Not very original and bordering on plagiarism but that’s me in spades. I’m a bad mutha (shut your mouth!) but I’m talking about Donn (then we can dig it). Yep, if I’m going to indulge in plagiarism might as well go all the way.
Sounds like I’m bragging doesn’t it? “No brag, just fact”. I’m tough. I’m Chicago tough. I’m Chicago South Side tough. I’m inner city tough. I’m ghetto tough. Well, actually, I’m not so tough now, but I was a tough kid. I had a name (street creds) that was recognizable in most of the tougher areas of the city. I was a terror in the streets. Of course age and time has knocked the edge off of all of that. That plus the fact that I’ve seen over the years what happen to tough folk. They either end up in prison or they end up dead (no future in that). Ain’t no-one going heads up with no dangerous street thug (Ebonics). They’ll just drive by and say hi in a way that offered finality as well as a solution to whatever problem that individual posed.
James Brown penned the words, “I’m a man. I’m the son of a man. If I can’t do it, then Papa can”. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not recruiting my ‘Old Man’ to do my dirty man. A man has to put in his own work. However I am the son of a man. My father was a marine, a MP, the first trained fighter I knew and was short but built like a fire plug. Now he was tough.
I have a Father and many other fathers. First off I’m a son of God, first and foremost he’s my father. Secondly I’m my father’s (Theodore Miskel’s) son. In the martial arts I’m the grandson of John Keehan (Count Dante)’s grandson. I can go on and list my spiritual and pastoral lineage but this is a martial art article, so I won’t go there, but I am the result of the input of many father figures and mentors.
In the martial arts lineage is important. We shouldn’t worship someone because they created a martial art system but we should give honor to whom honor is do. Let me set something strait. I am not a renegade and no-one has accused me of such. However, many of the individuals I align myself with in the arts are accused of being just such. People form an opinion and will look only so far to validate it. They seem to think that their thinking it so or saying it so makes it so. Not so. I don’t and won’t apologize for my friends or my peers. I’ve trained with some famous and well thought of martial art masters. I’ve also trained with some who are considered controversial. I stand behind my friends and I know them for whom and what they are. I know their level of skill and ability and I know of their lineage, the same ones that these naysayers don’t care to research or recognize. Actually, that’s no problem for me or my peers. We don’t need validation from such individuals. We’re accepted by those who accept us and appreciated by those who appreciate us. Period.
I read an article on what some people like to call McDojos. I enjoyed the article and it had some good points though I didn’t agree with all of it. One thing that it said is to beware of schools that don’t do kumite or kata. None of my students enter tournaments because what I teach isn’t compatible with tournaments. That doesn’t mean that they don’t try their skills out against other students. We have drills and competitive sessions that address that need. If you think that you have to teach kata to teach an effective martial art I dare you to go tell that to a Mike Tyson,nto a krav maga stylist or a Kelly McCann student. Or one of my students for that matter. They train to fight and they’ll hand the average martial artist their rear end in a basket. I do teach some kata but only a hand full of them. It is impossible to perfect a dozen kata in a lifetime. In the golden days of karate a stylist learned a few favorite kata and spent a lifetime truly learning and working to perfect those. That works for me because mine isn’t a classical system. In place of kata we have fighting waza or combat forms. Similar to what is taught in shorinji kempo.
Learn the difference between a ‘do’ and a ‘jitsu’; between fighting and striving for self discovery through the arts.
Please understand; I’m not trying to offend or insult anyone and I’m not belittling the art that they may study but I get sick and tired of those classical stylists, many of whom couldn’t punch their way through a wet Kleenex, telling those of us who choose to teach a combative system that we aren’t real, effective or that we’re phonies. If you want to know how real we or the arts we teach are they’d have to fight us. Not play fight. I’m talking about real, no holds barred, combat. It might do them a service to learn the difference between a ‘do’ and a ‘jitsu’; between fighting and striving for self discovery through the arts. The two aren’t’ the same. If you want to know how to fight you have to train to fight and then you have to fight. Theoretical combat should not be confused with fighting.
I challenge all of those classical stylists to tell me how many times they’ve had to fight their way out of a dark alley. How many of them have had to try to disarm a gun or knife wielding opponent. How many have been shot, stabbed, cut, bludgeoned or left for dead somewhere? Been there, did that. How many of you have been in combat in a real war? How many of you have been in a do or die gang fight? How many have been caught alone by a big group of rival gangbangers? Been there, did that. Does that make me a better martial artist? Not particularly but it determined the way I approach the martial arts.
I’m a decent and maybe even a good martial artist because I trained with some of the best. Some were classical stylists and some were dojo bangers. All of them were good at what they did and I wouldn’t trade a thing that I learned from them.
I began my journey in the martial arts in the summer of 1957. I began studying karate in 1963. I met my sensei, Doug Dwyer, and began training with him in the mid sixties. I started training with John Keehan in the early seventies.
I had been training in shotokan karate for about a year when I met Doug. My study in that system was with the first JKA stylist and master instructor to teach in Chicago or the Midwest. Doug taught Shorei Goju karate with an eclectic blend of some kenpo and kung fu techniques thrown in for seasoning. I’ve trained under some superlative instructors but Doug and John were the best of the best. Doug taught in a neighborhood that didn’t accept blacks. I took my life in my hands being over there at night but it was worth it to me. There was a biker bar across the street from the school and I was hemmed up and threatened by some of its patrons. Doug took the time out of his busy schedule to correct some misconceptions about race relations that were challenging them. They had to agree with his line of reasoning and quickly saw the errs of their ways. Fortunately no blood was spilled but that was only because with a rather convincing demonstration from my sensei violence proved unnecessary. That’s what the old World Karate Federation and the Black Dragon Fighting Society was about. Fairness, equality and realism in combat. They excelled in all three.
Doug’s dojo was in a white middle class neighborhood. I was from the back allies and side streets of Chicago’s inner city. I was hot headed, short tempered and quick to resort to violence. Unlike in the shotokan school that I had been a part of Doug’s dojo practiced contact. When Doug told me to throw a punch at a student so he could practice a technique I threw it with bad intent. If they didn’t block it they got hit. Hard. Consequently no-one wanted to practice with me. Because of that I became one of my sensei’s principle ukes. Not an enviable position if you don’t care for pain but an excellent opportunity to learn karate. I’ll refrain from saying how many times my father had to come and get me from the dojo because I could barely walk, see or whatever other handicap I was suffering from due to my over exuberance as my sensei’s uke. I loved it. Well actually I hated it but I loved it. You figure that out.
I feel that little has to be said about John Keehan, the infamous Count Dante. Love him or hate him few questioned his ability a or his worth as a teacher. He trained some of the best classical stylists in the Midwest before he sought to pursue his own path. I was fortunate enough to train with him personally. Yes, I’m one of the ORIGINAL Black Dragons and I’m only one of several Patriarchs of the BDFS.
I suffer from few illusions. I realize that I’m a sixty five year old man. I’m good in a sprint but I’d die in a marathon. For four or five minutes I’d be your worst nightmare but if you can outlast me the outcome would probably be different. Of course then I’d probably cut, stab or shoot you. FYI, I can shoot the eyelashes off a gnat. LOL.
My son posted an incident from his youth on Facebook. His friend said that, “your daddy breaks boards and bricks and can do all that karate s___ but my daddy would just shoot him. To which my son replied, “What makes you think my daddy doesn’t have a gun?” A lot of wisdom from one so young. That same son is a captain on a police force in Virginia Beach, Virginia, retired from the military as a military cop, hostage negotiator and anti terrorist specialist. By the way, he grew up in karate and jiu jitsu dojos as did most of my children.
In all honesty, I’m a minister and pastor and I would be reluctant to shoot you or any or of the above but I would advise anyone who cares to try me that I’m a work in progress. God isn’t quite through with me yet. While I like to think of myself as an aspiring pacifist I haven’t quite caught on to the intricacies of non-violence. I’m working on it though I’m laboring at a disadvantage. I was an advocate of Malcolm X, not Martin Luther King. To me turning the other cheek constituted a rear spinning heel kick or spinning back fist. I ask you to just be patient. I’m working at it. I’ll get there but mean while…
I love the martial arts. I’ve dedicated over fifty five years of my life to them. I love what they teach us and all that they have to offer. The arts aren’t limited to one specific group. People study for different reasons and purposes; therefore they study in different ways. We train according to our needs. I’m not interested in sports. I don’t even watch them on TV accept maybe the occasional MMA or boxing match. I study the martial arts according to who I am, where I came from and my own particular needs. You can like it or lump it as long as you stay out of my face. I’m a minister and I will lay hands on you at which point you’d be ‘slain in the spirit’. I’m ex military and I’ve ended more lives than I care to think about. I would very much hate to be the cause of something like that happening again but the advantage in such an unfortunate scenario is that I can not only send you to meet your maker but I can also do your funeral. In the hood that’s what we call a twofer. Convenient as h___. Not brag, just fact.
As I end this rather questionable piece let me do a disclaimer. I wouldn’t want to give you the wrong impression. I’m not threatening you. Where I come from people don’t make threats. You find out they’re mad at you when they shoot you down in the streets. Anyway I love you too much to hurt or harm you, my brethren. I may bore you to death with my constant pontificating but I’d work hard to avoid putting my hands on you. You may treat me like a red headed step child but we’re part of the same family. We’re all martial artists.
God bless you, my brethren. Train hard and go with God.
Dr. Donald Miskel