“My name is Michael Lacy, I’m James Lacy’s eldest son. Last Saturday, a friend of fathers with the San Diego County sheriff’s department came to check on my father at his home. My father had died from a long battle of liver disease. My father was a very spiritual and loving man and I know that his spirit is soaring in ways his body has held him back for the last few years. He leaves behind children and grandchildren which will work hard to preserve his legacy in the martial arts world. I appreciate all the love and respect that has been shared by friends, students, and loved ones. All of you meant so much to him in his life. We celebrate his life knowing that his spirit is free.”
James Patrick Lacy, or Jim as he was called, may have been a friend to me. I knew him as that. But other people knew him as a lot more than just my friend. James Lacy accomplished much in the martial arts teaching Five Elder Monk Mew Hing’s 18 Daoist Palms System, what he called the “Authentic Five Elder Lineage Iron Palm”. He was also a prolific writer of articles about many facets of martial arts. He was at times controversial, at times grandiose, but Jim was always entertaining. If you knew Jim, you knew this about him.
Jim was indeed a very special character, a rare person, and someone who actually accomplished a great deal. He went from a troubled past, fighting his way through elementary school and junior high, where he dabbled in basketball, football, swimming, boxing and wrestling, pitched for Little League and swam intramural. He joined the Scouts, a “mish-mash motley crew from the bad part of town . . . [who] loved to fight and run the summer camp”. In high school, at around 13 years old, (1963) he was turned on to pot and he “became an intravenous drug addict and psychedelic user as well as pot smoker and binge drinker”. He went to Juvenile Hall twice in High School before being kicked out his senior year (1968). However, he ended up graduating before his classmates. He spent time in jails, prisons and mental institutions, but ultimately survived and attempted to teach others to do the same through training in the martial arts.
After all this he became someone who had the ear and heart of so many people. I used to call him a silver tongued devil, out of fun and sport, of course. This made him laugh. I joked with him like that, because I admired what the man could do when it came to creating something out of his life.
His life could easily be considered an original American story, the guy who spent his youth in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco, got into trouble and went to prison, and then turned himself around and accomplished something of value in the world of martial arts.
Jim was a character. He always had some great, uplifting, bright and perfect idea he felt would make people’s lives just a little bit better. In reality, Jim made people’s lives better simply by being around them. This was one of his best traits.
When it came to martial arts, Jim was with some of the originals, the guys that blazed the trails of martial arts in America. The late Grandmaster of American Kenpo, Ed Parker, said in an introduction to Jim’s book on Self Defense for Senior Citizens, “we should listen to you in these times that confront us for you have seen both sides of the law.” Jim was a “third generation family tree BlackBelt in American Kenpo”.
Jim was also part of Lima Lama. He was friends with one of San Diego’s long time instructors, Master Parker Linekin, as well as Brian Adams. I met him when I was living with Grandmaster Doo Wai of Bak Fu Pai as a closed hall disciple. This was back in 1982, I think. I knew right away when I met Jim, that he was one of those creative types. He had that little gleam in his eye that all creative types have. I had it myself, so I knew it when I saw it.
Because I believe that a eulogy should be a truth filled look into someone’s life, I have to tell you that there was a down side to Jim as well. He liked to boast and embellish a bit, and boast and embellish he did. This would get him into trouble, and things did not always work out the way he hoped. I looked at this as part of Jim’s old fashioned charm.
Jim added a lot to the martial arts. He wrote countless articles, and was always explaining the benefits of martial arts. This part of his life was well lived.
As Jim found out more and more about the energy side of the internal arts, he would explain what he was learning. I was personally into the healing side of martial arts, and we would have long discussions about this from time to time. He was a person that would listen to you. It didn’t matter how outlandish or crazy your idea was, Jim had the ability to see what you were seeing. That was another trait I liked about him.
Jim had to learn things in his own way. I think this is what gave him the capacity to accomplish what he did, and to get so many of his unique articles printed. He was not looking at life the same way most people look at life, and I think he figured out how to use this as a strength, never allowing it to hinder him.
Jim and I would hang around and discover things, especially things about the old world internal arts. This was fascinating to him. In fact, much of what he was able to discover, he did share with many, many people. I wish I could say he was a saint, but he wasn’t. What he was, was simply a real human being. He was a man that managed to work through so many of the flaws of his own personal life and experiences, and draw the best part of himself out, yet another one of his better qualities.
Many knew Jim through his articles and website. Some knew him through long and entertaining talks on the phone. Others knew him from visiting him now and again. But there was a real personal side to Jim. A side that was very real, even though you knew this man could certainly spin a tall tale.
Let me share with you a personal story so you can get a better idea of who Jim was as a person. This story is from a time before the bad blood and disagreements between Grandmaster Doo Wai and Jim, all of which happened after I moved away to Texas.
Jim would come up to Grandmaster Doo Wai’s, on his motorcycle. As long as it wasn’t raining, Jim would make the trip. It did not matter if it was freezing cold out, he would come anyway. This is just the kind of gumption he had, if he found something that was beneficial to him.
As usual Jim would show up and Shi-fu (GM Doo Wai) would come down the stairs to greet him and we would engage in visiting time. The two of them would proceed to matters of the utmost importance. They would break out the hooch of their choice and proceed to indulge. Before you knew it, we would be discussing some of the most universal ideas of the last few thousand years. Honestly, I can tell you that Jim was probably one of the only people who could keep his mind locked into that sort of thinking with us. Most could not do it. Jim was not an average person.
Jim would go on and on, and we’d be laughing and laughing and whoever happened to be in the room would notice that we were all having a great and lively time during these conversations.
One year at Thanksgiving, Jim came over to spend the day. I was there and of course, Shi-fu (GM Doo Wai) and his girlfriend also. I remember Jim brought something to contribute to the Thanksgiving dinner, it was long ago, so I do not remember what it was. But he set it on the table and then started talking about how nice it was to have Thanksgiving with family. He was getting a bit chocked up over all of it. I think that somehow this was a turning point in his life.
It was right about that time, in those months, I mean, that things started turning around for Jim. His life began to go in the direction of his dreams. I’d always been impressed with what I saw him pull off. I wanted to be in the movies in those days, so I understood about really wanting your dreams to come true. Well, Jim’s dreams actually did come true in those days, and watching it happen left me with a good feeling.
This was the real James Patrick Lacy. Although he looked like something out of a biker movie, he did have a heart at certain moments and times. But he was also the kind of person that did not let things stand in his way when he really wanted something. So it was a combination of both of those things that went into the man’s real personality. To me, this was Jim.
Let me tell you another story, and this one will be part of his flaws. I do this so you will know how Jim was, as a person. After he began to get notoriety, Jim’s ego began to get a bit large. We all expect this kind of thing from people we know, but when you couple that with the internal enjoyment from a person who likes to boast a bit and also embellish things,… now you have real live whopper type stories. Some of those stories were nothing but greatly entertaining. You knew he was spinning a story, but you just didn’t want him to stop. Some of these stories were so outlandish, and simply unbelievable, but fantastic none the less.
Jim also liked WWF, which at that time was professional wrestling on TV. He would spin these yarns, and talk about what he would do in this or that situation. How he would not put up with this and that, all in jest mind you. But then he would go into these wrestling details of matches he would see on TV. And explain in detail what he was going to do to this person or that person, the very next time they talked to him like that. It really was hilarious. This should give you a pretty good idea of the kind of person Jim was, and just how much fun he was to be around.
There was also a spiritual side to Jim. He did like the Urantia book, this is true, but we spoke very many times on Biblical issues, and of course the Savior of this planet. I was seriously trained in the Bible, but also in Buddhist and Taoist thought. There was many deep discussions between us about the depth of life. I was someone he could talk to about these things. And the man ended up with a serious amount of faith in the Living Universe. This was certainly not the same man that was locked in a prison cell those many years ago. So we should not mourn too heavily or too deeply, because James Patrick Lacy is now seriously at peace and in a place of awesome majesty.
Rest in Peace James Patrick Lacy, I will see you when I see you.
Vincent J Peppers (Bak Fu Pai)