Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Death of an Icon

Shihan Gordon Doversola, passed away on Tuesday April 19, 2011

Shihan Okinawa-te master Gordon Doversola was an American martial arts pioneer, one of the first karate instructors to teach karate in Southern California.

He was born in Honolulu where he began training in ju-jitsu at age 11, and later became a student of Kempo master James Mitose. After mastering Kempo he met famous Okinawa-te master Taiken Nagusuko and became his disciple.

In 1957 he moved to Los Angeles and opened one of the first karate dojos in the city, teaching traditional Okinawa-te karate. A well respected instructor, sensei Doversola taught his art to thousands of students over the years. Among his better known students were Joe Lewis, Bob Wall, Jim Kelly, Martin Kove, Richard Triplett and Glen Hoyen.

Sensei Doversola was among the first karate instructors to choreograph realistic fight scenes for movies and Television.

He was the technical advisor to Frank Sinatra for the film Manchurion Candidate. He passed away on Tuesday April 19, 2011.

The following is a series of e-mail messages that followed Sensei Doversola's death. May he rest in Peace.
(reply to John Corcoran's email about Sensei Doversola's death)
Thanks John Corcoran,

Another of my instructors dies. When it came to pure martial arts, that was my favorite style---it had everything including 36 long forms and all the weapons. Gordon originally had a jujitsu base and he had 56 amateur boxing bouts under his belt. He followed the Rosicrucian's and could read the ethereal auras off people. I met one of his ju-jitsu masters who taught secretly in downtown L.A. many years ago. He loved his heritage and often took me to Pilipino restaurants; he enjoyed blending the Okinawan and his Pilipino weapons together.

The last I heard about a year ago was that his Daughter would not allow anyone to see him at a hospital. I talked to a nurse there and that was it; she told me that he was out of it and didn't recognize anyone.

P.S. Someone misspelled Manchurian. Gordon and Frank Sinatra really hit if off so the story goes. Gordon was perhaps the first in this country to understand martial arts fight scene choreography to work in the film industry.


Joe Lewis

My Factual Responses to some earlier posts on Glenn Mages's Blog about Sensei Doversola:
From: Brian K.

Bruce and Doversola did not particularly care for he each other and they did have something between a fight and a sparring session. Jim Kelly and Joe Lewis told this story saying that Bruce started out winning with his incredible speed. Doversola admitted that he had never seen anyone as fast as Bruce, but that his blows didn’t stop Doversola out right. On Bruce’s third attack Shihan Doversola caught him and laid him down. Both masters were able to walk away…neither being the clear victor. It just goes to show that as great as Bruce was, there were and are others in his league.”

(reply from: Joe Lewis)
Get the truth in your reports---I NEVER told any such “story.” I was the only person on this planet who had Gordon Doversola and Bruce Lee in the same workout floor at the same time---1969, Sherman Oaks Karate Studio. I had them exchange techniques “on me only.” No one showed disrespect to each other and neither of the two exchanged any movements between them. Gordon quit sparring in front of me in 1965 and Bruce Lee never did. I was there, you were not---end of story.

Both of these men were my instructors for a long time----who else on this planet can say this? Neither of them ever challenged another person and nor would either ever lower themselves to accept a childish challenge---it was below their level of dignity.

If you were “not” there, please do us all a favor and keep your mouth shut. Someone, show us the video footage---or else, please---no more gossiping rumors; there is enough nonsense on the Internet.

From: Kuran M.

Then there was another fight that had Shihan Gordon Doversola fighting Lee in a match that several people witnessed.

(reply from: Joe Lewis)
Please Kuran, will you offer us at least ONE creditable witness that can be trusted to prove this statement? I would like the person’s name or his contact access. I do not believe a single one exists. After I had Bruce and Gordon together for the first time ever, I doubt that there would have been any reason for them to come together ever again. Someone please explain for me why this “alleged sparring” incident would have been important for either of my teachers?

Ending Footnotes:

Larry Delano was my sparring partner for a long time. He wasn’t very big, but he was quick and loved to spar with me.

I believe I had a lot to do with teaching my friend, Jim Kelly, his back fist at the Long Beach Tracy Kenpo School back in 1970. At that time, he did not have down the correct principles---he was telegraphing his initial trigger squeeze and he was tight. I am sure Bruce enhanced his skills during the shooting of “Enter the Dragon.” I do not want any credit---I have enough on my own for six life-times.

I agree that both Bruce Lee and Gordon Doversola were “forerunners” of MMA; however, so were dozens of others even before either of them. I would not agree that either of them was THE forerunner. When I trained in Okinawa, all black belts over there had multiple black belts in several disciplines of martial arts---it was required in the old days.

Why is anyone making such a big deal out of this? Is there some significant factor of great importance here? Who cares!

Joe Lewis

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hang Time

Bruce Lee and Cus D’Amato Said Same Thing

Cus D’Amato was hailed by Ring Magazine as one of the top five trainers in the past 75 years of boxing. Although the champion, Rocky Graziano, slipped out of D’Amato’s hands as his trainer, Cus developed three other notable world champions, Floyd Patterson, José Torres, and Mike Tyson.

Before Bert Randolph Sugar took control of Ring Magazine in 1979, the magazine’s staff had sent Mr. D’Amato to meet me in New York City in an attempt to get me to come to the Catskills in New York State to train with him in hopes of some day fighting Mohammad Ali. Although at that time (in 1971) I had been knocking out all my kickboxing opponents in less than two rounds, my heart was into acting, not fighting. I was already a champion in two separate fighting sports; however, Cus was very disappointed in my lack of interest to pursue becoming a pro boxer.

I felt that Cus and Bruce Lee shared some of the same ideas on tactics of ring strategy. Take time to view this clip and I will highlight a few concepts that both Cus and Bruce talked about with me at length. I have marked the time intervals on the clip at the exact place my comments are relevant.

The main point both Bruce and Cus shared about fighting was accepting the practice of developing head rhythm for defense of one’s cranial cavity, and body rhythm for defense of ones body---not the use of ones hand (blocking, trapping, cuffing, etc) for defense. This premise is the “opposite” of what the majority of martial arts styles advocates and teach. They each believed in what is called an aggressive defensive---if you have the time to block or trap, then you have time to hit. [In other words, one uses head rhythm to protect the head, body rhythm to protect the body, and foot rhythm (and leg checks) to protect the legs.]

Clip time: (1:50 min) D’Amato uses defensive timing to work in behind Ali’s punches. Ali had a tendency to pause at the end of his combinations---thus leaving his “back door” open for a counter. This is where Ali often got hit during his fights; he entered the pocket but didn’t disengage quickly enough or he exited the same route in which he entered. This is a weakness of most martial arts fighting styles.

Clip time: (4:32) Ali leaves too much hang time on the end of his right punch, often his straight right. Notice Ali is leaning too much---overextending his right hand---which leaves him off balance. This make him vulnerable for a perfectly timed counter and it causes him to be unable to follow up with a left hook or left forty-five punch. Cus told me that this was the key to how he could teach me to beat Ali. He would have me draw Ali’s straight right; I would slip it outside, and come underneath with a shovel hook to the liver.

I’ve worked that move for decades and it has become my favorite “dirty dozen” shot. Anyone can drop a fighter with a cranial shot; few fighters have ever developed an accurate knock-out body punch. Many martial artists have acquired the same bad habit as Ali---they lean too much when they punch and end up with their shoulder forward of their feet. Rule: Always keep your feet under your punches.

Clip time: (4:36) Ali catches hooks while caught on the ropes. This was one of his bad habits and the same is true of many combatants. One must learn to keep his back always pointed towards the center of the ring. If your opponent tries to cut the ring off (called squeezing) avoid the habit of always moving straight backwards.

In the end, a master fighter knows how to execute the three attributes of an effective strategy: 1) confuse, 2) deceive, and 3) then exploit your opponent. The key skill necessary to pull off this kind of control is mobility. Keep in mind that Ali, Dempsey, and Tyson all three had a three-year plus layoff during their careers for various reasons. When each of them eventually returned to the ring for their first return bout, neither of them still had their strong legs and they paid the price.

“The hero and the coward both feel the same thing, but the hero uses his fear, projects it onto his opponent, while the coward runs. It's the same thing, fear, but it's what you do with it that matters.” Cus D’Amato

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tunney vs Dempsey

Question: Opinion on Gene Tunney - Bruce Lee eventually appreciated the style and skill of Gene Tunney. Was wondering what your thoughts were on this?

GENE TUNNEY vs JACK DEMPSEY: Simple comparison---as sharpshooter/counter-puncher vs a pressure fighter/slugger---the best fighter “that day” won.

Unknown facts: Georges Carpentier was the first martial artist to win a world title in two separate sports: A world champion in savate and also was the Light-heavyweight World Boxing Champion. (P.S. Joe Lewis was the second and Troy Dorsey was the third.)

1ST $million dollar gate in boxing’s history: (1921) Carpentier vs Dempsey (KO in round 4) Dempsey knocks out 1st two-sport champion.

After Jack Dempsey knocked out Luis Firpo in the 2nd round in 1923, he took off from boxing for three years (traveling, making movies and partying), until 1926 when he fought Tunney the first time. Dempsey was not focused and nor was he the same fighter from years earlier. Tunney, a U.S. Marine like me, studied Dempsey’s style and trained to deny him access to the pocket by jabbing and moving backwards exercising defensive timing with a counter-punching style game plan. Defensive timing means you come in the “back door.” This means that after an opponent completes his punch or if he leaves his punches hanging---the door is left open too long. Sluggers have this tendency.

Dempsey could not work the “squeeze” (closing off the ring or “walking” opponent to the ropes.) Tunney was the first heavyweight champion to successfully employ this unpopular counter punching strategy. He won a second fight 364 days later during the alleged “long count.”

I offer he best advice on how to confront and fight the basic nine different types of fighters in my manual: http://www.joelewisfightingsystems.com/manual/default.aspx

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


A recently posed question to me asks;

Mr. Lewis, many people are adamant that a martial arts instructor must be a master of executing techniques and fighting. However, many of the great boxing instructors such as Angelo Dundee, weren't fighters. How much emphasis would you personally place on an instructor's ability to perform technique and fight? Should an instructor be proficient in combat to teach it, or is it only essential that one be able to show a fighter how to master the moves without being a master of them yourself? I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

“What counts most is not the martial arts skills you’re able to perform or to teach someone, but rather the confidence you leave within them that enables their effective use of those skills.”

When Angelo Dundee’s Brother, Chris, wanted his own Son to learn how to defend himself, he did not send him to train with the Uncle, Angelo; instead, he send him to take karate lessons from one of our Florida studios.

Some of my instructors taught me technique, and others taught me about how to fight. In other words, some trainers are good at teaching “style” and others are better at developing ones “substance.” A fighter needs both.

I’ll leave you with another of my quotes: “It is not what you’ve done that makes you what you are (a great trainer), it is what you are made of that determines that.”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Preventing Lactic Acid Build-up

A recent question;
Mr. Lewis, fighters intuitively/instinctively shake their arms/legs during a fight to release lactic acid. What are some ADDITIONAL things one could do besides shaking arms/legs to release lactic acid?
This is a great question all trainers need to be able to answer. Since I do not have a degree in exercise physiology, let’s not get into an unnecessary discussion of any lactic acid hypothesis on a molecular level. To keep what is important in focus, initially there are three factors all anaerobic or aerobic athletes (particularly fighters) who compete need to understand. You must know how to relax and also how to pace yourself. The third asset is being able to maintain the right mind-set; that is how to remain determined----never yielding the perseverance of effort to remain engaged.

“I never even think about quitting; next to dying, it's the last thing I'd ever do.”

A number of fighters believe that lactic acid gets released during hard sparring or strained, unaccustomed exercise drills and that this diminishes one’s performance while also causing soreness and residual stiffness. First of all, lactic acid does not exist as an acid in the body; it exists in another form called “lactate.” Lactic acid will be gone from your muscles within an hour of exercise and the stiffness sets in one to three days later. Most of the stiffness in muscles is due to muscle damage from the exercise and other factors.
For a more technical understanding of the “Lactic Acid” phenomena check out the following link.
Your muscle cells convert glucose or glycogen to lactic acid. These cells have “energy assimilators,” called mitochondria that use the lactic acid for fuel. Real intense training, like a body-builder doing a lifting exercise to failure, can make double the mitochondrial mass. The theory here has evolved by coaches and trainers realizing that by increasing the muscle mitochondria, allowing for greater efficiency in burning of lactic acid, that athletic performance improved.
“Shaking of the arms/legs” may seem like a way to release lactic acid buildup; however, logic would tell one that the effort to do such movements may only produce more lactic acid. Such a circumstance---wondering what to do once the lactic acid buildup reaches this point---is like asking what does a combat unit do on the battlefield once they run out of ammunition.

Some tips from field experience:
  • Just before a race or bout, train very hard with a few brief sprints or sparring combinations.
  • Maintain proper hydration of the body, paying attention to the balance of your sodium and potassium levels.
  • Digest some bicarbonate fluids prior to hard exercise like fighting.
  • Learn how to use your “core” muscle groups instead of your multi-joint muscles for certain skills. Example: When doing a rear naked choke, try to completely relax your arms from the shoulders to your wrists. Instead of squeezing with arm strength, only use your core and back muscles for pulling----the lats, the posterior deltoids, the lower trapeziums, and hunching your pelvic diaphragm upwards.
  • Flip flop muscle usage----when arm wrestling, learn to switch between using only the forearm muscles for a brief segment while relaxing the upper arm, and then switch that part of the arm you are using with the other. Breath control is critical here as part of this technique. I’ve seen guys who could be extremely hard externally and completely relaxed internally---and then switch in a split second.
  • As you approach your pain threshold, practice maintaining full effort to bust through it occasionally, or learn to find your rhythm as to when to back off and for how long before you reengage. Learning to control your rhythm builds inner confidence. A runner may drag behind to trail another runner in order to regroup. A fighter or arm wrestler may relax for a round or for a minute or two and just play defense allowing his opponent to offensively burn out.
  • Lastly, again, let us not forget the overall importance of the balanced conditioning of one’s attitude and body---that both can be affected by many factors. Lactic acid is a by-product of hard exercise; however, well-conditioned athletes are better able to recycle it back through the liver for energy. This is why their performance is not as limited by a buildup of lactic acid.



Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Loss of Motivation or a Loss of Consciousness?

One of the most familiar experiences any long term martial arts practitioner has dealt with is acknowledging an ongoing battle between having once enjoyed a burning desire to train, and now, an emerging state of mind that lacks even the energy to make it to the gym. If you are one of these people or want to help someone who is, please pause for a second and just let the reality of this thought sink in. This is your beginning, the point from which you make your first step.

Some day you will realize that this place in your life will become more important than pursuing any first step into some self-motivational course or immediately attempting to take action for change. You did not get here quickly with just a few, short steps, and nor will you leave this place quickly with a few, short, quick-fix steps either.

Sometimes we are manipulated by fear, perhaps a fear of being humiliated by failure, and at other times, the responsibility of success. I've seen this with school owners and I've watched sport champions self-destruct over the fear of feeling unworthy of their own good fortune. The sport of boxing comes to mind here.

Human nature has structured us to live more to avoid pain than to experience pleasure or joy. Therefore, we tend to allow these "fears to sabotage the efficacy of consciousness, thereby worsening the initial problem"---to quote one of my mentors, Dr. Nathaniel Branden. Over time, we gradually make ourselves emotionally numb to certain things that once inspired us. Emotions have a propensity to encourage and discourage thinking; they can draw us towards wanting to train or away from doing so.

This emotional resistance is what makes taking a first step towards change very difficult. When we make ourselves able to feel less, we make ourselves psychologically blind---we become in effect more unconscious. We feel safe there; this behavior makes life more bearable. I have always said that one's self-image or self-concept is imperative to becoming great. If you have worked yourself into a temporary negative self-image, and have also allowed this to dictate your actions, then your performance, or lack of, to consistently engage in purposeful training will reflect this definition.

Hopefully, at this point you can begin to sense whether you have been motivated by fear or by confidence. One will lead you to being the martial artist you admire and the other will lead you to avoid challenges by allowing you to continue to hide in fear of being exposed.

Any motivation begins with a higher awareness of self---that is the key to what martial arts is about. This awareness is about knowing who you are, and about in what do you trust (the method of your own thinking processes), and also about a strong commitment to that which you call your inner reliance. Now you have a position from which you can take a first step. How does one know to where or why he is going if he does not know (to embrace, to fully acknowledge, and to own) from where he is starting?

My feelings are the keys to my motivation and my desires. My spirit is my energy and my pathway. My mentor and/or instructors are my guides and my escorts. Don't leave home without any of them.

"The emotional brick walls are not there to sidetrack you or keep you from training; they're there to give you a chance to show the courage to prove which is stronger, the will to overcome or the lack of."

Joe Lewis

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Flux in the Matrix

Set-point Control Question

Hi Joe Lewis,

I have a problem with the set-point control tactical strategy. I work the exercise you describe in your web site video and that all works well, but when I do this in sparring I become more passive and less assertive. It appears to have kind of taken the drive out of my attacks (could just be I need more practice integrating it into my game) Many Thanks, Andrew

Answer: This is a good question. Many instructors will find students with a similar predicament, that of discovering a loss in self-assertiveness when initially learning this principle. This is all part of the integration process, which for some, may take more time to adjust.

First, you must realize that when your mind becomes more actively engaged (focusing on controlling the set-point), the body is functioning at a different frequency, and in the beginning when attempting to learn something new, the rhythm between the two is not in sync. Give your body time to catch up with the actions of the mind. Your mind is functioning on a higher level than your ability to execute appropriate physical skills.

Secondly, the instant you become aware that something is different or missing, your focus becomes split. Now you are experiencing an additional problem; you are monitoring yourself and wondering what's wrong. You cannot watch yourself and pay attention to the actions or non actions of your opponent at the same time---too much is taking place inside the conscious mind to digest all at once.

Your conscious mind is a faculty and has a limited capacity. If you fail to pay attention to only what is necessary in a given moment, then you limit the available capacity of your consciousness to be able to deal with that which is of greatest importance----the actions of your opponent.

Thirdly, you must learn how to allow thoughts to simultaneously participate in your actions (that aggressive behavior combined with profound strategic certainty). If you find yourself thinking for a split second about not letting your opponent get set-----without exercising action at the same time----then your timing is off, and you WILL perform passively.

Fourth----Any good strategy has two parts, defense and offense. When using set-point control, remember that there are only two things one can do when sparring---you can move or you can fire. With any good strategy, there has to be an appropriate balance. If you are on the battle field and currently engaged in a fire fight, and you know you only have enough ammo to last about another hour before more arrives the next morning, are you going to use it all up within the next sixty minutes in an act of desperation?

Some fighters let frustration lead to desperation----not smart. Definition of a smart fighter:

"One whose actions are in alignment with his strategic purpose"

This means BALANCE----his actions are congruent with his goals, to survive first and to win second. With set-point control, there are two factors which co-exist----not separately-----when to move and when to fire. What happens if I only move and never fire, or if I spend too much time moving and not enough time with the usage of effective firepower?

You get the picture-----without appropriate balance, anyone will fall into this trap called passiveness----too much thought and not enough action, or thought separate of action.

Cardinal Rule in Sparring:
(To avoid doubt or frustration)

"When in doubt, INSTANTLY stick and move!"

I believe, as is the case of most who spar, that the issue here is mental, not physical and that a committed work ethic will quickly put you ahead of the game. Sometimes an instructor will have a student who gets easily frustrated and finds the task or assignment given him too complex. Let me leave you with a quote from a former Commandant of the Marine Corps who I served under.

"The galleries are full of critics. They play no ball. They fight no fights. They make no mistakes, because they attempt nothing. Down in the arena are the doers. They make mistakes, because they try many things. The man who makes no mistakes lacks boldness and the spirit of adventure. He is the one who never tries anything. He is the break in the wheel of progress. And yet it cannot be truly said he makes no mistakes, because his biggest mistake is the very fact that he tries nothing, does nothing, except criticize those who do things."
--David M. Shoup (General, United States Marine Corps