Monday, August 25, 2014

Thinking of Terry Gibson

     On a more serious note, I think about some of my old instructors sometimes. Ernesto Presas has died. Remy Presas dead awhile now. Keith See - my first Parker, Kenpo Karate instructor has died. Ray Medina has died. My Kempo man R.J. Oak has died. And another one died in the late 1990s. They were all important to me, but this story is about a very important one. Terry Gibson had a huge influence on me and was a rare, fully-certified Inosanto instructor. Too good to be forgotten. All before the internet, so his name is not bounced around the digital waves. Let's bounce it around a bit here.

Terry and I in Tulsa, OK, maybe 1990-ish or so.

     I was sure lucky to meet him in the late 1980s. I hosted Paul Vunak in Texas in the 1980s, and one time Terry showed up. Instant connection. He had a vast interest in the arts that Dan Inosanto taught; and, in his day, Inosanto said that Terry was one of his top five instructors. He was the major player in this multi-state region surrounding the state of Oklahoma. I hosted Terry many times in Texas and would travel to the seminars he did and hosted in Tulsa, Oklahoma, ones conducted by himself or by Inosanto, Mark McFann, (no, that is not this "animal" McYoung guy - Mark McFann) Master Chai, Vunak, Hartsell, well ... so many of the era. I also took multi-day, private lessons with him up there in Tulsa, staying at his house at night. We usually did these in three-day sets. Five-hour privates in the daytime, and this included attending all the evening classes, too.

     We did Thai, JKD, Silat, varieties of Kali, and Shoot Fighting from Japan. We were all ground fighting years before the UFC/BJJ craze. Remember that Dan Inosanto Concepts many decades ago was way ahead of the curve we have today. Virtually, all martial arts are a collective of moves from the past, but many get frozen in doctrine. The first real known, widespread "Mixed Martial Arts" of the day was largely from Dan Inosanto. Yeah! Ninety-five percent of the existing martial arts back then were virtually virgins to other forms of martial arts. Each one was guilty of thinking they were superior to the others. Worse, most simply could not even grasp a mixed "best of blend from all the good stuff."  Their dogmas prevented evolution. Inosanto's did not. I was all-in for this evolution. The blend, the evolution, is the key to superiority. 

     Terry, a former college football player, was also a lawyer, by the way. He was a good critical thinker. Unfortunately ... but ... Terry had serious brain cancer that just wouldn't go away. I can't help but think that if he were alive today with these problems, there would be newer, better treatments and technologies. To my memory, he had three different, major brain surgeries, each time changing him. How could it not!

     He was a powerhouse! One of my favorite memories was once while spending time with Terry in the hospital after his second brain surgery. The second day after the surgery, he really was barely recognizable! His poor head and face way, way swollen and wrapped. He looked at me and said,

     "You know, the doctor told me to get up and try to move around. Want to go for a walk?"

     I said okay, and we proceeded to walk laps around the entire floor of the hospital. Before we knew it? We were trucking around at a pretty fast walking clip, he in his gown, his "turban," and he was barefoot. As we passed the elevators on about the sixth lap, the elevator doors swung open and his brain surgeon appeared.

     "Jesus! Terry! What are you doing!" he demanded.

     "Walking!" Terry said. "You told me to get up and move around."

     "I meant you could stand up and look out the window! Not run laps!"

     Terry was that kind of health nut and powerhouse. Splurging to him meant eating two ice Popsicles in one night. 

     I also recall his telling me about his and Mark McFann's trip to study Suwanda Silat in Indonesia. They had to wear those traditional "dresses," and it just killed these two macho dudes to walk on the streets in all that garb. I have a photo somewhere of him and McFann that he sent me, all duded up in indo-like skirts.

     In the early 1990s, Terry paid a student (and this included some kind of class attendance deal, too) to be his training partner, as in a "beat-up" uke. Terry was always concerned about his own training, his workouts, versus other competent practitioners. He said he was teaching too much and not building his own skills. When I would go up to Tulsa for privates, this guy would also be my work-out partner for all the evening classes at the Gibson school. It was part of his deal with Terry. I can't remember his name, but he was a good and motivated guy. Terry said that so many times, private lessons with students could easily slip into the instructor's workouts, and this wasn't fair to the private student. So this guy would come into the school on afternoons a few times a week and would be Terry's "trainer" in a way, as Terry worked through his drill and sparring lists upon him.

1994 - a Terry Gibson newsletter/magazine cover from Jack Lee's collection. Back in them-thar days, the more popular instructors had a magazine-ish or a newsletter approaching a magazine-look, for their organizations. Six times a year? I had them all once. I have no idea where they are now. (I think one of my ex-wives tossed them?) Terry's was Quest. Terry said they were a pain to oversee, print and mail out, but it was something a martial leader had to organize. They all went away from these production problems and costs.

     In or around 1995, and after his third surgery, it was a serious baddie. The cancer would not go away. I was and had been training with everyone I could, and some typical martial arts business politics got in the way as I continued to latch on and grow in many other systems. I studied many systems since the mid-80s, but I hit it pretty hard with Terry for about six or more years. Early on, I realized that Terry was more skilled and knowledgeable than all the others around my region. In the mid-90s, non-martial arts related programs on hand, stick/baton, knife and gun became a financial priority for me as a teacher, and it pushed and captivated more and more of my time. Absolutely no reflection on Terry himself. Also, I simply grew away from being totally immersed in the martial arts formats, which as a whole can include so much unrelated dogma and sport compared to simple survival.

     Terry eventually died from this cancer two years later in 1997. Terry was alive and well  all before the internet really took over, so his name is not bounced around the digital waves much. Let's bounce it around a bit here.

Great photo from the Smokey Mountain Camp days. Tim Tackett, Larry Hartsell, 
and Terry. Tim is still alive and kicking. 
No pun intended.


     Probably if there is an heir, the heir of the Gibson era would have to be Harley Elmore, who is tucked away in the Wichita Falls area in north Texas. Harley is a great guy and a fanatic student/expert in these subjects. On his web page, you can still get some older Gibson videos converted over to DVDs. Terry had many video tapes, but if lost? The info is probably in Harley's DVDs.
Gibson (and Elmore DVDS) click here


Two great and talented guys, Kevin Seaman HQ-ed in New York State and Terry.

       But Terry Gibson taught me an absolute ton of stuff and remains one of the nicest guys I have met in this business. A very special person. Long may his name bounce around the digital waves.

Thai Association Remembers Terry



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