When I started Martial Arts all I wanted was to be a good fighter.
My plan was not to learn one style of martial arts and stick with it for the rest of my life. I also had no aspirations of creating my own system or even having my own school. What I wanted to do is make myself a well-rounded martial artist. All I wanted to be was a good fighter, nothing more, nothing less. Today I teach the CALASANZ SYSTEM, an eclectic style I created and a reflection of my personal path as a martial artist.
My informal training to the fighting arts began on the farms and streets of Dominican Republic where disputes between men were often settled with fists. My first exposure to formal martial arts training however was in Goju Karate and where I initially earned my black belt credentials.
My instructor was Master Tameyoshi Sakamoto, who introduced Goju Ryu to the Dominican Republic in 1958. What was interesting about Tameyoshi Sakamoto was that he was trained in Judo and introduced his students to the concept of combining ground fighting along with karate. It was there where I met two exceptional martial artists and friends, Rafael Martinez and Lizardo Diaz.
While I had great respect for Goju Ryu, its history and my instructors, I quickly noticed the limitations of the style in terms of practical street fighting and self-defense. I also watched my classmates take punishing blows to the body and thought to myself, there had to be a better way.
The practicality of what we today call “mixed martial arts” training was so clear to me that I decided to learn one style very well and then pursue others to at least a brown belt level to round out my martial arts training.
When I arrived at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut in 1980, I met a young Japanese man who was a fourth degree black belt in Judo. Because we were both students, money was scarce so we decided to trade. I taught him Karate and he taught me Judo, enhancing the basic Judo training I had started back in the Dominican Republic .
Once I completed my brown belt training in Judo, it was now time to focus my attention on learning more about pressure points and joint manipulation, so I took up Hapkido. I was fortunate to have found Yong-Man Lee, an eighth degree black belt in Darien, Connecticut. Grandmaster Lee is an outstanding instructor and I learned much from him. But I kept my promise to myself and moved on after brown belt.
My next step was to learn how to use my hands effectively. Realizing that traditional “hard” style martial arts rely way too much on kicking, I wanted to learn how to punch from the very best, so what better way than to study some Western boxing at Gleason’s Gym? So I did and as a martial artist, it was one of best decisions I made. Mastering a few boxing principles taught me how to use my hands as weapons and not just to distract an opponent while I prepare to throw a few kicks.
Once I was satisfied with the boxing, I felt it was time to pursue some of the “softer” and more Kung fu based martial arts. I chose Wing Chun because of its close quarter fighting, centerline, and economy of motion philosophy. To do this, I took a train into New York City to study with one of the best teachers in the area, Moyat. I also spent a considerable amount of time and effort learning Chang Chuan kung fu and Wu style Tai chi. Kung fu and Tai chi balanced my “hard style” training and taught me how to approach fighting from a new perspective.
From the time I arrived in the United States, I worked as a waiter to support my martial arts education and myself. I taught a few guys how to fight and it wasn’t until one of them convinced me to open a school that the thought even entered my mind.
In closing, my system is what it is, a reflection of my martial arts path. It has gotten people into shape, taught them how to defend themselves and get a grip on life. It has prepared people for tournaments, trained police officers, soldiers and security personnel and even given some peace of mind. And all I wanted was to be a good fighter.