This is OUR Flag! (Black Dragon Fighting Society)

submitted by Ashida Kim to /forum/black-dragon-fighting-society

“Tell your men, we are soldiers. This is our flag. Then put it up high so all can see it. Then you have a castle. When your castle is attacked, show them why it is your castle.”

The International Fighting Arts Association/Original Black Dragon Fighting Society has always been the subject of controversy, usually because we were standing up for something. When Count Dante formed the American chapter of the ancient and honorable Kokuryukai in Chicago in 1966 it was part of a much larger international martial arts fraternity that had sent one of its agents, Senzo Tanaka, to exploit the racial unrest of that period in history. Instead, the BDFS became a champion of the civil rights movement, being the first in the nation to train and promote black students. It was said this was the reason Count Dante broke away from the first martial arts organization in America, the United Sates Karate Association, founded by Robert Trias, with whom he had trained, and who had delegated to him the Midwest region of the country to serve as a representative and promoter of the martial arts. Dante staged the first ever no-holds-barred, mixed martial arts, last-man-standing tournaments in the United States. There was no protective equipment, there were no weight classifications, no restrictions on style, it was pure blood and guts, just like he had experienced in death matches held on the closed Chinese mainland in which he had participated. His name was feared and respected even among the street gangs that ran Chicago at that time. It was Count Dante’s crew of senior Black Belts that took Vic Moore to the United States Karate Championship Tournament being held in a “whites only” hotel and threatened to fight it out in the street unless he was admitted and allowed to compete, thus making it possible for him to become the First Black World Champion Karateka in history. 

            Whenever the grandmaster of a martial arts system dies, there are always a bunch of people who rush forward, eager to “claim the throne” and capitalize on the deceased’s fame and glory, if there was any. Even so with Count Dante. He was not the nicest guy in the world. A lot of people were afraid of him. A lot of people were jealous of him. He had carved out a small empire in the Midwestern US teaching martial arts, franchising schools and promoting the first full contact tournaments. He made a fortune, or so it was said, selling the World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets, a fifty page pamphlet with black and white pictures of himself and his best friend demonstrating the “most savage and terrifying self defense form know to man-the Dance of Death!” through full page ads in DC comic books. Which only contributed more to the jealousy and frustration of the “traditional martial arts community,” who considered him a joke and froze him out of any publicity in the numerous “karate magazines” for sale at the time.             His greatest claim to infamy came when he took some of his gang down to the Green Dragon Dojo and started a fight in which his friend Jim Concevic was killed. “Rumbles,” street fights, between rival gangs or Karate schools in Chicago were not uncommon at that time. But, this was a particularly brutal death that caught the eye of the press and, according to Count Dante, “costs him all of his personal fortune to buy everyone out of trouble.” Grandmaster Lawrence Day was among those present that night. He was one of the original thirty-eight members of Count Dante’s Black Dragon Fighting Society.             After this incident and the ensuing disgrace, Count Dante was almost lost. He was mostly alone, so poor that he reportedly sold peanuts as a wandering concessionaire at Wrigley Field to put food on the table. He eventually came back and opened a few martial arts schools, but never again enjoyed the respect or fear he had once commanded. Most of the Black Dragons scattered, some went into military service, some went on to other careers. Some simply went “underground.”             After his passing, several people stepped up to claim the title “World’s Deadliest Fighting Master” long held by Count Dante, based on his performance in death matches on the closed Chinese mainland. But none of them lasted very long. His death enabled Frank Dux to take part in the Kumite in 1975. The story of which is documented in the cult movie classic Bloodsport.             He was buried in an unmarked grave in Chicago so that his tombstone would not become the site of pilgrimages by aspiring martial artists like that of Bruce Lee in Seattle had become. The funeral was attended by only two people. His best friend, who had appeared with him in the WDFS booklet, and a man he had beat up in a fight the day before he died. The man reportedly said that, “If I had know how sick he (Count Dante) was, I might have had a chance against him.” As the 1975 Black Belt magazine article described Count Dante, “If he hadn’t lived someone would have invented him, if he hadn’t died, someone would have killed him.”             Very little was heard of the Black Dragon Fighting Society from then on. But quietly, in the background Grandmaster Lawrence Day was watching and keeping in contact with his friends from the “old days,” as he continued to train and study and teach martial arts.             In the nineteen eighties, the Ninja boom flooded the country with renewed interest in Oriental fighting arts. One of the students of this style who published more than a dozen books on the subject was Ashida Kim. One of these books was about Kata Dante, the Dance of the Deadly Hands, his presentation of Count Dante’s Dance of Death, which he had learned while serving as “security” for protesters at the Democratic National Convention riots in Chicago in 1968. He had named this savage and terrifying self-defense form in honor of Count Dante, who, for all his faults, was a superior martial artist.             Although many dispute this legend, Grandmaster Lawrence Day, before his passing in 2012, and Count Dante’s best friend who appeared in WDFS with him, have confirmed that he was there and awarded him rank and recognition based on his continuing the tradition of Count Dante’s teachings.             Dr. Day began to reunite his former comrades and bring the BDFS into the 21st century. He assembled us at various martial arts events like the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame in Nashville TN in 2009 and began inviting other masters to join him in this noble cause. In 2012 we held our own reunion in Lexington KY Since that time we have held annual gatherings of our own and invited other masters to attend and be awarded recognition for their service and contributions to the martial arts.             Dr. Day had a vision for Count Dante’s original Black Dragon Fighting Society. To make it an organization that would bring martial artists together, regardless of style or lineage, so that we could become a force for good in the world. It was not the breaking of bricks that was important, it was the energy that made such things possible, that is the basis of the healing techniques he wanted us to share. So that good deeds would spread out like the ripples on a pond, and cover the whole earth. It was his call that brought us together, to undertake this noble cause. It is to honor his memory that we strive to make Dr. Day’s dream come true and work to continue martial arts the legacy of Count Dante.               WE are the International Fighting Arts Association/Original Black Dragon Fighting Society. This is our Flag. Nobody takes our flag.

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