Herman & Shannon Suwanda

Remembering Pak Herman Suwanda And Ibu Shannon on the 7th year anniversary of their passing March 21, 2000

Ibu Shannon
Pendekar Guru Besar Herman Suwanda
(C) 2000, pli
Inosanto Academy, Los Angeles CA USA

Larry Hartsell

Remembering Sifu Larry Hartsell

It Is With Great Sadness
That We Announce The Passing Of Our Beloved Friend
Larry Benjamin Hartsell

August 15, 1942 – August 20, 2007

For over 40 years Larry filled our life with love and laughter.  His loyalty and dedication to his family, teacher, students and friends was unparalleled.

A true warrior, Larry served his country as a soldier in Vietnam and served the martial art community for over 4 decades.

The martial art community has lost a true master.  We have lost a dear friend, but gained so much more by having had Larry in our lives.

Of all that he loved in this life, the martial arts, his students, friends and boxer dogs, he loved his Debra most of all.

He will be missed.

Survived by his loving, devoted wife Debra Hartsell, Marina Del Rey, CA
Brother, Dale Hartsell and sister Cheryl Hartsell Mills Charlotte, NC
And Simon Dempsey & Chelsea Hartsell (faithful boxer dogs)

Condolences & donations may be sent to the family in care of the Inosanto Academy, 13428 Maxella Avenue #237, Marina Del Rey, CA 90292

In accordance with the family’s wishes, funeral services will be private.
Memorial service pending, future information will be posted at www.inosanto.com

“You can shed tears that he is gone,
or you can smile because he has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that he’ll come back,
or you can open your eyes and see all he’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see him,
or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday,
or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember him only that he is gone,
or you can cherish his memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind,
be empty and turn your back.
Or you can do what he’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.”

A poem by
David Harkins

Email condolences may be sent to inosantoacademy@aol.com

With Sifu Francis Fong

With Ajarn Chai, Sifu Francis Fong, Guro Dan Inosanto

A Note From Rick Young

First of all I would like to express my sincere condolences to Debra Hartsell and all of Sifu Hartsell’s family and friends.

When I first heard the news of Sifu Hartsell’s passing I was and to a large extend still am deeply shocked. I find it hard to believe he has passed on. This is mostly because I don’t want it to be true. When I think of Sifu Larry I have thoughts of a towering man who possessed tremendous skills but who also was full of generosity and friendship.

I first trained under Sifu Hartsell during the summer of 1984 when I visited Los Angeles and the Inosanto academy for the first time. I was a little apprehensive about this man of whom I had heard so many incredible stories of his time in Vietnam, his sheriff work, his bodyguard career and of course his martial arts prowess.  I was so delighted then to be taught a class by someone who not only possessed fantastic skills in the arts but who was also so gently spoken and unassuming that it was hard to reconcile some of the story’s I had heard  with the man I was now meeting. But as I was to learn in the following years Sifu Larry was really Ying and Yang; a soft spoken gentle man who had time for everyone and who was also incredible effective as a martial artist and teacher.
I have many fond memories of him coming to Edinburgh, giving seminars and me following him anywhere  from the Highlands of Scotland to London on his many tours of the United Kingdom. When I visited Los Angeles he would teach me for free and allow me to stay in his apartment even when he was out of town because he knew I was having a hard time financially.

He always encouraged and praised me helping me to develop and to work out what I should do and were I should go. He opened many doors for me and if it was not for his guidance and encouragement I would not have achieved anything like what I have achieved in my martial arts development and in my life.

I regret very little in my life and try not to live in the past or to look back and wonder “What if?” too often. But I do regret not letting him know how much he really meant to me and how much he influenced my life. So I think this letter is really to thank Sifu Larry Benjamin Hartsell for all he has given me, my family, my friends and my students. His influence will echo down the years and be felt for generations to come.

Sifu, wherever you are I will treasure the memories I have of you and the knowledge you have given me. And finally I   “Thank you” for all of this with all my heart and all my love.

Rick Young

Leo Giron

The Filipino Martial Art community mourns the loss of one of the greatest bladed warriors of the 20-century.
Grand Master Emeritus Leo M. Giron the founder of the world-renowned Bahala Na Filipino Martial Arts Association passed away on May 21, 2002 due to a heart condition.

Leovigildo “Leo” Miguel Giron was born in Bayambang a little barrio in the province of Pangasinan, Philippines on August 20, 1911. Young Giron first started his training in the Filipino arts because of the neighborhood children and bullies that would take advantage of him and others. Giron soon learned, however, that if he stood up to hem and made one of them cry, the rest would run away and leave him alone.

All of Giron’s early training was with family members. They would train under the mango tree late at night. Giron would first hold the lantern for the training until his father had asked the teacher to train young Giron. His training started in 1921 and lasted until 1926 until Giron would set sail on the USS President Lincoln for America.

Giron landed in San Francisco in November 1926 and was picked up by his cousin and brought to Stockton, California. During this time Stockton, California had the largest population of Filipinos in American that it would earn the nickname “Little Manila”. Young Giron would work in various areas in Stockton until in 1929 when he would move to Meridian, California to pick prunes. During this time he would meet a many by the name of Flaviano Vergara. Vergara was from the town of Santa Cruz in Ilocos Sur Luzon, Philippines. Vergara was the top student of Dalmacio Bergoina who defeated the great champion Santiago Toledo. Giron and Vergara would “play” deep in the orchards so no one would be able to watch the secret training of the deadly art of Arnis / Escrima. There training would last from 1929 until 1932. Vergara and Grion would meet again directly after t he outbreak of World War II. They would train again for the last time from October 1942 until January 1943.

In 1937 Giron was initiated into the Legionarios del Trabajo in America. The Legionarios del Trabajo is a fraternal order or lodge, they would be known as one of the most powerful and riches of any other Filipino lodge. This organization with membership at the time would top over 3,000 members, 86 men’s lodges and 12 women’s only lodges.

On September 24, 1942 he was inducted into the United States Army and would be attached to the 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiment and would later be assigned to the famous 978th Signal Group and The Allied Intelligence Bureau. This was a select group of men that served as secret operatives for General Douglas Macarthur. Then Sergeant Leo Giron would be dropped behind enemy lines by submarine nearly one full year before any America Soldier would set foot on Philippine soil. It was there assignment to search out the enemy, extending lines of communication, securing vital weather data and obtaining military information and not to be detected by the enemy. Sergeant Giron lead a group of American and Philippine soldier’s through the most hazardous conditions of Would War II deep in the jungles of the Philippines. Many encounters are documented in the United States Library of Congress in Washington DC. Because of his contributions during World War II Sergeant Giron would receive, The Bronze Star Medal, The Philippine Liberation Ribbon, The Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, The American Campaign Medal, the World War II Victory Medal and a letter of commendation ordered by the President of the United States of America.

Giron would return to civilian life as World War II hero and a part of America’s Greatest Generation. But, without anyone knowing he would return too live a new and normal life in America as a Filipino American, not pondering on his heroics during the War.

After the war Giron would return to Stockton, California to raise a family and having two daughters Christina and Regina along with two sons Michael and Thomas.

Because of a person back East that had killed several nursing students, most of them Filipino women this would enrage Giron that only if they would know self defense they could have try to subdue this maniac. So in 1968 Leo Giron would open his first licensed Bahala Na club in Tracy California.

In 1970 Grand Master Leo M. Giron and wife Alberta would move to Stockton along with his Bahala Na Club. And in 1973 the first student to graduate from his system would be Stockton born and World Renown Martial Artist Dan Inosanto. Along with martial art greats such as Dentoy Revillar, Richard Bustillo and Ted Lucaylucay. In 1979 the first meeting was called to order of the Bahala Na Filipino Martial Arts Association. Grand Master Giron was the founder and leader of this Association that is governed by a Constitution and by laws.

Grand Master Giron’s contributions to the Filipino Martial Arts in general were enormous. He was known as the Father of Larga Mano in America. A World War II veteran that knew how to use his weapon and will be always remembered as a great man, a humble man, with dignity, love in his heart, a living legend and martial art Icon. He was a super star, he was our star and he was our shinning light of life. He gave us all the liberty of freedom to learn of life and the arts, Equality in having the necessary ability and strength, Fraternity in which the same beliefs in work along with fellowship and family.

Grand Master Giron left us with a legacy that we must all carry on with all of those that would like to share in his system.

Please allow me to quote Guro Dan and Paula Inosanto:

I love this man. Manong Leo was like a second father to Paula and me. Grandpa Leo to our daughter Danielle. He has been my advisor, counselor and Guro. He was a problem solver for me. I could call him anytime and ask for advice and guidance on any problem. He was always there for me, with his wisdom, strength and humor he never failed to help or guide me.

He instilled in me, great pride in being an American Filipino and helped me to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation in my Filipino Culture and heritage by teaching me the Filipino Martial Arts. Manong Leo was instrumental in giving me the incentive to further research, promote and teach the Filipino martial arts to others. Manong Leo was truly a “HERO”, not only to the Filipino people, or the American born Filipino, such as myself, but to for all Americans. His distinguished and courageous service to our county during time of war has always inspired me. Manong Leo influenced, for the better so many so many people. His legacy will live on. His art, in the capable and strong hands of Tony Somera, will thrive and continue to grow and educate the martial art community and all those who study and train in the arts. Many generations to come will benefit from the time Manong Leo spent with us. And while I wish he could have stayed with us a while longer, I thank God that he allowed me the honor and privilege to spend as many years as I did, with one of the kindest, wisest, and humblest human beings it was my privilege to know.
God Bless you, Manong Leo.

Sincerely, Guro Dan Inosanto.

If God made man in his image, he had an outstanding day on August 20, 1911 when he created Leo M. Giron.

I deeply love this great man and I thank God he allowed me to share in his life and art. I will truly miss him but his legacy will live on through us all. He was my teacher and he was my very best friend.

God Bless you Uncle Leo.
Antonio E. Somera
Grand Master

Bahala Na Filipino Martial Arts As

Terry Gibson

What Makes A Man Rich: A Story About The Richest Man I’ve Known:
Sifu Terry Gibson

written by Harley Elmore

 I was watching a movie yesterday about a brave warrior who fought a very long, hard battle and had been mortally wounded in the fight. He soon came to the realization that all he owned were the clothes on his back and the sword in his hands, and he would die a pauper. Thankful for all the warrior had done, the King declared he should be buried as a king: wealthy and rich. The warrior on his deathbed had a sudden revelation.  To be buried as a king would not truly make him rich.  Instead he replied to the king: “A man might be considered rich if someone wrote the story of his life, so that others may learn of him.”  The brave warrior was right. By telling the stories of those we have lost, they live on forever and can touch many peoples’  lives. These stories make the people who hear them rich beyond belief.

I write articles and speak of Sifu Terry Gibson often.  I want others to know of him, to feel the same way I felt about him.  I want to remind people of him.  I want them to realize how valuable he was to me and to many others in these arts and of his influence on the arts in which we train, and as a way of saying thanks to my old friend and Sifu.   He was a rich man indeed!

I couldn’t possibly count the number of things I learned from Sifu Gibson. The number is immeasurable.   However, I would like to share with you the ten lessons he taught me that have had the most impact on my life. These lessons helped me to become the man and martial artist I am today. I carry them with me everyday and continue to lead my life by his example.


Sifu Terry was blessed with some genetic gifts; of that there is no doubt.  His diet, workout regime, teaching schedule and never-ending search for knowledge inspired all his students to continue to work toward higher and higher levels of skill.


Every day, Sifu Terry got up and watched some kind of martial arts videotape.  It helped him to visualize the movement perfectly.  It helped to hear the lecture over and over again.  It also helped inspire him toward the skill level of the instructor he was watching, weather it was Guro Inosanto, Ajarn Chai or Pak Suwanda.


As an Attorney, Sifu Terry had the fantastic opportunity to travel and train with the best in the world, including Guro Inosanto, Ajarn Chai Sirisute, Pak Herman Suwanda and many others.  He had the understanding that if given the chance, we would all choose a higher level of quality when it comes to education.  He continued that demand for quality, even when it was incredibly difficult to do so.


Australia, New Zealand, Europe, Indonesia, all over the United States.  He thought it was important to travel and grow and meet new people.  He also thought it was important to see new things that were exciting and rewarding.  It increased the depth of his life.  Thanks Nino, thanks Cookie.


I hear all the time, “The thing that impressed me was he remembered my name.”  He sincerely wanted to know you. He knew your name, your wife’s name, whether or not you had kids, and everything else about you.  He made you feel welcome when you saw him.  He gave you a hug every time you came into the Academy; something I carry on in my school today.  I still remember the first time he hugged me.  I felt welcome!


Time can create some strong bonds, even without effort.  If you stayed around very long, a real bond grew between the two of you, and between classmates.  He had a way of  turning students into friends and friends into family. Loyalty was just a natural byproduct.


He confided in me that he really hated being an attorney.  He decided to teach martial arts, which was so much more rewarding for him.  He loved inspiring others, mentoring them, and leading them towards excellence.  He himself got to travel, learn and grow.  That in itself was enough, but watching someone like Miles Hibbard pass a test, and see the reward in him, was even more awesome!


This was something I didn’t appreciate until much much later.  As his Program Director, I was frustrated by his absence from our Academy while traveling.  I sometimes considered him a little self-indulgent, and couldn’t understand why he was gone so much.  Thinking of this as the “privilege of rank” I kept my mouth shut.  Later on, I came to understand this lesson as he did.  It actually should read, “Live your life like everyday might be your last, for one of them surely will be.”


I watched and learned what this lesson was about.  I couldn’t decipher it at the time, but as time goes by, I understand it more and more.  Sifu Terry was loyal to Guro Inosanto because he loved him. It was as simple as that.  He would have trained with him if he taught basket weaving.  Now I understand his dedication, loyalty and commitment to his instructors, even in the face of adversity and strife, financial or personal.


 This one is the hardest to write about.  Really, all I can say is it would be the greatest thing we could ever hope for, ever achieve, or ever accomplish, if we could all find our very own Cathy Gibson to be our mate and companion.

To my brothers and sisters who will read this, I apologize for mentioning specific names, for bringing up old memories that do more than make your eyes and heart sting, and for giving just my limited view of this complex and deeply personal man.

My Time with Sifu Gibson

written by Harley Elmore

 Even now, three years after his passing, it is difficult to write about him. His presence in our lives was so strong that when I’m at Gibson’s I still kinda expect him to walk out of the office and elbow the doorway (as was his unconscious habit). I also realize that many people, even today, will not be able to read this article because the loss was so tragic it still stabs deep, deeper than any of us will admit even to each other.  But in this time of year, I can’t help but think of him often and I know many of you feel the same way.  Hopefully, this article will help you remember the good times.

My first impression of Terry was not what he would have wanted. I met him at a Sifu Francis Fong seminar in Tulsa.  I thought his footwork was slow (later I learned to use this Thai boxing footwork and appreciate its value) and that he was way too bulky to do anything but grab you and crush you.  Of course, I was comparing him to Sifu Fong — not quite the same structure.  Anyway, I later learned I was right about one thing: he could grab you and crush you alright!  But that was not all.  He turned out to be everything I ever wanted in an instructor; even some things I didn’t want, but needed.

As time went on, I was honored by Terry and Cathy when they gave me the position of Program Director at his school in Tulsa, Oklahoma.   It was a difficult time for me, a lot of changes: new home, new job, new friends, everything.  Without the support of my then girlfriend, Heather, and the constant prodding by Terry, I’m not sure I would have been up to the task.

With their patience and understanding, I became a decent program director.  As time continued, and experience traveled with it, I also became known as a pretty good instructor as well, eventually doing my own private lessons, seminars etc.  I covered Terry’s private lesson load (no small feat) when he was traveling the world doing seminars with Cathy.  I was fortunate to be on a few of Terry’s tapes he produced, though I only began to feel comfortable  around the third or fourth one.  There were some great outtakes from those days, and some even I wouldn’t want to see again.  I remember on Knife Fighting Vol. 2 during a multiple attack sequence, where Terry was feeding me freestyle, one of my counters was a tad too weak for his power and he hit me with the Punyo of his dagger right in the mouth.  We both finished the drill.  Later I asked if we could film it again, and he said that it was good for people to see a mistake; it lets them know that it’s ok to mess up themselves.  So if you look on that tape, there I am, learning a lesson in humility as well as teaching, all wrapped up in one nice little video.

Later, I moved away, for what reason I cannot now recall.  During that time, my contact with Terry and Cathy became less frequent, as I was busy trying to make a living.  Then I got a call from Terry.  He was ill.   Darian (the program director at the time) was ill as well, so there was no one to run the school. I quit my job and was at Gibson’s the next day.  I have to say that none of this would have been possible without the support of Heather, but that is another long story.

I resumed teaching and worked at the school to help out; with Cathy’s guidance re-wrote the curriculum and began to help take care of Terry at home.  ( I moved in with them to help.)  I lived with them until Terry’s passing, working at night and staying with Terry, or going to the school, whatever was needed.  One of mine and Terry’s favorite things to do was watch videotapes.  We watched some for fun and others for excitement.  We compiled a list of best and worst tapes.  We studied Guro Inosanto and Ajarn Chai.  We discussed the secrets of the world during those days, which eventually lead us to religious beliefs. Terry was himself religious and had good friends who were as well. We continued our study in this area.  Eventually I had the great honor of baptizing Terry, Cathy, and a guy who was to eventually become one of my closest friends, Carl Goforth.  We continued to discuss the martial arts, friends, and family.  He mentioned that he would miss it all. I realize now that it is far more the case that all of it misses him.

 I must say that in the years I spent with Terry, I learned more from him in the last eight months I spent with him and Cathy, than I in did in all the previous years. I saw just how strong Terry really was, even in very uncomfortable times.  I learned what bravery really was as I watched Cathy work with him daily, pushing and pushing to continue under the stress.  I realize these are very private moments I’m talking about, but this is to those of you who really knew Terry – to those select few who received some gift to remember him by when he called you in. The blade he gave me is one of my most precious possessions, and the book I read regularly.

Let me say this in closing:  Terry realized after his first brain tumor that he could go any day.  After that, he started living.  He treated every day as if it would be his last.  He traveled the world, built a martial arts powerhouse of a school, and created a loving family that stretched around the world. In the last fifteen years of his life he did what he wanted to do.  Shouldn’t we be looking at that as his final lesson to us?  Shouldn’t we be looking at his example of how he lived?

And finally, I want to pass on what he wrote to me in the book he gave me to remember him by.  I only do this because it is my wish that you will do it as well:

“Remember the Good Times,
With X-treme Love Terry”

Sifu Terry Gibson seen here with Danielle Inosanto