Just after the formation of the Professional Karate
Association in 1974, Brevard County became the unlikely nexus of East Coast
kickboxing tournaments, and fabled Cocoa Beach night club Brassy's
served as the sport's even unlikelier premier venue in short order.
ESPN began broadcasting PKA kickboxing events from Brassy's in
1981, and Donnie Hair, along with the legendary Don "The
Dragon" Wilson, his mentor and Brassy's fight promoter, was
regularly featured in those first filmed bouts.
"Fighting at Brassy's was awesome," Hair,
a Cocoa Beach resident since the age of four, recalls. "The events were
always packed, and it was always exciting fighting with Don Wilson as the main
A formidable kickboxing champion who was rated 6th in the
world, Hair is now the president of the Cocoa-based USA MMA
Kickboxing Promotions, and it's through it that Brevard will once again play
host to the sport with a series of fights at
Levelz night club in downtown Melbourne. It's also a company that prides
itself on an adherence to the honorable precepts of pure karate -- and
kickboxing, its logical descendant -- that helped make the sport the phenomenon
it has since become.
After reading a book called "Karate for Kids"
while in elementary school here, Hair fell in love with karate, and his
enthrallment with a 7th-grade friend's "Yoshukai Karate"
t-shirt is what sparked his interest in the pursuit.
Of the myriad branches of karate, Yoshukai is one that
is defined more by mental than physical discipline. Master your mind, to put it
simply, and the body will follow.
Hair is still understandably nostalgic about his
following the Yoshukai path. "Karate was very different back then from
what it is today," he says. "You earned your belts, you didn't
buy them. Classes cost $10 a month, so there was no financial interest in
keeping you around if you didn't train hard and show respect and discipline.
Back then, instructors bragged about how many students they could make quit, not
how many black belts they promoted."
"When I heard about a PKA full-contact event being
held in Melbourne, I asked my teacher,
Larry Pate, if I could fight," Hair remembers. "He
said, 'Meet me at the dojo tomorrow night.' We met there -- it was at the Cocoa
Armory -- and he beat the crap out of me and asked if I still wanted to fight
full-contact. My answer was 'Yes, sir!'"
"Kickboxing was actually called 'full-contact karate'
back then," Hair reflects. "The events were held on
concrete floors and the fighters wore newly-invented foam padding on their feet
and hands. I knew at that point I would be a full-contact fighter, but I was too
young. I wasn't able to fight until I earned a brown belt."
Studying Yoshukai with Pate helped keep Hair
in good stead when, at the age of 15, he participated in his first kickboxing
bout at the Melbourne Auditorium in 1976 and began fighting professionally four
years later. It's the discipline he teaches today, and it was through
Sensei Pate that Hair recently earned his 5th-degree black belt.
Apart from the physical skills Yoshukai helped him
master, the discipline is also responsible for Hair's disarming
"Although I won more fights than I lost," he
says, "the memorable fights that stick out in my mind are the ones that
One of his first defeats in a professional bout came at the
hands one Jeff Overture in Dallas. "It was the first time my
grandmother had come to watch me fight,"
Hair reveals. "It was the first time I was ever knocked out and
they carried me out past my grandma. Needless to say, she never came back to
watch me fight."
"Another memorable fight was against a guy named
A. W. Mohammed. I was told he had four professional kickboxing matches.
After he left-hooked me to death after five straight rounds, I found out that he
had over 30 pro boxing matches," he laughs.
"But my most memorable win was two years later with
him. I knocked him out in the second round, and put six stitches in his top lip."
In 1980, things changed dramatically for Hair when he
met Don Wilson,
an 11-time World Champion and prolific actor who is widely considered the best
kickboxer of all time.
"I knew of Don because he beat two of my
instructors in full-contact karate matches in Melbourne," Hair
tells me. "Then I ran into him running on the beach. We were both
training for the fights at Brassy's and he invited me to his gym. Soon after
that, I was Chief Martial Arts Instructor at his studio in Cocoa Beach. That was
the beginning of a lifelong friendship."
In 1989, Hair conceived of the "Super Fights"
series of bouts and founded his first promotional company, USA Kickboxing,
Inc., through which he promoted over 100 amateur kickboxing events and three
Pro World Title events.
Impressed by Hair's promotional abilities, Wilson
asked him to relocate to Los Angeles to act as Promotions Director and Assistant
in his film production company. Through his work in Hollywood, Hair went
on to star in a number of martial arts films -- including "Mortal
Kombat," "Night Hunter," and two installments of the "Bloodfist"
series -- and he's worked as a stuntman, technical advisor, and fight
choreographer for several others.
In 1994, Hair and Wilson joined forces to
create "The Challenge of the Dragon," a martial arts star
search competition that presaged television's current fascination with
contest-driven entertainment. Held to a capacity crowd at Prince's Glam Slam
nightclub in Downtown L.A., the challenge featured martial arts champions
from all over the country vying for a featured role in a Wilson-produced
action film. In keeping with the duo's strong ethics, the event also doubled as
a fundraiser for a local charity called "Cities in Schools."
It's a trend Hair continues with his ongoing support of the Wounded
Warrior Project and
AVET (American Veterans Empowerment Team), which was the beneficiary of
his current company's one-year anniversary.
Hair's belief in sportsmanship and honor is what earned
his organization the impressive distinction of having overseen over 60 bouts
without any major injuries. "The main thing is to make sure fighters
are matched with even skill levels," he explains. "I also use
the best referees and medical staff available. Strictly adhering to standards
and rules of the sanctioning bodies is essential. A lot of people want to see
bloody fights -- 'the ground-and-pound' -- which is not allowed in amateur
fighting. You have to keep in mind these guys have to go to work the next day."
The common thread of safety and respect running through all of
Hair's promoted events stems, unsurprisingly, from core Yoshukai
tenets. The most virulent misconception laypeople might have about the fighters
Hair deals with today is that they're arrogant and disrespectful of each
other. "That's what you might see on TV," he says, "but
in my experience, MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighters show nothing but honor,
respect, and sportsmanship towards each other."
Donnie Hair currently promotes Live Cage Fight events
as a series of Amateur MMA & Muay-Thai Kickboxing matches sanctioned by IKF Kickboxing and ISCF
MMA. Most of his events currently take place at Levelz (4250 W. New Haven
Ave.) in downtown Melbourne.
- Filmography by year for Donnie Hair
- Night Hunter (1996) [Actor .... Uniformed Cop] [stunts]
- Bloodfist VIII: Trained to Kill (1996) [Actor .... Emeric
Pressburger] [fight choreographer]
aka "Bloodfist VIII:
Hard Way Out" - USA (DVD title)
- The Power Within (1995) [Actor .... Assistant Instructor]
- Bloodfist VII: Manhunt (1995) [stunts]
- USA (video title)
- Mortal Kombat (1995) [stunt ninja]
- Lion Strike (1995) [Actor .... Stan]
of Fire III: Lion Strike" - USA (DVD title)
- Blackbelt (1992) [Actor .... Dojo Mercenary]
A Day with Donnie Hair - Stuntperson from "Mortal