Master Bey's Taekwondo & Kung Fu Institute is located in a tiny practice space on Detroit's Grand River Ave, but it offers something cagefighter Joshua William Ciulla couldn't find in larger training centers.
Ciulla, 22, used to train at the Mash Gym in Redford, Mich., which bills itself as Michigan's largest Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training facility. That changed after he found out about Grand Master Bey's dojang, or place of practice, from a former co-worker who trained there.
"He invited me to come with him and I said, 'Sure why not?'" said Ciulla. "So I came in here. I rolled around and whooped up on a couple of guys. Grand [Master Bey] rolled me and whooped me up a little bit -- and I really like that he was able to whoop my ass."
Ciulla found that along with developing a deep respect for the Grand Master's skills, he appreciated the intense, fast paced, hands-on atmosphere of the small dojang. So, he decided to become a part of Grand Master Marshall Dixson-Bey's 15-student school.
Bey, 58, is a three time USA Martial Arts Hall of Famer with an impressive resume that includes an 8th degree black belt in Taekwondo, a 5th degree black belt in Tangsoodo, a gold sash in Hung-Gar Kung-Fu, seven world brick-breaking records and a combined 174 grand championship victories in sparring forms and weapons combat. In addition to these accomplishments, he also holds an associate's degree from Marygrove College and served as a police officer for 12 years.
A native of Detroit, Bey began his martial arts training in 1968. He says he found some of the inspiration for his studies in the films of Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Sonny Chiba, which were coming out around that time. Bey honed his combat skills under the guidance of two skilled teachers: Great Grand Master Tai Jeka George J. Calhoun, who taught him Wu-Shu Long Arm Kung-Fu, and the Korean Taekwando teacher Great Grand Master Sang Sup Kil, who is one of only a few registered 10th degree black belts in the world.
Although his institute originally started out as a Taekwondo school, two years ago Bey switched it over to a Mixed Martial Arts format, which features a variety of traditions. Bey also runs an amateur MMA league called International Dojang Champions (IDC), which gives his students an opportunity to fight against those from other schools.
Training at Bey's institute is intense, featuring cardio training, practice with dummies, punching bags and lots of sparring. Students hone their fighting skills through a variety of forms: Taekwondo, Kung-Fu, kickboxing, wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and Sambo, a Russian fighting style.
Rasheed Oruche, 19, who, along with Ciulla, is a member of the school's fight team, said his first month was a grueling experience.
"My whole body was sore from the work," he said. "After your first two weeks, if you do intense training, your body starts getting used to it ... and when that happens we make it even harder."
Ciulla, the IDC's current banner weight champion, said fighters must train nonstop in order to stand a chance in the cage.
"Those five minutes feel like five hours. Those rounds -- they're crazy" he said. "You can't go out there hands blazing because you're going to get knocked out. You're going to make a mistake. There's so much stuff going on in there. Its like a chess match when you're on the ground."
Ciulla said MMA fighting is popular in Metro Detroit. He estimates there are at least ten leagues in the area and names Stars and Strikes, Cooper's Gym, H8 squad
and the Academy Of Soo Do Thai as formidable local MMA schools.
Grand Master Bey told The Huffington Post he appreciates the versatility MMA fighting allows competitors, but doesn't like the term "cagefighting."
"I don't consider us cagefighters -- anybody can fight in a cage. We're mixed martial artists. We just happen to fight in a cage." he said. "We can fight anywhere and what made me get into MMA -- or getting in a cage to display our talent -- is because it's more realistic than the traditional martial arts art forms."
Although Bey believes his students should be be prepared to fight at anytime, he stresses that he teaches conflict resolution and advocates walking away from fights when possible.
"I teach them humility," he said. "I teach my guys to be humble and to work together cause they're brothers, and the ladies I teach them to get along with each other and to harness that when they're out in the streets."
Quite a few disciples have had an opportunity to learn these teachings from Bey over the years. Since opening his martial arts institute in 1997, he's trained about 2,000 students. In addition to his school, he also instructs 150 students between the ages of three to 18 at the Don Bosco Hall Community Resource Center in Detroit.
The grand master said nothing in his life has compared to the experience of being an instructor.
"I've watched my students train. I've watched them horse around. I've watched them fight," he said. "From all of my accomplishments, to see it go in to someone else ... that's the best feeling in the world.