Many know him as the dastardly O’Hara in the classic Enter the Dragon. But true martial arts historians recognize Bob Wall as one of the great traditionalists of all time—a man who in nearly a half-century of study has trained next to and under the best of all time.

ImageHe was Gene LeBell’s first black belt and Chuck Norris’ 48th; a Joe Lewis protégé and Linda Lee confidante.

He has been front and center for some of the most historic events in martial arts history. Few would blame him if he took time to rest on his laurels. But at 70, Wall seems to be defying logic, proof that the busier he gets the younger he becomes. From seminars to public appearances, speeches to book signings, Bob Wall is a whirling dervish of martial arts activity.

And he shows no signs of hanging up his black belt anytime soon. “I’m too busy to retire,” he says, laughing.

Here’s what he’s been doing.

INSIDE KUNG-FU: It’s been a while since you’ve been in the magazine. Tell us what you’re doing now.

BOB WALL: I’m continuing to run my companies Wall Street Properties, RA Wall Investments, World Black Belt and my Dynamic Stretch Machine Company, Sportmaster. We manage our real estate investments and are marketing our amazing fitness drink “KO Fitness Drink”; the world’s best credit card the “Black Belt Visa”; the great almost-2,000 picture An Illustrated History of the

Martial Arts in America: The 1st Hundred Years in America; and our fourth edition of the Who’s Who in the Martial Arts.

IKF: With some much on your plate, why do you still devote so much time to martial arts.

BW: I’m busy because, I love to be busy and I devote a lot of time to the martial arts as a payback to the martial arts, because they’ve given me and my family so much.

IKF: Do you think we’ll ever see champions like those in the heyday of karate?

BW: I’ve always believed what it takes to be a champion athlete in any era is the same era after era. Jack Johnson was a great champion in the early 1900s and if we were alive today, he would still be a great champion. I believe martial arts continue to improve technically, along with training methods and nutrition. Therefore, current world champions have those benefits (i.e., we all stand on the shoulders of our previous champions knowledge wise).  However, at the end of the day a person’s character, attitude, morality and respect for our history and traditions makes a big difference in that person.

IKF: Where are today’s legends?

BW: I believe we do have legends just like in the past. There is always only one Gene LeBell, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Don Nagel, Michael DePasquale Sr., Oshima, Nishiyama, Gen. Choi, Paul Pad Noy, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, and so on. Each has his own unique path to his legendary status. The mixed martial arts created legends in Chuck Liddell, Randy Couture, Cung Le, Anderson Silva, Dan Henderson, Royce and Renso Gracie, Jean-Jacques Machado, Gokor Chivichyan, Rob Kaman, Matt Hughes, Gina Carano, Dr. Ann Rousey, and Chris Cyborg—all legends of the current era.

IKF: Is traditional martial arts in danger of distinction?

BW: I believe that traditional martial arts teaching will continue to be around, just maybe in smaller numbers. There are so many options now.

IKF: Who do consider the generation’s greatest fighters?

BW: The greatest fighter depends on the martial art. Gene LeBell gets my vote for judo (two-time undefeated national champ) and MMA (he won the 1st-ever MMA in the U.S. in 1963 when he beat 5th-rated light-heavyweight boxer) and he was former heavyweight wrestling champion. For karate it’s Chuck Norris hands down and boxing it would be Muhammad Ali.

IKF: What attracted you to martial arts?

BW: What attracted me was I was small and had no fighting skills. I had an abusive father. One day I made up my mind that I’d never get beat up or abused again, so I began wrestling in high school and college and then I began judo. Then I moved to Los Angeles and trained with the late Al Thomas, Gordon Doversola, and the incomparable Gene LeBell, where I became his black belt. Then I trained with Joe Lewis and became his first black belt. Then formed a partnership with the Great Chuck Norris and became his 48th black belt. Then I studied and jiu-jitsu with the fabulous Machado Brothers for several years. What always attracted me was the effectiveness of the martial arts and the amazing people in the disciplines, like LeBell, Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Pat Burleson, Jim Harrison, professor Ron Duncan and Ernie Cates.

IKF: Who were your martial arts heroes?

BW: My martial arts heroes were Chuck Norris, Pat Burleson (1st National Karate Champ), Jim Harrison, Mike Stone, Gene LeBell, Bruce Lee, professor Ronald Duncan, Thomas LaPuppet, Steve Sanders Muhammad, Ed Daniels, Fumio Demura, Joe Lewis, Rick Wigginton and Rich Shanahan.

IKF: Others with less accomplishments have received more notoriety. Do you feel slighted by the lack of credit?

BW: I’ve never felt slighted because I took first or placed second in all of the major tournaments of the day and I was a member of the first World Professional Karate Team Champions. Also, I’m the only person to co-star in three Bruce Lee films and became Chuck Norris’ partner in a very successful chain of martial arts schools that turned out many, many amazing black belts like the late, great Howard Jackson, John Natividad, Victor Guerrero, Jerry Taylor, Dennis Young, Steve Smith, Van Moomjian, Kim Burbidge and her late, great brother Bobby Burbidge.

IKF: When you were making Enter the Dragon did you know you were making history?

BW: I have to say that once we began filming Enter the Dragon it was magical because there was a solid script, terrific music by Lalo Schifrin, a fabulous producer in Freddie Weintraub, excellent acting by John Saxon, Shek Kien and Ahna Capri and the amazing, late great Bruce Lee, who was so much fun on the set. So it felt different than the other films I did. It felt like magic in a bottle while we filmed. But I certainly did not know we were making a great all-time classic. However, I’m forever grateful to Bruce Lee and Freddie Weintraub for giving me the opportunity.

IKF: Who are some of the martial artists you admire today?

BW: There are several I admire today. Charlie Mattera who has built one of the most successful chains of martial arts schools, The United Studios of Self Defense, which is vertical business. Charlie owns Budo Martial Arts supply and ABC Billing, as well as the schools. Then I always have admired Gene LeBell, Chuck Norris (the world’s best partner and trainer), Jim Harrison, Pat Burleson, Rick Wigginton, Rich Shanahan, professor Ron Duncan, Jacques Patenaude (he owns 25 kung-fu/mixed martial arts schools in Canada), Royce and Renso Gracie, all the amazing black belts at Chuck Norris’ non-profit “Kick Start” program in Texas, Cecil Peoples, Troy Dorsey, Fedor Emelianenko, Georges St. Pierre, Anderson Silva and the great Ernie Cates.

IKF: Will we forget the greats of the past?

BW: No, I believe that Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris and Benny Urquidez are admired around the world and all the greats today know and appreciate their immense contributions to the martial arts.

IKF: What makes Chuck Norris unique in martial arts circles?

BW: Chuck Norris has so many great characteristics; it’s hard to single one out. He is one of the kindest, toughest, most giving humans I have ever met. If I had to narrow it, he’s the best friend you could ever ask for. We been together for 45 years and he has taught me a lot and has always been there for me. I simply love the man.

IKF: What were your reasons for creating World Black Belt?

BW: The motivation behind World Black Belt was to create the best, biggest, non-political martial arts community in the world where every martial artist around the world could join, interface, communicate and locate martial arts from every country. One of the huge benefits is that if you put a person’s name at you can contact him. WBB has announced the passing of martial artist and we’ve helped raise money for those that had financial challenges at the end. WBB also gets great health information to its members and we have the amazing fitness drink KO.

IKF: What is the greatest benefit you received from martial arts?

BW: The greatest benefit I received from martial arts has been all the amazing people I’ve been privileged to meet and/or train—from presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to celebrities like Elvis, Steve McQueen, Freddie Prinze, Jack Palance, Priscilla Presley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Howard Jackson, Cecil Peoples, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Freddie Roach, James Coburn, Ed Parker, Johnny Desmond, Linda, Shannon and Brandon Lee, Don “The Dragon” Wilson, Gene LeBell, Gokor Chivichyan, Helio, Rickson, Renzo and Royce Gracie, John McCarthy, The Machado Brothers, Pat Burleson, Jim Harrison, Rick Wigginton, professor Duncan, Ernie Cates, Rick Shanahan and on and on. That, combined with my fabulous wife Lillian who I met through the martial arts, which gave me my two greatest gifts, my daughters Shana and Kara.