By Rick Assad
With the rise in hate crime soaring nationally and that includes the Asian-American community, the Martial Arts History Museum in Burbank recently handed out stun devices as an act of self-protection.
This is the perfect time to have the event because it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
Michael Matsuda is the president and founder of the museum which opened its doors in 1999.
“The goal today is to bring more awareness to the Asian community and the Asian hate that’s going on. It’s been escalating galore, and we need to do something to stop it,” he said. “In this case, we’re doing something in self-defense. We are providing 1,000 free stun guns and devices to the Asian community, mostly Asian but it doesn’t have to be Asian, not as a tool to zap somebody, but as a tool of self-defense so that at least they have something to protect themself and that’s what it’s about.”
Matsuda talked about the need to address the growing hate directed at Asians by showing what the Asian community has to offer.
“Our goal right now, because we are an Asian museum, is not just about the punch and kick, it’s about the Asian community, Asian music, Asian art, Asian tradition and its connection with the martial arts,” he said. “We feel that the more people learn about different cultures like Asian culture, the better they will understand each other so that we can fight hate and prejudice.”
Matsuda added: “We are doing our best to raise five million dollars to relocate to a bigger place so that way we can have an event such as this,” he said. “We can have conferences on Asian hate and open the doors to different discussions and bring in school kids from all over the place to learn about the diverse cultures, so we really need to have the community support. We are trying to get a 15,000 square feet facility to have a theatre and to have a larger display area.”
Billy Blanks, a physical fitness personality, martial artist, actor, and the creator of the Tae Bo exercise program, has a personal stake in what the museum stands for.
“I’m here today because I’m all about peace, love, and joy,” he said. “My wife is Asian, and my daughter is half Asian. I understand that being of color you sometimes get attacked. I’m trying to bring more self-awareness to Asian people. When you walk around the street, you can’t be unaware as you usually are. Have some self-awareness. Watch people. Look around. See what’s going on.”
Blanks continued: “Because when you walk around without that self-awareness, that’s when people get injured. It’s not just Asians, I think everybody,” he said. “People should quit what they’re doing.”
Kick-boxing champion, martial arts choreographer, and actor Benny Urquidez was also there to help out the cause.
“I’m here to support the museum because without the history of where it all started to where it is now. I want them to know the art,” he said. “I want my grandchildren to know where it all came from.”
Urquidez, who compiled a record of 63-1-1 with two no contests along with 57 knockouts from 1958 through 1995 as a lightweight, super lightweight, and welterweight, loves the martial arts and what it teaches and stands for.
“For me, I do it for the love of it. I love the arts. There’re nine black belts in my family. My mother was a professional wrestler, and my father was a professional boxer. My first fight was in 1958 and my last fight was in 1995,” he said. “After you fight, you have to take care of yourself. You can only be tough for so long.”