In the fall of 1987, I began taking classes at Green Dragon Kung Fu. Little did I know that I walked into one of the best schools in the world with one of the most iconic teachers of our time. I also didn’t know of the diverse training Sifu Allen had and was willing teach. I had always wanted to train in Kung Fu from my earliest memories of Black Belt Theater on Saturday morning TV. I was lucky enough to stumble into something that would change my life – I had come to the right place with the right teacher!
Sifu John R. Allen – 7th Degree Black Sash
May 20th, 1939 – February 11, 2020
My Orientation with the Sifu
When Sifu Allen walked into my orientation meeting at the Tallmadge YWCA (where classes were being held), I knew this was going to be a different experience than anything I had seen before. Confident and strong, Sifu Allen opened his notebook on the lectern and began to speak. He spoke as he scanned the entire class and told us some very important things that probably went over most of our heads at the time. “Don’t prejudge the program” – that was a key item that most miss. “You won’t really have any idea of what you’re involved with here at Green Dragon until you’ve been around at least 6 months and probably not even then. It may take a year or more for you to really understand the depth of the training available” – he wasn’t kidding!
He spoke about another concept that, unfortunately, was foreign to me at the time – Empty Rice Bowl. You see, I was fresh out of high school and, as most are, a very dumb 18 years old when I step into that meeting. I was so excited to train in real Kung Fu that I wore a gi I had from a school I trained in briefly a few years before (oh yea, and Tabi boots that ninja’s wore) – not a great start to trying to be a good student! “If you came in here and your rice bowl is full, tip it over and dump it out. You’re here so I can fill it back up for you.” Sifu Allen discussed how important it was for the incoming class to forget about an previous training they had. It didn’t really matter what training you had, you were here to learn not to teach. He was talking directly to me but didn’t look my way once because he didn’t want to embarrass me more than necessary – but he wanted me to get the point — YES SIR! GOT IT! I wanted to convey that story because it show the depth of grace Sifu Allen put out there for students.
Sifu Allen was unique-period! Everyone who met him whether friend, acquaintance or even enemy would tell you there was something different about him. But why was that? It’s because he told the truth (which is often controversial). Whether writing articles for publication, letters to extension family members or just talking to students after class around the bonfire, he always gave you the unvarnished truth. As a student I spent many hours talking with him about a wide variety of subjects. His knowledge was vast, his desire to share what he knew was great and he made sure that he always gave you the most accurate information he could. He would never hold back the truth (although he sometimes cushioned it if he thought you couldn’t handle it). This fact is evident in the many articles he was asked to write by Inside Kung Fu Magazine.
After training with some of the best known teachers around the country and the world, he had access to rare training and knowledge that no one else in the last century has been able to put together and been willing to share. His amazingly diverse knowledge of traditional Kung Fu ranged from the most common forms of systems like Tams, Northern and Southern Shaolin to the more rare forms of Leopard and Crane to some of the most rare material of White Lotus. With over 400 major forms and programs that he could teach, he embarked early in his career on a path to teach as much as he possible could. He also mentioned many times that all great masters had probably taken 90% of what they knew to their graves with them.
But it wasn’t just his knowledge of Kung Fu that attracted people. He was well versed in many other areas and is the strongest believing Christian I have ever known. I came to a saving knowledge of Christ under Mr. Allen and participated for over 30 years in a Bible discussion group led by him.
I also met my wife, the love of my life, at Green Dragon as we joined at the same time and trained (and still train) together.
I was able to start a business of my own, years ago, thanks to all that I learned from Sifu and have also been able to handle all of the severe ups and downs that come with owning your own business, not to mention the challenges that happen in one’s life.
Through thick and thin, Sifu was there for me when I needed assistance, support, direction or even just someone I could vent to. He was always consistent and strong, reliable and truthful, supportive and honest!
As I said, Sifu changed my life. There is just too many things to discuss over the 30 year but the point is this GREAT MAN has changed many lives in his 80 years on earth and his legacy will continue to change many more for years to come!!!
THANK YOU SIFU
I’LL SEE YOU WHEN I GET TO HEAVEN!