IR Master Juan Suarez

Country : Dominican Republic


Memories of my time as an athlete and martial artist 1967-2021:

I was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic in 1956. As a small skinny kid of only 9 or 10 years old, I remember my father clearing the backyard of our house in order to make a large play space for my brother and I. In his youth, my father trained in and practiced boxing. He assembled a homemade heavy bag to punch and trained by moving around it in the backyard too. As he trained in the backyard my father started giving my brother and me tips on boxing. Our backyard became such a dynamic training space that members of the military took notice of it. Unknowingly, my father had built the next military training grounds for a small group of soldiers of our island. They asked him permission to use the space for training purposes. From 1967 to 1968, I observed a group of special force soldiers conduct military combat trainings in my backyard. This group of men were called “Los Hombres Ranas”. This was the first time I had ever seen combat of this kind. I was enraptured by the artistry and technique of their fighting style. I remember the voices of the foreign combat specialists who came to train these men, they spoke a European language that I could not quite comprehend. I was only sure it was not Spanish. Day after day I would disregard my father’s request to go back inside and do chores and homework. Instead, I would observe what was happening in my backyard in awe, wanting very much to train myself. The thrill of watching these soldiers train in what they referred to as self-defense, “Lucha Cuerpo a Cuerpo” or Empty Hand Combat inspired me to onto the lifelong pursuit of all combat sports and the Martial Arts.

In the early 1970’s, there was a spike in the interest of Martial Arts in the Dominican Republic. In response to its popularity, many people opened small backyard Martial Arts schools and clubs. Two of those people were my esteemed instructors when I lived in San Pedro de Macoris. The first was Mr. Victor Mota Santil or “Victor Karate”. He was a student of GM: Marcos Wilamo and GM: Ramon Smith. My second instructor was Mr. Gilberto Santana: “El Twin”. He trained and practiced in the art of Karate Do. Mr. Santil and Mr. Santana were the two most popular Instructors in San Pedro de Macoris at the time and they were instrumental in my journey of becoming a martial artist.

In 1972 I Started studying and practicing Korean Karate (Tae Kwon – Do) under the guidance of my Instructor Mr. Victor Mota Santil. My father also invited Mr. Gilberto Santana to our backyard from time to time for private instruction and classes for me and my brother. In 1974 I moved to New York City where I continued my Martial Arts training and study. I participated in some of the most popular local tournaments as a competitor, timekeeper, score keeper and corner judge. My open mind about other forms of martial arts and willingness to give a helping hand at tournaments opened a lot of doors. I was able to make a lot of good friends who were involved in the training and study of martial arts. This gave me the opportunity to train and be exposed to arts such as basic Judo, Jiu-Jitsu, Karate and kung Fu.

From July 1976 to March 1979, I traveled between the United States and the Dominican Republic to train in kick boxing and to promote the opening of my Instructor Mr. Victor Mota Santil’s first official Sport Karate School in San Pedro de Macoris. It was call Academia De Karate Smith in honor of our Grand Master Ramon Smith. Upon returning to New York City I started one of my most rigorous training periods in the martial arts under the guidance of Master Ramon Smith. At this time, Master Ramon Smith was regarded as one of the best models of martial arts training and accomplishment in the Dominican Republic.

During the Spring of 1982 while studying at Hostos Community College I reunited with Professor: Leonidas Lopez and with a former classmate and sparring partner Master Leandro Dominguez. At the time, Master Leonidas Lopez and Master Leandro Dominguez were working together to create and establish the Hostos Community College Karate Club. I joined the club and was selected to be on the board as treasurer for two terms. I consider Master Leonidas Lopez and Master Leandro Dominguez true teachers and mentors to me in the art of Tae Kwon-Do. Under their guidance I obtained my Black Belt in Traditional TKD – ITF, WT – Olympic Style TKD and the Jhoon Rhee System from Great Grand Master Jhoon Goo Rhee on December 17, 1987. Our Club was later regarded as the First Studio in an Educational Institution in New York under The World Martial Arts Congress for Education created by our Great Grand Master Jhoon Goo Rhee.

I was the Referee Chairperson of the Dominican Taekwondo Association in the U.S.A. and the Referee Vice-Chairperson in the New York State Taekwondo Association. I continue to be a Martial Arts enthusiast and a combat sport lover. I am continually training and engaging in other aspects of the martial arts to give back to its community of athletes and competitors. Presently, I was promoted by The World Taekwondo as a 2nd class International Referee from the Dominican Republic. I have also been recognized as a Class A Referee in the USAT Taekwondo governing body in the U.S.A. , the AAU, the Dominican Taekwondo Association in the USA, NASKA and KRANE.

Below is a list of some of the aforementioned events I participated in as a competitor, corner judge, score keeper and timekeeper:

S. Henry Cho’s All – American Open Championships, Joyce Santamaria’s Empire State Karate Championships, Lee Ireland’s Twin Towers Martial Arts Championships, Tom Festa ’Greater Metro Nationals Karate Championships, Jhoon Rhee Intramurals & Internationals Championships, U.S. Capitol Classics Championships, Don Rodriguez & Tony Cogliandro’s Martial Arts Championships, Grand Master Lamar Thornton’s Budweiser Harlem Karate Championships, Archie Ruland & Mr. Lau’s Brooklyn Bishop High School Ying Yip Cup Martial Arts Championships, David Washington’s N.Y.C. Open Karate – Do, Tae kwon-Do & Kung-Fu Championships, Ortiz & Dominguez Martial Art’s Battle of America Championships.

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