GRANDMASTER MIGUEL LOPEZ SR
JAN / 2012
My name is Franklin Puello, New York. During the many years of Martial Arts training, I have met many Martial Artists who were parents, or became parents and eventually had their children in attendance to their Martial Arts class. This phenomenon is of usual occurrence, but many of these children at one time or another decide to part with their training in Karate-Do. Today I am introducing a Grand Master to share his experiences and insight as one who has taught many, including many of his family members.
Interview by Franklin Puello
Martialforce.com: What is your Full Name?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Miguel "ThunderFist" Lopez Sr., Soke .
Martialforce.com: Where were you Born?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I was born in the old Lincoln hospital
Martialforce.com: Where originally from and where did you grow up?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I originally from The Bronx and also grew up in The Bronx.
Martialforce.com: What is your current occupation?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Iím retired and now Iím a full time Martial Arts Instructor.
Martialforce.com: When was your first introduction to the martial arts?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: My first introduction was in the early 50's in a basement church where my brother Joe Lopez was being taught but I didn't understand what was going on because I saw my brother getting hit and being taken down by his instructor Sensei Angel.
Martialforce.com: What Style of Karate?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I started learning Goju in the early 60's, then took up Shotokan and got heavy into Tae Kwon Do. As I got older I took up a little bit of boxing, Muay Thai, Mi Yamaryu Jujutsu from the Legendary Shihan Antonio Pereira and currently learning Wing Chung.
Who was/ were your instructor/s? MY instructors were Sensei Angel of the Goju System, Grand Master Reno Morales of the Shotokan System and my Korean instructor Grand Master Kwon of the Tae Kwon Do system.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you were Training towards your Black Belt?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: When I got on the floor I would have to Bow into the class and take off my shoes and get dressed as fast as I can and line up without talking and moving around. If we got caught we got hit by the Kendo stick and a lot of push ups and that was before class started if we got in trouble. We trained hard with no complaining, no water break, bathroom break and all the widows closed. we trained hard not because we were told to but because we needed to so we could be able to defend ourselves in the streets if we had to. we trained realistic situations and everything was full contact with no gear and just tape around your toes and hands and u only used a groin protector and a mouth guard.
Martialforce.com: Please describe Training, when you were competing in Karate Shiai and or Tournaments?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: When it came to tournaments we didn't have to train for it cause during regular class we trained everyday like it was a tournament so when we got to a completion we were ready and tuned up and our hard training paid off.
Martialforce.com: Describe your preparation to enter the Martial Arts competition Arena?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: As a Martial Artist I would warm up and do a lot of stretching, work on my kata and got mentally prepared and focused on what I was there to do.
Martialforce.com: Why? What was the Attraction?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Well I loved the art of fighting so when my instructor told me that we were going to a tournament I got excited cut I knew I was going to be able to fight in the ring at Madison Square Garden.
Martialforce.com: When and who did you fight?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I fought from the late 60's into the 70's and I fought great fighters from all over the world that came down to MSG at the Great Grand Master Aaron Banks tournament.
Martialforce.com: What was tournament competition like when you were first introduced?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: The tournament scene was very respectful and every competitor and sportsmanship right after competing with each other not like it is now a days where when u win they take it personal and have no discipline. What kind of instructor are u if u canít control and teach your students discipline and respect like u were suppose to have been taught and u call yourself a Sensei, Master or Grand Master so I have no respect for those instructors who are teaching the wrong message to our children of tomorrow. They are not real Martial Artist. Oh and for those instructors that donít teach anything else but fighting I donít have a problem with that but don't call you a Martial Artist, just call yourself a Fighter.
Can you tell our readers who were some of the Noted Martial Artists you had to compete against? I can't recall names but I know I fought a lot great martial artist that later on become Legends and inspired me to continue and make way for the great martial artist that you see today.
Martialforce.com: Please describe specifically how you developed your tactics and techniques?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: First thing I do a Half an hour of stretching, one hour of kicking, one hour of punching, a half an hour blocking, a half an hour foot work condition every part of my body which consist of hundreds of pushups, pull-ups, crunches, hip rotation, squats, neck rotations and finally hitting the heavy bag with no equipment for strength and to be able to hit your target at will.
Martialforce.com: Explain how you perfected their utilization in Kata and specially fighting?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Simply I worked on my kata as if I was fighting for real and in my fighting I simply hit the heavy bag and sparred a lot and perfected my kicking a punching.
Martialforce.com: Could you tell us about the toughest competitor(s) facing you during your competition time?
Back in the day in the black belt division I fought a fighter from Russia in a full contact match and it went blow for blow, and in the end of the fight we were both bleeding and bruised and he won the match but I never gave up and that fight taught me to train harder so the next time I would be better prepared.
Martialforce.com: What made them tough?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: He was fast and had great power in his technique and showed no fear against me no matter how hard I hit him.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe the practice of Kata is useful and important?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Yes
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Youíre a true Martial Artist when u not only teach kata but also perform them at compaction and at your Dojo during practice to be an example for your students.
Martialforce.com: What is your Most Favorite Kata?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: My most favorite kata is the Korean kata called Gye-Bak Hyung .
Martialforce.com: If more than one in different styles of Martial Arts, please identify?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: In Shotokan its Enpi, Bassai Dai and Jion.
Martialforce.com: What makes it/ them so Special?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: The beauty of those kata.
Martialforce.com: Are you presently training others in the Art Karate?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Yes I am.
MIGUEL LOPEZ JR
Martialforce.com: When did you start and what is your teaching style or methodology?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I started teaching Goju in 1969 and I currently teach the old school Traditional ITF Tae Kwon Do and in 2001 me and my son Miguel "ThunderKick' Lopez Jr decided to combine the art of Tae Kwon Do and Jujitsu which we now call it 'Tae Kwon Jitsu' which mean simply 'I fight you and if you grab me I lock you" and we are now creating new techniques and concepts to put in our combined system but when we are in the street we try to avoid trouble but if we have to defend ourselves we have to use the skills that we were taught.
Martialforce.com: How would you instruct Kata Training to a Martial Artist of the present generation, who may not believe in Kata?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: What I do is have my son Miguel 'ThunderKick' Lopez Jr. which is my top student perform his championship kata so they can see the beauty of what a kata should look like and if they still don't believe in kata then there is the door cause in my Dojang you don't just learn one thing you learn everything to do with the tradition of the martial arts if not then the tradition of the martial arts will die with all the Sensei's, Master's and Grand Masters.
Martialforce.com: What do you teach those who want to learn Survival Skills?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I teach the basic techniques that are necessary to use in real life. Nothing more nothing less. Some of the Techniques are if u walk in the street and someone attacks you, you can't think just respond to what they throw at you and do a simple technique to take them down, not five techniques it should be one and maybe two or three the most. we teach defense against all types of weapons, grabbing from the back and front and multiple attacks.
Martialforce.com: What is your view of the present Evolution of the Martial Arts and Tournament Competition of the present and compare to the past?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I don't like the way most of the tournaments are being run and the competitors in the tournaments but I can't blame the new generation cause its the instructors fault for not teaching them the right way with being respectful, having sportsmanship and fighting fair not dirty like if your in a street fight and being ghetto, this is a professorial sport and should be presented the right way and not give all the real martial artist and bad name. The judges in these tournaments are not real and don't know how to judge right and they judge their own students and cheat for them and give them higher scores and cheating for them is not helping them cause they are not learning how to work hard to win so they will think that if there instructor is judging they are going to win without trying. This is not for all the instructors, you know who you are. Listen up closely the main styles that are not following the ways of the martial arts are some of the Goju and Shotokan system but there are other styles that do the same but these are tell well known cheater.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell us about your relationship with some of the Masters of the Past and Present?
I have a great relationship with Grandmaster Kwon from Korea which is my Tae Kwon Do instructor, I learned a lot from this man, I also have a wonderful relationship and have a lot of respect for The living Legend Grand Master Reno Morales, he is not only my senior but he is my brother for life. I have high respect for the Late Legend Grand Master Antonio Pereira, which is the founder of Mi-Yamaryu Jujutsu and The Tremont School of Judo, Jujitsu and Tae Kwon Do. I am currently keeping the Tremont Legacy alive through myself and my students even though the building is closed where the headquarters was located.
Martialforce.com: Do you feel that Martial Arts played an important role with who you are today?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Yes and if it wasnít for the Martial Arts, I would not have been able to survive and over come two car accidents, Cancer, over come fear from being picked on and over all not be alive today.
Can you identify aspects of your life or accomplishments that you directly attribute your success in, to the Training received in the Martial Arts? I became a three time World Champion in the 70's but Iím one of the best full contact fighters that came out of The Bronx and it made me a great teacher that is looked up two by many.
Martialforce.com: What would you say is your greatest achievement?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I became a three time full contact world champion in the 70's.
Martialforce.com: What have you personally gained from your practice of Martial Arts?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: From a boy I became a man that could take care of myself and my love ones.
Martialforce.com: How have the Martial Arts training helped you achieve Goals?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Martial Arts have helped me achieve goals by if I put my mind to something I can achieve anything no matter what age you are.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe The Martial Arts training would be beneficial for any youngster or adult?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Yes
Martialforce.com: How would Martial Arts training benefit them?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: It gets them off the streets, keeps them healthy, teach them respect and discipline.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on cross training in regards to other styles of Martial Arts?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I agree but u should master one style first then go on to other styles. In my opinion you should be at least a black belt before u go to another style. You can learn other styles but you should have respect for your instructor and when u get permission to go you need to tell the other instructor to call you master for permission to take you as there student as well, its more of a blessing from them.
Martialforce.com: Have you trained with Family members, and/ or taught any family members?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Yes.
Martialforce.com: Who in your family trained under your tutelage?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I have trained my Daughter and my grand son and grand daughter and of course MY son Miguel 'ThunderKick' Lopez Jr. which is currently second in charge under me.
Martialforce.com: How different is it to teach Family, or strangers?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Well when teaching family, there is no rules and if they mess up I can give them an old school beat down for them to learn not to disrespect me and its not for them to say no, its for me to tell them yes you will do what I tell you to do or you will get once again an old school beat down whether its in the dojo or at home.
Martialforce.com: What modifications have to be made, if any, in teaching family?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: There are no modifications made, I teach them how I was taught and its hardcore training without watering it down.
Martialforce.com: Who do you feel was your biggest influence in Karate or life in general and why?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Bruce Lee because he is a real martial artist and his philosophy said I don't believe in styles whether you do Japanese, Chinese Korean or American and if u condition and train your body and u train seven days a week you can beat anybody because I did it and its not the style you do its you and how hard u train. I follow in Bruce Leeís philosophy.
Martialforce.com: Do you think Tradition is important?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: Yes.
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: With out Tradition and a Legacy there is no martial arts and knowledge to pass down to the next generation.
Martialforce.com: What are your Views of Evolution in Karate?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: The way the new generation trains if they would be trained old school most of them would quiet.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about Rank in Martial Arts and the present practice of fast and advanced promotions?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I don't believe in promoting fast, now a days some schools promote you to fast even if you donít deserve it just for the money, Back in the day it takes years to get a belt but when you got it u not only earned it you was that rank.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe youngsters (12-20 Yrs.) could/ should be holders of rank above Sandan?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: No, I donít believe at that age they should be a 3rd Degree or above, because they have to have years of experience as a black belt.
Martialforce.com: What are your Long or Short-term Goals in Martial Arts?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: To keep the legacy of the martial art as a way of life.
Martialforce.com: Are you involved with any Martial Arts Association? Can you give us some details?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: I am a member of the Eastern U.S.A International Martial Arts Association and The International Council of Ninja Societies.
Martialforce.com: Difference in competing in Open tournaments in the Past and Present?
MIGUEL LOPEZ SR: The difference between the two are the old school tournaments there was respect and real certified referees and the new school tournaments lack respect for one another and now a days if you are a black belt, they call a black belt meeting and everyone could be a judge and not know anything about judging. This action does not give the competitors a fair chance at winning.
Martialforce.com: Thank you for accepting this interview, your answers clearly show your experience and knowledge. We here at Martialforce.com wish you continued success.