Martial arts

The Black Dragon Society

The Japanese Black Dragon Fighting Society was founded in 1901 by Uchida Ryohei who was descended from the Genyōsha. Uchida was a student of Jigaro Kano (founder of Judo) and follower of the criminal organization Genyōsha founded by Mitsuru Toyama.The Japanese Black Dragon Society name is derived from the Amur River called Heilongjiang or “Black Dragon River” in Chinese read as Kokuryū-kō in Japanese.

The title “Black Dragon Fighting Society” is also a designated term of honor bestowed upon all those linked by no-holds-barred mixed martial arts fights, initially,  sponsored by Japanese. Black Dragon Society in Japan at the turn of the 20th Century. The culmination of both western and eastern cultural fight promoters working together in the West, Russia, Korea, Manchuria, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, and China, in 1900’s, gave rise to an unofficial union dubbed the “International Fighting Art Association, est. 1901.

The Black Dragon Senzo Tanaka is renown throughout the inner circle of martial arts for putting an end to the Hou Yuanjia fighting dynasty whereby the event name is transformed from “San Soo” to “The Kumite.” Its prior historical origins can be traced back to Mongolian nomadic tribes of Genghis Khan then known as “Bandizo” and before that to the ancient Greeks, then known as Pancrantium. In theory, spread through the conquest of Asia by the Macedonian King, “Alexander The Great.”

The Kumite is a secret society. Yet, it is so well known amongst Asian Martial masters anyone not familiar with its historical legacy is literally labeled “Offspring of Turtles.” Today, this is a KaJuKenBo tradition, where I personally watched the legendary Bloodsport fighter, my KaJukenBo brother Frank Dux, do it for real. So have a lot off people in the IFAA Official Black Dragon Fighting Society”  – Grandmaster, Ron Pierce.

The American Branch of the most ancient and honorable Black Dragon Fighting Society was founded by the late Count Juan Raphael Dante and opened to public membership in 1968.


In Chicago 1969, there emerged the American rendition of the Black Dragon Fighting Society, as founded by John Keehan (AKA Count Rafael Dante) who was co-founder and mid-west director of the United States Karate Association (USKA) until 1962.


This logo, the Running Dragon, looking back on his heritage and training, is the official symbol of our martial arts fraternity.

Like a WWF wrestler living a role by which to build fan base, John Keehan changed his name to Count Dante. Explaining this occurred as a result of his parents fled Spain during the Spanish Civil War. They changed their names and obscured their noble heritage in order to effectively hide in America. All the while, Keehan knowing the surname Dante is in fact of Italian origin. Keehan having taken the name (Count) Dantès from the protagonist of Dumas’ 1844 The Count of Monte Cristo , as Keehan saw his role as avenging the wrongs being committed against him and minorities at the height of the civil rights movement. Faced by martial mystics he declared himself a voodoo priest, by which to promote himself.


Fighting Society membership card because all are welcome to study and feel they had a right to belong. These comic book ads account for much of Count Dante’s lasting notoriety in pop culture. They read:


Yes, this is the DEADLIEST and most TERRIFYING fighting art known to man—and WITHOUT EQUAL. Its MAIMING, MUTILATING, DISFIGURING, PARALYZING and CRIPPLING techniques are known by only a few people in the world. An expert at DIM MAK could easily kill many Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, Aikido, and Gung Fu experts at one time with only finger-tip pressure using his murderous POISON HAND WEAPONS. Instructing you step by step thru each move in this manual is none other than COUNT DANTE—“THE DEADLIEST MAN WHO EVER LIVED” (THE CROWN PRINCE OF DEATH).

In Chicago, allegedly under the auspices of former Black Dragon Society members, like Takahashi, John Keehan, who had participated in Kokuryukai style full contact Kumite returned from Asia to promote the first open to the public full-contact Kumite Bloodsport style mixed martial arts tournament held at the University of Chicago, on July 28, 1963. Many other such tournaments were hosted by him during the 1960s, pairing practitioners of different styles against one another in these bare-knuckle full contact events.


Keehan’s early tournaments attracted a host of martial-arts luminaries—like Ed Parker, Jhoon Rhee, and a pre-Enter the Dragon Bruce Lee—as well as new students. James Jones, a 66-year-old retiree now living in Hazel Crest, signed on at Keehan’s Rush Street school the day after he attended the U. of C. event. He studied with Keehan for three years and remembers him as an ideal instructor. “John was a person who focused on basics and fundamentals,” he says. “He had excellent form and techniques.” He also says that Keehan was one of the few men who could side kick or punch a brick in half, though at one event it took three strikes and Keehan wound up breaking five bones in his hand. Still, he showed up at the dojo the next day, his hand in a cast.


But Keehan also had an arrogant streak. “John was the type of person who enjoyed attention and being in the limelight,” Jones says. “‘If you’re talking about me, then you know about me.’ I thought that was a weakness: ‘What can I do for myself instead of the art?’” Arthur D. Rapkin, a Milwaukee-area acupuncturist who studied under Keehan from 1965 to 1971, recalls Keehan’s “chronic” arguing with other karate schools. His ideas for tournaments were the biggest problem. Unlike most other teachers, Keehan advocated Bloodsport Kumite mixed martial art full-contact matches—no safety equipment, no pulled punches.

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Trias later said that Keehan “was given too much power too young and too fast,” and in his mid-20s the future Count Dante did seem to start drifting off course. On July 22, 1965, Keehan and Doug Dwyer, a longtime friend and fellow instructor, were arrested after a drunken attempt to blow out a window at Gene Wyka’s school with a dynamite cap. After they were apprehended, Dwyer was charged with four traffic violations; Keehan was charged with attempted arson, possession of explosives, and resisting arrest. He got two years’ probation.

Around the same time Keehan bought a lion cub—a legal, if uncommon, practice before the 1969 Illinois Dangerous Animals Act—which he kept at his dojo on Ashland and walked around town like a dog. (He later sold it to the Lions Club of Quincy, Illinois.) In the summer of 1967 he promoted an audacious exhibition in which, as part of a tournament at Medinah Temple, a bull would be killed with a single blow. Keehan purchased a bull from the stockyards and drove it around town on the back of a flatbed truck festooned with signs announcing the event. He wouldn’t perform the deed himself: he’d picked Arthur Rapkin, then a 19-year-old student, for the task.


In San Francisco, Bob Calhoun leads a band called Count Dante & the Black Dragon Fighting Society. Originally knowing little about Keehan outside of the comic-book ads, he invented an outsize stage persona that’s part punk, part karate-ka, part motivational speaker, and wears leopard-print kimonos onstage. “What was funny was how much my portrayal turned out to be like the real Keehan in the first place,” he says.


A common myth promoted on glorified and unreliable message boards like Wikipedia and internet is this currently under the sole directorship of a personally chosen protégé and successor to Keehan, William V. Aguiar of Fall River, Mass. Aguiar died in January, 2005. The fact is according to several Chicago BDFS original members, due to the obstacle of distance between them William V. Aguiar received minimal training by Keehan and longtime BDFS members. However, he was granted use of the BDFS name and provided a key to Keehan’s office able to access all his materials in order to assist in booking BDFS seminars and tournaments in the 1970’s.

Claims of sole proprietary right as to determine who is a “Black Dragon” in terms of martial arts and trademark is ludicrous when one takes into account, according to Chinese folklore, in the year 520 A.D. a Buddhist monk named Bodhiharma (Da Mo to the Chinese) entered China bringing a new form of Buddhism called Ch’an (Zen in Japanese). He ended up at a Buddhist


As time passed, Kung-fu styles spread throughout China. In the year 714 A.D. legend has it that the Black Dragon style of Kung-fu was developed at the temple in Kwangtung, China by a man named Wu Chen Pai. He is referred to as Si Jo which means founder. He named his style Sillum Wu Hok Lung. Sillum is Cantonese for Shaolin, Wu is his family name, and Hok Lung is Cantonesd for black dragon. In Mandarin it is Shaolin Wu Hei Long. At the temple in Fukien province a style had developed known as Five Animal Style. Black Dragon was a “cousin” style to this also using the animal styles of dragon, tiger, crane, snake, and leopard. Later, Black Dragon added eagle, monkey, and praying mantis as well as a drunken form, today.


The Black Dragon style is mostly known for its trapping and infighting preference. Although kicks are used, it is primarily a close range style. It also contains drills such as rolling hands, sticking hands, and push hands designed to increase sensitivity to an opponent’s movement thereby improving fighting skill.

The dragon is symbolic of the warrior’s inner spirit, and since inner growth is one of martial art goals, it became representative of some styles. The eight animals allow any body type or mindset to find a fighting style that suits them while learning from and growing through study of the others.



The symbolism of the dragon, its name and origins are multi-cultural as well as thousands of years old. In the western culture the dragon symbolizes evil and has to be fought while contrarily the eastern culture’s dragon has its roots in the Chinese mythology; was said to live in the skies and had the ability to bring rain to an agricultural society. Notwithstanding, in terms of Asian martial arts the meaning of a Dragon is, generally, defined and used by the IFAA Official BDFS as follows:

The symbolism of the dragon, its name and origins are multi-cultural as well as thousands of years old. In the western culture the dragon symbolizes evil and has to be fought while contrarily the eastern culture’s dragon has its roots in the Chinese mythology; was said to live in the skies and had the ability to bring rain to an agricultural society. Notwithstanding, in terms of Asian martial arts the meaning of a Dragon is, generally, defined and used by the IFAA Official BDFS as follows:


Internal Body of the Dragon: A Family Within
The Vital and Major Force in Life.

The Sea, the Breath of Life, the Tradition, and the Family.

Dragon’s Lower Legs – Parents
The Head of and the Strength of the Family.

The Mother and the Father Hold and Mold the Family Together.

To walk around the world to share with the Family the Creation of Mankind.

The roots of the Family.

Dragon’s Upper Legs – Children
The child that is part of the children that will reach out to others.

The youngest, the young and the new.

The one that will standout.

The one who is mischievous and a rascal.

The Dragon’s Bones & Claws
Tools to Work with and Weapons for Self Defense.

The Dragon’s Spine – Ancestral Legacy
The Elders, the Genesis, the Beginning, the Strength, the Bone that stands tall and strong as the backbone of the Family’s Wisdom.

The Dragon’s Scales and Strong Skin
The People around the world regardless of race or color.

The Many Martial Systems around the world,

And the Many Traditions and Styles.

The Dragon’s Tail

The instinct to Protect and Secure the Home Area.

The Dragon’s Globe It Grasps
Unity of Mankind, Balanced Living and Integral Moral Conduct,
(Study war to ensure peace)

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