Dave Adam’s journey in the martial arts began the year of 1960 in a small Judo school in Charlotte, North Carolina. After obtaining a black belt status, he decided to expand his skills into the study of Karate. His concentration on Karate was interrupted with a stint in the Air Force, but he continued his training with Rick Ward, a 16-year-old Okinawa stylist stationed on base with his parents. During this time, Dave joined the Hakkaru Martial Arts Federation, headed up by Richard Baillargeon. He began a transformation by developing more of his own style in fighting and forms, transitioning from student to teacher.
After an honorable discharge from the military, Dave opened his first dojo in North Carolina, where months later, he and his students competed in the first Tri-State Karate Championships, organized by U.S. Marine, Benny Mares. Later, this would seem to be a predestined meeting. After Dave won the grand championships in fighting and forms, Benny announced that he was leaving the service to return to LA, where he had originally earned his black belt under Chuck Norris. He extended a personal invitation for Dave to visit their dojo as his guest.
The first North Carolina Karate Championships were held in 1967, sponsored by Richard Baillargeon. Dave won both fighting and forms gaining respect throughout the Southeast. In all, Dave won 67 competitive awards in sparring and form. His demonstrations set the standards for excellence in jumping and kicking.
Dave Adams built the most successful karate franchise of his day with five schools totally 1600 students. At this point, he felt comfortable leaving the schools and headed for LA to gain more wisdom in the art and to learn more about the business. While there, he learned both the Tracy and Chuck Norris Systems. His first Karate class in LA was with Chuck and Aaron Norris. Again, LA seemed predestined. John Natividad, Howard Jackson, Duke Tirschel, Pat Johnson, Darnell Garcia, and Bob Wall were just a few of the talented martial artists surrounding him. Bob Wall was instrumental in Dave’s understanding of the business side of promotions and development. Dave credits Pat Johnson as one of, if not the best, karate instructor he ever studied under.
Dave’s life was about to change. While in LA, an opportunity presented itself to attend a fighting choreography workshop for stuntmen. In the class, was a student of Ed Parker, who extended an invitation for Dave to visit their school. Two weeks later, Dave was given a chance to work on Kung-Fu, in a fight scene, choreographed by David Chow. He later visited and became good friends with IKKA founder Ed Parker. He found himself ringside with Priscilla Pressley and Mike Stone at the Long Beach International Karate Tournament the same year. Later, Dave met and befriended Curtiss Wong (Inside Kung-Fu) and International Kung-Fu form champion, James Lew. Curtiss did an article on Dave and his friend, Thomas LaPuppet, who, at the time, had worked with Dave in a fight scene in a “B” motion picture, Challenge, filmed in North Carolina. A year later, both Wong and Lew were guests of Dave's at one of his annual tournaments in Charlotte, N. C.
In 1971, Dave organized and sponsored the Southern Coast Karate Championships. It was the first point Karate tournament to offer its grand champion a cash prize. $1,000. Guests included Miss America, Judy Ford, Miss North Carolina, Patsy Gail Wood, Chuck Norris, Thomas LaPuppet, Jeff Smith, and several state senators. It was the first US Southeastern tournament to register over 1,500 competitors, along with 2,200 paid ticket holders for the evening finale. Dave went on to promote 27 karate tournaments over a period of 15 years. Dave also organized and promoted the 2nd Full Contact Karate event ever held in the U.S. The winner of that event was Keith Vitalli over Mike Genova.
Dave would later become friends with Yoo Jin Kim out of Atlanta. Mr. Kim promoted Dave to 6th Degree in the 80’s. Dave later founded The American Jee Do Kwan Karate Association. An association that represented different styles of fighting and forms, but with common ground in leadership and promotion of the arts.
Dave’s career began to follow a new direction. He began working as an active movie stuntman and found himself immersed in movies. His years as a successful motion picture stuntman gave him invaluable insight into movie making. He founded The Southern Coast Stuntman Association, teaching numerous workshops in on-camera fighting. With a hands-on, on the lot, he gained knowledge that would have been unattainable under any other circumstance. Closing out 13-plus years of hard-fought and body-bruising work, he began to write and direct film and video. A movie-maker was born.
In the late 70’s, Dave was asked to teach and mentor Ricky and Randy Smith privately. Both had trained under Gary Basinger to the rank of Blue Belt. Two years later, Dave’s training and creativity produced two of the most talented champions in the Southeast. Other Black Belt Champions of Dave's were Bill Morrison, Bruce Brutschy, Gaither Brannon, Randy Walden, Von Helton, Maurice Moore, Robert Haas, Charles Herron, and Kathy Maney, one of the south’s first female champions.
One of Dave's films, Angel With A Kick, was completed in 1999, the same year the martial arts community lost one of their greatest legends, Thomas LaPuppet, who starred in the film along with the Gold Dust Twins, Ricky and Randy Smith.
The challenges that lie ahead for Dave Adams are within the realm of film. Now a 10th Degree Black, Dave currently travels and conducts seminars upon request, and is the current Grandmaster of The American Jee Do Kwan Karate Association. Mr. Adams was recently inducted into the Legends of Carolina Martial Arts recognized as a pioneer of promoting the art and sport of karate in the Carolinas.
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