Harley Elmore has been training and teaching material arts for over 37 years. He owns and operates an academy in Texas and travels the world teaching individuals, special interest groups, police and some of America's most elite military special forces groups.
He has made it a lifelong goal to study the best martial arts in the world. This has led him to being certified under some of the most elite martial artists of our time.
Tuhon Harley is one of only a few martial artists to have Full Instructor certification under Guro Dan Inosanto, Bruce Lee's protege, to teach Filipino Martial Arts, Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu as well as Maphilindo Silat and Majapahit Martial Arts. He started training with Guro Inosanto in 1988 in Tulsa, Oklahoma at Gibson’s Martial Arts.
Tuhon Harley Elmore discusses those who continue to inspire Him, including Dan Inosanto, Pamana Tuhonm, and his own students.
Tuhon Harley Elmore discusses his goals, processes and driving inspiration for continued growth in life and martial arts.
The Story of Harley Elmore - BY Krystal Elmore
In July 2016 my husband, Harley Elmore achieved the impossible. He was promoted to Tuhon in Sayoc Kali. So what exactly does Tuhon mean? Simplified, it means master level instructor. But it means considerably more than that. To achieve this goal one must master more than the martial arts. Sayoc Kali is more than a collection of drills or knife fighting skills you have to memorize. It is a way of life that fundamentally changes who you are and how you think. Sayoc teaches formulas for success. Success in martial arts. Success in life. Success in business. Success in marriage. It has pushed Harley to a level of mastery not only in the martial arts, but in every aspect of life.
This life long journey to mastery has been full of struggles and failures, rises and falls, but ultimately triumphs. It is very easy to look at Harley now and think, "Yeah, he's the man." But he wasn't always the man. He started out as a boy from Arkansas with little means and no support. In 1979, he became interested in martial arts because he wanted to defend his family members against domestic abuse. He found an ad in the back of a magazine for an at home study self defense course. He mailed in his money order and shortly thereafter received his first lesson. He was only 12 years old and it was the beginning of a lifelong pursuit to train with the best and become the best himself.
Finding His Home
Over the next decade, he trained in and achieved instructor level in Tae Kwon Do, Shinjutsu Kempo Karate, Kuai Shou Pai Gung Fu, Vo Lum Vietnam Kung Fu, and Wing Chun. These stepping stones led him down his path to train with Sifu Terry Gibson. In 1988, he attended his first seminar with Guro Dan Inosanto and it forever changed his life. He had found his home in the Filipino martial arts.
He started traveling to train with Mr. Gibson as much as possible and eventually moved to Tulsa to work as the program director for Gibson’s Martial Arts. Mr. Gibson was an incredible man and martial artist. He was also a direct link to legendary martial artists like Guro Dan Inosanto, Pendekar Herman Suwanda, and Ajarn Chai Sirisute. It was exactly what a young 20 year old Harley needed.
In 1992, Harley tested under Mr. Gibson and became a Full Instructor in Filipino Martial Arts, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Jun Fan Gung Fu, Jeet Kune Do Concepts, Grappling/Ground Fighting, Western boxing, Maphilindo Silat and Mande Muda Pencak Silat.
The nine years he spent with Mr. Gibson formed the foundation for the man Harley is today. I never had the privilege of meeting Mr. Gibson myself, but I have never, even for one moment, felt like I didn't actually know him. I can tell you he was a world class martial artist. He was always professional, caring and powerful. Most importantly, he was genuine. I know him through Harley and by how he speaks of him. I know him because I see all of these same amazing attributes in Harley. He is with us in everything we do.
Mr. Gibson passed away in 1997 after a long battle with brain cancer. This was a very dark time for Harley. He moved to Florida and didn't train for a year. He almost quit martial arts. It was hard, but hard times often lead us to good things.
A NEW BEGINNING
Because Harley left Tulsa, he met me. We started dating in February 1999. We had only been together for five months when he asked me if I would wanted to open a martial arts school with him. I said "sure" and we began our journey. It motivated Harley and he started training again. We opened our school that November and never looked back.
Fast forward two years. Harley had continued training with Guro Dan Inosanto and started building his own instructors organization, Warrior's Way International, Inc. He was carrying on Mr. Gibson's legacy. He was now the teacher, and had begun molding the next generation of future instructors. Our school and organization were doing great, but something was missing. Harley needed a mentor. So he turned to Guro Dan for help and guidance.
Guro Dan highly recommended Harley look into Bahala Na and Sayoc Kali. Both were family systems run by world class martial artists. Bahala Na was a battle proven Arnis system led by Grand Master Tony Somera. Sayoc Kali was the Art of The Blade© headed by Pamana Tuhon Chris Sayoc. Needless to say, they peeked Harley's interest. It didn't take long before he was on the phone with each of them. During their first conversations, he scheduled our first two seminars. Grand Master Tony and Tuhon Sayoc were coming to Texas and Harley had found his new mentors.
Sayoc Kali and Tuhon Sayoc were everything Harley had ever thought martial arts should be. You know the old kung fu movies with the martial arts master that can pretty much do magic? That was Tuhon Sayoc. He made the impossible possible. Tuhon Sayoc knew exactly how to push you in every way that you needed to make yourself better. You would think something was unattainable and two days later you would be doing it. It was just like the stories Harley had heard about the training they did back in the old days. The crazy hard stuff that seems impossible. Refer to any classic kung fu training montage for examples. That's the kind of stuff they were doing. It had an allure of danger and the promise of exponential growth.
Grand Master Tony was such an amazing man. Over the years, he and Harley developed a very special relationship. They were more than just friends. He was more than just a mentor. Grand Master Tony was very much like a big brother to Harley. He was Harley's true and trusted confidante. He was always the one Harley turned to for advice. When Sayoc was hard and pushed Harley to the limits, Grand Master Tony was there to help guide him back.
Did I mention Sayoc was hard? Well it was! And it wasn't just hard on Harley. To be honest, Sayoc was not love at first sight for me. I probably wished he would quit at least 1,000 times. It was hard because it pushed boundaries. It cost a lot of money. And for me personally, it was scary and made me uncomfortable. But you know what? Those are all the same reasons it was great for Harley. I saw him come alive again. He was eager. He was being pushed to new levels. He had new goals. I knew that it didn't matter how it made me feel because it was good for him.
Over the next 15 years, Harley did what Harley does. He got good! He was constantly traveling and training with the Tuhons of Sayoc Kali every opportunity he got. They asked him to perform things he didn't think he could do, but he did them. They gave him challenges he thought were impossible to meet, but he met them. They asked him to do things he thought were too dangerous or not worth the risk, but they were all worth it.
He quickly became a leader in the organization. Not because he was a high rank, but because he was a natural leader. When Harley joined Sayoc, he wasn't new to the martial arts. He was a seasoned professional who brought with him 20 years of experience. He headed his own martial arts organization and was already a phenomenal teacher. All of these qualities made him stand out from most of the other Sayoc practitioners.
These differences helped him. In 2009 he was promoted to Full Instructor in Sayoc. It was a huge accomplishment for him. But he didn't stop there. He continued to push and sought out opportunities to train and work with Tuhon Tom Kier, and eventually became the Director of Training for Sayoc Tactical Group. He taught courses with STG and began designing blades for military special forces. He also worked with Tuhon Rafael Kayanan doing stunt choreography and making blades for several TV shows. Harley took every opportunity given to exceed expectations. He was transforming himself into a Tuhon.
He not only bettered himself in Sayoc, he took this philosophy and applied to everything he did. In 2011, he accomplished a lifelong goal and was promoted to Full Instructor under Guro Dan Inosanto in The Filipino Martial Arts, Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu and Jeet Kune Do Concepts.
This master level of instructor is a feat not attained by many. There are less than 30 in the world. Harley also continued to build and strengthen Warrior's Way International, and his academy became known as one of the top JKD schools in the country.
In 2016 he did it. He accomplished what less than 20 other instructors had ever been able to do. He was promoted to Tuhon in Sayoc Kali. It was quite an accomplishment.
What makes it even more impressive is the fact that Harley is the only person in the world to have achieved a master level instructor rank under both Tuhon Chris Sayoc and Guro Dan Inosanto. These accomplishments were the culmination of over three decades of hard work, devotion, and dedication.
Shortly following Harley's promotion to Tuhon, a Sayoc brother came up to him and said "Your promotion is confirmation I'm in the right organization. The fact that they are choosing good quality men to lead says a lot." He was absolutely right. Harley has continued his journey and completed the circle by becoming a great mentor to others. He achieved this level of mastery because he was driven and sought out phenomenal mentors.
He is who he is because he was inspired by great men to become a great man himself. - That is what it means to be a Tuhon.
While training at Gibson’s Tuhon Harley was promoted to Full Instructor by the late Sifu Terry Gibson in Lee Jun Fan Gung Fu / Jeet Kune Do Concepts, Filipino Martial Arts, Muay Thai Kickboxing, western boxing, Indonesian Pentjak Silat, Maphilindo Silat and grappling/ground fighting.
In 2000 he started training in Sayoc Kali, one of the most sought after blade systems in the world. He was promoted to the rank of Tuhon by the late Pamana Tuhon Chris Sayoc.
Tuhon Harley was the first person to ever hold master level instructor certifications under both Guro Inosanto and Pamana Tuhon Sayoc. Having these two systems to draw from gives him a unique perspective on martial arts, especially weapons training.