AN INTERVIEW WITH
AUGUST / 2011
My name is Franklin Puello and I welcome you readers to this star studded Issue featuring Masters of the Martial Arts. In the World of Martial Arts there are many called Teachers of The Arts, the Teacher I am about to introduce to you is one who has been singled out by many, and specifically back in 1974 by one prominent member of the Martial Arts family known as (the late) Fred Miller, Grand Master, as a model of all the virtues noted in a good Martial Artist and Martial Arts Teacher.
"A Master to be Respected, Watched, Listened to, and most important: to Learn from". Since then I have personally regarded him as one of the Elite Role Model and Martial Artists that I have come in contact with, one who not only can be called Teacher by virtue of Teaching The Martial Arts, but by having the Educational background, expertise and experience teaching in the Educational System. I present to you, Grand Master Archie Rullan.
Interview By Franklin Puello
Martialforce.com: Where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
ARCHIE RULLAN: I was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and grew up in a little town called Pajuil, which is in the outskirts of Arecibo. At seven years old my parents moved to New York City. I grew up in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. I went to Grammar school, JHS and High School all in Williamsburg. I worked there almost my entire life until I was appointed an Assistant Principal in Brighton Beach.
Martialforce.com: What is your current or former occupation?
ARCHIE RULLAN: I am now the Supervisor of Career and Technical Education for the City Of Camden, NJ.
Martialforce.com: What or who got you interested in studying Martial Arts?
ARCHIE RULLAN: I was a teacher at Automotive High School and one day in my class I heard some loud banging in the back of my shop. There I found one of my students whose name was Vinny Romo, punching and kicking the door and fender of one of our practice automobiles. I asked him what he was doing and he said “I am practicing my karate”. I asked him to stop which he did right away. A few weeks later he asked me to come to his dojo where he was studying karate. Eventually I agreed. I was already looking for a dojo to continue my training in the martial arts. The dojo was located at Sensei Richard Riccardi’s Bay Ridge Dojo in Brooklyn, New York. As soon as I entered and watch the class workout I knew I had found the dojo to again begin my training.
Martialforce.com: In regards to the practice of Kata, (Pre arranged Movements) do you believe it is important and if yes or no, why?
ARCHIE RULLAN: To me after many years of studying and teaching karate it has become obvious that Katas are the key to Karate. Like our genes are our DNA, the Katas are the genes for Karate. To go further each of the movements tends to define that person as a martial artist. As he continuously does them over and over he learns to live in them and recognize the essence and power it immerses in you. I called this the spirit of karate and to me the spirit of Goju. Master Peter Urban in his book “The karate Dojo” on the chapter Kata and Jiu-kumite, he tells us that “without them (Katas) Karate would be the mere learning of various fighting and self-defense techniques, expressing nothing and allowing for no aesthetic development”. Probably no other person has influenced me in my development of katas as my Sensei, Master Tony Lau did in my early years; Master Lau is the founder of Ying Yee Goju and now renamed Yoshido GoJu Ryu. When my Sensei, Tony Lau began researching for a karate style, “he found out that Goju was the only style most related to Hung Gar kung fu”. Both of these styles of martial arts have Kata/forms as the heart in their training. You can’t be a dancer until you master your steps fluidly. You can’t demonstrate your fluidness until you have mastered yourself in the kata. As Master Urban says in his book “he is still in the dance, which is still unable to emote or express his feelings at will”.
ARCHIE RULLAN WITH HIS SON JOHN
Martialforce.com: Do you feel that Martial Arts played an important role with who you are today?
ARCHIE RULLAN: Without a doubt, yes. Since I began my return to karate training in 1970 I have continuously trained in Goju. I believe in the core principles of Goju and believe that if you stay true to them your way of thinking acting and responding in this life comes from Karate. Karate has been my way of life since I began in 1970; I have not taken any time off except for a serious illness or injury. You have to believe and experience that the way of karate-Do takes over how you act and do things in life. Karate is a highly rigid discipline art, with rigorous training. When you tell someone you are studying karate they all of a sudden look at you differently. In an admiring way they assume you to be a lethal weapon. They respect your achievement. I read somewhere that the essence of Karate-Do is not just an Art of self-defense – it is a way for self-realization. I continue on this path until I can longer move.
ARCHIE RULLAN’S SON, ROBERT RULLAN
Martialforce.com: It seems that the sign of the times is learn anything from any source. What are your thoughts on cross training in regards to other styles of Martial Arts?
ARCHIE RULLAN: All I can say is that I have been training, studying and teaching Goju all my Karate life, which began in 1970. I am not finished so I say to myself how I can possibly begin some other martial arts. There are those who I read and hear that they have gone over to cross training and I have to respect that. I guess I will be like my sensei Tony Lau or Master Peter urban. They both had tried or searched other styles of karate and eventually settled on one. I have after trying Jiu jitsu, Okinawan Karate, and kung fu settled on USA Goju and I am proud of it and would never change. I still have much to learn. My cross training really involves Goju and developing my self realization through my studies in theology which I am now studying and is my next long term goal in life.
Martialforce.com: Who do you feel influenced you the greatest, in Karate or life in general and why?
ARCHIE RULLAN: I can thank Master Hara, who was my first instructor and lit the fire into my soul to search for a style that I would like to study when I returned to the martial arts. Seven years later I met Master Tony Lau who became my Karate do teacher in USA Goju. It was not only the physical aspects of Goju that changed me but also because we became very close and I began to live this life style and his philosophy that was influenced by his Chinese upbringing. I became acclimated to a Chinese view of living. I spent many days in Chinatown visiting the Chinese schools with my sensei. We did tournaments in Chinatown, we celebrated many Chinese New Years with his association, and I spent many weekends just going sometimes to see two or three kung fu movies per week. I usually ate my dinners in Chinatown. I also met his family and attended some family affairs. I became very close to his wife as well who played a large role in our Ying Yee tournaments. I even studied kung fu with my sensei. Wherever he was I was there by his side living the Chinese culture. We became very close in our business ventures promoting the Ying Yee tournaments that always honored Master Peter Urban and the USA Goju spirit. We did Karate promotions for over ten years. The other person who influenced me is Master Peter Urban. As an under belt I went many times to his dojo with my sensei or with my friend Vinny Romo, or by myself. I went to his seminars at various dojos and a summer camp for a week sponsored by Ric Pascetta. The most intensive relationship with him was when I moved to Camden in 1999 and visited the Urban Hombu dojo and stayed with him until his departure to Massachusetts in 2004. This was an intense relationship because if you never knew Master Peter Urban you soon found out of his magnetic, charismatic character that just sucked you into his world. It is very difficult to say no to someone like Master Urban. In the beginning we spent 2 to 3 days a week together. I was always on call whenever he needed me 24-7. I am always thankful for that small time we spent together. He was a dedicated Sensei to his system. He breathed and slept and died for his love: The USA / Urban / American Goju System he founded. He was the epitome of what a true caretaker of his system is like. No matter how much his health, which began to deteriorate, weakened him, his spirit could not be broken. This experience continued to mold me into my discipline, which he demanded of any of his followers. Total loyalty, respect and maximum effort in living like a Sensei and a Leader. Sensei Lau and he are very similar in this concept: Very serious about their karate and Goju.
Martialforce.com: Do you think Tradition is important?
ARCHIE RULLAN: Without a doubt I firmly believe that what has been handed down from our previous masters has been a solid foundation for us to continue building our karate on. Webster’s Dictionary definition on tradition is” the handing down of statements, beliefs, legends and customs, etc. from generation to generation. An established or inherited way of thinking, or acting”. I will speak from the point of view as a student, teacher and Hanshi of Rullan Goju Ryu. N. Gosei Yamaguchi in his book “The fundamentals of Goju-Ryu Karate” explains karate as having many dimensions. …It is at once mental, and physical, artistic and grotesque, practical (self-defense) and non practical (sport), violent and graceful, abstract and concrete, scientific and animistic”. The art Goju to me will be traditional if it has the basic elements that distinguish it. Breathing- the katas exemplify this aspect and must be mastered in order to use its applications in life. Once you are a student of karate means that the way you walk, think or act is exemplified by those traditional exercises that build on that inner and outer power of karate. Traditional karate has certain stances that make it unique. In Goju for example, it is our cat stance, our Sanchin stance, and our gedan blocks. It is unique also in its philosophy of hard and soft. In the katas, and the fighting, we use it in our every day way of living; in other words, sometimes we yield to prepare for our hard delivery or strong reaction. So yes going back to tradition to me is important especially if I am going to continue my involvement in the Martial Arts. I can feel secure that the instructor is following a set of rules and principles that prepare the whole individual. Otherwise it is just a sport and lacks much luster after you have experienced and have reached your level of efficiency. As you age there is not much left to keep you involved in that sport. Yet karate will allow you to continue your mental and physical exercises. Therefore literally speaking it means the transmitting or handing as in the martial arts to the family members to continue the propagation of the art to your leadership team, your senior rank students.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on Mixed Martial Arts in regards to primary or additional training?
ARCHIE RULLAN: It all depends on what the student really wants to learn. If it is only to become a fighter then it is ok. If the student wants to learn Karate, then you have a lot more things to learn in a Karate curriculum. Each individual must be interviewed for their goals.
Martialforce.com: What would you say is your greatest achievement?
ARCHIE RULLAN: My greatest achievement has been in developing a following of Black Belts that believe in our mission of developing the whole individual. My greatest achievement has also been developing Rullan Goju Ryu to the level we are at now. When O’Sensei Urban told me to put on the Hanshi Belt I didn’t realize what the real challenge was. Of course he knew what it was all about!
On occasions my sensei Master Tony Lau has been helpful in forging my growth. He has advised me on more than one occasions some of my personal or karate moves. It is not an easy place in life to be in. This is part of my self enrichment, leading great student and followers who believe in you and you in them. It is a place in time when you have to be the advisor, the teacher, the monitor, the glue in keeping things together. Probably more important is that the system is all of us and not one individual-me. It is us, to keep it growing and improving ourselves as we train physically and mentally.
Martialforce.com: What are your Long or Short-term Goals in Martial Arts?
ARCHIE RULLAN: My long term goal is to make the Rullan Goju Ryu system a viable part of karate and especially contribute to the growth of Goju. To provide an avenue where skills learned in karate be applicable to every day life. To encourage our students to reach their potential and share to it with others. To demonstrate growth in our working world and to contribute to the learning so far attained. To foster the system in our elementary, middle, high schools and higher education. That as a disciple of the system you have a responsibility to further your growth and the systems growth. My personal growth is to continue my teaching and learning of Goju, and maintaining myself to do these goals. Another goal is to continue with my studies in Theology which I find compliment my Karate and my karate compliments my goal as a pastoral minister and teacher in the Rite of Initiation of adults, and in my preparation in the future of becoming pastoral minister in the church. Short term goal is continue visiting the satellite dojos and make sure that the quality of instruction and guidelines in Goju is second to none. To continue doing seminars with those schools and with those Black Belts in my system in New York, New Jersey and Florida in particular to be the best. Another short term goal is to build up the New York City Challenge tournament to the level of the Ying Yee tournaments. The three promoters of this tournament are my sons John Rullan who has been with me since the beginning of the Ying Yee School in Roebling St. Brooklyn, along with his brother Robert Rullan by his side who is now the assistant in the Hombu Dojo, along with Alfred Hinds who also comes from that era. He was student of mine when I first started teaching at Automotive High School, and Francisco Cabrera who is the present Senior Ranking student and also comes from Ying Yee when I was a teacher there. All are trusted individuals whose goal is to perpetuate the tournament to the best that they can generate their abilities to be in this goal.
I will as always be in the shadows watching them and teaching them the skills of promoting a tournament. I have been blessed with the students who have been with me from the early 70’s to the present new crop who are also stepping forward to make it possible to reach our goals. To be the best at what ever we do.
Martialforce.com: You held a very successful tournament in Brooklyn New York for many years. It was called the Ying Yee and many of the most prominent competitors attended. My question is, how did the idea for the tournament originate and who were some of the competitors that you can recall?
ARCHIE RULLAN: The idea came from my Sensei who is a brilliant person when it comes to the Martial Arts. He was always thinking on how we could improve on the draw of quality competitors and a social atmosphere that was second to none. Wow! To us that experienced of those days will never be forgotten. My Sensei and I had many people of great martial arts ability come to our tournament. At that time and point in our promotional careers, we managed to design a social culture that emphasize the epitome of tournaments in quality of the competitors in both Kumite, Katas/Forms, Weapons, breaking and the foresight to adopt to the needs of that time. Many of the young competitors that competed at that time to this day stop me and thank us for the experience we provided for them. Many of them are now leaders of their community, and of their styles. Some of those who participated or attended as loyal followers. Let’s begin with, Master Peter Urban. Our tournaments were always promoted and honored to the master of USA Goju. So many of his students came to compete and display their skills before him. I need not tell you that some of these were and are still around as the best who have aged into the next level of their Martial arts Career and some are not around any longer, like Urban, Oyama, and Yamaguchi to name a few. I will start with (Little KA), Kevin Thompson, who continuously reminds me of the great times he had in those days. Billy Beason, Jerry Fontanez, Sheldon Wilkins, Tommy May, Willie Cotto, Francisco and Orlando Cabrerra, Aida Arroyo, My sons David, Robert, John, and Alex Rullan, Bill Louie, Rick Pascetta, Janine May, Victor Vega, Victor Sanchez, Thunderfoot Cureton, A great bunch of Breakers such as Rico Mercado, Buddy Van Boven, Master breaker from NJ and his whole team of competitors, Cynthia Rothrock who won many times the kata grand championship and became a Martial Arts movie actress, Sam McGhee and his Harlem Goju group with his sensei Master Leon Wallace leading the group, Felix Vasquez who along with Lou Ferrer and their group introduced the Ninja and Jiu Jitsu demonstrations of self defense, Earl Monroe with Ray Fitzpatrick and his Nisei Goju group, Pete Siringano and his Staten Island group, George Crayton and his group, Vincent Miranda and his group from Coney Island, Chuck Merriman, Reno Morales, Derrick Williams and his student known then Kendu Allah. Ron Henderson, Michel Sledge, Speedy Wilson, Abdul Mutakabbir, Haisan Kaleak, Elba Melendez, Gina Schiavonne, Ralph Mitchell, Shabazz Beecher, Marvelous Farmer, Donnie Collins, Dawn Santamaria whose mother is Joyce Santamaria and famous for her excellent tournaments in long Island, John Maniel, Freddie Lopez, Speedy Leacock, Cha Cha Martinez, Sabu Lewis, David Thomas, Ralph Mitchell, William Oliver, Professor Visitation, Bob Hassman, Sugar Crosson, Vern Williams, Little John Davis, Lisa Robinson, Dennis Alicea, Of course Toyotaro Miyazaki, Tommy Chen, Kai Leung, Jonas Nunez and Lamar Thornton and lets not forget Billy Blanks who went to Hollywood and turned them on to his Tae Bo physical fitness program. Also To all of them and many that I have not mentioned, I and Sensei Lau owe all of you many thanks for being there and showing in those days what Brooklyn and New York City had to offer in Martial Arts competition.
Martialforce.com: What would be your advice and guidance for a child, youngster, or adult who is interested in starting training in the martial arts?
ARCHIE RULLAN: I would welcome them with open arms. For a child it is probably one of the best training he or she can get for physical development, discipline of self, individual and team development, self-defense, for females and males, defense against bullying, harassment, and self-respect. I have had more than one student who came to me with asthma, coordination problems, and Karate was able to practically wipe away this problem. In karate the cardio vascular work out is supreme to me. I have had elderly people come to my class. Karate helps any one achieve their maximum. A sensei has to remove the view for beginners that only the fittest can apply. It is a fallacy, Karate can develop any one to their potential be it a 4 year old to a 50 + year old man or women, there is a place for you in this art. It is unimanageable what can be accomplished if you put your time and faith into this type of physical and mental training and development. For us a Sensei’s what enters through those doors one does not know but we do the best we can with everyone. At least that is how my students and I feel who are teaching the martial arts.
Martialforce.com: You have experience in education so I’ll ask this question which comes from years of observation. Many times Martial Artist train while neglecting their academic studies which leaves them in a bind when their sport Karate careers end. What is your opinion on this matter, is it the instructors fault or the competitor?
ARCHIE RULLAN: There is no one person at fault. You as a student must decide what your goals are. Sometimes those goals will interfere with others. As the example you justly give when a martial artist chooses to excel in karate. It is all up to the capacity of the student. I for example was just starting karate when I began my teaching career in high school through the alternate route. I was what am considered in karate language a master technician. The school needed me who had those automotive skills for me to teach it to others. Many vocational/career teachers begin this route. I continued my academic studies, karate development and then teaching karate while studying two nights a week at the University and obtaining my Bachelors Degree and Masters Degree. All this while preparing one of the most competent dojos as the head instructor and co director of tournaments. It was my calling, and now I think back and I thank the Lord who I know now was with me. Why because I was helping to mold high school students to be good citizens and proud members of the dojo. All I am saying is that it can be done and many of us have done it. There are also those who find the obstacles or concentration too much. It is ok. You have to accept how you handled your challenge. Life is not over once you can no longer compete. Now you can begin your professional development. You can do it. Some of us begin our studies earlier and some finish it later. As we say in Karate nothing is impossible. Your life is not over. You have just begun with the rest of your career, after completing your competitive tour. Look at Peter Urban, Cynthia Rothrock, Chuck Norris, Many others out there have accomplished more after their competitive years, I became a teacher and then an Assistant principal, if I did it anyone can do it
Martialforce.com: Thank you Hanshi Rullan for this very informative interview. We here at Martialforce.com wish you the best in all your future endeavors.