HERE ARE JUST A FEW "SPIRIT STORIES" ALONG MASTER CLARKE'S JOURNEY OF LIFE, THAT MAY GIVE YOU A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO "THE SPIRIT OF THE MAN" . . .
Born in the spring on April 6 (an Aries). My mother was a famous Reverend – a woman of God. She was a Reverend in the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church. She prioritized education and taught me how to set goals and reach them. She taught me the example of “smart” work vs. “hard” work.
My parents divorced when I was around 6 years old, and I was primarily raised by my father. However, my mother was nearby, so I still had both parents in my life. My first introduction to life in the “outside world” was through my sister Pam (I couldn’t go outside unless my sister was with me, so I had a lot of “first exposures to life” with her). She has always been there for me and still to this day is my best friend. My brothers Kenny, Doug, and Marcus, through their lives, have watched me develop as a man, as a brother, and as a father through my Tai Chi.
I am the son of my father - a Garvey-ite (Captain Messiah Marcus Garvey of Jamaica, who was one of the forefathers in the movement of “repatriation is a must”). My father was a believer in the Black Star Liner, the ship returning us back to the motherland of Africa. I was born under the roots of Marcus Garvey and Haile Selassie (Rastafari). In my culture, my connection to Africa will play a big part in my life and lead me on a path to enlightenment and consciousness. And the tough neighborhood I grew up in will play a significant role in why I became a fighter, a martial artist, and a teacher/leader/mentor for other kids coming from that same environment.
After the military, I was living a spiritual Rasta life as an adult, but little did I know, God had an even greater spiritual experience in store for me in the future. On the night of January 15, 1983, I had a dream. I woke up on the 16th with a vision of clarity regarding my true life destination. On that day, I woke up in a trance and the Spirit of Creation told me to go into the park and to take a knife and fire with me. I went into the park as instructed and the Spirit told me to start a fire and then cut my dreads off, and then throw the dreads into the fire. It was the whitest of white smoke I had ever seen and I was lost in the drunkenness of Spirit.
The Spirit voice called to me and asked me – “what is it you want to do with your life?” I initially said “music” because it is one of my passions and talents. But the Spirit was clear that music was not my destiny. Instead, the Spirit said – “how about your martial arts?” I immediately responded: “That’s it!!! – I’m going to be the best martial artist in the world.” My path and destiny was finally clear.
What makes this moment even more meaningful and powerful is that January 15 is the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. Today, Dr. King is definitely one of my heroes and I believe that the same universal spirit that is within all of us, of vision, dream, and change, also called out to me on that day. Dr. King said “I have a dream” and I also had one (literally)! In this way, I was told that there was no one like me and that I was needed. That’s when my martial arts teaching career started.
While studying at a university in Taiwan, I met a student named John Chen – a Chinese man from Taiwan. He enjoyed speaking with English-speaking foreigners and practicing his English. One day, while sitting together on a fountain, a mosquito landed on my arm. John Chen says: “Watch that mosquito, don’t let it bite you, those things can carry malaria.” I responded: “Oh, this mosquito is ok. The aura of my body would not let it land on me if it wasn’t ok.”
Then we began a discussion of nature. I asked him: “Do you eat chicken or fish or other animals?” He responded “Yes”. I then said, “Well, think of those animals and the fact that they sacrifice themselves so that we may live. Why wouldn’t I share a small amount of blood for this tiny creature that needs so little for it to live? How could I be so selfish as to deny it that small sacrifice from me?” I spoke more about the balance of nature and how everything ultimately shares with each other.
As I was speaking, John Chen became very emotional to the point of tears. He suddenly became very serious, intense, intrigued, asking: “Where did you learn this philosophy about nature? Who taught you? My response: “I learned from Master Jah.” “Oh”, he says, “and where is he, this Master Jah?” I responded: “He’s all over.” John Chen may have thought I was speaking of a human being, but of course I was referring to God/Spirit.
Then he says: “You must meet my master.” I said, “Really? Who is your master?” He told me that his master was Liu Yun Chiao (one of the most famous masters of all time, founder of the Wu Tan school, and a treasure to Taiwan’s government) and my jaw dropped – I couldn’t believe it! Many martial artists sought to meet Liu Yun Chiao during that time. And, here I was, about to meet him because of a circumstantial conversation about a mosquito! Destiny indeed!
John Chen then called his teacher – Master Liu, the Master of Wu Tan, who happened to be the teacher of Adam Hsu (whose martial arts I greatly respected from my encounters with him at a tournament in 1986). John Chen told his teacher about me and our mosquito conversation and Master Liu says “Bring him to me.” So we took a 4 hour train ride from Kao Hsiung, in the south, to Taipei, in the north, to meet his master.
At our first meeting, Liu Yun Chiao informed me that I was the first black man to be invited into his temple. He asked me: “How long you play Wushu?” I told him 6 months. He laughed because he knew the truth was longer than 6 months, but he recognized that I was being humble out of respect, because I realized I really didn’t know anything in his presence. So, he liked my answer. (After all, many Americans speak with pride and say they have been practicing 80-90 years, and they can’t even do a split!)
He asked me about my education, and I told him about my military schooling and my medical specialties in pediatrics and microbiology. He asked me about my philosophies of life and was evidently impressed by some things I said. After every answer, he would say “hen hao”, which means “very good”. We had tea together and met for a long time. Then, at the end of the meeting, he says: “I have 3 offers for you: 1) you can be the first black man to study at Wu Tan; or 2) you can have the freedom to research our system at Wu Tan; or 3) you can be my friend. So, which do you choose?” I chose to be his friend. And his response was “hen hao” – very good.
Meeting Liu Yun Chiao was the honor of a lifetime. Spending time with him elevated my martial arts – he said everything I needed to hear, and every question was answered. We spent months together. He told lots of stories. Through my friendship with him – talking, sharing, asking questions – I learned so much. He told me about Yin Fu – a name synonymous with Bagua. I think he liked the fact that I wanted to be his friend and not just his student/disciple. I treated him like a human being, while still respecting him as a master. We had a very personable relationship and he is one of the greatest masters I have ever met in my lifetime.