Article by Eric Ward. Edited by Chuck Hardin.
- 1 Summary
- 2 How Sanders Came To The Attention Of Bullshido
- 3 Sanders' Military Claims
- 4 What The Records Show
- 5 Sanders' Response To The Investigation
- 6 Conclusion
- 7 Acknowledgments
Larry Sanders is Sijo (founder) of Nei Wai Chia Kung Fu. His school, Sanders Black Belt Academy, is located in Austin, Texas. Sanders makes many claims regarding his military service and martial arts background:
- He served in clandestine military operations in Northern Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. He also claimed to have seen combat in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War.
- He was a member of the National Rifle Team.
- He has earned a variety of black belts, including three 10th degree black belt rankings.
Public records show that Mr. Sanders never left the United States while serving in the military. His martial arts background is sketchy and difficult to verify outside of his associations with organizations which are known to be ranking mills.
How Sanders Came To The Attention Of Bullshido
Bullshido member Meex made a post on May 23, 2008 asking about Larry Sanders and his school:
"Dr. Larry Sanders Sijo Nei Wai Chia Kung Fu Soke Sessen Jutsu Aiki Ju jutsu"
If he's legit. . .I'd like to train with him.
How's that for a title?
This guy seems to be master of everything, and founder of Chinese & Japanese arts. . . http://www.sijo.org/aboutSijo.htm
yet is a daoist lecturer & master. . .
Anybody here train with him, that can give us a report? Even with his claimed 50 years of training, I have a hard time believing much of what's attributed to him is earned.
There are a lot of video courses by him:
From Martial Arts of the World
Sessen Jutsu Aiki Jujutsu - founded 1980 USA, Larry Sanders
"The style is based on techniques from Daito Ryu/Aiki Budo/Aibu Jitsu Ryu. The founder also founded Beikoku Bushikan Karate Jutsu & Nei Wai Chia Kung Fu"
* * *
Sanders made the following claims about his martial arts experience on his website:
These were provocative claims. Some were profoundly suspicious: founding two martial arts of totally different types, a tenth-degree black belt in another, and high rank in such ill-regarded disciplines as combat hapkido and chi kung. Others were meritorious, if true: high rank in judo and jeet kune do, significant background in Arnis and Savate. All in all, Bullshido members were curious, and Eric Ward (Bullshido member 7thSamurai) decided to interview Sanders in person.
- Nei Wai Chia Kung Fu -10th Degree Black Belt,Title Sijo (Founder)
- Sessen Jutsu Aiki Ju Jutsu - 10th Degree Black Belt, Title Shodai/Soke (Founder)
- Beikoku Bushikan Karate Jutsu -10th Degree Black Belt, Title Shodai/Soke
- Combat Hapkido - 8th Degree Black Belt
- Judo - 6th Degree Black Belt
- Aibu Jitsu Ryu Jiu Jitsu - 5th Degree Black Belt
- Jeet Kune Do - Full Master Instructor
- Other ranks & certification in Wing Chun, Hsing-I, Bagua, Tai Chi, Mizong, Chi Kung, Arnis, and Savate.
Sanders' Military Claims
Eric Ward visited Sanders at his place of business on October 29, 2008 at 6:50 PM. What follows is an excerpt of his account of his interview with Sanders.
Dr. Sanders arrived with his wife (who I later learned was a 5th degree black belt). I introduced myself to Dr. Sanders. Physically, he matches the image in the photos from his webpage. I explained that I was living in the area and that I was looking for a school to train at with my girlfriend.
He told me that he was formerly a member of the National Rifle Team. This coupled with his experience in martial arts and his ability to speak fluent Chinese made him a perfect fit for the Special Forces. He did not name a branch or unit. Apparently he operated in Cambodia, Laos, and Northern Vietnam…or in Dr. Sanders' words, "…everywhere we weren't." To me this implies that he was black ops and his missions weren't recorded or something.
At this point, the well rehearsed speech I had about my experience and reason for being there became unimportant. I was pretty much unable to get a word in edge-wise for the remainder of the discussion…so this is what happened:
…. Dr. Sanders has certificates from Dan Inosanto as well as photographs taken with Mr. Inosanto. I was not able to see any ranking certifications other than the one image, which does not appear to be signed by Inosanto.
I was told that Dr. Sanders has 52 years of martial arts experience. He stated that he was a military brat who began his training in Tokyo at the age of 8. His parents expected his training to be brief since he was apparently a problem child. Sanders advised that this did not happen and that he moved on to continue training in a number of different styles, all of which go into the background of the style he teaches at his school.
Dr. Sanders then told me about his martial arts training and his competition in China. He said that in China, he was allowed to do what he needed to do to win a fight. The matches took place on a raise platform above a crowd. Winners were decided by knocking an opponent out, breaking bones until the person couldn't continue, or knocking the opponent off of the platform and into the crowd. He said that in all his time, he fought 200 matches, with some in an unnamed professional karate league in the United States. Of those fights, he only had six losses, all of which occurred stateside, due to breaking bones of his opponents in the US.
These claims were, if anything, more provocative than those on Sanders' website. Ward took pictures of the certificates on the wall of the school and reported his findings to other Bullshido members. He also attempted to schedule a followup visit with Sanders to discuss his claims. He declined on various grounds, and eventually stopped responding to requests.
Georgette Oden, also known as Bullshido member jitschix, went on a followup visit a year later to confirm that Sanders was still making extraordinary claims about his military service. At that time, she reported the following:
He says he belonged to the Air Force (graduated high school at age 16, did a year of college, dropped out and went into the Air Force. Anyway.) While in the Air Force he trained Special Forces soldiers (I think he might have called them something else-- team members?) in the same martial art he was teaching that evening-- Nei Wai Chia (Nay-Wah-Shah)-- and people from the SAS in Britain and Israeli Army personnel. When I … probed for more information, he winked and said he couldn't say much more about that.
A further visit on November 4 elicited even more claims:
He served in Vietnam, Japan and Australia while in the Air Force. Was in Vietnam as a combat medic from 1968-1969.
I also asked what unit he was in and he said "Three of them." I said oh, which ones? because my dad was in Vietnam at that time and wouldn't it be funny? Would you write them down for me so I can ask him? And he said "yes, I will, later."
Was awarded a Purple Heart for being (!!!!) shot and stabbed by the Viet Cong. He was on patrol in the field, stationed in Cam Ranh Bay, and was about 100m away from the rest of his group "when a bunch of Viet Cong saw me and decided to take out the medic. Only they didn't want to shoot because that would bring the rest of my guys down on them, so they just ran up to me and stabbed me here [indicates lower right quadrant of abdomen] and tried to beat me to death, but it didn't work, so they had to shoot me, which did bring up the rest of my guys. In fact the knife was still sticking out of my belly and one of the guys wanted to pull it out, but I wouldn't let him, and he wanted the knife, but I didn't give it to him." I asked if he had it still and he said yes.
Sanders never provided the unit designations or proof of a Purple Heart to Oden, citing secrecy and privacy concerns.
These claims were extraordinary and Bullshido members decided to investigate them further.
What The Records Show
An FOIA request for the service records of James Larry Sanders shows that he enlisted in the United States Air Force on September 11, 1967. His place of entry shows as Dallas, Texas. The following image is a scan of his publicly available service records:
A complete listing of his duty stations as made available on his Chronological Listing of Service is as follows:
|Date||Duty Title||Organization and Station of Title|
|11-Sep-67||Rec Amn (Enl)||3707 EMTS, Lackland AFB, Texas|
|19-Dec-67||DDA Med Corpsman, Ward 5a||USAF Hosp, Carswell AFB, Texas|
|16-Jul-68||Med Corpsman, Male Medical Ward||USAF Hosp, Carswell AFB, Texas|
|1-Nov-68||Med Corpsman, Male Medical Ward||USAF Hosp, Carswell AFB, Texas|
|21-May-69||Med Spec, Male Surgical Ward||USAF Hosp, Carswell AFB, Texas|
|22-Dec-69||Med Serv, Spec, Emergency Serv||USAF Hosp, Carswell AFB, Texas|
|10-Sep-71||RAD SDN 203 ATM 39-10||USAF Hosp, Carswell AFB, Texas|
|11-Sep-71||ARPC (ORS-RA)||Denver, Colorado (Res)|
Sanders' records indicate that he was separated from service on September 10, 1973, which would have been the end of his reserve contract with the military. During his service, Mr. Sanders achieved the rank of Sergeant. His decorations and awards list the National Defense Service Medal and a Small Arms Expert Marksmanship Ribbon. He does not display any decorations for deployment to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, or Laos as directed for award by the Department of Defense
Bullshido concludes that Sanders grossly exaggerated the details of his military service.
National Rifle Team Membership
Sanders' claim of membership in "the National Rifle Team" is not supported by any entry on his own Air Force Service records. Similarly Sanders name is not to be found in a list of previous members of the Air Force Shooting Team.
On November 20, 2009, Samuel Browning interviewed Mary Beth Vorwek, the media contact for the U.S. Olympic Shooting Team. (This team was run by the NRA until 1995.) She indicated her organization has no record of Sanders belonging to any Olympic shooting team. Furthermore, her discussions with several different coaches and shooting medalists with decades of experience indicated no one in Olympic shooting had previously heard of Sanders. Seeking to clarify this matter, Samuel Browning sent Mr. Sanders two e-mails asking, in part, for more information about the specifics of "the National Rifle Team". When confronted with the evidence, Sanders instead stated that he was "a member of the ROTC rifle team while i [sic] was in high school." This is not, however, what he previously told Eric Ward.
Bullshido concludes that Sanders was never a member of any "National Rifle Team".
Martial Arts Background
Sanders displays a number of certificates and awards on the walls of his school. Without entering his school, one can see a cluster of certificates that show rank, affiliations, and recognition by several different individuals. Some are well known within the Bullshido community as either legitimate instructors or fraudulent rank swappers. Others appear to have been altered to exaggerate Sanders' actual credentials.
Kali - Jun Fan
The most easily visible certificate is an award from The Inosanto Academy. The award shows that Mr. Sanders was awarded the certificate for 1,000 hours of training in Kali - Jun Fan. Looking at the award, one can see discoloration around the blank section that holds the number of hours that Mr. Sanders trained.
We did not issue a certificates for 1,000 hours. This would be fraudulent. We issue certificates that may have been made out in the past for 10 Hours at a seminar. Other people have altered their seminar 10 hour certificates, which is why we now write in the words "Ten hours".Based on her statement that the Insanto Academy does not provide 1,000 hour certificates, Bullshido concludes that the original certificate was altered to amplify the credential.
If someone is claiming my husband has given him a certificate for 1,000 hours this is not legitimate.
When questioned about this subject by Samuel Browning, Sanders replied: "As for the cerificate [sic] from Dan Inosanto it has been removed and destroyed." This is an inadequate answer; destroying a forgery upon its detection is more characteristic of a coverup than of reformation.
Valadez Kenpo Association (VKA)
Mr. Sanders claims rank from the Valadez Kenpo Assocation. As Bullshido member diesel_tke learned, the VKA sells rank on eBay with no training requirement and no testing. Given that Valadez Kenpo rank is for sale on the web, its worth is zero, regardless of how Sanders may have obtained it.
Survival Solutions Jeet Kune Do Instructor
Sanders also posts a certificate from Survival Solutions, cerifying him as a Jeet Kune Do instructor:
Survival Solutions has been examined by Bullshido members, who concluded that it, like the VKA, is a martial arts diploma mill.
Judo black belt
As noted above, Sanders claims a sixth-degree black belt in judo. There are three organizations in the US through which one may hold such a rank: the United States Judo Association, the United States Judo Federation, and USA Judo. Each of these organizations confirmed that he is not a member.
Furthermore, the U.S. Kodokan Dan Comittee confirmed on behalf of the Kodokan that Sanders had been granted no 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.
Bullshido therefore concludes that Sanders' claimed judo rank is false. He had never studied judo to the point that he earned any legitimate Black Belt ranks with any of the standard governing organizations.
In his November 20, 2009 response to Browning. Sanders stated: "The Judo certificate was from Phil Porter and as I do not teach judo it has never been displayed in my school." This was a non-responsive answer, because Sanders had mentioned its existence on his website, and he did not indicate that he had ever earned even a 1st degree Black Belt in Judo with any nationally recognized Judo organization.
Sanders' Response To The Investigation
Eric Ward and John Palmer (Bullsido member jnp) made repeated attempts to meet with Sanders to discuss his claims. Sanders declined to do so once he was aware of their skepticism, especially about his military claims.
Georgette Oden also made repeated inquiries of Sanders by email. He had offered to tell her what units he had been assigned to in the military, but evaded her questions by email, ultimately declining her as a student at his school rather than make good on his offer.
Samuel Browning then sent Sanders two identical emails asking him to clarify multiple discrepancies in his claims. Sanders responded to some of Browning's points, but also stated: "As for my military service I will not discuss this period some 40 something years ago." Given Sanders' previous willingness to claim several combat-related experiences, his present refusal to comment is quite telling.
Bullshido invites Sanders to come clean with the truth about his martial arts background and military career.
Our investigation found the following about Sanders' claims:
- Sanders never served in clandestine military operations in Northern Vietnam, Laos, or Cambodia. He did not see combat, or serve in South Vietnam.
- Sanders was never a member of the National Rifle Team as he claimed to Eric Ward.
- Sanders' credentials from Dan Inosanto are forged to exaggerate his training.
- Sanders' credentials from Survival Solutions and the Valadez Kenpo Association are most likely purchased, and even if they were obtained in another manner, they reflect no real merit.
- Sanders' claim of a sixth-degree black belt in Judo comes from none of the standard Judo organizations. He had no prior background in Judo with them, so this high rank is false.
We thank Georgette Oden, Samuel Browning, Mark Tripp, and John Palmer for their contributions to this article. We also thank Patricia Dorsher for communicating with the Kodokan and translating their reply.