Sensei/Guro Tom Gillis
Thanks for checking out Rising Phoenix Martial Arts. I’m very proud of our dojo and what I’ve been able to accomplish in Okotoks through it. I truly believe I’ve created a place where I’m able to have a positive influence in others lives through sharing the trans-formative experience of martial arts training.
Ever since I was a kid I loved martial arts. Growing up in the ’80’s I was influenced by movies such as American Ninja and actors like Sho Kosugi. I remember being mesmerized by the iconic image of Ninja and the incredible feats they could perform. Throughout the ’90’s that fascination continued with action stars such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Wesley Snipes, exposure to the already passed Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, and others. The action-hero archetype would shape much of my outlook of the world and my future life.
I received my first induction to martial arts at age 10 through boxing. My “coach”, a retired army sergeant who had served and boxed in the forces during the Korean War, basically punched me in the face for a few days expecting that eventually I’d move or block. From there I spent a few years trying to solve some problems on my own on a punching bag in our basement. Growing up in a small town didn’t afford much opportunity for formal instruction. That was long before the time of the internet so any problem solving had to come about the old fashion way, on a bag or an opponent. It was in 1994 that a Tae Kwon Do school finally opened in my home time. I was the 5th adult student through the door and stayed with that dojang and teacher until he moved for work and shut it down. Training with him also exposed me to Hapkido and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Shortly after graduating high school in 1996 I began formal instruction in Bujinkan, although then it was referred to as Togakure Ryu Ninjutsu. My first two teachers were Orlando Mancina and Ira Macumber. I trained with Orlando until I received my shodan (black belt) in 2010. Afterwards while employed in law enforcement as an Alberta Sheriff I was fortunate to train with the man who brought Ninjutsu to Canada – Shihan Jay Creasey. I still train with him today. In 2012 I accompanied him to Japan to meat and train with Soke Masaaki Hatsumi and the Japanese Shihan and was promoted to 3rd degree black belt. I returned in 2014 again with Shihan Jay and successfully passed the Sakki test to become a 5th degree black belt.
Over the course of those years I was fortunate to meet and train with many great martial artists across a spectrum of the arts receiving beginner level understanding of a lot of the material and some foundation rank. Those arts include Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Jeet Kune Do, Aiki Ju Jutsu, Wing Chun, and Arnis. In 2016 I successfully completed by Black Sash test in Arnis de Cadena and was awarded the title Guro my my teacher and friend Joel Huncar. I’ve also successfully completed training in an received certification in approximately 65 different police combatives programs.
As you can tell from the bio above I’ve loved martial arts and combatives training for a long time. I am passionate about sharing that love with my students and endeavor every day to create a safe environment where anyone can come train. I believe that when transmitted properly training in the warrior arts has the ability to teach much more than physical skills. Life skills such as Integrity, Respect, Kindness, Leadership, Discipline, and Commitment are all contained in the traditional arts. Along with teaching the hard skills components of martial arts these are the life skills I strive to teach to my students through the example I set in my own life.
Thanks for taking the time to read my bio. I hope to see you on the mats soon!
Stay safe, be well.
Sensei/Guro Tom Gillis
“You can tell your passionate about martial arts, you’re quite knowledgeable about the subject and you seemed to really care about all your students progress, regardless of age or skill level.” – Thomas H, student
“You’re a pioneer.” – Guro Joel Huncar, Huncars Warrior Arts
“One of the cleanest (sakki) tests I’ve seen.” (translated from Japanese to English) – Soke Masaaki Hatsumi
“My experiences with Gillis Sensei have shown me that he has strong leadership and administrative qualities and a unique talent for individualizing training, creating a progression for each student that is specifically tailored to their specific needs, interest(s), and personality.” ~Jeremy Breazeale Soke, Shidare Yanagi ryu Technical Advisor, ECI
“His combination of traditional and modern martial arts is a winning combination in concert with his openness to learn new things and helping others to get them where they want to go. His intuitive thinking ,attention to detail and extensive knowledge make him a very effective coach regardless of your experience or skill level. Attending his classes, seminar and courses is time well spent!” ~ Guro Ed Wong Director of Urban Survival Systems and Modern Cimande .
“An instructor that focuses on his students’ understanding, application and total success.” ~ William Harvey, Chief of Police Savannah Chatham Metro Police
“Sensei Tom Gillis is all about excellence. He is a true professional in the field of martial arts & tactics and has my respect.” ~ Guro Noah Walt, Founder CYC Eskrima