Kanjuro Shibata XX
Shibata Sensei is easily the highest master of any eastern art under which I’ve studied. The Kyudo he teaches us is for “cutting the ego,” as he says, not for warfare or for battle. Find Shibata Sensei at zenko.org. My personal style of “meditation” could be considered a type of Zen or Taoist approach to quieting the mind and cultivating energy. I’ve been doing this since my early 20’s and never truly followed any formal set of meditative practices. That said, I am currently studying the ancient Samurai art of Kyudo (Japanese Archery). This practice can be a very high form of meditative art and I treat it as such, making it the first formal type of meditation that I have ever studied. I am studying through both the New York and Chicago Iba’s (Schools) under the instruction of the great Kyudo Master Kanjuro Shibata XX. He and his family have long been the imperial bow makers to the Emperor of Japan.
Dr. Tony Zayner
The most I have ever learned about Eastern medicine and Yin Yang theory came from my good friend and former roommate Tony Zayner. To call him a renaissance man is quite an understatement. Find Dr. Zayner at asianbodyworkclub.com. His background in the eastern healing and martial arts is tremendous and is too long to list. But this is a man who attempts to practice what he preaches in living in the Tao, or the Way. Having resided in Taiwan for 12 years and soaking up the language, culture, and arts of the Chinese, Tony is a uniquely gifted healer and teacher. And in living with him he has taught me many things about life and even saved my life at a time of great crisis when I was at one of my lowest points I have ever been in. He is one of the most generous and knowledgeable teacher and human being I know.
Master Shizuto Masunaga
There would absolutely be no Meridian Touch if it were not for Shizuto Masunaga. It was his work of creating the original Zen Imagery exercises (which were based on Chinese Dao-In exercises) that I based my creation and synthesizing of the Meridian Touch system. Shizuto Masunaga was the creator of a style of Shiatsu called Zen Shiatsu and was a practicing Psychologist. I never had the pleasure to study directly under the Master as he passed away in 1980, but I have made a couple of trips to Japan to visit his school, the Iokai, and I have had a chance to meet with one of his sons and a senior Iokai student about Meridian Touch and the work I was doing in the US. I was also able to speak with Masuanaga sensei’s widow through her son. This meeting was very important to the direction and growth of the art of Meridian Touch as I received their blessing and encouragement of carrying on in Masunana Sensei’s name and his healing tradition.
Stephen Brown L. Ac.
It’s very interesting but almost everything I said about Dr. Tony Zayner could apply to Master Stephen Brown except that his learning and experience comes more from a Japanese source than Chinese. Find Stephen at zenshiatsuseattle.com. Stephen was born in Japan and did most of his studying there though he spent time in China as well. He was also a student and friend of Master Shizuto Masunaga and translated some of the Master’s works including his Zen Imagery book upon which Meridian Touch is based. A veritable fountain of information and wisdom, just being in Stephen’s presence causes you to be open and at one with yourself. He has been a guide, resource and inspiration in countless ways to me, and has taught me what forgiveness and patience are all about. Stephen is in demand all over the world for his acupuncture, shiatsu, and teaching skills. Still he is one of the most humble men in the healing arts that I know.
In 2000, having severely burned my body out through over training and bad habits over the years, I found myself learning a new art of healing and self-preservation that helped others to heal at the same time. Find Ohashi at ohashiatsu.org. That art was called Ohashiatsu which I studied at and graduated from the Ohashi Institute in New York City. Wataru Ohashi the founder and head instructor was a direct student of Master Shizuto Masunaga and is known internationally as a pioneer in the world of Asian healing arts, having been one of the first people to bring shiatsu to the US in the early 70’s. My experience of Ohashiatsu, which was Ohashi Sensei’s take on Masunaga Sensei’s Zen Shiatsu, greatly stimulated and directed my structuring of Meridian Touch.
Arjan Simon Burgess
One day while making a call in a phone booth in Queens, (that’s right I said phone booth, remember those?) a man tried to pull a knife and stab me in my kidneys. Fortunately I sensed him approaching from behind and was able to spin out of the booth and escape the scene. Fortunately I sensed him approaching from behind and I was able to spin out of the booth and get some space between us and escape the scene. Until this point I had only studied Okinawan weapons in my Karate classes. This study was absolutely useless in relation to being attacked for real with a knife. I decided I needed some training in REAL weapons especially with knives so I decided to study Pilipino Kali and the universe lead me to Simon Burgess. Simon’s no nonsense, real world style of teaching and fighting were refreshing. It was very different from the sterile and safe world of sport martial arts. Here for the first time I could see the power one has to take a life in an instant. This gives you respect for life and an appreciation for healing and saving a life. If I am ever in a street fight or brawl I definitely want Simon Burgess on my side! Simon is once again my current Kali teacher. Find Simon at academyfivepoints.com.
Coach Ao Shiro Iida
While studying Karate at Shihan Miyazaki’s Shotokan School, I happen to have the great fortune to meet Shihan Miyazaki’s cousin, Ao Shiro Iida, better known as “Blue” or just Mr. Iida. Find Blue at martialartsny.com. I had barely heard of Muay Thai Kickboxing when I met him in the 80’s, but for the almost 10 years I was under his tutelage, he taught me more about the martial arts than anyone else ever did. He had lived and fought in Thailand for many years and had 60 fights to his name. He also had a background in Tai-Jitsu and other arts and would teach me many things beyond the scope of Muay Thai. Under his instruction I was preparing to begin to compete in amateur Muay Thai bouts. I still say that Blue has the hardest shins it’s been my privilege to clash with!
One hot summer evening underground at the West 4th Street subway station in NYC back in the 90’s, I was returning home after an inspiring Kali (stick fighting) class. While I waited at the end of the desolate platform for the A train to Brooklyn, I decided to take out my Kali sticks to practice and reinforce the techniques I had been practicing in class. As I began moving my sticks through the air, I felt the presence of someone watching me and drawing closer. It happened to be the movement master Emory Moore Jr. coming to speak to me about my Kali skills.
As a practitioner of the movement and martial arts Emory is unmatched in knowledge, experience, and skill as a practitioner. Being exposed to his philosophies and teaching for many years has had a profound effect on my style of teaching and knowledge as what he taught deeply resonated with my own innate approach to fitness, health, and movement. His personal movement system called EM Techniques is one the best keep secrets on the east coast for restoring movement and true functional strength to the body.
Find Emory at http://www.emtechniques.com/EMTech/Welcome.html
Shortly before I found Simon Burgess as my Kali teacher, I was already looking for more realism in my karate training. I found it with Sensei George Aschkar, a former student of Shihan Toyotaro Miyazaki. Find Sensei Aschkar at kyodaidojo.com. In Sensei Aschkar’s dojo (school) it was all good! Judo was taught there as well as Kung Fu and boxing. When you sparred in karate class, you weren’t limited to using only karate techniques. You could use whatever you wanted, but Sensei cautioned us to expect to get back what we dished out to our opponents! This openness to training was a departure to the strict rules and structure of traditional Shotokan and allowed me to use my Muay Thai skills when sparring. Sensei Aschkar wanted your Karate to work on the streets. If it didn’t then what was the point? Don’t misunderstand, Sensei was not a brawler or an out of control teacher. Quite the opposite. In fact, Sensei was a very aware and sensitive person and helped me through some very tough transitions when I was going through a heartbreaking divorce.
Guro Vic Velez
After a short break in my Kali training, I returned to it a few years later through Guro Jesus Vasquez where at that time I met senior student Vic Velez who would later become my Kali teacher. He’s a formidably strong and passionate teacher of the art. Find Vic at velezkali.com. It was an eye opening experience in refining my technique when I began training in Kail under Guro Vic. His enthusiasm, eye to detail, and creativity in the art helped me see to Kali in a much bigger way as a truly complete martial art.
Kru Phil Nurse
Phil is a 2-time European Champion Muay Thai fighter and of recent has become well known in the Mixed Martial Arts world as striking coach to MMA Champion fighter George St. Pierre. After my association with Blue Iida ended I began training under Kru Phil Nurse. Find Phil at thewat.com It was back in the 90’s during the “Crosby Street Days” when he was grooming some of his early fighters like Ajaye James and Kamuti Kiteme. Studying under Phil added a new measure of toughness, skill and creativity to the Muay Thai I had learned from Blue. Phil is one of best fighters and trainers there is to be found anywhere. It’s always a pleasure to visit the Wat, his school in NYC, and take a class or two with him to keep my skills up and get my butt kicked to keep me humble.
Master Fabio Clemente
I was introduced to Master Fabio by Brazilian Jiu Jitsu purple belt student Almir Araujo back in the 90’s just as the fame of the Gracie’s was starting to spread in the US. When I met Fabio he was still a Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Find Fabio at alliancebjjnyc.com. Even with all of my Karate and Muay Thai experience, this man simply crushed me when fighting on the ground. I was simply his bitch! Nothing I learned in my former arts, outside of eye gouging or breaking fingers, was helping me fight this man when we sparred. I had previously decided to learn a grappling art when once sparring in Karate class, a student with judo experience threw me through the air like a rag doll and I had no defense or come back against him. My martial arts world was turned upside down when I began to study BJJ and it really opened my eyes to touch and body sensitivity like I never knew before. And Fabio is one of the best teachers and competitors in all of New York City. He’s also an outstanding, hardworking, and warm hearted human being in addition to being strong as a bull!
Mestranda Edna Lima
Edna is one of my favorite people ever! She was my very first and still is my only Capoeira teacher. I met her way back in the 80’s when she had first arrived from Brazil and could barely speak any English. She had come to the Miyazaki Shotokai Karate School to teach a Shotokan Karate workshop. It was in this workshop that I found out about Capoeira Regional for the first time. Mestranda Edna has been an inspiration, guide, and good friend to me for over 20 years. She has an unbelievably deep soul and huge heart of love. And as a martial artist and competitor she can be fierce as a tiger when she needs to. I’ve learned many things from my friend and teacher Edna both in and out of the world of Capoeira. Find Edna at Abada Capoeira.
Michael Olajide Jr.
Michael was a former #1 middle weight contender in boxing. Although I never learned martial arts or boxing directly from Michael, he was the most influential person to help get me into higher levels of the fitness business. Find Michael at aerospacenyc.com. I met him at a time that was “pre-Tae Bo,” when he was promoting and developing his new Aerobox Cardiobox system. I became one of his main student teachers, and helped to galvanize both Aerobox and Aerojump in the major fitness facilities in Manhattan like Equinox and Chelsea Piers and help to make the Aerobox brand the gold standard when it came to boxing based conditioning workouts. I credit Michael also for teaching me the superb jump rope skills that I still use to this day in teaching and training my students and clients. I’ve gotten good with the rope but I’m still nowhere near as good as Michael.
Shihan Toyotaro Miyazaki
Miyakazi Shihan was my first serious martial arts teacher. I was with him for many years starting in my early 20’s. I owe my love and skill of kata (fighting forms) to Miyazaki Shihan’s instruction and his impeccable technique. It was with him that my curiosity in learning about all things Japanese began to blossom, and that extended to my studying the Japanese language, attending Shiatsu school, and embracing many aspects of Japanese arts and culture into my life. He also instilled in me a fierce but flexible sense of Japanese discipline. Though Miyazaki Shihan is retired and no longer actively teaching karate, he is still well known and respected internationally in the martial arts world. Find Shihan Miyazaki at Shotokai USA.