Karate & Kickboxing
An Interview with America’s Finest:
Jonas Nunez Jr. Shihan
Written by Lydia Alicea
Edited by William Rivera Shihan
Upon seeing the flag of the United States, an individual immediately connects to a representation drawn from an endless stream of entities held within the minds of each and every one of its’ citizens and across the world. The image represents a sense of value, of emotion, of history, and often in turbulent times, of definition of what we are and what makes the U.S. unique. Definition holds significance whether its meaning is held in a positive or negative light; our freedoms allow us to view it as we choose.
When we identify what exemplifies the best of our country, of our people, the products of America’s successes, we are inundated with an avalanche of examples that come from various walks of life. As well, our interpretation of what constitutes the “finest” of American society is as vast an array as their source of motivation and drive: to be the best, to be “America’s Finest.” Many are referred to as being icons or mega-stars, seeming bigger than life yet far removed from most of us everyday people. You know what? You need not look very far.
Enter Jonas Nunez Jr. Shihan. Jonas Nunez is an example of boundless faith of the human spirit and the almighty, “El Todo Poderoso.” He is an American story, born in New York City of immigrant parents, one from Chile and the other from Puerto Rico, raised on simple beliefs and the expectation of what comes from hard work. Most importantly, he is a story of what a young person can become when driven by a passion to be the best at what he loves and believes that life holds no boundaries that can not be overcome.
Hello and welcome to Martialforce.com. My name is William Rivera, a Yudansha and student of Eddie Morales Shihan.
Shihan Nunez Is a Champion in both Kickboxing and Sport Karate a multi School Owner and a trainer of Champions. He has represented the Martial Arts through out the world as a competitor and coach. I can talk about his many accomplishments but than we would never get to the interview. Read on and realize that this is just a small part of the success that is Shihan Jonas Nunez.
Martialforce: What made you get into the martial arts?
J.Nunez: “My father was a boxer and he got me into boxing that was the start.”
Martialforce: How did you get into Shaolin Kempo?
J.Nunez: “I saw a flyer that offered classes at the Kingsbridge Community Center in the Bronx, New York. Sifu Bob Mahoney was teaching Shaolin Kempo. The classes were free and twice a week.”
Martialforce: You were the instructor for the kids. How did that come about?
J.Nunez: “I would never miss a class, I showed a lot of interest in martial arts and I told Sifu Mahoney this is what I want to do. At 9 years old I knew what I wanted to do the rest of my life. He let me warm up the class from there I started learning how to teach.
I do the same with the sempai (senior student) who want to be an assistant instructor and I think every instructor should develop, because that is how you start developing leaders when you are young.”
Martialforce: You go from Kempo to Goju I believe, right?
J.Nunez: “Yes it was with Sensei Elliot Soto who was a 3rd Dan in the Urban Goju system. He did USA Goju and some Japanese Goju, we trained in the basement. Back in the days most guys taught in community centers or tried to open their own basement dojo. Fairing up financially the guys charged 10 dollars a month 3 times a week, and we learned hard-core, we learned a lot. There was no safe-t-kick, safe-t-punch we taped up our hands, that was our safety equipment.”
Martialforce: You were with Goju than you went to Taekwondo, How old were you?
J.Nunez: “Thirteen, fourteen, Sabunim (Instructor) Frank Santiago taught a class twice a week in a gym on Jerome Park in the Bronx.”
Martialforce: How did you decide to go from Goju to Taekwondo?
J.Nunez: “Sensei Elliot Soto who was my instructor got married and moved out of New York. I love the martial arts, and Taekwondo let me work on my legs and it was the next closest thing. So I would do Taekwondo on Tuesdays and Thursdays and would Box Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays with Mickey Rosario in El Barrio on 110th street and Lexington Avenue in a gym called Enter.”
I also had a friend who was a Black Belt under Toyotoro Miyazaki, we would train on the side and he taught me all the Shotokan forms and I in turn taught him the Goju Ryu forms.
Martialforce: Did you participate in sports?
J.Nunez: “I was on the track and field team at DeWitt Clinton High School in The Bronx.; too short for basketball and not large enough for football. What I loved was Karate, Boxing and Wrestling.”
Martialforce: How did you get into Shindo-ryu?
J.Nunez: “I met Master Tommy Chen at a tournament, the Ying Yee Cup at Xavier High School in 1975 or 1976 we had a mutual friend in Freddy Lopez.
I saw Tommy Chen do Kung-fu, Karate, weapons, creative forms, and then sparring and place in each division. Five first place in one day. I went up to Master Tommy Chen and asked him if I could come to their school and he said yes. The Dojo (school) was in Brooklyn and I lived in the Bronx, but you know we had our limousine service which was the “D” train, taking you from the Bronx directly to Brooklyn.”
Martialforce: Here you have Master Tommy Chen doing hard and soft style competition, did you feel a confusion going from one style to another. For those who say Shotokan is linear, Goju is circular etc…?
J.Nunez: “Never. It is all relative. It is like asking a doctor, ‘Are you confused about doing heart surgery, an eye checkup, a heart checkup or taking your pulse?’ It is all relative it is part of what you do. The only difference in styles is the forms and self defense techniques, but if you absorb them all it becomes part of your repertoire. I was never confused in Martial Arts because I have a knack for it, I pick up the moves really fast because I enjoy doing it.”
Martialforce: How did you from there go into Kickboxing?
J.Nunez: “Well kickboxing was the next step. Being a semi-contact fighter I always like making contact. I had boxed since I was young. If you ever saw me do point fighting I box, I kick-box, so I was never in the karate stance so I enjoy that and when that sport came out in 1975 in California the PKA, Bill Wallace, Joe Lewis, Benny Urquidez I automatically jumped on that kick, I wanted to do that.
I had the opportunity to meet Aaron Banks, by competing at his tournament and Aaron asked me to fight as an amateur fighter. I have a great relation with Aaron.”
Martialforce: What was your first Championship Belt?
J.Nunez: “My first Championship Belt was against Apache Cruz it was the Junior Middle Weight Championship at Jackie Robinson High School at 108 Street in El Barrio. It was an event promoted by Wildcat Molina, a great Kick-Boxer himself and he was the New York representative sanctioned by the PKA. (Professional Kickboxing Association)”
Martialforce: I want to go back to the old tournaments the blood and guts era, your bouts against Billy Beason, The Battle Of the Zodiac, what is the difference or is their a difference between those tournaments and tournaments now?
J.Nunez: “There was more contact made. Today lot of fighters focus on speed and quick blitzes, but that stuff would not hurt a fly in the street, honestly because unless you develop a strong back-fist, reverse punch you could not stop an oncoming strong attack on the street. Back in the old, there was a Karate that worked, they would hit you with a reverse punch, a hook a kick that was meant to knock you out if not knock you down.
There was more contact in the earlier 70’s and 80’s, in the 90’s it is more a game of tag, score the point and get out. The speed is phenomenal in a lot of the young athletes, but a lot of them do not have the knockout power. You can count on your fingers who are the knockout artist, Raymond Daniels, Jason “Tankson” Bourelly, Ross Levine, a lot of them are fighting professional for the WCL (World Combat League) right now.”
Martialforce: Are tournaments on the decline?
J.Nunez: “Being that New York is the capital of the world and you do not see many tournaments, yes.
The only good tournament right now is the Twin Towers, At one point we had Joyce Santamaria’s, Empire State Nationals, George Binn’s “Galaxy Of The Stars”, Lamar Thornton’s “Budweiser Karate Classic”, Tommy May’s “Westchester Open Karate”, and others.”
Martialforce: Why the drop?
J.Nunez: “Well a lot of these gentlemen and ladies have retired and honestly because if you get into tournament politics, New York has never caught up to the rest of the world. The rest of the world became organized. A lot of the stuff started in New York. Aaron Banks started the tournament circuit in New York. He would throw one every month in Sunnyside Gardens or in Manhattan Center where fighters from different styles would come and demonstrate there skills. But like everything everyone wants to be a chief no one wants to be an Indian. Everyone wants to set up there own organizations , and honestly the tournaments in New York sometimes lack organizational skills. The promoters like NASKA, and NBL, these guys got the tournament business going. They organize, they made it almost like an Olympic type of event, where as the tournaments in New York are still right off the top of your head. You come in and the rules are being made as the tournament is going on. There is not a lot of organization in the New York City Urban tournament.”
Martialforce: What are some of the great fights?
J.Nunez: “My best fights. Great fighters Billy Beason, Jessy “Smoky” Harris, Derrick Williams of course, New York legend, Errol Bennett, Fred Miller, Sheldon Wilkins. I had great fights with Abdul Mutakabbir those are some of my best, Sam McGee.”
Martialforce: Now you still compete in tournaments. What keeps you going?
J.Nunez: “I have been competing in tournaments since 1970. I enjoy being in front of he crowd, I enjoy testing myself, I am only as good as my last tournament , not to prove anything to somebody else, but always to prove it to myself. I practice what I preach, I live Martial Arts.”
Martialforce: The PKF (Professional Karate Federation) how did that come about?
J.Nunez: “I bought Aaron Banks’ school in Manhattan in 1990, on 54th street and Broadway, 1717 Broadway. The PKF developed in 1993 at that School. My brother and I built a boxing ring in part of the school where there was a recession we did it overnight.
I was fighting for many years, and sometimes fighters got bum checks, promoters did not pay them, you could not get a fight, there are no fighters there. A lot of fights, kickboxing promotions failed in New York.
People started asking me, Why don’t you do a little show?’ so we did a little show. Five schools brought in some of their top fighters, our school had 10 fighters. We had 10 matches on that card with a the main fight being a 5 round PKF World Title, it was an awesome fight. We had 300 people because the dojo could fit 300 chairs. After that we started going to discos and promoting shows in small clubs and from then on we promoted over 300 shows. We are still active now we have a few shows coming up.”
Martialforce: Talk to us about the PKF and the USKBA (United States Kick Boxing Association).
J.Nunez: “I was Vice-President of the USKBA with a friend of mine we helped start the USKBA. Most of the USKBA fighters were PKF fighters. I am President of the PKF I am the founder. We have Kickboxing, Thai boxing, San Shou, and we are also getting involved with mixed martial arts.”
Martialforce: Besides having 2 belts why have 2 organizations?
J.Nunez: “You have other champions to fight against, rivals. You have it in boxing, WBC, WBA, IBF, WBO. It is a business.”
Martialforce: How did you get involved with the WCL (World Combat League)?
J.Nunez: “Chuck Norris contacted all the top Kickboxing promoters from different states, he had a concept he wanted to do in kickboxing. It was a dream of his that was alluded to in the movie “Force of One” when he fought Bill Wallace.”
Martialforce: People have tried the team concept before, what made this different?
J.Nunez: “Back than it was not organized, see we have a lot of dreamers and not movers. People had teams, but nobody had the promotions, so if there were no promotions to showcase these teams everybody forgot about it. Chuck Norris is a name, a movie star, and on top of that he is a great person. He has the money to move things, and when you have television coverage on the Versus network you take the concept to a whole different level.
Yes there is mixed martial arts, what is different with the WCL concept is you have two Martial Artist who can kick, punch and knee in shape fighting for 3 minutes at full speed, it is exiting. The concept has been successful and is going on its third season.”
Martialforce: Why has the PKF survived?
J.Nunez: “The PKF has survived because I do a show every two months, so I am constantly doing what is called gorilla marketing, so I am constantly doing a show in every state with anybody who wants to do a show or showcase a show I will do. In other words we train we have kickboxing schools, we have 5 kickboxing schools. How do you keep these kick-boxers alive, by training them for shows and those shows give them incentive like Karate tournaments. A lot of these guys do not compete in Karate tournaments they fight full contact, so fighting in the ring is there platform. So by doing all these shows I keep the kickboxing community alive.”
Martialforce: You train competitors, champions, grand champions. How do you do it, what is your secret?
J.Nunez: “The secret is hard work. Being there for your fighters, and learning new techniques myself. I learn from boxing, I have watched great guys like Emanuel Steward, pick up great boxing skills and then you watch some of the great Thai fighters and you pick up moves from everybody. I am always open to knowledge I always open my mind to knowledge I do not know everything, I know nothing. I am ready to learn everything.”
Martialforce: How do weapons help your kickboxing?
J.Nunez: “Weapons is part of my Martial Arts training, the weapons give you great form, great control. You have to have great control when you hold your weapon, if you drop your weapon you are a dead man. You drop your weapon in competition, you lost zero.”
Martialforce: How does it help you in the ring, when someone is trying to take your head of?
J.Nunez: “The control, the focus.”
Martialforce: Do you believe the standards should be lowered, that there should be different standards for a Black-Belt between a woman and a man?
J.Nunez: “Never. You should never lower the standards for anybody. By doing that you are demeaning the potential of a man, or a woman. There is no lowering of standards everyone should meet the standards.”
Martialforce: So called traditional Martial Arts does not inhibit it competing in Kickboxing, Sanshou or MMA?
J.Nunez: “Traditional Martial Arts is a basic and a must foundation for all Martial Arts. Your basic horse stance, front stance, back stance, front kick, round kick, your basic punches. You have got to have a foundational mandate to start martial arts, because that is your basics. You can not write words, or write a sentence or write a book without the ABC’s. You have to learn the ABC’s.”
Martialforce: So someone comes to your class, what is the first thing you teach them?
J.Nunez: “We teach them how to box and kick, how to throw a proper jab, proper cross, a hook, an uppercut, a roundhouse and how to move.”
Martialforce: That is not traditional Karate.
J.Nunez: “Of course not, it is effective Martial Arts”
Martialforce: What happened to Traditional Karate?
J.Nunez: “If a person took class with me today, this afternoon or this night, and walked out in the street and somebody attacked him, they would have the knowledge of throwing a jab, a cross, a front kick to the knee.”
Martialforce: So do you feel that traditional Karate is not something that is viable for these days?
J.Nunez: “Traditional Karate is a great foundation, a must for children and teenagers. For adults, adults today are not looking to stand in a stance, horse stance for half an hour or throw 1000 reverse punches. We are in a fitness industry and if the martial arts do not catch up to the fitness industry the martial arts are going to be gone.”
Martialforce: Why call it American Shindo Ryu?
J.Nunez: “Because we live in America, but there is more to it than that. There was a split in the system into two factions. One disbanded when the head of that faction was thrown out and the other wanted to inhibit the growth of its members by not allowing kickboxing or the use of certain techniques. We wanted to grow as Martial Artist.
Dennis Chen was my instructor’s father and was a Merchant Marine. He went to Thailand and said he got hit so hard with leg kicks his Karate flew out the window. He realized that all the stuff he had been training and mixed was sometimes ineffective in a real fight situation. He incorporated Thai Boxing and Kickboxing into our system. But when he brought it in the traditionalist, other Masters who were the board said you can not incorporate that into our system and mix it up. You have the old battles that went on, the political battles, so we broke away “
Martialforce: Did Dennis Chen do away with Shindo Ryu?
J.Nunez: “No, it is still Shindo Ryu his art is open to many martial arts, he believes like its founder Yasuhiro Konishi who brought in Funakoshi and Ueshiba into his dojo that an art has to grow.”
Martialforce: You train people how to be instructors?
J.Nunez: “Yes, we have Black Belts that are not instructors, not every Black Belt is an instructor, not every great fighter is an instructor. Who ever wants to be groomed to be an instructor, we will help them.”
Martialforce: What is America’s Finest Karate & Kickboxing?
J.Nunez: “I am the founder of America’s Finest Karate & Kickboxing Academy it is the name of my school, my Dojo, my Corporation. Originally we started as New York’s Finest because we were in New York.”
Martialforce: Where does the Shindo Ryu come in?
J.Nunez: “That is the system that we teach, Shindo Ryu Karate, Kickboxing and Self-Defense.”
Martialforce: What do you see for yourself with the PKF, with Shindo Ryu and your schools in the next 10 years?
J.Nunez: More impact on the community I want to see my schools packed with children. I want to see our schools changing the community because I do not want to see kids hanging out in the streets. That is what we want, to impact lives in a positive way.
The Martial Arts is a life changing experience. It is not about kick and punch, anybody can kick and punch, can you change lives can you feel? It is easy to hurt. How many instructors hurt “That was a great kick, but your left leg sucks.” How about saying, ‘That was a great from your right side, your left leg could use a little more improvement,’ the difference in words.”
“It is all Martial Arts you do not have to lose the tradition. It is about refinement, one is theory, one is application can you apply that to real fighting.”
Martialforce: Thank-you Valentina. At 20 years old she is an entrepreneur, college student and Owner/Operator of Zaloe Salon Spa in Union, New Jersey. Valentina believes as her instructor Shihan Nunez has taught her "The Martial Arts is a Way of Life."
Thank-You Shihan Nunez for allowing us the opportunity to conduct this interview.
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