How did you get the role of young Rocky?
It took about Ten separate auditions to finally cast me as the Last Original Red Ranger. But the audition process was much the same as I understand it is now... Large, anyone is welcome, casting calls. The hunt for the kid versions of the rangers was a tad more difficult because they were not only looking for stellar martial artists but 11-year-olds that also looked like their older counterparts. The trifecta had to be tedious on the casting agents. If I remember correctly they saw over a million children in the long process. I just happened to be an outgoing kid with 5 Japanese throwing titles under his belt and a Karate Forms Champion on top of that, which I think helped edge out the competition.
Being a Power Ranger is every kid's dream, you got to live it out. What was running through your mind when you got the role of little Rocky?
Haha... to be honest? I was wondering who the heck Rocky was. The first time I auditioned was while the 1st season was airing and Austin St. John had yet to leave the show from what I was able to see through the television. So I got to learn about the new cast before anyone... and then when I returned for the 3rd season I also got to learn who the White Ranger was before anyone else. Imagine how hard a secret this was for an 11-year-old to keep? But beyond that I was ecstatic! Power Rangers was at the height of its popularity while I was on the show and it was being marketed to kids my age. So the transition from pretending to be a power ranger and actually becoming one for real was a dream come true.
Did the role of Rocky prepare you for your role as Colt in 3 Ninjas High Noon at Mega Mountain?
I think that all roles give you something to bring into the next one, part of acting is bringing in your life experience to a character; so in that sense? Yeah. I learned a lot about stunt work and fight scenes which would serve useful in that particular 3 ninjas film... as it by far had the most complicated fight scenes of the entire 3 ninjas franchise. Particularly my Zeo Quest episode helped me understand the pressure and responsibility an actor has. Previously I had a large supporting cast to depend on when filming... but the Zeo Quest episode is where I had to do ALL the heavy lifting. It helped me understand that acting is a fun job, but its still a job, which needs to be taken seriously. It was a real "If you can’t handle the heat get out of the kitchen" moment. Luckily I learned how to perform even better when the pressure was on, which helped me not only in 3 ninjas but in becoming a 5x MMA champ and a Business Owner.
Have martial arts always been the calm to your life as a working actor in Hollywood?
"Calm" might not be the right word, Haha. Sometimes Martial Arts can cause a bit of chaos but the point is to revel in it. Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of meditative qualities to it but it's difficult to find that peace if you're in an MMA cage knowing that if you don't win you can't propose to your Girl Friend (Yeah, that was a thing, Look it up). I think more than anything, Martial Arts was/is something I can depend on. There is so much in life you can't control especially in Hollywood... You didn't get a part because you had the wrong hair color or you weren't tall enough or they decided to make the part a girl. Martial Arts is a thing that I know if I do it and work hard at it... I'll get better. That's something I can control and a movie producer can't. It was something I could do to get better that nobody could take from me. I am blessed to be able to do it for a living and pass that feeling on to a new generation of kids.
When and why did you shift your career from acting to opening The OMA: Ranger Academy?
I've been training and teaching Martial Art since I could walk. So about 30+ years now. I've seen a big shift in recent years to how Martial Arts is taught... especially to kids. Most Martial Arts schools you see are basically glorified babysitting services. They've opted to structure their classes so they are more cutesie and fun... But I don't think you have to sacrifice real Martial Arts content for preschool games. My philosophy is that kids love Martial Arts because they're learning cool stuff and progressing and getting better. My students put on gloves, hit the punching bag, and work moves and combinations that I have tested myself in championship MMA matches and they love every minute of it. I think people need to remember that self-confidence comes from ability... You can chant positive mantras to yourself all day but if you know your ability isn't there, the words are empty.
I started the OMA: Ranger Academy in Pleasant Grove Utah because I saw a need for kids Martial Arts to be done right. So I chose to BE the change I wanted to see instead of just complaining about it. We also have a Private Academy in Burbank California.
Do you believe martial arts is a way to find self-confidence and prepare your mind for the open-world especially for children wanting to break into the entertainment industry at a young age?
When Martial Arts are taught right kids are taught realistic goal setting and achievement. Going back to what we touched on before, Martial Arts is unique in sports because its individual... the work you put in is the result you get out of it. Your kid could be the next Michael Jordan but if they're on an abysmal Basketball team that talent may never be realized. With my kids, I use a curriculum-based program so the kids know what is expected of them. And they quickly learn that I am not the person who gives them their next belt... they are.
I believe when a child is awarded for accomplishments they know they've earned and worked hard to get, it will help them in any endeavor. School, Hollywood, Work, Marriage. We're looking to build TRUE confidence... not false confidence. Once that's done then you can expect them to handle nearly anything!
Would you ever consider returning to the MMA ring?
I suffered a pretty debilitating injury in my last Championship Bout. Though I won the fight, I shattered my bones in my hand. It's been 2 years and 2 surgeries leaving me with a metal plate and 6 screws in my hand. I still love MMA. We live in a truly amazing time where, if you want to, you can step into a scientific fighting lab to test the authenticity of Martial Arts theories and people will PAY you for it! If I am being honest with myself though... I don't see how competing is going to give me any more than I have. Is "6x MMA Champ and #2 Ranked Fighter on the West Coast" gonna give me anything more than 5x Champ/3rd ranked fighter? I'd be skeptical.
If someone wanted to dump a load of cash on my doorstep... or if it was an interesting fight in an interesting place, I'd consider it. I am not using the "R" word just yet but let's just say I don't "Burn for the Cage" the way I used to.
What was the 1st con you went to and how was that experience?
My first con was Power Morphicon in Pasadena California (I Think). It was awesome to see how huge and self-supporting the Franchise of Power Rangers was with fans that are willing to fly from all around the world to meet you. I had so much fun reuniting with past castmates and meeting all the fans. Surprisingly, very few people knew the kid who played Young Rocky also played Colt in the 3 ninjas franchise. It sort of blew their minds. Cons are awesome, you get to meet people from all walks of life with great stories, my favorite thing is when people tell me they got into Martial Arts because of Power Rangers or 3 ninjas. I've given gotten some people who told me they were named after my character in ninjas! I love fooling around with the different cosplay weapons people bring me and seeing all the Colt tattoos. It reminds me of the responsibility I have as a performer and a coach... whether we choose to believe it or not we are shaping hearts and minds all across the world. It's a responsibility I do not take lightly.
What is your favorite & least favorite part about doing Cons in general?
Travel can be a bit rough sometimes. I am the primary coach in my Kids Martial Arts Program so leaving and coming back to make sure I am there for them can be a bit of a stressful crunch. Which is why you don't see me doing as many as my other Ranger Contemporaries. But once I am there its mostly fun and games with the fans without much of a downside. What I actually love doing even more than cons is my "Power Ranger Appearance Program", which is a system I created to visit local Martial Arts schools and teach kids some awesome Power Ranger Style Sword Moves. School owners love it because it enrolls new students and brings a lot of attention to their school... and I love it because its more time doing what I am good at, Inspiring kids to change their lives through Martial Arts!
Back in 2015, you hosted an Anti-Bullying program called “Bully Me Not”. How was that experience, and what advice would you give to not just children, but adults dealing with bullying today?
We're in strange new waters when it comes to bullying. I don't think there are more Bullies per se, but I do think we have less recourse from them. Where in earlier eras we could go home or hang out with our friends to escape, with the prominence of Social Media we all walk around with a magic little box in our pockets just waiting to tell us how much we are not loved at any hour of the day.
The Bully me Not program is a 3 pronged approach:
Prevention: Building a child's self-confidence so they are less likely to be targeted by a bully. (Like any thug a Bully looks for an easy target)
Dissuasion: Building the savvy and social support system that allows a child to talk their way out of confrontation.
Self Defense: Real World, Tried True skills that will prevent your child from getting hurt should they be attacked.
Most bully prevention programs skip 1 and 2 and go right to number 3. Which I believe creates more violence and doesn't give a person the tools they need to prevent situations. Without the right tools, you are just building someone who wins fights... which is better than losing them, sure. But I'd rather them not fight at all.
With social media playing a huge part in child suicide rates rising from online bullying today, what would be the best course to combat this disease?
First off. Your life is not valued by the amount of likes you get or a view counter next to a username. A lot of people, I think, feel that some level of Fame can ease the feeling of depression they have inside but the truth is... "Being Famous" doesn't solve the problem that is asked of it. In fact, quite the opposite! The success of any one person can breed humiliation in a lot of others. After Power Rangers I went back to school until shortly after the show aired, you would think that the kids would have all been stoked to be in school with a Power Ranger... but instead, I was bullied and teased.
It was then I learned that the "Celebrity" of someone will always be painful for those who want to be recognized but aren't. Once you realize that being "More Notable" doesn't actually get you what you expected, you are free to live your life as you want. Appreciation and Understanding are only available through the people you know and love... Not through a following of strangers on Facebook or Instagram.
My quick bullying advice is to get involved in an activity that expands your Real Life Social Network. Find something you like, and do that thing with other people. For me, it was Martial Arts. For you? Maybe its Cosplay or going to cons. Maybe it's a dance course or a DnD club. Whatever it is, put down your phone and do it with people in front of you. Finding people who like you for who you are will help soften the blow of those that don't. If going to cons has taught me anything... it’s that there are lots of people who like the things you like no matter how obscure and are ready to like you too.
With many former actors distancing themselves from the PR franchise, do you think they’re embarrassed by the connection, and what would you say to them?
Are there people that purposefully distance themselves from Power Rangers? I was unaware of that. One thing that can often happen in the acting industry is that an actor can become "Type Cast" as a type of character. Very often an actor's first goal after doing some monumentally recognized movie or show (Like Power Rangers) is to choose a project that shows the public than they are MORE than just that character. Bruce Willis was looking to break the mold of the character he portrayed in "Moonlighting" with "Die Hard" and Robert Pattinson looks for a slew of Indie Arthouse films to break away from only being seen as the "Heart Throb Vampire".
Even I took the indie film "The Sensei" (Streaming Now on Amazon Prime) about an LGBTQ youth in the 80s being bullied for his orientation in a small conservative town, to prove that I was a talented actor as well as a martial artist.
I think the "distance" people think of is an actor wanting more out of their career than JUST being in Power Rangers... If you focus too much on your past, there is nothing left for your future.
What’s has been your greatest accomplishment so far?
That's a hard question for me to answer. On the one hand, if I say something personal like "convincing my wife to marry me" I feel like I come off as Pandering while if I say "My Spinning Back Fist KO in an MMA Cage" I feel Bumptious. If pressed... I think my biggest personal accomplishment is an emotional one. In my 36 years on this earth, I have learned the skill of adaptation. Being willing to change and grow rather than settle and get complacent is something I can look in the mirror and say I am proud of myself for. When I was first on Power Rangers... I had no idea what I was doing but I made it work.
When I started my MMA career there was no one there to show me the ropes. From opening up Martial Arts gyms to Booking Comic Cons I had to figure it all out for myself and I've got a little secret for you:
Nobody knows how to do anything until they do it.
That knowledge with the ability to adapt and change is life-altering. I am proud of my ability to "Take chances, Make mistakes and Get Messy!" as Ms. Frizzle would say.
When you leave this world, what would be the one thing you want to be remembered for?
Ha! I have long since said that I want my tombstone to read "All dressed up and nowhere to go" as I no longer believe, as my catholic upbringing would suggest, that death is a promotion. I would prefer my good deeds be remembered while I am alive as I have little use for them after I've died... So, I suppose I'll answer with a quote from one of my favorite Satirists:
"If, after I depart this vale, you ever remember me and have thought to please my ghost, forgive some sinner and wink your eye at some homely girl." - HL Menken
If you could jump in a time machine and do life over again, would you change anything?
I truly believe that the person you are now is a combination of life experiences, both good and bad. I think I would be too worried about the butterfly effect to really change anything as I feel rather accomplished in the man I have become. Even the concept of "Learning Lessons Earlier" hurts my brain with the thought that I would have been too young to really internalize them. I am happy with my unique childhood for all its weirdness and ups and downs. And I cherish each moment for leading me here... having this interview with you.
As stated earlier "If you focus too much on your past, there is nothing left for your future." Honestly, If I had a time machine I'd probably want to go back and live through some cultural points in history. Prohibition Era New York. Woodstock. Stuff like that! Lol.