THOMAS JOINER SENSEI
JAN / 2012
My name is Eddie Morales and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine. The subject of this interview has an extensive background and strong lineage in the Martial Arts. He has trained with such notables as Grand Master Ron Van Clief and others. We met as a result of this Magazine because he is an accomplished writer and part of our staff. He offered to help with article submission and I soon became a fan of his writings. He also has vast knowledge in Chinese herbs, as you will read in this interview. We hope you will enjoy this interview and view on his life.
Interview by Eddie Morales
Martialforce.com: Where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
THOMAS JOINER: I was born in Chicago, Ill. and grew up on the infamous South side of Chicago in the Robert Taylor Homes better known as ďthe projectsĒ.
Martialforce.com: What is your current occupation?
THOMAS JOINER: I am the founder and CEO of Treasures from the Sea of Chi an on-line mail order company that sells Chinese herbs. Although the company sells Chinese herbs and formulas for treating practically every disease known to man, our specialty is Chinese herbs used in martial arts training. Our product line includes training formulas, injury management formulas, classical hand conditioning and iron palm formulas, chi tonics, formulas to increase flexibility, etc.
Martialforce.com: When were your first introduced to the martial arts?
THOMAS JOINER: It was in New York City on a stereotypical day that gave little indication that my life was about to change forever, that I was first introduced to the martial arts by a disciple of Grandmaster Wei Hung, the creator of the Fu Jow Pai system, who goes by the name of Pai Diaz.
Martialforce.com: What style of Karate do you practice and who were your instructors?
THOMAS JOINER: After a year or so of studying with Sifu Diaz unresolved personal and political issues forced him to abruptly discontinue his instruction, and I spent the next four years studying Wing Chun Kung Fu with Sifu Ralph Rodriquez, the late Grandmaster Moy Yat, and Sifu Lee Moy Shan. It was during those years that I began to supplement my external Kung Fu training with internal practices like Iron Shirt Chi Kung and Micro-Cosmic Orbit Meditation with Mantak Chia the director of The Healing Tao. Continuing martial arts education included Walking Meditation with Dr. Lee and Standing Meditation with Sifu Tseui Wei as well as a brief study of the Japanese arts of Goju Karate under Sensei Gus Robinson and Combat Jiu Jitsu under Sensei Rigoberto Cheo.
The defining moment in my martial arts career occurred in 1983 when a personal recommendation from Ving Tsun Grandmaster Leung Ting in response to my inquiry about advanced Wing Chun training led to a meeting with Chinese Gojuís legendary Grandmaster Ron Van Clief. Since that introduction nearly thirty years ago, I have always been and most likely will always be a devotee of the Chinese Goju system.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you began?
THOMAS JOINER: The training was intense, quite honestly there were times when I thought I was going to die. Dojo training included your typical push-ups, sit-ups, squats, extended horse stance, kicking and punching drills, etc., but Iím not talking about short sets of 10 of each, I mean a lot of them. Iíll never forget what Shidoshi called ďthe days of a thousand kicks.Ē
There were training sessions where people did push-ups until their arms could no longer support them, and they would fall face forward onto the floor. Bloody noses and minor scrapes and bruises were not that uncommon. The warm up that always took place before we began sparring was designed to totally exhaust the students, that way Shidoshi could see how you functioned under extreme stress and fatigue.
Occasionally we would spar on the rooftop as neighbors, sometimes as many as 25-30 people, gathered on adjoining rooftops to watch the action and wager on the outcome of the matches.
We were motivated to train hard everyday because when Shidoshi accepted you as his student and you became a member of the Chinese Goju Organization it was made perfectly clear that you should expect to do a lot of sparring, and if you didnít work hard outside of the dojo to keep your shit together, you could count on getting your ass kicked fairly often.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe that Kata is an essential part of training?
THOMAS JOINER: DefinitelyÖ when techniques are dissected or broken down to their basic components it provides insights and clarity that have a positive over-all affect on your art and how you execute your techniques. Some of my personal favorites are: Sanchin Kata and Chinese Gojuís Golden Swan, and Iron Elbow as well internal Kung Fuís, Heavenís Breath.
Martialforce.com: Do you train in weapons and is such training necessary and why?
THOMAS JOINER: Regrettably, I donít have any formal training in traditional Japanese or Chinese weaponry. As much as I honor and respect tradition it has never really tweaked my interest. I chose instead to focus on modern combat firearms training. Over the years Iíve received formal instruction in the use of 45 caliber semi automatic weapons in close quarter combat, and over the past 15 or 20 years have shot an extraordinary number of rounds in an effort to further my skills.
Is it necessary? My answer would be that even though I believe that the broader your range of experience is in all aspects of combat the more refined your art is likely to be, in the final analysis, Iím convinced that itís possible to become a formidable martial artist by mastering empty hand techniques with little or no weapons training.
Martialforce.com: Do you think that training in the martial arts played an important role in who you are today?
THOMAS JOINER: Itís effect on my life is immeasurable. It has affected my physical being and a great deal of the credit for my abundant health is owed to its practice. The discipline and dedication that is required to practice martial arts has nurtured my spirit and sustained me. It has allowed me to express my self and voice my opinions and ideas without any fear of physical intimidation, even in the face of vehement disagreement and a possibility of violence. It is a large contributing factor to my involvement in traditional Chinese medicine /acupuncture. I could go on and onÖ
Martialforce.com: What would you consider your greatest accomplishment?
THOMAS JOINER: Overcoming cultural differences and the language barrier to successfully complete my clinical internship in traditional Chinese medicine acupuncture probably ranks somewhere at the top of the list.
Establishing my company Treasures from the Sea of Chi in 1999 also represents an important milestone in my life. Since the company was formed 12 years ago there has been an ongoing effort to increase public awareness about the value of Chinese herbs as an effective viable alternative to Western chemical drugs. Especially among members of medically under-served minority communities who can least afford todayís expensive often dangerous high-tech medicine. The progress that has been made in that area is extremely gratifying, but there is still a lot of work to be done. I am also proud of the work that I was involved in as a member of the West Oakland Mental Health Advisory Board.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on cross training in regards to other styles of martial arts?
THOMAS JOINER: I donít have a problem with itÖ Back in the day it was crazy, you were expected to swear allegiance to a particular style for life, if you stepped onto the mat at another dojo it was considered disrespectful and disloyal to your style and the instructor, and could possibly create ďsome bad blood.Ē Fortunately, things have changed for the better, and a lot of the credit for the change in attitude is owed to mixed martial arts.
Martialforce.com: Do you think that respect for tradition is important and why or why not?
THOMAS JOINER: I think respect for our forbearers is warranted because we didnít invent anything, we are the inheritors of knowledge that was given to us, passed down by our ancestors. To think otherwise makes you an ingrate. Iím not saying that we should cling to the past and resist any kind of progress, evolution and change are inevitable. But, I for one am both respectful and grateful for the foundation that our martial ancestors have provided for us to build upon and re-invent the art in a way that is compatible with the unique social dynamics of our generation, and like our forefathers, pass it on to the generation that follows.
Martialforce.com: A few of your books have been published; can you tell us a little bit about the subject matters?
THOMAS JOINER: The Warrior as Healer my first book published by Inner Traditions is an over-view of the relationship between martial and healing arts, with the focus on Chinese herbs and how theyíre used in training.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Made Easy, my second effort published by Hunter House Publishing, is an encyclopedia with alphabetical listing of more than 250 common illnesses with Chinese herbal formulas for treating them. What distinguishes this book from others that have been written on the subject is its description of medical terms in laypersonís language and the books integrative approach that describes Eastern and Western treatment methods for each illness.
More recently, I established my own publishing company Sea of Chi Publishing.
Subsequent titles scheduled for release in 2012 include:
Martial Esoterica (explores mysticism and martial arts)
Kung Fu Medicine (a primer on self- treating martial arts injuries)
Slaying the Dragon (a primer for treating alcohol and drug related illness with Chinese herbs)
THOMAS JOINER: Iíd like to end by thanking you Hanshi Morales itís an honor to have been chosen for this interview. I also want to wish you continued success with MartialForce.com magazine, and to let you know that I applaud your dedication to shining a spotlight on some very deserving often overlooked members of the martial arts community.
Martialforce.com: Thank you for accepting this interview.