Dale Comstock – as seen on NBC’s Stars Earn Stripes

I have known Smokey since 1992 when I first enrolled my son into martial arts. I brought my son to a karate school run at the local YMCA. After a couple of visits I realized the instructor spent more time babysitting than teaching; and, at some point I conferred with a friend who recommended that I go to Jim West’s school. So, my son and I went there in hopes that we would find a no nonsense school where students were taught to fight – and boy were we in for a treat!  As we came through the doors of his school the first thing we saw was a group of boys my son’s age on the training floor engaged in all out combat with padded bats! They were beating the hell out of each other and yet enjoying the experience; and, it was at that point that I knew that I had come to the right place. That was the beginning of my son’s and my martial arts journey under the tutelage of Smokey. He was truly a professional training master.


I am a retired MSG from the U.S. Army having served 10 years in 1st SFOD-D (The Delta Force) as an Assaulter, Breacher, Team Leader, and Troop Sargent and acting Troop Commander, 3rd Special Forces Group (Green Berets), and the 82nd Airborne Division 325th Infantry. I worked 9.5 years as a paramilitary operative for USG and concurrently worked as a contract security specialist, COO, Vice President, and President for various security companies applying my skills and knowledge on myriad of security challenges around the world for various clients.

Over the years my son, daughter, and I earned our Black and Brown Belts, and stripes. But we didn’t earn them by demonstrating forms, Katas, and reciting lessons and Mantras. We earned them in unarmed combat! Jim would arrange our tests at other schools that often required quite a bit of travel. We would meet the master instructor who also had students that he wanted to test. The sparring rooms would be vacated except for the two combatants and the two teachers. The contest would begin in an all out street fight where anything goes short of biting and eye gouging. The event didn’t end until one person clearly lost or capitulated. Many of my promotions were earned in the ring as well either kickboxing, Pro-boxing, or MMA. This is what set Smokey apart from many schools and instructors in the 80’s when MMA was just getting started. He already believed that the best way learn how to fight was to train the way you fight, which meant fighting was training!

Smokey’s school and training was not for the faint of heart or those that were not committed. Before he wasted his time training a fighter, he tested that fighter’s heart. Over the many years that I trained with Smokey there were only two fighters that came and stayed in the stable of Jim West’s gladiators – that was a female Air Force Captain by the name of Judy Mayrand and myself. Whenever a fella showed up and announced that he wanted to learn how to be competitive fighter, or if he made the mistake in boasting that he already had sufficient skills that he wanted to improve on, Smokey would happily put them into the arena…with Judy or me.

I can still remember Smokey’s words as he quietly directed me to not hold back and get some “training value” out of this guy. “Put it on him, and see what he is made of.”  As directed I would go to work and let em fly! When it was over, usually with the other guy resting headlong with the back of his head resting in the bottom of the dry-wall waving off or looking for his balance to recover, we shook hands in a gesture of respect and awaited Smokey’s review. Most guys only showed up one or two more times, if at all, and then disappeared for good.

I clearly remember when Smokey decided to test my mettle when I declared to him that I wanted to kickbox competitively. We donned the gloves and mouthpieces and move to the center of the sparing area. Before we commenced, Smokey told me not to hit him in the face. Of course I thought that was odd and surely this would put me at an even greater disadvantage though I already knew that I had no chance even with four arms and legs loaded with baseball bats and cowboy boots.

I am sure that my puzzled look spurred him into rendering a reason for the limitations that he educed. He had been in a severe car collision early in his life that left him with maxillary reconstructive surgery that was successful with the aid of wires and pins to fuse his facial bones together. He didn’t want to risk more damage unnecessarily just sparring with me. So, with empathy I nodded in the affirmative and assumed a ready position.

The session began. My movements were erratic yet predictable in their course. Like all amateurs I was stiff, robotic, and moving faster than I could sustain for more than a few minutes. Smokey, in professional form, was methodical, reserved, calculating, and focused. And then it happened. In a quick but voluminous exchange of punches, I ended the engagement with an errant jab to, non-other, his face! It was at this moment that realized the error that I committed when I saw his expression change from widely observant to fixed. His brow lowered and his eyes dilated behind his squinting expression. I was still in range of his punches as I quickly blurted out: “Oops I’m sorry!” But there was not enough time or space…

Smokey hit me with an overhand right that was perfectly executed. His left hand shot in front of my face and stopped before contact. It was an intentional near miss that would graze across my nose obstructing my view from a more ominous threat – his right hand that was cocked and poised to deliver a blunt strike right into my grill. As he recoiled the left it was as if a curtain dropped and presented the big show from behind the drapes – his overhand-right. By the time I realized I was going to get hit, I had already been hit and was lying on the floor from a flash knockout. Because the shot was to the cheek with the force that was like getting hit with a 70 mph fastball – yes I know what that is like – it stunned my nervous system without putting me on queer street. I jumped up with hands in the guard position and continued my robot dance when Jim said that was enough. I tried to convince him that I was not hurt and willing to continue. But, Jim, in his wisdom and experience, knowing that another shot like that could be fatal, saw all that he needed to see in my heart and knew that from thereon I had the heart and courage to be a fighter. That was the beginning of many ring fights that earned me many wins in Toughman contests, Vale Tudo (Anything Goes), kickboxing, and boxing bouts.

As one of, and maybe only, Smokey’s 6th degree Blackbelts I can say that my confidence not only lies in the training and skills that he taught me; but more importantly the warrior mind-set that he demonstrated is ultimately that which allows me to bring to bear the skills and weapons in battle without pause. Jim West’s training and teaching character is a perfect blend of temperance, tolerance, directness, and forceful encouragement. No wimps were tolerated where warriors were cultivated in the House of Smokey!

For more on Dale go to www.dalecomstock.com

-Dale Comstock

Linda Towey Krayton

I have known James “Smokey” West for over three years. I am young at heart but not in my 30’s anymore. Jim has trained me to be prepared for basic self-defense that anyone can learn. To be prepared you don’t need to know how to fight like a professional fighter but if you get the basics; repeat them over and over again because repetition creates muscle memory and psychological memory you will have enough skills to survive. Anyone and yes, even me, in my 50’s can be prepared. I shared a story about being carjacked many years ago and walked away, not only with my life, but the knowledge that IF IT FEELS WRONG, IT IS WRONG!!!! Follow your instincts and don’t feel you are over-reacting if you think you may be in danger.

Now that I am older and potentially more it is even more important to have more than just instincts. YES, if it feels wrong, it IS WRONG. Turn around and find a safe place immediately. But if you are caught in a situation that comes quickly, it is more important to learn how to get out of it. Jim has provided me with several very basic moves that can help any woman, man, old or young. It has given me confidence that if something happens I can fight back with a chance to survive and get away. It is not to necessarily beat the other person up, but it is enough to cause harm and disarm them by the unexpected so you have a chance to get out of the situation. It is movement, awareness, changing your level and being aware.

I see news reports all the time about men, women, older people and even the young who are being attacked. I am so impressed by the women that fight back; even if they get hurt, they survived. Jim’s self-defense strategies will work for anyone. It takes repetition and focus so if something were to happen, you instinctively react and put it into high gear. Jim has taught me that self-defense habits should be developed to be ultimately as mindless and effortless as breathing. You don’t think about breathing, you just do it.

I highly recommend Jim to teach you; from the very basic self-defense moves to more complicated maneuvers. He does seminars and teaches individually, in a group; school, university; retirement community, he analyses your strengths and weakness and finds compensating moves to make you strong and capable.Jim “Smokey” West’s words:
“Men and women, no matter age and size, will both learn to walk with confidence and survive the most brutal attacks from the person who coerces you through threat of killing you to crooks and criminals. Don’t be bullied anymore! “

Jim has given me some very basic tools in self-defense that I hope I will never have to use, but am confident that if in a situation, I will never feel defenseless again. I know that I will be able to fight for my life or the life of those I want to protect.


NEVER QUIT- Mark Marrocco


Jim and I used to run probably the toughest pre scuba classes of the day. I looked up to Jim and he motivated me to never quit in many ways. I’ll tell you this who ever made it threw our class I would fight side by side. Thanks Jim when Times HAVE gotten tuff AT Times threw life.you’ve come to my thoughts with that never quit attitude. And things seem to work out.so again thank you brother
Mark Marrocco