MORE ABOUT LOTUS
Lotus Self-Defense was created by Ajarn (Thai word for teacher) Precha Mahachanavong in Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand. Ajarn Precha named his unique martial art after the lotus flower, which is widespread throughout Thailand. The lotus flower is very popular in Thailand and has its own festival once a year. The pedals of the lotus flower branch outward into many different directions, but the lotus keeps a strong inner core. This is like the martial art LOTUS, which branches out into techniques from Judo, Kajukenbo, and Aikido, but has the solid Muay Thai foundation.
Lotus was created during the Vietnam War era. United States Air Force Airman Robert Price earned his first degree black belt from Ajarn Precha in October 1972. According to Price, when he transferred to Thailand from South Korea, Price joined Mr. Park's Tae Kwon Do class on the military base. Price had just left South Korea, where he obtained the rank of black belt in Tang Soo Do.
One evening in Thailand, Price and a few other American servicemen went walking through downtown Ubon Ratchathani, when they came across a Kenpo Karate class taught by Ajarn Precha. Price was very impressed with the karate class. He saw students simulating breaking arms, throwing and sweeping each other, and performing forward and backward rolling maneuvers. Price did not learn those techniques in South Korea and wanted to add them to his Tang Soo Do arsenal. Price and a couple of his friends joined Ajarn Precha's class. The class consisted of nine students, including Price. It soon became apparent to Price that Ajarn Precha was teaching more material than just the Kenpo training Ajarn Precha received while studying under Kajukenbo Master Tony Lasit. Ajarn Precha was blending his hand strikes and katas from Kenpo, sweeps and throws from judo, and wristlocks from Aikido. From Muay Thai, Ajarn Precha combined elbow strikes, knee strikes, kicks, leg blocks, and hardcore physical conditioning in his teachings.
According to Price, Ajarn Precha asked him one day, "What do you think of my style?" Price replied he liked it, but did not think it was strictly Kenpo because of the Muay Thai and throws. Ajarn Precha agreed, and Price said he then encouraged Ajarn Precha to develop his own martial art style based upon his present teachings. The interview with Price provides additional information.
During the late 1960's and early 1970's, Thai boxing was being continually challenged by outside martial arts. December of 1973 saw the first of "leading exponents" of Kung Fu from Hong Kong knocked out in the first round. The defeated fighters claimed to be at a disadvantage by having to wear gloves and being unfamiliar with Muay Thai rules. A revenge match, this time allowing bare hands, was accepted by the Thai's. That match took place on January 22, 1974 as part of the Chinese New Year celebration. Five Kung Fu experts from Hong Kong arrived bare fisted and were quickly devastated by the Muay Thai boxers. The fights lasted only six minutes and twenty-two seconds (0:06:22) total! All the Kung Fu fighters were knocked out in the first round. (Lotus Black Belt Instructor Roy Harrington stated that even when he was training in Thailand in the early 1970's, Lotus continued to evolve with more and more emphasis placed on Muay Thai.)
It is easy to see that Muay Thai boxing was being viewed not only as a devastating martial art unto itself, but equally devastating against other martial arts as well. Ajarn Precha may have recognized this being a professional Muay Thai boxer himself, and having a Muay Thai boxing school, in addition to the Lotus school. So, the birth of Lotus came about as a result of Ajarn Precha's training with Master Tony Lasit, personal knowledge and experience, as well as the outcome of many now historical bouts.
All martial arts in Thailand came under the control of the Thai Ministry of Education. Control was at a local level, and at that time, the person was Mr. Parks, a South Korean 6th degree black belt teaching Tae Kwon Do on the United States military base in Ubon Ratchathani. As the story was told, Mr. Parks complained to the Thai Ministry of Education about Ajarn Precha''s school (possibly feeling threatened monetarily or otherwise), and tried to have Ajarn Precha's school closed. Supposedly what was commonly done at that time was a person(s) was sent to observe the class and it was then determined what was to be done. Price said they would often observe for a short period of time (only 20-30 minutes) and then decide right then and there.
Price was at Lotus class the day when the "powers-to-be" came and observed. Price said they stayed the entire class and were so impressed, they asked Ajarn Precha to present a public demonstration of Lotus. (It can probably be said that in addition to excellent quality, Lotus represented a new martial art style that was uniquely Thai. Lotus possessed Thai customs, heritage and would help promote Thailand in its own unique way.) Also, as a result of this observation, the control of martial arts at the local level was placed in the hands of Ajarn Precha. Supposedly this committee would have shut down Mr. Parks class if Ajarn Precha had desired. However, he did not and instead requested that Mr. Parks be limited to teaching on the military base only.
The public demonstration turned out to be the black belt test of two Thai nationals and two American servicemen. The Americans were Robert Price and Henry Badgett. The public demonstration/black belt test occurred in October 1972. This test was done in downtown Ubon with the mayor, Provincial Governor, the police chief, and many other dignitaries in attendance. As circumstances would have it, Price tested in place of Henry Badgett since Badgett had broken his leg before the test and was unable to perform the test. Badgett was awarded his black belt, but it was Price who was the first American to actually test to black belt.
LOTUS IN THE UNITED STATES TODAY:
Since its inception, Lotus Self-Defense has migrated to the United States. Robert Price was the first American to open a Lotus school in the United States. He opened his studio in Adelanto, California in 1974. Today, there are Lotus schools in Atlanta, Georgia; Abbeville, Louisiana; Charlotte, North Carolina; Salem and Bend, Oregon; and Spokane, Washington. Most of the head instructors of these schools are direct students of Ajarn Precha.