AN INTERVIEW WITH
AUGUST / 2011
My name is Franklin Puello and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine. I have been a humble Student of The Martial Arts Since 1974. I have met and befriended, been associated with, learned from, and competed against many whom have made a great mark in The Martial Arts generation of my era and the more recent generations that have come after me.
In my time involved I have learned that in The Martial Arts there are many titles that have been in fact earned or just given to many that came generations before us. There is also the existence of the injustice of denying and or attempting to strip such title’s from some, who are more than deserving and have earned the distinction of deserving to be addressed with a Title. The Title I will introduce along with its summary Dictionary definition is: PATRIARCH
A Man (or Woman) who is the head of a family or group
A respected and experienced senior man within a group or family
The oldest man in a family or organization, who is respected because of this
A Man usually a grandfather, or Woman usually a grandmother, who is highly respected by his/ her family and to whom the family turns for advice and help
a figure mentioned as the ancestor
Leader of people. An Overseer of multiple institutions under his authority/ guidance)
A high dignitary with the power to invoke blessings
All, aforementioned, befitting the Man I have the utmost pleasure to introduce to you, faithful Martial Artists and readers of Martialforce.com Magazine. The Martial Artist featured in this Issue; A man whose name has not gone unnoticed by mention in many of the other interviews of Great Martial Artists featured in prior issues; A man whose name and persona evokes and commands much Respect and Admiration… The deserving Recipient of the Title defined above is a man I have known as an Elite Martial Arts Teacher, in addition to learning from him valuable principles and lessons of life, hence he is one for whom I have utmost respect; have known and respect many of his protégés; I have known him as caring, knowledgeable, sharing, reasonable, and as a consummate Teacher. The man who while still Commanding great Respect, demands one call him by his First Name: RENO
RENO MORALES, Grand Master and PATRIARCH
He has been involved with the Martial Arts for over 60 years; has instructor status in more than 7 martial arts systems; Founding father of Shin-Jitsu-Jissen karate Jutsu (real fighting, my truth)/ Combative expressions; retired Marine, Army airborne; Co-founder of the Bronx Shotokan karate Club, and the karate International Association; Executive protection specialist; Fugitive recovery specialist; Health and fitness specialist.
DOMO ARIGATO GOZAIMASHITA! Much respect to Grand Master Morales.
RENO MORALES: Hello, Franklin. It is always a pleasure to see you.
Martialforce.com: I have traveled 80 Miles from home, to meet you in The Bronx, City of New York, because you coincidentally was visiting Town, and in fact was meeting and escorting a youngster from the community, to further exploration into a career in the Service of the County by joining the proud members of the U.S. Marines. As we entered the Recruitment Center, Bronx, NY, I watched and listened to Master Reno Morales continue to give the youngster sound guidance in support of a decision made, solely by the youngster, and in the area of Education, Training, Taking advantage of every opportunity life offers. Once inside and separated from the accompanying youngster, Master Morales engaged another youngster present and awaiting to continue his practice for Physical Training (PT), asking about his decision to enter the Marines, and other interests. After noticing the youngsters expression and body language, I realized that he was magnetized and in Awe. I saw this other youngster, after less than a 2 min conversation; approach me and Master Reno Morales to continue conversing. I witnessed this is a 17 year old youngster, that after 2 min felt drawn and willingly approached Reno Morales so that Master Morales share with him more of his vast knowledge and experience, not only of the U.S. Marine Corp but also about life. After completing his deed for the youngster escorted to the Recruitment Center, Master Morales and I left and continued conversing about subject of this interview.
As I drove, ending at Bronx Community College (BCC), located on University Ave. Bronx., NY (coincidentally BCC is my Alma Mater) ultimately meeting with Master Larry Cheatham (future subject of Interview) at his College Security Office, and not to presume that I really knew or know anything about Master Morales (and wishing I had brought my Recorder) I asked him to tell me “a Story”, the story about him: Where he was born; where did he grow up and study; events he considers important in his life; Most important facts about his first contact and involvement with The Martial Arts.
RENO MORALES: Well Franklin, I was born in Caguas, Puerto Rico, and I am very proud to say I am in my seventy’s. At the age of 3 yrs. I arrived to the United States of America, and resided in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York. Subsequently, the family moved to Eagle Ave, in The Bronx, which is also located in New York. While in Brooklyn, I attended, and graduated, Boys High School, and during my spare time engaged in the Art of Boxing. During 1947 I started training in the Art of Combat JuJutsu under my stepfather’s SGT. Harold Keith and Sgt. James Shinagawa. 3yrs later I graduated from High School and I enlisted to the U.S. Marines. I became a Career Military man. In 1952 I was an integral part of the (Elite) Unit: Force Recon and one who spent time in Vietnam with a Deep Reckon Platoon (a Platoon of Elite Soldiers highly/ exclusively trained, who were the Spearhead to any major insertion and were responsible to ensure the security of the area or terrain prior to the deployment of Troops in large numbers).
Upon return to the United States, I attended the University of Colorado, Majoring in Digital Electronics. During my service overseas, my First Martial Arts encounter was training in JuJutsu, with my first Martial Arts teacher (and Step-father) who was also a Military Man, SGT. HAROLD KEITH. During my travel to the Orient, Okinawa, I started seeking a school to continue training in JuJutsu, but could not find a suitable one. I found a School, and started training in the Art of Isshinryu- Chan Ma Gwa (1956) under the instruction of TATSUO SHIMABUKU (Founder of ISSHINRYU Karate-“Whole Heart Style”). During my travels in Japan, I met Grand Master PETER URBAN who was studying GOGEN YAMAGUCHI’S Nippon Gojukai, and then later founded the USA GOJU RYU. On returning to the U.S met DON NAGLE and trained in the NY Chinatown Dojo, where I met the illustrious PETE SIRANGANO, MIKE DIPASCUALE, SR, and others. Continued Issinryu training and subsequently trained in the Art of SHITO RYU; upon returning to Japan 1955-1956 seeking and started formal training in Shito Ryu under SHIGERU KIMURA (CHOJIRO TANI’S most Senior student- Chojiro Tani was the Most Senior Student of KENWA MABUNI (SHITO RYU)-who was also a Senior student of CHOJUN MIYAGI (GOJU RYU) - Who was a Senior student of KANRYO HIGAONNA (NAHA-TE). Upon return to the USA, I met and trained with Master MELVIN KLEIN in N.J. who made the introduction to Master KIMURA. GM MOSES POWELLS allowed me to use his Dojo for training in the Bx. River Projects. Partnered up with REMY HANNIBALE, BUDDY MCRAE (Master Phil McRae’s father), and ABDUL MUSSAWIR HAQQ to create the BRONX SHOTOKAN KARATE CLUB (BSKC). I continued training in various Systems, like Escrimma- with Master GONZALEZ; Muy Tai- with Master MAUNG SURIN; in addition to training with Master DETHRONOE. While studying Shito Ryu became associated with Master MASATOSHI NAKAYAMA – who was a handpicked student of Master FUNAKOSHI GISHIN (SHOTOKAN).
SHIGERU KIMURA, Sensei (SHIKUKAI/ SHITO RYU), was very proud of all his students and had a different mentality as far as other Oriental Sensei, He did not hold back teaching to anyone. He taught me the complete System, and this is the reason I consider him My Mentor and most influential teacher.
TEACHERS KIMURA, SHIGERU AND TANI, CHOJIRO
TEACHER CHOJIRO TANI
TATSUO SHIMABUKU- FATHER OF ISSHINRYU
Martialforce.com: Hearing this vast list of his training and Systems, I asked: What is your preferred System, if you have one? The answer came in this fashion:
RENO MORALES: “Franklin, my preference is SHITO RYU, but my Love and Reputation are in and from SHOTOKAN. SHITO RYU training made me realize how all Systems are so very closely related. When Training in Jujutsu, Shito Ryu, Shotokan, Isshinryu, Boxing, Muay Tai, Iaido, American Cane System, Tai Chi and Qi Gong I also realized the value and applicability of a variety of techniques learned. I learned how much Jujutsu there is in Karate.
Martialforce.com: Sensei, I dared interrupt; tell me about a typical day of training during your journey to the rank of Black Belt and Tournament competition at the time?
RENO MORALES: Let me put this way, Kihon, Kata and more Kihon. Competition was not a big thing when I was first starting, I did enter competition at some time, but the Vietnam War interrupted my competition years. I did compete against some great guys like: Owen Watson, Jamie Diaz, Tommy “Sabu” Lewis, Al Litiere, and would have to give deep thought and consideration to who among them and others in competition was my toughest opponent. I can give you an answer at later date, (laughter).
Martialforce.com: I met you and have had the highest respect for you since the early Seventies, when I staring my training under GM Fred Miller; your relationship with all Martial Artists around then and presently seems to be a great one, can you tell about it?
RENO MORALES:“I make friends anywhere and everywhere. Tom Lapuppet was a Former Marine, and a friend; Fred Miller was a friend and a training partner as well. Fred Hamilton was a friend and respected fellow Martial Artist; Abdul Mussawirr is like a brother to me, along with Remy Hannibale and I were the Original Teachers at the Dojo: The Bronx Shotokan Karate Club; George Crayton is a friend and Brother to me. Youngsters like Errol Bennett, Phil McRae, Nat McBride, were students out of my Dojo.
Martialforce.com: With a pause, I interjected another question about the role of Martial Arts in his life and the gains reaped from the Martial Arts Training, answered in the following manner:
RENO MORALES: In a Big Part, Martial Arts has played an integral part of my life providing growth in wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of many events of life and facts of life. Through the Martial Arts I grew as a strong minded and determined to succeed youngster, and moving into adulthood I made contributions to the community by joining the Elite members of the U.S. Armed Forces- US Marines to serve My Country the God Blessed U.S. of A, and reaching and teaching youngster The Martial Arts, as an Art, and taught them principles to apply not only in Karate but in every aspect of life. Every day I make it a point to reach out to the youngsters encountered on my way, and to instill in them the drive and love for an Education and determination to seek preparation that will give them the motivation and tools for success in any endeavor.
Personally, I believe, the Martial Arts have provided me with good health, a long life, and a sound mind. A solid foundation and tradition in the Martial Arts is very important, Now-Then-Always, one has to remember, honor and respect the Masters of the past, and the Masters of the Present and Future as well so that The Martial Arts continue to flourish otherwise it will become extinct. The Traditions should be passed, unchanged and as taught before allowing for Evolution, hence the importance of KATA and its performance in an unadulterated manner.
“KATA IS THE HEART OF KARATE. IF YOU ARE NOT LEARNING THE ESSENCE OF THE ARTS, THE KATA HAS NO BEARING; IT IS JUST ANOTHER DANCE WITHOUT DIRECTION. BUT IF YOU LEARN THE PRINCIPLES, THEIR APPLICATIONS IN THE ART AND LIFE; IF YOU LEARN THE ARTS FROM THE GROUND UP THEN KATA IS MORE THAN JUST A DANCE, FOR THERE IS FOOT WORK (BALANCE), CONTROL, BODY EVASION, MISDIRECTION, SPEED AND POWER, ETC. = THERE IS FIGHTING (NOT JUST OPPONENTS, BUT YOURSELF). Then adding, as I mentioned, during my training there was many hours of training of Kihon, and Kata. My preferred Kata, the ones that Reflect the Martial Artist persona- me are UNSU and MATSUKAZE.
Martialforce.com: As I asked for a short demonstration of Matsukaze (which I was not familiar with) GM Morales stood and performed a series of Kata techniques. After he ended, I told him I just had to learn that Kata from him and include it in my repertoire.
RENO MORALES continued: Through the Martial Arts I have reached out to many in and out of the communities around me. I have trained and taught Martial Arts to members of my immediate family; 2 brothers, 3 sons, and 3 daughters and have instilled the same traditions, and hard training I received. I continue spreading The Traditional Martial Arts in the prescribed manner of my Teachers. I believe that hard work in the Martial Arts will transform the practitioner into a better and more qualified to succeed human being. The importance is in THE JOURNEY not just reaching the Goal. Many practitioners think that The Martial Arts- KARATE is just about Kicking and Punching, and eventually reaching the Black Belt Level. It is about what is done, demonstration of learned principles and their application to the Arts and Life. The sharing with one and all. Such accomplishments on the Journey to reach the Black Belt is what counts; reaching maturity and being able to teach another what was learned during the journey. Hence, the answer to the pervasive granting of the Black Belt and Master rank to so many who may or may not be qualified is mortifying. Think about this, “Would you give your Car Keys to a Child? The same can be said about the rank of Black Belt.
Martialforce.com: Having heard GM Morales speak about Martial Arts Kobudo (Weapons) training, I asked him if he trained in the handling of Weapons, which weapons, and in addition I asked if he taught Weapons to his students?
RENO MORALES: Yes, I trained in the Art of Kobudo, specifically Sai, Bo, and Iaido. For a long time I have been training with unorthodox weapons such as the Cane, and presently it has become one of my favorite and Teaching it as My Teacher’s representative in New York. In regards to teaching my students weapons: I have in the past, but only to the chosen few.
Martialforce.com: My next question was about his Teaching and if he was presently teaching at a Dojo.
RENO MORALES: I am not currently involved any direct teaching, I conduct Seminars and Lectures. I also frequently visit many Dojo’s around and ensure the quality of instruction and material is up to my established standards.
Martialforce.com: This lead me into the next course of our conversation, regarding evaluation of the present Dojo teaching by this Generation of teachers and this is what he said:
RENO MORALES: Franklin I am a firm believer and witness to the fact that the teaching at Martial Arts Dojo’s are lacking spirituality. The teaching is shallow; shallow techniques that are being disseminated without explanation or application. The new generation of Sensei’s are not teaching spiritual development. They have forgotten that we as teachers are to develop character in our students, help them grow and lead them into adulthood becoming productive members of our society. Every time I speak to another Martial Artist, whether he is teaching or not, I instill these basic teaching principles into their heads with the hope that they will take it to their Dojo or at the very least mention it to another Martial Artist friend who may implement this principle, and keep passing it on and on.
My Primary 2 Recommendations to the many I come in contact with are:
1) LET’S GET BACK TO THE FUNDAMENTALS- The teaching of Basics (KIHON) has to be the primary and most important lesson, which is to be repeated for the life of the Martial Artists practice. This will create the Solid base for the Martial Arts practice as a Lifelong activity.
2) LET’S BECOME COMMITTED OR RE-NEW OUR COMMITMENT TO BASIC TECHNIQUES. Let’s teach and practice, ourselves, the importance of Basic techniques that Work. Master these Basic Techniques before considering Evolving the techniques and our Systems.
The younger generation of Martial Artists’ have misinterpreted the term TRADITIONAL KARATE as: Legitimizing themselves and the System of study by Finding an “Okinawan”, “Japanese”, “Chinese” or “Korean” instructor to then boast that their System is “Pure”/ “Traditional Karate”. What is not realized is that the movement towards “Traditionalism” is nothing more than “The Return To The basics”. Training the basic Kihon, training and performing Kata without additional (flashy or made up) techniques, or with no self defense applicability. The return to training to complete each Basic Technique. Example: One can see a youngster performing a Kata and moving “through the Motion” and not completing each technique, hence Poor Stances, Balance, and Diminish Power in Strikes.
I trained and learned The “Traditional” Martial Arts under American, Okinawan, Japanese, or Korean teachers, but many students looking to learn Karate would rather go to a Dojo owned and operated by some other instructor with an “Oriental” ethnic background.
I try to teach all my friends and acquaintances principles that are applicable to the teaching and propagation of The Martial Arts as well as applicable to life itself. I Demand that these principles are followed by my students, and are taught at their Dojo. Some of my younger protégés are: Anthony Vargas- St. James Community Center; my brother, Ruben Morales- Orlando, Fla.; my stepson Santos Sai Silva - Tampa, Fla.; my nephew Musuko- Bronx Mix Martial Arts; and my daughter Eva “Firefox” Aguilera- Orlando, Fla.
RENO MORALES IN THE CENTER WITH RED UNIFORM AND SANTOS SAI SILVA TO HIS LEFT
Another emphasized segment of my teaching is Pride, Awareness, Preparation, and Confidence to prevent any treatment or discrimination as a Second Class Citizen, or anything less than equal. Being born outside the United States s of America was and continues to be perceived as a handicap. It is also used as a weapon against you by many, in the form of Discrimination. I have felt the mental and physical effects of this appalling term, since very early in life. This fact fuels my determination and motivates me to prepare in education and life skill to become a leader. I became determined, and reminded myself everyday, never to let anyone consider or treat me as a second class citizen. I also take the same stand if this is done in my presence. Because of this attitude I have made it a lifetime commitment to teach myself, and teach others to prepare and value themselves so that no one ever treats them as second class citizens. I have prepared myself, and try to prepare others to become equal, if not better in some aspects of life, to any one else and I would not tolerate such treatment from those that still behave accordingly.
In the present and as long as I continue with strength I will act as the overseer to my protégés, to maintain a tradition of being grounded- basics, in the Future, and when my strength is diminished I will name a successor to my System and the “Curse” to follow the “Legacy” of excellence established. The leader will emerge from an exclusive group:
A. Eva “Firefox” Aguilera- Department of Homeland Security, Orlando, Fla.
B. Ruben Ruiz- a Retired NYPD officer, teaching in upstate, NY
C. Carlos Sanchez- presently active in the NYPD
D. Anthony Vargas- NY, NY. Teaching at St. James Community Center
Martialforce.com: Ultimately, Grand Master Morales told me that from the candidates, Eva Aguilera was leading and most likely will Inherit the legacy as Head of the SHINJITSU-JISSEN KARATE JUTSU/ COMBATIVE EXPRESSION SYSTEM, because of her undying dedication to The Martial Arts, and specifically the continuance of the System as established.
Martialforce.com: I know there is another side of you, aside from the Martial Artist we have come to know and love. You have Music in you. Would you tell us about it?
RENO MORALES: There is Music in me. I have played Music and Performed since the early 50’s. Today I continue to do so, and sing and play several instruments.
Martialforce.com: Thank you Grand Master Reno Morales for allowing me to share your experiences and illuminating words with the Martial Arts World. In Conclusion, I thank Eddie Morales, Hanshi, for the opportunity to contribute to the MARTIALFORCE.COM ONLINE MARTIAL ARTS MAGAZINE, and to the Martial Arts by bringing the profiles and teachings of Great Teachers in the MARTIAL ARTS.
Interview by Franklin Puello