History of Kifaru Jitsu
Grandmaster McNeal was born in St. Louis, Missouri. At the age of 12, Master McNeal began studying the martial arts (Judo) under Sensei Beech at a local community center, and boxing from his father who was a noted pugilist having defeated such fighters as the old Mongoose Archie Moore. From ages 12 to 18, he received exposure to other martial art forms such as Ju Jitsu, Aikido and Atemi Waza. After graduating from high school, Master McNeal entered the United States Marine Corps and while stationed at Camp Pendleton, Calif. was introduced to Karate by one of the old Marine cooks. Master McNeal was assigned to Marine Barracks Military Police as a top-secret security guard. Master McNeal spent many hours studying the Shoto Kan style of Karate while at Marine barracks. After an honorable discharge from the Marine Corps in 1963, Master McNeal returned to his hometown of St. Louis. Master McNeal met Grandmaster Donald Baker through Eugene Gorden, one of Master McNeal’s father’s friends. McNeal began to study with Master Baker and subsequently became Grandmaster Baker’s understudy. Master Baker taught Dr. McNeal the martial arts of Kong Soo Do, Combat Judo and Goju-Shorei Karate. Dr. McNeal also had the opportunity on a few occasions to work out with Grandmaster Bakers' instructor, Robert Huggins. Masters Baker and Huggins stressed good basics and discipline, both being perfectionists. The classes were three to four hours long, no air conditioning, no fans and no complaining.
To train today as in the old days, most the students would pass out Dr. McNeal says. Most students want the belt and rank but there are few who are ready and willing to put forth the effort to achieve the rank. Dr. McNeal remembers how Master Baker would put the students in the back stance and then would go down to the basement to get a drink of water. The students would not move from the stance until they heard the call from the basement by Master Baker to move. Today, says Dr. McNeal, there is too much slop, not enough intensity and mental realization as this training might be called upon one day to save a life.
Dr. McNeal recalls that as a brown belt he would travel to various dojos in the city to train with the different instructors such as Sam Brock, who taught the Shuri Itosu style under the banner of Shudo Kan, and Bob Yarnell, who taught Shorin Ryu. These were just some of the many instructors in the St. Louis area. There was also another instructor named Porter who taught Go No Sen. Dr. McNeal, at the age of 16, went to the local YWCA to train in Judo with his cousin Edward (Tubby) Blair. After attending two classes, the instructor turned the class over to McNeal and Blair due to their extensive knowledge. Edward currently lives in Calif. and trains in Tai Chi.
In November 1966, Kifaru Jitsu Martial Arts was actually berthed, as Dr. McNeal and his family moved to Henderson, Nevada. Dr. McNeal began instructing Karate at the Henderson Boys Club, which was located in an area known as Carver Park where most Black residents of Henderson lived. There he began to refine his art and increase his knowledge and expertise in other styles and systems such as Mobuto Kempo, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, and Tanto-Jitsu. Dr. McNeal studied the art of Tanto Jitsu under the late Master Henry Yoda. Dr. McNeal further studied the art of Aikido under Master Carl DuDuiot, and another style of Shoto-Kan from Master Manual B. Jose, who was originally from the Philippines and had set up training in Las Vegas. On one occasion while training his students at the Henderson Boys Club, a Japanese gentleman came in and watched Dr. McNeal instruct class. After the class was over, the man contacted Dr. McNeal and complimented him on his style of instruction. The man said that he would come to the Boys Club to teach Dr. McNeal’s students if Dr. McNeal would come to his dojo and teach in exchange. Dr. McNeal and this Japanese gentleman became very good friends until his death in 1998. The man was Osamu Ozawa, the highest ranked Shoto Kan Karate Master in the Western hemisphere. Master Ozawa was an original student of Gichin Funakoshi. Dr. McNeal spent many hours with Master Ozawa and he would later attend Dr. McNeal’s wedding and write a special good luck saying in calligraphy and present it to the McNeal family at the wedding.
On another occasion two gentleman came to Dr. McNeal’s home seeking him out as they had heard about his Karate skills. Both men were practitioners in the arts and both began to question McNeal about his art and ability. Dr. McNeal invited the men into his home and he began to rearrange the furniture when they said “Show me what you know.” He then defended himself against them, tossing with Judoka, then blocking, striking, kicking and tossing the Karate stylist. Both men that evening became students of Dr. McNeal’s. One still trains under McNeal and is a great retired champion who recently won the Masters Division of the World Ju Jitsu championship. Dr. McNeal began cross-training with Master Donnie Williams and Grandmaster Steve Muhammad in the Kempo style known as Wo-Ying-Ch’uan, most commonly known as (B.K.F.). Dr. McNeal had already begun to create his style, which is now known as Kifaru, and found there were great similarities between Kifaru and the B.K.F. system in that they were both very explosive and technical.
In 1968, Master McNeal became the first Black man to be employed as a police officer with the Henderson Police Department. In 1972, after testing he was promoted to the Detective Bureau. Master McNeal’s skills came to good use in February of 1982. While as a police officer, Master McNeal had to call upon his skills to save the life of his partner and two citizens from an armed bank robber who had taken the citizens hostage and attempted to shoot his partner. The actions by Master McNeal to end the crisis situation prompted the Nevada Police Officers Association to award Master McNeal the Medal of Valor, and he was also placed in the American Police Hall of Fame. Dr. McNeal became the first officer on the Henderson Police Department to receive the Medal of Valor and the only officer from the department to be inducted into the Police Hall of Fame for an act of bravery.
In 1984, Dr. McNeal attended a defensive tactics course, which was held in Carson City, Nevada, and received recognition as a certified defensive tactics instructor for Nevada POST. He then created his own defensive tactics course, which was accepted by POST and was instructed to Henderson police officers. Dr. McNeal also instructed college accredited courses at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (U.N.L.V.) and the Nevada National Guard. The Hughes Summa Corporation was also instructed in self-defense and baton training by Dr. McNeal, and later the Salem, Mo. Police Department.
While in Nevada, Dr. McNeal participated in numerous tournaments. Dr. McNeal became the First Black man to become Grand champion of the Las Vegas National Invitational, and retired after three years as Grand champion undefeated. While a police officer, he also competed in the Police Olympics and was gold medal winner each year until he retired from competition. During his years of competition, Master McNeal traveled throughout the United States competing, assisting and promoting the art of Karate. He was the founder and served as Past President of the Nevada Martial Arts Federation.
In April, 1990, Grandmaster McNeal received a Ph.D. in the Martial Arts and Physical Education from Union University of California. He actively travels, conducting seminars and visiting his franchise schools, which are located in the states of Illinois, Missouri, California, Arizona and Nevada. Master McNeal is the Midwest representative of the Christian Karate Association and B.K.F. After serving 22 ˝ years, Master McNeal retired from the Henderson Police Department and moved to Salem, Missouri, where he established the National Headquarters for the Kifaru Jitsu Academy of Martial Arts. In June of 1993, Master McNeal was promoted to the rank of (ku-dan) 9th. Degree Black Belt by his instructor, Senior Grandmaster Donald Baker, who then retired. Master McNeal is currently operating his Martial Arts schools in Salem, Houston and Rolla, Missouri.
Dr. McNeal states that he has not finished learning this art and the only way to perfection, if there is any in the martial arts, is to continually teach and train. Dr. McNeal advises that “even a butcher hones his knives after each cutting session.” There are so many new things being discovered about the arts and their application. Only those who are too proud to learn or too stubborn to admit that there is more will just sit back and deny their students the most precious gift that a Sensei can give: proper training; an inward understanding; knowledge of the tool that the student possesses; and how to bring those tools into action if and when there is a need.
On March 27, 1999, Dr. McNeal was issued Sokeship, promoted to the rank of 10th Dan, inducted into the World Martial Arts Hall of Fame and placed on its Executive Board.
Master McNeal recognized and realized that since the style of Goju-Shorei was a traditional system and the fact that Kifaru Jitsu Academy of Martial Arts is an eclectic art that was developed in 1966, that he could not continue under the title of Grandmaster of Goju-Shorei. The fact is the traditional Goju-Shorei stylist has a Grandmaster. The art or style of Kifaru Jitsu was created by Master McNeal in 1966. After receiving the title of Soke, Master McNeal identified his system and recorded it at the Hall of Fame United States patent and trademark office as "Kifaru Jitsu Academy of Martial Arts". This was also because most martial artists know Master McNeal and his students by the name Kifaru or (THOSE RHINOS). As stated initially, Kong-Soo-Do, Goju-Shorei and Shoto-Kan Karate were the initial foundation style for the Kifaru Jitsu system which has since grown to incorporate many other styles.
Since there was still some of the group that wanted to continue under the name of Goju Shorei, Master Archie elected to oversee that segment and those individuals who wanted to remain under the name of Goju Shorei. However, at this time, the members of the Goju-Shorei group that is headed by Master Archie, are not connected to the Kifaru Jitsu Association. Master McNeal acknowledges the only way he could have attained the knowledge and been exposed to the various arts and Masters that have touched his life is through the divine intervention of God who has so richly blessed him through the people that have impacted his life.