Whatever your martial arts interest, Samurai-Con has a guest for you! Check out the current guest roster below (Guests arranged in Alphabetical Order):
Dr. Steven Abood
Relson Gracie Black Belt, Guru Dan Inosanto JKD Instructor
Dr. Steven Abood specializes in teaching Invincible Jiu-jitsu, his synthesis of the standing and ground self defense techniques of Helio Gracie Jiu-jitsu, and the throwing techniques of Jigoro Kano Jiu-jitsu (also known as Kodokan Judo). Steven began his martial arts training at the age of three under Master Moo H. Kim, a former Korean Special Forces officer and a master of Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Hap Ki Do. Upon leaving Master Kim’s tutelage at the age of 18 to move to Atlanta, Georgia, USA to attend college at Emory University, and then Emory University School of Law, Steven studied Wing Chun Kung Fu with Sifu Francis Fong, and Muay Thai Boxing with Sifu Fong’s colleague Ajarn Chai Sirisute. Steven also studied during these years with Bruce Lee student Guru Dan Inosanto, earning Level 1 instructor certificates from him in Jeet Kune Do Concepts, Jun Fan Kickboxing, and Filipino Martial Arts. After attending UFC 3 in 1995, Steven concentrated his training focus on Gracie Jiu-jitsu, under the supervision of Grandmaster Relson Gracie, the second oldest son of Gracie Jiu-jitsu founder Grandmaster Helio Gracie, and the son widely recognized to have the most knowledge and real-world experience with street self defense. For years Steven sought out and trained with over 40 Brazilian Jiu-jitsu masters, including over twenty-five hours of seminar, group, and a private lesson with the founder of Gracie Jiu-jitsu Grandmaster Helio Gracie, and countless hours with other Gracie family members including Carlson, Rorion, Relson, Rickson, Ryron, Rener, and Rillion Gracie, as well as other notable practitioners such as Helio “Soneca” Moreira. Steven then moved to Miami and spent almost a decade as an apprentice instructor to Helio Gracie disciple Pedro Valente, where he performed the self defense techniques of Gracie Jiu-jitsu under pressure in the Helio Gracie Self Defense Tournament with a perfect score of no technical mistakes detected. During these years Steven continued his training with Relson, traveling as his seminar assistant instructor and eventually was awarded his black belt and professorship of jiu-jitsu directly from Relson. Steven also studied Kodokan Judo, earning his black belt from Sensei Steven Alphabet, and trained two summers in Japan, researching old styles of jiu-jitsu, and earning three black belt course certificates in throwing techniques and kata from the Kodokan, the school that Judo’s founder Jigoro Kano began. While studying Gracie Jiu-jitsu and Kano Jiujitsu (Kodokan Judo) in Miami, Steven earned his Ph.D. in Biology at Florida International University, and with the aid of his undergraduate degree in Psychology, incorporates psychobiological rapid learning techniques in his martial arts teaching. His teaching focuses on his Invincible Woman Self Defense program for women and his Last Line Defense program for high risk executives, both of which teach the most effective and simple techniques from his Invincible Jiu-jitsu synthesis of Gracie and Kano Jiu-jitsu for the most likely and dangerous real-world attacks. He is the founder of Samurai-Con.
Ninja History & Japanese Folklore & Pop Culture Expert
Matt Alt is an expert on both the true history and the pop culture of the ninja. He is the co-author of Ninja Attack!: True Tales of Assassins, Samurai, and Outlaws, which he wrote with his wife Hiroko Yoda. The couple has also authored two books on Japanese folklore: Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide, and Yurei Attack! The Japanese Ghost Survival Guide. Most recently, Matt has authored a book on Japanese pop culture entitled Pure Invention: How Japan's Pop Culture Conquered the World. A Washington, D.C. native, Matt began his career working as a Japanese translator for the United States Patent and Trademark Office. On nights and weekends he pursued his true passion, writing for websites and magazines about the Japanese heroes, robots, and monsters that had first inspired him as a child. In 2003 he moved to Tokyo. Together with Hiroko Yoda, he founded AltJapan Co., Ltd., a company that produces the English translations of Japanese entertainment products such as video games, comic books, toys, and literature, and specializes in helping launch these properties in new markets. From 2015 to 2020 he co-hosted the popular NHK World television show Japanology Plus. His writing has appeared in numerous publications including The New Yorker, Wired Magazine, BBC Culture, Slate Magazine, the Independent, CNN, Newsweek Japan, and The Japan Times.
Dr. Alexander Bennett
Japanese Martial Arts Expert
Dr. Alexander Bennett is one of the world’s foremost authorities on Japanese martial arts and their philosophical underpinnings of bushido, the way of the warrior. He holds the grades of 7th dan in Kendo, 5th dan in Iaido, 5th dan in Naginata, 5th dan in Jukendo, and 5th dan in Tankendo. Dr. Bennett first discovered Kendo during a year in Japan as a 17-year-old exchange student from New Zealand in 1987. He has now lived over 30 years in Japan, earned two doctoral degrees (including one with a Ph.D. thesis entitled “Investigating a Definition of Bushido”), and is a Professor at Kansai University's Division of International Affairs where he teaches Japanese history and society. Dr. Bennett is the co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the magazine Kendo World. He has written numerous books for Tuttle Publishing on the subject of Japanese martial arts including Japan - The Ultimate Samurai Guide: An Insider Looks at the Japanese Martial Arts and Surviving in the Land of Bushido and Zen, and Bushido Explained – The Japanese Samurai Code: A New Interpretation for Beginners. Dr. Bennett has translated a number of samurai texts, including Hagakure, which is featured in the samurai movie Ghost Dog starring Forrest Whitaker, which will be played during Samurai-Con’s movie party.
Rorion Gracie’s First Jiu-jitsu Student
Richard Bresler began training in Gracie Jiu-jitsu as Rorion Gracie’s first private lesson student in 1979, a full fourteen years before the first Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) changed what we all thought we knew about fighting forever. Grandmaster Rorion Gracie, the co-founder of the UFC, is the oldest son of Gracie Jiu-jitsu founder Grandmaster Helio Gracie, and the only man to receive the red belt from him. For over two decades, Richard was Rorion’s right-hand man, playing a key role in arranging the early Gracie challenge matches, and in the creation of the first Gracie garage, the Gracie Academy, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Richard is also a graduate of the first Instructor Certification Program at the Gracie Academy, and assiduously studied Rorion’s jiu-jitsu techniques and teaching methodology for over twenty years. Richard is the author (with Scott Burr) of Worth Defending: How Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Saved My Life, a captivating, novelistic page-turner, that never feels like a chore to read, despite plunging deep into the profound effects that childhood wounds can have on a psyche, the origin and eradication of non-useful mental, emotional, linguistic and behavioral patterns, the fundamental question of how we maintain our health from acute and chronic threats, and man’s search for purpose and meaning in what he chooses to do in life. Richard still teaches Gracie Jiu-jitsu and practices alternative healing in Los Angeles, California.
Red belt son of Grandmaster Helio
Red belt Gracie Jiu-jitsu Grandmaster Relson Gracie is the second oldest son of Grandmaster Helio Gracie, the founder of Gracie Jiu-jitsu. Relson earned his black belt at the age of 23 and went 22 years undefeated as the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu National Champion. Relson is particularly known for his vast real-world experience and ability in street self defense. He has taught how to survive in the worst case scenarios to the U.S. Military, Secret Service, D.E.A., F.B.I., and local law enforcement agencies across the United States. He teamed up with Arnold Schwarzenegger beginning in 2000 to launch the Arnold-Gracie World Submission Championships in Columbus, Ohio. Relson also trained and coached his younger brother Royce Gracie in his victories in the Ultimate Fighting Championships.
Expert on the 19th century samurai revolution
Romulus Hillsborough is one of the world’s leading experts of the samurai revolution in the late 19th century that transformed Japan from a country of hundreds of feudal domains under the control of the Tokugawa Shogun, into a modern industrialized world power under the unifying rule of the Emperor. He lived in Japan for sixteen years, traveling to historical cities and towns around Japan where the samurai subjects of his books lived and died and where the revolution unfolded. While living in Japan, he worked as a writer for a popular weekly magazine in Tokyo and later as a contributing journalist to a number of other Japanese publications. He is the author of numerous books including Ryoma: Life of a Renaissance Samurai, the only biographical novel in English about Sakamoto Ryoma, the most charismatic leader of the samurai revolution; Samurai Revolution: The Dawn of Modern Japan Seen Through the Eyes of the Shogun's Last Samurai, a comprehensive history of the Meiji Restoration from the perspective of one of its most important men, Katsu Kaishu; and Samurai Assassins: 'Dark Murder' and the Meiji Restoration, 1853-1868, which focuses on the importance of assassination in the samurai revolution; and The Shogun's Last Samurai Corps: The Bloody Battles and Intrigues of the Shinsengumi, which tells the thrilling story of the Shinsengumi, the legendary corps of Samurai warriors tasked with keeping order in Kyoto during the final chaotic years of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Romulus’s books have been published in eight languages: English, Japanese, Spanish, Czech, Romanian, Indonesian, Polish, and Thai. Romulus was awarded a black belt in Shotokan Karate from Tsutomu Ohshima, a top student of Gichin Funakoshi, the founder of Shotokan Karate.
Five-time World Kickboxing Champ
Five-time world kickboxing champion Kathy Long is one of the few combat athletes in the world who has successfully competed in pro kickboxing (18-1), pro boxing (2-1), and pro MMA (2-0). Known for her incredible work ethic and ferocity in the ring, she has gone by numerous monikers including “Queen of Mean”, “Princess of Pain”, and “The Punisher”. She is a black belt in a number of martial arts, and a master of Kung Fu San Soo. Kathy has appeared in Walker Texas Ranger fighting alongside Chuck Norris, and in numerous movies, including as Michelle Pfieffer's Catwoman stunt double in Batman Returns. Kathy was also a commentator for the very first Ultimate Fighting Championships. She has been inducted into both the Inside Kung Fu Hall of Fame and the Black Belt magazine Hall of Fame.
Japanese Sword Expert
Paul Martin, a former curator of Japanese swords at the British Museum in London, is one of the foremost non-Japanese specialists on Japanese swords. A three-time all England Karate champion, Paul began studying the Japanese sword with the renowned Victor Harris, the keeper of the department of Japanese Antiquities at the British Museum. Victor was a direct student of Kanzan Sato, one of Japan’s foremost sword experts, and was the first ever translator of Miyamoto Musashi’s A Book of Five Rings. After his tutelage under Victor Harris, Paul Martin moved permanently to Japan to dedicate himself completely to the study of all aspects of the Japanese sword. He studied swords at Japan’s many museums, shrines, and the workshops of eminent swordsmiths and polishers. He studied the art of oshigata, a method of drawing a sword to record and document it before the advent of photography, from a curator at Atsuta shrine in Nagoya and a sword specialist from the Tokyo National Museum. Paul is acknowledged by the Japanese government as an expert in his field, is a trustee of The Foundation of Japanese Sword Culture for the Purpose of Public Interest (NBSK), and is the first Samurai Spirit Tourism ambassador for the Tohoku region. Paul has provided translations for all of the major sword organizations in Japan. He is also a high-level rank holder in both the martial arts of Iaido (drawing and cutting with a sword), and Kendo (Japanese fencing).
Highlander Star and Sword Fight Choreographer
Adrian Paul, best known for his role as the immortal swordsman Duncan MacLeod in the series Highlander, has performed and choreographed hundreds of sword fights and action sequences during an entertainment career in television and film that has spanned 35 years. In addition to his sword training, Adrian has been a student of Hung Gar and Shaolin Kung Fu for over 25 years. In 1997 Adrian founded the charity The PEACE Fund (Protect, Educate, Aid Children Everywhere), which has helped improve the lives of children in the United States, Haiti, Thailand, Cambodia, Pakistan, Hungary and Romania. In June 2015 ran a sword fighting choreography workshop to raise funds for one of the countries that the PEACE Fund supports. The sword fighting event went so well that Adrian decided to test the idea at other similar events across the United States, leading to the launch of The Sword Experience in 2016, an event company centered around teaching sword choreography. The Sword Experience has raised funds for The Peace Fund at several events.
Jeet Kune Do Expert
Burton Richardson is one of the premiere Jeet Kune Do (JKD) instructors in the world. He began his JKD journey under JKD founder Bruce Lee’s students Guru Dan Inosanto and Sifu Richard Bustillo in 1979. He is now a full instructor in JKD, Jun Fan Kickboxing, and Filipino martial arts under Guru Dan, a full instructor in JKD Grappling under Bruce Lee student Sifu Larry Hartsell, an instructor in Thai boxing under Master Chai Sirisute, Guro in Penjak Silat under Pendekar Paul De Thouars, and an instructor in Kali Ilustrismo under Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo. He is also a member of the Dog Brothers stick fighting tribe. Burton is an inveterate researcher of various martial cultures. He has traveled to China to study sanshou, Japan to study shootfighting, Brazil to study Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, France to study savate, the Philippines to study kali, and South Africa to study Zulu stick and spear fighting. He was elected self defense instructor of the year by Black Belt magazine and inducted into their Hall of Fame.
Thai Fighting Arts Expert
Kru Pedro Solana is the founder of Muay Thai Sangha, a system of self defense and personal development based largely on ancient Thai fighting arts. In 1998 after a decade of training in Muay Thai Boxing and becoming the United States Muay Thai Professional Middleweight Champion, Pedro embarked on a mission to study under the great martial arts masters of Thailand. After arriving in Thailand, he traveled the country, training at 45 Muay Thai Boxing camps and Thai sword fighting schools. He also successfully fought in Muay Thai Boxing bouts throughout Thailand, achieving an undefeated record. In 2003 he opened a school of Thai fighting arts in Chiang Mai, Thailand, and successfully trained numerous fighters for Muay Thai competition. In later years, Pedro continued his martial arts journey on expeditions outside of Thailand, traveling to Cambodia and Indonesia in 2008 to study Bokator and Silat, South India in 2009 to study Kalaripayattu martial arts and Ayurvedic healing, and Wudang, China in 2010 to study Five Elements Sound Healing and Qigong. Returning to Thailand, he incorporated all these experiences in his Muay Thai Sangha Fighting Arts system, which consists of striking (drawing from ancient Muay Thai, Muay Chaiya, Bokator, and Silat) grappling (drawing principles from Silat and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu), and weapons (which include his system called Sri Agastya Double Swords, which evolved from a mixture of two different styles from the city of Sri Ayutthaya, as well as staff and knife training). In addition to these external aspects of martial arts training, Muay Thai Sangha Fighting Arts practitioners engage in internal training, often in the waterfalls, caves and mountains near his Chiang Mai academy. This internal training is founded on the principles of Sacred Geometry, incorporates the theory of the Five Elements, and utilizes both Warrior Yoga and meditation. Before his sojourn to Thailand, Pedro moved from Spain to Atlanta, Georgia, USA, and earned a black belt in Wing Chun Kung Fu under Sifu Francis Fong, and successfully competed in numerous combat sports. He has trained the Atlanta police, as well as the U.N. Peace Keeping Forces, and the Sri Lankan Military. He is the author of three books: Fighting Strategies of Muay Thai, Krabi-Krabong: Thailand’s Art of Weapons Fighting, and Path of the Spiritual Warrior: Life and Teachings of Muay Thai Fighter Pedro Solana (co-author).