AN INTERVIEW WITH
MASTER CHESTER MILLER
Greetings, and Domo Arigato MartialForce.com readers, the purpose of this interview is to show deference and honor Martial Artists who have
made an impact in Karate and many lives. My name is Franklin Puello; I have been involved in the Martial Arts for approximately 37 years. I have studied and trained in various forms of Martial Arts. My primary being Nippon Gojukai Karate under the late Grand Master Fred Miller (R.I.P), in The Bronx, NY. The person I am introducing in this interview is Master Chester Miller. We first met during a training session at the Nippon Gojukai Karate Dojo. I recall watching a senior member of the Dojo, a Black Belt who most of the times warmed up and â€œStretchedâ€? extremely vigorously. I admired his dedication to the art, which was demonstrated by his constant practice of basics. His actions were that of a committed student and teacher of the art of Karate. Master Miller was already an accomplished member of the school and well known as well as feared in the Tournament Circuit. Throughout the years I Watched, Listened and Learned from him.
At this time, please allow me the Honor to introduce to you Chester Miller, Kyoshi.
Hello Kyoshi, and please allow me to formally bow: Domo
Online Martial Arts Magazine
Martialforce.com: To completely familiarize our Readers with you, Please tell us: Where were you Born? Where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
CHESTER MILLER: I was born in The Bronx, New York, at Jacobi
Hospital in 1957, and grew up in Arvern, Queens, New York, and later moved back to The Bronx.
Martialforce.com: What is your current occupation?
CHESTER MILLER: I am a writer. In addition, I am a Regional Manager in Retail, and I teach Martial Arts and Self Defense
Martialforce.com: When was your first introduction to the Martial Arts, what Style of Karate, and who was your instructor/s?
CHESTER MILLER: I first started in the Martial Arts in 1962 when my Brother Fred Miller brought me to train under Grand Master Moses Powell, where we trained in the art of Aikido.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you were training towards your Black Belt, and later when you were competing in karate Tournaments?
CHESTER MILLER: A typical day of training for me was hard. Everyday after school, Fred and I trained for about 3 hours with Grand Master Moses Powell, then after class go on to train another 2 to 3 hours at home. It was difficult for me, because at such an early age, training wasn't always what I looked forward to. However Fred constantly â€œstayed on my backâ€? and made
sure I practiced regardless if I wanted to or not. We often trained outside regardless of what the weather was like; Sun, Rain, Snow, Cold or Hot; it didn't matter. It was very hard finding people that young at the time training in the Martial Arts, and therefore I found myself always training with older men and women. While this was a little scary at the time, I learned to adjust and believe this experience contributed greatly to the respect I have for my seniors, while at the same time taught me not to fear any threatening Life situation, or facing in confrontation those who were older or bigger than I. In 1967, after about 5 years of training with Grand Master Moses Powell, I was young at the time and don't remember if he left the area or what, we went to train with Grand Master Jim Brown, G. GM Aaron Banks, and other Goju Ryu Elite.
Martialforce.com: What style of Karate and how did was your training with Grand Master Brown?
CHESTER MILLER: Grand Master Jim Brown taught Shotokan Karate. He was very strict and tough. Our training as was most training in those days, long and hard. It was very different to what you see in many Dojo's today. We trained on one stance for a half hour or until we got it; and didn't move to the next technique until he said so. This was the same with each technique we learned. It wasn't that difficult to accept at the time, because we didn't know of any other way to compare his teaching to. This is because
our previous teacher Grand Master Moses Powell taught the same way. However I do remember both Grand Master Moses Powell and Grand Master Jim Brown being revered by anyone who came in contact with them; and to me, they were giants. When the financial strain caused payment for the classes to become a great burden, and Fred and I could no longer afford the cost for both of us to attend classes, Fred continued his training under various instructors and would come home and teach me everything he learned in class that day; and from that day on Fred became my teacher.
Martialforce.com: I have known you for more than 30 years and watched you in competitions. I first met you and learned from you while I enrolled as Students at Nippon Gojukai Karate Dojo under your Brother Grand Master Fred Miller. Can you describe for the readers what training was like with your brother?
CHESTER MILLER: This I think was harder than any school I ever went to. Fred was so tough on me while he taught me the techniques he had
learned, that it would often bring me to tears. My training seemed to never end yet somehow we managed to squeeze in the other required activities such as school, homework, chores, and playtime. I don't know how we did it, but we did. I think a lot had to do with the support of our parents. My road to earning my Black Belt was a hard, interesting, exciting and a long one; yet I wouldn't change a thing if I had to do it all over again. It has made me the man I am today. 48 years of training in the martial arts has taught me P.R.I.D.E. as in Persistence, Respect, Integrity, Discipline, and Excellence. Grand Master Fred Miller always trained me like he was training an adult; and when we sparred, did Bunkai, Self Defense or anything where the two of us had to engage each other he came at me as if he was remembering something that I had snitched on him to our parents about. As time when on, and Grand Master Fred Miller began teaching others, my training became even more intense. This is because Fred wanted his brother (me) to be better than all his students. Therefore after class, we would go home and he would come down on me about how my stances or my kick were not perfect, and we would work many hours at the house getting it perfectly. At the time, I literally thought he hated me. As time moved on, I realized that he wanted me to be the best. Through all this, I learned the true spirit of the Martial Arts and became stronger and fearless. I always went to tournaments with Fred as a spectator, until he thought it was time to introduce me to competition in Karate tournaments. When he finally entered me into the tournament scene, I was ready. Most of the time, I fought people much older than myself because at that time there were not many people myage fighting tournaments. In the beginning I lost most of my tournaments, until I got over
the fear of fighting other Martial Artists older and much stronger than l. There were only a hand full of people my age fighting in tournaments at the time and it seemed I never fought them. Later I began winning tournaments in Kumite- sparring and Kata. I believe I was about 16 or 17 Yrs. old when I began tasting victory. This began to make me proud because I saw how proud my brother and Teacher was of me. This made me fight harder and do my Kata with lots more Spirit and Focus. I wanted to win and winning I did. But people always looked at me as Fred Miller's younger brother. This never bothered me; I was just absorbing all that I could from Fred that would make me a better competitor and he didn't mind showing me everything he knew. There came a time, when we changed our way of fighting to full contact fighting long before Full Contact competition came into existence in the United States. Therefore when Full Contact competition came on the scene, we were ready for it and joined the Professional Ranks. I later fought with the (WPKO) World Professional Karate Organization in the Middle Weight Division, where I was amongst some of Martial Arts greatest fighters. We fought in places like Sunnyside Garden, Madison Square Garden and Roberto Clemente Stadium, just to name a few.
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Martialforce.com: What was tournament competition like when you were first introduced?
CHESTER MILLER: In the beginning it was a little scary because most of my opponents were a lot older and bigger and stronger than I was at the time. But after getting knocked around a lot I started to realize that it wasn't bad, as or any harder than training and sparring with Fred Miller. After that, I looked forward to the next tournament. The more I entered Karate
competitions, the better I got at the whole philosophy, psychology and tactics involved.
Martialforce.com: Who were some of the Martial Artists you competed against?
CHESTER MILLER: I am not that good at remembering names so I'll give you the names I remember: Speedy Wilcox, John Goff, Louis Neglia, Getta, Jerry (from the K.A. system), Sheldon Wilkins, Louis Delgado, (I'm not sure if I fought people like: Abdull Musawwir (then Monroe Marrow), Errol Bennett, Tayari Cassel, Ernest Hyman, and a host of other great fighters who were around during that time). It certainly wouldn't have been uncommon because during that time if you were a Black Belt, you fought who ever was a Black Belt and the names mentioned were always at the top of the List.
Martialforce.com: Could you tell our readers who were the toughest competitors you faced during that time and what made them tough?
CHESTER MILLER: This is hard, because each competitor had something about them that made them tough. Speedy Wilcox was fast as his nickname denotes; John Goff was a strong technician; Louis Neglia was a non stop brawler; Getta was big and strong; Jerry was ferocious and straight on you;
Sheldon Wilkins was the smoothest technician of all- always kicking butts with a broad Smile; Louis Delgado was a technician and unbelievably accurate. With respect to the other great Martial Artists I mentioned, they all had things that made them tough and were forces to be reckoned with. Having said this, everyone who I competed with was tough and possessed attributes that made them tough. When I entered the ring; that is the mentality I came with: The frame of mind that all my opponents were tough and I had to bring my Mind, Body and Spirit to raise my A game in the hopes to out battle any of them.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe the practice of Kata is useful and important and if yes or no, why?
CHESTER MILLER: I believe Kata has a very practical purpose. It develops endurance, balance, alertness, fluidity of movements and gives one the ability to envision a situation that may occur before it does, and presents one with a possible means of escape; Very similar to Shadow Boxing. I also believe that Kata, when it is not understood properly, can become detrimental to the practitioner. Kata is not to be practiced as a means to an end in a combative situation no more that trains and thinks masters shadow boxing should considered it the end to all. Rather as shadow boxing develops ones alertness, reflex, action and reaction time, and these things helps the fighter in a real life situation, so does Kata. Its training aids the practitioner in a real life situation and should not be looked on as the end thing to real life situation.
Martialforce.com: You entered the Professional Martial Arts Arena, Why, When and Who did you fight?
CHESTER MILLER: I entered the Professional Martial Arts Arena in the 1980â€™s. I got into professional karate because it allowed me the opportunity to go full contact and to really test my ability, to execute and to take blows. You see, I learned all these techniques, but in regular competition you really
never know whether your techniques are affective as in a real live situation, since in Tournaments all competitors are bound by rules and having to show excellence and proficiency demonstrating Control before making impact. Professional karate gave me the opportunity to somewhat see the affect of executing a Karate technique effectively in a real situation. I also got tired of competing in no contact tournaments when my opponents were given points for techniques that were â€œflimsy and ineffectiveâ€? and came close enough (according to the judges) to hitting if they wanted when I knew that they would not have hit me because I was setting them up. The worst part was that even if some of these techniques had hit me, they were so weak and flimsy, they would have proven ineffective. I figured entering the professional Karate arena would take out the guesswork. I fought John Goff, Louis Neglia, and two other fighters professionally whose name I forget. One was in Philly and the other was in Puerto Rico.
Martialforce.com: Do you feel that Martial Arts played an important role with who you are today?
CHESTER MILLER: The Martial Arts has played an important role with me in every way. It has taught me Persistence, Respect, Integrity, Discipline and Excellence. In Real Life these principles have opened many doors of opportunities hence my successes. In addition, once walking through those doors, and achieving success utilizing the things the Martial Arts added my life, the principles became tools and continue to be instrumental in
Martialforce.com: What have you gained from your practice of Martial Arts?
CHESTER MILLER: I have gained confidence, discipline, respect, understanding, flexibility, being physically fit and among a host of principles that guide my life. The training in the Martial Arts is a way of Life in learning, advancing, and acting with humility; therefore it is difficult to itemize what I have gained by practicing the Martial Arts because the list could go on and on. I however want to make it clear that there are other things that are major factors to the success I enjoy; The Martial Arts is one of those things.
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CHESTER MILLER: I believe that once you are experienced enough to understand the essence of the Martial Arts and can make the transition, you should learn as much as you can, then find a way to make it work for you. Once
you achieve this, master that, and if you must teach this cross training style, teach it only to those who are where you were making the transition.
Martialforce.com: As I remember 1974 seeing you practice Kata other than Goju, what other Martial Arts Styles, if any, have you trained in?
CHESTER MILLER: I have trained in 4 Systems of Martial Arts. I trained in Akido, korean karate, Japanese Go-Ju and the Chinese Art of Tiger Claw.
Martialforce.com: Have you trained with, and or taught, any family members?
CHESTER MILLER: I have trained with both my brothers. Grand Master Charles Miller (my older brother), who introduced the Miller family to the Martial Arts and this was even before Grand Master Fred Miller, therefore I have had the privilege of training with both my brothers. Yet as I said earlier, I have 5 sisters and 4 brothers; and all my brothers and sisters with the exception of two brothers, have all trained in the martial arts. My two brothers who did not train in the Martial Arts were very proficient in Boxing.
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CHESTER MILLER: The biggest Martial Arts personalities, who influenced me the most, are my Brothers Grand Master Charles and Grand Master Fred. This is because I have lived with them and have seen them on a daily basis live
the Arts in so many ways. I have seen imperfect people apply Martial Arts Principles to their lives in ways that helped better themselves, and others. I knew their ups and downs and yet through it all I saw their relentless courage to fight back until they succeeded in whatever they had set out to accomplish. Most of all, they taught me to do the same as well, as countless others. ! "
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CHESTER MILLER: I think tradition is important and it has its place. Tradition often sets the basis upon which the rest flows. It's the ABC's. Without tradition, there is no structure, no rules and where there is no structure or rules you have chaos. On the other hand, Tradition can sometimes be rigid and unwilling to change. This too in my estimation can create stagnation. I think it is important to find the balance between tradition and change, and operate there.
The Study and Training Martial Arts will never go away. It is not a fad. It is a way of life. Therefore I believe the legacy of the Martial Arts will always be, for an eternity. As far as having Martial Arts legends, as long as there are people whose lives have been greatly influenced by people who have made major contributions to the Martial Arts, there will always be legends and rightfully so. The thing that I have noticed the most is that those who are legends in the Martial Arts, did not considered themselves to be that and never strived to be legends. This honor is bestowed upon them.
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CHESTER MILLER: My opinion on this is, and it is based on my teaching and my beliefs. Times and Things are changing, people are smarter now than we were at their age. Remember I received my Sandan when I was about 18 or 19 years old myself. I belief that the proof is in the pudding. If they truly deserve their rank it will show in time. If it doesn't show up in the wash, it will show up in the rinse. My personal opinion on this matter, I will keep as my personal opinion.
Martialforce.com: What would you say is your greatest achievement?
CHESTER MILLER: Learning to master myself.
Martialforce.com: What is your Long or Short-term Goals in Martial Arts?
CHESTER MILLER: My goal is to assist in honoring those Great Martial Artists who have paved the way for us while they are still alive; to facilitate for them to receive their well deserved Honors. I also intend to continue to teach and lecture on the many benefits the training in the Martial Arts brings. The self-defense part is the obvious part of the training; it is the not so obvious principles of the Martial Arts that are applicable to daily lives that I want to stress the most.
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CHESTER MILLER: I am involved with the Fred Miller Foundation. The purpose of this foundation is 3 fold:
1. To honor those who have gone before us.
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3. To sponsor those who are coming after us. Apart from this, I am not involved with any Martial Arts Association.
Martialforce.com: Do you continue to train and teach and where is you Dojo?
CHESTER MILLER: Martial Arts training, being a lifetime activity is one activity that I continue to engage in. # $ % &$ '()*' + , -, . /%' # / # % % 0 & 0 #
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CHESTER MILLER: I have written 3 books to date. They are: "Achieving abundance through â€˜Nowâ€™ livingâ€?; "Giving Birth to Success"; and "Young, Gifted and Saved". These three books are spiritually motivated and packed with truths that can catapult you from where you are to where you want to be. I am working on my next 2 books called "Think Success" and "Staying Alive". Think Success, continues where Giving Birth to Success leaves off, while â€œStaying Aliveâ€? is a book on self defense. All my writing is geared toward helping people become all they can be by achieving their goals.
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CHESTER MILLER: I would tell them that The Lord made them Special, and have a place in life. Watch listen and learn from your Parents, who give their all for their children; learn from teachers, family, and friends who are doing the Right Thing and do not allow bad influences to carry you away. Find something that you like and get involved (like in The Martial Arts), you will
learn to accept yourself and make friends who accept you as you are.
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CHESTER MILLER: I would tell anyone who is interested in training in the Martial Arts, that first of all the Martial Arts is more than kicking and punching, it is a way of life. It will bring out things and abilities in them that they may not have been aware existed in them. I would tell them that the Martial Arts is geared toward teaching the practitioner how to master themselves. It takes hard work, dedication and loyalty. I also tell those who are interested in training in the martial arts, that although everyone can benefit from it, it is not for everyone. Therefore if they are not willing to subscribe to the above, perhaps they should think about another art form.
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CHESTER MILLER: I hope if this is the case, that the training this youngster
received from their home and through their training in the Martial Arts would have developed enough discipline in them to do the right thing. We can only teach others The Way, they must choose to follow. The Bible says to train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it. Youngsters as well as adults make mistakes, however if the right seeds are planted in them, they will get up, dust themselves off, and get back on the right track before it is too late. If a youngster does engage in an unlawful or violent act, we should be there for them to help them through, as they may experience the consequences for their action.
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