I never knew Joe Brague well.
But he was a presence from the first time I started attending tournaments as a black belt in Pennsylvania.
At first I saw him as one of the Senior judges. Later I learned he was the instructor of Gary and George Michak. Extremely strong competitors in the region. In fact later Gary went on to be in the 20 twenty in the nation in kata, kobudo and kumite divisions at National karate tournaments.
I remember the first time I met him, it was at a very small local Cherry Blossom tournament where I competed as a black belt for the first time. As the tournament wound down I entered the men’s locker room to change. Joe was inside with a group from the tournament, just talking with them. When I entered he was trying to make a point to the others, he turned to me and asked if I could help him demonstrate something. I agreed to help, having no idea what was coming next.
Joe put his hands on my neck, the next thing I remembered was I was coming to on the floor and Joe was talking to the group, I imagine explaining what he did. What I heard was him describing the carotid artery choke he placed on me, and how it worked. But not much of the detail. Then Joe helped me to my feet, I changed and left. Wondering a bit what had happened.
[On a separate note I began to gather information on that choke. From a variety of sources over the next few years I began to understand what happened. For example one way it was used by a Russian Judoka against an American Judoka in the Rome Olympics to end the fight they had almost before it started. Eventually from those sources and some of my own work I worked out an entire methodology for that technique. It was a potential to use or not of course. It contains risks, and rewards if done correctly.]
I never pursued his system, just understood that apparently the Zen Budo Kai group was a confederation of schools that were standup at the local tournaments.
One other memory was a time I was going to compete up at Hidy Ochai’s tournament in Binghampton New York. The Michak brothers were there competing too. Now I was never a threat to their abilities, we just recognized each other as we competed against each other in the same divisions. So there I was putting on my safety gear, preparing for kumite.
As I was warming up, Joe came up and said “Victor, I see you are going to spar. Would you like some assistance to warm up.” I said yes and got into my fignting position. Before I could move, Joe just slapped me in the face. He told me “you need to wake up before you spar these guys.”
I have no reason to believe Joe was doing anything but trying to help me. At the same time I will always remember that unexpected slap.
A number or years later I can be seen in that photo with Joe, judging some division together.
I just have these two memories of him in action, especially when I was totally unprepared for what occurred next.
Shortly thereafter I moved away from that region, and later got away from the tournament scent for the most part.
But I also never gave Joe a third chance.