Dale Jacoby went from getting bullied on campus to being the bully on the mat.
The 53-year-old Simi Valley resident, who is a seventh-degree black belt in karate, used to get picked on as a youth. Since starting his martial arts training in 1978, Jacoby’s been the one playing gold-medal keep-away with foes who dare to square off against the now nine-time world champion.
Jacoby, who was inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame in 2011, added to his collection of trophies June 24 when he took first place at the USA World Championships at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort & Casino. He went 9-0 in the 40- plus age group.
“I fought in the ’80s, the ’90s, all the way up to 2018,” Jacoby said. “I’m going to ride this train as far as I can.”
Michael Shore, an Agoura chiropractor, said Jacoby, a 6-foot-1 manimal who can roundhouse a giraffe into outer space, is a bruiser during tournaments and a sweetheart away from competition.
“Hitting that guy is like hitting a brick, and he’ll compliment you,” Shore said of Jacoby.
Shore wouldn’t dare compete against Jacoby, but he is willing to exchange jabs and hooks with the trainer at KO Studios in Agoura.
Jacoby trains locals in boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai classes at numerous gyms in the area.
“He has a world of knowledge,” Shore said. “He knows how to inspire and teach. The people in this community do not know the gem that we have in our community to teach our young kids self-defense.”
“He’s a hidden commodity, and we don’t want him to be hidden anymore.”
Jacoby started learning karate from his sensei, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez.
“He made me a tough guy without making me a tough guy,” Jacoby said. “He gave me will and desire.”
Jacoby entered his first karate competition in 1983. That same year, he got noticed by one of the producers for the “No Retreat, No Surrender” movie while bombing away on a heavy bag at the Jet Center in Van Nuys. The producer offered Jacoby a part in the Jean- Claude Van Damme flick, which came as a surprise to Jacoby.
“I wanted to be a fighter,” he said. “I’m very passionate in whatever I do. When I hit the bag, I hit the bag with passion. They saw the passion in me.”
That launched Jacoby’s career as an actor, stuntman and fight choreographer. He choreographed the epic Bruce Willis fight scene on the wing of an airplane in “Die Hard 2.”
Jacoby worked in the movie industry for more than 20 years, but his true calling is as a trainer.
He trains all kinds of fighters, but he’s gotten more enjoyment working with bullied children, children with speech impediments and children with autism. He’s also taught boxing basics to clients with Parkinson’s disease.
“We’ve cried together because it breaks my heart,” he said. “At the end of the day, I really want people to know that I care about people. I care about kids being bullied. I care about kids with autism who are being looked at differently. I feel like they need me. I feel like I’m a warrior, their protector.”
Throughout the years, he’s developed his own fighting style: Dale Jacoby’s American Muay Thai Kickboxing, which incorporates boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai.
Ted Klein, an 80-year-old Westlake resident who trains four to five times a week, first met Jacoby in the gym three years ago.
“I gravitated toward him because he had challenging classes,” Klein said. “It keeps my cardio up. All my friends can barely get out of a car.”
Jay Rankin, a 60-something-year-old Westlake resident, started training with Jacoby 10 years ago after Rankin’s initial karate training stalled when he was a purple belt in college.
Four years ago, he earned his black belt from Jacoby, who Rankin describes as a caring, humble and patient trainer with “a heart of gold.”
“He’ll do this till the day he dies,” Rankin said of Jacoby.
Rankin said he’s unsure how long Jacoby can, and should, continue competing.
“We’ve all tried to talk him out of it, but he’s still competing— and winning,” Rankin said.
Jacoby will step back onto the mat in October, when he’ll compete in the USA World Championships in Palm Springs.
The end of his competition days will come—Father Time is undefeated—but his days of sharing his wealth of knowledge will continue.
Jacoby said he’ll keeping fighting as long as he can.
“When I lose any of those three—my desire to go on, my love for what I do and my will to keep fighting—I’m done,” he said. “I’m a fighter, so if you knock me down nine, I get up 10. That’s what it’s all about.”
Email Jonathan Andrade at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a nutshell
• Dale Jacoby, a Hall of Fame kickboxer, trains in boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai at numerous gyms throughout Acorn country.
• The 53-year-old Simi Valley resident is a nine-time martial arts world champion.
• He still competes in sport karate: He won the 40-plus age group at the USA World Championships June 24 in Las Vegas.
• Jacoby worked in the movie industry for more than 20 years as an actor, stuntman and fight choreographer.