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Inside The Story Of Twin Tigers Martial Arts

31 October 2015 Written by  By Heber “Bear” Carrillo
Published in November 2015 Articles

I opened my Brentwood Twin Tigers Academy of Self Defense more than a decade ago.

My enrollment is currently almost 150 students, with a robust after-school program and night classes. Sixty of my students are beginners, the rest are intermediate or advanced. My system requires about seven years effort for a young person to qualify for a black belt; though through consistent dedication most adults could get it in five years.

I personally hold separate black belts inseven systems of martial arts, but represent myself as fourth degree Black Belt in Shaolin Kenpo, which is my foundation. My program is a master system, drawing together the best parts from all the styles that I have studied.

At Twin Tigers we don’t teach martial arts as primarily art or show. Ninety percent of what we do focuses upon self-defense. We don’t have a cookie cutter program, but gear our teaching to suit the personality of the individual learner — suiting the style to the learner with such things as passive or aggressive techniques, lock  and-control techniques, or power strikes. Our teaching is also geared to age groups; we don’t teach kids breaks. One of our students is a senior with a cane; she’s been studying with me for six years. Other students have bad backs and bad knees. They all can do martial arts because our program is scalable to nearly anybody’s physical capabilities.

The study of martial arts at Twin Tigers is directed towards assisting the learners in building self-esteem, confidence, and self-discipline. We teach them to focus upon what they are doing — establishing standards of self-direction that they can then extend to homework, sports, or to any activity.

I’ve been interested in martial arts since I was a child, watching heroes like Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, and Bill “Super Foot” Wallace. At age eight I began taking my initial lessons, studying a form of Chinese martial arts created by Bruce Lee called Jeet Kune Do. I loved the discipline’s emphasis upon such techniques as Kicking, Punching, Trapping, and Grappling because in those days I was a bully who enjoyed actually kicking, punching, trapping, and grappling other kids. If they didn’t put up a fight, I would simply shove them headfirst into a dumpster. I was living out the Karate Kid movie but, unfortunately, I was one of the tough kids that intended to beat up the student that Mr. Miyagi trained. Things began to change when I enlisted in the Air Force and began training at the base’s dojo, starting with a form of Okinawa karate called Shotokan that emphasized strength and power demonstrated in strong basic stances and techniques developed through mastery into a fluid aikido-like style. From those beginning lessons, I felt that I had discovered what I wanted to commit my life to. I began to train 4-5 hours a day, earned my black belt second degree, and placed second in a state-wide Nevada competition. At the meet I was scouted by a man named Bill Roy — a three-time undefeated world champion Kick Boxer. I began studying Tiek Soo Chang Shaolin Kick Boxing with him, and Shaolin Kenpo under a third-degree black belt named Jack Turner.

Shaolin Kenpo is a Chinese style that involves long-range hand strikes emphasizing speed and power and incorporating five or six combination strikes in lightning-fast sequence. The style also includes a variety of kicks, sweeps, and leg blocks.

My first instructor was a Master Miyagi type person who taught me that a central quality of genuine martial arts is respect rather than fear. I learned that earning the esteem of others begins with showing respect to others. For one thing, in those days advanced-form martial arts was conducted as a rough-and-tumble full-contact sport. I picked up a collection of bruised ribs and painful sores — and quickly got some of the aggression kicked out of me. I began to replace arrogance with deference. I stopped imagining that people were bad or inferior. “No matter how

good you are,” the master told me, “There will always be someone better.” In 1989, I was transferred to the Air Force Base in Upper Heyford, England, where I was able to advance my training with Aikido and Tae Kwon Do. Later I was transferred to the Middle East as part of the Desert Storm and Desert Shield campaigns. I was assigned to Adana, Turkey where I was able to train with the leader of a team from the Israeli Special Forces. They conducted martial arts from the viewpoint of actual life-and-death combat. Those guys were hardened beyond anything in my previous experience; they could pull a knife out of their own stomach and use it to kill their attacker. They didn’t block; they broke. They would hold a knife along their sleeves with the blade out, so every block would become a bloody slash. In 1992, I was transferred to Randolph AFB in Texas where I studied Silam, which is a fierce Mexican martial arts style developed by the Mayan Indians focused upon breaking joints.

In 1993, after completing a six-year tour in the Air Force, I mustered out and settled in South San Francisco, where I resumed training in Shaolin Kenpo. I earned my Third degree Black Belt and opened a studio. One student came to us by accident. His mother, a woman named Evelyna, had intended to enroll him at another dojo but ended up at mine by mistake, so she decided to stay with us. Her four-year-old son was named Daniel. He stayed with the program and has become my Assistant Instructor. He has also become my son because 15 years ago Evelyna became my wife. Evelyna and I actually started connecting with each other at church. She told me from the beginning that Daniel had first priority; she wouldn’t get into a relationship with me until and unless Daniel and I hit it off together. It was an easy requirement,  actually, because Daniel had always looked up to me and wanted me to be his dad before his mom wanted me to be her husband. Evelyna and I were married in 1995. She is a massage therapist, and currently works as a Special Ed Aide at Bristow Middle Schools. Daniel is my Assistant Instructor. He has been training for 18 years and is a Second Degree brown belt. Zack Rodriguez and Chris Dutcher are assistants; Anthony Chaube is a junior assistant. Each is a black belt, a sensei, and a great martial artist. Our students love them. The students’ parents love them more than they love me. My wife, Evelyna, works behind the scenes helping with administration, documentation, and paperwork.

An advanced martial arts master will never quit learning. I work out 4-5 times a week, and for the past 20 years have been training at a dojo in San Carlos with Sigo John Oliva, a ninth degree black belt and one of the top masters in the Bay Area. Sigo currently has a lengthy waiting list of people who hope to study with him.

An American Flag is prominently displayed in my dojo. We teach respect to the flag and respect to each other. The way of martial arts is a good way to live. It is honorable. My students and instructors are wonderful people. They are my kids; I would do anything for them.

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