AN INTERVIEW WITH
SENSEI JOHN RULLAN
JAN / 2012
My name is Franklin Puello and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine. I have trained in the Marital Arts for 37 years, and have been associated and trained with many Masters of the Martial Arts who became well respected and established Training Halls to continue the Martial Arts legacy. With this said, many of them were already parents, or became parents and those children trained at the Dojo and learned the Martial Arts from their parents, and at times from other Martial Arts Teachers. Searching to explore the Children of Martial Arts Masters’ views and valued opinions of Martial Arts Training, I have embarked in the search of young Martial Arts teachers who continue their parents’ Legacy. For this end and because I have had the great fortune to learn from, and shared Budo- The Martial Way with Hanshi Arcelio "ARCHIE" RULLAN, of the “RULLAN GOJU, AKA YING YEE KWON” and in my quest I continue this Series with one of his Martial Artist s Sons, I am about to introduce.
Greetings and Oneigashimasu, Sensei.
Martialforce.com: What is your Full Name?
JOHN RULLAN: John Arcelio Rullan
Martialforce.com: Where were you Born?
JOHN RULLAN: Brooklyn, New York in East New York to be exact (Pink Houses)
Martialforce.com: Where did you grow up?
JOHN RULLAN: East New York and in Hollis Queens.
Martialforce.com: What is your current occupation?
JOHN RULLAN: I am a high school teacher during the day at Thomas Edison HS in Jamaica Queens and I teach part time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
Martialforce.com: When was your first introduction to the martial arts?
JOHN RULLAN: When I was a kid, I would go with my father and watch him work out with his sensei, Master Anthony Lau. I was maybe 5 or 6 at the time. My actual training didn’t begin until 1974, when my father and his sensei opened their dojo, Ying Yee Kwoon in Brooklyn on Roebling Street.
Martialforce.com: What Style of Karate?
JOHN RULLAN: USA GoJu in the beginning but my father/sensei’s style is now referred to as Rullan Goju Ryu.
Martialforce.com: Who was/ were your instructor/s?
JOHN RULLAN: I had but one instructor my entire life, my father, Hanshi Archie Rullan
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you were Training towards your Black Belt?
JOHN RULLAN: Intense, very intense. We would work out 5-6 times a week and would normally get to the dojo an hour or two early and work on katas, stretch and things of that nature. Our warm-up would be to jog across the Williamsburg Bridge and back and this was before the workout would even begin. Sometimes, sensei would make us each carry a brick in each hand during the jog. And the workout was just the beginning. When class was over, the real fun would begin, SPARRING…. Everyone stayed and everyone fought everyone. It didn’t matter how small or how big you were, you fought. And at the time there was “barely any” equipment so when you got hit, you felt it.
Martialforce.com: Did you ever enter Competition?
JOHN RULLAN: Yes, I competed all over the tri-state area until my early twenty’s. When I was 15-17 yrs old, I was part of the East Coast Martial Arts (ECMA) team with Kyoshi Mario Arthur. We would go around the East Coast and Canada fighting other teams our age. I remember going to Canada all the time to compete. Some of the members of the team were Shihan John Garcia, my dojo brother who currently resides and teaches Rullan Goju ryu karate in Sarasota Florida and Shihan Garth Binns.
Martialforce.com: What was the Attraction?
JOHN RULLAN: Like everything, it was a way to test what you learned against everyone else. You always strive to be the best at everything you do and competing was a way to test your abilities against all others
Martialforce.com: When and who did you fight?
JOHN RULLAN: I don’t remember who I fought against back then, but I do know that it was whoever was in my division. I was very successful on all levels. The one constant competitor in kata that I do remember was one of Master William Louie’s students whose name was “Little Bit”. He was always a step ahead of me and I would always finish second to him. I eventually beat him but I believe he brought out the best in me when it came to kata.
Martialforce.com: What was tournament competition like when you were first introduced?
JOHN RULLAN: My first tournament experience was at my father’s Ying Yee tournaments. They were some of the best tournaments around and the best would come to compete. I also competed at Henry Cho’s tournament in Madison Square Garden, Joyce Santamaria’s tournament on LI, Ed Brown, The Battle of the Zodiac and many more. We would compete almost every weekend and almost everyone from our dojo competed.
Martialforce.com: Would you describe, Specifically, how you developed your teaching techniques?
JOHN RULLAN: Almost everything I learned, I learned from my father who is my sensei. I attend seminars and worked out occasionally with other sensei’s and masters and pick up things from them and then go back to my dojo and incorporate some of that into my teachings. I’ve had the pleasure of working out with Grand Master Wilfredo Roldan of Nisei Goju and picked up a number of techniques that I use with my students.
Martialforce.com: Since I love Kata I derive pleasure in this next question prefaced by "Kata is said to be “The Essence of Karate”; “It contains Many Secrets", and since the phrase has become a Cliche. Do you believe the practice of Kata is useful and important?
JOHN RULLAN: Absolutely. I feel that kata is an essential component of karate and allows us to demonstrate our movements as well as our stances. It also demonstrates our knowledge of when to be fluid in motion during blocking and when to be strong when striking. As a Goju practitioner, it allows you to also demonstrate your breathing techniques, which are a fundamental component of our system.
Martialforce.com: What is your Most Favorite Kata?
JOHN RULLAN: As a kid my two favorite kata were Hengetsu and Sepai. I was almost unbeatable when doing Sepai.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell us about your relationship with the Master of the Rullan Goju System?
JOHN RULLAN: Hanshi Archie Rullan is my father and my sensei. Like any father son relationship there is almost always disagreements but I will say that we have a very good relationship. We may disagree on family related issues but on the dojo floor I am a humble student who’s there to learn like everyone else.
Martialforce.com: How was training Training with him?
JOHN RULLAN: Intense. As a kid growing up training was no joke. We trained until there was not an ounce of energy in your body. No slacking off and no horsing around and sensei was on the floor doing everything that we did.
Martialforce.com: How would you describe his Method of Teaching?
JOHN RULLAN: No nonsense. Once you stepped foot on that floor you gave it your all because that’s what he gave and therefore that’s what he expected of you.
Martialforce.com: Do you still learn from him directly?
JOHN RULLAN: Yes I do. As I write my response to this article, we are preparing for a workout this weekend at one of my sensei’s black belt’s house in Pennsylvania. We have black belt meetings and black belt workouts every couple of months. As his son, there are times when we have family gatherings and we’ll sit and discuss karate such as philosophy, and the meaning of katas (bunkai).
Martialforce.com: Are you presently training others in the Art Karate?
JOHN RULLAN: Yes, my dojo is in the high school that I teach in. Just like my father did when he began teaching in Automotive High School, and then began a karate club.
Martialforce.com: When did you start developing a Teaching style?
JOHN RULLAN: I don’t consider myself as having my own teaching style. I am a product of my sensei and was born and bred into the system. Everyone has their own way of doing things but I would think that I’m a reflection of his teachings.
Martialforce.com: What are the Pros and Cons of having the same or similar Philosophies?
JOHN RULLAN: I don’t think there are any cons at all. You learn a system the way it is developed and taught and I stay true to that. It allows for consistency, which is important for a system to flourish and to grow. If everyone has their own philosophy then the system is no longer stable and will eventually break apart. We all have our way of doing things but the philosophy remains intact.
Martialforce.com: How would you compare your Philosophy of Teaching to your Father’s philosophy?
JOHN RULLAN: We may teach our classes differently, but our philosophy is identical….
Martialforce.com: Do you feel that Martial Arts and teachings learned from your father played an important role with Who you are today?
JOHN RULLAN: I believe it has played a big part into who I am today. I am mentally and physically strong and I am confident in my ability to succeed through life’s trials and tribulations. I teach my high school class the same way I teach my karate class and that is to give 100% into everything that you do. If you train hard you will develop nothing but good habits. If you don’t give your all then you will accept less of yourself and never reach your full capability. We were brought up as in a dojo as a family. My father was there for everyone, whether good or bad. I am the same way with my students as well.
Martialforce.com: What have you personally gained from your practice of Martial Arts with Hanshi Rullan, your father?
JOHN RULLAN: One thing that stands out is humility. He’s a humble man who doesn’t do anything for self gratification. Rank is not important to him and it upsets him when it is just thrown out there. He doesn’t believe that rank is what makes you but rather it is your character and the way you carry yourself. Today, everyone’s a master and is promoted by everyone else, which breaks from tradition and the way it was meant to be. I’m a 4th dan, Renshi but people refer to me at times as master, but I have to constantly remind them that I’m not. Although I feel rank is important, it doesn’t make me better or more important than lesser rank practitioners. What is a sensei without students…?
Martialforce.com: Have you trained with Family members, and/ or taught any family members?
JOHN RULLAN: Yes, besides learning from my father, my brothers David who passed when I was 13, Robert, Alex, sister Jackie and their children have all studied under our father. My cousins David and Peter as well as other family members have studied from time to time. My son John jr. as well as my daughters Brianna and Gabby train as well.
Martialforce.com: How different is it to Teach Family, or strangers?
JOHN RULLAN: No difference at all. Everyone is treated the same no matter what. My father never treated me any differently from one of his students. In his eyes we are all is children and are treated accordingly. Therefore, at my dojo, I follow the same philosophy. I even treat girls and boys, men and woman, family and students the same.
Martialforce.com: How would you describe growing up a Rullan; as part of a Martial Arts family, for the youngsters who believe their parents are too strict or demanding?
JOHN RULLAN: I wouldn’t say it was demanding and I wasn’t forced to do it. If I didn’t want to train he didn’t force it on me. I wasn’t expected to be the best because we were treated equally. I had stiff competition from my dojo brothers and my family who trained with us. Our workouts were intense and we all trained to be the best day in and day out. Therefore, if I didn’t train for whatever reason I would get the crap beat out of me by them when I stepped foot on the mat. We made each other better and pushed each other. We put pressure on each other and paid the price if we slacked off.
Martialforce.com: Describe the beneficial effects of "Tough Love"?
JOHN RULLAN: Everyone got tough love. I remember a night when my older brother David was showing off at the dojo, which upset my father. It wasn’t uncommon for sensei to fight with us but on this day it was to prove a point. So he got on the floor to spar with my brother and kicked him over a three foot wall. That’s not tough love, but humility. If it were anyone else it would’ve been the same case, as Soke Haisan Kaleak’s motto states, “One Code, One Family”.
Martialforce.com: What would you change about growing up; continuing The path in the Martial Arts of your Father?
JOHN RULLAN: Absolutely not. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some great people throughout the years and create memories that will last a lifetime. My dojo brothers are my family and we share many memories together both in and out of the dojo. One of my dojo brothers, Shihan John Garcia and I have been friends and dojo brothers since I was 8 years old. We refer to each other as brothers and our children refer to us as uncle. Whenever I go to Florida, I stay at his house and spend most of my vacations with him and his family. As a child I would spend many nights, weekends, summers and vacations with his family. The martial arts have been good to me in many ways and the path that I was put on has had many bumps, but in the end, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe The Martial Arts training would be beneficial for any youngster or adult?
JOHN RULLAN: Absolutely! I have several students who are in special education and I've been told by their counselors and support staff that they are totally different from when they first began studying with me. Their self esteem has improved to the point where you would never think they had disabilities. Physically they have improved coordination and balance. When they first started, they had difficulty paying attention and being able to physically handle the workouts. Now they act and perform like everyone else and in some cases even better. This is a perfect example of how karate helps strengthen the body and mind as a whole.
Martialforce.com: We at Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine are very grateful for your participation and sharing of your thoughts and experiences. Your answers provided great insight on the effects and benefits of having great teachers in your life.