In Memory of Founder Tony Morel

Written by longtime friend and Yama-Kan instructor, Kyle Cowand

On October 29, 2019 we unexpectedly lost our friend and teacher Master Tony Morel. He was an amazing presence in so many of the lives he touched. While it was a shock to lose him, and we are still saddened that he is gone, I thought it would be nice to share his story for those to remember him, and for any new students to learn a little more about the person who founded this school.

Tony was a lifelong learner who was never afraid of being a novice on the path towards better understanding. His main focus was Kajukenbo, but that didn’t stop him from achieving black belts in BJJ, Judo, learning kickboxing, basic boxing, and even Kali. He found his joy in rolling on the mats learning new techniques, and connecting with his students. He helped them focus and continually learn that the way to self improvement is to be in touch with your body.

Tony was born in Brazil, and at the young age of 13 he started to study Martial Arts under a Japanese instructor. He came to the US and ended up going to Texas State, where I met him and he became my teammate under Grand Master Dann Baker. Our Karate team was ranked #1 in the nation. Tony continued his learning after college, trying out many different styles before he focused on becoming a master in Kajukenbo. He trained under Grand Master Moses Williams and over years of training, rose to an 8th degree black belt in the Kajukenbo system.

Tony finally opened his own Martial Arts studio in 1997 in Austin, Texas. His humble beginnings started in the basement of a rec center. He taught Kajukenbo to his students, and eventually some of them went on to become instructors themselves, further spreading Tony’s wisdom in their own studios. Tony’s love for teaching really can be displayed in his students who continue to show their passion in spreading the knowledge.

During his memorial service, a number of his friends and family had a chance to speak about his life and their connection to him. Tony was the type of guy who made new friends everywhere he went. He also took special care of his long standing friendships as well. He was the type of person who would walk into a Brazilian steakhouse and leave with 4 friends and plates of free food from the Brazilian waiters he’d talk with in Portuguese. He always was so caring, so ready to ask you “How are you? How’s your family? What’s been going on?”. So many of the people there remembered the near-daily calls he would give them just to chat. His friendliness permeated the school he founded. Tony made the dojo a close-knit community where everyone was always laughing, and learning, including my 8 year old twin girls.

Although Tony is gone, he would’ve wanted us to continue on with the Yama-Kan School and that’s what we’re going to do. I will never be the same without my friend, but the best way to celebrate a life well lived is to keep one of his passions of teaching alive. It will be hard without him, but I know our group of instructors and myself will work hard to maintain and grow this martial arts community in South Austin. Thank you Tony for all the memories together.

 – Instructor Kyle Cowand 5th Degree Black Belt under Grand Master Dann Baker

Please enjoy this slideshow of Tony, his friends, and his family.