On Easter Sunday, at their home in Murrieta, Calif., the 73-year-old Mixed Martial Arts Grand Master Bob Chaney passed away peacefully while resting on the couch. Over the last several months, he had been dealing with a somewhat rare heart ailment. In consideration for relatives and friends from all over the planet who wanted to come to San Diego and pay their final respects, Sarinda Chaney, Bob Chaney’s wife decided to wait until Saturday, April 9th to host a celebration of his life at the San Juan Diego Center in Pala, Calif.
Close to 500 people attended Saturday’s ceremony at the San Juan Diego Center which began with a greeting and eulogy delivered by dear friend and pastor Tim Bales. Next, Wat Ratanapanya, a Buddhist Monk, offered a homily, and then accompanied by fellow monks he chanted an archetypal chant which was followed by a touching, sentimental song sung by Scarlett Derousse (below).
Erica Criswell Makayla, Chaney’s daughter and her two sons JT and Robbie Criswell then recounted some special moments they had with the patriarch of their family. To stop people from losing it, the BFF (Best Friends Forever) troupe of Burt Ward, Nick Blumgren, Terry Wilson, Dennis Warner, Cecil Peoples, Jerry Devine, Eddie Newman and Allen Sarac followed and one by one they did their best to relate the most endearing tales, funniest mishaps they had with their best buddy Bob Chaney.
If you’re too young to remember the Batman Series, Adam West played this wealthy entrepreneur Bruce Wayne and his ward Dick Grayson played by Burt Ward led a double life: they were actually the crime-fighting duo Batman and Robin. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from 1966 through 1968, they defended Gotham City from cats like the Joker and the Riddler.
Following Master Nick Blumgren, it was Grand Master Terry Wilson, In Sync WCK Muay Thai CEO Dennis Warner, referee and Grand Master Cecil Peoples, Grand Master Jerry Devine of Pacific Martial Arts, Grand Master Eddie “Flash” Newman and last but not least Grand Master Allen Sarac. Without prior consultation, each of these BFFs would press the point that Bob Chaney and himself were best friends.
Bob Chaney’s wife, Sarinda, the final speaker was given a standing ovation. Like her predecessors, she tried her best to keep everything upbeat. The ceremony ended with the showing of a 10 minute photo collage on a large screen. The background music for this slideshow, “I will remember you” by Sarah Mclachlan followed by “All of Me” by John Legend, once again had the assembly on the verge of tears.
Being involved in the Fighting Sports for over 54 years, Bob Chaney accomplished much. He had also seen the inside of a great many hospitals. The bumps and bruises led to multiple operations on an arm, the hip, a ruptured spleen and countless broken toes. He started his original training in Isshinryu, a style of Okinawan karate, in 1962, then switched to Taekwondo in 1964 under Korean Grand Master ll Joo Kim. In April 2002 at a ceremony in Pittsburgh, Penna., Bob Chaney, Chuck Norris and Bob Wall were all promoted to 8th Degree Dan “Grand Master” Black Belt by General Choi, the founder of the International Taekwondo Federation. Chaney was also a competitor/coach of the United States Karate team when they competed in the World Union of Karate Organization in 1975/76. The 1975 Gold Medalist also won 6 Grand Championships and garnered over 300 national and international trophies and awards in both Taekwondo and Karate competitions over a span of 12 years. Chaney and former World Champion Al Gene Caraulia were the first Americans to earn class-A international referee licenses. In the mid-’70s, he became the first chairman of the appeals committee and first vice chairman of the AAU National Certification program, the United States governing body for the World Union of Karate Organizations. Chaney and Caraulia were the pioneers that appointed most of the original referees and (WUKO) judges. At the time of his death, Chaney was licensed by the Nevada State Athletic commission as a professional Kickboxing and MMA judge. Bob originally started training in boxing as an eight-year-old under the tutelage of his father, a retired Pro Boxer, then switched to kickboxing in 1973. Then, it was back to boxing as a student of his Godfather, boxing trainer Johnny Tocco of Tocco’s Ringside Gym in Las Vegas. In 1988, he switched to Muay Thai with former Thai fighter Comb Sasatan in Las Vegas, before moving to Bangkok, Thailand in November 1993 to train at the Osothapha camp. The Gym owned by Chanai Pongsupha was renamed after Army General Sasipaprapa to the Sasipaprapa Gym in the mid-90s.
Promotional Back Ground
Bob Chaney began promoting Kickboxing with his first event held at the Canton Memorial Auditorium in Canton, Ohio on December 17, 1975. From that point on, he was either personally promoting or been intricately involved in promoting over 25 Full Contact, Kickboxing or Muay Thai events. Some of the more notable events were “Europe vs Thailand” live via satellite from the Irgiff Palace in Rome, back to Channel 3 in Bangkok, Thailand, “Las Vegas vs Japan” taped from the Union Plaza in Las Vegas, “Thailand vs USA” a national Pay Per View event from the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, live Pay Per View events from the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, plus shows at the Santa Anna Star Casino in Albuquerque, New Mexico, then shows at the Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles, plus shows from the “Fairgrounds” in Victorville, California. Most recently he partnered with Dennis Warner, Mike Rush and Val Leedy who have plans to promote quarterly Muay Thai and Mixed Martial Arts Events at the “Hollywood Park Casino” in Los Angeles.
Chaney, who had been a regular bi-monthly traveler to Thailand for the last nine years, had often done the color commentator duties on the fights from Omnoi Stadium. He had been a business associate with many of the Promoters and Stadium owners in and around Bangkok as well as a friend and associate with the owners and promoters at Chaweng Stadium in Koh Samui, Thailand. In December of 2002, he arranged the Omnoi Stadium Title fight held at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. This was the first time a Stadium Title fight had been held outside of Thailand and the first time the Nevada State Athletic Commission sanctioned a full rules Muay Thai Show. He is also responsible for bringing Thong Tai, the Lumpini Stadium Champion, to fight Tae Wa Rit Noi for the Omnoi Stadium Title. Chaney also arranged to bring over the Thai Officials and referees to instruct and gain the confidence of the Nevada State Athletic Commissioners that opened the door for the full rules Muay Thai now used in Nevada. Chaney used his Thai connections to arrange and bring over 11 top Thai Fighters to include, BM Sasiprapha, Malaipet, Thong Tai, Tae Wa Rit Noi, Nong Tom, The Lady Boy Parinya, the legendary Samart, Gunnsak, Charoentong, Lumpini Champion and Wusu Gold Medalist, Pajonsuk and Wonchana. After training over 200 National and World Champions in Karate and Tae Kwon Do, seven World Kickboxing Champions and five World Muay Thai Champions, Grand Master Chaney landed on the cover of numerous magazines and been highlighted in over 25 feature articles.
Hall of Fame Inductions: 1976 International Karate Hall of Fame, 1978 International Kickboxing Hall of Fame, 1987 Martial Arts Museum of America Hall of Fame and 1989 United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame
As mentioned at Saturday’s service, Bob Chaney’s passion for the Martial Arts and the Fighting Sports was the love of his life, second only to his wife and family. As the Buddhist Monk Wat Ratanapanya reminded us: “Grand Master Bob Chaney will never die because he stays right here with us in our hearts.”
With so many beautiful people coming together in one place to celebrate his life, I’m certain that if Bob Chaney had a voice in who to invite to entertain the mourners, he would have insisted on inviting Melanie Safka to sing her peace and love song Beautiful People.
It was impossible to keep track of everyone who was present but here is a partial list of the beautiful people: Photographer, entertainer Adrian Sanchez, former fighter now referee Ajarn Rex and his wife, Al Leong, Bob Fisher, former TV actor Burt Ward of Batman and Robin fame, Grand Master Cecil Peoples, ring announcer Chris Gregory, former fighter/promoter Corey Cass, his wife and family, Dana Blouin, Insync WCK CEO Dennis Warner, Emmanuel Garcia, daughter Erica Criswell Makayla and her two sons JT and Robbie, Estrellado Lucas Taber, Ivan Garcia, Joe Pagliuso Sr., Juan Ramirez, Julie Dujan, Lou Beso, judge Luis Cobian, Mary Zambito, Muay Thai fighters Michael Wenger and Rene Sanchez, Oliver Coste, Rosa Herrera, Ruby Berklite, Scarlet Draper, Shawn Shilatz, Boxer/MMA/MuayThai fighter Steve Ingram, Steve White, Ted Foster, Master Terry Wilson, pro fighter Virgil “Rexdog” Zwicker of Bellator MMA, gym owner, Muay Thai instructor, promoter Master Victor Beltran with his wife Sara and their two sons. The Beltrans are expecting another child, soon. Prediction, it’s Veronica, their first daughter.