Wu style Tai Chi Chuan Grandmaster Ma Yeuh Liang. 1976

England... the Start

I started training in martial arts out of necessity… growing up in a tough neighborhood in the poorest area of Sheffield, Yorkshire. David Carradine was in a TV show Kungfu and Bruce Lee was in theaters in The Big Boss. I was sixteen and needed the self defense skills and confidence that I knew martial arts would give me. (See Martial Arts Beginnings). I joined a Shukokai Karate school run by the now legendary Roy Stanhope. My other instructors at this time were Stan Knighton and a tough ex-marine called Phil Milner. I also trained under Tatsou Suzuki in Wado Ryu Karate. Martial arts were booming in England. I was at Art college studying fine arts and photography and holding down two part time jobs, but I still got to the dojo four times a week.

Those teenage years seeded a passion for the martial arts and photography that have remained with me until today.

I gained my black belt in Shotokan Karate at twenty one and a year later I switched to training in Tai Chi Chuan when I met Wu style teacher, David Barrow. It was great opportunity and he is still one of the UK’s leading Tai Chi exponents. I was now studying to be an architect and still holding down two part-time jobs. I used the first wages from my work as an architect to take a trip to Japan which rekindled my love for Japanese culture and I returned to the Karate dojo. But after ten years as a self employed architect, I made the life-changing decision to leave England and move to New York in 1990.

Living in the USA

In the USA I began working in digital media and video. I made my first documentary in 1997, a few years after moving to Miami Beach. Empty Mind Films was founded four years later with the first release, The Empty Mind followed by The Zen Mind. I opened a film studio in the Wynwood Arts district of Miami and dedicated myself to documentaries on martial arts and Asian culture.

A year before the 2008 Olympics, I was hired by China’s largest publisher to work for four months in Beijing designing media. It was here that I met journalist Betty Yuan who became my assistant for the next ten years. Our first film was Warriors of China then Masters of Heaven and Earth. In 2009 I released A Natural Way on traditional Chinese medicine.

Jon Braeley climbing up Wudang Mountain. 2002

Returning Home

I had been on the road non-stop for five years and ready to return home to America. It was february 2016 and my return home lasted just four weeks when a project about an Ultimate Fighting champion took me to India to make A Fighters Journey. I have a love for India and could not turn down a chance to film there once more. “Is there no end?” I thought. “Have’nt I filmed all the martial arts?” Those words led me to make two more films in South-East Asia, Fighting Sticks of Arnis and The Island Art of Silat.  I had produced twenty eight documentary films.

"These films are very well done. Jon Braeley captures something deeper than just what you see on the screen"


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