Tae Kwon Do has been part of my life since June of 1980 when I started training under Master Jun Chong, Master Phillip Rhee, his brother Simon Rhee and other great instructors at the old JCTKD school at Wilshire Blvd and La Jolla. It was at that school that I made some of my best friends and conquered my greatest opponent, myself. I can remember Master Chong saying to me when I was in his office one day anxious about some big decision in my life and Master Chongs wise words to me were simple “Loren, you are a Tae Kwon Do Black Belt, you can do anything…” Those words have stuck with me to this day. Now I am a Grand Master, and a 9th Dan Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do. Martial Arts training is the best decision I ever made in my life. I learned I could do anything I set my mind to, as long as I was willing to train hard and pay my dues.
A week after I returned from shooting “King of the Kickboxers” my 3rd starring role for Seasonal Films and the last film of my 3 picture deal I bowed into JCTKD to start training again after the grueling 4 month shoot in Thailand. It was that day that I met JJ Perry, one of my very best friends and my “Hyung”, or “brother” in Korean. JJ was spinning and executing incredible foot work and kicking combinations with speed and precision I had never seen before. He recognized me from the movies I had done and I recognized that I had just met one of the greatest Tae Kwon Do athletes in the world. JJ at that time had been All Army Tae Kwon Do Champion, All Armed Forces Tae Kwon Do Champion and an alternate for the 1988 Olympic games. I can remember the first time we sparred together in class. I was playing around and going light but JJ wasn’t he hit me with one of the hardest axe kicks I have ever been hit with to the back of my head as I threw a light spinning back kick. He was expecting me not to be standing after that one… I popped my head back up and I looked at him square in the eyes and said “nice shot”. I could see in his eyes he was a bit surprised and he knew I was going to come after him. Master Chong was close by as the two of us were sparring watching two of the best in the school as we were going at it. I threw a three kick combination that pushed JJ back to the west wall of the school. I knew he could only go left or right, or jam me up. He did what I expected and threw a left leg round house kick to the body and as he did I executed a spinning heel kick, I stuck my heel in his mouth as he was kiaping, and his head hit the wall. JJ wasn’t phased at all but Master Chong saw that things were heating up and he jumped in between us and said “break!” JJ and I never hit each other again to the head with such force, but over the years we pounded each other’s bodies, and JJ could punch like a mule kicks. We became close friends and when he opened his school in Inglewood “Tae Kwon Do West” I would see him at least 3 times a week to train and help him teach. I had left JCTKD by then and obviously so had he. I had a school in Northridge near CSUN but had moved to Beverly Hills at that time with my wife and beautiful daughter Nicole. JJ was an amazing teacher and produced some of the finest athletes with some of the best discipline of any Master I had ever known. We were both 4th Dan Black Belts at that time. Because JJ was an incredible TKD athlete he attracted US Olympic team members like Clay Barber, and National Champions like James Choi and so many other athletes and competitors that we would go to train with in the SF Valley like Hyun Lee, and my student Master Mihai Valeriu. Mihai is active in MMA and has a 5th dan in Hap Ki Do, through me, he is also a Master in BJJ and TKD. I also met Rick Ashenbremer and trained at the “Jet Center” with Benny the Jet Urquides. Ken Park a Kuk Sool Won Master was a friend of ours. I had thrown down with Ken at JCTKD and because of my long legs and my fighting spirit Ken respected me. Point being, JJ and I would train with all the best all over LA to keep our skills sharp and put ourselves to the test with the best. JJ had a thriving school and worked very hard as a Master and it showed.
I was still working in films and in 1995 when I produced “The Silent Force” and hired JJ to be the fight choreographer and Scotty Coyote to me my double and stunt co-ordinator. JJ was starting to make a name for himself in the stunt community when I hired him to be the fight choreographer and stunt double for Francesco Quinn and other action actors on “Deadly Ransom” in 1997. My plans to produce three films a year with Avedon Productions was usurped by a dastardly woman who ended up making 18 films with the Investor who funded The Silent Force. I had a choice to make, would I transition to stunts or keep trying to produce and star in films. Anyone who knows the stunt community knows that there is an unspoken rule that you can’t be both, you are either a “stunt person” or an “actor”, you cannot be both. I still had dreams to make films and an audience that wanted to see me in films, however due to some poor decision making on my part and some drama from some other wanna be actors that bad mouthed me to production companies that were making action films in those days my career stalled. But I never stopped training and finally in 2000 I broke and started hustling stunts, taking any job I could to pay the bills. I was well known as a great Martial Artist, and one of the best kickers in the world, so some stunt co-ordinators like John Medlen (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Jeff Haberstadt and Dave Morzoit hired me for (Alias) and other stunt co-ordinators hired me as well and I was able to squeeze by stunting 5 or 6 days a month sometimes more and survive. I loved working in the stunt department and have done more than 100 episodes of TV as a stunt man. I even won an Emmy working with Mehritt Yhonka on “Chuck” in 2007. It was around that time that I started taking care of my my Mother whose health was failing and I gradually bowed out of the business.
During that time JJ was earning respect all through out the world as a stunt man, fight choreographer, stunt co-ordinator and 2nd unit director. Right now JJ is in London co-ordinating “Fast 9”, and has a list of credits as long as my arm on some of the biggest budget movies in Hollywood. He trained Keanu Reeves for John Wick and works with 87Eleven Action design and Chad Stahelski, the main man there who was Brandon Lee’s double and is now the director of the John Wick series. JJ was supervising stunt co-ordinator on Fast 8 renamed to “The Fate and the Furious”. He is a member of Stunts Unlimited and is one of the most sought after stunt professionals in the business. He’s a family man and Father to a beautiful soon to be 7 year old daughter. I am so proud to be friends with JJ and to have known him for more than 29 years. Where ever JJ ends up he is known to be one of the hardest working, talented action directors in the film business.
It was he who introduced me to Hawaii when in October 2001 we visited the big island and I fell in love with that island and eventually built my home an lived there for 9 years. JJ is God Father to my daughter Nicole. I hadn’t seen him for almost 10 years when I moved back to LA in 2017, but I called him and when he was back in town we reconnected. He is so generous and such a great guy he took me and his beautiful family to a dinner at one of our favorite Chinese restaurants in China town and we ate the biggest lobster in the tank and had the place to ourselves. I love my Hyung JJ Perry, he was with me when I almost died in 1998 and underwent reconstructive stomach surgery that saved my life. I had a torn diaphragm on both sides, a hiatal hernia and half of my stomach was in my chest. He came to visit me at Cedar Sinai and brought me a stuffed toy chicken… lol, cause at that time the movie “Chickun Run” was out in theaters. That stuffed chicken had a button on it that would play song from the movie. He always knew how to cheer me up and he really cared about me… so much so that when I was down to 138 pounds and recovering from that surgery he took me to a restaurant in the valley near his home and bought me a hamburger… I still couldn’t get solid food down, and the look in JJ’s eyes said it all as he excused himself for a minute, saying he’s left something in his car. He put his hand on my shoulder as he passed me and I watched him go out of the restaurant. He didn’t know I saw him, but he broke down and cried cause he cared about me so much, but he didn’t want me to see him. He wiped his eyes and came back in the restaurant and sat down and I tried to get a piece of that burger that I had chewed about 100 times down my throat and I managed finally to get two bites down. Eventually I recovered, obviously, and moved to Hawaii where I took care of my Mom until her passing and moved from my house on Malama St just before the lava destroyed almost half of the subdivision I lived in called Leilani Estates in 2018.
JJ and I are family, the last time I saw him was at 87Eleven where he was pre-vizing a fight for Vin Diesel on a film and I saw Troy Robinson, Dar Robinson’s son there as he was Vin’s double on the film. If JJ isn’t doing a 150 million dollar action film he’s at home being a great Dad. I miss my brother JJ, but we always manage to see each other when we can. He sends me videos and I just sent his daughter a birthday card.
JJ “loco” Perry… 82nd Airborne Ranger, Tae Kwon Do Master, 4 time Taurus Stunt Award winner, and one of the best ever in every way at anything he does… but most importantly, my best friend and my brother.
Included in this post are some newspaper clipping pictures of JJ in the 80’s when Tae Kwon Do was his life, and a picture of JJ, Rick Ashenbremmer, me, and one of the greatest Tae Kwon Do athletes ever and super stunt man an director Clay Barber (Creed). Clay also worked on Deadly Ransom as a stunt man, and I was honored to give him one of his first stunt gigs in the business. I have given a lot of talented athletes their start in the business, but no one, no one will ever, ever mean more to me than JJ Perry.