Joe Lewis: Greatness Prevails

By | January 25th, 2013|Articles|

This is a 32 page document that will be put into color print and made available at seminars and events for $20.

It’s an excellent story and one that Joe wanted written after he died, and we’re making it available to Members for free.

 

Click Here to Download Joe Lewis: Greatness Prevails by Rob Colasanti

Willingness to Engage Effectively

By | November 29th, 2012|Articles|

“I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” ~ Bruce Lee

In an effort to advance The Joe Lewis Fighting Systems, I would like to look at it from an outside point of view. The JLFS is not a style of fighting, as styles have strict guidelines and do not change.  The JLFS is at its core a system of fighting, Master Lewis took techniques, theories, ideas and lessons from all of the different instructors he had as well as any person he thought he could learn from to better himself as a person and martial artist.  In doing this he gave the world insight and knowledge that took a lifetime to learn.  This insight and knowledge is known in the martial arts community as The Joe Lewis Fighting Systems.  In creating The JLFS he has brought together an incredible brotherhood of martial artist from all different styles, each with their own influence on the system.

As The JLFS moves forward into the future, the opportunities to spread this knowledge are endless.  While this system could be a standalone foundation for a school, the idea that all styles have something to offer leads me to believe that The JLFS would be better suited as a system to incorporate into your school.  Most believe that earning a black belt is not the end, but the beginning to a lifetime of studying.  In order to encourage school owners to want to implement this as part of their school, a foundation and set of standards needs to established.  This under belt system should have a foundation in “American Kickboxing”, as Master Lewis is considered the father of the style.  It also needs to incorporate the techniques of the Superfoot system, along with techniques of grappling and ground fighting to further broaden the spectrum of knowledge.  Since the majority of martial art schools in the country are based on a traditional style, the techniques are similar yet very different.  The foundation of the under belt system should start with the basic elements of American Kickboxing and as one gains rank in the under belt system they should begin to be introduced to new techniques.  Also, as one gains rank they should begin understand the concepts of how and when to use the techniques and learn new variations and approaches to the techniques.  The basics themselves are very complex for someone who has never done them before or for someone who has not done them with the intent and knowledge of how to use them in a combative environment. NO BATTLE PLAN SURVIVES CONTACT WITH THE ENEMY.

One would not go to a successful company and try to convince them to take on something new if it meant they had to overhaul or abandon what they already do very well.  Nor would one try to convince them to implement something where the standards they have to meet are “all or none”.  Just as a 1st degree black belt and a master rank black belt, both wear a the same belt but have many differences in knowledge due to time and experience, The JLFS is a system that one could easily dedicate their entire life to and still have more to learn in the end.  Other “systems” fit well into traditional schools because they are also based off of a similar traditional platform, there is some change from the traditional art the schools already teach but they are minimal in order to fit into the “system”.  The JLFS is a system with substantial differences in platform because at its core it is about engaging and being combative, even the basics have a much different use, feel, approach and technique than traditional martial arts.

So, now you give a successful, motivated and smart business owner (instructor/fighter) a system that can be used to build their customer base or skill set by introducing something that does not change or take way from what they already do, but builds a new set of skills with basics that work in any confrontational situation and can become very advanced overtime with hard work and perfect practice, and they will likely embrace it.  This approach is a much more appealing system than one that overhauls or tries to replace their current and successful business or style.  The greatness of The JLFS could be lost if it is over complicated or if the quality is overshadowed by the quantity. As Bruce Lee said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.” Again the basics are complicated when under fire.  So, why over complicate the already complicated.

A system is a system; it is updated, changed and modified.  The under belt system should be a platform to teach the core principals of The JLFS.  With all platforms many add-ons can be made, but when stripped down they are still the same.  The JLFS black belt manual is the bible of this system, this is a platform based off Master Lewis’s personal experiences in combative situations, with core principles of basics and willingness to engage.

The phone has only 10 numbers, but you can call anywhere in the world… simplicity at its finest, yet unlimited at the same time. MY brother Danny Dring speaks the truth in saying (the way to teach someone nothing is to teach them too much)                                                                                                                   

Right now, somewhere, there is a young soldier standing a post with an M4 in his or her hands protecting his friends by any means necessary, basic at its core with principle, and willing to give their life to do so. Think of them on this Holliday and just say thank you SOLDIER.

BLESSINGS

John Maynard, son of a soldier.

1971 – Looking for a Few Kicks […]

By | October 29th, 2012|Articles|

Link to the original article Here.

“City Squire Motor Inn, hello.”

“Joe Lewis please.”

“Joe Louis, the fighter?”

“You got it.”

“Oh.” (Aside: “Has Joe Louis checked in?”) “Sorry, he’s not here. We’d all know if he was.”

“Wait a minute. Not that Joe Louis. This one is L-e-w-i-s. He’s only 27. He’s the heavyweight kickboxing champion of the United States.”

“The what?”

Energy, energy,” Joe Lewis growled playfully, starting his prefight lunch with a giant bowl of strawberries and ice cream, following it with a slab of broiled fish and a baked potato, finally shunting the empty potato skin aside. “Eat it, vitamins,” someone said, and Lewis responded by tightening his arms and chest. On his left bicep a large vein stood out, visible even through the cloth of his shirt. Down the shirtfront, buttons appeared ready to pop. Joe Lewis grinned. “Do I look like I’m suffering from a lack of potato skins?” he asked quietly. He was young and strong and, even though he was the wrong L—is, in a sport no one ever heard of, confident.

That night young Joe Lewis would defend his kickboxing title for the first time, against a mystery named Ronnie Barkoot. It was rumored Barkoot could drive his foot through three cinder blocks, but Lewis was unworried. “I may not look particularly confident,” he said, “but you can see it in my eyes.” If a man’s eyes are truly the window of his soul, then Barkoot was in trouble. Lewis seemed startlingly self-assured. He had come to fight in New York’s moldering Sunnyside Gardens, he said, after only two professional kickboxing matches, to interest Madison Square Garden in its first kickboxing card. It never occurred to him that the Garden would not be interested.

Ronnie Barkoot, it turned out, was 29, a karate instructor from Columbia, S.C. and a former state karate champion. There was a softness at his waist, and before the right he seemed dejected, his eyes downcast; perhaps it was the sight of Lewis’ torso. As the fight began Barkoot seemed to overreact to the bell, charging out with whirling karate kicks that failed to land. Lewis stayed away for half a minute, then brought down Barkoot’s guard with a faked kick, thudded a right to his chest and floored him with a left hook. Barkoot wobbled up but at. 1:15 of Round 1 he bounced off the ropes into another left hook and onto his back. That was the fight. As Lewis paraded cockily around the ring minutes later, his arm raised in victory, Barkoot was still unable to stand.

After the fight Joe Lewis sat on the ring apron for nearly an hour, signing autographs, smiling and kidding with a group of wide-eyed teen-age girls. Despite the glances of boyfriends, some of the young ladies returned two or three times with their slips of paper, presumably more interested in the towel-draped kickboxer with the Prince Valiant haircut than in his sport. Finally Lewis excused himself and walked toward his dressing room for more talk and, eventually, to dress.

In the audience there had been the constant expectation of something vicious and exotic but, except for the limited kicking, Lewis had looked like a conventional boxer. He said he had not needed much kicking to beat Barkoot and, anyway, he liked the punching part better. Not, he said, that he would ever want to become a conventional boxer. Joe Orbillo, whom Lewis met in California and who at one time was considered one of this country’s finest heavyweight prospects, swore that Lewis could become a contender in two years, but, at only 195 pounds, Lewis was not tempted. He might have to fight 215-pounders with longer reaches who had been boxing all their lives. No, he would stick with kickboxing and karate, where he felt safer, even if his opponents did not.

Joe Lewis has been the world karate champion for the last five years. He won the U.S. karate championship in Texas in 1968 using what karate men call a side kick. En route to the championship he won a semifinal match that lasted three seconds, or about as long as it took Lewis to deliver the side kick. His opponent, with a number of his ribs crushed, both kidneys ruptured and his liver mashed, was not about to continue.

“With Barkoot,” Lewis said as he left his shower, “I just used my arm. I’m afraid to think what would have happened if I’d really put my body into it.” He said this disinterestedly, like the smart boy on the block who had just dissected his first frog. “I’ve always tried to understand people,” he said, “and I knew I could beat Barkoot as soon as he stood up from his stool. He was stiff. There was no confidence in his eyes. He projected a feeling of uncertainty, and everyone in his corner looked the same.”

The fight had followed 10 yawn-filled hours of karate competition, the crowd kept alert by an announcer whose real calling was the carnival midway. “Stick around folks,” he barked. “Joe Lewis will be here…. Joe Lewis has arrived…. Folks, Joe Lewis comes on next.”

Surprisingly, Lewis’ appearance in the ring was not greeted with the unalloyed delight one would have expected for a great and surpassing champion, although it obviously was the highlight of the evening. Many people had come to see Lewis lose. Between 1966 and 1969 Lewis won 26 karate titles, and somewhere along the line he got bored with the bowing and stiff ceremony that traditionalists love so. In fact, he actively rejects the almost religious rituals of the sport. “I never believed in that Oriental sportsmanship humble bullbleep anyway,” he says. “I think it’s the most messed-up philosophy in the world.”

Karate, Lewis began to realize, was an art whose skills could never be fully used competitively. The only legal outlets for its blows were the breaking of boards that TV is so crazy about—”show business,” Lewis says derisively—or self-defense, and who was going to pick on Joe Lewis? “I could never understand why we couldn’t put on boxing gloves and just go at it,” he says, so two years ago he began developing and teaching a brand of super-karate called, not too pithily, Joe Lewis-Style Self-Defense.

JLSSD differed radically from karate, with its straight punches and limited bare-handed contact. Lewis and his followers not only put on the gloves, they threw all-out hooks and uppercuts. Since they were not going to wear gloves on their feet, they decided to outlaw side and back kicks to the head. These, they pointed out, could kill. Instead, they would limit foot-to-head contact to less powerful—and just slightly more humane—kicks such as the round and the crescent. These hurt a good deal but usually they do not destroy.

Joe Lewis-Style Self-Defense was introduced in public last January at the Long Beach (Calif.) Arena, but not under that cumbersome title. When Lewis was convincing leery Promoter Lee Faulkner to stage an exhibition, inevitably he had to describe his sport. Neither Lewis nor Faulkner ever mentioned the word kick-boxing, which is what Thailand calls its national game, but when Lewis later entered the ring to fight Greg Baines, a top karate heavyweight, for some strange reason the announcer said the dread word, “Kickboxing.” Lewis has been stuck with the name ever since and, as he points out, there is only the mildest similarity between the Oriental sport and his. Thai kicking, he says, is less powerful and its punching is relatively poor.

The fight followed a program of 20 or so karate matches, and as Lewis and Baines left their dressing rooms they had to awaken a guard who had been sleeping soundly in his chair by their doors. The part of the audience that was still around seemed numbed by the experience. It did not help matters that three days before the exhibition Lewis had broken his left hand when a sparring partner kicked him. Lewis was forced to jab with his power side, his right, and his punching was not the authoritative last word Lewis had grown to expect of himself. Still, the whistling authority of the right roused the small crowd and intimidated Baines. Midway through the second round Lewis drove Baines to the ropes with a right hook to the temple, then finished him with another to the jaw. People milled around the ring, and the guard was jumping up and down. “That was the most exciting thing I’ve ever seen,” he shouted.

Each came under the other’s tutelage. Sometimes a session in psychology followed a private karate lesson. Finally, they stopped paying each other. Through hypnosis, Branden took his young patient as far back as his third year, reliving traumas, searching for insights. “I made Joe Lewis visible to himself,” Branden says. “It’s important and difficult for a young person to see himself objectively. Those who saw Joe as merely a genius at karate didn’t know him. He is a man with the psychology and self-esteem of a champion, and that goes for everything he does. There isn’t anyone left for him to fight, but it’s just as well. It’s time he opened his life to other avenues of activity.”

And other avenues it was. Rather than devoting all his time to killing or being killed by whatever few heavyweight Joe Lewis-Style Self-Defense kickboxers were extant in the U.S., Lewis turned more to commerce and money, which, it now appeared, seem to have been behind this recognition thing all along. Last March he became national director of Tracy’s Karate Studios, with 93 schools in 25 states. “We took on Pittsburgh this spring,” he says, “and we’ve hit Toronto and Dayton, and now we’ll hit Dallas, constantly outsmarting the opposition. It’ll be like a surprise attack. They’ll never know what hit them. We’ll have 150 schools in a year, 1,000 by 1976, and by then we’ll be all over Europe. We’ll be millionaires.”

He will be a millionaire plus if the nationally syndicated exercise and self-defense program for women that he is currently trying to peddle to Paramount TV is bought. But, no, wait, money is not what really matters. The only rewards of all this wheeling and dealing are the constant challenges. And anyway, “There are more important things about me than big muscles, trophies, titles or money,” he says. “I want to develop my intellect.”

So Joe Lewis’ search goes on. He will continue to kickbox whenever someone has the temerity to challenge him, and someday he may give that old recognition a swift side kick in the gut, not the head. New rules.

2004 – Interview on JLFS

By | October 29th, 2012|Articles|

Martial Arts Professional: You have been an icon in the martial arts for four decades. Why have you waited so long to form a Joe Lewis organization?

Joe Lewis: Originally I became involved in the martial arts for the same reasons most of us did. Not only was it fun and exciting, but the training appealed to my need to develop and mature as a person. Also, the camaraderie I enjoyed while working out with my fellow black belts was unmatched.Later, when I found myself being questioned by most of the top fighters about strategies, tactics, fighting attitudes, and training tips, I realized that it was time for me to become an instructor. During the next decade, many of my top black belts insisted that there was a need to form a Joe Lewis organization, and they asked me to be the head of it. Like Bruce Lee, I never wanted to give my fighting style a name or to start an organization or to write a book until I felt comfortable with the completed evolution of my research.

MAPro: Some years you do nearly 100 seminars a year. Why add forming an organization to your plate?

Lewis: I have always wanted to have all of my seminars recorded or to put my research into a permanent format where it could forever remain available to any interested martial artist. Seminars are very limited. My new book and website are the perfect forum to provide me with total access to the martial arts community. And, more importantly, it provides them with total access to me.

MAPro: What do you hope to accomplish with a Joe Lewis organization?

Lewis: To dignify the student’s efforts and to pursue a common vision based on courageous leadership.While most blackbelt instructors spend up to 80 percent of their time teaching beginning material over and over again, mostly to white belts, I have spent more than 80 percent of my time developing ways to advance the teaching skills of the black belt instructors, as well as to enhance the training methods and combat skills of black belts and world-class fighters. A good organization should embody a vision shared by all its members, and it should demonstrate a sense of leadership in its most basic form. For example, I will not ask you if you can accomplish something. But rather I will show you how to accomplish it. A teacher who represents cutting-edge concepts should never have a student ask can he make black belt, can he be fast, can he ever double his power? Our organization will teach you to have students who will instead ask how to become a black belt, how to increase their speed, how they can double their power.

MAPro: Who can join?

Lewis: The doors to this organization are open to anyone. You do not even have to be a martial artist to join. This association is first and foremost an alliance of people. At the end of my book about training with Bruce Lee, I applauded how his vision made him a leading icon in martial arts history. Unlike any other martial artist, he was able to bring together millions of people of diverse backgrounds, enabling them to share the same future. He made all of them proud and excited to be martial artists. We want to do the same.

MAPro: You are well-known for saying the only rank that matters is black belt. Do you still feel that way?

Lewis: I said a lot of things when I was young and arrogant. To me, pursuing martial arts was similar to going on a diet. I didn’t understand why people would quit before reaching black belt. That attitude was out-dated and did not take into account the high cost of years of expensive tuition or the ongoing aggravation of sacrifices that many endure. Nor does it take into account that many black belt instructors lack combat skills or the ability to motivate students, not to mention not understanding the science of improving self-confidence. I now believe that the majority of those who discontinue their pursuit of earning a black belt do it because of disappointments unrelated to a personal lack of genuine effort or honest intentions. When a student’s instructor falls short as a motivator or instructor or if his material is below the student’s expectations, I would never blame him if he dropped out.

MAPro: You are well known for saying that there are two kinds of black belts: good ones and bad ones. How do you define a good black belt?

Lewis: This subject would make a great book itself. But, briefly, if you have passed a battery of tests for your black belt promotion and you were conferred rank by a legitimate board or instructor, then in my opinion you are a black belt. One of my first schools gave out two types of black belts. One was rank earned by sparring, and another was rank earned by knowledge of a certain number of katas and wazas. The handful of those who received a sparring promotion also got a special seal attached to the diploma by the head instructor. Although I could beat some of these specially promoted black belts in a sparring match, I never received one of the fighting certificates. I also failed my first green belt test. During my old days as a Marine back in Okinawa, the Okinawan instructors put great emphasis on katas. I and a few others put our emphasis on fighting skills. Today, my opinion of what constitutes a good black belt has greatly changed from those days. Most people who love and participate in martial arts do not engage in combative sparring, nor do they place a high value on sparring skills. Instructors, though, want to know how to teach sparring and how to teach their students to better themselves when engaged in any form of combat. The idea of learning tactical combat skills, strategic mindsets, and teaching others to confront different opponent types appeals greatly to the skilled, modernday black belt teacher. In today’s world, little emphasis is placed on who is the toughest. Most instructors strongly advocate the
value of having the courage, will, and commitment to deal physically with a situation when they are forced, but not necessarily proving it in a sparring session or some type of king of the hill. Instructors today teach their students, especially children, to solve problems by communication, not by force. Otherwise, our kids grow up believing that adults condone violence and that problems get solved through force. The rank system is important for personal development. Each rank level gives a student a physical goal that symbolizes an accomplishment. Self-esteem leads to self-confidence. Martial arts training is a great self-confidence builder. Of course, I still believe that a good black belt must understand and demonstrate the warrior’s spirit. Every student deserves an instructor who possesses cutting-edge combat tactics; the ability to see the hidden strengths within each student; and, finally, the ability to create inner courage and a sense of self-confidence in each student.

MAPro: That said, then what makes a good organization?Lewis: First, make sure that it is set up on the premise of benefiting its members and not on magnifying an individual. Always place moral conscience above economic gain. A successful association has an administrative structure whose planning and efforts focus on the good of its members. Most associations collect dues until the end of the year, when they pass out a pile of meaningless awards at an over-priced banquet. This is why I have always shied away from organizations. I believe that good associations continually upgrade their services. They maintain easy access among the leadership staff and all members. They have mastered the secret of making membership more important than the association itself.

MAPro: How can someone earn a black belt with you?

Lewis: First, let me state with pride that our black belt certificate is the best looking diploma in martial arts. The outside border is pressed gold foil, and dead center of the certificate are three big words “Black Belt Certificate.” I’ve always put more emphasis on the person’s rank than the name of the association.We have a black belt manual, which is easy for any instructor to read and follow. On a black belt level, our manual lists 100 sparring combinations, which can be done either by a fighter or in a cardio class by any non-combat-oriented martial artist. Our glossary lists over 50 martial arts terms, such as broken rhythm, implicit timing, and so forth.We require each student to spend time developing his skills against various targets, bags, mitts, and so on, because without contact against a target, speed, power, and timing have no meaning.Whether a student is strictly a cardio-fitness trainee or is pursuing higher rank as a martial artist, target skills are a must. Not only are they fun drills to learn and execute, but they are the quickest route to self-confidence. Our forms are called combination sequences. Each form is designed to teach the student how to confront and engage a different type of fighter. The forms can be executed in a shadow-fighting context or against a coach holding mitts or with the heavy bag or double-end bag. Real fighting or combat combinations, which we call modules, are extrapolated from each of these various sequences.Our programs teach the student how to double his speed or power. Ninety percent of all mistakes in combat are mental, not physical. We teach instructors to show students step by step how to deal with the classic mistakes.All of this can be easily learned without ever engaging in actual sparring. For the everyday cardio fitness student, one advantage of exploring our manuals is seeing how easy it is to advance their skills step by step and acquire combat confidence without ever getting hit or engaging in sparring drills.

MAPro: How old do you have to be to earn a Joe Lewis black belt?

Lewis: With rare exceptions, our bylaws mandate that an individual must be 18 years old and have achieved either a brown belt or a black belt in another martial art system before they can test for a black belt in our system. Our board of directors recently promoted a 13-year-old multi-champion young man to the rank of junior black belt. We have, therefore, opened up rank qualifications to black belt for those under the age of 18 so that they can qualify as a junior black belt until such time that they can convert to an adult ranking. Our standards and requirements from first-degree black belt and above may be a little stricter than other associations. However, once you put that black belt on, the sense of personal pride is unmatched by anything else. I have won world titles; I’ve starred in movies; I’ve been on covers of all the major martial art publications; I’m in over 15 halls of fame. But the thing that means the most to me is earning my first black belt.

MAPro: How will this organization differ from the many other martial arts organizations?

Lewis: In my 40 years of martial arts, I’ve seen more attempts at creating organizations than I ever want to remember. But one organization has stood the test of time, and that is NAPMA. No other crossstyle organization has done as much good for as many schools for as long. I want the same for my members. NAPMA’s creator, John Graden, who is a seventh degree in my system, will be working very closely with me to make sure that we give our members a huge return on their tuition. John knows how to build value in an organization. That’s what I want.The organization is built around an exclusive website for our members. There they can ask me training questions, have personalized training programs developed for them, earn discounts on our events and products, have access to my personal training library, interact with other members, and even get a video private lesson delivered to their home each month to advance towards black belt. We will also have special member-only events where we can all get together and train. Our membership runs from the casual fan who just wants access to this amazing website, to the school owner who would like to open a
Joe Lewis training center.

MAPro: There is also some industry buzz about your book, World’s Greatest Fighter Teaches You: How to Master Bruce Lee’s Fighting System. Is this your first?

Lewis: This is the first book I have written. It’s about my earlier training years with one of my instructors, Bruce Lee. Many martial artists have told me they are not interested in Bruce Lee, that they are only interested in me and my personal fighting system. For anyone to fully understand my system, however, they must first grasp both the essence and the attitude of my fighting psychology. Any smart martial artist or instructor will get his hands on this book. Without this book, you will not be able to answer one of the two most important questions that confront all martial artists: What is the most dominant psychological principle that motivates a person to want to fight or to engage in combat? Another interesting question that the book will answer is, what was Bruce Lee’s vision that propelled him into super stardom and made him historically martial arts’ most famous icon?

MAPro: What kind of support have you received for the book?

Lewis: I have nine contributing writers who each provided a personal chapter about his relationship with Bruce Lee. This is a first in martial arts history: Ten notable martial artists, each contributing his experiences with the late Bruce Lee. Each of these contributors worked with Bruce Lee and also knew me. They are Joe Hyams, Danny Inosanto, John Korab, Gene LeBell, Jhoon Rhee, Mike Stone, Bob Wall, Ted Wong, and Chuck Norris. Many books have been published about Bruce Lee or about the two of us. Most were written by people who never met Bruce Lee or me or even watched us train or fight. This is history’s first.

MAPro: You’ve always been on the leading edge of martial arts training. Now you’ve become an author and teacher. Do you have plans for any other books or projects?

Lewis: Presently, I am focused on my website, http://joelewisfightingsystems.com/, and training programs for our new subscribers and members. Eventually, I will do a multi-volume encyclopedic training manual for all martial arts and fitness enthusiasts.

Arnold Howard has been a karate instructor since 1985. He is the associate editor for Martial Arts Professional magazine.

Interview on JLFS – Martial Arts Professional, 2004

By | October 19th, 2012|Articles|

by Arnold Howard

Martial Arts Professional: You have been an icon in the martial arts for four decades. Why have you
waited so long to form a Joe Lewis organization?

Joe Lewis: Originally I became involved in the martial arts for the same reasons most of us did. Not
only was it fun and exciting, but the training appealed to my need to develop and mature as a person.
Also, the camaraderie I enjoyed while working out with my fellow black belts was unmatched.
Later, when I found myself being questioned by most of the top fighters about strategies, tactics,
fighting attitudes, and training tips, I realized that it was time for me to become an instructor.
During the next decade, many of my top black belts insisted that there was a need to form a Joe Lewis
organization, and they asked me to be the head of it. Like Bruce Lee, I never wanted to give my fighting
style a name or to start an organization or to write a book until I felt comfortable with the completed
evolution of my research.

MAPro: Some years you do nearly 100 seminars a year. Why add forming an organization to your
plate?

Lewis: I have always wanted to have all of my seminars recorded or to put my research into a permanent
format where it could forever remain available to any interested martial artist. Seminars are very limited.
My new book and website are create the perfect forum to provide me with total access to the martial arts
community. And, more importantly, it provides them with total access to me.

MAPro: What do you hope to accomplish with a Joe Lewis organization?

Lewis: To dignify the student’s efforts and to pursue a common vision based on courageous leadership.
While most blackbelt instructors spend up to 80 percent of their time teaching beginning material over
and over again, mostly to white belts, I have spent more than 80 percent of my time developing ways to
advance the teaching skills of the black belt instructors, as well as to enhance the training methods and
combat skills of black belts and world-class fighters.
A good organization should embody a vision shared by all its members, and it should demonstrate a
sense of leadership in its most basic form. For example, I will not ask you if you can accomplish
something. But rather I will show you how to accomplish it. A teacher who represents cutting-edge
concepts should never have a student ask can he make black belt, can he be fast, can he ever double his
power? Our organization will teach you to have students who will instead ask how to become a black belt,
how to increase their speed, how they can double their power.

MAPro: Who can join?

Lewis: The doors to this organization are open to anyone. You do not even have to be a martial artist to
join. This association is first and foremost an alliance of people. At the end of my book about training
with Bruce Lee, I applauded how his vision made him a leading icon in martial arts history. Unlike any
other martial artist, he was able to bring together millions of people of diverse backgrounds, enabling
them to share the same future. He made all of them proud and excited to be martial artists. We want to do
the same.

MAPro: You are well-known for saying the only rank that matters is black belt. Do you still feel that
way?

Lewis: I said a lot of things when I was young and arrogant. To me, pursuing mar-tial arts was similar
to going on a diet. I didn’t understand why people would quit before reaching black belt. That attitude was out-dated and did not take into account the high cost of years of expensive tuition or the ongoing
aggravation of sacrifices that many endure. Nor does it take into account that many black belt instructors
lack combat skills or the ability to motivate students, not to mention not understanding the science of
improving self-confidence.
I now believe that the majority of those who discontinue their pursuit of earning a black belt do it
because of disappointments unrelated to a personal lack of genuine effort or honest intentions. When a
student’s instructor falls short as a motivator or instructor or if his material is below the student’s
expectations, I would never blame him if he dropped out.

MAPro: You are well known for saying that there are two kinds of black belts: good ones and bad ones.
How do you define a good black belt?

Lewis: This subject would make a great book itself. But, briefly, if you have passed a battery of tests for
your black belt promotion and you were conferred rank by a legitimate board or instructor, then in my
opinion you are a black belt.
One of my first schools gave out two types of black belts. One was rank earned by sparring, and another
was rank earned by knowledge of a certain number of katas and wazas. The handful of those who
received a sparring promotion also got a special seal attached to the diploma by the head instructor.
Although I could beat some of these specially promoted black belts in a sparring match, I never received
one of the fighting certificates. I also failed my first green belt test.
During my old days as a Marine back in Okinawa, the Okinawan instructors put great emphasis on
katas. I and a few others put our emphasis on fighting skills. Today, my opinion of what constitutes a
good black belt has greatly changed from those days. Most people who love and participate in martial arts
do not engage in combative sparring, nor do they place a high value on sparring skills.
Instructors, though, want to know how to teach sparring and how to teach their students to better
themselves when engaged in any form of combat. The idea of learning tactical combat skills, strategic
mindsets, and teaching others to confront different opponent types appeals greatly to the skilled, modernday black belt teacher.
In today’s world, little emphasis is placed on who is the toughest. Most instructors strongly advocate the
value of having the courage, will, and commitment to deal physically with a situation when they are
forced, but not necessarily proving it in a sparring session or some type of king of the hill. Instructors
today teach their students, especially children, to solve problems by communication, not by force.
Otherwise, our kids grow up believing that adults condone violence and that problems get solved through
force.
The rank system is important for personal development. Each rank level gives a student a physical goal
that symbolizes an accomplishment. Self-esteem leads to self-confidence. Martial arts training is a great
self-confidence builder. Of course, I still believe that a good black belt must understand and demonstrate
the warrior’s spirit. Every student deserves an instructor who possesses cutting-edge combat tactics; the
ability to see the hidden strengths within each student; and, finally, the ability to create inner courage and
a sense of self-confidence in each student.

MAPro: That said, then what makes a good organization?

Lewis: First, make sure that it is set up on the premise of benefiting its members and not on magnifying
an individual. Always place moral conscience above economic gain. A successful association has an administrative structure whose planning and efforts focus on the good of its members.
Most associations collect dues until the end of the year, when they pass out a pile of meaningless awards
at an over-priced banquet. This is why I have always shied away from organizations. I believe that good
associations continually upgrade their services. They maintain easy access among the leadership staff and all members. They have mastered the secret of making membership more important than the association
itself.

MAPro: How can someone earn a black belt with you?

Lewis: First, let me state with pride that our black belt certificate is the best looking diploma in martial
arts. The outside border is pressed gold foil, and dead center of the certificate are three big words “Black
Belt Certificate.” I’ve always put more emphasis on the person’s rank than the name of the association.
We have a black belt manual, which is easy for any instructor to read and follow. On a black belt level,
our manual lists 100 sparring combinations, which can be done either by a fighter or in a cardio class by
any non-combat-oriented martial artist. Our glossary lists over 50 martial arts terms, such as broken
rhythm, implicit timing, and so forth.
We require each student to spend time developing his skills against various targets, bags, mitts, and so
on, because without contact against a target, speed, power, and timing have no meaning.
Whether a student is strictly a cardio-fitness trainee or is pursuing higher rank as a martial artist, target
skills are a must. Not only are they fun drills to learn and execute, but they are the quickest route to selfconfidence.
Our forms are called combination se-quences. Each form is designed to teach the student how to
confront and engage a different type of fighter. The forms can be executed in a shadow-fighting context
or against a coach holding mitts or with the heavy bag or double-end bag. Real fighting or combat
combinations, which we call modules, are extrapolated from each of these various sequences.
Our programs teach the student how to double his speed or power. Ninety percent of all mistakes in
combat are mental, not physical. We teach instructors to show students step by step how to deal with the
classic mistakes.
All of this can be easily learned without ever engaging in actual sparring. For the everyday cardio
fitness student, one advantage of exploring our manuals is seeing how easy it is to advance their skills
step by step and acquire combat confidence without ever getting hit or engaging in sparring drills.

MAPro: How old do you have to be to earn a Joe Lewis black belt?

Lewis: With rare exceptions, our bylaws mandate that an individual must be 18 years old and have
achieved either a brown belt or a black belt in another martial art system before they can test for a black
belt in our system.
Our board of directors recently promoted a 13-year-old multi-champion young man to the rank of junior
black belt. We have, therefore, opened up rank qualifications to black belt for those under the age of 18 so
that they can qualify as a junior black belt until such time that they can convert to an adult ranking.
Our standards and requirements from first-degree black belt and above may be a little stricter than other
associations. However, once you put that black belt on, the sense of personal pride is unmatched by
anything else. I have won world titles; I’ve starred in movies; I’ve been on covers of all the major martial
art publications; I’m in over 15 halls of fame. But the thing that means the most to me is
earning my first black belt.

MAPro: How will this organization differ from the many other martial arts organizations?

Lewis: In my 40 years of martial arts, I’ve seen more attempts at creating organ-izations than I ever
want to remember. But one organization has stood the test of time, and that is NAPMA. No other crossstyle organization has done as much good for as many schools for as long. I want the same for my
members. NAPMA’s creator, John Graden, who is a seventh degree in my system, will be working very
closely with me to make sure that we give our members a huge return on their tuition. John knows how to
build value in an organization. That’s what I want.The organization is built around an exclusive website for our members. There they can ask me training
questions, have personalized training programs developed for them, earn discounts on our events and
products, have access to my personal training library, interact with other mem-bers, and even get a video
private lesson delivered to their home each month to advance towards black belt. We will also have
special member-only events where we can all get together and train. Our membership runs from the
casual fan who just wants access to this amazing website, to the school owner who would like to open a
Joe Lewis training center.

MAPro: There is also some industry buzz about your book, World’s Greatest Fighter Teaches You:
How to Master Bruce Lee’s Fighting System. Is this your first?

Lewis: This is the first book I have written. It’s about my earlier training years with one of my
instructors, Bruce Lee. Many martial artists have told me they are not interested in Bruce Lee, that they
are only interested in me and my personal fighting system. For anyone to fully understand my system,
however, they must first grasp both the essence and the attitude of my fighting psychology.
Any smart martial artist or instructor will get his hands on this book. Without this book, you will not be
able to answer one of the two most important questions that confront all martial artists: What is the most
dominant psychological principle that motivates a person to want to fight or to engage in combat?
Another interesting question that the book will answer is, what was Bruce Lee’s vision that propelled him
into super stardom and made him historically martial arts’ most famous icon?

MAPro: What kind of support have you received for the book?

Lewis: I have nine contributing writers who each provided a personal chapter about his relationship
with Bruce Lee. This is a first in martial arts history: Ten notable martial artists, each contributing his
experiences with the late Bruce Lee. Each of these contributors worked with Bruce Lee and also knew
me. They are Joe Hyams, Danny Inosanto, John Korab, Gene LeBell, Jhoon Rhee, Mike Stone, Bob Wall,
Ted Wong, and Chuck Norris. Many books have been published about Bruce Lee or about the two of us.
Most were written by people who never met Bruce Lee or me or even watched us train or fight. This is
history’s first.

MAPro: You’ve always been on the leading edge of martial arts training. Now you’ve become an
author and teacher. Do you have plans for any other books or projects?

Lewis: Presently, I am focused on my website, www.joelewiskarate.com, and training programs for our
new subscribers and members. Eventually, I will do a multi-volume encyclopedic training manual for all
martial arts and fitness enthusiasts.
Arnold Howard has been a karate instructor since 1985. He is the associate editor for Martial Arts
Professional magazine.