is that there are two styles of Karate, one fixed and one fluid, or Shorin and Shorei. Bob was not a large man, he was thin and whiplike, and the heavier sanchin style stances didn’t suit him, perhaps even worked against the fluid motions he was developing through the Kang Duk Won.

If you want to find out what the truth behind the Kang Duk Won, check out the first Karate form and applications, and the bonus material on historical uses of Karate.

This has been a page about Don Buck, Mas Oyama, and the early beginnings of the Kang Duk Won Karate.

Extreme Martial Arts That Are Real and Brutal and Hard Beyond Belief

Extreme Martial Arts are Built During War!

Extreme Martial Arts are a top Google search these days. People, especially those interested in MMA training, are going outside the traditional martial arts academy to learn martial arts training methods that are ever more brutal.

The funny thing is that if they studied their history, immersed themselves in the classical martial arts, they would find all the brutality they would ever want.

korean karate

Martial Arts taught for Extreme situations!

If you want extreme martial arts you need look no further than taekwondo some sixty tears ago. I am speaking, of course, of the early taekwondo–Korean Karate, actually– taught in Kwans during the Korean War.

To begin with, Korea is a brutal place. Cold sweeps down from Siberia and the Arctic, monsoons sweep across the peninsular country, and during the summer there is blood boiling heat.

Add to that, a war, and you have the most brutal conditions possible for learning your basic self defense.

Imagine standing on a dojo floor. It is built of rough planks that are filled with splinters, and you have bare feet. There is no heater, and you must rely on body movement to stay warm. Then, of course, you have the sound of distant gunfire.

‘Pinan Five!’ the martial arts instructor yells over the din of approaching shell bursts.

Students move fast enough to stay warm in near freezing weather.

‘But Sensei,’ asks one of the younger students, one who has just begun this extreme martial arts training and who doesn’t know better. ‘The shells are getting closer! Shouldn’t we be leaving?’

There are snickers through the class, and the Instructor asks for quiet. Then he turns to the younger student. ‘We are a hard target, and those shell bursts aren’t even a mile away. When they get to a half mile, then we leave. Now, take your mind off the coming death by concentrating on your forms!’

And, when the front is a half mile off, the old instructor tells the students to lift up the floorboards and leave.

Lift up the floorboards?

Yes. There was a shortage of all materials, and a dojo floor, even one rough cut and filled with splinters, is of extreme worth.

Dutifully, the students put on their shoes (snow filled from sitting on the front stoop) and carry the floor of the dojo away. They will hide it, and when the fighting has moved on, they will reassembled and learn martial arts again.

Now, as I said, people are looking for more extreme martial arts. They want fitness and self defense, and they tend to look towards Mixed Martial Arts Training methods, and to forget classical martial arts like Kung Fu and Taekwondo and karate.

But beyond the extreme martial arts youtube supplies and the octagon brings, there are the movements honed during war most violent and brutal. Remember that, the next time you put on the pads and drink the designer water; remember, the next time you want something that makes hard the body even as it uplifts the spirit; remember, even as you merely sweat what only feels like blood and guts.

There is a huge difference between fighting for gold and glory, and between fighting for one’s life, and this is the core of extreme martial arts training that makes up the classical styles of today.

Outlaw Karate is a wonderful example of an extreme martial art that remembers the brutality of its beginnings.

zen martial arts

Finding A Good Martial Arts Teacher

I can’t emphasize the value of finding a good martial arts teacher.

I began Chinese Kenpo Karate back in 1967. The instructors were good, there was a lot of awe for how deadly this guy was…we talked about it all the time. He was so quick and slick…then, through a series of odd incidents, I wound up at the Kang Duk won.

People didn’t talk about how deadly Bob Babich was, they just spoke softly and politely around him. The reason they spoke softly and politely was because he was soft and polite.

Kang Duk WonI noticed other martial artists come to visit, some of the big names in the area back then, and within moments they were standing like school boys, hands clasped in front of themselves, speaking softly. And there were always choppers out front because the Hell’s Angels had discovered him. Yet, when those burly bikers entered that dojo, they suddenly became soft and polite.

And when he did speak, he didn’t say much. Tell the truth, I only remember him saying a dozen things to me over the seven years I studied there. I only remember three of them. ‘There are many ways to the top of the Mountain,’ ‘A tight fist is a heavy fist,’ and ‘How’s work?’

But, here’s the odd thing, when he stepped onto the mat you felt it. It would be really bizarre, but I would be working with somebody on the far side of the mat, and I would feel a sharp tingle go up my legs, and my head would jerk around…Bob had just bowed and placed his foot on the mat.

And I did hear stories. The time somebody threw a shotgless at him, and he knocked the shotglass out of the air with his own shotglass. My friend presenting him with a square of particle board, and him striking it with one finger and leaving a hole in the board. And other stories.

But stories, even when they came from my best friends, are always suspect. Fortunately, I experienced events. That’s the only thing to call them, events.

Having him touch my arm and feeling it go numb. Being tossed around like a ragdoll. Most incredbly, however, was when he decided to point you in freestyle…he would just focus his eyes, shuffle forward, and it was like a buttered sword slipping through the karate you thought you knew.

The most important thing about all this, however, was that he wasn’t alone. By that I mean that his students didn’t just get soft and polite like him, they began to show his abilities. The higher black belts would work with you, show you, teach you, give of their all, but…when they focused their eyes and decided to point you in freestyle, it was like a buttered knife slipping through the karate you thought you knew.

And, importance of importance, the individual newbie could feel himself getting better. We could feel ourselves becoming like greased butter, we could see through attacker’s, and we could feel this ‘electricity’ growing within.

Now, why do I tell you this.

An old man thinking back to his youth? Ha. Because of Karate I may be old, but I am still a youth. So it’s not that.

It’s because I want you to have the ability to see through an opponent. I want you to ‘feel the electricity’ in the real martial arts. I don’t care about tournaments and all that foolishness. That is man beating man.

I care about you, and that’s what is at the bottom of the true art.

If you want to follow this path, you should check out Evolution of an Art and Temple Karate. They are at MonsterMartialArts.com.

learn martial arts

How to Do Karate with the Hells Angels

Yes, I learned how to do Karate with the Hells Angels. I mention that fact every once in a while, but I rarely get into it. But it was an interesting experience which deserves a nod.
I studied at the Kang Duk Won, which was a form of Korean Karate, very pure, very pre-funakoshi, back in the sixties and seventies. I would drive my Volkswagon bug up the street, and there would be a row of choppers lined up at the curb in front of the karate dojo.
Took some getting used to, I was a white boy from suburbia, knew nothing about the world, and I was walking on to the mat to do martial arts, to learn Karate, with a bunch of certified murder-cyclists.
biker karate
Well, the truth, they were about the most polite people I have ever met.
And there wasn’t any bushwah or two faced nature to them. They shook hands, and unless you started acting weird, they treated you pretty darned good.
Of course, when you started to practice your karate moves with them it got pretty intense.
You were expected to hit hard, to put everything into your punch that the face could stand, and not one ounce over.
What was of extreme interest was the reality of the techniques. There were quite a few times I would be practicing a technique, and one of them bearded psychos would grumble up to me: “That ain’t gonna work.”
“Why not?” Blinking, all innocence.
“‘Cause I tried it last night. Didn’t work worth S***. But if you twist the arm when you’re pulling, he’ll fly right through the plate glass window.”
And then I would see a big happy grin, and I would know that somebody really did fly right through a big plate glass window.
Oddly, the things that sort of made me wonder, was that none of these guys ever made it to Black Belt. A couple of them made it to brown belt, but no further.
This was interesting, because you just know that to do Karate you have to be tough, right?
Well, there’s tough and then there’s making a statement. You see, when you do the martial arrts there comes a point at which you make a statement of self, where you sort of blink inwards, glow outwards, realize that ‘I am,’ and then your life is different.
And the different life had to do with virtue, honor, that sort of thing.
I’m not saying the Hells Angels don’t have virtue, amongst themselves there is nothing but virtue. But it is a different type of virtue, a quality that enhances the human being and makes him more than a man.
Unfortunately, the Angels I met couldn’t make this statement, so they never made black belt.
They were good, though, real good, and I remember that my experience with the outlaw bikers, when I learned how to do karate the real way, was one of the richest experiences of my life. You can learn about the karate system we studied at Monster Martial Arts.