I was asked to write a quick bio on Mo’sama, and it dawned on me that the best way to describe this man is to tell you the short version of my first interaction.
As I walked into the gym for the first time, I felt a bit intimidated by the fighters dripping with sweat. They pounded the bags as if they were tenderizing meat. Mo’sama greeted me with a very friendly, “Welcome. I am Mo’sama”
As I began to study under Mo’sama, I have often felt like an understudy of “Mr. Miagi” from Karate Kid. He takes you up the learning curve in small increments. Occasionally he will throw out an idea he has never told you before like…”one day, I will teach you gliding hands or I will teach you how to comb your hair.” It is as close to the real thing as you can get. He is friendly but knows how to push your weak areas so you can become the best version of you.
He is actually a warm and caring individual, but we all respect his mastery of the arts, and…well this might sound weird, but we all have reverence for his legs. We have nicknamed his right leg: “hospitalization” and his left leg “sudden death.”
Understanding Mo’sama’s back story is the key to understanding why he cares so much about his students.
He grew up in a poor neighborhood in the “hood” of NYC. Violence was normal and bullying was out of control. He had a speech impediment and often found himself the brunt of laughter. Since he couldn’t talk to anyone, he found himself dedicated to learning kickboxing.
As he progressed and became very proficient, he was feeling pretty “badass,” and was introduced to sports judo the hard way. He was challenged to a fight with a sports judo expert and was instructed he could not punch or kick. Mo’sama explains it this way, “the girl threw me all over the place, and everyone that knew me couldn’t stop laughing.” This made him realize that kickboxing was not enough. He went on to study jiu-jitsu, sports judo, kung fu and other disciplines, which have led to the fully integrated, very practical style called Katsugo.
Mo’sama became so proficient at all of these disciplines that by the age of 18, he was called, “the only contender for Bruce Lee’s throne.”
Things were perfect and he was on his way to fame, when one fateful afternoon, he and some of his students had a run-in with a well-known biker gang. This auspicious day, Mo’sama was hit in the back of the head with a tire iron. Suddenly all of the awards, accolades, trophies and wins no longer mattered. Ruben Morales was to enter into the greatest fight of his life. He was in a coma for a year and after some time, the media, forgot about him. His recovery was difficult and long.
He suffered from amnesia, and he had to relearn who he was. He tells the story…”I could do all this cool stuff, but couldn’t remember who I was.” And so the story goes…without remembering who he was or really what he could do, he joined the rest of us in the working world. He went on to have his own school and has never let his passion for one of the most beautifully developed and practical martial arts in existence die.