Billy J. Burke
Article by Chuck Hardin.
Billy J. Burke is a professional actor, radio show host, and martial arts instructor in California. He may be an instructor at United BJJ, but that is not confirmed at this writing. He claims prior Special Forces service, including Delta Force, and he offers support for Frank Dux's claims of training Special Forces soldiers. These claims are false. Burke never served in the military in any capacity. Additionally, he has claimed the rank of fourth-degree black belt in judo, and has claimed to teach judo in the United States; he has no registered judo rank in the US, and any students he promoted will not have their ranks recognized until they test under a legitimate judo instructor.
Burke came to Bullshido's attention in November 2006, when member Stunt-Thug posted a thread raising questions about Burke's claims of prior military service. At that time, Burke was an instructor at House of Champions Academy of Martial Arts in Van Nuys, California. His instructor biography claimed:
In 1979 Billy Burke entered the army and became a special forces soldier, a Green Beret. He trained with the legendary Michael Echanis in knife fighting and hand to hand combat. Billy eventually became the hand to hand combat instructor for many special forces teams including Being personally selected to work with Delta force by Col. Charlie Beckweth. Billy has took part in Special forces missions that can be mentioned, in El salvador, Panama, Grenada, Maylasia and the Persian Gulf.
This was a notable claim with several troubling features. It was unlikely that anyone who worked with Delta Force during that era would not know how to spell the name of its creator, Colonel Charles Beckwith. It contained the allusions to secret missions in exotic locales that are common to many false claims of service in the Special Forces. Also, hand-to-hand combat is not typically emphasized in Special Forces training.
It emerged that Burke had made other claims of service as well. In his publicity biography for the movie Prayer Warrior, Burke escalated his claims from having worked with Delta Force to having been a member of Delta Force, and to have been "an A.O.T.(advanced operator training) instructor for the Navy SEALS".
Burke has also starred in a video for TRS Direct, the proud publishers of James Painter, Dan Webre, Ray Ellingsen, and other questionable individuals. In his video he is wearing dog tags and a "high-and-tight" haircut characteristic of US Army and Marine personnel. The video promises to teach the viewer "the most ADVANCED 'quick learn' fighting techniques he teaches top Spec Op soldiers".
Most distressingly, Burke gave an interview in which he bolstered Frank Dux's claims of training the Special Forces in covert operations, wearing fatigues and a black beret with the red flash of the US 7th Special Forces Group:
Also having been a Special Forces soldier for over 20 years, Frank Dux wrote one of the SpecWar manuals that introduces covert activities. We used to call it, in the Special Forces, the "Frank Dux Black Manual", because he teaches about death, knife fighting, and things that nobody at that point had written about. And Frank Dux wrote that SpecWar manual.
With Frank Dux...he's one of the best internationally known special operations instructors in the world. Be it law enforcement, Navy SEALs...I mean, he wrote the SpecWar manual for the Navy SEALs soldiers. Now, I taught special operations soldiers all around the world, and I independently on this side of the world was teaching Special Forces soldiers and the Navy SEALs, and it just so happens we were both teaching the same things, which proves that it's the real deal.
These escalating claims were of interest to Bullshido members, who decided to investigate Burke's military background. We contacted the POW Network, a frequent ally of Bullshido and experts in finding out the truth behind claims of military service.
What The Records Show
After all of these dramatic claims, it came as something of an anticlimax when the National Personnel Records Service responded to the POW Network's request for records. There were none.
Burke has never served in the military at all under the legal name "Billy J. Burke" or "William J. Burke". If he served under another name and then legally changed his name, Bullshido would like to see court records confirming this name change.
Other Problems with Burke's Story
Burke's claim to be a member of Delta Force was refuted by many ex-Delta members. Eric Haney, author of Inside Delta Force and a Delta member from 1978 until 1986, had never heard of Burke. Mel Wick, president of Quick Services and a member of Delta from 1977 until 1993, was even more emphatic:
Mr. Burke never was in Delta Force! I know for a fact Col. Beckwith never selected him to work with Delta... If he entered the army in 1979 by the time he got through all the training required to be in Special Force, let alone the additional requirements for Delta, Beckwith would have already left Delta. We had our own "unarmed combat" instructors and Billy was NOT one of them.
Furthermore, Burke's apparent ignorance of military insignia was apparent to expert observers. Eric Haney observed: "Anyone with an Army background would know that a 7th S.F. Group flash worn on a black beret isn't kosher."
Burke's claim of training SEALs was also incredible. According to Steve Robinson, ex-SEAL and author of No Guts, No Glory:
SEALs train their own, and while some high level command type might send out some feelers for an 'expert' in martial arts to provide information that can boost the training program in some way, they won't bring in the outsider to train the guys. Normally they'd send a few guys to the trainer, get them proficient in whatever 'moves' or 'techniques' they want to work with, then bring them back and the SEALs will train other SEALs.
Let me put it this way... BURKE is NOT listed in the SEAL Database, so he's definitely not a SEAL. I've never heard of "AOT" as he describes it, and the SEALs always train their own... rather than depend on outsiders/civilians who might be under contract but are not subject to rigid military command and control.
There is no such thing as "Advanced Operator Training". Following BUD/S there is a requirement for supplemental training before a man actually receives his SEAL credentials. Back in my day it was called "Cadre Training" (because it was taught by a cadre of SEAL Team ONE combat veterans). That course had two portions... SEAL Basic Indoctrination (SBI) and SEAL Advanced Training (SAT). That same course was later renamed SEAL Tactical Training (STT). Later the responsibility for that supplemental training was removed from the actual SEAL Teams and moved to the BUD/S compound, and men now have to complete it BEFORE going to a SEAL Team. That supplemental course has once more been renamed and is now called SEAL Qualification Training (SQT).
You can see the progression of names, and the similarity to BURKE's claimed "AOT" or "Advanced Operator Training", but again I have no recollection of the supplemental training ever being called by that name.
There is a chance that the name he is offering is some kind of supplemental training used at DEVGRU, but no matter what training the man has, outsiders don't get into DEVGRU and become instructors. DEVGRU has its own instructors and its own way of doing things, and they do NOT let outsiders get a good look at what's going on inside their training regimen... primarily because of Operational Security (OPSEC).
It is obvious, given these basic errors, that Burke is not only lying about service in the Special Forces, but has no real knowledge of the military.
Stunt-Thug later contacted the investigators, identifying himself as stuntman and martial artist Charlie Parrish. He told us:
I was introduced to [Burke] by the stunt woman he mentioned, Tina Mahler, who was fairly new to the business at the time. I was invited to bring some of my comrades down to House of Champions to have a meeting/audition for a military action film. Upon meeting and hearing Burke, in person, extolling the virtues of his "illustrious" military career, I realized that we were in the presence of a true artist of Bullshido. He even had written what he thought would pass as the address to Delta headquarters in marker on the side of his equipment bag. Further, he had a coffee table book of Special Forces that he claimed had his picture in it. The picture in question was a silohuette that could have been anybody. Throughout the course of the "audition" we witnessed more and more of this mans delusion as he tried to show special "tactics" that were so asinine as to defy description. Never were we told what the film was or who was in it. At the end of the evening, I decided to look into Burke's claims and found him to a fraud. A few weeks later, I received a call for work from another coordinator, one that I consider a friend and respect greatly. It wasn't until we got to set and I saw Jakov Bressler that I realized that this was the film of which Burke had spoken. We had been on set for several hours when Burke arrived. He immediately accused me of "Stealing" the show from him. It was at that point that I confronted him about his claims. I did so quietly and away from the other members of the stunt crew, so as to spare him any more embarasment. In hindsight, I shouldn't have bothered. But I let him know, in no uncertain terms, that I would not tolerate any more lies about his military service. I even offered to meet him in the wood line to clear up doubts about his martial arts prowess. He declined and left the set in a huff.
Over the course of those weeks, I spoke with members of the stunt community and members of the Special Forces Unit that he claimed to still be attached to. All of those conversations confirmed one thing: Burke is a liar. The only truth I was able to find was that he did, indeed, work for a radio station.
Burke has therefore been making false Delta Force claims for years, and has gone to a lot of effort to support this imposture. Unfortunately for him, his attempts have failed whenever knowledgeable veterans examine the claims.
Burke's Reaction to the Investigation
I sent several emails to Burke's publicly advertised address. I asked about his military background. At first he denied ever having served, then blamed Hollywood hype when I asked him about the Prayer Warrior biography. He stopped responding by email as I continued to present links to his other claims of military service on the Web, but he did pull me into a Google Talk chat session to say that "inquisitions are usually set ups or traps. i've dressed as a ninja in hollywood...but not a ninja."
When we asked specific questions about the truth of his biographical claims, Burke sent an email giving his side of the story. We provide this link in an effort to give him a chance to present his case.
Burke protested his treatment in the Bullshido forum discussion of his claims, especially the remarks about his difficulty in speaking as a child, and his martial arts instruction claims. (Bullshido has not investigated his martial arts credentials and takes no position on his speech during childhood; the latter is especially irrelevant to the investigation.)
Burke conceded the inaccuracy of his biography on the House of Champions website, blaming it on an unnamed PR person who worked at the radio station he was on at the time. He did not explain the presence of these same claims, escalated further, in his biography for Prayer Warrior, a movie he described as "a spiritual commitment for [him]". If he was so committed to and involved in that movie, Bullshido would like to know why he allowed even more false claims to enter that biography.
Burke's most startling admission was in his statement about the Dux interview:
I am amazed that I am the ONLY person that has a "Testimonial" for Frank Dux's Kumite promotion on the internet. WE ALL GOT PAID FOR IT. We read cue cards! Other people that did it for money, were martial artists like Peter "Sugarfoot" Cunningham, Benny "The Jet" Urquidez, Master Eric Lee, Grandmaster Douglas Wong, Grandmaster Bill Ryusaki, Don "The Dragon" Wilson and a couple of SEAL Team guys...celebrities like Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner...and a lot more did it for money.
If this is true, it is a stunning revelation about Dux's use of paid testimonials, especially Burke's, which appears to have been entirely false.
However, this explanation does not satisfy Bullshido regarding Burke's culpability. We are aware that other people gave testimonials for Dux, but we have not yet run across anyone who dressed up like a soldier and confirmed Frank Dux's military claims. Burke did so, and he did it under his real name, using Dux's real name. This was not just another acting gig, nor did it appear to be obvious fiction. This has the strong appearance of deliberate deception.
Judo Black Belt Claim
In Burke's email, he claimed:
As far as martial arts credentials, I was a Master Instructor at The House of Champions for over 11 years. ... I brought their current Judo program, much of their Karate program, including Asian weapons and forms when I started teaching there. ... At that time, a Forth Degree In Tang Soo Do under Master Myoung Kuk Park, a 4th dan in Shotokan and Judo under Sensei Masunaga in Tokyo Japan, Yokota AFB. At NO TIME was there any question about my knowledge in Martial Arts in the 11 years I taught at The House of Champions.
This claim was interesting to Bullshido, since judo ranks are particularly checkable, and if an instructor is not properly credentialed, his students may not possess legitimate judo rank. As Mark Tripp, a sixth-degree black belt in judo, prominent coach, and world-famous judo expert, says about judo accreditation in the United States:
Unlike other "martial arts" there is only one Judo. Yes, many people claim to have rank in "Judo," and there are many groups offering rank papers in "Judo," however, unless the group is the National Governing Body for Judo in that Country (called NGB from now on) they simply do not have the right to issue legitimate Judo rank. NGB's are created through the World Governing Body for Judo, which is the International Judo Federation (IJF for short). The IJF has a web site, and all the information is there.
However, the ONLY valid Judo rank, accepted by the IJF, for US citizens, must be issued by USJI, USJF, or USJA. A person with a legitimate black belt in Judo can teach and promote, but unless he registers your rank with one of those groups, YOUR rank is not valid to any of the legitimate groups or the IJF.
Claims that the IJF only regulates "sport judo" are simply not correct. There is only one Judo, and it is governed by the IJF, period.
In the United States, USA Judo (or USJI) is THE NGB for Judo. The United States Judo Federation and the United States Judo Association, are "class A" groups under USJI. This is unique in all the world, and would take a very long time to explain.
Each of these three NGB's denied any record of a dan rank issued to Burke:
Bullshido therefore concludes that Burke is not authorized to grant meaningful judo ranks in the US, and it is extremely unlikely that he ever held his claimed rank.
We have not yet received any response from Burke addressing these concerns.
The only public response we have seen at this writing is an alteration to the YouTube version of Burke's interview to eliminate the claim of twenty years of Special Forces service. This is not an admission of a prior lie, but it is an interesting redaction.
We invite Billy J. Burke to clear up these issues. He is welcome to respond to our inquiries either by replying to the emails we have already sent him, or to go to the Bullshido.net forum and respond in the appropriate discussion thread.
Billy J. Burke has claimed at various times to have been a Green Beret and a member of Delta Force, and has validated Frank Dux's claims of covert activity. Burke's claims are false. He has never served in the military. Furthermore, his claim of a fourth degree black belt in judo is unlikely and unverified, and his claim to have taught judo in the United States, if true, implies that he did so without any authority to grant meaningful ranks in that sport.
We thank Chuck and Mary Schantag of the POW Network, Steve Robinson, Eric Haney, Mel Wick, and Charlie Parrish for their valuable assistance with this investigation. We also thank member Larus marinus for his work in getting in touch with Charlie Parrish and getting his statement for this article.