“While the general public was taught basic self defense and sport style Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, certain elite police and military personel were taught a “military grade” version of the system. Little known outside of the few academies that specialized in it, “Military Grade” BJJ is truly the most complete and effective system of self defense known to man.
In North America this lethal street version of Brazilian jiu-jitsu was hybridized with Combat-Sambo (the once closely guarded Russian military hand to hand system of the old Soviet union).
This system is not theory! Your instructor Prof. LeRuyet, has personally used 70-80% of this material in real life self-defense encounters and the remainder has been “field tested” by his students who include soldiers of the Afghan war and the Canadian version of the Navy Seals.”
- Prof. Robert LeRuyet
- Founder of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Canada 1992
- First Canadian to receive BJJ instructor certification
- Black Belt in Russian Military Jiu Jitsu
- Black Belt in Karate
- Muay Thai Trained in Holland
- 30+ Years Martials Arts Training
- 20+ Years Brazilian Jiu Jitsu & MMA Training
- Trained soldiers of Afghan war
- Trained Canadian version of Navy Seals
Q: “Who is Prof. Robert LeRuyet?”
1. The only verifiable person who can claim to have founded Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in Canada in 1992, before the UFC. And having done it longer and more in depth than anyone else in Canada
2. The only person who knows the complete, authentic BJJ system, from old-school to new-school – from all-sport to all-vale-tudo mma
3. The only person who has real-world, street-combat experience outside the ring or cage, where there are no rules.
Q: “Is it true that you are the founder of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and MMA in Canada?”
A: Yes, that is correct. I am both the first Canadian to travel to California (where many members of the Gracie family,who developed Brazilian jiu-jitsu, had relocated, from Brazil) to formally study in depth with the Gracie family and receive official rank along with instructor training; and I’m also the person who then first brought the Gracies to Canada to teach, where we permanently established Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Canada and founded an international training association. Furthermore, I became a full time professional Bjj instructor and developer at a time when this did not really exist any where else in the world outside of the Gracie family, a couple of their top students or in Brazil.More importantly, in order to help this happen, I opened the first full-time, permanent professional training facility, custom designed for Bjj and what became known as “Mixed Martial Arts”. This was unquestionably the first facility of its kind in all of Canada and one of the very first in North America or any where else in the world for that matter. It remained in the same location for nearly 20 years! I don’t think anyone, inside or out of Brazil has accomplished that feat with the exception of the the famous Gracie Academy in Rio founded by Carlos Gracie in the 30s and remaining at the same location, I believe, until the 60s, and of course the first permanent North American Gracie Academy founded by Rorion Gracie, is still expanding and going strong after opening in 1988 or 1989 I think, just a couple years before mine.Moreover, and I think most note worthy, is that we founded an international Bjj training net work and association that was probably the first of its kind in the world, very high quality particularly for that period and ahead of its time. So much so that this aspect of my work could not be sustained and only in recent years with the astronomical growth of Bjj have similar organizations become viable and successful.
Q: “When did this happen, and what was the actual date and place of the official founding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Canada?”
A: I opened the Academy 1991-92, began my formal training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu under the Gracie family 1992 and they were brought to Canada and taught here for the very first time in the nation July 23rd 1993. This ground breaking event was held at the Aldergrove Academy of Martial Arts (later, the Aldergrove Academy of Mixed Martial Arts since the term MMA did not exist yet ) which was at unit #2, 2993, 272nd street in Aldergrove, township of Langley, British Columbia, Canada.
Q : ”Is it true that other people also claim to have founded Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu in Canada?”
A: Oh yea! that is very true, I have personally come across two or three people who make such silly claims so there must be many more of them. The point being, that any flake or phonie can make any exaggerated claim they like-and are always happy to do so-but when asked to provide some kind of verification they never can. I’m not talking about any thing “official” here, just basic proof like dated recipes of the school they supposedly trained at or dated rank certificates and things like that, really just any thing with an actual date would be fine. That is why I’m including an “archive” section on this web site. I take my credibility very seriously and have always been disgusted with…well, there is no other way to say it, the sheer amount of bullshit that is so much a part of the martial arts community. I have always spoken up against all the horse shit and flakes in the martial arts world and as a consequence am not very popular in some circles and in all honesty, that makes me kind of proud, if the phonies and bullshit artists feel threatened by me and the documented facts then I must be doing something right! The difference is that anything I say here can be proven and is a matter of record. I’ll be talking more about this at length but a big part of why I founded BJJ in Canada was to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, so that not only did we have a new system that actually worked but a new way of doing things that did not include all the bullshit, phonies, flakes and weirdoes who only had one thing bigger then their egos and that was usually their mouths or their bellies!
As for the founding of BJJ in Canada, there really is no legitimate debate about this, I was running a full-time professional academy as Canada’s first Brazilian jiu-jitsu instructor and Canadian national representative for Relyson Gracie jiu-jitsu as far back as 1993 and before the UFC. For an example about documentation and proof, I was on the front page of the sports section of the Langley Times in October of 1993, a month before the very first UFC. I was already a blue belt of the third or fourth degree and Canadian national rep; and remember this was at a time when geting belt promotions could be a very slow process. It was our third or fourth Gracie jiu-jitsu event to be held at the Aldergrove academy, the first ones in the country, and the local media was starting to take notice because so many people were leaving the traditional schools and coming to train with us. I am on the front page doing a hip throw on Reylson Gracie and a copy of this newspaper article, the first local Canadian media exposure about Gracie Jiu-jitsu I might add, will be included in our archive section.
You know, in the end I do not think its all that important who founded BJJ in Canada, but I do think it is important that so many people are willing to lie about it! Its just a question of credibility and since this is one of the few instances of Martial arts bullshit that can be easily proved or disproved I am happy to display my personal photo and document archive to the interested public and discuss this at length. Of course there are some true martial arts flakes out there who while having no rank in BJJ make bizarre claims about their role in the founding of BJJ in Canada but unfortunately there also appears to be some legitimate BJJ people who also decided to make spurious claims about their role in the founding of BJJ in Canada for what ever reasons. This is very unfortunate, because otherwise legitimate people are going to be viewed in the same light as the flakes and phonies and I guess they need to be! because if they are lying to you about this, what else are they willing to lie about?! As I mentioned, it is simply a question of credibility and we as professional martial arts instructors need to start trying to have standards of credibility akin to other professions instead of the idea that who ever tells the most bullshit stories or has the highest bullshit “rank”, or talks the toughest is the “real expert”. It really is a joke and has held back the martial arts industry for a very long time. And I’m not talking about holding back people financially because nothing could be further from the truth; many people for many years have profited very greatly from bullshiting and misleading the public. The problem aside from all the ethical issues is very simply, that the very basic issue of real world self defense has become very clouded and confusing for normal people because of the rush to cell the public some martial arts “product”, “personality” or sport.
It was this environment, one based on every thing but real world fighting skills, that made it so easy for real truly skillful fighters to come to North America and make fools of the so called self-defense experts and fighting “champions”. It is now often these discredited ”experts” who are often the ones who are making laughable claims about how they were this or that in BJJ or MMA. There is also a trend for certain people who where no more then kids when I founded BJJ in Canada to make false claims because they have had successes in the sport aspect or whatever. To be sure there are many, many people more well known then I am in the BJJ community and I’m talking about just Canada here. I never had the intention of trying to promote myself or to try to get famous, I was too busy trying to promote the system and run the first academy of its kind in the county.
I guess I should clarify a few points here, since I may, once again, have shaken up the hornets nest by simply telling the truth. I certainly don’t claim to be the first Canadian to have been exposed to BJJ or to have picked up a technique or two. For example, Paul Vunak, a well known jeet koon Do instructor based out of southern California was making “Gracie” jiu-jitsu techniques part of his system very early on and his seminar net work included British Columbia. In Fact, Jeet Kune Do was one of the only “big name” “styles” or organizations at that time that was seriously advocating cross training and quasi scientific inter-style research. Vunak had an editorial spot with one of the Karate magazines back in the late 80s or very early 90s so I was always interested in what he had to say about realistic self-defense, or as they called it “scientific street fighting”. They really were the only ones clearly talking about the problems with sport based training and mindless adherence to “traditional” unproven styles back then. So I read all I could on Jeet koon Do, but their conclusions as to what “real world fighting” was all about seemed as preposterous as the “classical mess” that the Jeet kune Do founder, and movie star, Bruce lee, had railed about. Stuff like eye poking as a solution for every “low threat” self defense situation was patently laughable and heavily emphasized stuff like “hand trapping” proved to be more useless then the classical reverse punch or spinning back kick, in the unforgiving MMA arena. However, they were at least talking about these things at the time when it seemed like no one else was, but it just seemed so weird how this well thought out modern and logical way of thinking led to ridicules conclusions like hand trapping and strong-side-forward kick boxing. I think the problem was the same mores bound adherence to old Bruce Lee material that was the same problem as any “style” while marketing themselves as the “anti-style” style. The good news was, when something truly new and effective came around, like Brazilian jiu-jitsu, then some people like vunak at least applied the philosophy to the new material and started a greater dialog about it. In fact, he was the first one that I remember reading who talked about how just plain stupid it was about people talking about the “Gracie challenge” and how they or of course some one they knew, could easily beat the Gracies, but would never step up. This too was my outlook, so while we didn’t agree on on Jeet Koon Do being the ultimate martial art, it sure was a breath of fresh air to see in print what the realist minority was thinking. Any how, some people picked up some techniques from these seminars and I trained with some of these guys in the late 80s or whenever, which I can talk about more in detail later.
Furthermore, I’m sure there were people who were Canadian citizens or whatever who were living in southern California at the time and doing some BJJ training because it was convenient, California is full of “frost backs” who have Canadian origins but live full time in the USA; but I was told directly by the heads of the academies, that I trained at, that I was the first person to travel from Canada to learn from them and then to return to Canada with the intention of transplanting the system there, with their endorsement and collaboration. Hell, I was simply the first Canadian to get off my ass put my ego and my wallet aside and come all that way to train with them, at the time it was something noteworthy for them as well, because it was a sign of the growing popularity of Brazilian or as we all called it then “Gracie Jiu-jitsu”. So the Gracies and their instructors never hesitated to say “hey look we got a Canadian coming down here” and I heard it pretty much every class at every academy I trained at in the beginning, it was something novel for them as well not something I thought about all that much at the time. Therefore, when I first went down to California to train in 1992 I had no idea I was the very first guy to do it and I didn’t really care, I just wanted to train. I new what was going on pretty much on the west coast where I lived and knew of no one with any connections with the Gracies but it was kind of a surprise to learn that no one from back east, where the Canadian population is much larger, had made the first inroads. I guess they were no different then the flakes we had on the west coast, all too busy talking about how tough they were to come and learn the system that was forever changing the martial arts world, but happy to lie about it later.
It was Rorion Gracie who originally told me I was the first Canadian to come there and formally train in the system which as I mentioned, I found surprising. Rorion was considered by many to be the “leader” of the Gracie family in North America so he certainly new what was going on internationally since it was his vision to expand “Gracie” jiu-jitsu outside of the surprisingly small area of Rio de Janeiro where the so called “Brazilian ” jiu-jitsu had never really spread out from until his efforts. Rorion and I did have some discussions about my goals of bringing BJJ to Canada when I was there and later when I was back in Canada but I ended up doing most of my early training at the Reylson Gracie Academy who I didn’t realize were quite bitter rivals of the Torrance Academy and did not consider Rorion head of anything. This was “Reylson” Gracie, one of the first sons of Carlos Gracie, not to be confused with “Relson” Gracie who is a brother of Rorion Gracie and who are both sons of Helio Gracie and who has had a well established academy in Hawaii for many years but whom I have never met. It was Reylson Gracie who I ended up first bringing to Canada in July of 1993 and he was very clear that no member of his family had ever been brought to Canada to teach before. So while these two branches of the Gracie family were fighting with each other over various issues they could at least concur that I was the first person to bring their system to Canada. Reylson seemed very much more enthusiastic about what I wanted to do with the establishing of BJJ in Canada and seemed to share my vision and recognize an opportunity. Moreover, he was the highest ranked Gracie jiu-jitsu teacher in North America at that time,(8th degree red and black belt) and one of the very highest in the world so he seemed the most knowledgeable and qualified to help me found BJJ in Canada; I really wanted the best for us. That is why I brought him up, but I also think that he felt he was “one upping” Rorion by getting into Canada first and I think that was a big part of his motivations, since Rorion and his branch of the family had been given all this exposure and credit for the international expansion. At the time I was starting out, I had no idea there was this much politics between the two main branches of the family but apparently it had been affecting things for many many years and this is also something we will see more of later.
I of course had the same experience at the Reylson Gracie academy when I went down there and being their first canuck as well. The local students would come over and gawk at the “Canadian” since to many of them Canada must have seemed a million miles away and they couldn’t understand why I came all this way to train. Some of them got a good laugh at my particularly white skin. Part of it was coming down in winter time from Canada to the perpetually warm southern California but with my Celtic genes my skin is pale at the best of times. There were guys up from Brazil, which was even warmer, who would stare at my skin and tell me they never saw skin that white, and these were guys of European ancestry!I had to laugh about that. Here I was trying to make a good impression and trying to represent Canada well by training all the time I was there and not hitting the beaches and stuff like all the others were doing and these guys were getting the impression we were just some fanatical albino country! But I am getting very far off topic, as I mentioned, as for the founding of BJJ in Canada there really is no legitimate debate about this. In fact, it was Reylson Gracie himself that first called my academy “Canada’s home of Brazilian jiu-jitsu”, because we were not only the first academy, at the time we were the only academy in the country and we used this in our yellow pages adds for some years. These adds appear as early as 1993 or 94 and are a matter of record that can be checked out through some kind of telus archive or old copies of the phone book. I’ll see if I have any personal copies that I can include in my archives here but it is things like this, that simply can not be lied about. If someone else claims this or that, the simple question is: “why is there no record of it?” the logical answer is: “because it simply never happened” or at least not when the bullshiters say it did.
Q: “This was all before the first UFC event?”
A: yes, and that is an important point, the very first UFC did not happen until nearly 1994, November of 1993 to be precise, and I was already Canadian national representative for Reylson Gracie jiu-jitsu and well established in Canada at that time.
Q: “Why is that distinction important?”
A: well, mostly because the first UFC was the watershed event that marked the moment when large amounts of people and the mainstream media first noticed and heard about Bjj . It only really began to grow exponentially because of that event and as it grew it sent shock waves through the martial arts world, not to mention all the controversy the actual event caused, but I’m just talking about Bjj as a self defense system here. Its effect on the martial arts community was a veritable revolution-and I might add, a badly needed one. much of the old very phony and flaky martial arts dogma was swept away or forced to change. Of course, as soon as some thing becomes popular every one jumps on the band wagon and starts making bizarre claims or trying to cash in-many of these people being the same fakes and phonies that had held back the martial arts community for so long.
Q: “what made you want to bring BJJ to Canada at a time when no one had heard of it and how did you first learn about it?”
A: Well, I would not exactly say that “no one” had heard of it, but really only people in the martial arts community and only those who had an interest in things going on outside their little worlds of “our style” or “our sport”. While I loved all aspects of the martial arts I had always been most interested in the “real world” applications and serious self defense. Therefore, I did a lot of cross-training and research into different martial arts and combat sports, trying to figure out what really worked in real fights. I sometimes ran with what was a pretty rough crowd for that time period so I saw and was involved in my share of street altercations. I wasn’t very big and was a skinny kid so I had no natural advantages. On top of that, I always had a strong sense of justice and was the kind of kid that would stand up for the “geeks” or “nerds” that had become targets of bullies. I grew up doing this and lived a very martial arts orientated life style. Cross-training was not very common at that time and people today would have a hard time believing how closed minded and hostile to new ideas the martial arts world was, not to mention; just plain weird. As I grew up there was of course conflicts and violence of different sorts and as I went more into the work force during and after collage I found myself having to take jobs such as security work and working with remanded youth and even mentally disturbed people. In these environments the need for effective, realistic self-defense skills was very great and encouraged me to do even more research and training into what was out there and best able to prepare people for real world violence.
In around 1989, the martial arts media such as “Black Belt” magazine and others, which were the closest thing we had to “trade journals” began to give coverage to “Gracie Jiu-jitsu” this obscure fighting and self-defense system that had come out of Brazil. I think Rorion Gracie had just opened the Torrance academy and was beginning his very skillful marketing campaign. What passed for martial arts journalism, such as “Black Belt” magazine was based in southern California as was Rorion so there was a natural fit. I first took notice of “Gracie jiu-jitsu” from an article that appeared in one of these magazines. True to form, I believe that these magazines got there quo from outside since Rorion had managed to get an interview with “Playboy” magazine. This was unheard of mainstream interest in a martial arts topic and don’t ask me how he managed that but the martial arts magazine industry took notice and from there I read about it as part of my research and thirst for knowledge. I was not a reader of “Playboy” so I had not seen that article and never did until Rorion gave me a copy sometime later. I believe the name of the article was “BAD” and it focused on the “Gracie challenge”. This was quite interesting because no one had ever really heard of such a thing and the martial arts media picked up on it as well.
Don’t get me wrong, just because something appeared in “Black Belt” magazine certainly did not mean that it was true, far from it. Martial arts magazines don’t do investigative journalism and they don’t take sides, the martial arts world is far too wacky and petty for that. They print things purely to generate interest and keep their readership happy by printing a story on your style or your master. Trust me, all manner of flakes and weirdos have graced its pages and even its covers; so when yet another “unbeatable” fighting system was featured in “Black Belt” it should not have generated much interest. However, something was very different about “Gracie Jiu-jitsu”. This difference was the “Gracie challenge” which turned out to be another marketing coup for Rorion Gracie and the first very large chip in the soon to be crumbling edifice of traditional martial arts.
Q: “Could you explain a little more about the ‘Gracie challenge’ for those who are unfamiliar with it?”
A: Sure; in these articles Rorion Gracie claimed that “Gracie Jiu-jitsu” had been “undefeated” in real fights and “street conditions” matches for the length of its history, which at that time had been sixty or seventy years. They were now in the USA and giving notice that they were willing to prove the effectiveness of their jiu-jitsu by taking on any one from any style in these “street conditions” challenge matches. This was indeed a bold statement, but as I have mentioned, anything you read in a martial arts magazine had to be taken with a grain of salt. What made this challenge much more then the usual empty boast from some loon was that they were willing to “put their money where their mouth was” and this is something the loons, fakes and bullies are never ever going to do.
In a world of false and often just plain flaky bravado, Rorion Gracie put up a hundred thousand dollars American and said “they”, meaning his brothers and family, would fight any one who matched the money in a “winner takes all” no-rules challenge match. Of course it was not about the money, they were happy to fight for free and usually did but they needed to show they were serious and wanted to attract those people who were considered the best fighters like Mike Tyson and other professional fighters who obviously were not going to fight for free. needless to say, and to make a long story short, they never had to pay up to any one. This is what really started the tongues to wag with in the martial arts and self defense community.
Q: “So you founded Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Canada because of the ‘Gracie challenge’?”
A: No, not entirely; the “Gracie challenge” certainly made me take notice, as it was intended to do, but there was and is so much BS in the martial arts world that I first had to be satisfied that this was not just more of the same. Remember, we are talking about 1989 here. At that time I was just some skinny 22 or 23 year old idealistic kid-I had no intention of founding anything, and to be honest, I should not have had to! I had no martial arts school of my own and little or no resources since I was fresh out of university and was trying to get some kind of career started in what became known as “the generation x experience”. But the martial arts had always been my first love and I just wanted to train, if this new style was that good then I should be training in it. I just assumed that every one else thought the same way and that the high level guys, the “champions”, the chain school owners and “the masters” wanted the best too. I figured that these guys had the motivation, resources, connections and responsibility to go down there and either beat these Gracie guys up or confirm that this was the real deal. I mean what an opportunity! this was like the “holy grail” of martial arts, the style that every one had been searching for all these years but that no one could find and now it was finally here! The style that had beaten all the others and could actually prove it was the best.I believed that all the sensies and instructors, sifus and gurus would be chomping at the bit to get to the truth and if this was the truth then we all wanted the best for ourselves and our students. therefore, the “real masters” would do the right thing, in a little while schools would be founded in Canada and in my area and I could go train-which was all I wanted to do at the time. Sounded pretty simple didn’t it? after all, all of us in the martial arts world are all about honor and the truth right? Boy was I wrong!
Q: “The response from the martial arts community was not what you anticipated?”
A: That is the point, there did not appear to be much of a response at all, the “Gracie challenge” and the whole approach of Brazilian jiu-jitsu was a wake up call to the martial arts world and no body wanted to pick up the phone! As more and more people started to talk about it I then began to hear the same old “I’m tougher then those guys” BS from all the flakes and weirdoes also know as “martial arts masters”. It was just so laughable and childish in the face of the “Gracie Challenge”! Hell, if you are so damned tough why don’t you go get your hundred grand?! I mean, who do they think they are impressing? I guess they think it makes them sound tough but in fact they were just making fools of themselves in a similar way as people making up claims about founding BJJ in Canada. They must be operating under the old political maxim that: “if you tell a lie long enough it becomes the truth”! Far from impressing me, it was more and more turning me off of the martial arts community and really making me want to do something about it. Don’t get me wrong, of course not every one was like this, just the extreme phonies but almost every one else just plain didn’t care or couldn’t be bothered if it wasn’t there “style”, “art”, “sport” or whatever. It was this weird myopia coming from otherwise normal people that I found just as frustrating as I tried to change things.
Q: “so aside from the ‘Gracie challenge’ what did lead you to the eventual founding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Canada?”
A: There were a few factors that came together and helped me have a kind of personal paradigm shift that led to a lot changing in my out look towards the martial arts world and the founding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Canada. The first was my original cross-training philosophy, that is what always made me interested in finding a better way, then the “Gracie challenge” simply pointed me in the right direction but a lot had to do with the amount and variety of the physical encounters and assaults I was experiencing in the work I ended up having to do and finally a profound disillusionment with the martial arts community that made me want to create some kind of alternative. This alternative was not just about training in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but about the entire nature of the martial arts community or at least the negative aspects of it which I had come to believe were far more pervasive than the positive aspects. I came to realize that we didn’t just need a new style to practice we needed a whole new paradigm to operate under.
Q: “Before we delve any deeper into where you ultimately arrived and the paradigm shifts that led to the founding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu in Canada, perhaps we should go back to where it all began for you?”
Q: “Where and when did you first start training in the martial arts and what got you interested?”
A: I got interested in the martial arts about 1979. I had been a pretty quite introverted kid in elementary school so I didn’t naturally gravitate towards athletics. I played a season or two of soft ball like a lot of kids did and there was soccer and basketball in elementary school but it all seemed kind of artificial and unheroic to me because there was no contact. I read a lot of history as a kid particularly military history and I could not imagine the knights of old or the great generals doing this stuff so it never held that much interest for me. So I ended up in army cadets, which was pretty cool in a lot of ways. I loved shooting big bore guns and marching around but it was surprisingly sedentary, we spent a lot of time siting around reading maps and polishing our boots. on top of that, for some reason it seemed to attract a lot of low class nobs so there was a lot of cigarette smoking, spitting, swearing and stealing other kids patches and insignia. The first real fights and violence I saw was hanging out with these nobs and especially when in training camps with these kids so we had to back each other up. I saw a fair amount of bullying and there was always that natural unit against unit rivalry when we went out on maneuvers so fights were far more common then any other environment I had been in as a kid. The first time I was kicked with a steel toed boot came from one of these low class nobs and the first time I’d seen blood drawn in a fight came as a cadet and it was pretty shocking for a 12 or 13 year old quite kid from the sleepy suburbs . I guess I learned about camaraderie and a juvenile version of a warrior ethos, not to mention; that its a good idea to know how to fight since loyalty and honor means you are going to have to fight for someone else even if you don’t want to, a theme that has influenced me all my life. In the end it was too much like a combination of the boy scouts and reform school. I could not imagine the knights of old or the great generals hanging out with these losers and besides I was going into junior high in the 70s; I wanted to grow my hair long and meet girls not spend my time polishing my gun.
When I got into junior high or as I think they call it now days, “middle school”, I fell in love with contact sports. I was not a naturally athletic kid but I was a physical one and loved to rough house and use my body. I tried a little football but that was the biggest sport at the school and had its own world of politics and favoritism that I could never stand. At my size and skill level the only position I was going to qualify for was bench warmer, besides I never liked the game much on an organized level, too start and stop for me. I did like Rugby though, and it was not a popular program so the team was pretty small, even a little guy like me got plenty of playing time. On top of that there was no BS politics or favoritism we could just go out there and play hard. I should thank coach Lewis for that, I really liked that and the fact it was rough as hell that really appealed to that primordial physical nature that I think all men and boys have or at least should have and that is being lost rapidly in modern society. I’m not talking about violence or whatever, I’m talking about that innate human joy of using the body that nature gave us; its why kids laugh, run and jump, play and climb trees. Its that aspect that I think is most important in sport and more so in the martial arts and some thing I really want to return to in my Genesis Brazilian Jiu-jitsu system. I must have been one of the lightest guys but ended up wining ”most valuable player” my first year out. I played Rugby and later wrestled all through school, but I was no “jock” in that social hierarchy, cliquey sort of way. I played the sports I played because I liked them and not because they were popular or to kiss ass to the teachers who coached them. I was too rebellious for the politics and blatant favoritism that I saw in the organized athletics around me. Lets be honest, organized sports can be very discriminatory and I’m talking just on a physical level, if you are not a certain body type you are not going anywhere in football or basketball which were the two big sports in my time. In fact, Abby senior won the BC basketball provincial championships for the first time in my senior year and the football championships the next year so I was at a quintessential “jock” school. This always left a bad taste in my mouth so I guess I started to look around for something that had the physicality I loved but was not about silly games, some thing that had the positive aspects of athletics but not the negative ones, something that I could see the knights of old and the great warriors of history doing-this is what led me into the world of martial arts and partly why I have always considered it so much more than a sport.
Furthermore, The Martial arts were all about history. They had long traditions and heroes of there own, they came from far away cultures and held the allure of secret esoteric knowledge. What could be cooler?
It was this fascinating synthesis of the physical and the literate that made the martial arts very different from any other activity and held such appeal to me. In fact, that reminds me of a funny bit I read in, I think, “Men’s Health” or some similar publication. It had this article on “how to make your self more fit and interesting” then had a quick humorous description. one of the suggestions was: “take martial arts” the reasons, “chicks will dig you because you can beat up rude jerks and talk philosophy after” and the bonus was “can make Bruce lee noises in bed”. I thought that was hilarious and even though I read that many years after the fact it pretty well described how I felt back then in junior high.
It was not that simple to get started, there were not many martial arts schools in the area at that time and of course something like Brazilian jiu-jitsu or mixed martial arts were unheard of at the time. The central Fraser valley was a lot smaller then and what schools there were, were off the beaten path. On top of that, I had decided to do a little research which was my nature back then even before my collage training. I was no gifted student, but I certainly was not afraid of books and I loved to read and learn provided it was something I was interested in. This really parallels my attitude towards sports; I had no interest in some “jock” sub-culture but I loved to work out, I was a terrible student but I loved to read and learn- no wonder I ended up devoting much of my life to something that wasn’t very mainstream at that time. Anyhow, My first step was to take a look in the school library to see what I could find out about the martial arts. The terms “karate”, “kung-fu” and “judo” were well known by then but I personally did not know of anyone involved in them so the whole thing was a big mystery to me. like most of the guys my age, what we new about the martial arts we got from television. In my case, the biggest influence was the old David Carridine series “kung-fu”. It had been around since the early 70s and we grew up watching it in re-runs. I had always thought it was very cool and the character “Cane” was the embodiment of the idea of the warrior/philosopher. Kung-fu seemed pretty cool but watching Cane do his thing in the old west seemed pretty far removed from modern life in the suburbs so as a little kid I never thought of it as something I wanted to do, outside of the heroic fantasy idea of course. As kids we might run around in the back yard and kick each other but there was no way in hell I was going to sit out in front of some temple gate in the rain. But as I grew up I had this archetype that “Cane” represented in the back of my mind. Of course, I didn’t even know what an “archetype” was back then, but even so I had this intuitive acceptance of the idea that with “power” comes responsibility. If the martial arts gives you power over other people then you need to use it wisely to help people. Otherwise what is the purpose? to produce more efficient thugs? For this reason, all through history and through many cultures training in the warrior arts went hand in hand with strong ethical codes of conduct. This is something that resonated deeply with me even at an early age. This is a theme that I got back to many times through out my martial arts life because I had to be honest with myself and admit that I was encountering more flakes and people of just plain low character within the martial arts world then almost any other place! Far from producing better people it seemed to be having the opposite effect. This was one of the key influences that fueled my personal paradigm shift that I mentioned earlier and made me really want to create a better alternative by Bringing Brazilian Jiu-jitsu to Canada, of course the irony is that this exposed us to a whole new species of lowlifes and it is those experiences that makes ethical conduct such an integral part of my new Genesis Brazilian style jiu-jitsu approach.
But to return to my personal motivations to get involved in the martial arts, I made my trip to the library to do some research into what was out there once I had decided this was something I wanted to do. Remember, this was 1979, there was no internet and no real way to find out about stuff except to ask people and do some old fashioned page turning at the book shelves or phone book. There was not all that much there or in the public library but I found a few informative books I could read and I came across one in particular that made an impact on me. This was a really nice book, hard cover and gloss color pages. That made it really stand out since most of the other stuff seemed a lot cheaper made or was pretty dry historical reading. I think it was from England which was interesting, but over the years I’ve come see that the Europeans seemed to take their martial arts more seriously on some levels and their publishing industry certainly seems to. when I saw a book like this where people had taken the time and effort to have something of higher quality you kinda assume they must know what they are talking about, at least as a kid I did. Furthermore, it had chapters on different martial arts so I had found a comparative study right there under one cover. This was just what I was looking for. In the end it was not that huge a book but it covered some major styles. I think the largest chapter was on karate but to me they made it look really dumb, there was page after page of the karate guy doing the same techniques. no matter how he was attacked outside, inside, standing up or siting in a car all he did was use a reverse punch, a knife hand or a front kick. I guess the idea was to show how simple and I guess lethal, karate was from the looks on the bad guys faces as they were punched, chopped or kicked. The chapter on kung-fu was another story it seemed to have everything, kicks, throws, takedowns, joint locks and many weird and wonderful hand strikes, not to mention; much cooler and esoteric outfits. I new enough about fighting even then to theorize that a warrior was going to need more than one kind of punch and the Fred Flintstone judo chop to be able to vanquish all the different foes and attacks that he might face; and if you got to wear cool threads while doing it, well that was a bonus. From the beginning, I was looking for the most complete system possible and reasoned that this would make it the most effective since it could deal with the most situations. According to this book, which seemed the best and most informative, that style was kung-fu. That got me thinking, “was not o’l “Cane” from the TV show a kung-fu master”? Yes he was, but also he was so much more, he was a sage and philosopher and a warrior with a very strong moral code and the honor to defend it. I had found it, not only was Kung-fu the most complete style but it was also the most complete philosophically. On top of that, I learned that kung-fu had the longest history which was a bonus for a guy like me who read a lot of history, and according to that history all those other martial arts like karate and tae kwon do had come from kung-fu so it must be completely superior I reasoned. I didn’t want to be surrounded by dumb jocks or nerdy academics I wanted to enter the world of high minded warriors, I would except no substitute-I had to find a Kung-fu school.
Q: “Were you able to find a kung-fu school?”
A: That is a reasonable question considering that I was in Abbotsford which was a pretty small place in 1979 and did not have much of an Asian population back then. On top of that, I was too young to drive and I don’t even think Abbotsford had public transit at the time; so I could not go very far. I don’t know if any of this occurred to me at the time all I new is that I needed to find a kung-fu school and I started to look and ask around specifically for one. As luck would have it, I caught wind of what a guy I went to school with said was a Kung-fu school, I wasn’t sure if he had got it right since he was no budding warrior/scholar like I was and had not been reading up on it. I was able to track it down even though I don’t think it had any outside signage, but there it was the old “Fraser Valley School of Martial Arts” teaching “Shoalin Fist Way Kung-fu and kick-boxing”.
Q: ”The Fraser valley school of martial arts became the first academy you trained at?”
A: Yes it was and it turned out to be quite the find. It was light years ahead of anything else in the Fraser valley at that time and among the very best schools in the greater Vancouver area and maybe the country. Its ironic that I ended up there because I was looking for a kung-fu school, as it turned out the kung-fu part was the least important aspect of what I learned there and I stayed for some years because of its modern and eclectic approach that was contact orientated and very realistic for that era; in fact, it was the closest thing we had in those days to a mixed martial arts academy.
Q: “Tell us about some of your early experiences with the Fraser Valley School of Martial arts”
A: As I mentioned, I’d tracked this school down and went with a friend to check it out. My friend had done some boxing and we had worked out a little with that but boxing just did not have the appeal or the mystic that kung-fu had so he said he was interested in doing some martial arts as well. The school was upstairs over another business of some kind, it might have been the original Clearbrook Fitness Center, I don’t remember. We went up the stairs and I saw some people working out. One guy was doing double roundhouse kicks on a heavy bag which really impressed me, and some other people were doing Chinese forms. There were staffs and weapons leaning in a corner and what turned out to be Judo jackets hanging on a wall. There were skipping ropes and other modern training equipment all over and it would not have surprised me if there had been an incense burner supported on some Ming dynasty stand. It all seemed very cool and authentic like a modern day version of the stuff I’d seen on the “kung-fu” series.
Q: “How old were you then?”
A: I would have been fourteen.
Q: ”Who was the instructor at the Fraser valley school of Martial arts?”
A: This was sifu Gordon Gong’s school or “kwon” and he was both classically trained in Shoalin Fist Way kung-fu and was also a professional kick-boxer. He was doing a lot of very progressive and serious training for this time and place and he and his instructor Bruce Curry were pioneers of kick-boxing here on the Canadian west coast. I First met “Gordy” that day I went to find the place and take a look. He seemed easy going but professional unlike this classical karate tool that I had spoken to earlier who seemed to have airs of semi-divinity. Gordy invited us into his office and told us a little about his school. He said he taught “basic karate, judo, boxing and advanced kung-fu and kickboxing”. That sounded perfect to me and was sold on the spot.
Q: “What was the training like at the Fraser Valley School of Martial Arts?”
A: I think, “ahead of its time” or better yet “on the cutting edge” is a good way to describe the training there. we did a lot of different kinds of training and thinking back to my first experiences there with the martial arts, I would have to give Gordon Gong and his school credit for instilling in me that eclectic philosophy towards cross-training that eventually led me to establish Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in Canada.
More specifically, kick-boxing was the thing that Gordy Gong took the most seriously and he was a real pioneer in that area. so we all did a lot of kick-boxing style training.Thinking back with 20/20 hind sight of course, we probably did too much kick-boxing and I mean this in the sense that there is so much more to the martial arts and I mean just realistic martial arts. We were so very close at times to developing into a true Mixed Martial Arts gym. That would have been very cool and saved me a decade of trial and error. We did do some wrestling takedowns for example and if I remember right, it was this little taste of wrestling used for self-defense that inspired me to go out and join my school’s wrestling team and led me into a couple years of serious wrestling. I don’t know where Gordy got this from, I don’t remember if he had actually wrestled himself or just tried it out from Bruce Lee’s Toa of Jeet Kune Do manual that was kind of the cross trainers “bible” at the time. But just like the book, we only touched on the subject a little bit and then got back to the “real stuff” and at the Fraser valley School of Martial Arts, that meant kick-boxing.
You see, kick-boxing was kind of the “mixed martial arts” of that period and was definitely a required phase that the evolution of the “perfect” fighting system would have to go through and then eventually surpass. By this I mean that kick-boxing was quite new, at least in North America, and had developed as kind of a testing ground for what actually worked in full-contact fighting. At least, the stand up, striking aspect of full-contact fighting. Remember, that in this period almost everyone was doing some form of traditional striking arts that had become tremendously popular in the very early seventies. Almost None of these traditional Asian fighting systems actually did any fighting! At least not any systematic full-contact fighting, so practitioners of course had to figure out what actually worked in there own methods before they were going to think about what methods could counter them or worked even better. I went through this process as well on a personal level as did most of the first generation of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioners in North America.
Its interesting on both a historical and technical level that North America had gone through two distinct Martial arts “booms” and “evolutions” with the results of the first one being largely forgotten as the second one started and the whole process had to begin again but in a much more confusing context. While in Brazil, they had kept more of an unbroken connection to the original “boom” and introduction of Asian martial arts into the West, not to mention, the evolution of hand to hand fighting that went along with it. one writer in fact, described the jiu-jitsu in Brazil as being so effective because it had in affect been “caught in a time warp”.
Q: ”So kick-boxing was the MMA of that period because it was new and full-contact?”
Yes, partially but mostly because of the controversy that surrounded it, in the same way as Mixed Martial arts and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu would be so controversial to an even greater degree starting in the 90s. The difference is that all the controversy around kick-boxing came from within the martial arts community, particularly the traditional or “classical” martial arts community. Of course, one of the main reasons for this opposition to kick-boxing was because the unproven traditional arts felt threatened by the new more realistic approach in the same way that these same traditional arts were horrified by the arrival of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu.