Author Topic: Count Dante- John Keehan  (Read 20865 times)


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Count Dante- John Keehan
« on: May 07, 2003, 08:35:56 AM »
  I feel this will be an interesting topic, a little off the beaten path of what we've been covering lately. I got the idea from a couple other forums who were having a little battle back and forth on the Dante controversary. For you younger martial artists, don't confuse this Count Dante and the Black Dragon Fighting Society with another on the net of the exact same name who are a martial artist rock band. If you decide to surf the net for info on Dante, look for John Keehan who passed away in, I believe in 1975.
   In a nutshell (pardon the pun) for those who may not have heard of him, Keehan was a solid, respected, legitimate and skilled martial artist and instructor originally under Robert Trias and the United States Karate Association. I would have to then assume his style was Shuri-te- Okinawan Shorei Ryu Kempo Karate from the same system James M. Mitose seemed to have been strongly influenced by.
   I'm not an authority on this so please any Dante followers or anyone who knows of him feels I stand corrected on something, please correct whatever I was off base on.
   Keehan suddenly changed from his traditional standing to a rather unacceptable renegade status of that time. However, let me say this, in many respects he was a man ahead of his time. In other respects, he seemed to be totally off the wall but their may have been a medical reason for this that I'll get to later. In his defense, he attempted to make the martial arts more adaptable to the street, sometimes taking the training to extremes. Smoking and drinking we allowed during training along with barstools in the dojo. This was to simulate conditions of actual encounters in realistic settings for  those who frequented bars. He stressed many killing techniques which became controversial of the times. Now, we politically correct the term by saying we are trained to escalate to a deadly force situation if neccessary. The way, though, he came across at the time freaked out a lot of people.
   He founded the Black Dragon Fighting Society which declared him the 'Deadliest Man Alive' and claimed to have survived many death matches held in the orient that are now illegal. (sounds a little like the Frank Dux-Boodsport- controversay, doesn't it?). In the 70's his schools were the subject of many dojo wars where one student was killed with a Samurai sword. I remember a lot of this because one of his main headquarters was in Fall River, Massachusetts, not that far from me. Keehan claimed he took this name, Dante, from his European ancestors' family lineage. I think taking that name and title most definitely hurt his credibility, my opinion.
   Dante died, from what I recall, a brain tumor which some suggest caused some of his erratic behavior prior to his death. My opinion is that Dante, in some respects was ahead of his time with many of his training and street techniques. I don't mean the booze and smoking in the dojo, but his training, may be wild from the USKA and others systems and associations' viewpoint of that era seems to be not that much different than the 'rough & tumble' Kajukenbo training. I will have to say this about the alcohol though. He was right on track. Did you ever drink a bunch of beers and then workout just to see how it affects you. Why do cops have you walk a straight line and do coordination testing, like fingertip to nose? Balance & coordination, right? The first things to go with alcohol and the most important assets in a street fight! True? What else goes, reflexes and preception. Right? So, you not only react slowly but you may not even perceive or see the 'hit' coming. Imho, he did make some good points but should have found a better way to present it, especially back then. The death matches, I find that hard to believe.  Did he put out many formidable and talented fighters, the evidence points to most definitely. Did his schools deal in the morality and ethics in regards to martial arts philosophy in an attempt to build strong character and a  tranquil spirit? I think he missed the mark on that one! His schools are still around and his system is still being taught which means it passed the test, the 'test of time' which infers he was doing something right and I'm sure his Soke-dai, Ray Augiliar (sp.?) has conformed the schools to be more in synch with society and its laws and probably has adopted a revised philosophy, especially if they teach children.  I believe, according to Dante himself, that he had an extensive arrest record for street brawling.
  Okay, maybe that was a little more than a nutshell but what say you about this most controversal figure in martial arts history? :)
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:05 PM by -1 »

Offline John Bishop

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Re: Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #1 on: May 07, 2003, 08:58:40 AM »
It would be interesting to know how a hairdressor named John Keehan became "Count Dante, The deadliest Man Alive".  
It is obvious that he had some talents as a martial artist and organizer from his position in the USKA before he broke away.  
But, how much of what happened after that was pure marketing B.S.
We know that he felt highly threatened by the schools in his area.  He was convicted of arson and vandelism against one competing school.  
In an actual attack against the members of another school his friend Jim Koncevic was stabbed to death.  It was said that Keehan never recovered emotionally from this incident, and died at a young age from bleeding ulcers.  
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »
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Re: Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #2 on: May 07, 2003, 09:44:40 AM »
 Oh yeah, Sigung, I forgot about the 'hairdresser thing'! :D
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »


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Re: Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #3 on: May 07, 2003, 12:05:09 PM »
Sigung John, I have an answer to your question. I know how John Keehan went from 'hairdresser' to Count Dante, 'Deadliest Man Alive'! ;)
 If I was sitting in his barber chair and he was using the straight razor as barber's do, to 'clean up' the back of my neck, then from my perspective, at that point in time, HE WOULD BE THE DEADLIEST MAN ALIVE! ;D and I wouldn't tell him otherwise!, lol.  :D
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:05 PM by -1 »

Jon Pack

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Re: Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #4 on: May 08, 2003, 10:18:03 AM »
Death matches... interesting subject! In S.F. Ca. there is a teacher that was known to be involved in these matches. We all heard stories of his wins which included striking one opponent and having bones fly out of his back and on to the floor.
Wether there is any fact to these accounts I can not be sure, never witnessed the Japan underground action. Other demonstrations that have been witnessed are typical strongman fare, ripping phone books half, folding quarters, cutting the top of coke bottles off with a shuto and the most famous/infamous demo was at the Parker Tournament. His samurai sword/melon demonstration where he cut the juggular of his assistant to the horror of all the were close enough to the action to get sprayed(this was in Black Belt Mag).
The last story I will l post for you to reflect on is the account of three of his students that were told to kill a horse with their bare hands as part of rank testing. Ranks right up there with the poor guy who had his elbows peirced with knitting needles, having buckets of water drapped on and walking across hot coals.Have you seen this in the Graden instructor series ... incredible stuff.
What I find interesting is that the instructor in question is reported to be a Shinto Priest but to look at him you would think Hells Angel enforcer.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »


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Re: Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #5 on: May 08, 2003, 11:20:42 AM »
Jon, the part about 'ripping' phone books in half, I have to comment on that. One of my Police Defensive Tactics instructors and renowned martial artist is Grandmaster Ray Szuch of Cleveland, Ohio. One of the times I drove down to Baltimore to hook up with him to assist in putting on a Police/Martial Arts seminar he ripped a phone book in half in one of the motel rooms we had booked for our entourage. Now, Ray is an excellent martial artist, Hall of Famer and what not, but he's not a big guy, on the thin side and is not a bodybuilder by any means.  He told me it was technique, just a 'trick' and had nothing to do with strength. Well, I'll tell you, he spent quite some time teaching me to do this along with another friend of ours. Now, I go about 200, in shape and lift but I could not for the life of me rip a phone book.  >:(  Ray could do it anytime, anywhere and any place on nothing! ???  By the time I drove back to Mass., I left behind motel rooms with partially mutilated phone books in my quake but couldn't successfully rip one.  :(  I got home, the same thing! 'Till this day I just can't get it down but it is just a trick and has nothing to do with raw strength.     Shihan Joe
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:00 PM by 1054443600 »

Offline badsifu

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Re: Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #6 on: May 08, 2003, 11:37:33 AM »
most famous/infamous demo was at the Parker Tournament. His samurai sword/melon demonstration where he cut the juggular of his assistant to the horror of all the were close enough to the action to get sprayed(this was in Black Belt Mag).

I was there for that one.  Looking back on it, it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen in Martial Arts (the guy who got cut lived.)
Anyway, the story goes:  Prof.  Max Togisala was announcer that year, and gave this introduction for the guy doing the demonstration.  The introduction lasted 3 minutes.  It was all written ahead of time by the guy and handed to Professor.  30 something black belts, had to cut a grain of rice in half off of his instructor's forehead while blindfolded, had to break 10 fire hardened bricks with his manhood, etc etc.
He was going to do 3 demonstrations.  First one he had his Sempai put his forearm on top of 3 stacked boards.  Then the demonstator grabbed a sledge hammer, and hit the Sempai's arm to break the boards.  Second demonstration was the Sempai laying on his back between two chairs.  He laid a thin piece of squash on his belly, and the instructor cut it off.  Which, I was impressed because the mellon cut is a trick - dull swords cut mellons as well as sharp swords do.  THEN...the Sempai laid another piece over his throat.  The instructor cut the thin piece of squash, AND the guys throat.

Being the good martial artist the Sempai was, he didn't want to get blood all over the floor, so he went to the corner, grabbed his gi top to catch the blood that was pouring down his chest.  Took him about 6 seconds to pass out.  The EMTs were there in a blink of an eye and they had him off to the hospital in no time.  

The instructor grabbed his sword and strolled out of the arena.  A few of us that were lucky enough to make it into the finals got to compete right after that...they did wipe up most of the blood, but it was still a little slippery.

I guess the funny part to me, was going back to the introduction - where he had to cut the grain of rice off of his instructor's forehead while blindfolded.  He never said if the instructor lived.
« Last Edit: December 31, 1969, 06:00:05 PM by -1 »
Dan Tyrrell


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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #7 on: June 29, 2003, 03:22:20 AM »
long read, over several post.  board only lets so much on one post.


(Editors Note: Count Dante has been, and continues to be, one of the more controversial figures in karate. He has been damned and praised with about equal intensity, and just the mention of his name will generally arouse an emotional outburst of one kind or another. An outspoken proponent of “full-contact” karate, he has aroused the ire of the purists, who would like to see him “drummed out of the corps.” He is a thorn in the side of all those who cherish a legend, worship the past and the detest criticism. We do not agree with all Count Dante has to say, but we do think he is a bright, articulate man who has exercised a profound influence on karate in the Mid-West and is, therefore, a man who should be heard. Perhaps some of his points are valid… perhaps not. It is up to you to make a decision. This article first appeared In MR. AMERICA magazine of December, 1970. It is worth your attention.)

I am sure at first glance the title of this article seems rather shocking, and I found it very difficult to write even though it all honesty I must admit it is true. The main reason for my hesitancy are the many objections from friends I have made in the martial arts over the past 15 years. As for smearing the reputation of a so-called “art“, any art is only as good is its members and I am concerned with the people who make up this art for they are the art and without them it is meaningless. Many world karate leaders are continually criticizing some of their colleagues for placing karate in an unfavorable light with displays of violence or brutality (for which it was originally intended) but remain silent about, participate in, or revel in the fantastic and ridiculous motion picture portrayal in which a karate expert is the closest thing to Superman -- talk about hypocrisy!

It is indeed unfortunate that many of the martial or fighting arts of today have become no more than form practice or ineffective movements. This does not just refer to karate, but also to most of the other sport, fistic, grappling or self-defense arts of the East and West. It is common knowledge of those “in-the-know” even though they rarely admit it, that the present -day karate, judo, gung-fu, boxing, wrestling, aikido, ju-jitsu, etc., as taught today, are not really geared for practical application on the street. The effectiveness of the present-day fighting arts is too cramped because of the many unnatural controls the Orientals exercise over the politics in these arts. A fictional Oriental-inspired legend persist that the Orientals are more skilled at these arts than non-Orientals, and this is quite untrue. The Orientals have a tendency to shroud their arts in mystery and stress ceremony, tradition, and pomp instead of practical effectiveness.

There is no doubt that the most “effective” karateka, judoka, etc., are non-Orientals… Caucasians or Negroes who might not be able to match the Orientals in form, but have the dominance where it counts -- in their effectiveness. Most self-defense studios turn away over-aggressive students because the fear of possible discipline problems, lack of control or for safety of self or other students. By doing this the owners or instructors are performing a great injustice to their pupils. They are refusing the best man and keeping the other students from developing the strength of defensiveness and offensiveness in the maneuvers necessary to deal with these over-zealous men. The tougher your competition is the better you will become!

In karate, and most Oriental self-defense arts, there is an over-emphasis on form practice, kata (dances), terminology and history, all of which have little to do with the development of effective street defense -- which should be the ultimate goal of the students. For beauty, grace and form, figure skating even surpasses ballet; although strength is required to perform it properly it could never be effectively used in professional hockey where a more crude, but far stronger and aggressive style of skating is required. One is for esthetic beauty while the latter demands practical effectiveness.

I recall at a discussion years ago, while discrediting the value of the kata, or the form dances of karate, that one of my instructor-students from a different studio disagreed with me. As he was an effective street fighter himself, I was taken aback by his verbal challenge, But he went on to explain that the kata did serve a very definite purpose. He felt that whenever he was lazy or too tired to teach, which was one hour per night, if not more, he would run through these dances only counting out cadence or going through movements himself, which is much less strenuous than the physical and psychological strain one receives while engaging in individual combat with another skilled opponent. I might point out that the same instructor is a well-known international karate sparring and kata champion.

I will try to give a resume now of many of the basic karate techniques and aspects showing their obvious weak points. My intent in doing this is not to discredit an art, but rather to elevate these forms from an art form to a fighting form, which they were originally intended to be. Personally, I would rather be an alive, healthy and intact fighter than a dead and disfigured artist

continued on next post


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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #8 on: June 29, 2003, 03:24:27 AM »
The categories listed below are just some of the major areas which karate, gung-fu and many of the other Oriental arts are seriously lacking.


The bulk of karate, kenpo and gung-fu stances are too strict or tensed, so as to restrict smooth and fast movements. Due to these freakish stances the average karateist is limited in movements to a slide or a shuffle, whereas a boxer uses a much more natural stance, has much better footwork and foot patterns -- which is quite obvious after watching both in action. Many of the karate and gung-fu stances are quite colorful and beautiful, but if they were as effective as you were led to believe, golfers, runners, boxers, wrestlers, etc., would be using the same or similar stances. To believe that these other sportsmen don’t know any better is only kidding oneself. My solution to this problem is for the fistic art instructors to quit kidding themselves in trying to look pretty and adopting faster and more natural foot positioning. It is always very important to remember that simplicity is the key-note to effectiveness.


Because of their “unprofessional” nature, most fistic arts are too robot appearing and unrealistic. Most Japanese karateist remind one of the old-time boxers with their crude stumbling movements. I believe the main reason for this is due to the fact that there is no professional karate. (By this I mean full-contact knockout karate); the participants are too wrapped up in style rather than effectiveness. The old style boxing improved through the years mostly because of the fact that great financial gain could be attained by the successful trainer, manager and fighters. I am quite sure that the world boxing champion, Muhammed Ali, would not be anywhere near as proficient as he is today if he were on a salary of approximately $7,000 dollars a year. This is similar to the difference between professional and college football.

Another serious fault in the present-day karate movement is the fact that the self-defense forms or techniques practiced are practically non-moving and performed from near stationary positions. It is quite easy to hit or defend against a stationary target or attacker who attacks with one punch and stops. Unfortunately, this is does not hold true on the street. Also, too often, many styles of Chinese karate have a tendency to be smooth or flowing and though the basic purpose behind the movement is feasible, and it looks quite easy, you don’t have the room to perform these techniques in a telephone booth or other cramped quarters in which you might just happen to be attacked. This pertains to movements of stances, body or technique. Though there is a time to be smooth in defense, the most important movement of either stance, body or technique is to hit hard, fast and drive, and never give your opponent a chance to regain composer; from there he should be taken to the ground and effectively disposed of until there is absolutely no fight or movement left in him. This may sound severe, but it is to be used when your life is at stake and is the same attitude adopted by military forces even in our own country.


The striking effectiveness of exponents of gung-fu, karate, tai-chi chuan, etc., is highly over-exaggerated. The breaking of bricks and even the killing of bulls is nowhere near as difficult as it may seem. If the striking techniques of these systems were so effective I’m quite sure the many thousands of professional boxes throughout the world would be using the same techniques, since fighting happens to be their livelihood. There’s no doubt the boxer can easily out-punch a karateist.

Several years ago there was an article in a national health magazine on a famous “physical culture celebrity“, his nickname, I believe, was “Cannonball” Richards. Mr. Richards, who is now in his late ‘60s, has never been knocked down or even hurt by any man who strikes him. In fact, in his strong-man show he even allows spectators to use 25 pound sledge hammers on his chest, solar plexus and abdomen. In his 40-plus years as an exhibitionist he has been hit and kicked by some of the top fighters throughout the world. In this same article he referred to karateist as the “weak sisters,” because of their poor hitting ability.

Many karateist believe that they have such death-defying speed that they must pull their punches or else destroy the opponent. It is a documented fact that even the fastest strike has nowhere near the velocity to inflict that much damage. It is also well-known that whenever one tacks on power to a punch, this same power produces friction which slows down the blow. So the fastest punches are not the killing punches. I think fair proof of this would lie in the fact that your Featherweight or lighter weight boxers, though much faster than heavyweights, do not have the stopping power necessary to defeat the heavyweights. If they did, they would be fighting in the heavyweight division which is the only boxing division in which extremely rich financial rewards are connected. Many other karateist explain that they have a mysterious amount of “snap” which can break a bone or destroy a body in seconds. Though I will admit a snapped blow does have a good tearing effect, such as a jab to the face, as an over-all weapon it is definitely severely limited in its use.

Through the years we seem to learn quite a bit from our students. In fact is said that out of the mouths of babes come words of wisdom. One of these “babes”, who happens to be an extremely accomplished street fighter and one of the nation’s top judo men, explained to me that a snapped blow is fine, but if your opponent moves, even inches, backward, forward or to either side or even rolls with the blow, the effectiveness of the snap is gone completely. But with a thrusted attack which is buried, he is hurt no matter what he does; the reason being that a snapped blow is focused and powerful with only an inch or two of effective striking area and since people naturally have an instinct to move back or roll with the strike the effectiveness of the snapped blow is seriously limited, unless you happen to have an opponent who is stupid enough to pose for you while you hit him, and on the street this never happens. A thrusted strike which is buried and partially followed through with, but not shoved, has a much greater damaging effect for self-defense than these wippy little attacks seen at karate exhibitions.

This is especially evident in kenpo karate where a stylist may hit his attacker 30 times with various strikes, supposedly completely annihilating him. A few strong, well-placed strikes would have proved more effective. To kill or knockout an aggressive experienced fighter is difficult for any man no matter who he happens to be, and to gullible enough to believe you have this ability to do this extreme damage easily is foolish. If these experts had this ability, why are they teaching these arts for a few thousand dollars a year when they have a potential of making millions fighting in heavyweight boxing matches.

Another extreme fallacy, especially prevalent in karate, is the straight-arm-punch or locked-elbow position. This full extension can be applied either to punching or kicking. Anytime the arms at a full extension and the elbow is locked, the striking effectiveness of the arm or the leg is almost nil. A famed Japanese karateist, Hide-taka Nishiyama, who happens to be the head karate instructor for the largest Japanese Karate Association in the world -- the Japanese Karate Association, shows a perfect example of this. Mr. Nishiyama, an alleged expert in karate, though he admits to having never used it legitimately in his life, demonstrates in karate’s most affordable manual Karate (on page 70), that the fore-fist straight punch is to be thrown with a locked-elbow and straight on, with shoulders and body erect and not forward. Upon further examination of the book he is pictured (on page 69) breaking several wooden slabs held by two attending Japanese Black Belts. Examination of this picture shows his body leaning forward, shoulder turned into the blow and elbow bent, exactly what was illustrated in the book later as being incorrect.

Most probably the world’s most famed karateist, Masatatsu Oyama, is well-known for having killed bulls using karate, and also for his great ability to break bricks. In my recent book The World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets, I show how anyone can immediately break authentic bricks using the same “trick” or “stunt” Mas Oyama does. As for his bull-killing feats, Mr. Oyama has killed only a very few of the bulls he has attempted. (Note: I believe he killed less than 10 in 70 attempts). His method was actually quite simple. He picked small, weak bulls -- not the fighting or Brahmas. For appearance, he hit the bull several times on the head and body (which looked impressive). Then, by use of harness straps attached to the bull, along with twisting the horns and neck, he would drop the bull to the ground. From here, while the bull was helpless, he attempted to chop the horn off… which isn’t really that difficult, due to the fact that they were small and relatively hollow. If the horn is taken off at the base the animal will usually die quickly due to cerebral hemorrhage. If the horns have been banded previously they are so weakened they may fall off by themselves. The fact that small Rodeo Cowboys can throw a steer or bull without harnesses doesn’t say much for Oyama’s bull “stunt.”


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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #9 on: June 29, 2003, 03:30:15 AM »


Blocking techniques are unfortunately over-emphasized in the fistic arts. The important factor in defending oneself is not necessarily blocking the attack, but not being hit. All fistic arts systems stress blocking and place little or no importance on ducking, bobbing, weaving, and rolling techniques which in most cases are faster and more effective for close quarters or “killing techniques.” The basic karate high block and middle block, aside from being to robot in motion, do not really work. They can stop a straight karate punch, but will not stop a leaned into, hooked or round-house punch which is what 100% of the street fighters throw. The hooked or round-house punch is much stronger because of the fact that one picks up momentum in the movement and more body is thrown into it.

The two most respected and authoritative text on karate are Karate by Nishiyama and Brown and Mas Oyama’s This is Karate. Many of the blocks Illustrated in these manuals are approximately the standard blocks used by most Japanese, Koreans, Okinawan and Chinese forms of karate, kenpo and gung-fu. It is unfortunate that most of these blocking techniques are ineffective for street purposes. For example: The basic upper and middle blocks, which serve as the foundation for many other blocks will only stop the punch if the attacker throws a straight karate punch (which is also rather ineffective). In most street attacks, the puncher will hook or slightly round-house as he throws. He will also lean into the punch. By doing this, along with stepping in as he attacks, he will circle around the blocks - if they have been executed according to proper karate standards of “form.” If you were to examine the rising, inside and forearm blocks on pages 100 and 102, in the aforementioned Karate or the comparable uppers, middle-inside and middle-outside blocks on pages 110,111, and 112 in This is Karate, you can plainly see that the blocking arm is too close to the body to repel a strongly hooked punch in which the attacker has leaned into and also stepped in with. Aside from this, when karateist practice self-defense forms against punches, the attacker most always stands much too far away from the defender to endanger him. Almost any untrained person can avoid a punch when his attacker stands 4 to 6 feet away and doesn’t bury the punch. The simple side-step or step back would usually ward off the attack. Almost all karateist have little or no defense against a punch attack in which the attacker, standing almost face to face with the defender, drives in (taking one or two steps) and buries the punch as a street attacker will do. I have seen many high-ranking karate, gung-fu and kenpo experts clumsily attempt (usually ineffectively) to defend against this type of attack.


The kicking techniques in karate and its related arts also leave much to be desired. As mentioned before, some of the reasons for the shortcomings in these arts is the lack of actual contact matches with large cash prizes for incentive; and anyone who can deny money as an incentive, especially in these days, is in need of psychiatric assistance. Also, many of these arts, once deadly and effective, have been renovated for public acceptance or sport application; which is fine for the art itself, but doesn’t do much for its original and main purpose. Many Styles of karate have a vast arsenal of kicking techniques of which the majority are worthless. I say worthless not because they are weak, but due to the fact they are ineffective in close combat and close combat is where you kill! As in weightlifting or body building, the further the weight is from the body or nucleus, the weaker you are. So to perform effectively as a fighting machine, one should be in close.

The jumping, leaping and spin around kicks, although flashy and stylish, would never work on the street unless your attacker was not serious in his attempt to harm you, or he was a very poor fighter.

As mentioned before in the striking techniques, karateist in kicking practice snap their leg out to the full extent (mostly to hear their uniform crack). Though it sounds impressive, it means little as this is not where the power of the kick lies. A straight or locked kick has about the same effect as a straight or locked arm and also is a beautiful target to be broken. If you attempt to kick a door or a wall, or any object full strength, you will notice that the leg is not perfectly straight, even at the moment of impact. If you practice incorrectly you will do the same on the street and you are foolish to think otherwise. One cannot practice a technique thousands of times and expect to able to change it by instinct on the moments notice. This is also true of pulling punches, or kicks, just short of their target. Many good adult street fighters have come to me for help due to the fact that they cannot penetrate like they used to because of their karate practice. One of my students, who is also a very famous U.S. judo champion, was involved in a nightclub brawl, and even though he put his opponent down in several seconds he made two serious mistakes. Number one, he stepped back into a beautiful stance after decking his attacker, but did not follow his opponent to the floor and finish him. Number two, he had hit the man several times and had only accomplished mild penetration, whereas one or two powerful thrust behind buried blows would have been sufficient to end the whole thing right there. The fast wippy punches may be impressive and effective for demonstrations or tournaments, where conditions are controlled but on the street they are not.

Also, in most karate competitions the most of vulnerable parts of the body, such as the eyes, throat, face, groin, lower abdomen and kneecaps are restricted targets. It is easy to say, when the time comes, “I can change.” But this is very doubtful.


Most self-defense studios place little or no value on aggressiveness, viciousness or attitude development. To fight for your life and be effective you must possess qualities such as: powerful technique, speed, timing and courage (guts). The same qualities without courage have little or no value whatsoever; but a man who is brave and has (guts), although equipped with no techniques, talent or speed can still often survive. These qualities can be developed in a man the same as anything else, not just through meditation, but through experience.

A professional car driver cannot expect to perform effectively and courageously, in a race car at speeds up to 180 mph, by meditation. He must learn the hard way, through experience, because experience is nature’s best teacher.

The top champions of judo, such as Anton Geesink of Holland, along with karate master Mas Oyama, and many other top fighting champions have little or no humility, and I believe that the majority of humility is based on dishonesty. If you are proficient and you know you are, to deny it or be coy is an out-and-out lie. I believe honesty in the fighting arts is very, very important. A perfect example of a vicious but determined winning attitude could be exemplified by one of my aforementioned karate students who is also one of the nation’s top Judo champions. He mentioned at one time that if he were about to execute a dangerous throw, which would put his opponent off the mat and on the concrete even on top of broken bottles, and glass, he would not hesitate to execute his throw. When he mentioned this, the majority of the karate Senseis present were horrified, but here was a winner and unlike what we may want to believe, to win you have to be determined and confident.

Karate today is a rather ineffective method of fighting or self-defense. Though a few karate or gung-fu teachers are themselves very qualified fighters, they are teaching techniques which are fast and flashy, but ineffective, to impress the audiences. Others teach watered down forms which are “clean” and devoid of so-called “dirty” or strong movements so that the general public will accept them.


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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #10 on: June 29, 2003, 03:32:19 AM »

Included in this section should also be the ability to deal out punishment as well as withstand it, because many people are not emotionally equipped to inflict pain or injury on another human being. Injuring others may not be in the supposed true Christian spirit, but if one looks back at the Crusades or the Spanish Inquisition one begins to doubt this type of Christian spirit. Extremely vicious attack and defense methods are only supposed to be used in defense of one’s life and/or country. I have always been of the attitude that better my opponent goes down than I, and I am quite sure that 100% of the people occupying the planet at this time would agree if they are honest with themselves. The potential to absorb extreme punishment and give it out can be increased the same as any human mental or physical ability can be. One simple way is to permit students to practice as little as possible with protective equipment, and work most techniques full power in hitting and striking, minus equipment. Complete protective equipment is fine in one way, but once the wearer realizes he is difficult to hurt, especially by another inexperienced opponent, he will throw caution to the wind and before you know he will not even attempt to block, roll or turn away from attacker. I do not believe in the use of matted or padded floors for throwing techniques. In my 15 years experience as a full-time instructor of the fighting arts, I have seen many injuries on Tatami or matted floors, but I have never witnessed any injuries with my students in my present studio, and they are thrown on a bare floor. The unusual thing about this is that for sake of experimentation I have not even taught many of them to fall properly. They have picked this up themselves, I suppose, with the help of mother nature, and are better for it. When you realize the surface you are falling on is soft you have a tendency to get lazy, which in street defense you cannot do at all. Punishment drills, full contact sparring and self-defense help in the development of fighting attitude and encourage, along with the ability to withstand punishment. Body punishment drills often used in karate are of some help, but since the man being hit is prepared for the strike its beneficial aspects are not as great as they could be or should be. To be hit on the solar plexus, stomach or abdomen on the inhale is quite a big difference from being hit on the exhale or with located stomach muscles. Most popular karate senseis try to portray an image of extreme purity and high ethics, but in reality they are normal people like anyone else. They openly disagree with many of my policies, but in reality they know that is the only true way to attain proper ability.

The more aggressive, nasty or vicious a new student is the more I groom him. Because in this man not only does there lie a potentially skilled fighter who could develop his own prowess tremendously, but here is also man who could give my less aggressive students a slight taste of what they will have to face on the outside. When a starting student shows signs of basic potential I believe he should seek temporary employment of such a nature that he would be able to practice these techniques under adverse street situations. I have often told students who lacked courage, the only way they can attain that courage is to go out and fight. I don’t advocate provoking physical violence, but in many cities, such a Chicago, New York, etc., the opportunity presents itself quite often. This may seem harsh, but a karateist, no matter what his rank may be, who is without experience, is similar to a man put to test at the Indianapolis 500 with only the previous experience of having raced cars by computer at a Carnival. In karate competition, strikes and kicks are pulled short of their mark. A small man could, in a contest, defeat a much larger man by throwing a fairly well executed punch to the abdomen; whether or not he had the power to achieve his purpose is taken for granted. Many prize fighters have been known to have “glass jaws.” How are you going to know if you have this particular physical weakness of the jaw or some other highly susceptible area, unless you are actually hit? How else are you to know whether or not you have the ability to stop a man with a strike unless you have actually hit and have seen the results? One important factor to keep in mind is that a man may have speed, technique and form, but if he does not have power and courage he has nothing. Also, if a man has power or courage often he can win on either of these merits alone.


Although timing is a very important aspect in boxing, football, hockey etc., very little is done to develop it in the karateka. By this I mean there are no specific and definite exercises and maneuvers to perform to develop this most important technical asset. Few people realize the importance of timing and it deserves much more space than I am allowing for it here, but it is difficult to emphasize the importance of this without becoming very technical.


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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2003, 03:33:15 AM »

Endurance is less important for the fighter than conditioning. By conditioning I do not refer to the ability to bend like a rubber-band. Conditioning means the ability to hit hard, block hard, move strong and drive your opponent without mercy. In boxing a contestant may be the required to compete for 15 rounds. A vicious street fight with death or knockout as the goal, lasts a very short time and should be over within approximately 6-7 seconds for each attacker. Man with his supposed great endurance can only run or hit full Power, full speed for a minute or two. A race horse can also be run wide-open for only a few minutes before fatiguing. My feelings are to defend against and annihilate ones opponent as quickly and thoroughly as possible. There is no substitute for aggressiveness, drive, strength, and youth. A perfect example of this is Sugar Ray Robinson who is probably the most highly skilled fighter in modern history. In the final years of his fighting career, although he had attained almost the ultimate in boxing technique, he was little match for many of the young, inexperienced fighters of little or no repute.

It is my personal belief that the present-day Oriental systems are rather ineffective, some being too flashy, some being to crude. If they are to regain some of their lost respect they will have to settle down to a stronger, more fluid and effective system. NO one art is an answer within itself. I believe in a combined art of which there are no rules, restricted striking areas or outlawed techniques. At present, I doubt there are many karateist or judoist in the world who could stand a chance with Muhammed Ali. The best fighters I have found are professional wrestlers and football players. Professional wrestlers may seem phony, but the participants are big strong men and have little or no restrictions on their techniques or holds. Although they do pull their blows, they do contact slightly, and allowing for their size they could easily work through the best karateist in the world. The majority of karate of self-defense magazines are dead set against any body contact in karate competition. This is partially due to the fact that if this contact were allowed legal legislation would probably follow against karate and their financial revenue would drop greatly. In the June 1969 issue of Official Karate Magazine on page 47, a reporter stated that he witnessed groin grabbing and slapping techniques used by the Chicago contestants at the November 1968 karate championships (Chicago vs.. East and West Coast). He also stated that this was not good karate nor even karate at all, but street fighting at its ugliest. If this is what it takes to win, I am all for it and I say to “hell” with karate. If they are afraid of street fighting techniques because they are to dangerous or dirty they should hang-up their fancy uniforms. I have personally fought many Orientals and whenever I executed a groin grab or slap they were amazed and rather upset at this unorthodox and deadly attack. I felt since they were Orientals themselves and supposed masters they should be able to cope with almost any attack, and I was greatly disillusioned by their lack of effectiveness. A personal friend of mine in his thirties, who is an accomplished street fighter and has in the past killed many men on the street, joined a karate club in the area. The instructor, a fifth degree Black Belt (5th degree is the highest rank one can achieve on technical ability in his Japanese Organization, which is without doubt the toughest in that country) tried to show up the new student and was beaten unconscious by the first lesson student, and after this happened so were all the other Black Belt instructors. I will have to admit the defeated instructors were some of the most effective karateist I have seen in a long time.

Another example of lack of street prowess by so-called karate champions occurred a short time ago. The highly respected Oriental karateist who held both the World and International Karate Championship titles, was beating up by a 16-year-old high schooler who he caught trying to steal his Honda motorcycle. When the karateist was revived he got up and was thoroughly trounced again by another 15 year old high schooler. This was brought to my attention when ex-student of mine, an employee of the same chain of judo and karate dojos had to retrieve the Honda for the World Champion. The unusual aspect of this was that this World Champion, in contest is a site to behold. He was aggressive and seemingly without fear. I recall at one time he had a front tooth knocked out without batting an eye, but when it came to the street, with no referee or judge to intercede, he lost the ability to execute the techniques of the art which he was the World and International Champion.

Even sadder than this was an incident which occurred shortly thereafter. The same ex-student-instructor of mine visited the studio in the early A.M. to clean up his multiple wounds before going home to his wife. He had been involved in a bloody gang fight in the infamous Chicago area Calumat City District and was soaked in blood, even though not severely injured himself. The same, previously mentioned World Champion who was residing at the studio, upon seeing his fellow instructor enter the studio covered with blood, panicked and ran from the studio into the street in pajamas and didn’t return for several hours.

Recently, a Hong Kong and Hawaiian gung-fu master visited one of my studios and, though highly skilled in the art of gung-fu, when it came to what I like to term “streets sparring,” he was knocked unconscious and thrown to the floor by beginning 16-year-old students. For these above mentioned reasons I have no faith whatsoever in the ranking belt or sash systems, as the belt or sash itself proves absolutely nothing.

My instructors do not demand respect from beginning students, and they get it by earning it through personal contact with the student.

In November, 1968 the Chicago area karate clubs challenged the top national champions from California and New York. The Chicago three-man team lost only one match out of six to the combined East and West Coast champions. Black Belt Magazine (April 1969) and Official Karate Magazine (June, 1969) referred to the Chicagoans as overly aggressive sluggers who used too many dangerous striking and throwing techniques along with too much body contact. Even sports such as professional hockey, football and boxing have more contact than present-day karate tournaments. The present-day karate news media and handful of outdated Oriental politicians are responsible for the present-day weak styles of karate.

My one last statement and the most glaring fact of the whole article is that the most important thing for a defense system or technique is that it work and be effective and you can ask no more.




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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #12 on: June 29, 2003, 03:39:43 AM »
while i'm at it, and i hope you guys don't mind the several huge posts.

The Official Oral History Of Black American Pioneers in The Martial Arts
By William Hinton & D’Arcy Rahming

Sensei Robert Brown:

“Right after that I began my study of Karate my first instructor was John Keehan, later to become Count Dante. I studied with John, up until around 1964 and I was a member of the United States Karate Association, and I received my Shodan (first degree black belt) from him.
My training was pretty thorough and it was kind of rough. John was a perfectionist. John was a person who believed you had to be physically perfect and in martial arts you had to know the martial arts. It started with the very basics and continued on through. You progressed as far as your abilities took you.”

Later in the Chapter Sensei Robert Brown goes on to say this:

“A lot of people have a lot of negative things to say about John Keehan, my primary instructor. But when I look back on John, I think maybe he was a bit ahead of his time. One of the first major martial arts tournament in the United States was given by John, at the University of Chicago, in 1963. I had a chance to meet all of the world masters at that time, and talk to them. I met Peter Alexander, Ed Parker from California, Trias from Arizona, Jhoon Rhee, even Bruce Lee was there. Bruce Lee, he looked only about sixteen, seventeen years old. He really wasn’t popular like he became subsequently. But you had a chance to meet all the masters. From that tournament you could see that John was a person who could get things done, would go out and get things done. He came to a heartbreaking end, but he was really a guy who was a go-getter and deserves a lot more credit than he was given.”

Sensei James Jones, Jr.

“My first instructor was John Keehan. I had always worked under John Keehan, who was an excellent instructor. He taught excellent fundamentals and that’s what I think is the most important criteria for an excellent martial artist.”

Later, after talking about some of his training at the gym he goes on to say:

“My instructor John Keehan was probably the best martial arts practitioners I ever saw. Through all the hype, he was one of the best, had some of the best form, was the only man today that I’ve ever seen able to kick a brick in half with a side kick. Punch it with a forefist strike and break it. The guy had tremendous form and a tremendous love for the art. He was a great promoter, he said I don’t care what kind of publicity, good or bad, as long as it’s publicity, I’ll take it.”

In the book two other martial artist, Sensei Louis Moseley and Nganga Mfundishi Tolo-Naa A/K/A Ray “The Chicago Tiger” Cooper, makes some short comments pertaining to the Count.



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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #13 on: June 29, 2003, 11:44:26 AM »
Very interesting post, Derek, a lot of it makes sense, some of it is a little off base, in my opinion. Here's my spin:

Stances: Agreed. Gm. Pesare utilizes what he calls 'walking' stances in his forms , natural. The late Professor Cerio, a first generation Pesare black belt, used these stances in his fighting forms, ex. 'Circle of the Tiger', yet I've heard Shotokan people criticize his stances as not being traditional, yet Cerio's reputation along with Pesare's speaks for itself. Professor Chow's tremendous power was rooted in his stance also, check his out! However, in all due respect, Gichin Funakoshi, a school teacher, was a 'fighter' in theory only such as what Dante said about Nishiyama. Go figure!

Boxing vs. Karate: Some definite truth to that. However, I really don't think these encounters involved people of the Kajukenbo lineage. Again, too, it's also the individual. Kajukenbo and its direct offshoots such as Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu I can tell you first hand, that it's the rough & tumble training that you read about. When Cerio trained under Pesare, his comment years later was, "Training with George Pesare in the 60's was like training for the Roman Gladiators". When I was tested for my green belt in the 70's by Gm. Pesare it was worse than most black belt tests from other systems of the time. Gm. Pesare's instructor, Sijo Victor 'Sonny' Gascon is a Kajukenbo black belt. Mr. Pesare stresses hardcore conditioning, heavy contact and heart which Dante refers to as 'guts', same thing. This type of training also develops that explosive power you need to survive a street fight. Train like a sprinter, not a marathon runner! Many of the other systems of that time period had absolutely no contact to the head unless it was accidental and minimal to the body, although some fighters made names for themselves in what was called the "blood & guts" era of that time. Many of these fighters made a smooth and successful transition into kickboxing, others did not, especially when they found out they couldn't take a punch and in all due respect, some others could have made the transition but chose not to. Boxing, like judo, is a 'live' art, it doesn't work in theory alone. A boxer's reaction to a punch in the nose is a punch back. Overall though, things started changing in 1974 with the advent of full contact karate(kickboxing). Remember the Wallace-Corley fight? Schools that currently lack contact and conditioning do an injustice to the student but is is very difficult to retain students today with that type of training not to mention 'liability'.

Reactionary gap 4-6 feet: True, martial artists should pair off much closer because from 4-6 feet away you can usually successfully defend against anything.

Snap Punch/Thrust Punch/Locked Elbow: I'm lost here. I started in 1973 and we were taught thrust type punching along with the quick snap strikes and kicks but we were taught never to lock the knee or elbow. So, I don't know where the Count got that information from.

Blocking: Agree & Disagree. I do perfer to use the 'stop hit' whenever possible or simply a slight move of the head and/or body and hit. However, sometimes one is just not prepared to overcome inertia and move. Your hands are the only barrier between you and your opponent when in close. It's quicker and more natural to move the hand if swung at. It's happened to me on several occassions and on one imparticular it was against the hook type punch that he mentioned. I utilized an outward block with my right hand against his left roundhouse and it stopped the strike, otherwise I would have taken it to the jaw, so I can't knock blocking, it has its place.

Rapid-fire hand strikes being not effective: That's bull and let me tell you why. Is a boxer's jab effective on the street? How about mutiple jabs? You bet they are and they are used to set up the finishing blow(s). If you're in wicked close and this WILL happen most of the time,  the standard jab & full power punching is ineffective (no room) but close quarter kempo/kajukenbo rapid fire striking is perfect to stun, cause a distration and if you hit a point that does not require full power it can and has stopped an assailant. How hard do you have to hit someone in the solar plexus, groin or throat to momentarily disable him? Do you need an all out blow? Speed striking is kempo's answer to a sophisticated form of a boxer's 'mutiple' jabs. So, if it doesn't stop him, it should still open the door for a heavier blow or two. You can use it to simply overwelm an opponent, then clock him with the 'big one'. Think about it.

If teaching today gets away from the type of training I mentioned in this post than yes, martial artists will not be as effective as they should be. As far as Dante's 'stories' about the Kung Fu masters and Karate tournament Champs in real fights, some could be true, others can be bull. Problem is there are no names, places, dates, times, no documentation whatsoever, so until there are they are just 'stories' with no merit.

As far as orientals being no better or not as good, I still say its the individual. However, westerners are for the most part bigger and stronger so we 'could' have the edge there. Just my thoughts.

That's my spin on it, what say you? ;D

« Last Edit: June 29, 2003, 12:00:22 PM by Shihan Joe Shuras »


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Re:Count Dante- John Keehan
« Reply #14 on: June 29, 2003, 12:28:55 PM »
   A few more points I forgot to address. For the most part, I feel 'fancy' techniques do not have their place on the street. However, it all depends what one would call fancy. Some martial artists have a 'spinning back kick' that is as natural to them as a right hook is to a boxer. The back kick itself is the most powerful kick in the arsenal. A modified back kick is taught to police officers to knock down doors in an emgergency. The back kick was picked because it made use of the most powerful muscles of the body and hense delivered the most power. The spinning or turning back kick is extremely deceptive and sometimes something unorthodox may be the answer against a tough more orthadox opponent. Let me give this example:

Years ago I was reading a column in a karate mag by John Mayberry, a free lance writer who at the time was a 5th dan. Mr. Mayberry was a prison guard. He related in his martial arts training that he thought the technique of dropping down under an opponent's punch and kicking him to the groin was useless and that he would never put himself in that postion to purposely go to the ground in a fight. Well, one time he had an altercation with an inmate, a real tough guy who worked out and trained also, they started going at it punch for punch with neither one giving an inch. From what I recall of the article, Mr. Mayberry stated to paraphrase that it flashed through his  mind that he nor his opponent was getting anyway as they traded blow for blow. All of a sudden that technique popped in his head. He dropped to the floor to a stunned opponent, mental stun that is, lol, and thrusted his foot right into his groin and he fell like a 'sack of potatoes'. Here end of the lesson. Sometimes an unorthodox movement against a more orthodox opponent is the 'magic bullet' you need to take him down. One man's trash is another man's treasure. Dante, in my opinion, is too generalized in that statement. In another example back in the early 60's there was a heavyweight boxing champ named Floyd Patterson. One tough & talented cookie. He had what  the press nicknamed a "gazelle punch". He would jump in the air and nail you to the jaw and it worked for him. It was totally unorthodox and against anything taught in boxing but how could you argue that with Paterson as he stood over his latest opponent awaiting the 10 count!

One other thing, I know he was just trying to make a point and he loved the controversy but calling everyone in karate a bunch of sissies is really not the brightest thing to do, ya think that was a generalization too?, lol.

All in all, Derek, it was an interesting article. Thanks for the post. It made me think and that's a good thing! ;)  Respectfully, Shihan Joe

« Last Edit: June 29, 2003, 12:37:29 PM by Shihan Joe Shuras »