Tang Soo Do
If you don't believe Pat Johnson deserves to be
Black Belt magazine's 1995 Instructor of the Year, you try teaching
turtles how to fight.
Johnson's mountain of accomplishments is, of course, his work with
the stuntmen who doubled for the famous fighting amphibians known as
the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in the film trilogy of the same name.
But that is no more than the tip of the proverbial iceberg as far as
Johnson's martial arts resume goes. This is a man who has seen and
done just about everything there is to do in the martial arts industry.
Let's roll some of his credits.
began training in tang soo do in 1963 in South Korea during a stint
in the military. From 1968 to 1973, after returning home, Johnson served
as the captain of Chuck Norris' undefeated black belt competition team,
which won its division at 33 consecutive tournaments. During that span,
Johnson fought nearly 200 matches, losing just once.
1968. Johnson formulated penalty-point rules to discourage excessive
contact in tournament sparring matches a system still in use today.
And in 1975, and again in '76, he won the Golden Fist award, recognizing
him for his outstanding work as a sparring referee.
ruled with not a golden, but an iron fist when, in 1968, he became
the chief instructor at Norris' Sherman Oaks, California, school.
believe in firm, hard-nosed karate," says Johnson, who quickly
established a set of rules students at the school had to follow. "If
you wanted to speak during class, you raised your hand. All instructors
were referred to as 'Mr.' And if you had dirty fingernails or your
uniform wasn't ironed, you did push-ups."
parents of the students disrupted class by talking while they watched
the training, Johnson would order them to leave. Despite the disciplined
atmosphere, the school thrived under Johnson's direction. In six months,
enrollment grew from less than 30 students to more than 350. "We
were raking in a fortune," Johnson recalls.
bred expansion, as Norris opened a chain of Southern California-based
schools and founded the National Tang Soo Do Congress, naming Johnson
the executive vice-president. The two eventually split up due to philosophical
differences, and most of the organization's students followed Norris
to his new United Fighting Arts Federation. A small number of students
remained with Johnson and the National Tang Soo Do Congress, which
today numbers 160 black belts and 11 schools over five states.
organization is small, but it is close-knit and there is a lot of loyalty,
which is everything to me," Johnson says. "I can forgive
a lot of shortcomings if someone has loyalty. When the organization
fell apart, a lot of people went with Chuck. Since that time, a lot
of them have called and said they wanted to join my organization. But
I say 'Sorry.' I want people around me who are loyal and who I can
rely on. And I will be there for them when the bell sounds, by their
side all the way."
Johnson spends most of his time working as a fight and stunt coordinator.
In addition to his work on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films,
he served as the fight choreographer for all four Karate Kid pictures,
and he is currently working in that capacity on Batman and Robin, the
much-anticipated fourth Batman blockbuster due out in 1997. Johnson,
who has also appeared as an actor in nine movies, has been the personal
martial arts instructor of celebrities such as Steve McQueen, Priscilla
Presley, Bob Barker, Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) and Ralph Macchio (the
biggest thrill from teaching is watching students improve. "That
might mean the student comes home with a grand championship trophy
or, in other cases, it may mean the student got all the way through
a form," he says. Seeing someone reach his full potential is a
30 years have passed since Johnson started teaching tang soo do, but
he has changed little, if at all.
still a rule-following, strict son of a gun when I teach," Johnson
admits. "It's the only way I know."
Copyright © 1997, Blackbelt Communications, Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Blackbelt Magazine's 1995
Instructor of the Year
1963, Began training in Korea
1968, Formulated the penalty-point system for karate tournaments
1968-1973, Served as captain of the Chuck Norris Competition Black
Belt Team, which won 33 consecutive national and international
1971, Became the national Tang Soo Do Champion.
1975-1976, Won the Golden Fist Award for the best karate referee
in the United States.
1984, Served as stunt coordinator for the Karate Kid.
1986, Awarded ninth degree black belt.
1986, Named senior black belt in the National Tang Soo Do Conference.
1989, Served as stunt coordinator for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
1993, Inducted into the North American Sport Karate Ass. Hall
1995, Served as stunt coordinator for Mortal
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