Sifu Harinder Singh overcame a series of brutal personal disasters to become a larger-than-life role model who is reshaping old ideas of how and why we should train. His mission is to empower instructors to be able to solve the problems facing modern martial artists. Singh has established over 50 Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association branches globally, and his programs have been taught to more than 100 elite military, police and government agencies.
Sifu Harinder Singh has been described by Jack Canfield, celebrated author and publisher of the Chicken Soup for the Soul book series, as “One of the most amazing, inspiring and powerful human beings I have ever met.”
Singh was born in India and started karate at age six.
When he was 19, Singh was recruited to play NCAA tennis at the University of California, Davis. He also studied for a degree in computers. Then came the “tripping point,” he says.
, in June of 2001 he drove two hours to Ocean Beach for an open-air bonfire graduation party. Out on the sand were
a hundred students having some beers and celebrating being free from school.
“That’s when I pounding on him. The moment they took my roommate, next to him a man with a tattoo on his chest was holding a wooden fence post with two nails sticking out, and he hit me. I still have a protruding bone from blocking it.”
The next five minutes of doubt and fear changed his life forever.
“Ten guys are creating a predicament — fight or flight? I wanted to help my roommate, but I didn’t know what to do with a compromised elbow. So, I start running around parked cars while they chased me and the other 10 are beating up my roommate.”
What changed the situation was dumb luck. The two guys the gang were looking for happened to walk by! The roommate was dropped, and the gang went after them. Singh dragged his roommate off. Somebody called the cops, who were only two miles away.
learned bad things happen when you least expect it,” Singh admits. “Like in a movie, out of the darkness 25 local gangbangers showed up. Later, the police told us the beach was the gang’s local turf and not safe late at night. We had no situational awareness.
“They were looking for two African-Americans. My roommate wore his hat backwards, was dark and looked like one of them. So, they grabbed him and 10 guys started
“I went to look for license plates and found a white Escalade with one of the gangbanger’s prey lifeless on the ground, bloody from a head shot. I was 30 feet away from the Escalade when a guy in gray sweats opens the door and reaches into his pocket. I turned and ran, hearing two shots.”
The police came, but by then Singh was a different man.
“This was the tripping point,” he swears. “Chaos! I was angry and ashamed and afraid and anxious. I swore it would never happen again.”
Singh traveled the world learning about military tactics, the quick-kill, edged weapons, jeet kune do, street fighting. By now, self-defense for Singh was not just “kick ass and take names.” But instead led to profound questions concerning how we, as everyday people, deal with our most unsettling experiences. For Singh, this is the essence of, not just martial arts, but of human life: “How to find comfort in uncomfortable experiences is the real war which consumes our soul,” he says.
These days, Singh is a business man. Asked for a business overview, Singh replies, “I help martial artists by providing them with the complete formula for success. We teach them how to teach, how to train, how to fight and how to build themselves as a brand. We provide online training support via curricula and video courses, intensive instructor camps and week-long retreats.
“Our mission is to empower martial artists to be able to solve the problems facing modern martial artists. [We do this] by providing a complete solution that balances traditional arts with sport and reality-based combatives. Our programs have been taught to over 100 elite military, police and government agencies, and we have over 50 Jeet Kune Do Athletic Association (JKDAA) branches located globally.”
Singh has no school per se and doesn’t work out of one central location. His website introduces him as “a speaker, author and high-performance coach.” He’s the teacher of military, Special Forces, Secret Service, SWAT, and over 100 law-enforcement agencies across the globe. He’s also a 23rd-generation tai-chi master.
“We support our clients,” Singh explains, “by teaching them all five ranges of empty-hand combat — (kicking, punching, trapping, stand-up grappling and ground fighting). [We also teach] weapons from kali and escrima, internal arts from tai-chi and qi-gong, and fitness utilizing action-strength training [kettlebells, body weight, tai-chi and Indian mace].”
As Singh himself says, “Remember, the study of martial arts is a scientific experiential process. It’s a process of self-discovery, a process of trial and error, a process of problem-solving, a process of progression and growth. So, it is all about the process that you take to develop yourself and discover the cause of your own ignorance.”
This is the language of millennials. Any basic explanation of how all these influences are blended into a good way to knock out bad guys is never, for them, the most important question. Today, it’s not about fighting enemies: it is concern for you and developing fundamental life skills to clear your mind and make you smarter.
Today, Singh teaches the military, law-enforcement officers, a hundred different security agencies, Secret Service, Navy SEALS, SWAT teams, and police departments both here and abroad. How, coming out of nowhere, did he achieve such assignments? By becoming a member in good standing of the International Law Enforcement, Educators and Trainers Association.
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