James E. Cox – Biography
I was born on March 6, 1970, in Odessa, Texas as the youngest of seven children in a single parent home raised by my mother. I’ve lived most of my life in Abilene where I own and operate Abilene Kajukembo/Premier Mixed Martial Arts.
In 1985, as a ‘troubled teen’, Michael and Stephanie Benavides, friends and neighbors at the time, invited me to my first Martial Arts class at the local Sears Park recreation center. The experience was both humbling and gratifying. I had no ‘natural talent’ and the training was very difficult (and often brutal), but I had fun. The focus and discipline required to succeed in martial arts gave me a positive, constructive outlet for my frustrations. That positive attitude soon replaced my negative lifestyle. I can honestly say that Martial Arts saved my life. It provided me with the tools needed to create a positive future.
My original instructor, Professor Patrick McDaniel, was a very charismatic, creative man who became both a teacher and a father figure to me. He grew a Martial Arts community from the seed Grand Master George Jackson planted when he first brought Kajukembo to Abilene in the early 1970s.
After a few short months of training, I began traveling with a team and competing in open karate tournaments throughout Texas and the surrounding states. As an orange belt, I helped Professor Patrick McDaniel teach. As a brown belt, I was given my own class at the Redbud YMCA. It was both an honor and a powerful position for a 17-year-old. I had to learn quickly what it meant to be a leader and lead by example. In the process, I was exposed to being a professional entrepreneur. Once again, Martial Arts was giving me the tools I needed to succeed in life.
In 1988, I earned my 1st degree black belt and graduated from Abilene High School. In 1990, McDaniel designed what he called the ‘Noble Method’. After its creation, he and I spent a great deal of time perfecting it.
I opened my first full-time karate school in 1992. My friend and first black belt student, Chuck Estes, helped make this amazing feat possible. I taught McDaniel’s ‘Noble Method’.
Little did I know, I was about to learn my greatest lesson about perseverance. In 1998, I suffered life-threatening injuries in a serious automobile accident and spent a week in ICU. I suffered head injuries, extensive internal injuries, and underwent three knee surgeries. Doctors were uncertain if I would ever walk correctly again, much less train or practice martial arts. I was told to find another career…but I never doubted myself. I persevered through it all and competed in a National karate tournament a scant six months after the accident. In that six months, I trained harder than I ever had before. My efforts were rewarded with the title of ‘U.S. Grand Champion Black Belt' in both kata and fighting.
Several years later, I joined the National Association of Professional Martial Arts, the United Professionals and Premier Management Group. Consultants assisted me in studying organized systems, marketing plans and statistics, all in an effort to better understand the business aspects of the art form that I loved so dearly.
In 2002, I taught martial arts and kickboxing at Abilene Christian University for five years. In 2003, I was inducted into the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame and also won the Golden Greek award. In 2004 and 2005, I won the Texas referee of the year award and won my AOK Texas State Championship for the sixteenth time. In 2005, I was promoted to 6th degree black belt and endorsed by five top Grand Masters in the Kajukembo system – Don Alii Nahoolewa, Joe Davis, Richard Peralta, George Jackson and Gerald Chavez. I also recognized the need for improved ground fighting in my curriculum, leading me to seek out the services of Brazilian Jiu-jitsu grappling master Clay Pittman as I continued my grappling training with Hermes Franca and the Carlos Machado. From 1994 - 2004, I took intense private boxing lessons from the amazing boxing trainer, Jesse Cantu.
In October 2005, less than a week after teaching a seminar at my school, Grand Master Peralta passed away. It made me realize how blessed I was to have worked with so many great people. Learning from him was a privilege I continue to honor daily by passing along his teachings and philosophies.
In 2007, Abilene Kajukembo became Premier Martial Arts. PMA is a successful school licensing program that serves to improve the lives of our students by implementing a modern approach to the mixed martial arts.
In 2008, we became an affiliate of “The Pit” Hawaiian Kempo with John Hackleman and UFC legend, Chuck Liddell. I was promoted to 7th degree black belt the following year.
In 2012, in partnership with my black belt students Homer Matlock, Justin Sullivan and Jeff Potter, we opened a PMA school in Colorado City, Texas. My wonderful wife Misty and I also opened Premier Fight Shop in the Mall of Abilene and was the area’s first MMA Supply store. Next, I branched out and founded the Premier Fight Association to promote amateur and professional cage fights. I was elected President of the American Kajukembo Association under Chief Senior Grand Master Don Nahoolewa. I earned my kajukembo 8th degree and Master title in 2013.
In 2015, I earned my purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and became an affiliate school of the RCJ Machado Association to help enhance the overall grappling skills of my students and staff members.
Over a 25 year period, I competed in an average of 25 tournaments a year and fought more than 1,800 sport karate fights in more than 600 tournaments. I proudly placed in the top three at every tournament. I usually won first, was undefeated some years and won countless Grand Championships. I retired with a sanctioned full contact kickboxing record of 11 wins and 2 losses with two National middle weight titles and also won several unsanctioned boxing and MMA fights.
I regularly perform demonstrations all over, as well as schedule motivational speaking engagements and teach seminars for all types of organizations. These include schools, universities, churches, law enforcement agencies, etc. Currently, I run a full-time school with more than 350 active students. To date, I have promoted and mentored 122 top quality black belt students as well as manage a successful MMA competition fight team. I am proud to list my top 4 highest ranking students which have all been training under me for over 20 years each: Claude Lawson, Curtis Chambers, Tony Forbis-Stokes and Sheryl Andrews.
One of the most rewarding things about being an instructor is the ability to pass on the lifelong benefits of Martial Arts to my own children; to hand them the tools to succeed as they were handed to me so many years ago. I am truly blessed by, and grateful for, the ability to hand those same tools to so many people on a daily basis; to give others the skills to change their life path and create their own success. My myriad of experiences have become my knowledge and power. I am proud to be part of building a better tomorrow while living each day as if it were my last.
Thoughts and feelings become things
Always think and feel positive