John Corcoran (1948-2019) was a highly regarded martial arts journalist and historian. He started training karate under legendary Joe Lewis, America’s first kickboxer. His first big assignment in 1972 made him the editor of Mike Anderson’s disruptive sports magazine Professional Karate. Together with Emil Farkas he published the “Encyclopedia of Martial Arts” followed my many more highly sophisticated martial arts books. In 1986 Corcoran worked as the editor of Fighter International magazine, the first martial arts magazine franchise published in different languages and countries. After this assignment he worked for John Graden’s NAPMA as editor for a industry based B2B periodical before he moved to Los Angeles exploring his talents in Hollywood. The last years before his death he was again affiliated to the B2B martial arts business while living in Las Vegas, Nevada.
As former PKA events coordinator and editor of KICK Illustrated magazine, John Corcoran co-founded the STAR System kickboxing ratings, lending his expertise and industry connections to establishing the crucial premier edition of the STAR world rankings. He maintains the STAR System’s complete archival history of world title bouts for his publications.
Corcoran is recognized as a foremost reference authority for the martial arts, having been selected by the editors of both The World Book Encyclopedia in 1986 and Microsoft’s Encarta (Electronic) Encyclopedia in 1996 to write their inaugural entries for martial arts. He also authored eleven books on the subject, all but two with major New York publishers, which have collectively sold over 400,000 copies worldwide, including: The Complete Martial Arts Catalogue (Simon & Schuster, 1977), Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People (with Emil Farkas, Gallery Books, W.H. Smith Publishers, Inc., 1983), The Overlook Martial Arts Dictionary (with Emil Farkas, Overlook, 1985), The Martial Arts Companion: Culture, History and Enlightenment (BDD Promotional Books, 1992), The Original Martial Arts Encyclopedia: Tradition, History, Pioneers (with Emil Farkas and Stuart Sobel, Pro-Action Publications, 1993), The Martial Arts Sourcebook (Harper, 1994), ACMA Instructor Certification Manual (with John Graden, Graden Communications, 1998), The Ultimate Martial Arts Q&A Book (with John Garden, McGraw-Hill, 2001) and The Unauthorized Jackie Chan Encyclopedia (McGraw-Hill, 2002).
In 1993, Corcoran wrote the screenplay for American Samurai, starring Mark Dacascos in his film debut. He was a primary technical consultant for the A&E channel’s 1998 landmark TV documentary, The Martial Arts, and worked in that same capacity for 2002’s Modern Warriors, produced by Oscar-nominated documentarian Peter Spirer.
A veteran karate black belt, Corcoran began his training in 1967. He credits legendary heavyweight karate champion Joe Lewis as his chief martial arts mentor since 1977. His literary mentors were the late Academy Award-winning screenwriter Stirling Silliphant (In the Heat of the Night, The Towering Inferno, Charly), who was also Bruce Lee’s main Hollywood mentor, and best-selling author Joe Hyams (Zen in the Martial Arts, Bogie). He received Gary Lee’s Living Legends Hall of Fame Award in 2000, Battle of Atlanta’s Hall of Fame Award in 2002, and the Martial Arts History Museum’s Funakoshi Award in 2004.
Over three decades, John Corcoran served as a founding editor or editor of the most influential martial arts magazines in the industry, starting in 1973 with Black Belt, followed by Professional Karate, Official Karate, Inside Kung-Fu, KICK Illustrated and The Fighter International.