Are there anyone in the Daito Ryu community that can debunk some of skornea's claim ?
Dude ! we could be on the verge on discovering the world's ancient lawyer !....:laughing9
Originally Posted by Chili Pepper
Inside Info on Phillip Skornia
I came across this thread, albeit not active, while doing a Google search for "shorin-ji zendo ryu kempo" because I used to train in that style years ago and I was just curious what would turn up.
I read this entire thread with great interest, as I did train with Phillip Skornia at the Academy of Judo and Karate in Redondo Beach CA for 17 years, from Jan 1980 to late 1997.
Because this thread has not been active for a long time, I don't know if what I have to report will be helpful to anyone.
But, due to my long-time relationship with the AJK and Mr. Skornia I feel compelled to share my direct experiences and what I see as the unvarnished truth (people who know me know I tell it like it is).
So I'm going to share the good, the bad, the ugly. I realize some might think my opinion is biased in some way, but I assure you I'm not doing this to defend Skornia, nor am I here to attack him.
It may be worth noting that during the time period I trained with Skornia, there was no internet. Doing an online reputation or background check on someone or looking for online reviews was not possible in 1980. My research into which Dojo to join was conducted by phone book, phone call, then visit to watch a class.
I chose the AJK because it seemed to have the things I was looking for - I wanted to learn a variety of techniques such as striking, throwing, locks, and holds. I also wanted a school that emphasized the history and philosophy of the Martial Arts, discipline, and control.
I was looking to join a MA school because in 1980 I was 19, and although I was in decent physical shape, I wanted to get some good physical conditioning and work out regularly, and I also wanted to learn some self defense, so I felt some form or Martial Arts training would be perfect and hoped to find a school that would also emphasize the other stuff noted above.
AJK sure seemed to fit the bill. And I watched a class, an advanced and beginner's class, and I was pretty impressed with the teaching and the black belts were pretty scary so it looked like I'd found a good quality school.
So that's how I got involved, now on to the good, bad and ugly as promised.
To lead with a summary - Phillip Skornia definitely was no slouch when it came to being a Martial Artist, the range of knowledge and skill he had in striking, throwing, holds and locks seemed endless. Even after more than a decade there, it seemed there was no end to his knowledge - and also Katas; he knew a large amount of them inside and out, even if some of the Bunkai sometimes seemed questionable. When it came to Phillip Skornia the person off the mat and out of the Dojo, pretty much all of us who'd been there a while knew he was often fussy and demanding, penny-pinching, and we felt he was a little too focused on money - he had quite a way about him of up-selling, cross-selling and down-selling that made him look like a very good salesman to us, and we also felt he would nickel-and-dime you. However, in exchange for my teaching 2 classes a week when I reached instructor black belt level, he also waived all of my membership fees and I paid nothing for a long time - as penny pinching as he was, he allowed me and other black belt instructors to train for free for many, many years. As a Martial Artist I admired him, but as a person, not so much.
Mr. Skornia was "very particular"; fastidious, maybe even anal retentive. This trait of his was grating in personal relations, but on the mat we saw it as a blessing because you could not get away with sloppy techniques. He had a keen eye for anything out of place, you know, like the show "Monk" on TV played by Tony Shalub? - he could spot the smallest details somehow. By the way, I'm not here to defend or analyze efficacy of Karate techniques in general or specifically - it's worth noting that while I trained consistently at the AJK, I also trained with Rorian & Royce Gracie in their garage before they ever got a dojo or started the ultimate challenges, with a Judo expert named Manly Fox (yeah, I know... yes that was his real name), with Rigan Machado, and others. I don't have an allegiance to anyone in the Martial Arts - I have no allegiance nor do I have an axe to grind. I can just as easily put up a detailed expose' of the Gracie's as well, even though I was only with them for about a year - whole other story.
It might be worth noting that most Dojo owners, in my experience, have ego issues to say the least (there are notable exceptions, of course). Skornia was no exception, he needed to be the big man, and needed to be right even when he was wrong. Most of the black belts who left the school did so after an argument or otherwise being fed up or in some cases they were kicked out by Skornia.
I never ran into conflicts with Skornia and I think that was due to the fact that I kept a clear distinction in my mind between the man on the mat and his brain full of Martial Arts knowledge, and the man off the mat who seemed money-hungry (not that wanting money is a bad thing but you dig what I'm saying, yes?). Me? I left the school on good terms.
Another thing I and others perceived was that Skornia taught philosophy of Martial Arts, but we felt he didn't walk his talk. I also felt that he often did not really understand that part, the Philosohy, very well. It seemed to me that he was trying hard to understand it, and trying to learn as he taught, but it was my sober assessment that Satori escaped him, much less lower levels of basic Enlightenment. Again, I pretty much wrote that off, I was able to navigate those realms just fine so the exposure was all I needed, not interpretation - I could handle that myself.
Skornia ran a tight ship all the way around. He insisted on aspiring to perfect technique as he taught them. He insisted on discipline and control. I found that a positive thing. Students were required to show respect to each other, demonstrate control and discipline. Positive qualities to be sure.
With respect to all the lineage stuff and association stuff, like some alleged connection to Eizu Shimabuku (not sure if I spelled that right), him allegedly being some kind of monk, allegedly training/fighting in Japan, China, Okinawa, Korea, allegedly having a direct line back to the Shaolin Monastery / teachings, and of course there is the All Japan Karate Association International (AJKAI): I had never researched or done background checks (remember no internet existed then either) but many of us black belts secretly felt a lot of that stuff was inflated or flat out hype, and the AJKAI membership card was just another way to extract additional money from students.
We didn't have a lot of facts about all of that, but there were some that trickled in as some of black belts went to Japan to train and asked around while there. This is of course second hand info, but the ones who went and came back reported that Skornia's resume was inflated at the very least. We all knew that he knew his stuff though - we knew you couldn't have that much knowledge and skill without a lot of training, so we didn't doubt he had trained and trained hard and/or long to get that knowledge and skill, but nevertheless, it was evident by looking at all the facts of Sknoria's personality and behaviors that his resume had to be pumped up and likely not 100% factual. We felt it was all part of his sales routine - all the lineage stuff sounded great, and you could actually almost make a case for some of what he'd say about lineage, but it also seemed like it existed mostly to impress prospective students.
I will add to the above point that our black belts that went to Japan were basically asked to wear white belts but then quickly allowed to put their black belt back on and even promoted while there! I don't have first-hand experience they had to wear white belts, got promoted and such, but I don't doubt they did well in Japan. As I said, Skornia's picky personality paid off when it came to teaching and technique and such. All the AJK black belts who went to Japan reportedly easily held their own in technique, Kumite, and Kata. Somehow, Skornia knew his stuff... somehow.
I think that about covers it. If I think of something noteworthy that slipped my mind I'll add it later. Feel free to ask me questions or contact me directly if desired.
Hope that helps!