I’ve known Alain Burrese for a number of years now. He’s always struck me as the nicest guy in the self-defense industry. He steers clear of Internet feuds, never has a negative word to say about anyone, and is always focused on offering productive, constructive material for personal protection. He’s also an accomplished speaker and author, with a string of instructional works, his Ben Baker sniper novel series, and multiple “Tough Guy Wisdom” entertainment commentary works in print. He’s written for various martial arts trade publications, too, including Black Belt Magazine, Karate/Kung Fu Illustrated, and American Survival Guide.
He’s also been the victim of an extensive harassment campaign in the last year… but we’ll get to that.
The author of such instructional works as Hard-Won Wisdom from the School of Hard Knocks: How to Avoid A Fight And Things to Do When YOu Can’t or Don’t Want To and the star of a number of Instructional DVDs, Alain has studied multiple martial arts, and holds a fifth dan in Hapkido (which he studied in Korea). He also spent two years as a paratrooper with an infantry battalion in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC, and worked as a sniper instructor at the 2nd Infantry Division Scout Sniper School at Camp Casey, South Korea. He has also lived in Japan and toured other countries in Asia.
Alain is also an educated man, holding a Juris Doctor Degree from the University of Montana School of Law. He has extensive training in negotiation and dispute resolution, including “Mediating the Litigated Case” at the Strauss Institute at Pepperdine Law School.
Given all this, it’s odd to find Alain the target of an extensive harassment campaign. He’s received a number of fraudulent reviews on his books and DVDs, received threatening phone calls, and been the target of seemingly endless (and endlessly libelous) anonymous commentary online intended to malign him and hurt his business. Knowing him for as long as I have, I was shocked to learn of this campaign — and not at all surprised to find out that, for the most part, Alain won’t even talk about it. This insistence on taking the moral high road is part of what I’ve always respected about him. I therefore took it on myself to do some research regarding the major claims made by those who’ve been attacking his reputation. Here’s what I learned:
Yes, Alain Burrese Really is a Fifth Dan in Hapkido
One of the fraudulent claims made against Alain is that he is not actually a fifth dan in Hapkido. One critic even claimed Alain went to Korea and somehow bought rank, or offered to bring his martial arts master to the United States to exchange money for credentials. This is, quite simply, absurd. It’s completely fabricated and no evidence exists for the claim.
The reality is that Alain has studied a variety of martial arts from 1982 to 1995 and, while he never earned a black belt in any of them, he traveled to Gangneung, Korea in 1996. There he trained under Kim Young-jong and his Saboem, Lee Jun-kyu — under whom he continues to train to this day. Lee Jun-kyu eventually opened his own school, and it was Lee Jun-kyu who promoted Alain to fifth dan.
In a world full of thirty-something ninja masters who claim to be fifth, sixth, and seventh dans after half a dozen years in self-made martial arts styles, it’s not particularly remarkable for someone to achieve a fifth dan after spending 20 years under the same instructor. Of course, as with so many things, the proof is found in watching the man move. Alain is impressive and carries himself as a talented martial artist who knows what he’s doing. The overwhelming majority of fakes with inflated martial arts pedigrees simply can’t do that… and don’t, on those occasions that they post video of themselves performing techniques.
Yes, Alain Burrese Really Was a Sniper Instructor
Some of the other criticism of Alain revolves around his military background. One or more of his critics claim he was never a sniper instructor, or that he was merely an “assistant to the instructor but not a sniper” (whatever that is supposed to mean). This picture would seem to belie that claim, as the young man second from the left in the front row is unmistakably Alain Burrese.
Alain attended the four week 2nd Infantry Division Scout Sniper School at Camp Casey, Korea in July 1988 and graduated second in the class. He holds a certificate of training that states, “Sniper Course 7-88, 351 hours, 2 July 88 – 29 July 88.” He would return to the school three times to work as an Assistant Instructor (Class 8-88, Class 3-89, and Class 5-89).
By his own admission, Alain traveled to Korea as an E-2, not an E-4, and almost didn’t get to go to sniper school because of his rank. (He got himself into some trouble at Fort Bragg for disrespect and for communicating a threat to an NCO, an act of temper that he does not hide but which he also does not advertise.) He was in great shape at the time and good in the woods with a rifle, prompting his platoon sergeant to take up for him and fight to get Alain admitted to the sniper school — which he was.
Rank that is disproportionate to time spent enlisted is often an indicator of the truth or falsehood of a man’s military claims. Alain was in the military for four years. One critic claimed that after 9 years in the military, Alain was only an E-4, but this is only mathematically possible if you count (incorrectly) the time he spent in high school after signing a delayed-entry contract (and the IRR when he got out after four years). The fact is that Alain did a standard four-year hitch from 31 July, 1985 to 2 August, 1989 and was then honorably discharged. He was offered a promotion to E-5 to reenlist, but he instead opted to get out and get his undergraduate degree on the GI Bill.
No, Alain Burrese Isn’t Hurting Anybody
The final point of contention among Alain’s bizarrely hostile critics seems to be that he somehow finds the time to harass, stalk, and malign a laundry list of enemies while engaged in his remarkably busy schedule. Supposedly he is, under an army of fake names, posting negative comments about a group of martial artists online. This claim is odd on its face, but when you dig deeper, a much more disturbing pattern appears. That is that the very people claiming Alain Burrese soured their milk, blighted their crops, turned them all into newts, and said mean things to them on the Internet are themselves obsessively posting libel about Alain.
They’re doing it everywhere from Amazon reviews to anonymous, unreliable gossip boards like “Ripoff Report.” Sadly, the expense and time required to sue someone for damages incurred through libel is difficult enough when the libel happens in your home state — and prohibitively expensive when it happens over state lines. Thus, Alain has for the most part opted to ignore the defamation. This is unfortunate, because the man deserves better and, to the best of my ability to verify, has never hurt anybody himself. He stays clear of martial arts politics for the most part and, while he admits he hasn’t always been able to resist sharing a negative article or two, it’s simply not his focus.
A Quality Instructor, A Good Citizen, and a Decent Man
Alain Burrese is, in my opinion, a really nice guy. He works hard, he offers an immense volume of quality self-defense and entertainment material to the world, and he’s a family man with no ambitions other than to support his loved ones and make the most of himself. I’ve seldom met a more driven human being, and I hate seeing unjustified criticism — not to mention outright fabrications — directed at someone like that. If you’d like to support Alain Burrese, “like” his Survive and Defend, Your Warrior’s Edge and Tough Guy Wisdom pages on Facebook, buy his books and DVDs, and tell him through social media how much you enjoy his work. I figure it’s the least we can do for somebody who does so much for everyone else.