Tae Kwon Do
Ernie Reyes Sr. (born February 12, 1947
in Salinas, California) is a martial arts champion and Hall of Famer.
Ernie Reyes Sr. is the son of Filipino
migrants. His parents arrived in California in 1929, working with fish
and in plantation fields.
Ernie is one of twelve siblings, including a pair of twins. The twins
and two other of Reyes' siblings died as children, thus leaving Ernie as
the Reyes' only boy. He grew with seven sisters. He admittedly enjoyed
pestering his sisters as a young boy, making them the victim of his
pranks many times.
When Reyes was ten, his parents began running a Mexican workers' labor
camp. Ernie had to wake up very early in the morning to help his
parents. He would clean dishes daily at the camp or work alongside the
immigrants. He hated this routine; nevertheless, raised with deep Asian
traditions instilled in him, he felt obligated to obey his parents.
With the belief that if he did not accomplish so, her whole family would
go to hell, his mother sent Ernie and all of his
sisters to school. Ernie was particularly bad with mathematics, and he
disliked that subject a lot. During sixth grade in particular, Ernie was
involved in much trouble. He became involved in "street" fights with
other children, talk or do other things that were not allowed in his
At home, Ernie had to pray every evening; he would sometimes fall asleep
during praying, resulting in his mother's anger. With time, she would
just accept this as part of Ernie's personality, and shrug off every
time she found him sleeping during prayer time.
Apart from his school misadventures, he competed in kickball,
basketball, dodgeball and football during that period. During his high
school years, he would stay until midnight practicing his basketball
skills; this, in turn, caused him to fall asleep during class.
He would get punished every time this happened, getting hit by his
teachers with paddle sticks on his buttocks. Reyes Sr. was instructed
not to flinch, move or complain, or the hits would be more severe.
Eventually, Ernie attended a public high school, where he became
motivated to become a better student.
After high school graduation he attended and graduated from San Jose
State University. During his time at the university he met the man who
would become his primary taekwondo instructor, Dan Kyu Choi. He also met
his future business associate Tony Thompson. Reyes Sr. and Thompson
developed a lifelong friendship, and became members of a revolutionary
new demo team, the West Coast Action Team, that would also include
George Chung, Cynthia Rothrock,
Ernie Reyes Jr., and
other world class performers.
Ernie Reyes Sr. went on to win seven national titles in one year,
becoming the first youth to be ranked among adult fighters in history.
He was approached by Hollywood producer Sally Banks; feeling obliged to
his students, he turned down her offer, but, six months later, he
returned to speak with her, and he eventually met Berry Gordon, who
signed him to a multi-movie deal. He participated in four movies,
including Red Sonja.
Reyes Sr. and Thompson still manage their school, which has grown into
having thirty-seven other locations.
Blackbelt Magazine's 1981
Instructor of the Year
Ernie Reyes, Jr.