Keshia Richmond speaks with Sifu Lamar Bruno, owner of Elizabethtown, North Carolina based, The Shaolin Experience / Onpoint Executive Protection. They discuss his experience as a stunt coordinator, regional director of the Philadelphia Guardian Angels, how he saved a girl from drowning, and what students will learn when they attend his workshop in Tazewell, VA.
Sifu Lamar Burno: Where we left off is…about The Last Dragon.
Keshia Richmond: Yes. I was asking… You worked directly with Taimak. And you helped him, I believe, do a sweep and a roll out.
Sifu Lamar Burno: Taimak was a dancer, predominantly. He was a real good dancer. Can you hear me?
Keshia Richmond: Yeah, but you know what, let’s just start from the beginning because we have some people who just joined us. So…
Sifu Lamar Burno: Okay.
Keshia Richmond: You have a sixth degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. You are an Electric Knight under Ninjutsu. You are a Black Sash, Instructor Level in Shaolin Kung Fu.
Sifu Lamar Burno: Right.
Keshia Richmond: Right. And so you were stunt coordinator for some very well known films, one of them, being The Last Dragon where you worked directly with Taimak. You instructed him…
Sifu Lamar Burno: Yes, well Taimak was really a beginning martial artist as well as an excellent dancer. And, they called Sifu Rome in to instruct a fight scene. What happened was, Taimak wasn’t the greatest but he had great kicks. So, Sifu Rome alongside myself, demonstrated some things where I would do it in slow motion so Taimak can follow. Actually what happened was, he would do it slow motion and they slowed the camera down. That way when he was doing it in real time, it looked like he was doing it quickly. But, that’s when they had the glow, the song The Glow. That was the thing. Everybody had the glow. Because he idolized Bruce Lee, we had to show him to correctly do a sweep. He was a nice guy, very humble spirit. That movie led to other movies.
Keshia Richmond: And a sweep is what?
Sifu Lamar Burno: A sweep is when you take one leg and slide it on the ground lightly to knock your opponent off balance. And you can take your other foot and do damage with that by continuing to knock you opponent down.
Keshia Richmond: You also worked on a classic film. The Last Dragon was a classic film. Oh My Gosh, Coming to America. There was an African stick fighting scene with Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall. And what did you do there?
Sifu Lamar Burno: Well, I went through the motions to show Arsenio Hall how to…well same thing…same motions just with a stick. Sweeping an opponent following through with the stick on top. You were sweeping with the stick on the floor, carrying it in a round motion, using the opposite side of the stick to finish your opponent.
Keshia Richmond: So you also worked on the film fallen with Denzel Washington. You worked with…what was that other movie with James Russo?
Sifu Lamar Burno: James Russo with Condition Red. You know the films go on and on.
Keshia Richmond: Right the films go on and on because you’ve a forty year career in film as well–not just as a stunt coordinator but as an actor.
Sifu Lamar Burno: Right. New York Undercover I was Sergeant Coffee in New York Undercover. That is just some of the films. I’m an activist. I’m into saving people in my community and helping them out. I was a regional director of the Guardian Angels. And the Guardian Angels is a volunteer group. It was started by Curtis Sliwa in New York City. And we wore the red berets, marched down the street…
Keshia Richmond: You were a regional director, you wasn’t just a member, you were in charge of all of Philadelphia. As a regional director, you trained them because they don’t have weapons they only have a whistle so they had to know how to (motions)
Sifu Lamar Burno: …how to do hand-to-hand combat. Right. We patrolled the subways in New York and Philadelphia. We walked in dangerous areas where the elderly was afraid to walk at night. We just kept the streets safe. We assisted the police departments in every city.
Keshia Richmond: The Guardian Angels actually some made headlines today. But that’s a story for another time. I want to move on some of your bodyguard work and how you used your martial arts in bodyguard work. Alot of times, bodyguards will use weapons, firearms and things like that but sometimes you can try not to escalate and use your martial arts. Because you were a bodyguard for Boys II Men, Ce Ce Peniston…tell us a little about that.
Sifu Lamar Burno: When you are body guarding, you always remember safety first. By me being a former police officer, you are taught de-escalation. No matter what kind of situation you walk into or are confronted with, whether it is irate, you make the aggressor feel like you are on their side and you know where they are coming from. All situations aren’t deescalated easily but because you are trained. I’m trained. You always try to talk it down first. When you can. A situation may arise where you may have to get physical. But it’s not a long physical battle. Because you size the person up and know what you’re going to do before they even think of it.
R&B artists is just more of just a presence. And it’s more riot control. But when you’re doing bodyguard work for rap artists or someone more violent. I’m not going to say violent situation but gangsta rap you know how to approach the situation differently. That’s how that works.
Keshia: Okay. That’s interesting. Very, very interesting. So you talked about your bodyguard work and you have some notoriety too in terms of. Am I a right or am I right? Am I wrong or am I wrong? What did I miss?
Sifu Lamar Burno: You’re right. One prior situation that I talk about that was kind of dear to my heart, was the time that I was in Atlantic City. I was there for a wedding with a friend of mine and I never walk the board walk because I don’t like the seagulls. You know the seagulls on the boardwalk are very territorial. If you get funnel cake or you get a hot dog they always…you just don’t know where they are. They swooping down trying to take you food from you. They come in droves.
Myself and my lady friend were there because she had never been to the boardwalk and I heard a woman screaming. And I looked around. I said, “Do you hear that?” She said, “Yeah, it’s coming from over there.” So, I had a suit on and she had her dress on. So I got my little jog on to see what the noise was and the closer I got, the young lady said, “My baby. My baby is drowning!” And I looked and all I could see was water. I didn’t see nobody trying to help her.
So, I went on the pier that was adjacent to the Taj Mahal and I threw my jacket off and I dove in the water. And, as I was swimming, the water was salty. As I was swimming, it dawned on me that I was swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. And along comes the Atlantic Ocean, you know there are sharks and whales and all kinds of fish in there that you don’t know of.
Keshia Richmond: And in New Jersey, on New Jersey shores, there are shark sightings all the time!
Sifu Lamar Burno: Right so, I got this kind of aura over my body of fear. But I said my mission is to grab this young girl because all I could think of is that this could my young daughter. So I swam and swam. When I got to her, I grabbed her. I said, “I have you.” She said, “Do you have me?” I said, “I have you. Hold on to my neck and don’t let go.”
All I could remember from the training that had, was to get on my back and do a elementary back stroke. Because what hit me is, sharks come to splashing water and blood. Well she was splashing water but she wasn’t bleeding so I held her arm and kicked as far as I could. I waved my arm until I was getting tired. And when I looked up, I said, “Wow, I know I wasn’t that far from the shore.” So I kept getting..waving my right arm…until when I was getting muscle failure, I looked up and people were walking in the water grabbing me.
She said, “Thank you so much, thank you so much!” Her mother hugged me and the news media came. Alot of people surrounded me. That was a thing that I really remember because you never know where God will put you at a certain time. You just have to be ready. And here I am today, talking to you today on Instagram.
Keshia Richmond: And I am so excited and I feel so blessed that you are here with me today. You are actually a godsend for me because I had been looking for me because looking for.
Sifu Lamar Burno: I don’t consider myself a hero. I just consider myself as someone who was there.
Keshia Richmond: So tell us what people will learn when they come and train with you at our first workshop/seminar in Tazewell, Va?
Sifu Lamar Burno: What people will learn… They will learn self-confidence. They will learn self-discipline. They will learn flexibility.
Keshia Richmond: So we haven’t scheduled this workshop yet. We are still waiting to see if we will be approved for the facility.
Sifu Lamar Burno: They’re gonna learn self-confidence. They’re gonna learn self-respect. Self-discipline. The correct way to punch. The correct and proper way to kick. They are gonna learn more than just forms and how use themselves as a weapon. Learn how to be humble and how to deescalate situations and walk away from things that they can avoid.
Keshia Richmond: That’s great. That’s great. I see alot of people are checking in saying how wonderful you are, Mr. Bruno. Giving you , Mr. Burno, oh my god, somebody is going to have to fix that in me. Giving you some many five stars providing protection for all your celebrities. You work around the clock to ensure high quality protection at your awards. Someone else said they have had great experience working with you which is why I am sure that anyone who signs up for your workshop in Tazewell, VA will benefit greatly.