August 13, 1955 to August 13, 2012

My Life in the Arts by Sensei Gerard M. Weis

On August 13, 1955 I was born in Ulysses, Kansas, a small town in the southwestern corner of the state. I was the youngest of seven; my three brothers (Joseph, John and James) and three sisters (Jo Donna Jean, Margaret and Ruth) lived with my parents in a small three bedroom home in nearby Johnson, Kansas. We never had a lot of extras, but Mom and Dad worked hard to provide all we needed. In fact I never considered myself to be poor. I learned early in life that material things came second to family and friends: as a family we were always close and still are today. What more could a person need, or want?

After my mother passed away, I moved to Dodge City Kansas to live with my sister Margaret and her husband Paul. It was Margaret who introduced me to the Martial Arts. How my life has changed since then! It was in June of 1964: Margaret took me with her to the local YMCA where she had started taking Judo lessons. After the first minute, I was hooked for life.

My first instructor was Sensei Robert Douglas. He was attending courses at St. Mary's of the Plains College in Dodge City; originally he was from Boston, Mass. I still remember the first throw he taught me - "O Goshi". After many failed attempts I finally managed to get Sensei off the ground and balanced on my hip. My eyes must have been bugging out as I threw him for the first time. I couldn't believe that an underweight weakling could really throw an adult like that. Over the next year and a half I would ride my bike home after school, get my homework done and be off again to the YMCA. I helped pay for my lessons by cleaning the school, the mats, and the equipment, I didn't really like to do the janitorial work, but it didn't matter...I was at the Dojo. If I wasn't actually taking a class, I would be sitting over by the wall watching the more advanced students, and dreaming of the day when I would be able to do the throws, grappling techniques, and in general, just move like they did. The best day I ever had in the Dojo was also one of my saddest. Sensei "Bob" (as we affectionately called him), was testing me for my green belt. The test seemed to take forever. Sensei kept going over things more than once. I thought I was failing the test miserably, but some how I got through it and was awarded the Green Belt. After the testing was over, Sensei told us that he would be graduating at mid-term and would be moving back East. I was devastated - how would I continue without Judo, Sensei Bob or the Martial Arts being a part of my young life? This was my start into the vast world of the Martial Arts.

From March of 1966, to May of 1972, I continued to work out on my own, reading every book about the Martial Arts I could get my hands on. It didn't matter if the subject matter was Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, or anything else, as long as it had something to do with the arts. Occasionally some of the other students and I would get together in the park or at one of their homes and workout together, but nothing was what you would call formal training. In June of 1969 Sensei Bob returned for a visit to Dodge City. During this visit Sensei Bob had called most of the students he had taught together to work out. On one of these occasions, June 14, He tested those that were ready for their next belt. This is the day that I received my Brown Belt in Judo.

Looking back on this time, I don't know how my teachers and family put up with me. Just about every homework project I ever turned in, the subject guessed it, Martial Arts. My room had every poster and pictures of Martial Artists of the day, and I had even had one wall displaying every home-made weapon that I could fashion to resemble the "real" thing.

The summer between my Junior and Senior year, I moved to Enid, Oklahoma, to live with my brother Joe and his wife Shirley. To my great surprise, Enid had a number of Martial Art Schools. After visiting a number of different schools, I became a member of Sensei James Gardner's School of Akido and Ju Jitsu. I lived in Enid for only one year, but because of my outstanding foundation in the Arts that Sensei Douglas had provided me, I progressed rapidly and received a Green Belt in both styles.

After graduating from high school in May of 1973, I moved to Vallejo, California to live with my father and brother John. I was really looking forward to this move, as California was well known to have many great schools and styles of Martial Arts. The day I arrived in Vallejo, one of the first things I did was to find a phone book and looked up Martial Art Schools. It was great. There were so many: 3 pages worth in the yellow pages. The only bad thing was the closest was over forty minutes drive away. According to my father, I was in California to "go to college and get an education, not to worry about some foreign hobby". I was certain he had something backwards, but since he was paying the bills, to college I went.

While attending classes at Solano Community College, I found that the campus had an excellent Physical Education Complex, complete with a room that had mats wall to wall! This is where I spent a lot of my free time between classes, working out and such.

One day I was working on Judo rolls when two men walked into the room and asked if they could use part of the area. I had no problem with sharing the room as I was going to have to get to my next class in about thirty minutes anyway. Their names were Dale and Don Cobb. They were "identical" twins, and they were both instructors of Martial Arts. Dale was a Black Belt in White Crane and Wu Shu Forms, Don was a Black Belt in the same and also Shaolin Five Animal Form. They referred to the mixture of their arts as Loa Ki Laos. After they had warmed up and started doing their forms, I became totally absorbed in watching them. I was so taken with the smoothness and grace of their flowing and fluid movements; I lost all sense of time and missed my next two classes. To the day he died, I don't think my father ever knew I had missed any of my classes. If he had, he would have skinned me alive!

I started working out with Sifu Dale Cobb at every chance I got, and soon became his student. On August 16, 1976, at the age of twenty one, I was awarded my first Black Belt ranking under Sifu Dale in Loa Ki Loas Kung Fu. I continued to study under both Sifu's Dale and Don until 1982. During this time I had finished college, met my future wife Michaelle Pokorny, joined the United States Air Force, married my wife, and became a father to my son Joseph. Thankfully I was stationed at Travis Air Force Base outside of Fairfield, California. It was just a short drive up the freeway to get to Sifu Dale's school. In those six years I worked hard and achieved my fourth degree Black Belt under Sifu Cobb.

In 1982 the Air Force sent me to Korea for one year. While there I was fortunate to be able to continue my training with Master Ko in Kunsan Korea. Unlike most if the instructor found around the airbase Master Ko was Chinese not Korean and was a Master of Shalin Kung Fu, not Tai Kwon Do, which worked well with the training I had previously had. It proves that hard work pays off. On 14 April 1983 I was tested for my 5th degree ranking by Master Ko, and passed it successfully. I was also inducted into the "Circle of Masters" - Loa Ki Laos Kung Fu at that time.

Upon my arrival back in the states, the Air Force stationed me at Holloman AFB, NM (just outside of Alamogordo, NM), where my second son - Christopher - was born. From 1983 to 1992, I again did not take any formal training in the Martial Arts. I continued to work out on my own, but something was missing in my life.

In 1992 my sons Joseph and Christopher started taking Karate classes under Sensei Herman Luette, at "Way of Japan, School of Karate". I found myself taking the boys to their lessons and then staying to "watch" them and other classes as well. I was very proud of my sons and was secretly hoping that they would follow in my footsteps and find a way of life within the Martial Arts. I met Sensei Herman Luette by accident. One evening after my son's classes, we were in the parking lot. I had noticed that the boys were having a little difficulty in completing their turns in their katas without losing their balance. So being the good father that I am, I was helping them learn to stay centered and balanced even when they are turning. When we had finished, I noticed that a gentleman was watching us. He approached and introduced himself as my son's instructor, Herman Luette. He thanked me for working with my sons and wondered if I would consent to showing the rest of their class what I had shown Joseph and Chris. I readily agreed.

When I told my wife , Michaelle what had occurred she said "here we go again", and she didn't know how right she was. At the ripe "young" age of thirty eight, I found myself with a new "White" belt tied around my waist. I studied, and worked hard to adjust to this style - Shotokan. It was more difficult this time, maybe because I was a bit old to start a new style, or maybe it was more difficult to adjust from the "soft" style I had been training in for the last 20 years (ten with Dale and Don, and ten on my own). It definitely was a challenge. At first my boys had me outranked and they found a lot of enjoyment and amusement in having their father "bow to a higher belt". That was a good incentive to catch up with them. I caught up with them when they were testing for their Orange Belt, and passed them on the Green Belt, now it was their turn for bowing, (HeHeHe). When becoming a Purple Belt I became a Sinpa (Assistant Instructor) and started teaching three classes, two nights a week. I had forgotten how much I loved to teach others, and the satisfaction felt when students come up to me and thanked me for helping them with a difficult technique. This is the part of me that was missing during all those years of self practice; this was the part of the Martial Arts that was missing, to make the Arts whole in me. This is when I came to the realization, somehow, someday I would own a school and pass on what limited knowledge I had accumulated over the years of training to others. I continued to progress in my training and was awarded Shodan, Black Belt 1st Degree from Sensei Herman Luette on December 25, 1996.

In February of 1996 Sensei Luette approached me with the idea of purchasing "Way of Japan" from him, as he was going to be moving to Texas in the coming year. I only had another year in the Air Force before I would be retiring. After weighing the pros and cons with my wife and family, we decided to buy the school.

The Way of Japan had over a hundred students; it was in a great location and had plenty of parking off the street. We had over 3,000 square feet of training space, a private office, bathrooms and a catalog outlet store for Century Martial Arts and Asian World Martial Arts. It was a ready made dream come true. Of course the school also came with its share of headaches too; rent, payroll, taxes, scheduling, etc.... I loved it all. The Way of Japan was very active in the community, Our demo team performed at many events throughout the year; Day in the Sands, First Night Activities, and numerous demonstrations at local grade schools, just to name a few. We were active in many fund raising events: Toys for Tots, Coats for Kids, Kick Drugs out Our Community Kickathon. We even hosted a Max-Point Tournament, sponsored by the United States Karate Alliance. We were a Member in Good Standing with; the U.S.K.A. (United States Karate Alliance), the I.K.K.F. (International Kempo Kabudo Federation), the National Black Belt Club of America, N.A.P.M.A.(National Association of Professional Martial Artists).

Joseph and Christopher had been awarded their Shodan Black Belts (Junior Black for Chris as he wasn't sixteen yet). During this same time my wife and I were also blessed with the birth of our third son, John. It was a dream come true. I had a growing family; the "boys" were a big part of my life - assisting at the school, life was good.

They say all good things must come to an end, and it sure did for me. In October 1999 I had to close the school, due to many personal problems that had developed. Closing "Way of Japan" was the hardest thing I have ever had done. I felt as if I was letting all my students down, more than 120 of them.

From October 1999 to March 2004 I tried to just get by with everything that was being thrown my way. During this time my wife and I found out that she had cancer, she had developed diabetes, and her kidneys had shut down which meant dialysis three times a week for eleven months. Because of her chemo treatments Michaelle was very susceptible to infections and she seemed to be going to the hospital every two or three weeks to get over pneumonia or bronchitis. I wasn't blessed with good health either, I was diagnosed with Degenerative Joint Disease, and would have to have a hip replacement. Also I had a little bout with a slight Heart Attack and had to have a dual bi-pass. We went through the motions, with tests, operations, treatments, etc... By March of 2004 times were starting to get better.

My youngest son, John, told his mother and me that he wanted to start taking Martial Art lessons, so he could be like his big brothers. We decided that it was time and I started looking for a good school. I was happy to find out that the school - American Spirit Tai Kwon Do - that I was familiar with when I owned "Way of Japan", was still operating. I contacted them and found out that the owner I had known had retired but his Student had taken over and continued to teach. Mr. Jim Mathews was now the owner and operator of that school. I have never particularly liked Tai Kwon Do, due to the politics behind their associations, but I have always believed that there is good in all styles. I chose this school because I personally refuse to start any of my own children in taking formal Martial Arts training, besides I knew Mr. Mathews personally, so I signed him up.

Bet you can never guess what happened next...

Well almost...

My son Christopher after taking his brother John to classes had begun to get "the bug" again and asked me to get back into the Martial Arts. He wanted me to start giving lessons again, because he wanted to re-test for his Shodan Black Belt (now that he was over eighteen he would test as an Adult and not as a Junior). After much pestering from him, I finally gave in and said I would work with him and get him ready for testing. What I did not know at the time was he had alternative reasons for doing this. I made arrangements with Mr. Mathews at the American Spirit Tai Kwon Do School to use one of his training areas twice a week to give Chris his lessons. Chris worked hard to get ready for his upcoming test, but somehow instead of just teaching Chris, I now had 6 additional students, and was looking for a building to rent.

Here we go again... On June 1, 2008, Complete Martial Arts earned its first dollar. Wow, what a difference the Martial Arts has made and is making in my life. So much of my life has gotten better. My wife and I were still in the same boat when it comes to our health, but our attitudes had turned optimistic again. We have started to enjoy our lives again, and at least with me, opening Complete Martial Arts has played a big part in it. My students keep me young, and fill me with a sense of purpose. I have never been as happy and content in my life as I am when I’m teaching at the school. My youngest Son John was awarded his Junior Black Belt in Tai Kwon Do and is now taking lessons at Complete Martial Arts. I was honored to award to award both of my sons Joseph and Christopher their Nidan Black Belt (2nd Degree) on 25 April, 2009. Now they are both assisting me with the teaching duties at Complete Martial Arts. Since we opened in June 2008, our students have participated in many tournaments within New Mexico and my trophy walls are filling up rapidly. Many of my students have qualified for and participated in the U.S.K.A. National Tournament, held in Albuquerque. All finished in the top ten in there respective divisions, Three scoring Fourth Places and one taking a third, not bad for a school that had just two years before had been just a dream. I am quite proud of all who had a hand in getting it done.

Many memorable things have occurred since C.M.A. started, and I hope that many more will come to pass. Some good and some not so good.

Being the son of a Martial Arts School owner is not an easy Job to fill, as Joe and Chris have learned over the years. John yet had to learn totally what it is like. He continued training hard , finding out that just because he had a Black Belt in Tia Kwon Do, and was my son, that he would receive no favoritism when it came to him receiving belt promotions, in fact I was definitely harder on him than any of the other students, so was his brothers. On February 27, 2010 John received his Shodan (1st degree Black Belt, Junior Level) in Shotokan Karate. I was happy to see John wanting to continue in his training after that. He has earned many accomplishments in his martial arts, winning numerous tournament awards, placing in the top 5 for State ranking, and placing in the top 5 Nationally just to name a few. On May 21, 2011, I was proud to award him his Nidan (2nd degree Black Belt - Junior Level).

On 12 September 2009, My Wife, Michaelle, passed away after battling cancer and ill health for many years. I want to thank all my family for the support that I received during this time, especially my sons (Joe, Chris and John), without having them here, I probably would have never made it. I also want to thank all my students and friends at C.M.A. You all over the years have become family to me and your support is a big part of me picking myself up and continuing forward. Thank You!

Soon after this, after much pestering from my sons, Joe and Chris, I started working for my next belt test in Shotokan. I contacted Master James Hawks, Director of the U.S.K.A. to get his opinion as to who I should approach with this, as there were two excellent Shotokan instructors in New Mexico that I knew personally and that I could ask, Sensei Randy Sanders and Sensei Steve Flores. Master Hawks had one question for me, "Are you sure that you want one of these Instructors, or would you be open to another suggestion?" Well, when a 10th degree Master asks you a question like that you don't say no. I asked him if he had someone else in mind. He said that he had himself. Like I said before, when a 10th degree Master says something like that you don't say no. In fact, I didn't say anything - you probably could have driven a semi-truck through my mouth as my jaw had dropped to my feet and I was "dumb-struck" for several minutes. After recovering I'm sure that I Stuttered out my answer of acceptance and of being honored as to him even being willing to do this. On March 27, 2010, the last night of the U.S.K.A. Nation Tournament, Master James Hawks call me to the stage and awarded me my Yondan (4th degree Black Belt). I will always consider this as one of highest honors that I have received in the Martial Arts. Thank You Sensei.

My two sons Joe and Chris were ready to test for their 3rd degree in 2011 and I wanted to make it special for them. I contacted Master James Hawks and asked if I could award these belts at Nationals as he had for me a year earlier. He thought it was a great idea. On March 26, 2011 it was my great pleasure to award both Joe and Chris Sandan (3rd Degree Black Belt) at the U.S.K.A. National Tournament. Unfortunately Master Hawks was unable to attend so his wife - Master Sue Hawks helped me with the presentations. Thank you yet again Master James and Sue Hawks.

In an over view of Complete Martial Arts, one finds that we primarily teach Shotokan Karate, but we are not strict traditionalists. I have had too many teachers and studied too many styles to believe that one art can encompass everything for all situations. I also believe the more diverse a student's training can be, the more flexibility they will be in resolving any given situation they may find themselves in. This is how we approach teaching self defense at Complete Martial Arts. Here we call it "Street Wise Self Defense". We have incorporated many techniques from my past, the different styles I have had and blended it to form a very effective method for defending one self, be it against a weapon or unarmed attack.

My wishes for the future...

I know that I won't be able to continue to be as active as I have in the past, and that I will slowly be stepping back and letting others fill my shoes. I hope it will be years yet, but I will always treasure the life - you my students - have given me and want you to know it was wonderful and that I wouldn't change a thing about it. Thank You.

I hope Complete Martial Arts continues to grow and that someday my sons, one or all, continue the school long after I'm gone.

I wish for each of my sons; Joseph, Christopher, and John, as well as all my students that the Martial Arts become part of you, as it has me, and that you fulfill all your goals in life.

And I wish that I have made a positive impact on you - my students and that you take something away from me that will help you in your future life.

Sensei Gerard (Jerry) Weis Yondan Shotokan Karate 4th degree Doi Sifu Loa Ki Loas 5th degree