By Dr. Craig D. Reid
Earlier this year, my wife and I became Board of Directors of the Shin Koyamada Foundation (SKF), a non profit foundation in which one of the goals is to raise funds for their Martial Arts Scholarship Program so kids of lesser means can be given the chance to enroll in reputable martial arts schools. So on July 18, the SKF presented the inaugural United States Martial Arts Festival at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center an event created by actor Shin Koyamada (The Last Samurai; Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior) born out of his “Masters Dinners” events, where he would arrange for masters of martial arts from different countries to sit down and share a meal and discuss the situation of martial arts in America.
Paul Heller, close friend to Bruce Lee as well as the producer of Lee’s Enter the Dragon gave a rousing introductory welcome. He spoke about Lee’s philosophy and then he equated the work that actor Shin Koyamada does through his SKF as dynamic as what Lee was doing with martial arts. Heller is as moved by Koyamada’s dedication to martial arts and helping others as he was by Lee dedicated to martial arts and what Lee accomplished.
Nia Lyte, co-founder of the SKF who in a few short months raised over $10,000 for the SKF and is globally known via her ultra-successful International Beauty live internet talk show (>1 million viewers; 10 million hits/month), was the event’s official host. Prior to the start of the event, before an audience of over 1000 adults and children, Lyte spoke about her passion for helping children/teens and bringing peace and unity to the world.
In fact, a recent young fan in Chile contacted Nia during Nia’s web show sharing how she and her family lost everything during Chile’s tragic earthquake. Nia asked her viewers from all over the world to send basic needs to the downtrodden Chilean fan and her family. Nia then implemented the SKF to also send food, juice drinks, clothes, shampoo and other necessities to Chile. Nia has a unique combination of inner and outer beauty as well as the power to make things happen.
At the foundation, we believe that martial arts can play an important role in the physical and mental development of children. How? Beyond the other positive virtues we learn from martial arts: like turn the other cheek; humbleness, discipline and respect, there is even a more important reason for practicing martial arts…health.
Dr. Silvia N.M. Reid, who has a PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Illinois with five years of post-doctoral training at Yale Medical School and 10 years at UCLA Medical School, shared some shocking statistics with the audience. “Today’s kids have more stress these days,” Silvia noted, “due to parents’ pressure, cyber bullying and are just overall more exposed to different kinds of stresses in their environment and from society. “One in 10 kids suffer from ADHD and one in 200 school children have a autism. The increase stress that our children have, it correlates with the increase of these illnesses. Martial arts schools provide a safe playground for children and through martial arts kids can find a powerful way to release a lot of that stress, where the martial arts can be used to transform this stress into something positive.”
After a spirited audience response, I shared with the crowd how martial arts saved my life. In a nutshell, when I was 16, my doctor told me I’d dead in five years due to the deadly disease cystic fibrosis (CF). At that time I was taking 30 pills/day and in the hospital every three months. Two weeks after my doctor told me this I had a magical moment, I saw my first Bruce Lee film, Fists of Fury (aka The Big Boss).
About 1/3 of the way into the film, Lee let’s loose with two of the fastest kicks I had ever seen. I literally screamed. At that precise moment, I went from being depressed and waiting to die, to wanting to live and practice martial arts. Found out about Qi, one’s life energy and how children dying from unknown diseases, Shaolin monks would take them into their temple, teach them kung fu and qigong, and they’d grow up to be healthy strong men. With that I moved to the then Republic of China, now Taiwan, found a teacher and five months after learning I’ve been off all medication and therapies since. To demonstrate that my health improvement was not superficial, in 1986 I walked 3000.2 miles across America, 26 miles/day for 115 days. This shows how potent the energies of martial arts and qigong can be if one learns how use it for their health.
The greatest gift we have as martial artists is to help others, through our words but mostly through our deeds. It was an honor to share the stage with the outstanding martial artists who participated in the even that afternoon. Shin Koyamada ended the introductions with heartfelt thanks to the sponsors, volunteers, audience members and of course the martial artists for making the event possible and for giving of their time and spirit.
So with this spirit in mind, let me introduce to you the martial artists whose actions spoke louder than their words:
Grandmaster Soke Kubota (International Karate Association), Grandmaster Fumio Demura (Shito-Ryu Karate-Do Genbu-Kai International), Sifu Shi Yan Hui (California Shaolin Temple), Sifu Ken Hui (Northern Shaolin Kung Fu + Lion Dance), the Makoto Taiko drummers group, Sifu Kisu (Harmonious Fist Chinese Athletic Association), Grandmaster Lion C. Choi (Tae Kwon Do), Roy Elghayana (Krav Maga Los Angeles), James E. West II (Brian Hawkins’ American Kenpo Karate), Grandmaster Chul Jin Kim (Hapkido/Chul Jin Martial Arts), Master Ted Tetsuyasu Uekuma and Grandmaster Tadashi Yamashita (Yamashita Shorin-Ryu Karate Association).