GM Sonny Gascon

grandmaster sonnyVictor “Sonny” Gascon was born on March 6, 1933. His parents were Bernabe and Trinidad Viloria Gascon. The Gascon family came to Hawai’i in the early 1900s from the Philippines.

Victor, the fifth of nine children, was introduced to the martial arts at an early age. At family gatherings, he would watch his father and uncle, Bernard, doing some dances with their hands and sticks. Eventually, they included the young Victor in their playful striking and counters. Always taking care not to hurt each other, they would practice their “cross-over” and blocks.

At the end of World War II, Judo became a popular sport. Victor was introduced to Judo in 1945 by one of his relatives. His teachers were Sensei Kudo and Sensei “Rubber-man” Higami. Classes were held at the Nuuanu Hongwanji Boys Club. In 1948, Victor and his neighbor John “Johnny” Leoning would workout in his backyard with his brother-in-law Julio “Joe Black” Blaquera, and Henry Papa. At these workouts, they practiced an art called Kempo.

Sonny and JoeIn January of 1952, Victor joined the Air Force, and was sent to Lackland Air Force base in San Antonio, Texas for Basic Training. He was later sent to Fort Belvoir, Virginia for schooling in Heavy Equipment Mechanical Training School. Upon completion of his schooling in May, he was ordered to go to Suwon, Korea for a year. Victor was stationed at K-13, 51st Fighting Squadron Suwon, Korea. During his stay in Korea, he would do basic movements in Kempo to keep in shape and keep his mind clear.

In 1953, Victor was stationed at Hickam Air Force Base Honolulu, Hawai’i. Being back in his hometown, Victor began working out with Johnny Leoning and Joe Blaquera again.

In 1956 Victor was honorably discharged from the U.S. Air Force. He decided to move to Los Angeles, California. Victor wanted to attend the Los Angeles Trade Tech College, where he could take automotive and auto-body courses under the GI bill. About a year later, Johnny and Joe Black, who are Victor’s brothers-in-law, came for a visit. The two liked it in Los Angeles and decided to stay. Johnny opened up a Kajukenbo school in Los Angeles. He asked Victor to branch out to Burbank, California. Victor opened up a school at 905 Victory Blvd, Burbank, CA in 1958 and called it Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu. His assistants were Joe Black, Richard “Limo” Tanaka and Jack “Justice” Chang. In 1966, Victor closed his school in Burbank because of his new job at the Pasadena Post Office. Working nights, it became impossible to run his school. Victor had his first daughter Angela, and a new house to support. Victor continued to teach private lessons at his house, either in the garage or the pool area.

This school contributed to this system more than most Kempo stylists will ever know, because they don’t know the history of their root. Among the first black belts were:

  • Joe Blacquerra
  • Frank Llacuna
  • Jackie Chang
  • Julian “Blue” Generalao
  • George Pesare
  • Richard “Limo” Tanaka

In 1969 Victor moved back to Hawai’i to open a Golfing Range that included a restaurant and bar. Since his brother-in-law was a district representative for Operating Engineers Local #3 Union, Victor was hired in 1982 as a business agent and organizer. Victor retired from the Union in 1992. A couple of months later, the Masons Union wanted to hire him. He decided to take the job and worked for two years as an Organizer Business Agent. All during this time, Victor was still teaching private lessons.

KajukenboIn February 1999, Victor was honored along with many others at the “Gathering of Eagles” in Las Vegas. He was also personally invited by Sijo Adriano “Nonoy” Emperado to Sijo’s 73rd Birthday party and tournament at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino. Sijo Emperado is one of the five founders of Kajukenbo. Victor was nominated to the Masters Hall of Fame, held on July 21, 2000 at the Sheraton Newport Beach Hotel in Newport Beach, California.

Grandmaster Victor founded the Karazenpo Go Shinjutsu Black Belt Society, which supports all students of his martial lineage. He will be missed.

(This article was given to me by Grandmaster and used with permission.)

Author

  • A head instructor of Golden Leopard Kempo Martial Arts School, teaching Philippine Combatives, Kickboxing, and Self-Defense to San Diego students for over three decades.

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