Demand the Best, Accept Nothing Less, Begin with Yourself
Dave Johnson is the owner of Executive Martial Arts Company. He started learning karate at just four years old, and is now a 10th degree Grand Master Black Belt. Johnson is the creator of the first International Martial Arts Medal of Honor award, as well as the first first Elite Black Belt of the Year award. He’s a lifelong learner, holding both an MBA and an MPA, and currently earning his doctorate in business. Johnson has been recognized internationally, with letters of appreciation from the governments of Argentina, Brazil, and Germany, as well as locally, with the mayor assigning October 13 to be Grand Master Dave Johnson Day. He has appeared in films, and has recently been awarded the Ambassador of the Year award by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce.
Becoming a 10th Degree Master
Within the United States, a martial artist is generally considered a master at level 4. Outside the US, it takes until the 5th level to be considered a master. It takes until level 7 or 8 to be a Grand Master. Grand Masters are the teachers of other masters. It takes years of practice and experience to become a master. Johnson has been practicing martial arts for 58 years.
In 1984, Johnson began developing an elite self-defense system called Seieido, which is geared towards professionals such as doctors, attorneys, and corporate CEOs who don’t have a lot of time to go to traditional dojos. These professionals often want to learn how to defend themselves. “There’s the desire, but they don’t have the time,” says Johnson. These professionals also decline to attend his commercial schools. “One of the things I found was they didn’t want to go into a general population class … it doesn’t fit their lifestyle.”
His system is discreet one-on-one training that clients can learn privately and fairly quickly. It cuts out general martial arts training skills, like discipline and conditioning, and focuses only on the skills necessary for defense. The system is now used in 11 countries on 4 continents and is taught in police academies.
Johnson is passionate about teaching. He’s a college professor, Director of Operations for the National University, and teaches martial arts seminars. “To me it’s a no-brainer, you should really get some basic skills … that’s just common sense.” Martial arts, of course, is what he loves to teach the most. It gives instant gratification. “When they leave me, I know I did whatever I could to increase their level of safety.” That’s its own instant reward.
He’s also developed programs for at-risk youth in Madera, and conducted the first state-approved high school martial arts program in California.
The cherry on top is getting stories back from his students when they use the techniques he taught them to remove themselves from danger, and he knows they are safe because of something they learned. “You can’t put a price on that, when you know you really affected someone’s life.”
Occasional films are a fun side hobby for Johnson. Some of his students have also gone on to act. Johnson appeared in Firefall with student Brett Prieto, who recently appeared in Victory by Submission.
Continuing Physical Education
In addition to continuing his university education, Johnson is also continuing to grow physically. He works with Gwint Fisher, who does circular strength training and tacfit.
The Hard Times
Johnson says it’s his faith that gets him through the hard times. He has a strong relationship with God. He also reminds himself of what he’s accomplished. “It’s not a ‘pat myself on the back’ thing. It’s … ‘you can do this. You can overcome this problem, obstacle, because look at what you’ve done already.’”
It’s hard to describe, but Johnson also feels like someone is watching him through the hard times. Maybe it’s God, or maybe it’s his father, who has passed on. Whoever is watching him has faith in him. It’s like positive self-talk.
Although he’s had plenty of negative experiences, people look at his success and see only the good things. Johnson would like to write a book when he’s older about all he’s been through so that others know successful people have negative self-talk and self-doubt, too.
Advice to His Younger Self
Johnson, at age 62, is currently getting his doctorate in Business. It’s brutal. If he could change anything, he’d knock out his bachelors, masters, and doctorate degrees as soon as possible, and have them done by his mid-20s so he could move on with his life.
His Favorite Book
The Bible is Johnson’s favorite book. “You have to have that spiritual base, that grounding, to add everything else on,” he contends. It’s like building a house. You don’t start with the walls or roof, you start with a good solid foundation and make sure the concrete is set before you start adding things on.
He also reads business-type strategy books.
Executive Martial Arts
Johnson looks for a specific group of people for his system — people who are very busy in a professional realm, who’ve always had a desire to learn really good self-defense skills, who don’t want a long martial arts program, who don’t want to compete in tournaments, who only want to learn how to defend themselves against attackers. He’s spent 33 years honing the system, so it cuts right to the chase of simplistic, effective techniques.
Contact Dave Johnson
You can call Dave Johnson at 559-917-5262 or check him out on Facebook.