Great Grandmaster Al Novack Dies in Fremont Hospital

Great Grandmaster Al Novack, Bay Area martial arts legend and Bruce Lee inspiration, passed away over the weekend in a Fremont Hospital, reportedly after being hit by a car earlier last week.

Novack’s career lasted more than 50 years, during which he broke down significant racial barriers by training in San Francisco’s Chinatown. He was so accomplished that many have suggested that Bruce Lee would not spar with him in public. Novack was the last surviving 10th degree black belt in the kajukenbo self defense technique.

“He was beloved by everybody,” said Greg Lee, son of James Lee who worked alongside Novack and Bruce Lee. “When you’re a grandmaster, it means you’ve incorporated your own maneuvers and changed other things around and developed an art, and that’s what Al did. He stayed very involved in that arena and was always volunteering at tournaments around San Francisco.”

Novack was confined to a wheelchair in 2005 after experiencing a traumatic car accident. Though he was no longer able to walk, he continued to split blocks of wood at the martial arts school he ran, and black belt recipients in various arts often requested that he sign their certificates.

“Being around him, you knew you were in the presence of someone special,” said his friend Jeff Finder. “He was a tough old bird.”

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