General History

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Jeet Kune Do Expert Dan Inosanto

Most modern martial artists know Dan Inosanto as a first-generation student of Bruce Lee and one of the world’s premier jeet kune do instructors. What many don’t know is that Inosanto has been an integral part of other corners of the martial arts community and a key player in martial arts history for more than four decades. Presented below are 11 little-known facts about the master’s involvement in our universe.

1. Dan Inosanto has a famous daughter. Her name is Diana Lee Inosanto, and in addition to being a skilled martial artist (and a member of the Black Belt Hall of Fame), she’s an accomplished filmmaker. Among her movies is The Sensei (2008).

Diana Lee Inosanto's The Sensei

2. Dan Inosanto’s youngest black belt is Khayman Amir McDaniels, who’s now 17. “I never would have thought I would be awarding a black belt to anyone under 21,” Inosanto said. “But Khayman earned it, deserved it and continued his training.” (Read about Khayman in the April/May 2015 issue of Black Belt.)

3. When Bruce Lee died in 1973, Dan Inosanto — along with Bruce Lee’s brother Robert Lee and close friends James Coburn and Steve McQueen — served as a pallbearer.

4. Dan Inosanto has an authorized biography. Titled Dan Inosanto: The Man, the Teacher, the Artist, it’s written by Perry William Kelly.

5. In 1975 Dan Inosanto, Richard Bustillo and Jerry Poteet collaborated to create a jeet june do technique poster. The same year, Inosanto released a Super 8 film that covered angles of attack, trapping and use of the short staff.

6. In 1986 Dan Inosanto identified the Degerberg Academy, operated in Illinois by Fred Degerberg, as “probably one of the best schools in the U.S.”


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7. Dan Inosanto has acted in numerous films in addition to Game of Death (1978) and has done stunts and choreography for many more. As recently as 2008, he played the jiu-jitsu master of one of the main characters in David Mamet’s Redbelt.

8. Dan Inosanto is regarded as one of the United States’ foremost krabi krabong experts. He studied under, among others, Col. Nattapong Buayam, a former Thai special-forces instructor.

9. Dan Inosanto’s interpretation of kali made the list of the top-10 self-defense arts according to Black Belt contributing editor Dr. Mark Cheng: “The Filipino system taught by Dan Inosanto is far more than just the sticks and knives that the casual observer sees. Including every possible weapon and range of combat, Inosanto’s system is one of the most sought-after and imitated arts in the world when it comes to practical self-defense.”


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Dan Inosanto on Bruce Lee, Jeet Kune Do Techniques for
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10. Dan Inosanto is a four-time Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee:
  • 1977 — Special Recognition Award
  • 1983 — Instructor of the Year
  • 1988 — Weapons Instructor of the Year
  • 1996 — Man of the Year

That puts him in the same category as Chuck Norris, the only other martial artist who’s been inducted four times.

11. Dan Inosanto has been a fixture in Black Belt since 1975. His most recent cover appearance was on the January 2013 issue.

(Photos by Rick Hustead)

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DVDs and Video Downloads

Bruce Lee: The Evolution of a Martial ArtistBlack Belt Magazine: The Bruce Lee CollectionChinese Gung Fu: The Philosophical Art of Self-Defense — Revised and Updated

Haruo Matsuoka on Steven Seagal and Aikido’s History in America

Haruo Matsuoka on Steven Seagal and Aikido’s History in America

Haruo Matsuoka throws an opponent while Steven Seagal (far right) looks on.


Haruo Matsuoka is a study in contrasts. Although he speaks with a noticeable Japanese accent, he’s eloquent in his English explanation of the esoteric concepts of aikido. While he’s known as one of the most combat-competent aikido stylists on the planet and was one of the very few who could take falls for Steven Seagal as he executed his vicious aikido throws, he remains disarmingly humble and glows with a happiness that only true stability, contentment and harmony can bring.

Conversations with Haruo Matsuoka lead in a variety of directions, all of which are enlightening and inspiring yet grounded in reality. Perhaps what is most amazing is how his life has mirrored his art, meeting conflict and strife with patience and integrity.

When I recently arrived at his dojo in search of answers, he met me at the door as if greeting an old friend, then sat on the tatami mats for the duration of the interview. It was as if there was no distinction in rank, yet there was no lack of etiquette.

The History of Aikido

Born in Osaka, Japan, in the late 1950s, Haruo Matsuoka received an early introduction to aikido and the customs most closely associated with it. His father, Shiro Matsuoka, was into macrobiotics — a diet that’s popular among aikido practitioners in Japan. One year, he took young Haruo Matsuoka to a summer camp dedicated to promoting macrobiotics, and that was where the youth witnessed his first aikido demonstration.


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Later, during his high-school years, he participated in judo, which was a standard part of the physical education curriculum.

Just before his 16th birthday, Haruo Matsuoka began taking classes under an instructor named Kobayashi. But the man disappeared after a short time, leaving the dojo unmanaged and unattended. Six months later, Steven Seagal moved to Osaka and reopened the facility as his now-famous Tenshin Dojo.

At 17, Haruo Matsuoka had his first meeting with Steven Seagal, and it left a lasting impression on the youth. Reminiscing about that day, he beamed with a sense of wonder: “When I first met Seagal sensei, his Japanese wasn’t so fluent, but his technique was remarkable — unlike what I’d seen before. He was so fast, very fluid. Seeing him doing aikido changed my life.”

Haruo Matsuoka signed up on the spot.

“Nothing in my earlier martial arts experiences came close to that moment,” he said. Steven Seagal’s school sat in a rough part of town known for its yakuza gangsters and prostitutes. “It was only a five-minute walk to the dojo from the train station, but it seemed like a long, long walk,” Haruo Matsuoka recalled. “There were many times when I was really scared, as a skinny kid, and walked as fast as possible so I could avoid getting into trouble.”

Initially, Haruo Matsuoka trained three times a week, attending classes that were tough and strict. Steven Seagal’s aikido had a reputation for being hard core and effective even on the street. And his training philosophy backed that up: Make everything practical for this world — otherwise, it’s useless. “Seagal taught a very practical aikido — swift footsteps, hand movements like sword cuts and a body posture that was very straight, very strong,” Matsuoka said.

Steven Seagal emphasized the relationship between kenjutsu sword work and aikido, and Haruo Matsuoka began to understand the ways in which hand, foot and body positioning in a sword fight translate to aikido. He could see how those skills enabled the practitioner to smoothly glide out of harm’s way while thoroughly exploiting the other person’s openings.

“Seagal sensei was my first real master,” Haruo Matsuoka said. The American took a personal interest in his new pupil’s aikido development almost from the get-go, frequently inquiring about his plans after high school. Before Matsuoka had the opportunity to test for his black belt, Steven Seagal pulled him aside and asked if he wanted to accompany him to America to help him make movies. To the impressionable Japanese teenager, it seemed like the opportunity of a lifetime, inspiring him to persevere in his practice.

Haruo Matsuoka’s relationship with his master would never be the same.

Steven Seagal began using him as his uke, demonstrating throws and other aikido techniques on him during class despite his rank. (According to Japanese etiquette, the head instructor demonstrates techniques only on the most senior student, allowing him to learn quickly by feeling each move.) Steven Seagal put him ahead of his seniors and gave him the opportunity to absorb knowledge directly from the source and …

2014 Black Belt Hall of Fame Nominations: Vote Today!

Vote in the 2014-15 Black Belt Hall of Fame!Once again, we’re giving our readers the opportunity to elect their favorite martial artists to the prestigious Black Belt Hall of Fame!

Using this online voting form, you may nominate any individual who deserves recognition for his or her contributions to the martial arts.

You may nominate artists in as many categories as you wish, but remember that (a.) it takes only one vote to nominate a candidate for a particular award and (b.) awards may not be presented in all categories.

We kindly suggest selecting only martial artists who have achieved recognition beyond their immediate schools.

Nominations for the 2014 Hall of Fame categories will be tabulated, and the winners will be those who have received a significant number of nominations in a given category.

In some cases, a martial artist may be nominated even if he or she has been largely overlooked in the readers’ balloting but, in the opinion of Black Belt editorial staff, deserves to be in the running for Hall of Fame membership.

Once votes for the nominees are tallied, a panel composed of Black Belt staff members will make the final selections.

The winners will be announced in Black Belt magazine and on BlackBeltMag.com.

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR NOMINATIONS!

Savate: From the Back Alleys of France to the Martial Arts World

Savate master Salem Assli in Black Belt magazine. Most martial artists know that savate is the official fighting art of France, but beyond that, they would probably be hard-pressed to recite any details about the style. That’s unfortunate because it possesses a long and distinguished history that makes it a valuable addition to the world of martial arts. The following is an easy-to-digest list of facts and is designed to enlighten all martial artists about the history, rules and techniques of this dynamic form of fighting. If it inspires a few to sign up for lessons, so much the better.

A Brief History of Savate

  • The roots of savate are unclear, but some scholars believe they can be traced all the way back to the legendary Greek fighting art of pankration.
  • More recent records indicate that it sprouted from various street-fighting systems used in France during the late 17th century.
  • Boxe francaise, an alternative name for savate, was founded in 1838 by Charles Lecour.
  • Before that, two fighting arts were popular in France: la savate and le chausson. The former was a system of street fighting that used all parts of the body for striking, while the latter was regarded as a milder system and the ancestor of the sport of boxe francaise. Both taught self-defense techniques.
  • After losing a friendly sparring match with English boxer Owen Swift, Charles Lecour was inspired to combine le chausson with English boxing.
  • Charles Lecour’s loss led to tremendous technical changes in savate that spanned decades. It was finally codified as a ring sport in Joseph Charlemont’s L’Art de la Boxe Fra Francaise.
  • Although the teachings of Joseph Charlemont have remained definitive, they are still open to modification. All changes must be approved by the executive committee of the French and International Federation of Boxe Francaise Savate and Related Disciplines.

Savate as a Martial Art

  • Despite its grace and beauty, savate is an effective method of self-defense.
  • It has been described as fencing with the hands and feet.
  • Kicking, punching, grappling, wrestling and weapons training were once parts of savate. Today, the system includes only empty-hand techniques delivered while standing or jumping. The other skills are taught separately under different names.
  • The official moniker for modern practitioners of the art is savateur or tireur (French for “shooter”).
  • During training, savateurs wear shoes that are specially designed for kicking. In fact, shoes are regarded as the primary weapons of a fighter and can be deadly on the street. In France, it is said that practicing savate without shoes is like playing tennis without a racquet.
  • All savate strikes are the result of scientific study and more than a century and a half of ring experience.
  • In Western boxing, punches are thrown so quickly and from such short distances that beginners rarely have enough time to deflect the blows correctly. That often results in the game of parry, escape, counter and attack being reserved only for advanced students. In savate, even though the feet are fast and powerful, the distances are much greater. That enables the average practitioner to successfully employ offensive and defensive moves without fear of injury. The student can more easily develop self-control and confidence.

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  • The savateur strives to attack with combinations and frequently invents strategies that involve feints and real strikes. He is forced to anticipate and adapt to changes in distance and speed while demonstrating his awareness of timing and space — all while using the sophisticated footwork for which the art is renowned.

Savate Competition and Techniques

  • Savate competitions are held under two sets of rules: “assault” and “total combat.” In an assault match, participants may wear protective pads — headgear and shinguards, for example. Thus, the risk of injury is reduced. In a total-combat match, they enjoy a full-contact ring experience similar to what is found in Western boxing. Knockouts are often seen.
  • The fist savate techniques are similar to those of boxing. The main ones are the jab, cross, hook and uppercut. The foot techniques of savate fall into four categories: low shin, side, roundhouse and reverse. Variations include kicks executed with the lead leg and the rear leg, as well as spinning, jumping and cross-stepping methods. An experienced savateur can combine those four punches and four types of kicks to form thousands of combinations.
  • Kicks can target an opponent’s legs, body or head. One of the savateur’s favorite methods of attack is to deliver a low kick followed by a roundhouse to the body with the tip of the shoe. Kicking with the tip of the shoe can be devastating. Over the years, it has knocked down more than a few experienced kickboxers.

Ninja History 101: Ninjutsu Training

Ninja History 101: Ninjutsu Training

It’s a testimonial to the ninja that Japan’s 1964 Olympic team seriously considered using a number of ninjutsu training methods.

Masaaki Hatsumi, one of Japan’s few remaining ninja practitioners, describes the ninja of old as the perfect all-around athletes of their day — expert in running, jumping, swimming, climbing walls, long-distance hiking, throwing, etc.

Of course, the ninja excelled in all the martial arts of their day, such as kendo, kyudo and naginata-do. They were also skilled in hand-to-hand combat, using wrestling and boxing techniques that were the forerunners of judo and karate.

If a child were born into a ninja family, his ninjutsu training would begin during childhood. The art was handed down from father to son as a trade, and a number of great ninja clans arose. The secrets of those clans were closely guarded. The members of one clan would often be in hire of one lord and thus pitted against warriors in the employ of another lord. At such times, it always paid off to have a few secrets in one’s bag of tricks that were not generally known to others.


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The ninja underwent rigid training to learn ninjutsu techniques at secret camps, usually set up in the mountains. The schools were scattered throughout central Japan, with most situated in Iga and Koga provinces. Daily ninjutsu training focused on becoming adept in the use of the sword, bow and arrow, spear and tonki. Close attention was also paid to wall climbing, river crossing and the use of special devices. They also learned how to become expert horsemen.

Physical Ninjutsu Training

The late Seiko Fujita, who claimed to be the 14th master of the Koga school of ninjutsu, said ninja could walk the 350 miles between Edo (now Tokyo) and Osaka in three days. To improve his walking speed and skill, a ninja practiced by leaning his body forward or to one side so he was forced to walk rapidly to maintain balance.

Ninjutsu training also included walking with geta (wooden sandals) on ice to achieve perfect waist balance and silent treading. A ninja’s sandals were specially cushioned with cotton cloth so he could walk and jump noiselessly. When walking around the side of a structure, a ninja pressed his back to the wall and stepped sideways to prevent detection.

Related Martial Arts Books, E-Books,
DVDs and Video Downloads

Related Books, E-Books, DVDs and Video Downloads

Advanced Samurai Swordsmanship

Ninja: The Invisible Assassins

The Complete Ninja Collection by Stephen K. Hayes


The ninja were also great second-story men. They were extremely adept at breaking into enemy castles and spent long hours practicing wall climbing. They also stressed leaping to be able to jump across rooftops and to avoid their enemies by hopping across chasms, over walls and fences, etc. Seiko Fujita claimed that ninja became such experts at leaping that many of them could jump more than 7 feet into the air — which would make them champion high jumpers even today.

Mental Ninjutsu Training

Ninja put just as much stress on the spiritual and mental aspects of ninjutsu training as they did on purely physical action. They had to have their wits about them at all times and work out complicated problems on the spot. They learned to sharpen their perception and insight, developing their instincts to a point that seemed almost superhuman.

Heishichiro Okuse — perhaps the foremost authority on ninjutsu and the author of four books — wrote his last work on the subject, Hidden Ninjutsu: The Secret Thoughts and Strategies of the Ninja. According to him, they regarded nothing as impossible and scientifically applied brain power to every problem they encountered. He regards the nonphysical aspects of ninjutsu as the key to a successful career.

One of the most interesting aspects of ninjutsu is kuji-kiri, or magical signs made with the fingers to assist them in self-control during moments of danger. Kuji, or the number nine, is said to be the most important number in Kikkyo (esoteric Buddhism) and Shugendo (mountain asceticism). In practicing kuji-kiri, there were 81 different ways the ninja could knit his fingers together. At the same time, he chanted Buddhist sutras, or maxims from the scriptures.

The practice not only restored confidence and gave the ninja inner strength in moments of danger and desperation, but it was also supposed to hypnotize the enemy into inaction or temporary paralysis. It was something like the evil eye or the casting of a hex.

Learn more in these posts:

Part One: Ninja History 101: An Introduction to Ninjutsu

Part Two: Ninja History 101: Spying and Assassination

Part Three: Ninja History 101: Ninja Gear

Part Four: Ninja History 101: Ninjutsu Weapons

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