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ERNIE REYES SR.

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Style: 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 school.

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

Father of Ernie Reyes, Jr.

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