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Words of Wisdom: Ernie Reyes Sr.

Throughout his career, Ernie Reyes Sr.,  the founder of the West Coast Demonstration Team and Black Belt’s 1981 "Instructor of the Year," often found himself receiving martial arts–related advice. He quickly learned to heed the good and ignore the bad.

ernie reyes sr.

Best Advice: Remember the values of the martial arts.

“The best advice came from my martial arts teachers Moises Arizmendi, Dan Choi, Jhoon Rhee and Tadashi Yamashita,” Reyes recalled. “It was about living the highest values of the martial arts, which are honor, loyalty, family and bravery.“

I have taken that advice and [put] it into my 53 years of training. It’s all based on respect and discipline. Martial arts training can transform one’s life for the better and give [a person] the ability to make a difference in the world.”

Worst Advice: Don’t make martial arts a career.

“The worst advice was to not do martial arts as a career because I could barely make the rent when I started my school,” Reyes said. “The second-worst advice was, ‘Don’t do any other martial arts; just teach taekwondo.’ And then they said, ‘Don’t do musical forms.’

“I ignored all this advice. We modernized the West Coast Demo Team by adding different styles and techniques to our taekwondo base. Then we added music to our forms and demonstrations. And from that, we began doing television and feature films in addition to producing many national champions.”

Along the way, Reyes managed to turn martial arts into a fulfilling career.

ernie reyes sr.

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