This entry is the first of several I will publish, starting with the earliest memories that have brought me to this time and calling in life.
I was born in 1953 to Pedro and Justina Bernardy, both from an impoverished existence in their native Puerto Rico. I am the oldest of four siblings, two brothers, and a sister. Educated in the local Catholic school and growing up in a poor neighborhood left deep imprints in our lives.
Grade school in Reading, Pennsylvania, mid 1960s.
From an early age, I perceived the need to protect myself from prejudice and hated we all encountered. At that time, in my hometown of Reading, Pennsylvania, there was only one way to learn fighting arts; find anyone who could street fight the best. Being Puerto Rican in our neighborhood provided frequent opportunities to see and participate in these “lessons.”
In 1966 I was introduced to Asian martial arts by Bruce Lee, who co-starred in the television show “The Green Hornet.” There had never been anything before that moment that affected me as much, that such a seemingly small man could defend himself and those around him using only highly trained movements with his hands and feet.
My first exposure to a live martial arts presentation was at my high school in 1969 with Sensei George Dillman and his demonstration team. The impression this made on me was tremendous, so much so that I immediately visited his dojo, which was walking distance from my home, to inquire about lessons. They informed me that student dues were $15 every month and $15 for my first karate uniform. Even today, I can clearly remember the devastation of knowing I could not afford this, even if I could explain this emotional need to my parents. It would not be until another significant event involving Bruce Lee a few years later that I would begin my journey on “The Path.”