Dec 30, 2016

Hong Kong uses 3D archive to preserve kung fu heritage

(by Pak Yiu 12-21-16)

Kung fu master Wong Yiu-Kau stands in a Hong Kong studio and waits as his black suit is covered head to toe in reflective markers to capture his every motion.

The lights dim and Wong launches a flurry of hand strikes, blocks and leg moves as two directors watch his movements displayed on computer screens.

The 56-year-old kung fu master is part of the world's first three-dimensional martial arts archive, a project that hopes to digitally preserve a tradition that experts fear is at risk of being lost forever.

"When I was a student, I was taught the moves and given a manual to just read. Now there is this where it's recorded and preserved with precision," said Wong, a master of the Southern Dragon style of kung fu.

There are hundreds of differing fight styles classed as kung fu, which soared in popularity globally following a series of films featuring U.S.-born and Hong Kong-raised actor Bruce Lee, who died in 1973.

But as kung fu's popularity waned in recent years, practitioners worried about passing the martial arts form to future generations.

The 3D project, known as the Hong Kong Martial Arts Living Archive, aims to capture and preserve more than 400 different kung fu styles. About 50 have been recorded so far.

"Hong Kong is a very important city in the Chinese martial arts world," said Hing Chao, executive director of the Hong Kong Guoshu Association, a martial arts group working on the project with Hong Kong's City University.

"It has protected the resources and so far managed to preserve the different types of martial arts, but today, there are fewer people passing this tradition on," Chao said.

Project organizers say the 3D archive will not only preserve a discipline central to Hong Kong's heritage, it also offers newcomers a more easily accessible visual learning experience.

"We can have a richer content of kung fu styles," said Lau Chi Fung, the project's technical director.


Nov 22, 2016

This could be a pretty cool business card if it were to say "I'm a Black Belt in karate".

Nov 21, 2016

Another recently found photo (front and back)

This time it's Johnny that found an old All Valley photo.

Nov 20, 2016

Recently found photo from All Valley tournament (front and back of photo)

Bobby recently showed me this photo he forgot he had from the All Valley tournament.

Turns out he was going through some old boxes at his mom and dad's house and found this.

Oct 28, 2016

Where you going sweetheart? How about a front kick Johnny?!

33 years ago tonight, probably right about this time, this is what Daniel was facing.

artwork by Jeremy de la Garza

Oct 26, 2016

An Unfortunate Case of Westernization - Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon : Sword of Destiny

(by Emily Asher-Perrin 2-29-16)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has an important legacy in the film world. It was a surprise international hit, made on a small-scale budget with beautiful stunts and fight choreography, enhanced by a heartrending plot and a group of incredible actors. It is easily one of the most important foreign language films in western cinema history because it proved that western audiences would not automatically shy away from subtitled movies, which had been Hollywood gospel at the time.

So when I say that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny fails to live up to its predecessor in nearly every respect, it is with a very heavy heart indeed.

Directed by Yuen Woo-ping (who choreographed the fights for the first film), Sword of Destiny feels westernized in every sense of the word. For one, the film was shot in English. I gamely switched my Netflix over to Chinese with English subtitles, only to find that the actors’ mouths weren’t synching with the Mandarin dialogue. After the original film gained such respect with the subtitles intact, it seems painfully out of touch to simply film the whole sequel in English.

Then there’s location to consider. The first film was shot in China, but the sequel opted for the glorious backdrop of New Zealand. Problem is, nowhere in the world quite looks like New Zealand, and the country already sort of made its mark on the fantasy landscape by effectively becoming Middle-earth to the movie-going public. (The majority of their tourism is built on exactly that these days.) Before that, it was already pretty well-known for being ancient Greece in both the Xena and Hercules television shows. The scenery is recognizable enough to be distracting, and that’s without counting various other visual cues that only seem to play into it: for example, the villain’s evil tower HQ reads a lot like Isengard.

Crouching Tiger‘s trademark was the beautiful wirework stunts, making the characters seem to float on air from the ground to tree branches and rooftops alike. And while that unique wirework is still in play, it is also CGI half of the time as well. The change is too obvious when the wires aren’t being used, and it makes the film look less grounded, cheaper, and campier. Outside of that, the fight choreography is still gorgeous, but it’s a shame that these techniques couldn’t be reconciled into a more seamless film.

Also, there are a group of fighters in the film who literally read as Sif and the Warriors Three. I mean, exactly. There’s Thunder Fist, the sage one (Hogun); Turtle Ma, the drunken merry one (Volstagg); Flying Blade, the posh one who speaks in a British accent (Fandral); and Silver Dart Shi, the sole awesome lady (Sif). I understand that crews of fighting friends come with their own tropes, but when the Thor films are pretty current in the public consciousness, it might have been better to differentiate them a bit more thoughtfully.

Honestly, there are too many disparate elements at work in this story. At its core, it is a continuation of the previous film, bringing the audience back into the tragic tale of Shu Lien and her lost love Li Mu Bai, and answering the question of what became of Lo and Jen Yu, following her potentially fatal jump off the side of a mountain. But there are so many other threads to pull, and far too many new characters to make sense of the thing. The story is sloppily paced and relies almost entirely on the action sequences to drive a fairly complicated plot. There are about seven characters who shouldn’t even be there, and could honestly be relegated to an entirely different movie.

And all of this is too bad because the remnants of a wonderful film are still present in Sword of Destiny. Michelle Yeoh is perfection as always, and continues to play Yu Shu Lien with deadly poise and wisdom. Her relationship with Snow Vase (Natasha Liu Bordizzo) over the course of this film shows gives more opportunity to explore the dynamic of a female mentor with a female apprentice, something that western films rarely give any screen time to at all, regardless of genre. In fact, the relationships of all the women in this film are fascinating, and if the script had been willing to carve away some of the more tedious character arcs to showcase those relationships, the movie might have been much more engaging.

While Sword of Destiny was based on the final book in the Crane-Iron Series (Crouching Tiger was based on the penultimate book of the same series), the film comes off like an exercise from people who willfully forgot or ignored everything that made the first movie such a success. It was, at its heart, a personal story of love and loss, framed by elegant action. This film managed to muddy all of those aspects into a strange stew. And for Netflix to distribute this film while its busy trying to build its own brand is an awkward misstep to see them make. (Not that they haven’t made any others.) So if you want to be completist and watch this movie, enjoy, but put the first film out of your mind. They don’t mesh together, and a certain amount of cognitive dissonance might arise from trying to press these alternate universes together.

Or you could just watch Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon again. It’s a glorious today as it was sixteen years ago, like a perfectly aged wine.


Oct 18, 2016

I can imagine this as the viewpoint of a ninja on a reconnaissance mission, preparing for an invasion of that castle.

Oct 7, 2016

A Turning Point In The Life Of Musashi, The Undefeated Samurai

(Miyamoto Musashi killing a giant nue.)

(by Barney Higgins 10-3-16)

Miyamoto Musashi was three hours late. This was his way. On the beach the tension in the air was palpable. Sasaki Kojiro paced up and down on the fine sand with his hands behind his back. His wrath was rising with the sun, and with every passing minute he felt the insult to his honor growing. The date was the 13th of April, 1612.

Kojiro was considered one of the greatest Samurai in Japan. He was famous throughout the land for his speed and precision, which was made even more remarkable by his preferred weapon. He wielded a huge no-dachi blade, a curved Japanese sword in the classic style, but with a blade over a meter in length. The size and weight of the no-dachi made it a brutal, unsubtle weapon, but Kojiro had perfected its use to a degree unheard of in all Japan.

As his skill had grown, he had won many duels, and by the time he waited on the beach at Ganryu Island he had secured a comfortable position as weapons master to the Daimyo of the Hosokawa clan. His fame had grown with his skill, and eventually, he came to the attention of Miyamoto Musashi.

Musashi was a Ronin, a master-less Samurai. He had killed his first opponent in single combat at the age of thirteen and had gone on to win duel after duel as he travelled Japan and honed his skills. In Japan at the time, it was not unusual to challenge others to duel, even to the death, for no other reason that to display one’s mastery. Musashi was no exception. His talent was so great that, by the age of thirty, he had sheathed his two katana, and made a point of dueling only with bokken – wooden practice swords – no matter what weapon his enemy chose to use.

Kojiro’s retinue consisted of body servants, friends, students, cooks, and a clutch of officials who had come to witness the event and report back to the daimyo. They had arrived by boat in the early morning, and the servants had raised a shade for the officials further up the beach. A small fire had been started, food and tea prepared, and all made ready for the great Samurai to meet his opponent. The duel had been arranged through an intermediary at Miyamoto’s request, and the date and time set by him.

Kojiro had arrived three hours early, and as dawn slowly broke and his servants busied themselves with setting up camp, he had sat in profound meditation some way away, mentally preparing himself for combat. He rose some time before his opponent was due to arrive and took a little tea, making polite conversation with the officials, and joking with his friends. His composure was sublime, and his retinue, students and hangers on had no doubt that he would make short work of his challenger.

Three hours later, however, the morning was wearing on into the afternoon, and Kojiro was no longer composed. He paced, he grumbled, he swore and snapped at his servants, and it was clear to those who watched him that his rage at his challenger’s insulting behavior was building to a dangerous degree. In an attempt to placate him, one of the officials had suggested that Musashi would not arrive, and had fled the duel in terror at the prospect of facing the great Kojiro, but Kojiro did not accept this. He knew Musashi’s reputation as a swordsman. This behavior could only be intended to insult.

In fact, Miyamoto was not far away. He sat cross-legged in a little fishing boat that bobbed gently on the tide in a small inlet to the south of the beach where the enraged Kojiro paced. The bottom of the boat was piled with curled wood shavings, as the sword master unhurriedly worked at a long piece of wood with his knife. Also occupying the boat was its owner, an elderly, wrinkled, sun-browned fisherman, who had been paid handsomely to put himself, his boat and his spare oar at Musashi’s service for the day.

This spare oar was now sitting on Musashi’s lap, and with his sharp knife, the Samurai had carefully spent the morning bringing a new shape out of it. It was long and had become gracefully curved and perfectly balanced: a bokken of the finest workmanship. Musashi watched the sun as he worked.

He was a strange looking person. He wore no finery, just a simple robe and sword belt. His feet were bare, and his eyes had a protruding, staring quality that was unnerving. His hair was tied into a simple, functional bun at the top of his head. There were several days growth of beard on his pale and bony face, and his skin was covered with many small, livid scars.

It was clear on close inspection that he had not washed for some time, and his plain robe bore many stains and discolored patches. Altogether he cut a most disreputable figure, very different from the ostentatious displays of wealth and arms favored by many Samurai of the time. The only part of his attire that seemed well cared for was the paired katana at his belt. The polished dark wood of their sheaths gleamed in the morning sun.

With a quiet word, Musashi asked the fisherman to take them round to the beach where Kojiro waited. The fisherman obeyed, and together they rowed out to sea a little, before turning back to approach the beach.

At first, Kojiro did not recognize his opponent. Musashi sat low and forward in the little boat, his weapons hidden, seeming deep in thought.

“It’s him!” cried one of the servants, who had run down to the water line. “Musashi comes to the duel!”

The blood drained from Kojiro’s face as Musashi slowly stood up in the boat. The insolence, it was unheard of. This was no way for a Samurai to behave! To arrive so late was bad enough, but to arrive like this… Unshaven, filthy, in dishevelled clothing and with no retinue but a beggarly old fisherman; Kojiro felt the insult to his honor most keenly, and the wrath that had been slowly building all morning boiled over. He trembled with rage and held out one hand to the sword bearer who rushed up to present him with his great no-dachi.

The huge sword flashed in the sun as Kojiro charged down the beach toward his opponent. He focused his anger to a fine point, which ran through his arms and hands and settled at the cruel tip of the blade. In his mind, where a moment ago there had been great anger, now there was silence. But what was this? Musashi leapt into the surf and dashed to the left, but he drew no blade; his only weapon was a wooden bokken, similar in size and reach to Kojiro’s sword. Kojiro faltered for a split second.

What could this mean? The arrogance of the man who would challenge the great Kojiro with a wooden practice sword was incomprehensible. He turned to follow Musashi and dived in with a great sweep of his blade. The insolent man ducked just in time to avoid the blow. The no-dachi swept only centimeters above his head. A little cloud of black hair floated in the still air.

Then Musashi was in underneath his guard. The bokken was rising, but the huge no-dachi was in the hands of a master, and Kojiro did not back away. He brought his sword whistling down upon his opponent… but Musashi was gone. He had stepped step to the right, and his bokken hit flesh. Kojiro’s breath went out of him, and his next blow went wild.

The wooden sword dealt him a stunning blow on the side of the head and in the moment that he staggered, his enemy’s weapon smashed into his left side with incredible force. He felt his ribs crack, followed by a terrible, sharp pain deep inside his chest. He couldn’t breathe, and the world swam before his eyes.

The officials, staff and servants watched in horror as Sasaki Kojiro toppled forward onto the sand. The engagement had been over in seconds, and the victorious Samurai was now bowing low to his downed opponent, then toward them. He watched them for a moment, poised, then began to retreat swiftly toward the boat. There was a ring of steel and a yell as a number of Kojiro’s friends, and students drew their swords and ran down the beach toward Musashi, but he was in the surf, he was in the boat, he was gone. His purpose on Ganryu island was fulfilled, but tears fell from his strange eyes as the old fisherman rowed them away.

Miyamoto Mushashi was victorious, but he had destroyed one of the greatest warriors in the land, and the pointlessness of the act hit him as hard as his own death blow had hit Kojiro. There was nothing gained by his victory, and everything lost. Like Mushashi’s bokken, Kojiro’s skill had been slowly carved out of the raw material of his life. Now he was gone, but his death had served no purpose.

Musashi continued to study and teach the art of swordsmanship throughout his life, but he never again killed an opponent in a duel.


Sep 26, 2016

Did they really think they could take on Mr. Miyagi?

This was always kind of a silly scene from Karate Kid 3.

Although, wasn't the entire movie kind of silly?

Sep 23, 2016

He's not that good.

I always thought this was kind of a funny statement from Johnny.

While watching Daryl Vidal take care of his competition one by one Johnny says to Sensei Kreese, "He's not that good."

Wow, Johnny was pretty confident of himself, or shall we say over-confident.

Sep 21, 2016

I don't want him beat

The results of Bobby's handy-work.

Sep 18, 2016

The Life and Death of the Deadliest Man Alive

How a south-side Irish boy came to be Chicago's most notorious martial-arts master

(by Dan Kelly 7-13-06)

In the 60s and 70s John Keehan was one of the most notorious figures in American martial arts. He ran dojos and had sidelines in salons and porn shops. He took a pet lion cub for strolls by Lake Michigan. He trained minorities and caught flack for it, and after one fight--part of Chicago's "dojo wars" of the 60s and 70s--he was implicated in the death of one of his students. He was also a fierce self-promoter: comic-book readers might know him best as Count Dante, the persona Keehan used to sell membership in his Black Dragon Fighting Society, as well as a pamphlet, World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets, that promised to teach readers how to maim, disfigure, and kill.

Ever since his death in 1975, Keehan's life has been wrapped in rumor and parody, but Oak Park filmmaker Floyd Webb is striving to untangle truth from fiction. For the past year he's been working on a documentary about Keehan, The Search for Count Dante, inspired by his own experience in martial arts, as well as his brief acquaintance with Keehan. Growing up in the Harold Ickes Homes near Chinatown, Webb raised pocket money by collecting deposit bottles, scrubbing out Chinatown trash cans, and taking other odd jobs, and on September 4, 1964, he spent part of that hard-earned income to attend the Second World Karate Championship at the Chicago Coliseum. Numerous feats of martial-arts prowess were on display--board breaking, kata (patterns of techniques), sparring--and Webb recalls Keehan, the event's organizer, stalking the sidelines.

Keehan took a moment to chat with Webb and his friends--which impressed Webb not just because they were kids but also because they were black. Keehan became "Steve McQueen cool" to Webb after that. "He was a snappy dresser," Webb says. "He had a school on Rush Street. We used to go downtown with our various hustles when we ditched school, and we would always run into him."

Chicago had 13 dojos in 1964, and Keehan owned two of them: the Imperial Academy of Fighting Arts at 1020 N. Rush and Chicago Judo and Karate Center at 7902 S. Ashland. They were too far away and too expensive for Webb to attend, but he still pursued martial arts, checking out karate manuals from the bookmobile, studying untranslated pamphlets from Chinatown bookshops, and taking lessons from war veterans and immigrants from Hong Kong. He briefly competed in tournaments but eventually pursued a career in film: he studied photojournalism at NIU, founded the Blacklight Film Festival (a showcase for black filmmakers), and later worked as a producer on the films Daughters of the Dust and The World of Nat King Cole.

Webb revisited several old neighborhoods while working on the Cole documentary and ran into some friends from his karate days. One said he'd recently seen Count Dante on the street. So did another. A third said he'd actually talked to Keehan and claimed he was now living on the southwest side. "I said, 'You're hallucinating!'" Webb says.

He was sure Keehan was dead, but to make certain he pulled Keehan's death certificate. The self-proclaimed deadliest man alive, it explained, had died in his Edgewater condo from a bleeding peptic ulcer, probably brought on by years of stress and hard living. He was all of 36.

John Keehan was born in Beverly on February 2, 1939, to an affluent family: his father, Jack, was a physician and director of the Ashland State Bank, and his mother, Dorothy, occasionally appeared on the Tribune's society pages. He also had an older sister, Diane. They're all dead too, according to a cousin of Keehan's contacted by Webb. (The cousin did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story.) In his teens Keehan attended Mount Carmel High School and boxed at Johnny Coulon's 63rd Street gym, and after graduating from high school he joined the marine reserves and later the army, where he learned hand-to-hand combat and jujitsu techniques.

By 1962, after the service, Keehan was teaching at Gene Wyka's Judo and Karate Center in Brighton Park and made occasional trips to Phoenix, Arizona, to study under Robert Trias, who had opened the first karate school in the U.S. and was head of the United States Karate Association. Training full-time, Keehan quickly earned his second-degree black belt and was appointed the USKA's midwest representative.

In the early 60s dojos were rough, bare-bones joints largely inhabited by cops, ex-soldiers, and assorted other tough guys. (Trias, who died in 1989, was an Arizona highway patrolman who'd studied karate while stationed in the Pacific during World War II.) But Keehan, wanting a bigger audience, began to organize tournaments that emphasized the flashier aspects of the martial arts; he appears on the cover of one tournament program smashing eight rows of bricks with his elbow. He was a savvy publicist, making sure the first event he organized, at the University of Chicago field house on July 28, 1963, got mentioned in the Tribune's "In the Wake of the News" column.

Keehan's early tournaments attracted a host of martial-arts luminaries--like Ed Parker, Jhoon Rhee, and a pre-Enter the Dragon Bruce Lee--as well as new students. James Jones, a 66-year-old retiree now living in Hazel Crest, signed on at Keehan's Rush Street school the day after he attended the U. of C. event. He studied with Keehan for three years and remembers him as an ideal instructor. "John was a person who focused on basics and fundamentals," he says. "He had excellent form and techniques." He also says that Keehan was one of the few men who could side kick or punch a brick in half, though at one event it took three strikes and Keehan wound up breaking five bones in his hand. Still, he showed up at the dojo the next day, his hand in a cast.

But Keehan also had an arrogant streak. "John was the type of person who enjoyed attention and being in the limelight," Jones says. "'If you're talking about me, then you know about me.' I thought that was a weakness: 'What can I do for myself instead of the art?'" Arthur D. Rapkin, a Milwaukee-area acupuncturist who studied under Keehan from 1965 to 1971, recalls Keehan's "chronic" arguing with other karate schools. His ideas for tournaments were the biggest problem. Unlike most other teachers, Keehan advocated full-contact matches--no safety equipment, no pulled punches.

"John was six-foot, well built, and looked like a bodybuilder," says Michael Felkoff, a friend of Keehan's now living in Las Vegas. "If you fucked with him, he was liable to hurt you."

Keehan charged students $20 a month--pricey for dojos at the time--and he gained a reputation for being one of the first white sensei in the country to accept nonwhite students. "Race never played a part in John's teaching," says Jones, who is black. Ken Knudson, a white student of Jones's who later founded the Sybaris couples' resort chain, was interviewed by Webb a week before he died in a plane crash last January. "John loved the martial arts," Knudson told Webb. "He loved it, he ate it, he breathed it. He was blind to race. It didn't matter."

Keehan claimed that race strained his relationship with Trias. In 1969 he told Black Belt magazine that in 1964 "the USKA didn't have any Negroes in the organization, except for mine, and Trias didn't like it one bit. . . . It's the truth. Of course, now he has no qualms about it, but at the time, that's the way it was." Trias, in a 1975 article, dismissed this as "nonsense." Jones, who trained under both men, believes that there probably was a de facto ban on minorities in the early days of the USKA but that the battle between Trias and Keehan likely had as much to do with control as with race. Whatever the reason, Trias expelled Keehan from the USKA in December 1964. Keehan was on his own.

Trias later said that Keehan "was given too much power too young and too fast," and in his mid-20s the future Count Dante did seem to start drifting off course. On July 22, 1965, Keehan and Doug Dwyer, a longtime friend and fellow instructor, were arrested after a drunken attempt to blow out a window at Gene Wyka's school with a dynamite cap. After they were apprehended, Dwyer was charged with four traffic violations; Keehan was charged with attempted arson, possession of explosives, and resisting arrest. He got two years' probation.

Around the same time Keehan bought a lion cub--a legal, if uncommon, practice before the 1969 Illinois Dangerous Animals Act--which he kept at his dojo on Ashland and walked around town like a dog. (He later sold it to the Lions Club of Quincy, Illinois.) In the summer of 1967 he promoted an audacious exhibition in which, as part of a tournament at Medinah Temple, a bull would be killed with a single blow. Keehan purchased a bull from the stockyards and drove it around town on the back of a flatbed truck festooned with signs announcing the event. He wouldn't perform the deed himself: he'd picked Arthur Rapkin, then a 19-year-old student, for the task.

Bull killing was the signature stunt of karate legend Mas Oyama, and Rapkin initially seemed game: in a Tribune article about the event (headlined "Karate Expert Thwarted as Bull Hitter"), he's quoted as saying that if the police prevented him from attacking the bull in the building, he would "kill it in the truck on State Street, if necessary." But after the seats were filled Keehan announced that the event had been shut down by the Chicago SPCA. In hindsight, Rapkin says, he believes Keehan and his associates never seriously considered staging the event. "They were probably just howling at this little Jewish kid from Milwaukee they were going to put up against this bull," he says.

That year Keehan legally changed his name to Juan Raphael Dante, telling people that he wanted to reclaim the royal title he lost after his parents immigrated to the U.S. in 1936, during the Spanish civil war. It's never been clear why a south-side Irish guy like Keehan decided he must be a Spanish count, or how he chose his new name (though Mount Carmel High School is located on Dante Avenue). Regardless, his new name and background came with a flashier stage presence. At a 1967 tournament held at Lane Tech, he arrived wearing a flowing cape and brandishing a cane capped by a lion's head; he'd dyed his hair jet-black and had a neatly trimmed beard, reflecting his new side gig in cosmetology. Also in 1967 he opened a salon, the House of Dante, at 2558 W. Superior in West Town. Rapkin recalls that Keehan recommended hairdressing to him as a profession; the flexible hours would let him pursue martial-arts training, and it wasn't a bad way to meet girls.

Suited up in his new persona, Keehan decided to make a play for national recognition. Inspired by kung fu dim mak, or "poison hand," strikes--which emphasize thumbing out eyes, flaying skin, fish-hooking lips, and suchlike--Keehan assembled the World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets pamphlet, which promised to teach readers his "dance of death," a rapid combination of attacks designed to leave your opponent in a writhing, bloody heap. Keehan advertised heavily in comic books, doing his damnedest to separate a generation of kids from their paper-route money:

Yes, this is the DEADLIEST and most TERRIFYING fighting art known to man--and WITHOUT EQUAL. Its MAIMING, MUTILATING, DISFIGURING, PARALYZING and CRIPPLING techniques are known by only a few people in the world. An expert at DIM MAK could easily kill many Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, and Gung Fu experts at one time with only finger-tip pressure using his murderous POISON HAND WEAPONS. Instructing you step by step thru each move in this manual is none other than COUNT DANTE--"THE DEADLIEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED." (THE CROWN PRINCE OF DEATH.)

World's Deadliest Fighting Secrets was very much a Keehan vanity project. The pamphlet's first two inside pages were a sustained brag about the martial arts he'd mastered, his "Strikingly Handsome" looks, and his devotion to classical singing. Those were followed by photos of Keehan in a black silk gi, demonstrating techniques like "Groin Slap or Grab and Tear Off (often called 'Monkey Stealing a Peach')" on an uncomfortable-looking Doug Dwyer. It wasn't entirely hooey. "The 'dance of death' was overkill," says Massad Ayoob, a security expert who interviewed Keehan for Black Belt magazine in the 1970s, in an e-mail. "But it also taught that a single blow or attack could fail, thus inculcating the student with the principle of continuing to fight until he had won."

It's not known how many comic-book readers ponied up five bucks for a copy of the pamphlet, but Keehan's fortunes clearly grew--by 1969 he had opened three new Imperial Academies of Fighting Arts in the city. He also continued to hold full-contact tournaments, and his bad-boy rep began rubbing off on the larger Chicago martial-arts scene. Black Belt refused to cover Keehan's tournaments, and in 1969 it published a roundtable conversation in which several Chicago instructors laid into Keehan's tactics. Keehan claimed to have taught 60 percent of Chicago's karate instructors, to which Black Belt managing editor D. David Dreis replied, "Which is one reason why Black Belt didn't cover Chicago." One instructor described a Dante tournament he judged as an "amateur boxing match" and said he'd never judge another. Dreis wrote that Keehan's spectators "come to [his tournaments] to see plenty of blood spilled. Ofttimes they are disappointed; all too often, they get their money's worth."

On April 24, 1970, Ken Knudson got a call from a friend, Jim Koncevic. Koncevic explained that Keehan wanted to visit a rival dojo, the Green Dragon Society's Black Cobra Hall of Gun-Fu and Kenpo at 3561 W. Fullerton, to settle a beef with a member. Knudson asked what the dispute was about. "Oh, you know John," Koncevic said. "Over a broad or something." Knudson was still competing and training, but he took a pass, declaring a potential rumble "kids stuff."

The three men had been friends since the early 60s; Koncevic, Keehan's top student, ran his own dojo on the west side, the Tai-Jutsu School of Judo and Karate. "Jimmy was a battler," Knudson said. "He was notorious. He was legendary for getting into street fights, just mauling people."

Most accounts agree that Keehan did call the Green Dragons' dojo earlier that evening. In an article published a year later in Official Karate, he claimed that he and his students had received death threats and that he'd planned to "level their entire instructor force." To do it he called another friend, Michael Felkoff, and Koncevic; he described the latter in the article as an "animal as a fighter with a killer instinct." Today Felkoff says he was only called in to act as a mediator.

When Keehan arrived at Koncevic's dojo, he was dismayed to see that Koncevic had called in three of his younger students to join them. Keehan later described them dismissively: "Two . . . were only skinny kids who worked a whippy, snappy, and ineffective karate," and a third was a "short, pudgy clod." Still, he led the group to Black Cobra Hall.

According to a Tribune article, Keehan broke down the front door and found six Green Dragons inside. Felkoff, who arrived late, recalls that the Green Dragons were armed with Chinese weapons. Somebody--it's unclear who--made the first move, and accounts disagree about what happened next. According to Black Belt one of Keehan's men struck a Green Dragon member, Jose Gonzalez, in the eye with a nunchaku, while a Black Belt Times article says that Keehan himself attacked the instructor, lacerating his right eye badly enough that it required surgery at Belmont Community Hospital.

In every version of the story, Koncevic was ready to dance. According to the Tribune he struck one Green Dragon, Jerome Greenwald, from behind and began punching him. Greenwald grabbed a sword from the wall and stabbed Koncevic while trying to block a blow.

"All I saw was Jim in a big pool of blood," Felkoff says. "He was using his judo, trying to grab them, and he ended up getting stabbed."

Keehan shouted for everybody to stop fighting or he'd call the cops. Koncevic had enough life left to yell at everyone to "get the fuck out." He ran out the door and stumbled a few feet before falling. His three students had bolted and called the police. According to the Tribune, Greenwald, 20, was arrested and charged with murder; Keehan, 31, was charged with aggravated battery and impersonating a police officer. (No explanation was given for the latter charge.) Koncevic, 26, died on the sidewalk.

Keehan's attorney was Bob Cooley, who later worked for the Outfit until the late 80s, when he wore a wire for federal investigators in Operation Gambat. A mutual friend recommended him to Keehan; in his 2004 memoir, When Corruption Was King, Cooley recalls his first meeting with Keehan by describing his client as a tall, wild-bearded man wearing a yellow fishnet leotard and a purple cape. As for the trial itself, Cooley wasn't too worried. The state built its case against Keehan around the accountability statute, arguing that he bore responsibility for Koncevic's death. Cooley was prepared to assert that there was no way Keehan could have anticipated the swordplay that ensued at Black Cobra Hall.

In 1971 the judge in the case dismissed all charges but not before upbraiding both sides: "You're each as guilty as the other," Cooley recalls him bellowing. Though Keehan was acquitted, his name was blackened; interschool rivalries and after-hours grudge matches were common, but this was the first time anyone had died. Keehan offered a mea culpa in an Official Karate article. "I blame myself to a great extent for being responsible for us going over to the Black Cobra Hall in the first place and have gone through living hell because of it," he wrote. "My days of fighting at the drop of a hat have come to an end and challenges I will accept no more unless first attacked."

His vow was short-lived, though: Cooley recalls him beating up two men in a liquor store parking lot after they laughed at the bogus Spanish coat of arms on the door of his brown Caddy and assaulting another guy who called him a "fruit" in a bar. One night Cooley and Keehan had an argument, during which Keehan took a grazing swipe at his chin that put Cooley in such pain he felt his skin was "ripped off." Keehan immediately apologized and promised to make amends by showing him a trick: if Cooley got his pistol and fired at him, he'd catch the bullet.

Cooley kept his distance from Keehan after that, but he couldn't shake Count Dante entirely. By 1974 Keehan had a financial interest in a chain of adult bookstores and a car dealership. He eventually ran afoul of south-side boss Jimmy "the Bomber" Catuara, and Cooley was called in to intercede.

Keehan, Cooley writes, paid 25 grand to Catuara and emerged unscathed, but the situation apparently gave him the connection with organized crime he'd been seeking for some time.

In the fall of 1974, Keehan was subpoenaed by the state's attorney and given a lie detector test about his possible role in the heist of more than $4 million from the headquarters of Purolator Security. A Tribune item from November says he was slated to appear before a grand jury with Catuara; it describes Keehan as "a former hairdresser who wears a cloak and calls himself Count Dante."

The experience seemed to shake Keehan, and by 1975 he was clearly unwell--Ayoob recalls him stumbling through one conversation before admitting that he was mixing booze and painkillers. He made a last attempt to revive his martial-arts career by hosting a tournament in Taunton, Massachusetts, on March 16. The karate world was unimpressed: a piece in Official Karate on the event, titled "Sunday, Bloody Sunday," characterized Keehan as looking bored and concluded that "whatever the reasons for this 'expo,' the resulting manifestation was trash."

In an interview with the Attleboro, Massachusetts, Sun Chronicle to promote the event, Keehan sounded resigned. "I want people to forget me," he told reporter Ned Bristol. He died two months later, on May 25, 1975.

Keehan was buried in an unmarked grave in Saint Joseph's cemetery in River Grove. His legacy is modest. Shortly before he died he helped his friend and protege William Aguiar set up a school in Fall River, Massachusetts, and appointed him his successor as Supreme Grand Master of the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Aguiar died in January of last year, leaving his son William Aguiar III in charge. In San Francisco, Bob Calhoun leads a band called Count Dante & the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Originally knowing little about Keehan outside of the comic-book ads, he invented an outsize stage persona that's part punk, part karateist, part motivational speaker, and wears leopard-print kimonos onstage. "What was funny was how much my portrayal turned out to be like the real Keehan in the first place," he says. The Aguiars have sent cease and desist orders to Calhoun, but nothing has been settled or gone to court.

Otherwise the person most interested in Count Dante seems to be Webb, who plans to finish the film next year and then shop it to festivals. He's logging his progress on a Web site for the film,, which has attracted bits of archival material, including rare footage of Keehan in action. Webb imagines the film will reflect Keehan's era as much as the man himself. "It's the times," Webb says. "His story embodies every kind of macho popular culture bull crap. It's got discos and Rush Street and pet lions. . . . You can't write shit this good."

"He's dead and we're still talking about him," says James Jones. "He did what he set out to accomplish."


Sep 17, 2016

Pat Morita on set talking with director John Avildsen.

Sep 16, 2016


artwork from

Sep 14, 2016

Pop culture Daniel

Good to see Daniel Larusso lives on in pop culture.

Sep 12, 2016

Some Cobra Kai logos



I needed to clean out some folders on the old computer and came across these logos I've been saving for some reason.

Aug 31, 2016

A fairly well known meme floating around the interweb.

The actual quote is, "Sweep the leg." "You have a problem with that?"

The word "do" is not in the question asked by Sensei Kreese.

Aug 21, 2016

Kung Fu Panda training hall

Kung Fu Panda 1 and 2 are two of my favorite all time martial arts movies.

Kung Fu Panda 3 not so much. Ugh, let's face it, it was horrible.

Supposedly the original story called for as many as eight movies. Let's hope they can find that magic again of the first two.

Aug 1, 2016

Ninja Dojo and Store, Kyoto Japan

(photo and text from Ninja Dojo and Store Facebook page)

NINJA DOJO and STORE has been published in the travel magazine "Enjoy Kyoto".

"Enjoy Kyoto " is famous free magazine for foreign visitors who would like to experience amazing Kyoto. It was published on the facing page. Thank you so much!

 If you really want to become Ninja, please come to our dojo and Experience authentic and traditional ninja training!


Jul 15, 2016

Justice for Johnny

(I saw this today on the Cobra Kai Facebook page, some of the comments are pretty funny.)

Paul Caulfield - John Kreese does not tolerate losses via illegal kicks to the head in his dojo and effectively shunned Johnny after. Johnny was unable to secure further instruction in Karate due to his reputation, leading to a downward spiral into drugs and homelessness which would never have happened had he been recognised as the true all valley champion. Johnny's dignity, self respect and hope for the future was put in a body bag that day.

Wayne Michael Zahra - Not only johnny was kicked in the face the tournament is for brown belts and above . Some poor guy trained his ass off to make it to the tournament only to have his belt stolen from a bag .

Let me guess Daniela is the victim once again . Daniela is a cheat !

Adam McCartney - True. However, perhaps the judges decided to look the other way on the Crane Technique after seeing all the dirty tricks and bad sportsmanship demonstrated by ALL of the Cobra Kai during the tournament.

Ian Corcoran - Leave now.

Abner Berrios - Larusso cheated. Mr. Miyagi stole a belt and he give false information in the application he said he have a Miyagi dojo he does't have a karate school Larusso can't be a black belt.

The facts prove Larusso is a cheater, the tournament organization must do a review of documents and present charge against them for fraud.

That's a federal crime.

Adam McCartney - It's way beyond of the statute of limitations now. Too late to file charges.

Jul 13, 2016

The Search for Count Dante

I really hope this documentary gets completed, I think it would be very interesting to watch.

Jul 11, 2016

Ed Parker Jr. with Billy Zabka and Daryl Vidal

(photo from Marie Baer's Facebook page)

Dragonfest 2016 - Van Nuys California

Jul 10, 2016

Karate Kid represented at Dragonfest

(photo from Minh Mach's Facebook page, July 9th, 2016)

From left to right: Pat Johnson, Daryl Vidal, Billy Zabka, Ron Thomas, Tony O'Dell.

Jul 5, 2016

8 Year Old South Jordan Boy Fights Off Would-Be Abductor

Man grabs the boy as he was biking home; gets elbowed in the face

(by Rick Aaron 6-30-16)

An 8 year boy is safe after fighting off a would be abductor Monday evening in Daybreak.

 Tommy was riding his bicycle home from his piano lesson by himself for the first time around 6 o'clock when a man driving a pickup truck started following him.

His mother, Meg, told ABC4 Utah News what happened next.

"The gentleman pulled up right next to him, a little bit behind him as he's on his bike, jumps out of the passenger's side of his truck," Meg said. "Tommy starts pedaling faster. He runs after him, grabs him by the shoulders."

"He jumped out of the car and tried to grab me," Tommy said.

But Tommy had training in 2nd Grade through a program called RAD Kids and he fought back.

"I elbowed him in the nose," Tommy said. "Screamed in his mouth."

"Tommy thankfully remembered his RAD Kids, RAD Kids he learned at Eastlake Elementary," Meg said. "He turned around and bopped him with his elbow right square in the nose and so caught this man off guard of course. He stumbled backwards, threw Tommy forward. Tommy scratched himself up on the sidewalk."

The suspect scrambled back to his truck and left. Tommy who suffered just a couple of scraped knees describes him as a white male with a thin build and a light beard wearing a black hooded sweatshirt with sunglasses and long khakis. He says the truck was a medium sized black pickup with a skull sticker on the back window.

South Jordan Police Lieutenant Matt Pennington says Tommy did the right thing by fighting back.

"If something like this does happen, yeah to fight scream, yell for help and do what they can to protect themselves," Lt. Pennington said.

"Holy cow. I'm so proud of him," Meg said Thursday. "He was very conscious, trying to remember all the details that he could and everything about him and where the man went, followed him except we didn't get a license plate unfortunately."

Meg says Tommy is doing fine but she has nightmares about what could have happened.

"It's sinking in how incredibly scary," Meg said. "And how close we were to not seeing that little boy anymore."

 South Jordan Police investigators are still looking for witnesses or any surveillance video of the incident or the vehicle. If you know anything about this man or that truck, call the South Jordan PD at 801-254-4708.


Jun 30, 2016

The Karate Kid - Then and Now

(more to come)


The Valley as Seen in The Karate Kid — Then and Now

(by Jared Cowan 6-16-14)

The Karate Kid shot for 45 days in the fall of 1983 in Los Angeles, primarily on location in the San Fernando Valley. It was the perfect setting for a suburban-based film dealing with the class divide. The 1980s Valley receives a rich and detailed portrayal in the film, and it successfully conveys a strong sense of place. Referring to the locations, William Zabka, who played villain Johnny Lawrence in the film, says, "When you get on a set, all that you did in rehearsal, and all that you do to prep, takes on a new life because that location is almost a character itself and it adds to the energy of the scene, and you feed off that."

To commemorate the 30th anniversary of The Karate Kid, we visited the original L.A. filming locations to see how they look in 2014.

Special thanks to The Karate Kid's executive producer, R.J. Louis, and location manager Richard Davis Jr., as well as Chas Demster of and Nick Alaway of, for providing information and addresses for The Karate Kid filming locations.

South Seas apartments

Daniel LaRusso's apartment building, the South Seas at 19223 Saticoy St. in Reseda. After driving around the Valley for a couple of days, director John G. Avildsen and location manager Richard Davis Jr. found the perfect building for Daniel and his mom. "It was the exterior feel [Avildsen] was after; sort of the bleakness," Davis says.

"The owner of the building couldn’t believe we actually wanted to make a movie there," Davis says of the South Seas.

The half-full pool of green water is an image many of the cast members and filmmakers recalled about the South Seas.

"I wanted a pool in the center so I could have dirty water in it and half full with the same swan that I used in Save the Tiger," Avildsen says, referring to his 1973 film starring Jack Lemmon, which also featured a pool with an inflatable swan.

Only a few scenes in the film were done on a soundstage, the interior apartment scenes included.

The apartment set was made to look like the real unit, pictured here.

Daniel goes to find the maintenance man's workshop.

This carport at the South Seas was transformed into Miyagi's workshop.

The South Seas apartment building near the corner of Saticoy Street and Tampa Avenue in Reseda.