Gary Amen has been in the martial arts since 1966, with more than thirty years of teaching kids and adults. Skilled in both Korean and Japanese styles, Grandmaster Amen’s main disciplines are Tang Soo Do, Taekwondo, Muay Thai, Aikido, Judo, and Jiu Jitsu.
He has had the privilege of being trained by and working alongside many of the great martial art pioneers. After eight years of instruction, he began learning Tang Soo Do under Master Andy Ah Po in 1974 and Master Fred Kenyon in 1976, a turning point in his life.
He was inspired by watching Master Ah Po, an expert at breaking bricks and boards, to master chi in himself to create power. He then was inspired by Master Fred Kenyon to break rocks with his bare hands and to use the skill when fighting hand-to-hand. Another highlight from that time was developing organizational skills through Master Ah Po by helping to host a tournament with Master Ah Po and Ron Marchini. He continued to cross-train in different styles with different masters, including Master Dennis Jackson, a world champion Muay Thai kickboxer and mixed martial artist. He also trained in Las Vegas with Danny Danwich, an amazing taekwondo practitioner and kickboxer. He competed in tournaments himself in the 1970s and into the 1990s, winning many of them, but his first masters taught him what was most important was what you know, not how many medals you have.
In the early 1980s, Gary Amen tested in one of Chuck Norris’ first schools, in Lakewood, California. He later had the honor of training some of Chuck Norris’s instructors.
In the mid-1980s, Gary Amen began privately teaching military personnel in the Coronado and San Diego area. Then, from 1990 to 2005, he trained United States Navy SEALs, Army Rangers, Green Berets, and police officers and their families at the Naval Amphibious Base, Coronado. With the adults, he trained them in hand-to-hand combat with knives, guns, sticks, clubs, and batons, focusing on taking down an opponent in battle. His training methods were built around simulated weapons, progressing to real weapons as his students abilities increased. Consequently, he did many demonstrations for Navy personnel including Generals and Admirals. Gary Amen is well-known for his breaking ability, especially for spearhand breaks and pinkie breaks on bricks and boards, with no spaces between.
After going up through the ranks over the years with Master Kenyon, Grandmaster Charles Dixon took him from master level to senior master to 8th dan. Gary Amen became a Professor in Tang Soo Do in 1995 as authorized by the Shinjimasu International Martial Arts Association.
As Soke and Grandmaster of his systems, Gary Amen became heavily involved with other Grandmasters, promoting the martial arts in different ways. He conducted tournaments between their students, and they took their students to tournaments organized by Grandmaster Cecil Peoples. He has always enjoyed watching his students grow and prosper many of them have won national championships, and their wins honor him. With Grandmaster Dux, he did demonstrations and worked on the pre-production phase of a martial arts movie.
In 1998, still teaching at the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, he officially founded his Amen’s Military Tang Soo Do system, recognized by many Grandmasters.
Still with the Grandmasters Council of Los Angeles, he enjoyed helping to promote Black Belts to Masters, working with Eric Lee, Bob Wall, and Bill Ryusaki. He also had the honor of meeting Bill Superfoot Wallace in a karate tournament.
As a way to give back to the community, Gary Amen participated in a Jerry Lewis’s Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, by entertaining the audience with a demonstration of his ability to break boards with his pinkie finger.
In 2005, after leaving the Naval Amphibious Base in Coronado, he founded his Fighting Fit Mixed Martial Art system, designed as a non-military exercise program for adults. The goal was to get people into their best physical shape by concentrating on kicking and boxing from different martial arts styles, while letting go of forms and combinations.
In 2009 Gary Amen was honored to be recognized as a Grandmaster by the Black Dragon Fighting Society, with a certificate signed by Grandmaster Dux, Professor Stoffel van Vuuren, and Dr. Lawrence Day. He currently is the West Coast Director for the organization.
Currently Gary Amen is the head instructor of his company, Grandmaster Amen’s Warrior Academy, where he teaches multiple styles blended together with a focus on families. This system brings together TangSoo Do, Taekwondo, Aikido, and Jui Jitsu. His classes focus on helping children develop and use physical, mental, and social skills. He stresses cardiovascular fitness, balance, self-control, dedication, and responsibility. He loves teaching kids how to be fit for life, and he has been teaching them as an independent contractor for Chula Vista Parks & Recreation since 2004. In addition to teaching martial arts, he also is a personal trainer. He focuses on helping people lose weight and helping them stay fit. Gary was inducted into the World Soke Council in 1996, the Golden Globe Martial Arts Hall of Fame in 1998, and the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame’s Hall of Heroes in 2010 and 2011. He also received a certificate in 2011 from the Tactical Combat Association International, presided over by Honshi Morris Wortmann, recognizing him as a Soke Grandmaster for his Fighting Fit Mixed Martial Arts system and for Grandmaster Amen’s Warrior Academy. Additionally, in 2011, Gary received his much overdue certificate for his 10th dan in Goju Ryu, from Grandmaster Charles Dixon of the Shinjimasu International Karate-Do Goju Ryu Martial Arts Association. He was inducted in August 2011 into the Masters Hall of Fame. He was also inducted into the Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Honors in 2014. He is grateful to be able to pass the gift of martial arts to his students, the same gift he was given the gift of respect, humility, honor, and loyalty. His plan is to continue to prosper and grow by expanding his knowledge, always with an open cup.