The Urban Entrepreneurs Series….
Former Resident Becomes
Kung Fu Legend
The Urban Entrepreneurs Series....
'Way of The Dragon'
Former Resident Becomes
Kung Fu Legend
By Gary G. Toms
In the early to mid-80's, Andre Butler, a former 17-year resident of Far Rockaway, was a member of both the New York City Chapter of the Guardian Angels and the United States Marine Corp. While his stint with the Guardian Angels helped him develop his sense of community service, the Marine Corp offered him the opportunity to travel and develop a clear vision of the future. Over the next seven years, as a Marine, Butler served with a couple of units and details.
In addition to his assignment with the Marine Expeditionary Unit Special Operations Capable (MEUSCO), he spent five years as a special hand-to-hand combat instructor. Many years of martial arts training as a youth, in Hung Gar (the five animal system), Wing Chun, and Monkey Kung Fu, afforded him this opportunity.
"I have been to many countries and places, such as Arizona, Nevada, California, Washington, Virginia, Florida, Hawaii, Japan, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines and Hong Kong," said Butler.
"I spent time training units to go over to the Persian Gulf for "Desert Shield", where I spent a five month tour of duty myself. After the war, we came home, and I was temporarily assigned to teach on an ROTC Anti-Armor committee."
Sifu Butler describes the early 90's as his most productive years. In 1991, he became the proud father of a baby girl (Alexis) and moved to Florida, where she could be close to her grandmother (Butler's mother).
"I started teaching a private kung fu class to make ends meet. I also formed the 'Thunder Mountain Family Kung Fu Association." To date, the organization has strong membership in Colorado, Florida, Maryland, California, Arizona, Texas, New York and Puerto Rico," said the instructor.
Butler noted that he took on extra work as a nightclub bouncer and security specialist in a number of venues. In 1994, he took a position with the Broward County Sheriff's Office, but left after only three years of service.
"I got burnt out from the job and the politics of the job. So, I went back to working as a bouncer. There were no politics there, and it was a lot more fun," he muses.
A few years later, the "Bruce Lee of Far Rockaway" (as described by his closest friends) opened up his first kung fu school in Florida, where he handed the reigns to former students Sifu Arturo Williams and instructor James Donato. Williams teaches at the Thunder Mountain Kung Fu Academy in Pembroke Pines, and Donato in Coral Springs. Butler later moved to Colorado and opened a larger version of his kung fu school, "The Thunder Mountain Kung Fu Institute."
"I am the chief instructor here. I teach Hung Gar to a majority of the students and Monkey kung fu to only a select few. The school is going strong since it opened in January 2002, and now we have about 30 students. The students have been burning up the tournament circuit here, placing in the top three in every event. The funny thing is...they are just beginners. Imagine what they will be able to accomplish when they reach the advanced level," Butler said.
In 2000, the kung fu master was nominated to the Eastern USA International Martial Arts Association Hall of Fame, but declined the nomination.
"I cannot deny the fact that I was nominated because it was a truly an honor. I didn't accept the nomination for personal reasons, but I am very appreciative of the fact that I was chosen."
Sifu Butler's accomplishments include the following:
- Three-time United Florida Sport Karate Association (UFSKA) State Champion - Black belt (weapons category- soft style)
- Two-time UFSKA State Champion - Black belt forms (soft style)
- Has trained five Florida state champions: Edgar Johnson, Jeanette Dice, Echo Uzzi, Nicki Santisteban, and Arturo Williams.
- Has a student that is currently a first place candidate for the Colorado Karate Association State Championship title for 2002.
Presently, Butler resides in Longmont, Colorado with his daughter. If you would like to obtain more information about the Thunder Mountain Family Kung Fu Association, you can write to them in care of T.M.F.K.F.A. P.O. Box 1474 - Longmont, Colorado, 80502. If you would like to send an email to Sifu Butler, you may do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.