I started training at the tender age of five years old at a karate studio in Dublin, California. Things were much different back in 1978 and there weren't as many social laws that there are today. I remember that my teacher had a bamboo stick with a rubber band at the end. He would take that torture device and whip your leg or arm if they were in an incorrect position. While this may seem inhumane to today's standards, it certainly wasn't out of the norm in those days. I also remember that the instructor also had a martial arts supply shop next door that sold nunchucks, throwing stars, and other dangerous weapons. We were able to go into that store and buy throwing stars and walk out without given it a thought. It is almost comprehendible to think that a child can buy a potentially deadly throwing star, but it's true.
I then moved over to a studio down the street called East West Bok-Fu. This studio was very popular back in the 80s and had many schools in the Bay Area. I have great memories of this place especially going to tournaments as a child. I remember my friend Richard and I had to make up a routine where I threw him to the ground and jumped up in the air and landed on each side of his head. I then turned my hips simulating the breaking of his neck. I was a regular Bruce Lee. Interestingly enough, I now train in a studio in Alameda across the street from another East West school.
Around this time my mom started dating a instructor from my first karate school, Ray Flores. Ray was a black belt with tremendous strength and power. Ray moved in and lived with us throughout junior high and high school. Ray would teach me privately and I am very grateful for his knowledge. I will always remember my friends coming over and trying to punch him as hard as they could in the stomach as I would watch with glee to see their wrist inevitably sprain.
During high school I decided to take my love for boxing to another level. I started boxing at US Karate in Hayward, CA. The gym back then was a place that you would've ran into Clubber Lane. I remember there were four pillars in the middle of the gym and rubber water hoses were wrapped around to make the ring ropes. The trainer was a older gentleman probably in his 70s. Again the Rocky analogy is not missed on this one. I come from the lineage of boxers that included my father, his father, and other multiple cousins. My brother-in-law was also a Golden glove boxer that taught me a lot when I was a youngster. From the time that I can remember I was hitting a speed and double end bag. I even had a double end bag in my bedroom growing up. (Along with the Ninja posters and throwing star dart board)
Around the same time also started wrestling. While most wrestlers in high school had a lot of experience, I had a zero but still made the varsity team. Needless to say, I got my ass kicked almost every match. This being said, wrestling is the most high school sport hands down. The discipline you learn is beyond expectation of any 16-year-old adolescent. This was certainly my introduction to grappling and at least put me in the category of not being useless on the ground.
After graduation I moved to Redding California to play baseball for Shasta College. While playing baseball I also boxed at Norcal boxing with Ken Osborne. This is where I had many "smokers" as well as amateur bouts. While I can't say that I'm great at any sport, I can say I am decent at most. Boxing is probably the sport that I'm the best at. If it wasn't for my chronic asthma I believe I could've taken my skills to the next level. There was never a shortage of coaches that felt the same way. I will always keep this as an unfortunate missed opportunity in my life. However, I am now able to teach others what I was so passionate about at one time.
I lasted in Redding for a one year before moving to Chico California to be near my friends. While in Chico I met Jaime Calderon. Sensei Jaime is a black belt under Steven Seagal and runs a studio in Chico and Sacramento. I can remember being in a basement and him showing me how to escape from two people holding onto your arms. I was amazed by the effortless nature of the art and I was hooked immediately. This was in 1993 and it began a long journey of exploration of Aikido.
After moving away from Chico I landed in San Francisco. I continued training in Aikido under Sensei's Jim Alvarez and Alex Vanderburgh. Both were more traditional and vastly different than Steven Seagal's Aikido. It allowed me to understand and appreciate the "art" of Aikido and certainly helped me understand the history.
Shortly after this period I had met a friend of mine from work named Alex Khanbabian. He told me that he did Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and I remember telling him that I thought BJJ was a waste of time because the ground was the last place you'd want to be in a street fight. Nonetheless, he still asked me to come and try it with him. Professor Alex is maybe 150 lbs soaking wet and at the time I was probably 190 lbs. I thought with my wrestling background I would have my day with him. I was astonished by how he was able to manhandle me making me tap every other minute. It was the first time in my martial arts career that I experienced an art that wasn't hypothetical. We were actually able to apply the technique and see if they worked or not and were able to fix or change things as we went. To say I was obsessed is an understatement.
I moved to Livermore in 2007 and started training BJJ with Eric Bonifacio shortly after. I spent two plus years training here 3-5 days a week. I also privately trained and attended seminars with many instructors throughout my travels with work. These instructors included Rener Gracie, Jean Jacques Machado, Pedro Sauer, Saulo Ribeiro, Royce Gracie, Dan Henderson, Eddie Bravo, Joe Moreira, etc. The list goes on and on. Again, I was obsessed. One of the instructors I trained with often was Eddie Edmunds. Eddie is a black belt under Pedro Sauer. Professor Edmunds and I hit it off and I eventually left Eric's school and was an official student of his since I had to travel to Utah often. After my company had sold, I wasn't visiting Utah any longer and decided to hang my belt with Master Joe Moreira in California.
2007 was also an important year for my Aikido path. After training in BJJ I became disillusioned with Aikido because of its rigidness. In most traditional arts, there are only a certain amount of techniques and forms. They are not adaptable to todays society. I believe we are giving a big FU to the founders of these arts because of this reason. Do you really think Morihei Ueshiba wouldn't adapt and learn ground skills? This is where I found Combat Aikido through Master Hernandez. Combat Aikido is adaptable and uses the core techniques and principles but striking, weapons (knives, guns, sticks), and groundwork is all utilized. I continue to train in Aikido in many different forms and fashions but if someone tells me that I should I have my front foot switched or I'm being to tense, I get annoyed pretty quick.
I also wanted to learn to fight with a weapon that wasn't something illegal or used in the 1600's. This is where I found the cane. A cane can legally be carried on your person in any country around the world. I started training with Grand Master Mark Shuey and eventually received my black belt. Not only are you able to use if for self defense, but you can also teach people with disabilities as well as senior citizens. By the way, the cane is brutal...
In 2009ish-2010ish I took a break from BJJ because I tore my knee and my labrum. I decided train in another art because I needed to give my limbs a break. During this time I trained in Kajukenbo under Sifu Wade Taylor. Wade is an incredible martial artist and he improved my kicks tremendously. I still love Kajukenbo to this day as it is very similar to BJJ in the fact that it is adaptable.
In 2010 I met Sensei Darlynson Lira. Darlynson is a 5th degree black belt under his father, Master Darcio Lira. Sensei and I both had a passion about opening a school and decided to open Darcio Lira Jiu Jitsu in Livermore, CA. There I infrequently trained with Darlynson and also trained in Muay Thai. Because of my injuries, I never was able to train the way I would've liked but never gave up and continued to train regardless. I taught boxing, self defense, kickboxing, and BJJ for kids with special needs. in 2014 I decided to part ways with Darlynson because of my career, but we remain the best of friends.
In 2015 I started training full time with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Professor, Sergio Silva, in Alameda, CA. I've been able to train consistently for a year now but I'm still experiencing a lot of pain through my vast injuries. I enjoy being one of his students and he is an incredible teacher. Along with BJJ I've also continued boxing, as well as other martial arts while going through the Ultimate Black Belt Test with Tom Callos.
There are so many people and so many arts I've trained in through the years that I didn't mention because this would be come a novel. The dates may also be inaccurate, but they're close enough. Regardless, I think this is a good summary for my children and students to see one day and can understand the passion I've had for martial arts in my life. A black belt is a white belt who never gave up. It has been 35 years and through all the changes in my life, the injuries, the moves, I never gave up. I'll never give up.
I want to thank all my teachers in my life for giving me the opportunity to experience martial arts through their lens. Here is a list of other teachers I spent significant time training under throughout the years; Carlos Rocha, Ron Esteller family, Matt Lucas, Kris Lopez, Angel Paez, David Lopez, Jose Isidro, Michael Rosa, and Kelcie Banks.