Johnny Curtis Wins His Pro Debut

Johnny Curtis won his pro debut in 1:40 seconds of the first round with arm triangle choke submission.

This is 4 straight wins for the all American wrestler with first round choke submissions.
Fairfax times newspaper article on Pro MMA Fighter Johnny Curtis and some great pics in a slideshow of his prep and fight. Just hit play at the bottom left corner of the page.

Clay Johnson Is Truly An Original

Message from Master Thomas

I began teaching martial arts in 1978 at the Virginia Baptist Children’s home upon receiving my first black belt at the age of 18.

From my first day as a student it was my desire to become the best martial arist I could possibly be.
I was able to overcome severe health issues from my childhood, as well as travel, train with world champions, become a member of a prominent national team, eventually winning a world championship in 1990.
Over the years I have continued my education and earned several black belts from multiple arts and over the last several years earned hall of fame honors from different countries.
When I opened my school I became a full time instructor in 1982 right out of college. At the time people thought I was insane to try to run a martial arts school as a full time business.
Almost everyone in the country accept a precious few did martial arts as a hobby and had other vocations that were thought of as secure.

When I began teaching for a living my thought was “this is something that I know will positively impact a person’s life for the better because it certainly did me.”
So I had conviction that I could do good for people while able to do what I personally loved and feed myself all at the same time.

Over this 30 year journey I have seen children who were my students grow to save their own families and bring their children to me as students too.

I have seen students go on to become world champions as well, movie stunt men, marines, doctors, lawyers, and even pastors.

It has been very satisfying to see them prosper from what I have taught them.

I have seen them become part of my extended family and friends that I have cherished for decades.
Unfortunately if you are part of something for this long or just live long enough in general, part of life is also to loose loved ones and have the unenviable position to see them pass away.

30 years is a long time and a person that walks a path for that long will do great things and make tremendous life changing mistakes as well, see amazing, heart warming, heart breaking, humorous, awe inspiring, embarrassing, humiliating, soul crushing, as well as uplifting adventures that make a soul strong.

One such adventure began early on when a young man on crutches and his girlfriend entered my school an asked if I would accept him as a student. The young man’s name was Clay Johnson and upon accepting him as a student we forever changed each other’s lives from that day forward.

I saw Clay as a person with a tremendous soul but a damaged body, not unlike the way I viewed myself as a teen entering martial arts for the first time.

I knew that with heart a person could overcome hardship and the world could see what the person was all about.
Not where they came from, not how much money the did or didn’t have, not their religion, gender, race etc. but their spirit.
To me martial arts is a vehicle to where whatever is in you can be developed much as a brush for an artist.
The art or magic is in you, you just need the brush to make it material and not idea.
Over the past several decades Clay and I traveled all over the country to events such as competitions, training events, exhibitions in order to live the martial arts lifestyle.
At a point Clay and I opened a school in his hometown and over time I turned it over to him and he has ran it by himself from his chair.
As a student Clay was extremely dedicated, hard working and goal oriented. Clay has never allowed anything to stop him from pursuing his childhood dream of becoming the entity and ideal that we both saw illustrated by Bruce Lee in film when we were children.

To me a true martial artist is not an athlete that just beats on people in competitions.
My ideal envisioning of what a martial artist is would be someone that can take everything life has to throw at them and continue to fight the good fight regardless of circumstances.

Every time in my own personal training that I felt lazy, uninspired, or like life was hard or unfair for me I would look at Clay and feel ashamed for my weakness.

From Clay’s example I have seen that everyone has handicaps in various degrees, most are of the spirit and not easy to see.

The Japanese say “fall down 9 times, get up 10”
I can think of no one I have ever known that illustrates this concept more than Clay.

For this reason and for his tireless efforts toward self improvement for the past several decades regardless of great personal, physical, and emotional obstacles on December 1st 2007 I promoted Clay Johnson to the rank of 4th degree (Renshi) master level in the art and science of human survival we call American Freestyle Karate.
I am more pleased and proud to call Clay my long time friend, student, and personal inspiration that I can easily articulate.

In the beginning of article I gave a summery of my personal evolution not to talk about me but to illustrate the time and effort of someone that has full use of his body and how hard this life choice is for so called “regular” people. For those of you in martial arts that know how hard it is to attain master level anyway, this only shows more clearly what a monumental task Clay has accomplished where so many countless people have failed.

Clay is truly an original.

Master Eddie Thomas

On Saturday, April 29, 2006, Clay Johnson =as awarded the Lifetime Achievement award from the American Freestyle Karat= Association. Johnson, who was born with Cerebral Palsy, has operated the A=erican Freestyle Martial Arts Academy in Covington since 1987. He teaches martial arts to students ranging in age from age 10 to age 70.

Click Here for video.

Related: Read the 2003 story by Matt Chittum — His abilities in martial arts have surprised many

His abilities in martial arts have surprised many
Clay Johnson can’t do everything he knows how to do, but he can teach it.

By Matt Chittum
November 24, 2003

Mean kids called him “one-ear” and “retarded.”

Clay Johnson was born with cerebral palsy. He had no left ear, twig-like legs that were contorted to the right, and only his right arm was fully usable. He didn’t like himself, and figured no one else did, either. People call hi= different names now.

Three nights a week, he sits in a wheelchair at the front of a room in a gra= cinder-block building on the outskirts of Covington. Bruce Lee watches fro= framed portraits on the wall. Students bow courteously when they enter Joh=son’s martial arts school.

They call him sensei, sifu, guro – teacher.

From his chair, he barks out the school credo, and the students repeat it: “To build true confidence through knowledge and mind, honesty in the heart and strength in the body; to keep friendship with one another and build a strong and happy community; never fight to achieve selfish ends, but to develop fight for right.”

Johnson, 42, gives and gets what 20 years of devotion to martial arts have taught him to give himself: respect.

On Friday, Johnson traded his second-degree karate black belt for a rented t=xedo, the first he’s ever worn. At a 6 p.m. ceremony in Lynchburg, Johnson was inducted into the American Freestyle Karate Association’s Hall of Fame and was named instructor of the year.

The crowd who saw him go up to accept his plaque learned what he knows more than anyone is true: Martial arts changed his life.

Teased unmercifully

“What are you going to do with him?” people would ask Johnson’s father when =hey saw the disfigured toddler. “I’m going to keep him,” Ernie Johnson would say.

Ernie, a Westvaco worker, and his wife, Smitty, a nurse, did what they could with limited means to help their son. Before he was 18, Clay had 30 surgeries on his legs, feet and jaw, including attempts to create a crudely fashioned ear.

They sent him to public schools, but say they were ill-equipped physically a=d emotionally to deal with a child who has disabilities. He spent most of has time inside his parents’ brick ranch in Clifton Forge, the only place he has ever lived.

Schoolmates picked on Clay unmercifully; frequently they extorted him for his lunch money, he said. Until junior high school, he had no friends. “I was lonely a lot, but I was happy,” he said.

Johnson roamed the Heights section of Clifton Forge on a three-wheeled bike he peddled jerkily with feeble legs, followed by a mutt dog named Joe. Mostly, he watched television and projected himself into what he saw.

He watched “Starsky and Hutch” and wanted to be a cop. He watched “Kung Fu” and felt connected to its lonely, drifting, misunderstood protagonist.

When he was 10, he saw a sports program about a man with no legs and witnessed the guy whip five able-bodied opponents in a karate match.

Johnson figured maybe he could do that, too. “I thought, if I was able to pop somebody, I’d get left alone.”

But except for one Alleghany County sheriff’s deputy who trained him briefly no one wanted to teach a man with disabilities. Some even laughed at the suggestion.

The first who didn’t was Eddie Thomas, owner of American Free Style Karate in Salem. Thomas strengthened Johnson’s upper body, sparred with him like any other student, and entered him in competitions to help Johnson overcome his shyness.

Johnson excelled in the “kato” competition, where contestants attempt to dem=nstrate perfect form. But he never did much as a fighter. His wheelchair make him a human punching bag, Johnson said.

He sought to punish opponents who disrespected him, though. In his first fight as a black belt, he sensed his opponent was babying him. He grabbed the men by the back of the head and knocked him semiconscious with a blow to the face.

“I never expected to win fights,” Johnson said. “As long as I get a good show in, and they respect me, that’s OK.”

Maybe one in 500 of Thomas’ students earn their black belt, though not all seek it. Thomas predicted it would take Johnson six years to get his. Johnson made it in five.

Award a ‘big deal’

Johnson retired from competition in 1991.

He has run his own school since 1987, but he’s never done more than break even on it, he said. It gets him out of the house. It also gives him a place of respect, though that still doesn’t come easily.

He sees concerned faces when he meets potential students or their parents: “How’s he going to teach me?” they wonder.

Johnson’s credentials should be convincing enough. He’s a certified instructor in American Freestyle Karate, Thai boxing, Filipino martial arts and Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu, the art developed by the late martial arts legend Bruce Lee Johnson has studied with Dan Inosanto, Lee’s protege, who took the helm of Lee’s martial arts school when Lee left to make movies. Johnson has trained nine black belts himself.

Still, new students are unsure, so he gives the first three lessons for free.

“It didn’t take but a couple of classes to see it [Johnson’s disability] doesn’t matter,” said Terry Clemons, whose son Brian, 7, is in Johnson’s beginners class.

“Out of all the stuff I know how to do, I can only do about 10 percent of it myself,” Johnson said. But he can still teach it.

Though he can walk on crutches, Johnson mostly stays in his chair. He instructs students verbally on form, occasionally adjusting their position by hand. He addresses everyone as “sir” or “ma’am.” But Johnson tolerates no laziness. “If you want to trade places, you take this chair and I’ll take your ability and go off,” he will tell a slack student.

He mentions Thomas often, telling students how Thomas taught him. It was Thomas who nominated his former student for the AFKA hall of fame, which recognizes mostly East Coast martial artists.

“It’s a big deal . . . because it’s people recognizing him for his work and tenacity,” Thomas said. “His determination is pretty inspirational to a lot of people.”

Johnson knows that. But the real benefits of his life in martial arts have been for himself.

Karate didn’t save Johnson’s life, but it saved it from loneliness and anonymity.

“It actually gave me my identity,” he said. “I tried to gauge myself by what I saw on TV when I was little. Now, it’s more like, ‘I’m me.’ “


Clay Johnson and Ken Chun at the Inosanto Seminar in Woodbridge, VA.

Juan Perez

Juan Perez

Jeffrey A. Vires, Major, USAF
Manas AB, Kyrgyz Republic

November 2007 News

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Congratulations to Professor Pedro Sauer!

After 24 years as a black belt he had earned his Red/Black belt and is one of only 10 ever awarded such rank under Helio Gracie.

Master Pedro Sauer is traveling to Brazil next week for a ceremony with Helio Gracie.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New Baby!

Congratulations To IIMAIA Instructor Shawn Meyer and Family on the birth of Lillian Kjersten Meyer
Born April 1, 2007
6 pounds 11 ounces

Natural Weapons of the Wheelchair

written by Ken Chun

For the past twenty-three years that I’ve been practicing martial arts, I’ve gotten the same question time and again: “How do you do martial arts from a wheelchair?” I have a simple answer: “observation and adaptation”. Using what I have observed from the martial arts of Filipino Kali and Jun Fan Gung Fu in the last seven years, and taking my inspiration from Mr. Ron Scanlon, himself a martial artist who uses a wheelchair as well as an instructor in a form of Kung Fu called San Soo, I have come up with several adaptations using my wheelchair as a weapon. Please note that these are my observations and they work for me. If you ever attempt to use any of these you do so at your own risk. I am merely sharing these for your information, not instruction.

Removable arms – using FMA angles one and two you can disable an attacker by striking the collar bones or the knees, or by using angle five and thrusting the tip (or tips) of your wheelchair arm into an attacker’s solar plexus or abdomen. You could also use angles nine and ten to the knees, but I wouldn’t advise using more than four angles because then you risk having your weapon taken from you and used against you.

Quick-release legs – Using FMA angles eleven and twelve you can disable an attacker by striking his knees as hard as possible, but be prepared to drop the legs and use a follow up with your hands such as the plum from Muay Thai where you can then elbow or punch.

Using the footrests on the wheelchair while moving toward an attacker and ramming into the ankle or shin you can stop the attacker’s leg in the same way that a pendulum (or shuffle) kick from Jun Fan Gung Fu or a foot sweep from any number of other martial arts would do. The attacker may fall forward from this, so be ready to move quickly and use a follow-up from Muay Thai such as “jab – cross – plum – elbows or punches to the head” (can you tell I like this follow up?) or, simply move out of the way if you’re quick enough and let him fall to the ground. Then you can use your footrests again against the attacker’s head. Your wheels are also a weapon. Rolling over an attacker’s hands while he’s down on the ground has a wonderfully demoralizing effect, especially if you do it slowly.

To use the wheelchair to do a sweep like in Muay Thai (or other martial arts), swing the legs of the chair as fast as you can and as hard as you can to catch an attacker’s heel, ankle, or calf. This will either trip him or put him off balance and most likely cause him to fall into you as in the above situation. From that position you can do either a choke or execute an arm lock by hooking the arm closest to you as he falls and introducing his hand to his shoulder blades.

As with any technique, they do not always work as they should so be prepared to improvise and adapt to whatever happens. Remember, the main goal is to protect yourself from harm and get away as quickly as possible. When the odds are against you, do what you have to in order to get away and stay safe.

(In)Tolerance In The Martial Arts

written by Ken Chun

So there I was, enjoying the breeze blowing through the academy after a seminar given by Guro Dan. It was a great seminar; everybody seemed to enjoy himself or herself after training hard. Then it happened: a complaint that I just knew would happen about a blind student of ours who attended the seminar. He does mostly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Combat Submission Wrestling, but he likes to get in as many seminars as he can hoping, as we all do, to take something away from the seminar that is useful to him. The person who lodged a complaint after the seminar really is a nice guy, but he chose to express himself very poorly. While I agree it is improbable that a blind person would get into a situation where he would have to do any stick or knife fighting, it isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility. Besides which, he has every right to be at whatever seminar he wishes to attend.

It amazes me that there are still people around with the exclusionary mindset towards handicapped people that was so prevalent back in the 1960’s, 1970’s, and early 1980’s. I remember clearly being told so many times, “oh, you can’t do that!” simply because of my handicap. Well, guess what – I CAN AND I DID!! And so can he! The exact words to me were, “I’m not anti-handicapped, but he should be somewhere on the mat where he won’t be in the way of sticks.” He intimated that a “handicapped zone” should be set up on the mat. Okay, so his angles with his sticks aren’t pretty and he grazed a few people who got too close to him during the seminar. In my opinion it was their fault. Not to sound callous or prejudiced like the person who inspired me to write this but hey, if you see a blind guy with a couple of kali sticks you probably don’t want to get too close, am I right? After all, it’s not like he can see you getting too close and move out of the way.

More and more, I see seminars not only as an opportunity to get in some great training with true legends, I also see it as an opportunity for people to learn tolerance of other people’s differences. Whether those differences are from being less skilled in the martial arts or because of a handicap, everybody has the right to participate in training. Remember to keep an open mind, folks. If your mind isn’t open to new ideas and concepts, then how much are you really learning at a seminar anyway?

Erik Wins!

Congratulations Erik Paulson!
Round One 1:44 sec.- By Submission (Arm Bar)
Erik Paulson scored first round submission in the debut of Mark Cuban’s HDNet Fights Saturday, October 13, 2007, in Dallas, Texas.

Fight Results – Mossey’s Crew

What a great night of fights! Jay fought at 180 and as it turns out, his opponent lied about his background and had previous fights in boxing and MMA. Never the less, Jay walked him down, and had him on the run for 3 rounds. After the first round Jay had a bloody nose and the ref tried to stop the fight. Jay pushed me away in the corner and said “hell no I want to fight”. He wiped the blood away and with unbelievable courage went straight to the center of the ring.

He fought hard but lost the decision to a more experienced fighter. Kru Nishi was the main event as the guy he was fighting came from a highly respected Muay Thai school in Pittsburg. Sit-dragon leg. They have several full time fighter coaches and their head instructor was a national champion in Thailand with 190 pro fights. This was a highly anticipated fight and the crowd was on edge as the fighters performed the Wai Kru. From the first exchange Kru Nishi dominated the fight with constant forward pressure, flying knees, and impressive clinch work. The crowd was on their feet rooting for Kru Nishi who was the underdog.

The other fighter pulled off some impressive sweeps after tying up the leg but Kru Nishi was just too powerful for him. It was one of the best fights I have ever seen and the crowd gave Kru Nishi a standing ovation. Both Jay and Kru Nishi represented MAMA, the Inosanto community, Ajarn Chai and the TBA with honor, respect and dignity. I could not be prouder of them!

Kru Moss