Robert J Babich at his San Jose school
(box on left full of gravel, on right, sand, to practice spear hand)
Robert J. Babich, who I was introduced to as "Robert J," was the quietest, gentlest, most powerful man I have ever had the pleasure of knowing; he
developed, studied and taught an art called Kwon Bup Karate in San Jose in the 60s. Robert J is a soft spoken man and he never, in the years I knew him,
raised his voice. What makes this really amazing is that he taught all types of students from all walks of
life including bikers, outlaw bikers, and Hells Angels, and they, we, all listened when he spoke.
I met Steve Janes, aka "Nasty," in 1967, and rode with him and John Watt, aka "Trash," for years thereafter.
Steve and Trash both took karate from Robert J. One day in Steve's front yard in Campbell <BEGIN DIGRESSION> well, not really
Campbell, nor Los Gatos, nor San Jose; Shelly Ave was in the county of Santa Clara and all attempts by the
neighboring cities to annex that and the few neighboring streets were defeated by a unanimous petition signed
by all residents of those streets<END DIGRESSION> Steve suggested that I start taking karate from
Robert J... "I don't need to take karate, I know how to fight"... "well then how about you just come to class
and watch?"... "naaaaaa... I can take care of myself"... "yeah? get into your fighting stance and
I'll put my fist on your chest"... "bull shit, go ahead and try it"... fist on my chest... "hmmmm... ok...
try that again"... fist on my chest... "ok... how about I go to class with you and watch?...
So I went to the brown and black belt class over the next few weeks and watched. Steve was a brown belt (with a black stripe, refused
to test for black belt because of the registering of hands thing), and, it was interesting watching...
Robert J would spar with a brown belt while watching all the other students, black belts sparing with black belts,
black belts sparing with brown belts, brown belts sparing with brown belts, and, IF Robert J observed a
sparing pair do something that could be improved then he would bow to his partner and interrupt the other pair
to provide improvment instruction to them, then resume with his partner. One night I suspect he had just spotted
a maneuver which could be improved which was simultaneously accompanied by the brown belt he was sparing with
putting a move on Robert J... well... it happened so fast that I could not say what really happened, but, I
saw Robert J do a sideways flip and spin and land in a forward stance, and the brown belt's arms and legs were
all totally extended spread eagle and he was falling over backwards... THAT did it for me... I was convinced...
there was something to this karate, so I started as a white belt at the Kang Duk Won Korean Karate school run by Robert J.
I studied under Robert J for the next few years. One night after class Robert J called me into his office and
handed me a green belt and certificate... FAR OUT... now I knew enough to be dangerous but definately not enough to
even think about attending the brown and black belt class! [sigh]... can't find my certificate right now... know
I've seen it since moving back to California... but... in the meantime... here's one that that I wish I had earned...
18SEP18 UPDATE: found my original certificate...
... submitted by RuslH
11MAY12 UPDATE: found a copy of my certificate...
black&white copy: click here
There are "24 martial arts" some people refer to, but, this actually refers to sword, spear, military horseback riding etc,
not unarmed martial arts since Taekkyon was a game, not a martial art; Kwon bop (or Chuanfa in Chinese or Kempo in Chinese)
is the only exception.
Kwon bup, the style that Robert J developed and taught is a "hard style" Korean karate, vs, e.g., Shotokan karate which
is a "soft style" karate, where the philosophy for soft style karate is avoid, deter, hurt, mame, kill. Avoid - avoid a
fight by what ever means you must - in a situation where a fight might start - leave, if you are followed leave quicker,
still followed, run, still followed and cannot run any further then deter the attack. Note that a block which would deter
an attack is accompanied with an offencive move, in this case, to hurt the attacker. If the attack continues then mame
the attacker, break something, pluck an eye out, etc., if the attack continues then kill the attacker. The philosophy in
hard style karate is simply avoid, deter/kill (where every block is an attack). And, Robert J taught a polethera of means to deal with an attack!
I have stories of revceiving instruction in class, partying at Robert J's home, bar hopping with Robert J, and Robert J
shooting Howard Cosell with a 44mag that I will add... sometime...
Internet links about Robert J:
- history and a story
- Bob trained under Dr. Norman Rha (also known as Rha Jong-nam) in San Francisco (they were roommates(?))
- Kang Duk Won Martial Arts Association, Official Black Belt Test 1958
- more info...
- some school history, and, an opportunity...
- still more info, and, an opportunity...
- still more info even...
I have always wanted (and still want) to resume my training but was never and am still not financially able; however,
I did provide for lessons for my last two children, Maryann and RL,
for seven years at Joe Taylor's Shotokan Karate Do Jo in Monterey. Joe taught a "traditional" soft style karate,
and, by traditional I mean that Japanese was spoken during class... ich nee sun she go rok seech hutch ku ju... Maryann was
quite the agressive student, RL... well... lacked kumite. I have stories
about class, outside of class, tournaments, etc that I will add... sometime...
14NOV18 Update: I resumed training in karate in September 2017 and successfully tested for the brown belt in the Tae Kwon Do method tonight,
a "soft style" Korean karate method similar to the "hard style" Kwon Bup Korean karate method I studied back in the 70's; more on resuming my karate training here: