(Though this story goes back 30 years, here is a history story fitting in with this 20th anniversary history.)
"You Need To Go See Ray Medina"
In 1986, I was a frustrated karate and jujitsu student taking classes in a local gym. And by jujitsu, I mean old-school, stand-up/throw down" classical jujitsu, not Brazilian wrestling. I wanted to do so much more than traditional material that it was just driving me crazy. I had a cop's eye and a military eye on what was and wasn't real fighting, what I needed and what was superfluous.
My good friend, comrade and co-detective and karate Black Belt Roger White knew my frustration and told me,
"you know, you need to go see Ray Medina."
Ray had returned from yet another mysterious training trip from California (then the growing USA martial arts mecca) and he was learning a whole new way to teach and train. I contacted Ray, who we all knew was already a respected champion Black Belt at the Karate system that was taught at my gym and in town. You can ask anyone in that area, back in that day, that Ray was a real kickboxing champ.
When I spoke with him, he had news. "I am starting a summer series of classes," he told me. "You should join."
I did, and with a series of summer classes in Jeet Kune Do and JKD Concepts that included JKD, Filipino, boxing, shootfighting, Muay Thai, silat, the Vunak PFS, Larry Hartsell, Lucay Lucay, Sulite material, (and even a more karate and jujitsu). I became instantly and utterly hooked. When that summer series was over at the school? Ray seemed to disappear. I found him and I immediately became a personal student. $50 an hour back then, twice a week.Thats $100 a week, $400 a month, in 1986 and 87. It was like a heroin addiction. My second wife had no idea I was this much ($$$) of an addict.
This first private lesson night was held in the local Shin-Toshi karate school. Ray said, "Okay, lets see where you are." We put on boxing gloves and in went the mouth pieces. Now, I had been kickboxing since the early 1970s. I wasn't really any good at it per say, but I wasn't that bad either. Ray said, "let's just box." We did, and he proceeded to whip my ass like a step child. I mean, it was embarrassing. After a few rounds he stopped and we took off the gloves. He was quiet and I really thought he would tell me to leave and say I was hopeless. But he simply said, "Okay, let's get started."
And we did. I tell this story in a lot in seminars. One point was that many people kickbox and Thai box, but boxing alone is a unique skill that enhances both kickboxing and Thai. That is sort of a somewhat known fact now, but it really wasn't way back then.
Anyway, I worked with him about for the next 5 years. And I mean obsessively. Two afternoon privates, two weeknight classes and maybe something on the weekend. Weekends were for seminars. We traveled together attending seminars, or I would go alone. And we hosted seminars- most often Paul Vunak back then. Ray was just as interested in new martial studies as I was.
At the left is a photo at a Guro Dan seminar. We caught him every time he was in the region. (I don't like to show photos of me and Dan, as it was kind of taboo thing, out of political respect. But under these tribute to Ray circumstances, I don't think he would mind. At seminars, Dan would wave or nod hello at Ray when we walked in (you know, which was very cool). Medina had been to the Inosanto Academy many times on his Mecca trips.
Ray and I started a "Concepts Class" in a Gold's Gym in late 1987 which I eventually took over by 1989. I had to take over because Ray sort of "disappeared' from time to time. Left the city, the area. These stretches got longer and longer. Sometimes I knew where he was, like in southern California with Dan or Vunak for a month, or places like upstate New York with Kevin Seiman events, or down in the Smokey Mountains. Then other times? Most of the times? I didn't know. There was no email or the internet back then to stay in touch. He never had a steady phone. He'd come back and teach the new materials he learned. Meanwhile, I kept on contacting new experts too.
He popped in and out, again and again, the last time telling me that we simply HAD to study Kung Fu by Francis Fong in Atlanta. I told him I was already doing privates and seminars with a Terry Giibson in Tulsa, OK., and with a Wing Chun,/James Lee/Oakland JKD instructor. And well, I just wasn't interested enough in Kung Fu to jump both feet into a traditional art like that. Miffed I guess, he left again. This time for good. You know I never could really figure Ray out. Anyway, I continued on the search around the world. Always looking for the next best thing….the next best thing. The next best thing was never really the best thing. It later became my job to make the next best thing. Or to make people learn how to make the next best thing (that's a Zen thing).
Lets fast-forward some years. In winter, 1996 I was back on patrol on a cold, bleak, midnight shift. 4 am. On W. University drive I saw a lone, male figure walking west on the island between lanes. The streets were deserted. Who is this poor bastard? It must be 20 degrees out?
I pulled over and rolled down the window and asked this hunched over, cold figure, "hey, man – where ya' going?"
Under the hood of the jacket? It was…Ray Medina! He was going to a relative's house. I got him in the squad car and drove him there. I could tell he felt uncomfortable about his last "disappearance" as we had no real conversation. We actually never discussed martial arts once on this drive! When I parked at the relative's house, I remembered that in my trunk was a case of FMA – Filipino Martial Arts materials. (At that time, Roger White and I were working out at our "lunch" hour – 5 am – YES! 5 am! – at the Police Athletic League building each night and I always had my gear with me). I had recently returned from the Philippines and had a few of those classic "Filipino Weapons' Boards" (see below) inside my gear. Before Ray left, I gave him my business card and one of these cool, large boards full of replica knives. And that, despite our promises, was the very last time I saw him.
Back to a more current time. Just as Roger White first told me to "go see Ray Medina," in the 1980s, Roger contacted me with some sad Medina news in December, 2009. You see, Ray Medina just died. He had some kind of huge tumor. We don't know the details. But he's gone.
For what it is worth, I don't know where I would be today without having met Ray. I probably would have bailed on the martial arts out of boredom and frustration decades ago? I simply don't know. But he came along just at the right time with the right message and lit a fire in me. Since that first private lesson night when he boxed my ears in, the subject of fighting – thoughts on and about it – occupy my mind most of every day. Like a painter paints. Like a sculptor sculpts. This is what I think about. Yeah, I think it's unhealthy. But this is who we are. This is what we do.
Still, one of the great accomplishments of my life, is the fact that that within about three years from that first night when Medina boxed my ears in, I could go toe-to-toe, switch leads, with Ray Medina standing and on the ground, with any weapon. He taught me all that and more. His goal was to make me better than him. He worked hard on it. What a lesson that is for all instructors! Ray was conduit to a bigger truth. My troops know I follow that format when I've said a million times, "I am a mere vessel, a conduit. This is about you, not me." That comes from Raymond Medina. One of the scores of things he taught me, even by osmosis.
The Obituary from the Denton Record Chronicle reads:
Ramon Medina, 49, of Denton, passed away Sunday December 13, 2009 at his home in Denton.
Mr. Medina was born on December 5, 1960 in Robstown, TX to Jose Medina and Damiana (Gonzales) Medina. For the last 15 years he shared his life with Claire Stuart and they celebrated their 1 year anniversary of marriage on November 1, 2009. Ray was a barber for 33 years. In 1980 Ray became a premier student at the Denton Academy of Martial Arts when he was awarded the coveted rank of Black Belt in the art of Shin-Toshi. In 1982 his extra ordinary skills achieved a national level when he traveled to California to train in Bruce Lee's legendary art of Jeet Kune Do along with the Filipino Martial Arts under Dan Inosanto. He had a life long dedication to martial arts as well as his family. A visitation will be held from 6-8 pm, Tuesday December 15, 2009 at Mulkey-Mason, Jack Schmitz and Son Funeral Home. A graveside service will be held at 2 pm Wednesday December 16, 2009 at Roselawn Memorial Park. Ramon is survived by his wife, Claire Medina of Denton; mother, Damiana Garrett of Denton; daughter, Cierra Medina of Denton; son, Jeremy Medina of Denton; sisters, Diana Pyke of Denton; Carol Marroquin of Denton; brothers, Ricardo Medina of MO, Jose Medina Jr.of Denton; two grandchildren, Avery Brianne and Gavin Ramon; his faithful dogs, Chico and Emmers and numerous nieces and nephews.
Hock's email: HockHochheim@ForceNecessary.com
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