The Way of the Lion Martial Arts Society

"You must empty your cup to taste my cup of tea."


Many years ago I formed a nonprofit martial arts school in Surrey, BC called the Way of the Lion Martial Arts Society. I lived in a complex with lots of kids. It was a great place for my kids to grow up when they were young. We had a lot of fun. Every year they'd have a Christmas dinner in the community centre. One year they asked me to dress up as Santa and hand out gifts to the young children. Now if you know me, you know that's not really my kind of thing. I love kids but dressing up as Santa was a step out of my comfort zone. It was fun. Shortly after we began one of the older kids yelled out, hey that's not Santa, that's so and so's Dad. The place went silent. I took one look at the kid and said ya, see all those presents sitting over there? Ya he answered. Well if you want those presents then play along kid. Without hesitating he said sure thing Santa and all the hustle and bustle returned to normal. It didn't take him long to do the math. He wanted his Christmas present so he decided to play along. Good choice.

I noticed there was a group of older teenagers in the corner. I thought it was pretty cool to see them hanging out with all the younger kids and having a good time. It was obvious they were good kids. The cut off for presents was 12 years old. Santa didn't have any presents for the older kids and I felt really guilty about it so I came up with an idea. I said to them, have you guys every studied the martial arts? I think Santa might have something for you after all. I had studied the martial arts all my life. We used to run a Venturers program for some of the kids in Langley a few years prior. I'd teach them martial arts for free then we'd take them to volunteer at a food line in East Vancouver. The idea was you get something for free and you give back to the community in response. It worked well so I decided to do the same thing with these kids in Surrey. 

My ex told the court I was trying to start a youth gang and I was like WTF are you on about? I'm not teaching them to commit crime. I'm not teaching them to steal things. I'm teaching them the opposite. I'm not teaching them to sell or use drugs. I'm teaching them to stay away from that life completely by giving them something else to do. During my divorce she called up a Jewish friend I had in Belfast that I met on my mission to trash me. I spoke to him a few years later and he told me about it then said you need to cut that woman out of your life like a cancer. I laughed and sarcastically said say what you mean, don't hold back. He didn't. He always told it like it was. For me that was good advice. We all moved forward and lived happily ever after living our own separate lives. After she tried to shut us down I made the teenagers directors and formed a legitimate non profit society. 

We did something positive in the face of opposition. Whenever you try to do something good and make a difference, there's always people trying to defame you and stop you. Haters gonna hate. If you don't have haters, that means you never stood up for anything in life. I've stood up for many things in my life and embraced many just causes. Consequently I have a lot of haters. It comes with the territory. Jesus once said  "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" Christians hold Christ up as a role model and worship him yet they forget at the time they said he was sent from the devil.  Whenever you try to change things and confront evil, those trying to stop you will defame you. Defamation sifts the wheat from the chaff. The pure in heart will see through the lies. What is the chaff to the wheat? Dust in the wind.

Martial Arts Background:

I've studied many different styles of martial arts over the years. I'm kind of a jack of all trades, master of none. The first style of martial arts I studied was at Simon's Kung Fu school in Surrey. It was more like shotokan karate then kung fu. They would practice thrust punches from a deep horse stance. The horse stance is impractical to fight out of but it's great for strengthening the legs and teaching you to lower your centre of gravity. The wing chun stance in the sil lim tao form is impractical too. It's just how you stand to train something. They would also practice the downward block, rising block and the inside hooking block from a horse stance as well which are for the most part impractical but does have it's time and place. One thing I learned from Simons is that you can combine the downward block with the inside hooking block and use it to trap a spinning back kick.

When I was in high school studding at Simon's everyone started talking about the Gung fu school in Surrey run by Kirk Jacques. It was definitely next level. He was very physically fit and taught jeet kune do. He had studied a multitude of different styles was very competent. I studied there for several years. He basically taught thai boxing and wing chun but he also taught kickboxing and trained Ernie Jackson who became the Canadian middleweight champion and later went on to do stunts in movies.

Kirk also taught us a bit of Baguazhang circle walking which I really liked and recently modified to adapt it to boxing. I did some boken work with Kirk as well which I really enjoyed. Later on I did a bit of Kendo with my son which helped me understand it a bit better. Now I do a bit of Italian longsword as well as a bit of Arnis Kirk taught us. At first he taught traditional arnis from Dan Insanto, Then when I came back from traveling he taught us modern arnis from Remy Presas. I was like we had 12 angles of attack, now we have 12 different angles of attack. They were the same attacks just from different directions. Both have their time and place. There's a new Boxing school in Fleetwood that teach arnis called Mendoza boxing club. They are trying to make sport arnis popular here which is a fantastic idea. They have a grandmaster there who studied under Remy Presas in the Philippines.

There are two other very credible martial art schools in Surrey that also teach boxing. One is called WKX and the other is Bisla. Both are very credible father and son schools. There's another boxing school in Surrey called Savard's. I know people who've left there. I have no beef with the owner and I'm not going to speculate on his affiliations. He's from Quebec and I have respect for the Quebec charter. Danny is a good guy and is doing some great work bringing in some professional boxers from Mexico which is raising the bar for local boxing. I see that as good. Years ago I used to pound the bag at Titan fitness which was a very well equipped boxing gym. I am told he had affiliations but I always steered clear of that and just went there to pound the bags. A few years ago I was told he had property in Mexico and the club killed him for it. When I walk into Savard's I see all the old equipment from Titan fitness. Now Danny or Savard had nothing to do with that. It's just something that I personally struggle with. Like I said, I think they are doing great things for the local industry bringing some talent in from Mexico. 

Surrey MMA is another local school that I wrote about. Looks like they moved around the corner and have rebranded as Surrey Combat Sports and Performance. Kirk and Ernie were doing the Action beats for the movie industry back in 2019 but I'm not sure what they are doing now. They're even older than I am. All I know is that they are experienced veterans that provide world class instruction. There are lots of other martial art schools in Surrey and around the world. I respect all styles and support the study of the martial arts. In my system I emphasize the philosophy that is supposed to go along with it. Now back to my journey.

When I trained with Kirk and Ernie I had my first kickboxing match at the royal towers and got my ass kicked. It was kind of embarrassing because Kirk and Ernie were world class but it's kind of a funny story. A lesson well learned so to speak. I was young and skinny. It was my first fight in the ring. It was supposed to be his first fight. Turns out it was his first kickboxing fight but he was a boxer before that. I remember squaring off with him thinking he's a bit old for this isn't he? Then I'm kind of looking over my should as I head back to my corner, why is he wearing boxing short to a kickboxing match? I soon found out why.

Remember this was back in the early /80's when kickboxing was just beginning to get popular. It was before leg kicks were introduced. Bill Wallace was our hero. The rule was you had to get a certain amount of kicks in every round or you'd be disqualified. So they told me get your kicks in first, then you can work hands. I'm like alright, let's do this. The bell rings and I reach out to tag gloves. Meanwhile back on the ranch, as soon as the bell rings the boxer literally comes running out of his conrner and uses all that momentum to knock me off my feet with a straight right to the chin. Without hesitation I instantly bounce back and start to brawl him. I was like WTF? I was reaching out to tag. That was a cheap move. The ref jumps in pulls us apart and it became a free for all. Everything I was taught went out the window and my anger got the better of me. I couldn't think straight. I remember what they told me and think OK get your kicks in but he kept jamming my kicks and working hands. I was stressing about the number of kicks rule and didn't realize what he was doing.  Ernie yells out work your jab so I momentarily regain my composure and start nailing him with my jab. Then I get frustrated and say f*ck this and start to brawl him.  Ernie just rolls his eyes and says no...

People were telling Kirk, throw in the towel, throw in the towel. Kirk was like it's OK. He's in great shape. He just ran a marathon. Then finally the last crushing blow was lights out. All I remember is squaring off wondering why that old guy is wearing boxing shorts. The next thing I remember is waking up walking back to the changing room while a corner guy is talking to me. I see my father walking beside us and I discreetly lean over to him and ask what happened? He said you lost. You were knocked out. I was like damn. 

Afterwards one of the girls I invited to the fight came up to me all emotion saying when I saw you get knocked out I realized I'm in love with you. I was like no you're not. It was embarrassing and I needed time to process it. A couple weeks afterwards I was at the gym and another guy there finds out he's scheduled to fight the guy I just fought. He starts to freak out and exclaim I'm not fighting that guy. He's just a street fighter from East Van. I was like well whatever it was it was effective. If that's street fighting then I want to learn how to street fight. So I joined the Guardian Angels. I was sparing with one guy doing my Bill Wallace thing using a light roundhouse to the head like a jab. Every time I raised my leg up to kick he threw out a side kick to my groin. I was like f*ck. You're not allowed to do that in the ring but you are allowed to do that on the street. I'm going to have to adapt. So I jammed his side kicks and dogged him with hands.

Training in New York City:

Then I went on to New York City to train with the Guardian Angels there. Tut was a legend. He was lean and flexible. His background was Shotokan karate but he could do it all including grapple.  The way they sparred was kind of old school point sparring. It was full contact, no gloves but you weren't allowed to hit the head or groin. Curtis set up a big interview with Karate Blackbelt magazine and all the separate patrols for the various burrows met up at Central Park. It was huge. Everyone was there. Tut calls out my name to spar then with a smile on his face calls out Nicks name to be my opponent. Nick was the biggest guy there. He was one of the only other white guys there. He was a jock from Jersey that would take the train into the city on the weekends. 

We start to spar and he boots me in the balls. Tut starts to laugh and yells out Yame which is Japanese for stop. In point sparring you were supposed to stop after a point. We start up again and he elbows me in the head. Tut laughs and yells out Yame. I'm like f*ck me, you said no contact to the head or groin. I couldn't complain because I let him hit me. So I think OK I'm going to have to adapt. There was a book I had been studding on Jeet Kune do called Entering to Grappling. When we started sparring the third time I used one of those moves to circle around him, trap his arm and break his balance with a rear naked choke. He coughs and responds watch the choke hey. I think to myself that was allowed. Booting me in the balls and elbowing me in the head wasn't. 

Tut taught me a lot of things. Not just about training and patrolling but also about life. He knew I was going to be traveling around the world and he knew I didn't have any money. He says to me I'm going to tell you something a wise man once told me. He puts a dollar bill in my hand and said take a look at that bill. It doesn't say on that bill how you earned it. It doesn't say if you were a doctor, lawyer or a garbage man. Everyone's money looks the same. Then he says everyone wants a job on Wall Street. Some people are too proud to work some jobs. He said no matter where you go you will always be able to find work if you are humble enough to take it. He was right.

When I finally made it to Israel after touring Egypt I showed up at the kibbutz office in Tel Aviv with five shekels in my pocket. I had made prior arrangements to work on a kibbutz so it was all set up before hand. She was ready to send me to a really nice posh kibbutz far away and I kinda looked down and asked if she had anything a little closer. She said yes, why? I said I don't have enough money for bus fare to get there. She was shocked and said you're on the other side of the world with five dollars in your pocket? What were you going to do if you couldn't get on a kibbutz? I said I dunno. They were looking for a chef at the youth hostel I stayed at over the weekend. I thought I might work there if the kibbutz thing didn't work out. She just rolled her eyes, shook her head and sent me on my way. Tut was right. Everywhere I've been there has been work available if I was humble enough to take it.

On the kibbutz I worked out in a gym they had in a dusty old bomb shelter. It was cool. After New York and the Middle East I got a job at the Commonwealth Institute in London. In London I briefly trained in two places. I trained wing chun for a little bit with Grandmaster Victor Kang. I liked that. He was pretty old school. It took a long time for you to earn his trust before he would teach you the advanced techniques. I was placed at the front of the class and practiced their version of a straight punch with the bottom three knuckles over and over again while the older students at the back of the class worked on more advanced techniques. From Víctor Kang I learned the proper wing chun straight punch and rapid punch. 

After that I trained boxing at the Rec Centre in Brixton with the Caribbean brothers. The guy says to me let's see your stance. So I get in my flat footed kickboxer stance. He takes one look at me, rolls his eyes and says, that might be fine for the white heavyweight but stick with me and I'll teach you how to defeat the white champion. He taught me to raise my rear heel two inches off the ground while throwing punches. The reason was so you could move and throw punches while you're moving. At first it felt really uncomfortable. I felt like Rocky Balboa being retrained by Apollo Creed but I stuck with it and kept practicing it over and over again. Eventually it became natural and I didn't have to think about it. I was able to move and punch at the same time. When I came back to New York the second time and sparred with the brothers there they were shocked. They said yo homeboy fights black. It's like the saying white men can't jump. Well white men can't move but the brother in Brixton taught me how to move


When I came back from Ireland and had kids I didn't train much except for training those two groups of youth, one in Langley and later the one in Surrey.  Then one day my son says to me he wants to take Kendo. I said sure and took him to a school in Coquitlam. The instructor says to me would you like to join in? I said I sure would. I took my shoes and socks of and joined right it. It really helped put my boken work into perspective. During one class he looks and my grip and says this is baseball. This is kendo. He showed me the difference. Now I understand the proper grip for kendo. I also understand the proper strikes how they go straight up and straight down they don't whirl like a helicopter. Years later I walked into an Italian longsword school in Vancouver. They had their swords resting on their shoulder. I was shocked and said you're allowed to do that? You would never do that in bushido. This was a different style.

I had never really thought of Italy as being known for the longsword. That's more something I pictured coming out of England, Scotland or Germany. Turns out that Fiore was a famous instructor from Italy and his ancient manuscripts have survived to this day and people still study from them. Some of the longsword moves have helped me understand some of the katana moves better. They are different yet similar and I have incorported both into my own style.


When the Gracies stormed the UFC we all got into grappling. I could never understand wrestling in high school.  They told me if you put both your opponents should blades on the mat that's a pin. I was like yeah? Then what? It didn't make sense. Then we saw Royce Gracie take a boxer to the ground and the boxer had no idea what to do. Then we saw him choke out larger opponents in the guard with his feet using a triangle choke while both his shoulder blades were touching the ground. That's when the light went on for me. That made sense. From the guard you could choke people with with your arms and your legs. You could roll into an arm bar. There were a whole lot of things you could do when a wrestler said it was over. When I ran that non profit martial arts school in Surrey we started to get into grappling as well. We studied ankle locks and knee locks from Marco Ruas and Russian Sambo.

Modern Boxing:

I used to be really into Thai boxing. Thai boxing and Wing chun were my favorite. Kirk taught us a very specific variation of the Thai boxing leg kick he learned from Benny the Jet down in California. I used to love to practice my leg kick with my shin on the monster tires at the gym. When I blew out my hip I was f*cked. I needed two canes to walk. One guy sees me hobbling around the gym with two canes and said wow, I remember you used to kick the sh*t out of the tire. I was like yeah that probably wasn't very good for my hip. You don't really think about that at the time. Turns out mine was genetic. I only blew out my hip on one side but I kicked the tire with both sides. Nevertheless, after my hip replacement I've had to modify my approach. Now I'm southpaw. Now I box.

Several years ago I started working with Jay Byard in Surrey. He was a heavyweight boxer. There was a UFC gym in Coquitlam at the time and a famous UFC fighter was teaching boxing there but I had already been taught boxing by  kickboxer. I wanted to learn boxing from a boxer. That's why I went to Jay. Jay was an excellent trainer. He taught me some very subtle and significant differences that I have incorporated into my own style. I'm not going to mention them here. I'll simply say if you want to learn those you're going to have to take some sessions with Jay yourself. I've taken some of the footwork Jay taught me and remixed it with some of the Baguazhang circle walking Kirk Jacques taught me along with some of the footwork the Caribbean boxer taught me in Brixton and put it together into a nice mosaic. It's what I call the way of the lion. I first studied JKD which was from Bruce Lee. His style was open ended. It was a form without a form like water. He called his the way of the dragon. I call mine the way of the lion taken from the lion on my coat of arms. The artist who painted my grant of arms knew I had a martial arts background and kind of made the lion look Asian.

The logo Kirk made for the Gung fu school in Surrey was a ying yang symbol with a kickboxer on it. The kickboxer was standing on one of the small circles with one foot and was kicking the other small circle with the other foot as though it was a suspended bag with elastic rope. For my logo I took the yin yang symbol and spun it sideways because there really is no right side up with that symbol. I used that to mean it was the Eastern philosophies from a Western perspective. Then I took the lion form my coat of arms and placed it in the centre facing and confronting the small dark circle because as Martin Luther King said  "Noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good."