Archive for Karate International

10 Questions with Brandon Vaughn

Posted in 10 Questions, Bullying, External Arts, Jiujitsu, Karate with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 28, 2015 by Combative Corner

Brandon Vaughn CC

The CombativeCorner is proud to bring you this special 10-Question Interview to you today.  Brandon Vaughn is not only a masterful teacher and martial artist, but he’s also Coach Joyce’s close friend and training partner, Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training center owner, author, and contributing CombativeCorner writer since the very beginning.  For those of you that would like to get to know him even better, please read this interview that we did with him, check out his bio here, or train with him in person at Without further ado, I give you the man… the Legend… Brandon Vaughn. {wild applause}

How did you get involved in Karate?

Shortly after high school I took informal lessons at a traditional Isshinryu club with a friend for a few months. Later, after College when I moved to Winston Salem, my wife and I decided to look into Martial Arts Schools. She knew how much I wanted to start training again and she thought it would be something we could do together. After looking around at nearby Martial Arts schools my wife brought home some information for local Karate & Kung Fu centers. I didn’t want to train at another Taekwondo school as I still felt a strong connection with my old Taekwondo Instructor and dojang. I was ready for something different. I dropped by to check out one of the schools my wife looked up, Karate International, and talked with one of the Black Belt Instructors. I liked what she had to say and that they incorporated weapons training in advanced classes, so I enrolled us that day. My wife wasn’t too happy that I made the decision without her, but we started classes that week and she loved it. Twelve years later, not only are we still training, we also own our own dojo.

What was it about the discipline, history and art of Karate that appealed to you?

There was nothing about Karate in of itself that attracted me to it. As someone that has struggled with ADHD and Anger Management most of their life, I think I’m drawn to the traditional martial arts on a subconscious level. The structure and discipline that accompanies traditional martial arts training calms and focuses me in a way that I can’t really explain. It’s almost as if I’m not the same person when I’m not training regularly. There’s a feeling of disharmony. I feel less stable, less in control, I don’t like that feeling. It doesn’t matter what style I’m training in, as long as I’m able to practice martial arts I’m happy.

What, in your opinion, is the hardest part in running a successful martial arts business?

All the hours that you have to put into the school off the mat. People don’t realize just how much time and effort goes into running a martial arts school full-time. Not only do you perform all the roles associated with traditional businesses, (Owner, Customer Service Rep., Office Manager, receptionists, etc.) you also have to be a teacher, a mentor, a leader and on occasion a counselor. That’s enough to stress out even the most ardent individual, but add to that the fact that you’re basically your own product and every time you step on the mat or volunteer to teach a P.E. class or speak at a school assembly, you’re demonstrating, not only the effectiveness of the style you teach, but your ability to teach, motivate and inspire others effectively. It’s no surprise that instructor burnout is so prevalent in the martial arts industry.

Anti-Bullying is a subject very close to your heart. Can you tell us a little about that?

As someone who was bullied when they were younger, I know all too well the effects that bullying can have on a child growing up. It’s not just the physical abuse (e.g. pushing, shoving or hitting) but also the verbal abuse (e.g. teasing, name calling or intimidation) that victims of bullying, some as young as 3 years old, endure on a weekly or even daily basis. In school I was picked on for everything, from the way I talked to the complexion of my skin and it was that constant harassment that was the driving factor behind me begging my mom to sign me up for martial arts when I was thirteen. I was tired of being bullied, tired of feeling helpless.

What I gained from my three years of training at Lee Brothers Tae Kwon Do was so much more than the ability to defend myself. I found a level of confidence and self-esteem that I didn’t have before. I also found something that I excelled at, which for me was equally important. As a martial arts instructor I’ve spent the last ten years doing my best to give those same benefits to every student I teach.

The effects of bullying can be both dramatic and everlasting. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse are just some of the issues that can result from repeated bullying that can persist into adulthood. We need to get away from this outdated idea that bullying is an inevitable part of growing up. Instead, we should be giving children the tools they need to effectively deal with bullying, explaining to them why it’s wrong in the first place and teaching parents and teachers how to identify instances of bullying when they occur.

Over the last few years, you’ve become more involved in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu… Why the change from what you’ve been doing?

Nowadays, the martial arts are practiced more as a hobby or sport than a means of survival. Most modern day practitioners only train in a single style and while this may allow them to become very proficient in their chosen art, it often times makes them close-minded when it comes to seeing the benefits that other martial arts may have to offer. They develop a sense of superiority regarding the techniques that that have spent countless hours perfecting, forgetting a simple but vital truth-  That no one style is going to work in every single situation.  As the popular saying goes, “There are no superior martial arts, only superior martial artists.”

I believe that as a martial artist, in order to truly be able to defend yourself in any given situation, you have to train in more than one style. This was also something that warriors of the past knew with absolute certainty. Yes, they may have specialized in a particular style of fighting or mastered the use of a specific weapon but they also practiced other arts. When the sole purpose of your training is to protect yourself, your loved ones or your land, there’s no room for foolish notions or petty squabbling about which style is best. It doesn’t matter how good you are on your feet, if your opponent manages to take the fight to the ground all those strikes, kicks and punches that you’ve spent months or even years perfecting go right out the window. Thanks to a friend of mine who wrestled in high school and had no qualms about taking me to the ground when we used to spar, I learned that lesson first hand. It became abundantly clear that my self-defense skills were lacking in a key area and I was determined to remedy that.

Unfortunately, there weren’t any Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools were I lived at the time so I’d have to wait to several years before I could officially begin my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training.

What has been the biggest obstacle(s) for you in the recent years?

One of the biggest obstacles has been keeping up with my own martial training, specifically my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training. When you run a martial arts school full-time and teach five days a week, the time you have available for regular training drops dramatically. With Karate and other stand-up arts you can easily practice as long as you have a bag to work out on or a clear space to practice kata. However, with Brazilian jiu-jitsu, nearly every technique needs to be practiced with a partner to be truly understood, so having one or more training partners that are readily available is an absolute necessity.

Add an injury to an already challenging lifestyle and keeping up with my personal training has become even more difficult. A severe fracture to my fifth metacarpal (aka boxer’s fracture) has pushed me to the limit, physically, mentally and emotionally. Teaching, training, running a business, and life in general, have been more than challenging while dealing with a serious injury.

Besides Karate and Jiu-Jitsu, what other 2 martial arts do you admire most and why?

That’s a tough one, believe it or not I keep a mental list of all the martial arts that I’d like to train. I’m not sure I can pick just two, but Wushu or Kung Fu as it’s more commonly known as, and Eskrima currently rank at the top of my list.

I’ve been fascinated with Wushu ever since I was in elementary school. I would stay up late watching Kung Fu Theatre and copying the moves. Inevitably my mom would hear all the commotion and come up stairs to tell me to get to bed. When I heard her coming I would jump back into bed and pretend I was asleep. I love the fluid movements, the way one technique flows seamlessly into the next. Attacking, blocking, trapping, countering, they all seem to happen simultaneously. I also like the fact that Wushu practitioners can employ each of their weapons (hands, feet, elbows, knees) equally in a fight. It’s like Muay Thai, only prettier. [Laughing]

In the past year I’ve been learning more about the Filipino martial art of Eskrima, specifically the Doce Pares system. I like the fact that Eskrima practitioners learn to apply the same techniques using a stick, a knife, or empty handed. It’s also a very practical style to learn as far as weapons training goes. Nowadays the average person doesn’t walk around with a Bo staff or a pair of Sai tucked in their belt, but most people carry a pocket knife or could find something that mimics for an Eskrima stick in a self-defense situation.

What martial artist(s) currently give you motivation (living or deceased)?

It seems like everybody says this, but Bruce Lee is definitely one of them. He was one of the first Kung Fu instructors to go against tradition and teach Kung Fu to non-Chinese students. He then literally fought for his right to do so. Bruce was also one of the first martial artists to realize that strict adherence the natural doctrine of any single style of martial arts can limit both your growth and your effectiveness as a martial artists. It was this realization that prompted him to throw out years of Wing Chun training and dive into researching other martial arts. The results of which were Jeet Kune Do.

Another one is Dave Kovar, known as the “Teacher of Teachers” in the martial arts industry. Even if you aren’t familiar with Master Kovar, you’ve probably either heard or read his Instructor’s Creed at least once. When my wife and I first started running our own dojo we became members of MAIA (Martial Arts Industry Association). The Instructor Teaching Tips, Mat Chats and Combative Fitness Drills that Master Kovar recorded for the MAIA Instructor DVDs were an invaluable resource that made it easy to incorporate fitness as well as Life Skill Lessons into our class lesson plans.

In 2011 when my wife and I attended our first Martial Arts Super Show we had the opportunity to attend Dave Kovar’s Instructor College. At this point we had been teaching for seven years and officially running a dojo for six years, but we were still able to learn a wealth of teaching tactics, techniques, and tools that we still employ to this day and have started to pass on to our own team of belts and instructors.

Last, but not least would be Jet Lee and not because he is an awesome martial artist and movie star, but because he both sees and believes in the value of the spiritual side of the martial arts, as much as the physical side. Martial Arts are much more than just self-defense, they are a path to self-discipline and spiritual peace. This is something that the majority of people that take martial arts either never train long enough to realize or are too close minded to acknowledge.

How has the practice of yoga helped you?

Let’s face it, as beneficial as it is, stretching is boring! Yoga has given me an alternative way to maintain my flexibility outside the traditional static stretches that I had been doing much my entire life. It has also helped keep me in shape. I don’t even go to the gym anymore, trying to master some of these crazy yoga poses is all the work out I need. [Laughing] Yoga is also one of the many things that I do to center myself and calm my mind, along with playing guitar, origami, and obviously martial arts.

What other endeavors are you passionate about?

Several years ago I got really into writing. Unfortunately my schedule has been so hectic the past few months that I haven’t had any time to focus on that passion in a while. Hopefully that will change here in the near future. I’ve decide to initiate some life changes that should provide me with amble time to do everything I love without feeling overwhelmed. Anyone that is interested can check out my first attempt at writing, The Lycan Chronicles, at and my current project Knightfall at

Bonus Question

If you could see any bout, between any martial artist (in their prime), what would be the match-up?

Ooh! Chuck Norris vs. Bill “Superfoot” Wallace

For more info on Master Vaughn, hit him up at his

Or, visit his profile here on CombativeCorner.Com


Bullying, Martial Arts and Finding a Solution

Posted in Bullying, Jiujitsu, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Training, Violence with tags , , , , , , , , , on August 6, 2013 by bradvaughn

Vaughn1Like most people who began taking martial arts when they were children I did so because I was being picked on almost daily and I wanted to learn to defend myself. I used to stay up late and watch old kung fu movies and imagining myself using the same moves on the bullies that were messing with me. After hearing me talk about it for a while my mom finally gave in and took me to watch a karate class at the local rec center.  Word of advice

never take a timid child to watch an advanced martial arts class.

The brown belts were having class that night and all it took was me seeing one of them getting thrown over the instructor’s shoulder to stifle any desire to sign up for martial arts. It would be almost a year before I would step foot in another martial arts class.

Lucky for me one of my mom’s co-workers (at the time) had a child enrolled at the local Tae Kwon Do school and gave my mom a pass for a free month. She almost didn’t let me go because she thought it would be a repeat of the rec center, but after promising that I wouldn’t back out again she took me to try out my first class. I was instantly hooked. I took to the classes like a fish to water and found that I actually had some natural talent for martial arts, which for a young boy who didn’t have a single athletic bone in his body was a nice surprise.

I trained at Lee Brother’s Tae Kwon Do in Burlington, NC under Master Sang Ho Lee for almost three years and loved every second of it. Knowing that I could defend myself as well as the realization that there was a physical activity that I was actually good at did wonders for my confidence and self-esteem. I still carry those positive influences and good memories of my first martial arts school and my first instructor with me to this day and use them, as well as what I have learned from my other martial instructors over the years, as a blue print for how I teach and motivate my students.

stop bullyingIt’s safe to say that my experience being bullied as a child plays a large part in why I teach martial arts.

Whenever a parent brings their child to my school and tells me that their son or daughter is getting bullied at school I take it personally.

Children shouldn’t have to fear going to school. They shouldn’t have to walk down the hallway with their head down hoping and praying that the bully won’t notice them. School should be a fun, safe place for them to go and learn and be with friends, not a place that literally feels them with dread. As someone who has been where they have been and gone through what they have through I feel like I have an obligation to help these students just like my instructors helped me.

Having said that, I think there is one crucial area that most martial arts schools are missing when preparing their students to defend themselves against bullies.

While we do a great job at teaching our students how to handle physical attacks by bullies, most instructors don’t address how to deal with the verbal abuse that bullies give.

I ran into the same dilemma after I started taking martial arts. The other students and I were told by our instructor to only use our training if we were being physically attacked. We were also told that if he found out that we had gotten into a fight at school we would not only be in trouble with the school but with him as well. For me that meant that I was often stuck still having to endure the bullies’ verbal abuse because they weren’t actually attacking me physically. As annoying as they are bullies are also smart, they know how to work the system. They will relentlessly bully a child verbally knowing that if their victim does anything to them physically it will be the victim and not they who will get in trouble.

Gracie Workshop 2It wasn’t until after attending a seminar on Verbal Martial Arts by Master Chan Lee as well as studying the Gracie Bullyproof curriculum developed by the Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Academy that I realized just how badly we were failing our students by not giving them the tools to protect themselves against verbal attacks that bullies often use. I immediately updated the anti-bullying talks that I do both in my dojo and in the public schools that I visit to include not only how to handle physical bullying but verbal bullying as well. I now teach that bully prevention starts as soon as you meet someone; in your eye contact, the tone of your voice and in the firmness of your handshake. These are just some of the ways that a potential bully decides whether or not you are going to be a future friend or a future victim.

While these verbal martial arts skills are important they are only half the solution. Studies have shown that students will only use these verbal martial arts to stand up to bullies if they know that they can, if necessary, back them up with physical self-defense without getting in trouble with their parents or their martial arts instructors. We must give our students some clear “rules of engagement” that they can follow when being bullied. Rules that will tell them how to assertively, but politely ask the bully to stop any verbal abuse, tell them what to do when the bully doesn’t stop, allow them to protect themselves using “school safe” techniques when the verbal abuse turns to physical abuse and if need be, how to justify their actions to their teachers and/or principals if physical self defense is required. Most importantly we must let our children/students know that as long as they follow these rules they will have our full support if they ever do have to defend themselves against the bully. Only then will they truly have the confidence to stand up for themselves.



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Our Karate Kid

Posted in External Arts, Karate, Martial Arts, Styles with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2011 by bradvaughn

When I first started taking Sanshinkai Karate I didn’t know anything about the various styles of Karate outside of Isshinryu which I had taken for a short period of time right after high school. I was just looking for a place to continue my martial arts training after taking a break during college.

Sanshinkai stands for “Three Power Society”, the three powers being: Mind, Body and Spirit.  It’s a combination of Isshinryu (our mother style) as well as techniques from Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Jiu-jitsu. With the rise of Krav Maga and similar self defense systems I think Sanshinkai faces a lot of the same misconceptions that other traditional based styles do. That is that either the techniques we use are “out-dated” or that they only work in competition.

While it is true that a lot of the techniques we use in Sanshinkai are the same as the ones that have been used in martial arts for centuries, as instructors we are constantly looking for, experimenting with, and adopting current self defense techniques. With this, we hope to prepared our students to defend themselves in any situation. We don’t take anything away from the set Sanshinkai curriculum, we instead find a way for the new techniques to compliment the old, and vice versa.  In Sanshinkai our motto is “If it works, use it.”

Brandon T. Vaughn

His Combative Profile

A Day’s Lesson [9/23/2010] : VAUGHN

Posted in Day's Lesson with tags , , , , , , , on September 23, 2010 by Combative Corner

Action and Reaction in the martial arts & self-defense…

Whether it’s sparring or self defense, over thinking things can be a costly mistake. When you only have milliseconds to react to a dangerous situation, thinking isn’t a luxury you always have. Instead you want to practice your techniques to the point that your body can act / react on instinct without having to deal the hesitation that often comes with how our bodies react to our fight or flight response.

Sensei Brandon Vaughn

5th Dan. Karate International Instructor

Roundtable Discussion 003: Mentor

Posted in Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 29, 2010 by Combative Corner

Six martial artists, from six different disciplines were asked,

“If you could train with any instructor/athlete/guru/etc (living or deceased) for a day, who would it be, and why?”

Gray Cook

JOHNNY KUO –  I had to think long and hard about this question. The simple answer would have been to pick my sifu Sam F.S. Chin, but I already get opportunities to train with him. Instead, I’m going to venture into the realm of physical therapy and pick Gray Cook.

I have a long-standing interests in strength and athletic training in addition to martial arts. The thing that carries over between those interests is functional movement. Any physical activity (sports, martial arts, or daily life) involves moving the body. Due to the sedentary nature of modern life, a lot of people don’t seem to move very well; people have tight muscles, immobile joints, weak muscles, weird movement compensations, poor proprioception, or just plain can’t fire their muscles in a coordinated fashion.

Since my primary non-work passions are movement based, I notice these movement dysfunctions all around me (and with myself also). As a teacher, I often have to correct movement patterns so that (a) the students don’t injure themselves and (b) the students learn what efficient and functional movement feels like. It’s not unusual for me to encounter a student with dysfunctional movement patterns beyond my ability to readily diagnose or correct.

I like hanging out with physical therapists and body workers because I learn so much about how the body is supposed to work and pick up little tricks for diagnosing and correcting poor movement. I realize there will always be students whose movement issues are beyond my abilities to correct, but I’m always striving to learn more and reduce the number of cases that elude my abilities.

Helio Gracie

ADAM DAVIS Being the Jiu-Jitsu fanatic that I am I would train with Helio Gracie, the founder of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He took the ground techniques (ne-waza) from Judo which could be applied using leverage and momentum by a smaller guy, like himself, on a larger man and molded them into what is now the complexity of Jiu-Jitsu. Gracie would be the best person for me to train with not only because of his knowledge of the martial arts but also because of his views on the relationship of life and competition. He saw competition as essential to training due to the exercise, diet, and sportsmanship which came with it. Fighting for sport is what BJJ became known for as a result of Helio Gracie’s ideas and it was always my dream to meet him after I read a book about the origins of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu. Unfortunately, Helio Gracie passed away on January 29th, 2009 at the age of 95. He lived an extraordinarily healthy life (I heard stories of him tapping out Ricardo Arona while he was in his 90’s, rumors…maybe) and left an extensive family, full of world champion fighters, to carry on his legacy. I have been fortunate enough to train with a couple of his children (Royce and Rodrigo) and my experiences with them assure me that Helio Gracie, at any age, would be the best person to train with.


ROBERT LARA SENSEI -If I could train with any teacher at anytime in history for one day it would have to be under Morihei Ueshiba O’Sensei. The founder of Aikido. The reason why is because he founded the art that I live my life by. The art of peace. I know in just one days time with O’Sensei you would learn more of Aiki. In body,mind,spirit.

Some of my teachers were students of O’Sensei. And the stories they tell of their training under O’Sensei are so great. You won’t find most of those stories in books. These men and women who trained direct from the founder who are still with us are living treasures in my view point as they are links to the living teachings of O’Sensei.

The time I would love to train with O’Sensei is during the last years of his life. His Waza was so strong. Yet fluid and fully controlling. And upside to training in the internal arts is as you age you only get better at Aiki waza because you do not have the physical strength to over power. These are just my humble view points and I respect all arts.

Lao Tzu

SIFU FREDDIE LEE– I would love to meet and learn from Lao-Tzu.  Author to the “Tao Te Ching.”  The truth contained in the text is penetrating, that short simple text transformed my entire life and really got me to see the deeper meaning behind Martial Arts and life.  Bruce Lee died at an earlier age but there is still a decent amount of wisdom left behind from him of where you can grasp his spiritual essence, same with many sages and Artists.  But Lao-Tzu, there is very little known about him, I would be very interested in seeing his day to day way of living.  Applying the unique wisdom he had in a world filled with confusion.


Jet Li

SENSEI BRANDON VAUGHN– I’m gonna have to go with Jet Lee for any living person. I think it would be an awesome experience and he seems like a really great guy who would be nice about showing you how much more he knows than you.



Alan Watts

COACH MICHAEL JOYCEI approached this question from a practical point-of-reference.  Being that the duration of said event is only a day, my choice is based on someone I could have a deep and meaningful conversation with over tea.  Alan Watts, the British philosopher and writer was (and continues to be) a huge influence in how I came to understand myself and my environment.  Say what you want about the man (he had his eccentricities), but he was both brilliant and articulate.  He had a way of describing things, and opening people’s minds to concepts that, to me, made “only good sense.”

I often contemplate our existence, who we are, and how it is best to live.  I am forever grateful to Alan Watts, and to his son Mark (who is now the curator of his father’s works) for being so prolific and giving.  Alan Watts has a free podcast that is available for subscription on Itunes.  I suggest everyone give it a try.  That is, however, if you wish to view the world and yourself with great clarity.

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