AN INTERVIEW WITH
MASTER FRANKLIN PUELLO
AUG / 2010
“What are Goals but fantastic dreams we dare formulate as rewards at the end of a journey.”
Interview by Eddie Morales
My name is Eddie Morales and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial arts magazine. I want to introduce our readers to Master Franklin Puello. Master Puello has been a Karate practitioner since the early 1970’s. His studies have been with some of the most Notable instructors in the New York City area and as a result has lead him through a long journey of positive achievement and success. He has a very friendly personality and is ready to help anyone at a moments notice. He served with the New York City Police Department and as a result of hard dedicated work went up in rank and status at a quick and steady pace. He believes that all he has gained is directly related to the Karate training he received as a young man. He continues to train diligently with the same passion and drive. Master Puello successfully competed in Karate tournaments when the call of the day was bare fist and bare feet with hard contact. This was a time when strong basics and a focused mind prevailed. The results of these competitions were numerous knockouts and countless injuries to its participants. Master Puello is by definition a warrior at heart as well as a compassionate human being. We here at Martialforce.com are pleased to bring you an inside look at the life and journey of Master Franklin Puello.
Martialforce.com: Where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Greetings! First and foremost, Mr. Morales, I must thank you for your demonstrated love of the Martial Arts and the great service you are providing to spread Knowledge, Skills and Expertise in Martial Arts throughout the world.
In answer to your question, I was Born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and arrived to the United States, Bronx, New York, in 1973 at the age of 17. I resided in the Bronx, NY until I moved to Long Island, NY in 1980. I attended Adlai E. Stevenson High School and completed my 12th Grade, with English Honors; Attended CUNY-Bronx Community College (Liberal Arts & Sciences), graduating with Deans Honors and Physical Ed Honors; attended CUNY-City College of New York (Education), graduating with Cum Laude Honors.
I Joined the New York City Police Department in September of 1980 performing duties in the Neighborhood Stabilization Units serving the Washington Heights area and Lower West Side 198; 43rd Precinct in the Bronx 1981-82, Organized Crime Control Bureau/ Bronx Narcotics and promoted to detective 1982-84; NY Drug Enforcement TF 1984-88; 78th Pct. Detective Squad 1988-91; NY County District Attorney’s Office Squad 1991-1996; 67th Pct. Detective Squad 1996-97; 66th Pct. Detective Squad 1997-1998; Kings County District Attorney’s Office Squad 1988-99; 106 Pct. Detective Squad 1999-2000.
1973 Franklin Puello on right and his brother Luis on left
Martialforce.com: What is your occupation?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Presently, I am a Retired New York City Police Detective Babysitting grandchildren full time, while sprinkling some hours spent as a New York State Licensed Private Investigator and Security Consultant.
Martialforce.com: When did you begin your Martial Arts training and with whom?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: I come from a family of Boxers and always loving the Martial Arts, growing up watching and idolizing Bruce Lee’s Martial Arts abilities as KATO in (The Green Hornet) television series.
In September 1974 I started in the Martial Arts while attending Bronx Community College. I enrolled in a Self-Defense class with Prof. Henry Skinner practicing Kokushi Ryu Goshinho Jujitsu, and during spare time joined classes with Prof. Greg Perry practicing USA Goju.
I loved the history and tradition of the Martial Arts and was determined to continue practice joining the Karate Club and Karate Team. I then met and practiced with Shihan Errol Bennett (Shotokan) and Shihan Fred Miller (Japanese Goju), who were Co-Captains of the Karate Team, eventually actively establishing an Intramural and Intercollegiate competition program. In choosing which Discipline to continue private practice, I chose Japanese Goju (Since it seemed to suit me best, and I Loved the smooth circular movements with the relaxing Breathing techniques). I consequently requested Shihan Fred Miller to accept me as his student. I started practice with Shihan Miller in the Bronx River New York City Housing Developments where the practices were long, intense and designed to develop the Mind, Body and Spirit.
Grand Master Fred Miller and Franklin Puello 1970’s
Martialforce.com: Fred Miller is an exceptional Martial Artist; it sounds like you had great training. How has Martial Arts training helped you in your daily life?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Right from the beginning I understood and practiced the principle of “There is no First strike in Karate” and coming from a Boxing background understood this basic principle’s importance in the development of a strong personality with focus and control; The principle learned that “The Mind is one with Heaven and Earth” as well as others help me with the Social transition in the United States. This strengthened me and I focused my efforts and abilities to achieve all set goals. The Martial Arts provided me with the discipline to fine tune my body mechanics in Sports and Fitness and the same discipline was and continues to be applied to my academic studies and work ethics.
I probably would not have reached the levels of Academic, Sports, and Professional achievements without practicing and applying the Basic Martial Arts Principles and Philosophy. Even in my personal life, principles learned in the Martial Arts help me cope with daily stress and handling dangerous or difficult situations.
The Martial Arts have provided me with tools for problem solving on the run, which is of great value while supervising others or planning and preparing an operational / tactical plan of attack for any project. My family life is affected by Martial Arts; especially since I met my wife Luz while enrolled in the Self Defense class in Bronx Community College in (1974). We shared our learning and believe that “there is nothing free in this world” and “everything starts at the bottom.” We learned and applied Martial Arts principles, “Act according to the times and change” as well as “The feet must move separate, and meet” in our relationship and family life. We know that people grow and physical as well as psychological changes occur so persons must adapt and change to remain harmonious. We understand and visualize that we as a couple must move individually but must meet harmoniously and in coordination as a couple. We are individuals with our own perceptions and habits, but must remain united as a couple and heads of family.
Through the Martial Arts Discipline, I grew up as a responsible individual who at times of play I did so very hard and at the times of work I worked extremely hard. I am not only discipline to complete my work in an exceptional manner, but demand excellence from those around me as well, which rewarded me with fast ascension through the ranks of employment. While active as a NYC Police Officer I had the opportunity to use and apply Martial Arts Principles in the performance of duties. Most of the times by applying the Basic Principle that Martial Arts offers you (Discipline and confidence) to Handle and diffuse any situation. In Martial Arts there is no first strike, the eyes do not miss even the slightest change, techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought, the ears listen well in all directions, the outcome of a battle depends on how one handles emptiness and fullness. Karate stands on the side of Justice, first know yourself then know others, do not forget the employment and withdrawal of power.As a police officer when handling Domestic Violence situations, one must be completely aware of surroundings, understand the individuals’ mental and emotional state, observe changes of expression showing emotional raise as well as listening to voice tones that show ahead of physical violent expressions. One of my favorite principles is not forgetting the application and withdrawal of Power. One must remember that in any situation one must show control (Power) and at the same time know when to withdraw levels of Power to allow the other party to express themselves and realize that he/she is being offered the opportunity to regain his/her control and the situation is not about demeaning anyone. Maintaining the situation even and controlled, one understands that once the situation is controlled there is no need to maintain an overpowering posture, which may be interpreted as abusive and demeaning. Pushing someone against the wall prompts pride to take over causing physical and violent posture-strikes.
Detective Franklin Puello Major Drug Case
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers a little about your instructor/s?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: My Instructor’s name is Fred Miller who is an expert practitioner and teacher of Japanese Goju. He studied with Yamaguchi Gosei; and was very close to the Hon. Peter Urban (USA Goju), Aaron Banks (Japanese Goju), Al Gotay (USA Goju) all pioneers bringing and establishing the Martial Arts in the United States, specifically the New York Metropolitan Area. Shihan Miller was an expert Kata Performer who was Nationally Ranked and winner of many Tournaments around the country. He was a tireless supporter of local Martial Arts schools and Tournaments hosted by local instructors and in the New York Metropolitan area. He was one of the most respected Kata competitors and Feared Kumite competitor not only in the State of New York, but in the continental United States. He was renowned for getting all of his 6’3”, muscular frame into a low Cat Stance, before Striking opponents with a Devastating front kick. He demonstrated the uncanny ability to apply Bunkai (Application) to complete parts of a Kata while actively engage in Kumite (Fighting) competition, which in essence showed his personification of Gojuryu Karate.
An Expert instructor who emphasized the Basics Instruction progression (Kihon); (Kihon Ido); (Kata Kihon); (Kata Kihon Ido); (Kata); (Kata Bunkai). He trained students to become capable Instructors who would continue the spread of Goju. He taught versatility, respect and appreciation for people and other styles.
Shihan Fred Miller was one of the First participants and supporter of Grand Master Aaron Banks World Professional Karate Association, and competed professionally in Full Contact championship fights.
Martialforce.com: Who in your life influenced you the most regarding Martial Arts and or life in general?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: My Wife Luz and my Instructor Fred Miller have had the most positive influence in my Martial Arts practice. Luz not only as my un-exhaustible source of strength, but also as a champion herself. She is the force behind me in regards to my drive to develop as a Martial Artist and to share knowledge with others.
In Life: Luz is the one and only source of love and support that has groomed and lead my path to success in life. She is my most cherished life companion. My Three daughters and 5 grand children, my reason for existence. My Mother: The ultimate teacher and Role model. My Father: A source of Strength and commitment to life long learning and teaching.
Sensei Luz Puello to the right with Husband Franklin 1970’s
Fred Hamilton Tournament, Battle of the Zodiacs
Martialforce.com: Do you believe Kata is important (Pre arranged movements) and if so, why?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: I believe that without Kata there would be no Karate. In my opinion, Karate would have died with its originators. I truly believe that Kata is the essence of Martial Arts, and provides for the Method of teaching and the propagation of any particular style of Martial Arts. Kata is the most important aspect of the practice of any Martial Art. Through Kata practice one learns Control and Focus with the additional gain of Agility, Flexibility; Improved Coordination; Improved mental acuity by visualizing patterns and physical application of every single movement in the Kata. Kata teaches All the principles of the Martial Art. In addition, Kata adds great value to the overall Fitness of the individual practicing, and promoting the practice for all including individuals who would not otherwise believe they can engage in physically demanding activities. Kata can be practice while sitting or standing; just with breathing coordination; with dynamic tension; with speed; while immobile; with movement in the pattern; with emphasis in self defense application (Bunkai) or just for its aesthetic beauty. The many ways Kata can be performed and perceived makes the practice appealing and will attract others to the practice of the Martial Arts.
1970’s photograph with Grand Master George Crayton on left
and Franklin Puello to the right.
Martialforce.com: What is your favorite Kata and why?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: I wish I could answer this question completely and without hesitation. This is a tough one, due to the fact that Shihan Miller ensured and demanded the practice and love of Kata first and foremost. One had to perform Kata from White Belt ranking to Black Belt ranking with the same enthusiasm and good form demonstrating levels of expertise commensurate with the Rank.
He demanded understanding and realization that, for example, in competition one should be able to place very high in the ranking, if not win, while performing a Basic White Belt Kata. That there are no Ranking Kata to be performed at prescribed rank in competition (A Green, Purple, or Brown Belt should place high while performing a White Belt Kata).
As I grew in the practice of Goju I showed favoritism to the Taikioku Katas for their Basic Raw Power and foundation building. The Gekkisai for their teaching of progression and foundation to all other Kata. Saifa for its Beautiful and Powerful movement incorporating influence from the White Crane Style. Seyiunchin for its rhythmic breathing lulling into the trap of sudden violent counter attack/defense. Sanseiru for its ultimate show of Power. Seipai as the pennant for reaching Master Black Belt Status. Shisochin for the variety of open hands techniques employed in readily applicable self-defense bunkai. Kururunfa for its closeness to the originating White Crane styles demonstrating concentration in close fighting techniques and Superenpei for its history-techniques-inclusion of many other movements in various Kata-and ultimate demonstration of Control and reaching the Top plateau. When I go to a Tournament I can perform any of the Kata with the same intensity and good form so the choice only comes to me as I walk on to the floor to face the judges.
Martialforce.com: Did you compete as a beginner and if so what was your motivation to compete?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Although not required, competition was in my heart. I had started as a Boxer in the Dominican Republic, and once practicing Martial Arts I continue to engage in competition to demonstrate my knowledge, skills and abilities. By competing I demonstrate my Instructor’s abilities as a Teacher and work in the propagation of the Martial Arts in New York City. Kata Performance was my specialty because of my love for its practice but Kumite (Fighting) competition was an additional aspect of the Martial Art to demonstrate as a Sport, which in turn served to popularize the Martial Arts in the World. I achieved Ranking in the New York State and City of New York Areas; in National competition; and International competition as part of the New York City Police Department’s Karate Team, (as well as a member and Captain of the Boxing Team).
Another motivation for competition was demonstrating that the Martial Arts was an activity that could be engaged in by any one, no matter what physical, mental, or chronological state. An activity that could affect and improve not only your physical fitness level but moreover your way of life by the active application of its principles.
Martialforce.com: Is this why you compete after many years?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Now it’s more of a challenge for me and I enjoy the training for competition. Another reason is it gives me contact with my bushido brothers out there.
AUG - 2010
Martialforce.com: Can you name some of the competitors that were active back when you started tournament competition?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Billy Beason, Derrick Williams, Kevin Thompson "Little KA", Jonas Nunez, Jerry Fast Feet Fontanez, Tommy Mays, Andre Mason, Kevin and Kerry Harris, "Sugar Crosson", Grant Campbell, Cleve Baxter, Cedric Barksdale, Anthony Mustafa Richards, Ronald Cook. Besides growing admiring Advanced competitors My Sensei Fred Miller, Errol Bennett, Wild Cat Molina, Phil McRae, Jose Jordan, Sam McGee, Lamar Thorton, Steve Valencia, Dave Washington, Sheldon Wilkins, Abdul Mutakabir, Happy Crump, Ernest Hyman, Kariem Allah, Monroe Marrow, Thomas Lappapet, Archie Rullan, Wilfredo Roldan, Ron Van Clief, George Crayton, to name a few.
2010 - Seated from left to right:
Franklin Puello, Derrick Williams and Sam McGee
Standing is Billy Beason
Martialforce.com: You had a successful Law Enforcement career; did you teach Officers within that time period?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: I had the opportunity to impart some of my knowledge in training during my career, not in the Police Academy but assisting reinforcement of Skills taught in the Police Academy as part of the Curriculum and accepted Guidelines. I also instructed many who did not believe in the practice of the Martial Arts who thought the Skills taught were useless. I related to them the benefits of learning techniques in regards to confidence and control, which could save theirs or someone else’s life. I taught basic and modified self defense wrist grab releases, and arm locks; basic balance and throws; how to make a proper fist and strike; rear hold releases; Tai Sabaki (Side Stepping); restrain and walk-along techniques; and most importantly the Art of tactical communication to diffuse and de-escalate situations.
I concentrated in teaching undercover officers. I taught the principles of Martial Arts aforementioned and applying them for Survival. When getting in trouble; diffuse and de-escalate the situation; control power over people while allowing them to show power; adapt and change to fit and control any situation; control your mind and fears to provide you with the courage and energy to control situations of danger while becoming one with your surroundings better able to control and make changes for survival. Verbal Judo (Tactical communication)- as one gets into trouble, one can talk his way out of trouble. You are in Control, no one forces you to do things or go where you do not want too. You are not knocked down easily, you get up quickly, You will never Give Up or Surrender-You will not die easily, You will neutralize the threat and Fight to Survive and live to talk about it.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe that Martial Arts is good training for children and why or why not?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Children, as any one else, need a sense of Structure, Direction, and Purpose in Life. Children will enjoy the Martial Arts setting because of the structure, discipline and purpose it offers. These same principles will apply to their Lives, enhancing how they deal with daily stress, homework, house chores, how they treat themselves-others-parents, and develop excellent work habits for the rest of their lives.
The Martial Arts are great for children to engage in as fun and fitness enhancing activities. In the Martial Arts as opposed to other activities and Sports, there is no Age, Gender limitations or restrictions. One and all can engage in the Martial Arts because of the wide range of application offered- from fitness, competition, to self-defense. The Martial Arts offer participation without restriction, whether physical, social, or psychological.
The Study and Practice of any style of Martial Arts will enhance the person practicing and cause an improving effect with the learning and application of Principles not only applicable in Martial Arts but in Life itself.
Martialforce.com: What would you say is your greatest accomplishment to date?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: My greatest accomplishment to date has to be meeting my greatest source of Inspiration, motivation and love while in College and (having her accept marriage) - My Wife Luz. Besides my mother who was my first and best teacher and always a source of inspiration, my wife has been that beacon of light in the darkest and turbulent storm of life that has guided me to safety and to reach for all set goals. There has been no greater source of strength behind my sails in quest for achievements in life. She kept me in college when I struggled with the English language. She Guided my schedule of classes and studies to manageable levels and to fruitful completion of honor studies during pursuit of my AA in Arts; Motivation and drive to achieve excellence in the Martial Arts and my pursuit of Bachelor degree in Education; She has always been my greatest supporter and cheerleader in any sport competition, Boxing, Track, Karate, Jujitsu, Swimming, Wrestling, etc. In addition, being blessed by the Lord to have shared love with my dear daughters and grandchildren.
Martialforce.com: What are your short or long term goals in regards to practice and teaching?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Short Term goal is to get back in shape and return to my high competitive form, then start my teaching to spread the spirit and practice of Goju Ryu in my part of Long Island, New York. I want to develop young practitioners and guide them into the revelation and advantages of practicing the Martial Arts. It is my hope that they may incorporate its practice into their lives so that they can become focused, determined and productive members of our society.
Martialforce.com: What is your definition of a good martial arts instructor?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: My definition of a Good Martial Arts Instructor involves many qualities. Some of these qualities are, but not limited to, being well trained and able to perform at the level commensurate with his or her Rank. They must have an impeccable reputation when dealing with family, children, friends and the public in general. They must have a clear understanding of what the Martial Arts are about (origin, history, lineage, purpose, adherence to tradition, discipline, application of martial arts principles to life, control, sharing) and meaning to the practitioners. They must have the principal interest of teaching for the love of the Arts first and foremost in mind and demonstrate such, even if it means sacrificing financial gains. The ability to honestly evaluate talent and student progress. A good teacher will always recognize weaknesses and strengths in students and when students are not applying the basic Karate Principles to the rest of their lives, or when they begin to neglect other responsibilities for the study of Karate.
Martialforce.com: You have lived what seems to be a successful life. Do you have any advice for young people in regards to developing a plan for success?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Develop and Maintain undying Loyalty to Parents, Family and Teachers. Listen- Learn- Follow- Lead and most of all, Dream!! Dreams are the basic parts of what Reality is made out of. Without Dreams we would not achieve. What are Goals but fantastic dreams we dare formulate as rewards at the end of a journey? Dream but prepare yourselves to obtain the Master Key to the Doors of Opportunities in Life. All doors of opportunities may have a key, but may be different. By preparing yourselves and obtaining the Master Key that will enable you to open any Door of Opportunity encountered in your journey, you will have given yourselves the best opportunity to open the first door encountered, as well as a second, third or fourth. Just realize that the Master Key is EDUCATION, for without it you may not be able to open any doors of opportunity and with it your opening of doors are limitless. Dream; Prepare yourselves, and Reach Amazing Heights. If you can think it you can become it, but you must be willing to do the work!
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on young martial artist holding ranks of fifth, sixth and seventh or higher?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: The only thought I can articulate on the subject of Young Martial Artists holding 5th, 6th, 7th and Higher Dan grading is a question about the length of time dedicated to Training and the interval of achievements. I really believe that a Young 20 or even 30 Year old have neither lived long enough or practiced long enough to hold such ranking. The aforementioned Ranking are demonstrative of a life long dedication to training in the Martial Arts. I would be hard pressed to recognize the 5th Dan Rank of a 19 yr. old estimating the most they have trained is 3 Days per week allowing its movement, technique and philosophy to sink in. In my opinion that is not enough time for the learning necessary to achieve the Rank. It’s no different than watching an eleven-year-old skipping grades and graduating from high school. The exceptions to the rule are very little and seldom seen. I am just referring to rank structure and in-depth study of the way. I am not talking about the time it takes to learn how to fight or hurt someone if that’s what you seek.
In addition, I believe that the higher the rank, the more refined your technique and teaching Skills should become and be demonstrated. Success in Competition does not account, nor justify, the earning of advancement in Rank. The only justification should be a steady ability to learn, adapt, understand and demonstrate what you have learned. I have been a witness of some youngsters wearing 3-4-5 Stripes on their Black Belt, which makes me think of their tender age and fast ascension through the Ranks as if someone was just giving advances away. Especially after witnessing their performances, which were not at the level of their Rank, and without a clear understanding of teaching methods and Bunkai (Application of technique).
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on all these new custom belts that are worn these days?
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Some instructors have their reason for adding all of these belts to their teaching curriculum. If they are teaching from there heart and passing knowledge with sincerity then only they can explain the use of the custom belt. On the other hand, my observation throughout the years is that generally these custom belts are demonstrative of the pervasive pursuit of "Profit above all" in the Martial Arts in present times. Most Martial Artists wearing Custom Belts are doing so just to sell themselves and their schools. Notice I did not call them Dojo’s, since the Official word does not apply. These schools are a gathering place where Instructors serve more as baby-sitters for a few hours than Martial Arts Instructors. The commercialization of the Martial Arts has been a detriment to the Spirit of the true Martial Arts and the propagation of what Martial Arts represented for a long time. Evidenced in practitioners not being able to apply Martial Arts principles to the rest of their lives. Yes, the Martial Arts must maintain pace with the times, and change with the times and individuals practicing it, but at the same time we must maintain and uphold the Integrity of teaching Martial Arts for the Love of the Martial Arts, not just the money involved in the commercialization of it.
A Black Belt was only a White Belt worn from the beginning of Training which was Stained with Blood, Sweat and Tears through long years of practice and turned Dark with the passing of time. Once the popularization of the Martial Arts made it necessary to reward the practitioners with a token to show their progress, it was established that a Color Ranking had to be adopted. Presently the selling of Rank to maintain attendance and to recruit more students, have resulted in youngsters being awarded very high Dan Grading which do not match their skills or time in training. It is Forgotten that Dan Grading was a sign of reaching a "Adult" status meaning you had fulfilled not only all requirements in physical training, but in sociological and psychological growth. Presently there need be no understanding of the Martial Arts principles, application of these principles to life, or Ranking methods, contribution to the Martial Arts, etc. to attain a high Rank- Just Buy it, or Design It.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe that instructor’s responsibility ends when the student walks out of the Dojo?
All Teachers should be responsible for the teaching as well as the application of their teaching. If the students are not behaving accordingly, or performing as well in scholastic endeavors, or at home with family and friends, they do not belong in the Dojo. First they have to get other aspects of daily routine and life in order to be allowed to participate in the Martial Arts classes. Training and Learning the Martial Arts should always be made a Privilege, Not a Right. Students should earn their acceptance into the Dojo and maintain standards to sustain membership and affiliation.
Martialforce.com: We have enjoyed this interview with you and thank you for your participation. We here at Martialforce.com wish you great success in all your future endeavors.
FRANKLIN PUELLO: Thank you for this opportunity for allowing me to express my thoughts.
08-04-2010 THE GATHERING AT BBQ’S, E.73RD AND 3RD AVENUE
Sam McGee, Franklin Puello and his wife Luz Puello, Jerry “Fast Feet” Fontanez, Billy Beason and Derrick Williams.