interview by New England reporter R.J. Bishop
RJB: I’m with “World Champion” Jon Valera. Jon where did it all start for you and how aold were you when you started in the Martial Arts?
JV: It started when I was 8yrs old back in 1984. My first style was American Free Style Karate.
RJB: Your from San Jose California aren’t you?
JV: Originally I was born and raised in Roenoke, VA.
RJB: Who were your influences during your Martial Arts career?
JV: In my early Martial Arts career I looked up to John Chung, George Chung and Charlie Lee, those were my main three guys that I looked up to, and as I started to compete more Charlie Lee was even a bigger influence because he was competing at the same time I was competing too. But basically because I first saw tapes of George, John and Charlie, but then when I started competing Charlie Lee was still out on the circuit so he had a really huge influence on me on my Martial Arts career. Early on in my career I modeled my forms after him and as I got older and learned more things I adapted to my own style.
RJB: Ok we all know that you have a lot a high energy aerial moves in your forms so you must of taken a lot of gymnastic classes in the past?
JV: As a matter of fact I’ve never taken a gymnastic class in my life.
RJB: Really? You never have? How did you learn all those great high flying moves?
JV: Basically they were self taught. You know I like gymnastics but it’s not really my forte. A lot of people think that just because I do a lot of aierial kicking or I jump high it is because I do gymnastic training but I don’t do gymnastic training at all, mainly Martial Arts.
RJB: So now you are officially retired from competition and I believed that you announced your retirement at the “Diamond Nationals”?
JV: Yes, I announced my retirement from the NASKA circuit at the “Diamond Nationals” but my last official competition was at the WAKO World Championship in Italy back in November.
RJB: Tell us about your TEAM PAUL MITCHELL coach Don Rodrigues, what part has he played in your Martial Arts career? Has he been a big influence in your career too? What is behind the man?
JV: I would have to say that Don is probably one of the “all time great coaches”. You definitely want Don Rodrigues behind you on everything, he will fight for you til the end, I’ve seen hind do that with his Fighters as well as his Forms competitors. When I returned to competition from a back injury after being out for a year and a half I started competing in the adult division in 1995 and basically he came up and started to talk to me about joining TEAM PAUL MITCHELL. I wanted to be on the team as a junior but they weren’t taking juniors at the time. So I continued to compete and stay healthy and by end of 1995 I was on TEAM PAUL MITCHELL.
RJB: So now you’re an instructor, an actor and stunt person?
JV: I like to do both the acting and the stunts, I’ve done both already.
RJB: I think I remember seeing you in the “Mortal Kombat” TV series.
JV: Yes, my character was the Reptile.
RJB: Any other roles coming up i the near future?
JV: Yes, Definitely, I’m going to auditions and studying acting. I also did some theater in San Francisco.
RJB: Tell us about the three talented students you brought here, Rudy Reynon, Aaron Neis and James Solis, they are incredible talents.
JV: Thank You! Man, my students you know, a lot of people have asked me since I retired do I get that itch to compete again. Basically I thought I would, but seeing my students out there representing me and themselves, well then that is more than enough. I don’t need to compete again because I see them doing well and I love to train them.
RJB: I see so much of you in them it’s incredible, several people that I’ve spoken to have also noticed it.
JV: Thank You, I couldn’t be more proudof them. You know it’s not just me but it’s their will to learn and train as well, they themselves I feel deserve most of the credit. I was basically there to guide them in the right direction but the was up to them.
RJB: They definitely seem to be very highly motivated.
JV: Yeah I’m really, really proud of them.
RJB: Well Jon, Thank You for this interview and I hope to see you at the upcoming U.S. Open.
JV: Yeah, Thank you, I will definitely be there.