Stephen Burrell

From The Martial Arts Encyclopedia
Stephen Burrell.jpg

Article by Sam P. Edited by Chuck Hardin.


Stephen Burrell is a Massachusetts author who has made many claims of heroism and deadliness. He claimed a Congressional Medal of Honor and combat service in the Vietnam war as a Ranger. He also claimed to have worked with the FBI and CIA, and to have earned an eighth-degree black belt in aikido and a master's degree from Yale. He even claims to have been a published poet in Playboy magazine. All of these claims are false.


Burrell is billed as "the fourth most dangerous man in the world", with the stipulation that "his fourth ranking position is only because, unlike the first three ranking men, he has demonstrated restraint and what could only be described as a sense of mercy in the completion of his assignments." The website which so designates him has only two other biographies filled out besides his own, both of which read more like origin stories in a bad thriller novel than like descriptions of real people. Many of the top ten have unlikely names like "Xervier Christian Hoffenberg", "Charlos Martinez Lopez", "Mika Hatri", and "Joesph [sic] Gerber". It seems likely that this website was written by Burrell himself as a publicity stunt, but there is no way to confirm that.

Burrell also makes several claims on his own behalf in his autobiographical novel Weekend With Rita. On page 1, he describes himself as a "Vietnam hero", "triple-black-belt karate master", and "CIA special agent". On page 11, another character describes him as a "macho Army Ranger, Vietnam vet". He repeats the CIA service claim on page 60. A claim to be a former spy and Vietnam vet also appears in the Amazon author biography for the book.

Burrell has also claimed the Congressional Medal of Honor, under what can only be described as unfortunate circumstances. This claim entered the public record in his lawsuit against various officials of the Hampshire County Jail in Massachusetts for their alleged negligence in failing to protect him from the violent assault of a fellow inmate. In the court's statement of findings, they mention that Burrell told two of the guards "that he had earned a black belt in martial arts, and that he had received the Congressional Medal of Honor. Burrell admits that he lied to prison officials about his ability to take care of himself." His claim was denied, in large part because of this admitted deception.

On Burrell's personal website (now disabled), he claimed an "8th Dan in Akido" [sic]. He also claims authorship of a number of published works, including the poem "Rosie's Good Eats Cafe" in a 1981 edition of Playboy.

On Burrell's MySpace page, he claims to be a 1974 graduate of Yale, with a master's in psychology and a minor in business.

These claims were remarkable, and if true would make him a highly decorated veteran with considerable combat experience and a remarkable education. Sam P., decided to investigate these claims.

What The Records Show

Military Service

Chuck Hardin, also known as Bullshido member Cy Q. Faunce, applied for Burrell's service records under the Freedom of Information Act. These records described a far less glamorous career than the one Burrell claimed.

His Army service was from March 18, 1974, to January 15, 1975, all of which took place after the end of American combat operations in Vietnam. He was trained as a Field Artillery Surveyor, but never as a Ranger. At no point in his service did he leave the continental United States, and his only decorations were the National Defense Service Medal and the Expert Badge with Rifle Bar, neither of which is a combat decoration.

Bullshido therefore concludes that Burrell's claims about his military service were extremely exaggerated.

FBI and CIA Service

Sam P. contacted representatives of the FBI and the CIA agencies by phone on March 17, 2010 to verify previous employment. Both the FBI and CIA deny any record of Stephen Burrell having worked for either agency. Bullshido therefore concludes that these claims are false.

Eighth-Degree Black Belt in Aikido

Sam P. phoned Mark Rubert of the Ki Society on March 17, 2010, and the administrative secretary of the New York Aikikai and Stephen Toyoda of the Aikido Association of America on March 18. They all stated that they had no knowledge of any eighth-degree black belts by the name of "Stephen Burrell". Furthermore, his name does not appear in a list of western-born aikidoka provided by Bullshido therefore concludes that this claim is false.

Yale Graduate

Sam P. called the Office of the Registrar at Yale University on March 17, 2010, to look into Burrell's academic claims. The Secretary of the Registrar stated that Yale has no record of Stephen Burrell ever being admitted as a student. She also noted that Yale does not offer non-terminal Master's degrees or academic minors, and that the school of management at Yale only dates back to 1980, so Burrell could not have minored in business in 1974. Bullshido therefore concludes that this claim is false.

Published in Playboy

"Rosie's Good Eats Cafe" was indeed published in Playboy, albeit as "Rosalie's Good Eats Cafe". However, its original author was noted poet Shel Silverstein. Bullshido therefore concludes that this claim is false.

Burrell's Reaction to the Investigation

On May 17th, 2010, Sam P. contacted Mr. Burrell, first through e-mail, then by phone, to discuss his claims. Mr. Burrell categorically denied making the military claims. Burrell claimed his publisher grossly inflated his military records in his book, and that his webmaster inflated his martial arts rank on his personal website.

Burrell stated that his only military achievement is service in Vietnam as "a grunt". Even this lesser claim is inconsistent with his actual military records; he never served in Vietnam and was not in the infantry.

Finally, Mr. Burrell denied being an elite aikidoka and instead made claim to having a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do from a "strip mall dojo in El Paso". He offered no proof of this claim.

Bullshido concludes that Burrell is still substantially deceptive in his claims.


By his own admission, Stephen Burrell is in no way a military hero or martial arts expert. He has also laid claim to academic distinctions and published works that are not his. It is very unlikely that Burrell could have his resume so grossly inflated by two different parties without his previous knowledge. Furthermore, his continued deceptions do not justify much confidence in his honesty.