MYFEST23! Awesome Instructors bios!
GRAND MASTER Velez Rivera
Grand Master Raphael Velez Rivera, M.A.
Grand Master (GM) Velez started his martial arts training in 1973, under the American Taekwondo Association in Queens Flushing, New York. He received his black belt in In Taekwondo in 1978. In 1978, his family moved to Connecticut and began his training in Moo Duk Kwan Tang Soo Do under the tutelage of Grand Master Walter Belsito Sr. (MDK#:17029). He also trained under Grand Master Robert Cheezic (MDK#: 2278) in Waterbury, CT. In 1995, he trained under Grand Master Ralph Bergamo (8th Dan) in the art of Filipino Kun Tao and received his 1st Dan Blackbelt in 2002. GM Velez has been training, studying, and researching in the martial arts for nearly 50 years. He has taught over hundreds of students and promoted students to black belt and at the master black belt level.
GM Velez has presented demonstrations, seminars, and summer camps on Weapons, KunTao, and Tang Soo Do throughout the world. In 1990, GM Velez was chosen to participate in competitions in Russia, Poland, and Amsterdam with the Inter-sport United States Karate Team (Cheezic Federation) representing the United States and promoting better relationships between the United States, and other countries in Europe. He competed in the Professional Karate League (P.K.L.) through the late 1970’s and 1980’s in sparring, forms, and weapons.
Throughout the late 90’s till 2013, GM Velez has competed professionally for the International Sport Karate Association (ISKA) and has been televised on ESPN2 for approximately 10 years. He holds seven ISKA world, National and state titles. He continues to hold the record (2008) for the most patio blocks (2x8x16) with one strike (elbow). Lastly, GM Velez has worked on production films as a stuntman choreographing fights scenes.
In 2019, GM Velez was inductee into the Action Martial Arts Hall of Honor for Platinum Lifetime Contributions of the Martial Arts and Masters of The Martial Arts Award Ceremony. He owns a school in Northern Virginia and is Co-founder of the American Tang Soo Do Union.
GM Velez is a professional Divemaster with Scuba School International (SSI) with over 400 logged dives around the world. He is also a firearms instructor for the USCCA and NRA. GM Velez holds degrees in Drug/Alcohol Recovery Counselor, Psychology/philosophy, and Clinical Mental Health Counselor. He retired previously from his profession as a crisis mental health intervention therapist.
Grand Master Peter DeFosses
A little about my journey.
Born in New York City (Queens) in 1948. I started my self-defense training at the age of 10. Back then you needed to know how to defend yourself if you would like to keep your lunch money. Starting the art of boxing at the local PAL (boys club) also kept me off the streets. A few years later I added conventional wrestling, the classes were free. In high school, I was on the wrestling team, along with a few other school sports teams. I kept up with my boxing and judo classes and competed locally and statewide. (I lost more than I won) After graduating from high school I enlisted in the Marines. This is where I started my (CQCT) Close Quarter Combat Training. Then I won a free trip to Vietnam for 2 tours. (1966 – 1968). This is where I was introduced to GM Jae Joon Kim, who was training the Korean Marines (ROK). Little did I know that someday he would become my mentor and Grand Master in Tang Soo Do. When I returned from Vietnam, I was assigned as an instructor to CQCT for a year or so. My next duty station was the US Embassy in Rio de Janeiro Brazil for two years. I had the opportunity to study both Jujitsu and Capoeira. That’s when I found out that I had no rhythm. Returning to civilian life, I attended college and started my law enforcement career and started looking for a martial arts school. Much to my surprise, there was limited access to a few arts and even fewer schools. So for a while, like a butterfly, I was floating from one style to another (picking up knowledge along the way) until I found the right one for me. Then I finally landed in the art of Tang Soo Do. Nothing would ever be the same. That was over 45 years ago and I’m still going at it (Slower but still moving) Along my path in Tang Soo Do I was fortunate enough to find Grand Master Jae Joon Kim, Yes the one from Vietnam. I trained with him until his passing in 2007. He helped me open my first DoJang and allowed me to meet and train with some of the finest martial artists from around the world. After his passing, I started training with Grand Master Jim Saffold and American Kwan. He was also a student of Grand Master Jae Joon Kim back in Detroit. Somewhere along the way I achieved the rank of grand master. I have been fortunate and honored to be recognized and trained all over the world with the best organizations, grandmasters, and students. (Yes students) You are always learning from white belts to grand masters. You never stop learning! For more than 2/3 of my life, I have been in the arts, from Law enforcement, self-defense, boxing, Judo, wrestling, CQCT, combat, Jujitsu, Capoeira, and Tang Soo Do. (Okay a few street fights along the way) I have become the man I am today because of Tang Soo Do. Now I’m a grand master with the responsibility for our youth.