Las Vegas Martial Arts History
Las Vegas Martial Arts Schools
One of the most interesting things about our city is the diverse people and the influences that have happened through the years and the people that have taught kids karate classes in Las Vegas. Its great to get some insight of the previous schools that have not only influenced students who opened schools like mine, but more importantly, how they helped people create martial arts in our town. I will cover some of the main schools I found through interviews and asking around and the stories I have heard over the years. This could be brief stories, or things I’ve heard over the years talking to people while teaching karate and knowing my peers.
Tai Kung Fu LLC EST 1967
All Martial and Supply Las Vegas
This was actually a pretty cool discovery. I was googling some info about All Martial Arts Supplies and thier original LLC was called Tai Kung Fu. Gary Marino, who was the former instructor of the first karate school in Las Vegas, established his school the Charleston Plaza Mall around the 1960’s. His teacher by the name of David German . The Founder of Tai Karate who started teaching at this mall in the 1960s.
Here is a photo of the Charleston Plaza mall in the 1960s before it was demolished in 1986. This was due to asbestos mold covering the mall and Gary almost had 600+ students at the time that we semi private or private classes.
JOhn natividad: chuck norris student 1972 Las Vegas
Master John Natividad was a good friend of mine and a great mentor. From what he old me when i spoke he told me he wen from back and forth from California to Las Vegas as well as Hawaii. I do know however his martial arts school was here for many years. He was a black belt of Chuck Norris and a good friend of his and one of his greatest champions. Even beating the legend himself Benny the Jet in front of 20,000 spectators which was a very rare part of karate history. I actually did an interview him before he passed away last year in 2021. He had a martial arts school in Vegas and made many black belts later also influencing and creating many champions over the years.
bob chaney martial arts 1978
Bob Chaney martial arts trained a lot of instructors that opened a martial arts program and school around the Valley. He has a huge influence on how martial spread around the Las Vegas Valley when it comes to instruction and how karate spread throughout the city. This later spread to a few great instructors trickling down to myself and among others who now have martial arts school in Las Vegas. This is including major ones that I know of such as, Allen Saracs, CD Young, and Mary Youshock. Bob Chaney later moving to thailand eventually relocating to California where he passed about 6 year ago. He was a 8th degree black belt in ITF and was well known in the martial art community.
Dan Sawyer 1968-1970
Dan Sawyer was actually my teacher briefly form the years of 2002-2005 and he remained my teacher on and off through the years as I was fighting around the world. As he got older and more into his businesses, he always made sure he took care of me. He mostly ran his martial arts school out of of his house in Las Vegas at his mansion and taught many people and a few celebrities there. He was part of the Tadashi Yamashita group who was in the American Ninja movies in the 1980s. He also was part of the of the IMAF (International Martial Arts Federation) but there are so many organizations so its a hard to keep track of what and who was legimate.
Sensei Dan Sawyer was a practitioner of Shorin-Ryu Karate and made friends with many of the karate instructors in town since his main focus was being a show producer for shows in Japan he named it Sawyer Productions.
Because he mostly taught of his house the only Youtube video he really had was him eating ice cream. He was Definity a hidden gem and a rare occurrence that I got to be trained with the modern Mr. Miyagi of Las Vegas.
master Mary Youshock 1996-2016
Karate schools in Las Vegas
This master deserved to be recognized, she was an amazing instructors and knew her way how to train martial arts students that would later become champions. She was one of the people that was trained by Bob Chaney later becoming one of NBL World Champions. She was well known for her kicking abilities as well as skills that would make her a legend in the martial art circuit. She has now retired instructing and now Master Youshock has her kids working for the show KA a popular show in Las Vegas.
Osamu Ozawa 1981
Las Vegas School of Shotokan Karate
This is a very good karate school I have a lot of history in our town. Especially for Shotokan Practitioners around the valley. James Tawato my Karate teacher at least one of them has kept this school alive for nearly half a century almost a good 40 years. Ozawa was a student of Gichin Funakoshi who was the founder of Shotokan Karate.
Ozawa was also a Kamikazee Pilot, and was also a card dealer in Las Vegas. He trained many black belts including my Uncle, Armando Alcantara later influencing me to continue my karate training and eventually opening a karate school in Las Vegas.
I am proud to say its one of the Oldest Shotokan Karate schools in the country and an original and one of my first teachers keeps it open to this day.
This was a very special school to me because this is where I started and where I used to take the bus here when I was a teenager. Though, I did take my first lesson with my uncle, Armando Alcantara, he took me here after a few moves he taught me. Sensei Tawato is very passionate of what Shihan Ozawa taught him, he still keeps a pictures of him in the front of his Dojo. I never really understand why he would train in the beach and the middle of no where. But after hearing stories from my uncle I understood why he would train in nature locations. Which something I did in my personal life as well. Here’s a 35 year old picture of my uncle in the 1980s. Probably one of the oldest karate photos in Shotokan in our cities history. They looked so young and vibrant like I am. Goes to show you time flies by so make it count. I know the Ozawa dojo has taught Self Defense classes for almost 40 years.
Martial Arts classes Las Vegas
Here’s a picture just like uncle in the desert.
Dick DOuglas Vegas Tang Soo do 1968
From my understanding I had a conversation with his wife and they used to teach classes in his backyard during the 1960s-1970s . At the time there were no Tan Soo Do classes in the valley. According to his wife, thye would fly Chuck Norris back and forth until Douglas got his black belt. From there Master Douglas started teaching outside of his house and made some Black Belts. In 1986, Douglas split form the Norris Organization and created his own organization called Western Tan Soo Do Federation. Heres is a famous photo of Dick Douglas training with Cuck Norris in the backyard of his house.
Him and John Natividad were very close friends, later he ended up becoming neighbors with the Douglas family before his passing according to Douglas wife.
Lima Lama with si tai gung tallbear 1960-1970
From what I heard Tallbear was the original tenant for the The All Martial Arts and Supply in Las Vegas. Legend has it, he actually used to sleep at his school sometimes when he first opened, Gary Marino would always point where he had his bed. I’m not going to lie in my early years I did the same thing. We all make sacrifices as small business owners so I’m glad I wasn’t the only one. Tallbear also influenced my Sensei Dan Sawyer who actually taught me a great technique called “Poison Hands” which actually comes from Tallbears curriculum, its a series of blocking and striking techniques that are pretty useful I’ll admit for self defense.
Accordingly to many students of his he was considered a tough instructor and focused alot on street self defense and also would use sticks in his classes. He taught a mixture of Kenpo and Lima Lama which is a form of Hawaiian Martial arts that is taught to many people around the world today.
Karate Schools in Las VegAS
There are many schools over the years that created a path for todays martial arts community in Las Vegas. There are many influences and I am sure I’ll have to rewrite another article about the masters and instructors that pushed our city to teach martial arts in our city. As the owner of Ageless Martial Arts I am privilege to have such an incredible group of students and parents that stay in our dojo. In conclusion I am glad I was part of our cities martial arts history.
For more information, or to try a free class check out www.agelesskarate.com or call 702-374-3323 and check us out! Hope you liked the article.