History of American Martial Arts
JUDO The first known meeting of Kodokan judo and any
American occurred in 1879, when President U.S Grant was in Japan on a state
visit and observed a demonstration of judo techniques by 19-year-old Jigoro Kano.
The official date given for the start of kodokan judo is 1882, and most likely
Kano did not explain his Kodokan Judo then but may have lectured on his study of
jujutsu. In any case, President Grant was exposed
to the judo master at a very fertile and productive period in pre-Kodokan judo's
The next contact came in 1889, when Kano lectured on the
educational values of judo before a group of foreign dignitaries. There were
several Americans present but this contact had no discernible result.
The first American to study seriously at the Kodokan was
Prof. Ladd from Yale University. Ladd came to the Kodokan sometime during 1889,
ten years after Kano's demonstration for President Grant. Ladd studied nage
(throwing), katame (mat work), atemi-waza (striking techniques), and
koshiki-no-kata (self-defense forms). By 1908, the Kodokan had a total of 13
American members studying in Japan. During 1919 Prof. John Dewey of Columbia
University went to the Kodokan to observe a demonstration. Dewey discussed
Kodokan judo with Kano and may have been instrumental in the beginning of a
pioneering judo program at Columbia University.
Yoshiaki Yamashita, then 6th dan, was the first person to
teach judo in the U.S. He arrived in 1902 at the invitation of Mr. Graham Hill,
director of the Great Northern Railroad. Hill contacted a Mr. Fujiya, who
contacted Mr. Shibata, who was a student of Prof. Yamashita, concerning
Yamashita's coming to the U.S. to teach his children judo. After Yamashita
arrived, the Hill family decided that judo was much too dangerous for their
Mr. Hill arranged for judo demonstrations in New York and
Chicago. Healso tried to arrange for Harvard University to hire Yamashita as a
At the same time, Sen. Lee's wife and Mrs. Wadsworth
started taking judo lessons from Yamashita. They had the sixth floor of a
building covered with tatami mats. The women mostly practiced nage-no-kata.
These few women started the first judo class in the country. A men's judo group
made up from various embassies in the area appeared. Thus judo traveled in
prominent circles in its embryonic stage in America.
For lack of wider participation this judo mission died out
with Yamashita's return to Japan in 1907.
Mrs. Wadsworth was a fine horsewoman and went to the same
country club as did President Theodore Roosevelt. She mentioned to the president
that Yamashita was teaching judo and that Roosevelt might be interested in the
art. Yamashita was subsequently invited to Washington to give a demonstration at
the White House. There was a contest with a wrestler by the name of John Graft,
who was the coach at the U.S. Naval Academy and who was teaching President
Roosevelt wrestling. Although Yamashita threw him time after time, Graft
continued to get up. Finally, Yamashita decided that he would do mat work with
Graft, since there seemed to be no end to the match. In the mat work, Yamashita
got an arm lock on Graft, but the wrestler would not give up. Yamashita kept up
the pressure until Graft groaned as his arm came close to breaking. President
Roosevelt was impressed and took judo lessons. After leaving office, he kept
mats in his home. Roosevelt studied judo for about a year, earning a brown belt
in the process. Through the help of the president, Yamashita taught judo at the
Naval academy. In 1935, Yamashita was promoted to 10th dan, the first person to
hold that rank. He died later that year.
Pacific Northwest In 1903, one year after Yamashita's
arrival in America, Shumeshiro Tomita journeyed to the U.S. He was the first
person to sign the rolls of the Kodokan; he was instrumental in establishing
judo in the U.S. as well as in Japan. Tomita stayed in the U.S. for seven years
and taught judo at Princeton and Columbia Universities. After the arrival of
Tomita and Yamashita, many judo instructors came to America. Among the very
first were Miada Kousen, Sataki Nobushitam, and Ito Takugoro. Judo in the U.S. f
irst flourished on the West Coast because of its large Japanese population.
Judo in the Pacific Northwest dates back to the beginning
of the century, when judo was practiced in small, scattered clubs. The first
dojo was opened in the Seattle area by a judoka named Kano in 1903, but this
club closed after only a few months. Prof. Takugoro Ito, then 4th dan, arrived
in America in 1907 and opened the Seattle Dojo.
Ito, like many other early judoka, was a wrestler. He held
challenge matches, in which he was
unbeatable. After several years he left the Seattle area, traveling to South
America. Eisei Media, Akitoro Ono, Satake, and Matsuura traveled with him,
touring South America as professional wrestlers, and returned to San Francisco
in 1914. (Eisei Media stayed in Brazil and the Brazillian government gave him a
quarter-million acres near the Amazon for his wrestling feats.)
In the 1920s, there were two dojos in the state of
Washington, the Seattle Dojo and the Tacoma Dojo, operated mainly by yudansha of
the respective communities, businessmen, farmers, and laborers. Yoshida sensei
of Tacoma, then 3rd dan, was the best judo player. He was employed as a laborer
in a sawmill. The other black belts were 1st and 2nd dans. Factions within the
Seattle Dojo had difficulty working together. It is not known what the exact
problem was but, around 1930, some members of the Seattle Dojo withdrew and
formed their own Tentokukan Dojo. Each club hired teachers from Japan. Among the
Seattle Dojo's teachers in the 1920s and early 1930s were senseis: Miyazawa,
Shibata, Kaimon Kudo, and Suzuki.
Before World War II, three main styles of judo were
prominent in North America. The Budokan style and the Kodokan style predominated
in the U.S. In Canada the Kito-ryu was strong, especially in Vancouver, B.C. The
Seattle Judo Black Belt Association was organized around 1935 by Kumagai and
Sakata senseis, tending to unite the two rival American factions. The two
instructors were also responsible for organizing the bi-annual 24-man team
contests with the Nanka (southern California) team. Southern California and the
Northwest had the strongest judo groups at that time.
After World War II, the Tentokukan Dojo was not
re-activated because the former membership was spread around the country. This
closed out a pioneering judo effort on the West Coast. The Seattle Dojo owned
their building and were able to continue with practice after the war.
The Washington team competed against the Vancouver B.C.
team annually, against sailors from the visiting Japanese training ships, and
occasionally with college teams from Japan. Eventually, nisei yudansha were
hired when dojos were opened in Spokane, Yakima Valley, Eatonville, and cities
in Oregon and Idaho. In the late 1930s, some dojos existed in the state of
Washington, and each sponsored an annual tournament.
Judo in the Tacoma, Washington, area was started by Prof.
Iwakiri, who was born in Japan, and who came here in 1912. Iwakiri exhibited
such skill that he received his 1st dan from Prof. Kano at the age of 13. The
Fife-Tacoma Dojo was originally formed as the St. Regis Dojo and was located in
the St. Regis lumberyard sawdust pit. (The dojo was later moved from the
lumberyard to the corner of 17th and Market Streets). Prof. Kano made two trips
to the Fife-Tacoma dojo, in 1932 and 1938, in recognition of its outstanding
achievements. In 1932 he presented the dojo a scroll and in 1938 another was
given to the yudanshakai. In the 1938 scroll Kano wrote "return to the source,"
and the ambiguity of his phrase still causes debate. Most opinion holds that the
statement refers to Zen training.
Rev. Yukawa was the first yudanshakai president and served
the Fife-Tacoma, Washington area from 1924 to 1925. After Rev. Yukawa, Prof.
Iwakiri served as president from 1940 to 1958.
Before World War II, there were six dojos in the state of
Oregon: Shudo-Kan Dojo, Obukan Dojo, Salem Judo Club, Milwaukee Dojo, G. T.
Dojo, and the Shobukan Dojo. The Shobukan Dojo was the first, and was organized
under Mits Nikata, then a 2nd dan. Prof. Kano visited the Portland area in 1932;
during this visit he took the occasion to rename the Portland Dojo the Obukan
Dojo. Some of the pioneering judo specialists in the Portland area were Mr.
Nishizim ofthe Kito-ryu; Mr. Kobayashi of the Kito-ryu; Mr. Sakano Ichiro, 3rd
dan from the Kodokan; Mr. Sazaki Ojiro,2nd den from the Kodokan; and Mr. Tomori,
2nd dan from the Kokodan.
After World War II, Buddy Ikata gathered together some of
the people who knew judo and got the Portland -Obukan Dojo going again. The
Obukan was re-established in 1952. Rev. Homma, a Buddhist priest, started judo
at the YMCA and the YWCA. The Guiki Dojo started practice again in the spring of
1953 under Mr. Kato and Mr. Hamado, both 2nd dans, and Rev. Homma and Nakata,
3rd dans. March 3,1960, was the 42nd anniversary of the Obukan Dojo.
The Los Angeles Area The story of judo in southern
California begins with Prof. Ito. Prof. Yamashita and Tomita were his
contemporaries in American judo, but of the three only Ito made a lasting
contribution to the development of American judo. Wherever Ito stayed, judo took
hold and flourished. In 1915 he moved to Los Angeles and established the Rafu
Dojo on the first floor of the Yamato Hall, near Jackson and San Pedro Streets.
When Prof. Ito returned to Japan after seven years in Los Angeles, the Rafu Dojo
continued under the management of Prof. Seigoro Murakami, Dr. Matsutaro Nittat
and Ryuii Tatsuno .ln July 1917, there were still only two dojos in southern
The Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was organized in 1928. In 1930,
the Kodokan Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was formed and Yasutaro Matsuura, then 4th
dan, was elected president. Still only eight dojos and fewer than twenty black
belts existed in southern California.
The Kodokan Nanka Judo Yudanshakai was reorganized at the
direction of Prof. Jigoro Kano in 1932 while he was visiting the Los Angeles
Olympic Games. The yudanshakai was renamed once more, this time the Hokubei Judo
Yudanshakai or Southern California Judo Black Belt Association of North America;
its presidency to devolve permanently upon the Los Angeles Consul General of
Japan. A formal organization of judo occurred as a result of Prof. Kano's visit,
and four yudanshakais, or judo black belt associations, were formed: Southern
California, Northern California, Seattle, and Hawaii.
When World War II started in Dec. 1941, there were
twenty-six dojo in southern California, with 422 black belts and about 2,000
students. The black belts were distributed in the following manner: 6th dan-2;
5th dan-5; 4th dan-6; 3rd dan-42; 2nd dan-101; 1st dan-264; and 2 honorary black
During World War II, judo continued to flourish in
relocation camps such as Manzanar, Heart Mountain, Post Gila River, and Rule
Lake. Although all other judo clubs ceased operations during the war years,
Seinan Dojo kept its doors open. Jack Sirgel, then a 2nd dan, the head
instructor, visited the Manzanar Relocation Camp with his students to improve
their judo techniques, even though the war was at its peak.
San Diego As the last major port of entry for the Japanese
on the west coast of the U.S., the pacific southwest failed to develop the large
judo communities characteristic of northern cities.
According to oral reports, the only judo club or judo
activity in the San Diego area before World War II was begun in 1925, and
continued for several years, upstairs in the Taiikuki Hall on 6th and Market
Streets. The first instructor, Mikinishake Kawaushi, taught for several years;
Mizuzaki Showa, 5th dan, taught for about one year before the organization
ceased activities. The only other organized martial arts activity in the San
Diego area before World War II was a kendo society located in the Buddhist
temple at 29th and Market Streets. This organization ceased activities after
outbreak of the war.
Judo activity after World War II commenced in the San
Diego area in April 1946 with the opening of classes in the city YMCA by Al C.
Holtmann. From 1946-54 much prejudice against the Japanese existed. The
promotion of judo in the San Diego area proved difficult during the early
post-war years. In 1952, with hostility abating, the general public expressed an
interest in Japanese goods, culture, arts, and sports. The San Diego Judo Club
joined the Nanka Judo Yudanshakai (Los Angeles) in 1954, at the invitation of
Mr. Kenneth Kuniyuki. Under Nanka's jurisdiction much assistance was given the
San Diego area in the way of advice, promotions, and technical help. An open
invitation to all of Nanka's tournaments was extended also to the San Diego
judoka. The Sanshi Judo Club, located in Oceanside, in 1955, taught by Sachio
joined Nanka in 1955 In that year Benso Tsuji, now a 7th dan, became technical
director for the San Diego Judo Club. As the highest graded black belt in the
area, he brought his technical knowledge to bear on the teaching and promoting
of Judo in the community.
Western United States The earliest record of judo being
taught in the Denver area is that of Dr. T. Ito. Ito had learned his judo in
Hawaii and was teaching in the early 1930s. James Fukumitsu, who had studied
judo in Japan, was in the area and teaching judo to put himself through college
from 1937-40. Some of the other early area judoka were Bill Ohikuma, Don Tanabe,
and Nob Ito.
During World War II, judo activity ceased in the area. In
1944, George Kuramoto left the Amachi Relocation Center and with Fred Okimoto
started judo classes in the local gymnasium, in the 20th Street Recreation
Building, during 1950. During this time Toro Takematsu, 4th dan, had moved to
the Denver area and notice an announcement in the Japanese community paper.
Takematsu introduced himself to George Kuramoto and Fred Okimoto. Together, they
purchased straw mats and started the original Denver Dojo, located between 19th
and 20th Streets and Lawrence, the heart of the Japanese community. As the dojo
developed, a larger building was rented and renovated.
Hawaii During the era of Japanese immigration to Hawaii,
in the late 1800s and the early 1900s, many Japanese immigrants trained in the
art of Kodokan judo arrived. The first judo club in Hawaii, the Shunyo-Kan, was
formed on March 17,1909, by Shigemi Teshima and Naomatsu Kaneshige.
Consul-General Isami Shishido, 7th dan, joined the club in 1919 and served as
chairman of the club's board of directors for many years.
The Shobu Kan judo club was founded by Yajiro Kitayama,
Nakajiro Mino, and others. Its first dojo site was the basement of the Ono
Bakery on Beretania Street, followed by several locations in Honolulu, until it
was moved to its present location on Kunawai Lane in the Liliha area.
Other clubs were subsequently established, and in 1929,
three of the major judo clubs, Shunyo Kan, Shobu Kan, and Hawaii Chuugakko
(junior high school) initiated an effort to organize judo in the territory of
Hawaii. The organization hoped to demonstrate a united effort to the community
and to be recognized as an instrument through which the social and cultural
significance of this martial art would be transmitted and perpetuated. Organized
judo grew rapidly under the supervision of this body, the Hawaii Judo Kyokai. In
1925, the Kodokan issued the first certificates for black belts to judoka in
Hawaii. In 1927, a judo seminar was conducted by a visiting Waseda University
judo group, headed by Mr. Makino, 6th dan. By 1932, the Hawaii Judo Association
had several active clubs, and received official recognition from Prof. Kano
during one of his stopovers in Honolulu. The certificate of recognition, #76,
issued by the Kodokan Judo Institute on November 15,1932, was the first such
authorization granted to a yudanshakai outside of Japan.
During 1954, the Judo Black Belt Federation started to
establish local chapters, or yudanshakais. The Rocky Mountain Regional Black
Belt Association was recognized as the local governing body.
Intermountain Area The first, post-war judo club in the
Salt Lake area was formed in 1950 by Frank Nishimura and George Akimoto. Hot
Springs, Utah, had a judo club that was started in 1954 by Mr. Mimya and Mr.
Okawa, both 1st dans. Their club was active for about three years. In 1955, Mr.
lchi Isogi started judo in Corinne, Utah. It was later started up again under
Mr. Yamasaki. In Ogden, Utah, judo was started in 1956 through the efforts of
Mr. Masaichiro Manomoto, 4th, Ted Sakawa, 1st, Tom Kimomoto, 1st dan, and Mr.
Yonetani, 1st dan.
Frank Oryu, an old pioneer in the area, started the first
Oregon dojo. An older 4th dan by the name of Muramoto, who also worked for Oryu,
helped Oryu organize judo in 1949 and the Ontario Dojo was founded in 1950. The
Ontario Dojo had a membership of about twenty black belts.
According to a report from Mas Yamashita, judo in the
Caldwell-Boise Valley area started about two years after judo in Ontario,
Oregon. Judo experienced a strong growth and was doing well when the first
tournament was held in 1952.
Judo in Omaha began during the mid-1950s. Mike Meriweather
taught at the YMCA and Dr. Ashida (at 22 one of the youngest 5th-degree black
belts) taught at the University in Lincoln. Also, a number of black belts
practiced judo at Offutt Air Force Base. Among the better known military judoka
were Sgt. Mann, Augie Hauso, Phil Porter, Carl Flood, and La Verne Raab. The
military people did not get involved in civilian judo until about 1958. Around
1960, Darrell Darling, Phil Porter, Paul Own, Wally Barber, who was director of
the local YMCA, and Mike Manly met at Dr. Ashida's house and decided to form a
yudanshakai.They framed a constitution and made contacts with the yudanshakai
officers in Chicago and Denver to implement the project. In 1961 the yudanshakai,
which covered the greater part of six states, was formed. The first president of
the Midwest Judo Association was Dr. Ashida. The second was La Verne Raab. The
third, Ike Wakadayashi, had a strong judo program established at Kansas
University. The fourth president was Dr. Loren Braught. The fifth and sixth
presidents were Bill Stites and Darrell Darling respectively.
The first commercial judo school, the Omaha Judo Academy,
was opened by La Verne Raab and Carl Flood after they left the military. Mel
Bruno, who later became head of judo for SAC, taught judo at the Omaha YWCA and
at the Omaha Athletic Club.
Chicago Judo first arrived in the Chicago area in Sept.
1903, when Mr. Graham Hill arranged for a judo demonstration by Prof. Yamashita
in the cities of New York and Chicago. According to Prof. Kotani, in 1916, Heita
Okabe, 4th dan; Toshitaka Yamauchi, 4th dan; and Ken Kawabara, 4th dan were
teaching judo while studying at the University of Chicago; this would be the
earliest organized judo activity in the midwest.
Mr. Harry Auspitz incorporated the first judo club in the
Chicago area in 1938,the JiuJitsu Institute. Prior to 1939, judo was practiced
sporadically by members of the Japanese Consulate and other interested
individuals. The JuJitsu lnstitute became the first Kodokan Judo Club in
Chicago, Whie Auspitz opened the dojo, the first instructor was Ralph Mori, who
eventually opened his own judo club in 1941. Mori named his dojo the
International Judo Club. Mr. Shozo Kuwashima came from New York in 1939 to teach
at the institute; he later opened his own dojo. Also in 1941, Mr. Yasushi
Tomonari came from New York to teach at the institute. During May of that year,
Mr. Masato Tamura, then a 4th dan, came to Chicago from Fife, Washington, and
also taught at the institute. With the illness of Mr. Auspitz in 1944, Mr.
Tamura became the owner of the Jiu Jitsu Institute.
The Chicago Judo Club was founded by Shozo Kuwashima in
1941. When Kuwashima moved to the West Coast, the Chicago Judo Club was taken
over by John Osako and Ruth Gardner.
After World WarII, judo in Chicago received numbers of
Japanese who were relocating in the
midwest section of the country. Vince Tamura came to Chicago and helped out at
the Jiu Jitsu Institute. In 1944, Mr. Yoshitaro Sakai moved to the area, and
Hiro Iwamoto arrived in 1945 as the relocation camps closed. Hank Okamura
relocated close to the Lawson YMCA in 1946 and joined the "Y." Okamura,
wrestling at the YMCA, met Kenji Okimoto; and the two men, who discovered they
were both judoka, began to practice together. From this start, judo remained at
Lawson YMCA for the next twenty years.
The Chicago Judo Black Belt Association was formed during
1947 and a charter was received directly from the Kodokan. (As a recognized judo
organization the yudanshakai could promote up to 3rd-degree black belt.) At that
time the Chicago Judo Black Belt Association covered the states of Wisconsin,
Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio, Indiana, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Michigan. The first
constitution for Chicago, a rather informal document, stated that John Osako
would be president of the association, and the vice-president would be Mas
Tamura. There was not much more to the constitution than that. The charter
members of the Chicago Judo Black Belt Association were Masato Tamura, Hank
Okamura, Hik Nagao,Yosh Sakai, Carl Shojii, Carl Kalaskai, Jack Ohashi, and Tom
In 1949, MasatoTannura became the president of the
yudanshakai and remained in that office for the next fourteen years. During the
late 1940s the Oak Park YMCA started under Bob Matsuoka. Some noted members of
the Chicago Judo Club were Hik Nagao, Tom Watenabe, Jim Beres. John Osako, and
Art Broadbent. At the Lawson YMCA were the Benson brothers, the Fletcher
brothers, Hank Okamura, and Kenji Okamoto. The Jiu Jitsu Institute had Masato
Tamura, Vince Tamura, Bob Belhatchet , Frnak Leszczynski , Bill Burk. Bill
Berndt, and Bill Kaufman. During these years, any team that represented the U.S.
was mostly made up of people from the Chicago Judo Black Belt Association.
Chicago sent teams to the first two Pan-American Judo Tournaments and one of the
two American representatives to the 1st World Tournament in Japan.
Judo was intensively promoted in Chicago during the 1950s.
There were a number of self-defense demonstrations conducted for television
shows. Tournaments became regular events with the Lawson YMCA providing a
Konan, or Detroit, was encouraged to break away, about
1952. This change relieved Chicago of the responsibility for all of Michigan and
some midwestern areas. Milwaukee, Wis.. and St. Louis, Mo. were starting to
develop judo groups during this time, but, unlike Chicago, these two areas did
not have strong Japanese judo players to get the sport going and give guidance
to its development.
With the start of the 1950s, judo in Chicago began to
develop into a citywide sport as new dojos were opened. Bill Kaufman was
discharged from the service in 1952 and came back from Japan as a 2nd-degree
black belt. Kaufman worked out at the Jiu Jitsu Institute and started his own
club at the Hyde Park YMCA. Later he taught at the University of Chicago. Mr.
Hikaru Nagao was teaching judo at the Illinois Institute of Technology. In time,
these two clubs combined to form the Uptown Dojo.
In the early 1950s, some students from the original dojos
began teaching at various locations
around the city, and the Oak Park YMCA was developing a good judo group also.
Indiana at this time had a judo community developing under the guidance of Mr.
Bill Craig. In local tournaments there would be as many as 80 brown belts
competing at one time. National registration was adopted during this period and
was run by the Chicago Yudanshakai for a few years. In the late 1950s, Chicago
had 2,800 registered members.
In 1954, Vince Tamura represented the Chicago Yudanshakai
and the U.S. in the 1st World Tournament. There were no weight divisions in
early world competitions, so the matches were rough. Tamura lasted until the
semi-finals, defeating heavier and higher ranking people. His only loss was to a
future world champion.
Texas In 1957 the Second Air Force held its championship
tournament in Austin. Tex., and invited Roy H. Moore to officiate the
tournament. Pop decided to stay, and, with the help of Col. Walthrop, Beverly
Sheffieid, from the Austin Recreation Department. and a young competitor, Jerry
Reid, from Bergstrom Air Force Base. the Austin Judo Club opened its doors.
With the addition of members such as Bill Nagase and Sam
Numahiri in Fort Worth, Karl Geis and Rick Landers in Houston, and Rick Mertens
in Shreveport, the Southwestern U.S. Judo Association came into being. The
association annexed small areas out of several yudanshakais and covered the
states of Texas, Louisiana, Arakansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. In 1959 the
Southwestern U.S. Championships were held in Austin, Tex.. with over 300
competitors attending. In the late 1950s Bill Nagase and Gail Stolzenburg
competed in the National AAU Senior Judo Championships.
The sport continued to grow and attracted several talented
instructors to Texas-Ace Sukigara,
3rd dan. to Longview, and Vince Tamura, Th dan, to Dallas. In 1961 the
Southwestern U.S. Judo Yudanshakai became the Texas Judo Black Beit Association,
and in 1962 the Texas Yudanshakai was approved by the Judo Black Belt Federation
as a regional association. The first officers included John Ebell. Rick Landers,
Gail Stolzenburg. Karl Geis, and Vince Tamura.
In 1964 the National Collegiate Championships were held in
El Paso with Texans Ace Sukigara. John Rowlett, Wes Maxwell. and Joe Rude among
the winners. In 1971 Odessa Boys Club hosted the USJF Junior National
Championships with many trophies staying in Texas. In 1975 the High School
National Championships were held in Houston.
To keep all the clubs informed of the Judo activities in
Texas and surrounding areas, the
Texas Yudanshakai has produced since 1963 a bi-monthly magazine entitled Texas
Shufu Yudanshakai at one time had the largest judo area in
the U.S. Over the years. new, localized judo organizations grew out of the
initial central organization.
James Takemori. 5th dan, has served as rank registration
chairman. secretary, and president of Shufu. He related the following
information concerning shufu's history:
In Washington before Shutu was organized there were only a
handful of men in the area, approximately ten yudansha. Among the black belts
present were Kenzo Uyeno, Eich' Koiwai, M.D., Nonkey Ishiyama,Donn Draeger, Bili
Berndt, Lanny Miyamoto, and Masauki Hashimoto Mr. Hashimoto became Shufu's first
There were five yudanshakais prior to the formation of
Shufu The earlier five were in Chicago, Seattle, Hawaii, Hokka, and Nanka. Donn
Draeger was an early advocate of a yudanshakai on the East Coast. His efforts
resulted in the first meeting of the forming yudanshakai, in the spring of 1953.
There were some differences of opinion regarding a name for the new organization
Some felt it should be called, using Japanese terminology, East Coast. while
others felt the Japanese for Capitol was more appropriate The name Capitol
finally won, thus Shufu Yudanshakai The early officers of Shutu were: Mr.
Hashimoto, president: Kenzo Uyeno, vice-president; Lanny Miyamoto. secretary
-treasurer; and Donn Draeger. chairman of the board of examiners.
Shufu eventually stretched from Maine to Florida,
including the Panama Canal Zone. Those seeking examination or further study
might have had to travel two days for such an activity Takemori and Uyeno
traveled a great deal during that early period: to North Carolina twice a year
for promotional tournaments; to New England twice yearly; and for Dixie states
twice yearly. Early applicants for examinations were not very knowledgeable
about judo Many of those tested had learned judo from a book, owing to the small
number of instructors on the East Coast. The candidates usually failed to pass
the examinations on their first attempt The exams were designed to develop
instructors, which the large area desperately needed. Terminology was very
Shufu, unlike many of the other yudanshakais, did not have
a large indigenous Japanese population from which to form the basis of the
organization. Many of the judo people came from the military Often. men recently
home from military service overseas. would return to the U S. from Japan as 1st-
or 2nd-degree black belts
Among the instructors in the area were Dr. Koiwai.
teaching in Philadelphia at a YMCA; Lanny Miyamoto in Baltimore; Ken Freeman and
George Uchida in New York; and James Takemore, Bill Berndt. Kenzo Uyeno. and
Donn Draeger in Washington There was considerable practice of Judo at military
bases as well. especially at Ft. Benning and at Ft. Braggi in 1957, the
Washington Judo club. earlier named the Pentagon Judo Club, established a dojo
outside of the Pentagon.
The level of judo awareness and numbers of practicing
judokas in the various areas of Shutu
increased. It soon became practical for more localized judo organizations to
exist. The first to develop a base sufficient to run its own affairs was the
Florida area. Next. New England formed its own yudanshakai. followed by the
Dixie States, and Allegheny Mountain. As long as the local judo population has
sufficient numbers and knowledge to administer judo in its area, the more
efficient service of a local yudanshakai is preferred This concept has motivated
the splitting of areas from Shufu's original territory.
Intercollegiate Judo The first record of any U.S.
collegiate judo participation was in the early 1930s when Henry Stone. a young
coach at the University of California, Berkeley sent a few students to
participate in some tournaments held in San Francisco.
in 1937 Emillo Bruno, a student. introduced judo as a
sport to the physical education department at San Jose State College: later the
judo program was taken over by another student, Yosh Uchida Mr Uchida took the
first group of college judo competitors from San Jose to Southern California to
participate in a yudanshakai tournament. the beginning of sectional tournaments.
World War II interrupted all collegiate judo. In 1946.
Yosh Uchida returned to college and helped revive the judo program at San Jose
State.Many of the students, who were World War I I veterans,had been taught
strictly self-defense in the service. Because fine technique was lacking among
the judo participants, great force was used on opponents and small competitors
were easily injured.
In 1948 Henry Stone devised a weight system that he hoped
would aid the growth and development of judo. For several years, the weight
system was experimented with at San Jose State in the physical education classes
and proved worthwhile. The original weight divisions were: 130, 150, 180 lbs,
and unlimited. These weight divisions were adopted by the AAU, but have since
been revised several times in an effort to keep up with changes in body size.
The weight divisions adopted by the Olympic Judo Committee, and used in the
Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964, were 156,176, heavyweight, and open.
Most of the early college judo participation and
development was earned out on the west coast at San Jose and U.C. Berkeley. Dual
meets between the two schools were initiated in the early 1950s. In 1953, the
first collegiate judo championships were held at U.C. Berkeley, called the
Pacific Coast Intercollegiate Judo Championships. Also in 1953, the first
National AAU Judo Championships were held at San Jose State. Lyle Hunt, a San
Jose State senior, was the first grand champion of the National AAU
Championships. Later in 1953, as a college student, Lyle represented the U.S. in
several tournaments in Europe, along with John Osoko from Chicago. Yosh Uchida,
from San Jose State, was coach. This was the first U.S. representation abroad in
the sport. Judo was recognized as in intercollegiate sport at San Jose in 1954,
but the growth of judo was definitely hampered over the years by a general lack
of understanding and knowledge of the sport by athletic directors and physical
education department chairmen, who have been traditionally reluctant to accept
new minor sports.
In 1955 San Jose State hosted the first International
All-Star Collegiate competitors. Haruo Imamura, who won the U.S. National AAU
Grand Championship in 1960, was a member of that team. The tournament was the
first all-college judo participation on an international scale between two
countries, although sometime during the mid-1930s, a team from Keio University
had participated in a yudanshakai tournament in southern California.
Henry Stone, the great leader of judo, passed away
suddenly in 1955 and judo floundered on the university level. A long-smouldering
feud between the NCAA and the AAU flared up in 1960, and it became impossible
for college teams to compete in AAU -sanctioned tournaments. On May 12,1962
college leaders met and organized the National Collegiate Judo Association. In
1962 the first National Collegiate Judo Championships were held at the U.S. Air
Force Academy, San Jose State, U.C. Berkeley, University of Minnesota, Mankato
State College, and the Eastern Collegiate Judo Association. Since then many
National Collegiate Judo Championships have been held at various colleges and
universities across the country.
In 1967, the National Collegiate Judo Association selected
Howard Fish to represent the U.S. in the University Games held in Tokyo. George
Uchida, of U.C. Berkeley, was coach and manager. The only U.S. representative,
Fish won a bronze medal in both the heavyweight and open divisions. Because of
Fish's outstanding performance, the NCJA was invited to send a team to Lisbon,
Portugal, in 1968. The U.S. sent Mike Ogata, Doug Graham, Roy Sukimoto, Gary
Martin, and Yosh Uchida as coach. Doug Graham won a silver medal in the 205 lb
division, and Gary Martin was a silver medalist in the 154 lb division. These
two U.S. collegiate judoists lost only to collegiate competitors from Japan.
In 1972 the University Games were held in London. Team
members included David Long, John Reed, Tom Cullen, Louis Gonzalez, Tom
Masterson, and Tom Tigg. In Soo Hwang, from Yale University, served as
coach-manager. Tigg won the silver medal in the 139 lb division.
For all the University Game competition, financial help
was received from the USJF. Without this national governing body, U.S. judo
would have had a far greater struggle; and certainly, without its financial aid,
competitors would never have been able to compete
internationally. (YOSH UCHIDA)
The organized judo program in the U.S. Armed Forces began
in the Air Force in 1950 when Gen. Curtis E. LeMay, the commander-in-chief of
the Strategic Air Command, USAF, directed the setting up of a model physical
conditioning unit at Offutt AFB, Neb. In 1951 similar conditioning units were
set up at other SAC bases. Gen. LeMay appointed Emilio ("Mel") Bruno, a former
National AAU Wrestling Champion and Th-degree in judo, to direct the program. At
this time, civilian judo instructors staffed six SAC bases; the rest had
physical conditioning units, but no judo instructors. In direct charge of the
judo and conditioning program for SAC was Gen. Thomas Power, later honorary
chairman of the National AAU Judo Committee.
Because of an obvious deficiency of instructors, Power
sent two classes of airmen (24 men) to the Kodokan Institute in Tokyo in 1952
for several weeks training. This was the first such training for any Armed
Air Force judo received added impetus in 1953 when ten
experts from Japan, six in judo, three in karate, and one in aikido, gave
demonstrations at over 70 U.S. Air Force Bases over a three-month period. The
purpose of this tour was to train judo instructors and combat crews and to give
exhibitions on and off base. Many civilian judo clubs had their first visit from
high-ranking judo teachers as a result of this tour. One of the highlights of
the tour was a demonstration at the White House on July 22. The year 1953 was
also marked by the first National AAU Judo tournament held at San Jose State
College. A SAC team participated in these first Nationals.
In 1954, the first SAC Judo Tournament was held at Offutt
AFB the Grand Champion was Airman Morris Curtis. Also in 1954, 26 SAC Air Police
went to the Kodokan to study judo fourteen weeks. The curriculum consisted of
police tactics, aikido, karate and, of course, judo. Two SAC judoists advanced
to the last few rounds in the 1954 AAU National Championships at Kezar Stadium,
San Francisco. The 12-man SAC team won 29 rounds and lost 19 but was unable to
place a man. Staff Sgt. Ed Maley, SAC, a member of the 1955 SAC Judo Team,placed
in the 1955 AAU National championships-third in the 150-lb division. The Air
Research and Development Command, USAD (ARDC), also entered a team in 1955,
after only a year of competition, and A/1 C Vern Raab won an unofficial fourth
place in the heavyweight division.
The year 1954 also brought a 10-man AAU-Air Force team
visit to six Japanese cities to compete in 16 contests. Five members of the team
were Air Force, and the most successful member of the team was to be heard from
many times in the future. This man, Staff Sgt. George Harris, won all of his 16
Seventy men from SAC and ARDC journeyed to the Kodokan in
1955 for instruction. Under the guidance of Gen. Power, who had taken over as
ARDC Commander, the SAC-ARDC Judo Association was formed and received
recognition from the Kodokan in 1956. Emilio Bruno was elected president, and
the association was permitted to grant judo rank. This was the first and only
Armed Forces judo association to be so recognized by the Kodokan. SAC and ARDC
sent 280 Air Policemen for four-week classes at the Kodokan during 1956.
Again in 1956, the Air Force placed one man in the
national AAU Judo Tournament at Seattle. Returning from his successful Japanese
tour, George Harris, then a 2nd dan, placed third in the heavyweight division.
In 1957, after only five years in judo, Staff Sgt. George
Harris won the Grand Championship in the National AAU Judo Championships in
Hawaii. Harris was first in the heavyweight division; sweeping the division with
him were A/1 C Lenwood Williams in second place and A/2C Ed Mede, third. The Air
Force also took the National 5-Man Team Championship for the first time.
Winners of the SAC and ARDC tournaments represented the
Air Force in the AAU tournaments on April 13 and 14 in Chicago. Twelve Air Force
judoists participated, with George Harris successfully defending his Grand
Championship, and the Air Force team captured the National 5-Man Team
Championship for the second year in a row. Due to the great power of southern
California in the lower weight divisions, the Air Force was unable to win the
overall team championship.
The SAC Judo Team, consisting of L. Williams, E. Mede, G.
Harris, J. Reid, R. Moxley, and M. O'Connor (trainer) was designated as the U.S.
Pan-American Judo Team in 1958. Team members won first and fourth in the 3rd dan
category (Harris and Williams), third in the 2nd dan (Reid), and second in the
1st dan (Mede). In the fall of 1958, George Harris and Ed Mede represented the
U.S. in the 2nd World Tournament, held in Tokyo. Harris's three wins before
losing to Sone, a Japanese 5th degree, placed him in a tie for fifth place along
with the four other defeated quarter finalists. As a result of this fine record,
George Harris was promoted to 4th degree in judo, the first Armed Forces man to
be so honored. (LT AGULLA GIBBS DEBRELL)
The Governance of U.S. Judo The development of a national
governing body for U.S. judo started in 1952, through the efforts of Dr. Henry
A. Stone, Maj. Draeger, and others. At that time there was no national authority
to give guidance to local judo communities and insure the logical and orderly
development of judo as a sport. The Amateur Judo Association was a first attempt
at establishing a national governing structure. Dr. Stone served as the first
president. Authority to grant the most coveted Kodokan judo rank was assumed by
the national organization. High ranking individuals were no longer permitted to
grant promotions independently. The growth of local judo organizations was
encouraged, promotion privileges were granted to yudanshakais, and a national
communications avenue was opened.
Until the early 1960s, judo in the U.S. had grown in a
haphazard, somewhat informal fashion. Most leaders tended to be purists,
preferring the security and recognition offered by their local influence. Judo
was structured strictly on rank, and those without the proper credentials were
considered outsiders. It was judo rank, that coveted mantle of recognition,
which for so many years retarded the formation of a strong, responsive national
organization. As judo spread across the nation, false claims to rank and
promotions were commonplace, and the existing organization was powerless to take
action. Those leaders who had feared a national organization and popularization
of judo in time became the strongest voices for change.
The national organization was renamed the Judo Black Belt
Federation. President Yosh Uchida (1960-61) delegated the task of laying the
groundwork for reorganization to Donald Pohl, a relatively unknown 1st dan from
Detroit. Pohl, the executive secretary of the Detroit Judo Club (then the
nation's largest non-profit club), had effected a pilot program for a national
During the brief tenure of President Renyo Uyeno (before
his untimely death at the age of 39 on June 1,1963), the Judo Black Belt
Federation launched a national rank registration procedure, which was coupled
with a detailed rank identification system. This was the basis for future
financial stability of the organization. The Judo Black Belt Federation also
adopted a comprehensive constitution and by-laws, established a national
communications system and published the Judo Bulletin.
Although the early leaders of the Judo Black Belt
Federation (then known as the Amateur Judo Association), had actively sought out
the Amateur Athletic Union and had been granted the right to represent U.S. judo
on the international level, little attention or significance was attached to
this accommodation until early in the 1960s when amateurism and sanctions began
to become important. As the Judo Black Belt Federation expanded (18 yudanshakais
in 1963) and tournaments were more widely attended, the importance and presence
of the AAU began to be noticed. The Judo Black Belt Federation and the Amateur
Athletic Union succeeded in maintaining an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual
assistance during the remainder of the decade.
In 1963 the Judo Black Belt Federation joined the Amateur
Athletic Union in producing the first of what were to be five joint handbooks
(two published by Phil Porter and three by Don Pohl). Sales of the books, mostly
through the Federation, exceeded 100,000 copies. All proceeds were given to the
Amateur Athletic Union Judo Committee to help finance its operation. When
proceeds from the sale of hand books failed to provide the necessary funding for
the expanding program, the Judo Black Belt Federation authorized grants in
excess of $75,000 to the Amateur Athletic Union to help finance international
competition and related programs
In 1964 and 1966, Hiro Fujimoto of Detroit was elected
president of the Federation and Dr. Eichi Kolwai of Philadelphia,
vice-president. Dr. Koiwai assumed the presidency at the 1968 election, holding
office for several terms. During the uncertain years of the 1960s the Federation
changed its name to the U.S. Judo Federation, published a book of procedures,
rewrote the judo contest rules, adopted a comprehensive promotion procedure,
drafted a new referees' certification procedure, and expanded to 25 yudanshakais.
Judo soon grew to the third largest sport in the array of
Amateur Athletic Union activities. What were first considered minor contentions
between the Union and the Federation soon grew to open disagreement over
philosophy, priorities, and control. Amateurism became a bone of contention.
considered by many a stumbling block in the way of development. Amateur Athletic
Union advocates, on the other hand, questioned the unchallenged control of rank
exercised by the U.S. Judo Federation.
In 1969 the differences and positions that had been fought
out at the meetings finally culminated in one of the yudanshakais (the Armed
Forces Judo Association) withdrawing from the U.S. Judo Federation to start a
rival national organization. The Armed Forces Judo Association adopted a name
similar to that of the parent organization, the U.S. Judo Association. The
association closely aligned itself with the philosophy and position of the
Amateur Athletic Union. (DENNIS HELM)
KARATE Kung-fu arrived in the U.S. with the first Chinese
immigrants in the mid-19th century, but the growth of karate is largely owed to
contact between American servicemen and Japanese experts during the post-World
War II occupation of Japan and Okinawa.
Kung-fu: the Forerunner of Karate Kung-fu was a part of
the Chinese lifestyle in the labo camps and mining towns that grew up following
the gold rush of 1848. With the importation of large numbers of Chinese laborers
to work on the Central Pacific Railroad, beginning in 1863, the swelling Chinese
communities isolated themselves within their own, transplanted culture.
Conflicts over control of gambling, prostitution, and the
like, arose; rival secret societies fought each other in the notorious "Tong
Wars," which lasted until the 1930s. The troops in these internecine wars were "hatchetmen,"
so-called because they used meat cleavers and hatchets as weapons. They were
skilled also in kung-fu, in the art of "pin-blowing," and in hurling lethal,
razor-edged coins. Hatchetmen in the U.S. handed down, from one generation to
the next, the secret and sinister practice of kung-fu, the forbearer of modern
Until roughly two decades after World War II, kung-fu was
not available to non-Chinese on the U.S. mainland. The early Japanese and
Okinawan communities in the U.S. were isolated, introverted, and intensely
secretive about their ethnic arts and crafts. Judo was the only exception:
Jigoro Kano, the founder of judo, encouraged its spread. According to martial
arts scholar Donn F. Draeger, Kano asked that " judo training be undertaken not
only in the dojo but also outside it, and so make of its physical aspects the
focus of human endeavor for the progress and development of man." The other
martial arts had no such original intention.
The first club to practice kung-fu in organized classes
with instructors from Chinese provinces was a branch of the Chinese Physical
Culture Association, founded in Honolulu in 1922. This association promoted
physical culture among the Islands' Chinese communities, but kung-fu remained
unavailable to non-orientals until 1957, when Tlnn Chan Lee, at'ai-chi-ch'uan
specialist, became the first Chinese sifu to open his teaching to the general
In 1964 the closely-guarded doors of kung-fu finally
opened in the U.S. mainland. Ark Y.Wong of Los Angeles, born in China, broke the
traditional kung-fu "color line" by accepting students of all races at Wah Que
Studio in Los Angeles's old Chinatown Also in 1964 the movie idol Bruce Lee and
his one-time partner, James Yimm Lee, began accepting non-Orientals at Lee's
kwoon in Oakland, Calif. In fact, the notorious John Keehan, a.k.a. "Count
Dante," claimed to have trained there as early as 1962.
Teachers like New York's Alan Lee, Ark Y. Wong, and T.Y.
Wong popularized Shaolin. Choy-Li-Fut and t'ai-chi-ch'uan quickly became public
and, soon after, the various branches of northern and southern Shaolin kung-fu.
In northern California, sifus Kwong and Brendan Lai helped
establish the praying mantis system. Y.C. Wong promoted the hung gar and tiger
crane systems; Kuo-Lien-Ying promoted t'ai-chi; George Long, the white crane;
and Lau Bun and the Luk Mo Studio, the Choy-Li-Fut. Noted scholar Wen-Shan
Huang, with his protege Marshall Ho, started the National T'ai-Chi-Ch'uan
Association in the early 1960s, opening up instruction in this "soft style" of
kung-fu to Caucasians.
Throughout the U.S. kung-fu spread, especially during the
Bruce Lee era, when so-called Eastern Westerns dominated American and
international movie screens. Even so, the majority of kung-fu styles and
teachers still remain hidden.
Many of the first karate students were street fighters.
Few of these rough types possessed, however, the discipline necessary to remain
with the art and learn it thoroughly. The small number who did found their
original attitudes startlingly transformed.
Today, karate classes are predominantly composed of
business persons, professionals, skilled workers, and students-a cross section
of American society.
Karate Comes to Hawaii In Hawaii, a great cultural
crossroads, karate secured a foothold
long before its emergence on the mainland. Although practiced within the
Okinawan community, no wider audience had seen karate in Hawaii until 1927, when
Kentsu Yabu, a famous Okinawan master, introduced Shuri-te in a public
demonstration at the Nuuana YMCA in Honolulu.
A few "naichi" Japanese (i.e., Japanese from one of the
four main islands of Hawaii) who observed the YMCA demonstration adjudged karate
a strong fighting art, possibly even stronger than their judo. Interest in
karate by non-Okinawans flourished thereafter. Yabu's open teachings also
brought together interested groups of Okinawans for practice and recreation,
something the rivalries of llaha, Shuri, and Tomari had prevented on Okinawa.
In 1932 Choki Motobu, a legendary, eccentric Okinawan
karate fighter, was denied entry to Hawaii when a group of Okinawan promoters
living in Hawaii tried to import him for a public match against well-known
Island fighters. In 1933 Zuiho Mutsu and Kamesuke Higaonna were allowed into
Hawaii with the understanding that they would teach and lecture but not compete
in the boxing ring. Both refused to engage in public matches and prepared to
depart immediately. Thomas Miyashiro, who had studied with Yabu in 1927,
convinced other karate enthusiasts to approach the pair collectively and urge
that they remain in Hawaii to teach their art. They agreed and, after great
initial success at the Asahi Photo Studio, the site of their original school,
the two karate masters chose a new facility for their classes, the Izumo Taishi
The club formed from these classes, the Hawaii Karate
Seinin Kai (Hawaii Young People's Karate Club), subsequently staged a public
karate demonstration at the Honolulu Civic Auditorium. A number of Caucasian
spectators in attendance, mostly members of the First Methodist Church, became
interested in learning karate. Through their efforts, the first known Caucasian
group in the Western world to study openly and to sponsor karate activities was
formed in 1933 Shortly thereafter, both Mutsu and Higaonna departed for Japan,
where they had been teaching previously.
In May 1934 Chinei Kinjo, editor of the Okinawan newspaper
Yoen Fiho Sha, invited grandmaster Cholun Miyagi, the founder of goju-ryu
karate, to Hawaii. Miyagi lectured and taught to popularize Okinawan goju-ryu
karate-do, staying almost a year and returning to Okinawa in Feb. 1935.
The spread of kempo to the Islands is largely owed to Dr.
James Mitose, a Japanese-American born in Hawaii in 1916. At age five he was
sent to Kyushu, Japan, for schooling in his ancestral art of self-defense,
called "kosho-ryu kempo," said to be based directly on Shaolin kung-fu. Mitose
returned to Hawaii in 1936. In 1942 he organized the Official Self-Defense Club
at the Beretania Mission in Honolulu. This club continued under his personal
leadership until 1953, when it was assigned to Thomas Young, one of his chief
students. Only five of his students-Young, William K.S. Chow, Paul Yamaguchi,
Arthur Keawe, and Edward
Lowe-attained the rank of black belt. But the kempo arts flourished in Hawaii
and later on the west coast of the mainland, where three of Mitose's proteges
formed clubs of their own. In 1953, before going to the mainland, Mitose wrote
What is Self-Defense, reprinted by his students in 1980.
Of Mitose's students, perhaps Chow played the most
significant role in the evolution of the
American martial arts. Although he had learned kosho-ryu kempo under Mitose,
Chow was the first to teach what he called kenpo (first law) karate. From 1949
Chow trained a great number of students to therank of blackbelt, including
Adriano Emperado, Ralph Castro, Bobby Lowe, John Leone, and Paul Pung. By far
the most famous of Chow's students is Ed Parker, a leading pioneer in the
American karate movement.
Adriano "Sonny" Emperado was a co-founder in 1947 of the
kajukenbo system, formed by five experts: Walter Choo (karate), Joseph Holke
(judo), Frank Ordonez (jujutsu), Emperado (kenpo), and Clarence Chang (Chinese
boxing). The name is an acronym derived from the five disciplines of its
founders: ka from karate, ju from judo and jujutsu, ken from kenpo, and bo from
Chinese boxing. Today, this style is one of the most prominent in Hawaii. In
1950 Emperado founded Hawaii's first and largest chain of karate schools, the
Kajukenbo Self-Defense Institute, Inc., in which he still holds the office of
vice-president. Probably Emperado's most famous student is Al Dacascos, founder
of the won hop kuen do system.
In 1954 Japan's colorful Mas Oyama visited Hawaii for a
month to assist Bobby Lowe, a Chinese -American, in setting up the first
overseas branch of Oyama's kyokushinkai style.
Karate Emerges on the Mainland The first karate school on
the U.S. mainland was established by a former sailor, Robert Trias, who began
teaching karate in Phoenix in 1946. In 1942, while stationed in the Pacific,
Trias trained with Tong Gee Hsing, a teacher of heing-I and Shuritode ryu, and a
nephew, according to
Trias, of Okinawa's Choki Motobu. The word "karate" was not then in universal
use; Shuritode ryu was a style of Okinawan shorei-ryu karate.
Upon his discharge in 1946, Trias returned to the U.S. and
established his private, 14-foot-square dojo. He charged a low annual fee for
instruction in judo or karate for two to three hours daily, seven days a week.
Until the late 1970s, when John Corcoran investigated the subject, little
acknowledgment was given Trias as the actual founder of karate in America.
Later, in 1948, Trias formed the United States Karate Association (USKA), the
first karate organization on the mainland.
From Mar. to Nov. 1952, Mas Oyama of Japan toured 32
states by invitation of the U.S. Professional Wrestling Association-officials
had heard of his exploits in Japan. While in the country he began his famous
challenge matches with professional wrestlers and boxers, all of whom he is said
to have defeated. Oyama's exhibition bouts and demonstrations, including the
breaking of boards, bricks, and stones, received great public attention,
including articles in the New York Times, which covered his bout with a pro
boxer at Madison Square Garden.
In 1951 Emilio Bruno, judo teacher, pioneer, and
administrator, had been named supervisor of judo and combative measures for the
Strategic Air Command (SAC). Bruno formulated a new approach to military combat
training, integrating parts of aikido, judo, and karate into a systematic
unarmed combat technique. To implement his idea, he suggested a pilot program to
Gen Curtis LeMay, then commander of the U.S. Air Force and one of Bruno's judo
students. The program had a significant effect on the subsequent propagation of
karate in the U.S.With Gen. LeMay's endorsement and SAC's sponsorship, Bruno
initiated eight-week training programs for Air Force instructors at the Kodokan,
judo's mecca, in Japan. Kodokan officials contacted the Japan Karate Association
(JKA) to manage the karate instruction, and that organization selected Hidetaka
Nishlyama as one of the coaches. Financially backed and supported by SAC, Bruno
invited ten martial arts instructors of judo and karate to participate in a now
famous four-month 1953 tour of every SAC base in the U.S. and Cuba. The touring
group included seven judoka and three karate dignitaries: Nishiyama, Toshio
Kamata, and the late Isao Obata, a JKA co-founder and senior disciple of Gichin
The 1953 SAC tour was responsible for opening up
communication between Japan and the U.S.,accounting for the migration of dozens
of Japanese karate instructors to America. It also influenced other U.S.
military branches and departments to adopt similar martial arts programs.
In 1954 the JKA established its first, small headquarters
in Tokyo, and, with the establishment
of a central dojo, Nishiyama was elected chief of the JKA instruction
department. He conceived a plan to train large numbers of karate instructors and
send them across the world to establish karate. His plan, once put into
operation, accounted for the migration, beginning in 1955, of many instructors
who pioneered Shotokan karate wherever they settled.Nishiyama himself assumed
responsibility for furthering karate in the U.S.
In 1954 Ed Parker, black belt kenpo student of William
Chow, began teaching a karate course at Brigham Young University. Hawaiian-born
Parker, who had arrived on the mainland in 1951, limited instruction to
Americans attending the university His evening classes enrolled as many as 72
students: city police, state highway patrolmen, fish and game wardens, and
sheriffs' deputies. With some of his students, Parker formed an exhibition team,
and through various chambers of commerce, he and his group performed in several
William Dometrich, who began his karate training in Japan
in 1951, returned in Dec. 1954, settling in Kentucky. A student of Dr. Tsuyoshi
Chitose, the founder of Chito-ryu karate, Dometrich was the first to teach this
system in America. He formed the U.S. Chito-Kai in 1967.
Denver's Frank Goody, Jr., who had as early as 1924
started judo lessons with his father, is the first instructor to have taught
karate in the Rocky Mountain region. Jack Farr, in compiling the history of
martial arts in Colorado, reported that between 1945 and 1951, Goody promoted
yawara tournaments within his judo school in Denver. While Goody's background is
the subject of much confusion, his contribution to karate's growth is not. In
1957, he opened a karate school in Boulder, Colo., and is credited with teaching
nearly all the other karate pioneers in the Colorado area.
Dewey Deavers, a jujutsu and karate instructor who
reportedly traveled in China and Japan in the 1920s, surfaced around 1954 in
Pittsburgh. By then he had already trained two students to the rank of black
belt: Warren Siciliano and Larry Williams. Williams in that year introduced
karate to a promising student, Glenn Premru, who in the late 1960s and early
1970s, became a noted performer and national kata champion.
Another pioneer was Atlee Chittim of Texas. After studying
tae kwon do in Korea, Chittim returned as a brown belt in 1955 and taught his
art at San Antonio College. (Interestingly, the name "tae kwon do" had only been
created in April of that year.) As far as can be determined, Chittim was the
first to teach any form of karate in the southwestern U.S. outside of Arizona.
And he sponsored the entry of Jhoon Rhee to America from Korea in 1956. Rhee, a
tae kwon do black belt, came to the U.S. to study engineering at San Marco's
Texas State College and began to teach his art on campus, opening a commercial
club in 1958. Rhee, known as the "Father of American Tae Kwon Do," went on to
become one of the most important leaders in American karate.
In 1955 Tsutomu Ohshima, a graduate of Waseda University
in Japan, organized a small karate class at the Konko Shinto Church in Los
Angeles. A disciple of Gichin Funakoshi's Shotokan style, Ohshima was the first
instructor in the U.S. to teach a typically Japanese karate system, and was the
first resident karate teacher on the West Coast. In 1956 he opened the first
public dojo in Los Angeles. He also founded the Shotokan Karate of America.
The First Karate Tournament Robert Trias in 1955 conducted
the first known karate tournament in America, the 1st Arizona Karate
Championships. Held at the Butler Boys Club in Phoenix, participants were
chiefly members of the Arizona Highway Patrol, Trias' own students.
Karate Comes to Hollywood By 1956 Ed Parker had moved to
California where his growing student list began to include such Hollywood names
as Darren McGavin, author Joe Hyams, television executive Tom Tannenbaum,
producer Blake Edwards, and the late film stars Nick Adams, Frank Lovejoy, and
Audie Murphy. Both Hyams and Tannenbaum later achieved black belts under
different instructors. Each made substantial contributions to karate, Tannenbaum
in television and Hyams in print Through Parker's influence, Blake Edwards
directed his writers to add karate scenes to the screenplays for such 1960s hits
as A Shot in the Dark and The Pink Panther. In those days, filmmakers were
intrigued primarily by the more spectacular aspects of the martial arts, such as
board and brick breaking.
Eventually Parker taught many more celebrities, including
Elvis Presley, and appeared in motion pictures and television shows. It is
difficult to determine whether Bruce Tegner or Parker was the first karate
expert to work in films. It is a matter of record, however, that Tegner
attracted attention to the martial arts early by setting up fight scenes for the
1950s TV series "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," and "The Detectives,"
starring Robert Taylor. He also wrote a large number of books which had a great
influence on the number of Americans that got involved in karate. As early as
1956 Stirling Silliphant had begun writing martial arts into many of his films
requiring combat action. He first did this in Five Against the House in which
Brian Keith portrayed a Korean war veteran and karate expert. Later he wrote
martial arts roles in TV series like "Naked City" and "Route 66." Silliphant
later became largely instrumental in the rise of Bruce Lee, with whom he studied
for 3 years.
Karate Pioneers In the years 1956 through 1960 the core of
an American establishment came into being. A nucleus of first-rate
instructors-immigrants from the Far East and returning U.S.servicemen-opened the
first schools in assorted styles, in their respective regions. In 1957 Don Nagle
returned from Okinawa, where he studied isshin-ryu under Tatsuo Shimabuku. He
opened a dojo in Jacksonville and trained such well-known black belts as Ed
McGrath, Harold Long, Gary Alexander, Ron Duncan, Donald Bohan, James Chapman,
Lou Lizzotte, Ralph Chirico, and Joe Bucholtz. Nagle became one of the
instructors chiefly responsible for the profileration of karate throughout the
Louis Kowlowski, an early USKA member, opened the first
karate school in the midwest in 1957, in St. Louis, Mo. He was also one of the
first to introduce Okinawan shorin-ryu (Matsubayashi) into the U.S.
In 1957 Cecil Patterson, a wado-ryu black belt, opened a
private club in Sevierville, Tenn. And in 1962 he opened his first commercial
school in Nashville, which, by the mid-1970s, expanded to as many as 17 dojo
across Tennessee. Patterson also began the Eastern U.S. Wado-Kai Federation.
Okinawa kempo master Zempo (atsu) Shimabuku founded the
first known karate dojo in Philadelphia in 1957.
In 1958, Roger Warren, who studied in the Orient, started
leaching karate in Chicago and Peoria. Charles Gruzanski (d.1973) also opened a
martial arts school in Chicago in the same year. Gruzanski, who spent many years
in Japan, was a black belt in a number of different arts and was one of the few
Caucasian experts in masakiryu-manriki-gusari, a viscous chain and sickle
In the mid-1950s Ed Kaloudis traveled to Japan to improve
his judo knowledge. While there he studied koei-kan karate from Eizo Onishl. In
1958 Kaloudis moved to New York where he began to teach at NYU and also to
members of the New York City Police Department. He later moved to New Jersey and
opened up schools in Clifton and Caldwell. Today he oversees a large number of
Robert Fusaro, who trained under Nishiyama in Japan, was
the first man to teach karate in Minnesota. He began teaching his shotokan style
in 1958 in Minneapolis and founded the Midwest Karate Association. Today he runs
a number of schools in Minnesota.
In 1958 George Mattson was discharged from the U.S. Army.
He returned home to Boston where he became the first Uechi-ryu instructor in
America, as well as the first karate pioneer in the New England region. Mattson
became a leader of karate on the Eastern Seaboard sponsoring the first karate
tournament in New England in 1961. Mattson also wrote one of the first books on
karate, The Way of Karate, published in 1963.
In 1958 in Portland, Oreg., Moon Yo Woo began teaching
kong su an obscure Korean style of karate.
In 1958-59 Harry Smith, a student of Don Nagle, opened the
first-known karate school in western Pennsylvania. He trained several students
including Joe Penneywell, Harry Ackland and James Morabeto.
Around this time Walter Mazak and Joe Hedderman opened a
dojo in Pittsburgh, Hedderman was a student of Chito-stylist William Dometrich.
In 1959 Philip Koeppel was discharged from the Navy. He
had studied karate in Japan with Richard Kim and Kajukenbo with Adriano Emperado
in Hawaii. In 1960 he joined the USKA and studied under Robert Trias. In 1963 he
promoted the 1st World Karate Championships in Chicago and has since built a
strong chain of karate studios throughout the midwest.
In 1959 Natamoro Naikima opened a school in Philadelphia
Peter Urban, one of the founders of karate on the East
Coast, opened his first goju-ryu karate
school in Union City, New Jersey, in Sept.1959. Urban had studied in Japan with
Richard Kim and later became a top student of Gogen "The Cat" Yamaguchi.
In 1960, Urban moved to New York City and taught karate at
the Judo Twins (Bernie and Bob Lepkofker) and later established his own dojo,
the famous "Chinatown Dojo." He also broke away from the goju-kai organization
and formed his own, which he called USA Goju. Urban probably trained more top
black belts than anyone on the East Coast; among them were: Chuck Merriman, Al
Gotay, William Louie, Frank Ruiz, John Kubl, Lou Angel, Thomas Boddie, Joe
Lopez, Joe Hess, Bill Liquori, Aaron Banks, Ron Van Clief, Susan Murdock, Owen
Watson, and Rick Pascetta.
Ralph Lindquist, an isshin-ryu stylist, opened a school in
1960 in New Cumberland, Pa.
In Michigan, AI Horton began teaching hisuechi-ryu in
Kalamazoo in 1960. Other early pioneers included J. Kim in Lansing; Ernest Lieb
in Muskegon; David Praim in Mt. Clemens (1962), who taught fighters Everett Eddy
and Johnny Lee; and Paul and Larry Malo from Detroit who taught Shito-ryu and
operated a number of multimillion-dollar karate centers.
As the decade closed, karate was gaining appeal. While no
single member of the 1950-60 group of pioneers appears to have been greatly
successful, the fact that so many individuals were operating schools, whose
enrollments were increasing steadily, proved this new form ofself-defense was
attractive to the general public. ln this decade the foundation was laid for the
circulation of styles, instructors, and masters that would in the 1960s see the
art of karate surpass judo in numbers of active practitioners.
The early 1960s also marked the beginning of an extensive
immigration of Korean tae kwon do instructors. After Jhoon Rhee, who introduced
tee kwon do in the U.S. in 1956, the first wave included: S. Henry Cho, Richard
Chun, and Duk Sung Son in New York; D.S. Kim in Georgia; J.Kim and Sang Kyu Shim
in Michigan; Mahn Suh Park in Pennsylvania; Haeng Ung Lee in Omaha; Ki Whang Kim
in Maryland; and Jack Hwang in Oklahoma. In all, it is estimated that more than
25 masters during the early and mid-1960s settled in the U.S.
The Vietnam War gave this native Korean art
visibility.Pictures of Korean instructors training American GI's in hand-to-hand
combat appeared in Time and Newsweek.
While these legitimate instructors were encouraged to
emigrate to the U.S., the teaching credential itself was to create an intense
controversy in American karate. As more and more Korean tae kwon do instructors
and masters arrived in the U.S., it was clearly unlikely that all of them could
have taught American military personnel. Yet this claim, coupled with
insupportable claims to unreasonably advanced degrees of black belt rank-usually
no less than 7th dan-first caused suspicion, then rebellion by American
karatemen. More often than not a third claim, that of being an "All Korean
Champion," was another of the tee kwon do credentials. It is improbable that
there were more than a few dozen All Korean Champions, since tae kwon do
embraced no organized competitions until the 1960s-when more than 800 master
instructors were teaching tae kwon do in the U.S. The degree and intensity of
business competition was undoubtedly the motive for these exorbitant claims. At
any rate, potential martial arts students now had a choice of where and with
whom to study. By the early 1970s more than 1,200 tae kwon do instructors were
teaching in the U.S.
Such phenomenal growth placed increasing demands on the
tae kwon do community as a whole, and the need for a central organization
quickly became apparent. In the U.S., as in Korea, the cause of organization was
initially obstructed by affiliations of master instructors to parent schools and
associations in Korea.
Meanwhile, within the Japanese karate community, Tsutomu
Ohshima, who was still traveling, arranged in 1961 for Hidetaka Nishiyama to
come to California to preside over his Los Angeles headquarters. Nishiyama
arrived in July and within four months struck out on his own to form the All
America Karate Federation (AAKF), a branch of the powerful Japan Karate
Association (JKA). Today, the AAKF is one of the largest karate organizations in
the U.S. This development spawned a bitter political rivalry between Ohshima and
Nishiyama, which continues under the surface of the international amateur karate
movement. Both pioneers, however, are consummate karate masters. Each is
responsible for having firmly planted Shotokan karate in the U.S., and for
having trained numerous disciples of high technical skill.
Richard Kim, sensei to such American karate pioneers as
Peter Urban, Phil Koeppel, and Canada's Benny Allen, came to America from Japan
in 1961 and began teaching at the Chinese YMCA in San Francisco, Calif. Later
Kim became the foremost karate historian residing in the U.S.
Top JKA instructor Teruyuki Okazaki arrived in the U.S. in
May 1961 and began teaching Shotokan karate in west Philadelphia. In Sept.1962
he formed the East Coast Karate Association, a branch of the AAKF. Today he
oversees the 50,000-member International Shotokan Karate
Also in Philadelphia that year, Mahn Suh Park established
his first tae kwon do dojang, which, like Okazaki's dojo, is still in operation
It was around 1961 that John Keehan, alias "Count Dante,"
began teaching karate in the midwest from his base dojo in Chicago, III. Keehan
joined the USKA in 1961, at age 22, and was instrumental in helping Trias firmly
entrench the USKA in the midwest, the association's strongest territory. He
taught numerous students all the way to black belt, who opened their own schools
and turned out respected students.
On the night of April 23, 1970, he took part in the
infamous "dojo war" that ended in the brutal stabbing death of his friend and
student, Jim Koncevic, at the Green Dragon's Black Cobra training hall in
Chicago. The tragedy left a profound mark on Keehan until his death from
bleeding ulcers in 1975.
An early pioneer of karate in the South was John Pachivas,
who became the first karate instructor in the Miami Beach area in 1961. Pachivas
reportedly has been active in the martial arts since the mid-1940s, and holds
degrees in judo, jujutsu, and godu-ryu karate.
In Jan. 1961 George Pesare introduced kenpo karate to
Rhode Island in Providence. Preceded only by Ted Olsen, Pesare would in time
become the foremost instructor in his state and an influential leader in the
One of the first New York instructors to be affiliated
with Mas Oyama was Augustin DeMello, who opened the New York Kyokushinkai karate
club in Greenwich Village in 1961. He later broke away from Oyama and quit
Daeshik Kim, a judo and tae kwon do instructor, came to
Atlanta, Ga., in 1961 where he began teaching tae kwon do in the physical
education department of Georgia State College.
Among Kim's students were Joe Corley, Chris McLoughlin,
"Atlas" Jesse King, Larry McClure, and Dick Lane. In 1966, Kim sold his
Institute of Self-Defense, a non-campus club, to McLoughlin and Corley.
Corley and McLoughlin established several branch schools
over the years, all in and around Atlanta, and they jointly produced the first
Battle of Atlanta in 1970. Later, the tournament would become one of the most
prestigious in American sport karate.
Individually, Corley would become one of the most
influential voices in Southern karate by
spearheading the formation of the Southesat Karate Association (SEKA). In the
1970s, he would invest most of his time and money in the full-contact karate
McLoughlin would make his mark as one of the first
professional martial arts journalists who also was a black belt.
In Los Angeles, Mito Uyehara, an aikido practitioner, and
his brother, Jim, published the
inaugural issue of Black Belt Magazine in 1961. The first issue was in digest
form, with articles on judo, karate, aikido, and kendo. Though it suffered lean
years, the publication became one of the most successful in its field. In the
late 1960s, the brothers dissolved their partnership, Jim taking with him the
merchandise trade-which later developed into Martial Arts Supplies-and Mito
retaining ownership of the magazine. The publication struggled until Mito
launched a line of paper back text books, which eventually brought large
profits. This, coupled with shrewd capitalization on the martial arts movie
trend of the early 1970s, made Mito Uyehara one of the few millionaires in the
martial arts business.
Out of the Uyehara publishing empire have come some 60
textbooks, the monthly, Karate Illustrated (since 1969), and the monthly
Fighting Stars (since 1973).
In 1961 New York's John Kuhl wrote, edited, posed for, and
published a karate manual/magazine called Combat Karate. Kuhl started his karate
training in Montreal in 1957 under Ari Anastasiatis. After moving to New York
City in 1970, he continued his training with Peter Urban and Gosei Yamaguchi,
son of Gogen, the goju-ryu teacher. Two of Kuhl's early students were Aaron
Banks and Al Weiss. Kuhl and Weiss co-produced in 1962 a manual entitled Karate,
the most popular instruction book at its price. Its success prompted the 1968
publishing of Official/Karate Magazine, a bi-monthly. It soon became a monthly,
with international distribution. The magazine's outlook is radical compared to
the conservative Black Belt. It was an animated voice in the movement toward an
Americanized form of karate. And Weiss, its editor, has been recognized for
writing the most potent monthly editorials in his field.
Bob Yarnall, a shorin-ryu instructor, opened his first
dojo in 1962 in St. Louis, Mo., where he has remained to this day. A student of
James Wax, Yarnall has instructed such pioneers as Jim Harrison, Parker Shelton,
and Bill Marsh, who was a successful competitor in the European karate circuit.
Yarnall is probably the best-known exponent of Matsubayashi-ryu in the U.S. and
has been a long time member of Trias' USKA. His wife, Joyce, assists her husband
in the operation of his schools, and is a photographer whose collection includes
many historic pictures of the sport and its early champions.
Jhoon Rhee opened his first school in Washington, D.C., in
1962, and within three months had amassed more than 100 students. This, then,
became the basis of the Jhoon Rhee empire, which later blossomed into one of the
largest privately-owned martial arts enterprises in the world today.
The Jhoon Rhee Institutes have developed many of the most
accomplished karate competitors in American karate. Some notable students are:
Larry Carnahan, Michael Coles, Gordon Franks, Jeff Smith, Jose Jones, Wayne Van
Buren, John and Pat Worley, Otis Hooper, John Chung and Rodney Batiste.
Rhee would also begin teaching tee kwon do to
distinguished members of the U.S. government hierarchy, senators and congressmen
among them. Through his endeavors, Rhee would become a genuine celebrity to the
D.C. general public.
Allen Steen, Rhee's student, established the first school
of his eventual empire in 1962 in Dallas, Tex. Only Johnny Nash preceded him by
a few months. No one, however, would dominate the Southwest territory as would
Steen. Like Rhee, Steen trained many of America's top karatemen, among them Mike
Anderson, Skipper Mullins, Pat Burleson, Fred Wren, Roy Kurban, and Jim and
In 1962 after a visit to Pittsburgh by Master Tatsuo
Shimabuku, at the invitation of James Morabeto and Harry Smith, disharmony once
again set in among the city's isshinryu principals. Morabeto opened several dojo
of his own, while Harry Ackland and Joe Penneywell established the Academy of
Isshinryu Karate in downtown Pittsburgh. William Duessel and William Wallace,
students of Shimabuko, assumed ownership in the late 1960s.
At this time, Nick Long began teaching Okinawan kempo in
Greensburg, Pa., where he built a large following of college students.
In Denver, Robert Thompson and Fran Heitmann jointly
opened a tang soo do school in 1962. That same year, Chuck Serett, a black belt
student of Heitmann's, established his first school and brought in Korean
instructor Moon Ku Back to teach there. Sereff and one of his black belts, Ralph
Krause, opened another Denver karate school, but later the two went separate
ways. Today, Sereff has one of the largest operations in Colorado.
Frank Ruiz earned a chestful of medals including the
Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Bronze Star during the Korean War. Upon his
release, he became one of Peter Urban's first students in 1960. In 1962, he
launched his own teaching career in New York City, and produced two nationally
recognized fighters, Louis Delgado and Herbie Thompson (of Florida), and East
Coast karate champions Ron Van Clief, Owen Watson, and the late Malachi Lee.
Ruiz later broke away from Urban to form his own Nisei Goju organization. In
1970 Ruiz cheated death after being struck by a car traveling 80 m.p.h.,
managing four years later to walk normally and even practice karate.
The Birth of Franchised Karate In 1963 two brothers, Jim
and Al Tracy, founded their first kenpo karate school in San Francisco; both-had
been students of Ed Parker. After spending large sums in development costs, the
brothers launched what became the largest chain of karate schools in the world,
under the trade name "Tracy's Karate." The Tracy brothers brought big business
practices to karate. Their strategy included a proven sales system, adapted from
commercial dance studios. At its peak, 1969-73, the Tracy organization was
estimated to have 70 studios under its franchise banner. After hiring Joe Lewis,
one of the port's brightest stars, as a figurehead for its franchise recruitment
program, the organization attracted instructors who, using the knowledge gained
in business indoctrination courses, were able to make careers in the martial
arts. Among the early corps of Tracy's novitiates were Jay T. Will, Al Dacascos,
Jerry Smith, Jerry Piddington, Dick Willett, Roger Greene, Steve LaBounty, and
At the same time, throughout the mid- and late 1960s,
other instructors and organizations were developing sales systems and business
practices particularly suited to the martial arts. Jhoon Rhee, Allen Steen,
Chuck Norris, and Ed Parker soon expanded into franchising. Bob Wall of Los
Angeles is credited with having helped many martial artists adopt sound business
practices in their schools, among them Norris, Rhee, and Colorado's Jim Harkins.
An astute businessman, Wall developed and manualized a sales system still in use
in many professional karate studios across the nation.
who would become one of the most respected karate fighters in the world,
established his first school in Torrance south of Los Angeles. In 1968 he and
Bob Wall bought out Joe Lewis' interest in the Sherman Oaks Karate Studio. From
there he launched a chain of seven studios until 1975, when he gave up the
operation to concentrate fully on a motion picture career.
Norris is now responsible for guiding more than 2000
students to black-belt rank and dozens to
competitive champioship prominence. Among them are:
Jerry Taylor, Pat Johnson, John Natividad, Howard Jackson, Ralph Alegria,
Darnell Garcia, and Bob Burbidge, Chip Wright,
Danny Lane, among many,
In April 1963 Master Duk Sung Son, president of the World
Tae Kwon Do Association, immigrated to the U.S. and began teaching in and around
New York City. Within a few years, Son was teaching his art at Princeton, N.Y.,
Brown and Fordham Universities, and later at the U.S. Military Academy at West
Francisco Conde in 1963 initiated classes exclusively for
females at the Women's Karate Club
of Fort Meade, Maryland. There his wife, Kathleen, received some of her early
training before going on to become one of the premier black belt competitors in
her region. Known for his tournament promotions, as early as 1963 Conde became a
driving force behind many of the regional activities of the Mid-Atlantic states.
Roger Carpenter, a black belt student of George Pesare,
came to Wichita, Kans., in Sept. 1963. Carpenter taught karate for two years at
churches, YMCAs, and a National Guard Armory. In the spring of 1965, he opened
the first commercial karate school in Wichita. By 1964, Jim Harrison had also
established a school in Kansas City.
In Denver, Shotokan stylist Joe Costello(d.1973), from
Hawaii, opened a dojo downtown. That same year, Ralph Krause opened the first of
an eventual chain of karate schools in Colorado.
Ki Whang Kim, a highly respected tae kwon do master,
organized a YMCA class in Washington, D.C., in 1963. This class produced some
outstanding D.C. martial artists including John Camance Albert Cheeks, Phil
Cunningham, Mike Warren, Furman Marshall, and John Mickens. During the 1970s
Mike Warren was widely considered to be America's best tournament fighter and,
indisputably, one of the best technicians in the sport.
Lou Angel, Jack Hwang, and Bill Brisco, all of Oklahoma
City, are the recognized pioneers of karate in Oklahoma. Angel, a former U.S.
Marine and student of Peter Urban, arrived in Oklahoma at an unspecified date in
the early 1960s. He is best known for having produced the Tulsa Southwest Karate
Championships in 1963 where Mike Stone would launch his impressive fighting
career. Stone, then still a brown belt, became an overnight sensation by winning
first place in the sparring division and soon rose to prominence as the sport's
Jack Hwang, a pioneer of tee kwon do, immigrated to the
U.S. in 1960. He taught quietly until opening his first school in Oklahoma City
in 1964. In 1965, Hwang produced his inaugural All American Open Karate
Championships, which is a highlight of the southwestern karate circuit.
Marine sergeant Sam Pearson, a disciple of Master Eizo
Shimabuku, founded a shorin-ryu karate club in 1963 at Camp LeJeune, N.C. His
most famous student is the aforementioned Glenn Premru of Pittsburgh, who would
become one of the sport's first corps of great kata champions and flamboyant
Tournaments The early 1960s brought the first American
karate tournaments. Until 1963 several local and at best, regional competitions
were organized in different parts of the U.S Principal among these early events
were the All America Karate Championships and the North American Karate
Championships. The former was held in Los Angeles in Dec.1961 by Hidetaka
Nishiyama, concurrent with his formulation of the All America Karate Federation.
Nishiyama chose as the tournament site the Olympic Auditorium, the West Coast
boxing center. The tournament was produced as a fund-raiser for the March for
Muscular Dystrophy. Participants were chiefly members of the Shotokan style of
karate, but some came from as far as Canada and Hawaii.
The North American Karate Championships, conducted on Nov.
24,1962, was the first karate tournament held at Madison Square Garden, and the
first open karate competition in America. Here, Mas Oyama appeared for the
second time in his illustrious career, and this time the appearance was not for
the purpose of demonstrating karate's superiority to professional boxing and
wrestling. Preceding the finals, Oyama presented one of his impressive breaking
routines, crushing rocks, bricks, and boards with his bare hands, feats even at
that time considered phenomenal by the American public. Gary Alexander, one of
the early wave of "fighting" instructors, won the black belt sparring
championship. In 1963 he established his first school in New Jersey and began
promoting notable karate tournaments himself.
On July 28,1963, Robert Trias and John Keehan jointly
hosted the 1st World Karate Tournament at the University of Chicago Fieldhouse,
gathering contestants and officials from around the country. This was the first
truly national American karate tournament and the forerunner of the many
subsequent tournaments using and abusing the title of "World Championship." To
date, this misnomer has been attached by various promoters to more than 20 North
American karate tournaments. Clearly, it is an inexact title, since the
participants do not come from all over the world.
Tournament titles were not an issue, however, during the
embryonic stage. What is important is that Trias' event attracted most of the
prominent American karateka. What took place in Chicago set a precedent for the
emergence of large-scale, national-caliber competitions. This particular event
was retitled the USKA Nationals in 1966, and in 1968 adopted its present title,
the USKA Grand Nationals. It is one of the longest-running annual karate
tournaments in America.
Also in 1963, Texan Allen Steen inaugurated his Dallas
Southwest Karate Championships, in which Mike Stone, still a brown belt, won the
black belt fighting division. Steen's tournament was retitled in 1965 the U.S.
Karate Championships. David Moon, one of the few Asian instructors competing in
open sparring divisions, won the first of three consecutive grand championships
there. The tournament maintained its national prestige until the mid-1970s.
During this period many judo and jujutsu black belts had
begun studying karate; their styles were often unrefined. Some were the
recipients of "cross-over" ranks, i.e., because of their proficiency in one art
they might receive den rank in karate.
As each generation of American karate black belts became
progressively more polished, fluid, and performance-conscious, the old ex-judo/
jujutsu converts appeared out of touch with new developments in the art. Despite
criticism, many of these same figures were responsible for introducing the
martial arts to
individuals who would later make contributions to the growth of American karate.
One of these, Jerry Durant,
trained tap fighter Artis Simmons as well as Art Sykes, William Cavalier and
In 1964 Trias again staged his World Championships in
Chicago, but this year two new tournaments shared the spotlight. The first was
Ed Parker's International Karate Championships in Long Beach, Calif. Parker's
tournament, like Trias 'the year before, attracted the biggest names in American
Mike Stone became the event's first grand champion, an
accomplishment overshadowed historically by the results of a demonstration
presented there by an unknown Chinese stylist named Bruce Lee.
Lee was a sensation. Demonstrating his skills, he sent
partners reeling backward with his 1 -inch punch, a technique that became a
personal trademark. Lee's performance left a lasting impression on many
practitioners and non-martial-artist spectators.
Parker's Internationals grew in size and prestige until
about 1976, reaching its zenith in 1974,
when Parker drew a record-setting 6,000 contestants. In 1975 Parker awarded
prize money totaling $16,250 the largest yet at an American Pro/Am tournament.
The second prominent event of 1964 was Jhoon Rhee's U.S.
National Karate Championships, held in Washington, D.C. Pat Burleson of Texas,
winner of the black belt grand championship, joined Al Gene Caraulia in becoming
the first recognized national champion of the new sport. Today Burleson is
looked upon as the "granddaddy" of tournament fighters and the first genuine
star in the sport.
In late 1964 Mahn Suh Park produced the first open
tournament in Philadelphia, the Globe Tae Gyun Championships; it became an
annual promotion enjoying steady growth.
Jhoon Rhee pulled off a coup in 1965: he persuaded Wide
World of Sports to film and subsequently broadcast segments of his U.S. National
Karate Championships. His was the first American karate tournament to receive
television coverage from a network sports program. However, a heated match for
the grand championship between Stone and Walt Worthy, in which there was
bloodshed and heavy contact, earned the displeasure of the show's producers.
Select excerpts only were broadcast. And the program ignored the sport for the
next nine years.
It is important to recall here the nature of competition
in this period. It was a time of bloodshed and brutality. Historians have called
it-suitably-the "blood and guts era" of American sport karate, a period spanning
from 1963, when the major open tournaments began, to roughly 1970, when the
sport temporarily graduated to its first kick-boxing phase. During this time
tournaments were an arena for only the most courageous karate fighters, with a
high tolerance for absorbing punishment. The type of sparring then popular is
called "non contact" or "light contact." Rules stipulated closely pulled blows
to the face and only light body contact. Excessive contact was grounds for
disqualification. Despite this general rule, heavy contact to both the face and
body was so common that competitors and officials alike appeared to accept it.
The techniques, crude and calamitous by today's standards, were as unrefined as
the rules governing the infant sport. A fighter might break an opponent's bones
or knock him into the grandstand and not be disqualified. If he was a true
fighter, the opponent was expected to come back and dish out the same punishment
he had received.
The Second Generation In karate instruction a virtual
explosion took place from 1964 onward, not only in the U.S., but in Canada,
South America, Europe, and Asia. Ex-military personnel, having studied the
martial arts in the Orient, returned home en masse to open karate schools.
Augmenting this rapid growth were the second generation, students of the
original pioneers, who concurrently established studios of their own.
In Sept.1964 the Institute of Technology in Pasadena
adopted a regular course of karate instruction supervised by Tsutomu Ohshima.
This is the first known karate program to have been accepted as an accredited
course by an American college.
The move to establish karate as part of the educational
curriculum had enjoyed widespread success in Japan. Thus, the early Japanese
stylists in the U.S. concentrated on this aim. Later, the Korean tae kwon do
instructors, perhaps even more meticulously organized, likewise made significant
progress toward gaining acceptance for the martial arts in American institutions
of higher learning.
In Beaver Falls, Pa., Willie Wetzel, a master of pukulan,
was one of the first instructors of an
Indonesian discipline to surface in the U.S. ne of his students, Barbara Niggel,
in the mid-1970s distinguished herself as a national kata champion.
Pauline Short should probably be called the "mother of
American karate." Short opened in 1965 the first karate school exclusively
catering to a female clientele, in Portland, Oreg. In 1975 she became one of the
nation's top 10 female fighters.
Also in 1964, Bill Readers emerged in Erie, Pa. He trained
In 1965 Glenn Premru returned to Pittsburgh, having
trained with Shorin-ryu instructor Sam
Pearson. He opened a dojo in the North Hills section of town.
Mike Stone became the first superstar of the sport. He had
dominated competition since 1963, and by the time of his retirement had been
active for only eighteen months. Although he competed in a total of nine
tournaments, all of them were large-scale events featuring highly rated
fighters. Stone won in 1965 what could be considered Karate's Triple Crown: the
Internationals in Long Beach, U.S. Nationals in Washington, D.C., and World
Championships in Chicago. Although Stone claims to have won 89 consecutive black
belt matches, the record shows that he lost a grand championship match in the
middle of his run, at the 1964 Western U.S. Karate Championships in Salt Lake
City. (Stone won the heavyweight title, but was defeated by Dave Johnson in the
grand championship play-off.)
The first genuine martial arts craze in America began in
1966, when Bruce Lee made his acting debut as Kato in the Green Hornet TV
series. From Sept. 9, the weekly series remained on the air until Mar. 17,1967.
There were 26 half-hour episodes, and reruns began in 1968. Although this series
was short-lived, Lee's provocative kung-fu action in the show's numerous fight
scenes stirred the public's imagination. Thousands of new students became
involved in the martial arts. This development seemed to prove that the
popularity and acceptance of the Asian martial arts was directly related to the
degree of its exposure in the visual media.
The year 1966 marked the competitive debut of Joe Lewis,
who had distinguished himself quickly, earning his black belt in Okinawa in a
mere seven months. With just twenty-two months of training, Lewis entered his
first tournament in 1966, Rhee's U.S. Nationals. He won the black belt
championship, using one technique exclusively, the side kick Astonishingly, no
opponent scored a single point against him. Demonstrating his versatility, Lewis
also won the black belt kata
During the late 1960s the number of karate tournaments
swelled substantially on a state, regional, and especially, on the national
level. Yet, as the sport grew, so did its problems. Promoters disagreed on rules
and procedures; the sport suffered from a lack of unification and
standardization, a problem that continues to plague it today.
These difficulties did not impede two rising tournament
stars, both of whom became recognized world champions: Chuck Norris and Skipper
After losing the 1966 Internationals grand championship to
Allen Steen, Norris came back to
win the grand title two years running, 1967 and 1968. He also won the grand
title of the 1967 and 1968 Al1 American Karate Championships, produced by S
Henry Cho in New York.
Norris was an innovator in combination techniques; until
his arrival fighters usually delivered only one technique to score a point.
After his victories combinations became standard in the sport.
Skipper Mullins, 6 feet, 150 Ibs., was heralded as the
fastest kicker in karate. Many of his victories were the result of whiplike
kicks, at a time when punchers dominated the tournament circuit. Mullins rose to
prominence on lightweight and middleweight victories in the Al1 American Karate
Championships, produced by Jack Hwang in Oklahoma City, and the Top 10
Championships. In one weekend in Feb 1967 Mullins fought in New York City on
Friday, Dallas on Saturday, and Los Angeles on Sunday.
Norris and Mullins, with Mike Stone and Joe Lewis,the
great karate champions of the 1960s-only Lewis continued competing into the
Team Competition In 1967, in New York City, team
competition was introduced. The concept was originated by Aaron Banks, who
became karate's most prolific promoter. Banks started the team competition
format, producing the first team event of national caliber in 1968, the East
Coast vs. West Coast Team Championships. The victorious West Coast contingent
was represented by Joe Lewis, Steve Sanders, Chuck Norris, and Jerry Taylor.
Representatives for the East Coast were Thomas LaPuppet, Joe Hayes, Kazuyoshi
Tanaka, and Louis Delgado.
Team competition was soon adopted by karate promoters
throughout the country. Banks also deserves credit for keeping sport karate
flourishing in New York when others could not: from 1967 to 1975 his over 100
flamboyant productions gave regional exposure to aspiring East Coast
The Sport Turns Professional For five years, from 1963-68,
sport karate had grown strictly
on an amateur basis. In 1968 several promoters endeavored independently to add a
dimension, offering prize money to victorious fighters and meeting the expenses
of star names participating in the events.
In Feb. 1968 Jim Harrison staged the 1st World
Professional Karate Championships (WPKC), the first of a string of tournaments
to use this popular title. In principle, at least, this was the first
professional tournament in the history of American karate. Harrison conducted
the event in his Kansas City dojo, two days after Allen Steen's U.S.
Championships in Dallas. Many top fighters were invited, but in view of
Harrison's permissive rules, which endorsed heavy contact, only six fighters
participated. They were: Joe Lewis, Bob Wall, Skipper Mullins, J. Pat Burleson,
David Moon, and Fred Wren. Several fighters suffered broken ribs and noses and
were forced to forfeit. Lewis won the title, becoming karate's first paid
professional fighter when Harrison awarded him the token sum of one dollar.
In Aug.1968 Robert Trias and Atlee Chittim produced the
World's Hemisphere Karate Championships in San Antonio, Tex. The second
professional karate promotion held in the U.S., this was the first to be
conducted as a genuine tournament. Victor Moore of Ohio won the grand
championship in a spirited battle with Joe Lewis and took a purse of $500.
(Lewis also took away
$500, a contract guarantee.)
The most important professional karate event of the decade
was Aaron Banks' World Professional Karate Championship, produced on Nov.24,
1968, at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. This invitational
established four fighters as recognized world champions. In contrast to
Harrison's event, each champion was paid $600. And Banks paid all of his
ringside personnel, from officials to the announcer.
The champions were heavyweight Joe Lewis (over Victor
Moore); light-heavyweight Mike Stone over Bob Taiani middleweight Chuck Norris
(over Louis Delgado); and lightweight Skipper Mullins (over Kazuyoshi Tanaka).
There were subsequent protests disputing the event's status as a legitimate
world championship, in the sense that the contestants were predominantly
American, but no one disputed the world-class skill of the four winners. (Only
Norris returned in 1969 to defend-successfully-his title.)
Another karate competitor who made his bid for national
prominence at this time was Ron Marchini of Stockton, Calif. He won Henry Cho's
Tournament of Champions in 1968 in New York City, and then went on to
distinguish himself as one of the top competitors of the late 1960s and early
Challenges to authority and inconsistent tournament
regulations became the rule rather than
the exception, though tournament planning was steadily improving. The amount of
promiscuous contact in tournaments became a destructive issue, and injuries
increased dramatically, often because of inexperienced and intimidated
officials. Some believed the sport should encourage contact; others wanted
Commercial karate came of age in 1969. Women and children
flocked to the schools, as more and more instructors expanded classes to
In 1968, two influential martial artists, Jay T. Will, and
Al Gene Caraulia established schools in Ohio. Will, a student of Ed Parker and
Scott Loring, had relocated from San Jose, Calif., to Columbus, opening the very
first Tracy's karate franchise in the U.S. Caraulia, the winner of Robert Trias'
1963 World Championships, had relocated to Cleveland from Chicago.
In 1969, Sok Ho Kang, a Korean Tae Kwon Do and World
Champion, made his way to Huntington, West Virginia where he opened his first
studio. In early 1970 he meet Danny Lane, a highly decorated U.S.Marine who had
justed returned from Vietnam. Danny became a police officer and went on to
become Master Kang's most famous student. Within 5 years Danny become one of Tae
Kwon Do's top competitiors winning the 1975,76,77, U.S. Open Tae Kwon Do
Championships after competing for years and walking in the shawdows Tae Kwon Do
greats Joe Hayes, Mike Warren, Albert Cheeks, George Thanos, Gerald Robbins, and
many more. Master Kang took Danny to Korea in 1975 then only as a second degree
black belt and put him up against the 6th and 7th degree masters in dozens of
matches. Danny came out victorious in all the bouts which developed a stir and
talk among the Tae Kwon Do community. Master Kang and Danny went on to open a
sucessful chain of Tae Kwon Do Schools in the West Virginia, Ohio, and Kentucky
area. Danny also turned to professional kickboxing where he was undefeated as a
professional in the middleweight division and was rated in the top ten by PKA
when he retired. Danny started working out with Chuck Norris and in 1980 became
one of his black belts. Danny returned to the ring in the 80's to win (6) Chuck
Norris National UFAF Championships and again in the 90's as he won the 1994
National Ju-Jitsu Masters Championships. He still runs the same school that
Master Kang opened in Huntington in 1970.
Until 1965 the Japanese styles had the largest following
in the U S, but by 1967 Okinawan karate was attracting more students. In 1969,
with the great influx of Korean immigrants, tae kwon do suddenly outdrew the
others. More than ever before, practitioners were changing from one style to
another. Consequently, interest in organizations and unification dwindled.
The Birth of Full-Contact Karate Joe Lewis objected to the
unrealistic structure of noncontact karate, in which blows were to be pulled
short of actual contact. Its nature was to score points without producing
results-what Bruce Lee called "swimming on dry land." At the peak of Lewis'
disenchantment, which had began as early as 1969, he started training with, and
was influenced by, Bruce Lee and ranked heavyweight boxer Joey Orbill. He began
training in various Los Angeles boxing gyms, with the intention of becoming a
In late 1969 Lewis was contacted by Los Angeles promoter
Lee Faulkner, who was organizing a major noncontact team contest in which he
wanted Lewis to participate. Lewis agreed on the condition that Faulkner permit
him to fight also in a full-contact match. Faulkner agreed to promote the bout,
but only if Lewis fought in the team event as well. Lewis searched frantically
for a suitable opponent. After repeated rejections from top karate fighters, he
found Greg Baines, a San Jose kenpo stylist, who agreed to meet Lewis under
The bout, preceded by the U.S. Team Championship, took
place on Jan. 17, 1970, at the Long Beach Sports Arena. Results of the contests
were victories for Lewis, by a 2nd-round knockout, and for a West Coast team
composed of Lewis, Mike Stone, Bob Wall, Chuck Norris, and Skipper Mullins. And,
while the Lewis/Baines bout had been promoted as the "first full-contact"
championship, during the fight itself the uninformed announcer inadvertently but
repeatedly called it "American kick-boxing." The announcer's blunder caught on,
and Lewis became known for having pioneered American kick-boxing. The term
"full-contact karate" would not be used until several years later. In this its
original form, full-contact karate survived for only a year; Lewis successfully
defended his title during that year ten times, with no opponent lasting past the
2nd round. The Jan. 17 team bout also marked the last fight in Chuck Norris'
brilliant competitive career.
Karate in the 1970s Pat Johnson of Sherman Oaks, Calif., a
nationally respected tournament referee, originated the "penalty point" system
for excessive contact in 1970. The "Johnson Ruling," as it was called by Karate
Illustrated, essentially ended the uncontrolled "blood and guts era" of
noncontact sport karate. Johnson's innovation, introduced at the National Black
Belt Championships in Albuquerque, is used as a standard today in every U.S.
karate tournament. Under this rule, competitors who make excessive contact
forfeit one point; any degree of dangerous contact results in disqualification.
The year 1970 also marked the emergence of amateur sport
karate on a truly international scale: 32 nations took part in the 1st WUKO
World Karate Championships at Tokyo's Budokan. A conference held prior to the
event had resulted in the name of World Union of Karate-do Organizations (WUKO).
Qualification and participation rules, however, were ill-defined and the
competition rules were those used by the Japanese. WUKO had no constitution or
organizational rules covering the tournament. As such, Japan was permitted to
have four teams competing and the U.S. three. Al1 other nations had one. The
U.S. members had been selected by extensive negotiations among the principal
U.S. Japanese karate stylists. The only nationally known U.S. member was Tonny
Tulleners of Los Angeles; he won third place in individual fighting at the WUKO
The disorganization of the 1st WUKO World Championships
was the chief reason for the eventual existence of two organizations governing
international amateur karate: WUKO and the International Amateur Karate
Federation (IAKF) with Los Angeles' Hidetaka Nishiyama the elected executive
director as of 1974, when the association was formed. The struggle to organize
international karate has engaged these two bodies since then. The goal is a
worthy one: Olympic recognition and acceptance for the sport.
The AAKF resisted a move in 1973 by the AAU to relinquish
its rights as the international karate representative of the U.S. in WUKO, and
subsequently resigned its membership in the AAU. Afterwards, the AAU formed its
own karate committee with Caylor Adkins, a student of Tsutomu Ohshima, named its
first chairman. So bitter were the political conflicts that in 1976 Adkins
dropped out of karate altogether and moved from Los Angeles to a farm in middle
In Thailand, its homeland, kick-boxing, or more properly,
Muay Thai (Thai kick-boxing) was-and is-the national pastime. In America,
however, it failed dismally. In 1971 American kick-boxing died almost as
suddenly as it had begun. There was virtually no spectator support, and
promoters were losing more money than ever before. Along with kick-boxing,
professional karate, in its noncontact form, also died. Chuck Norris held
perhaps the last important pro tournament of the initial era. His 2nd World
Pro/Am Championships of 1971 attracted a large representation of top-rated
fighters, but barely 1,000 spectators showed up at the spacious Los Angeles
Sports Arena where it was staged.
In the 1970s, the ties between parent schools in Korea and
tae kwon do instructors in the U.S. had been weakened by a decade of separation
and"Americanization." Consequently, a number of regional tae kwon do
associations were born. On the nation's college and university campuses the
American Tae Kwon Do Coaches Association and the American Collegiate Tae Kwon Do
Association were created in 1972. These organizations worked jointly to send a
U.S. team to the inaugural World Tae Kwon Do Championships in 1973, at which the
U.S. team placed second, and the 2nd World Championships in 1974, both held in
The most significant development of 1971 was the advent of
the "Longstreet" television series, co-starring Bruce Lee. Unlike productions
that had preceded it, the one-hour season opener actually identified the art
being shown and was the first to explain on screen the philosophy behind the
Asian fighting arts. The program was a showcase for Lee's innovative teaching
methods. Cast as a martial arts master, Lee taught the blind detective,
Longstreet (James Franciscus), how to protect himself, through both the physical
maneuvers of jeet kune do and Lee's personal philosophy. That particular show is
now considered by many martial arts aficionados Bruce Lee's best work on film,
and it has become a classic. The season opener was written by Stirling
Silliphant, one of Lee's students.
This year marked the rise to stardom of Bill Wallace, who
rocketed from virtual obscurity to
America's number-1 -ranked karate fighter, a position he also held in 1972 and
again in 1974. Wallace won Allen Steen's highly competitive U.S. Championships
and the USKA Grand Nationals.
In 1972 an astonishing growth occurred in the martial
arts. Much of it was directly attributable to the martial arts' sudden emergence
as a bone fide entertainment vehicle. It began when filmmaker Tom Laughlin
released Billy Jack in which he starred. Although the karate sequences in Billy
Jack took but a few minutes of screen time, they were climactic. Filmed in slow
motion, with hapkido master Bong Soo Han doubling for Laughlin, they
demonstrated more than any previous motion picture the electrifying visual
aspects of the martial arts.
Bruce Lee's Fists of Fury, released on the heels of Billy
Jack, became one of the first Chinese films to be distributed to general movie
theaters. In the Orient, it unexpectedly broke all box-office records,
eventually surpassing the longstanding hit, The Sound of Music. Shortly
afterward, Lee's second film venture with Raymond Chow, Fist of Fury (The
Chinese Connection in the U.S.), eclipsed the success of its predecessor and
catapulted Lee to stardom as the biggest box-office draw in the history of Asian
Back in the U.S., the mounting martial arts mania was
accommodated by an influx of Hong Kong kung-fu films that virtually flooded the
American market. Critics labeled them "Eastern Westerns" or "chop-sockeye." But
the trend found its way into big-budget projects such as Red Sun, starring
Charles Bronson and Toshiro Mifune, and The Mechanic, again starring Bronson and
featuring Hollywood karate master Tak Kubota.
Kung Fu, starring David Carradine, aired as an ABC-TV
Movie of the Week on Aug. 8, 1972. This weekly series, which showcased martial
arts philosophy as well as physical, had a positive effect on the trend,
introducing martial arts on a regular basis directly to American living rooms.
The need for stuntmen familiar with the martial arts grew.
Conventional Hollywood stuntmen were at the time inexperienced in the arts, and
martial artists poured into Hollywood casting offices. Some of the more
flamboyant and fortunate were catapulted to stardom. With the release of
Melinda, Los Angeles' Jim Kelly, hired as a fight-scene choreographer, was made
a co-star. Kelly went on to star in Enter the Dragon, Black Belt Jones, The
Also in 1972 Emil Farkas founded Creative Action
Associates, the first martial arts company to cater to the motion picture and
television industries. His company set up action sequences for shows such as
"The FB.I.," "Mannix," "Mod Squad," "Mission Impossible," "Spiderman," and many
Hungarian-born Farkas came to the U.S. in 1965 with black
belts in judo and karate. He began giving private lessons to some of Hollywood's
top celebrities, among them Phil Spector, the Beach Boys, Herb Alpert, Jimmy
Caan, Dennis Hopper, Fred Williamson, etc. Through his students Farkas gained
entrance to Hollywood's inner circle and soon was working regularly on T.V.
shows and features as a fight choreographer and stuntman.
Joe Lewis unexpectedly announced his retirement in 1972.
During his tenure as champion, Lewis amassed more than 30 major titles. He was
the only four-time grand champion of the U.S. National Karate Championships
(1966-69) and the only three-time grand champion of the International Karate
Coincidental with the entertainment craze, tournament
karate was thriving as never before. In
1972 Mike Stone, now a promoter, conceived the first tournament franchise.
Earlier, Stone, together with Chuck Norris and Bob Wall, had created the Four
Seasons Karate Championships, a quarterly series of contests held in southern
California. When the others lost interest, Stone maintained the tournaments. In
1972 he sold its name and concept to promoters in other parts of the country and
created the Four Seasons Nationals in Las Vegas as the culminating event of the
Public interest in martial arts reached its zenith in
1973. Thousands of spectators who formerly had no interest in karate supported
tournaments as never before. And theaters showcasing martial arts films were
doing great box-office business.
Meanwhile, in Hong Kong, Bruce Lee was working constantly.
Following Way of the Dragon, his third hit, he immediately started production on
Game ot Death. But the film was interrupted when Lee received a co-production
offer from Warner Bros. to star in Enter the Dragon. Enter the Dragon was the
first co-production between Chinese and Hollywood filmmakers. On July 20, 1973,
shortly before the U.S. release of Enter the Dragon, the world was staggered by
the unexpected death of Bruce Lee in Hong Kong.
Only 32, he allegedly died from acute brain swelling, the
cause of which remains enigmatic.
Lee's chief jeet kune do protg is Dan Inosanto.
Enter the Dragon became the king of martial arts movies,
the unsurpassed classic of the genre. Today, this picture stands out as one of
the most profitable in international cinema history. Though numerous imitators
attempted to replace Lee, no one could duplicate his spectacular success. By
1974 the martial arts craze, commonly called the "Bruce Lee Era" began tapering
Professional Karate Revival The comeback began in the
summer of 1973, when Oklahoman Mike Anderson published his inaugural edition of
Professional Karate Magazine. Anderson openly campaigned for the restoration of
professional karate, backed by his quarterly publication and his compilation of
national and regional ratings of karate players. Widespread acceptance of these
ratings revolutionized the ratings polls, making Black Belt's annual Top 10
rating antiquated by comparison.
Shortly after the release of his inaugural issue, Anderson
staged his Top 10 Nationals in St.
Louis. Anderson offered a$1,000 grand championship purse, a precedent
immediately adopted by other major promoters. The event was the first to make
mandatory the use of Jhoon Rhee's newly created Sate-T Equipment in the black
belt fighting divisions. This innovation launched a new form of karate fighting,
which in 1974 was dubbed "semicontact" by martial arts journalist John Corcoran.
The use of Safe-T Equipment, basically foam rubber hand and foot pads, added
excitement to competition, safely permitting moderate contact to both the face
At this event Los Angeles' Howard Jackson won the grand
championship and prize money. At 5 feet 5 inches, 152 Ibs, Jackson became the
first lightweight to dominate his sport and professional karate's biggest money
winner of 1973.
Jackson had usurped Bill Wallace, at the time America's
top tournament fighter. Wallace was a sport karate phenomenon in that he gained
most of his victories by relying on one technique exclusively, a left-footed
whip-like roundhouse kick. His kicks were clocked at an incredible delivery
speed ot 60 m.p.h., and when he later became the premier star of full-contact
karate, he was aptly nicknamed "Superfoot "
On June 4, 1973, John Corcoran was hired as book editor
for Ohara Publications, the sister company of Rainbow Publications, publishers
of Black Belt and Karate Illustrated. By the end of the year, he had begun to
work on both magazines as assistant editor. Corcoran was the first karate black
belt to become an editor of these publications, and he rose to prominence as one
of the first genuine martial arts journalists in America. He was preceded as a
black belt editor only by Official Karate's Al Weiss. Corcoran was a student of
Corcoran was hired the same week as Jerry Smith, a
commercial artist, who was also a black belt and a disciple of Joe Lewis. The
pair formed an intimate friendship and Corcoran continued his martial arts
studies with Smith, who was to become recognized as one of the first
full-contact karate coaches in the U.S.
In Aug.1974 Ed Parker offered a winner-take-all purse of
$2,500 for the grand champion of his International Karate Championships in Long
Beach. In a spectacular 25-point overtime match, John Natividad, a student of
Chuck Norris and Jerry Taylor, defeated Benny Urquidez,13-12. Even today,
spectators debate the outcome of this classic contest; some believe Urquidez, a
regional favorite, scored an overtime point against the favored Natividad before
the latter landed his conclusive point. Historians call it one of the greatest
bouts of the light-contact era.
The continuing martial arts mania kept business
flourishing through 1974. Aaron Banks' Oriental World of Self-Defense, an annual
production of martial arts demonstrations, set a gate record in its field. The
promotion, held at Madison Square Garden, attracted 19,564 spectators,according
to Banks. The paid live gate reportedly reached $100,000. The event was aired on
ABC's "Wide World of Sports."
Ken Min, of the University of California at Berkeley,
conducted the first collegiate survey in
1974 to determine how many schools offered karate, tae kwon do, and kung-fu
classes on campus.
Judo, which preceded other arts in its American migration,
outranked all of them Of 596 colleges
responding to the survey, 278 offered some type of judo program. At the same
time, there was equal interest in karate, tee kwon do, and kung-fu. Of 448
colleges reporting, 228 offered some type of program in one of these three
Joe Lewis and Tom Tannenbaum decided to resurrect
full-contact karate. They planned to promote the World Professional Karate
Championships. Lewis brought Mike Anderson into the deal and Anderson spent most
of 1974 preparing for what was to become the most extraordinary promotion in
American karate history. He spent months finding and establishing European and
Asian representatives. German karate entrepreneur George Bruckner, Anderson's
friend and business associate, conducted an elimination contest to determine
European full-contact representatives. Three of the four American
representatives were selected on the basis of their divisional supremacy in
Professional Karate's ratings: they were lightweight Howard Jackson of Los
Angeles, middleweight Bill Wallace of Memphis, and light heavyweight Jeff Smith
of Washington, D.C. Joe Lewis, originally scheduled to co-host the event, chose
to come out of retirement and fight as the heavyweight representative. Lewis was
the only karate fighter with full-contact experience.
Jeff Smith, during this year, had surpassed Jackson to
become America's foremost tournament fighter. He was, in fact, named the 1974
"Fighter of the Year" by Professional Karate Magazine. A product of the rugged
Texas school of karate, Smith had moved to the nation's capital in the early
1970s to teach for Jhoon Rhee.
Two months before the event, in July 1974, Anderson
relocated his operation to Los Angeles. In August he formed a promotion company
with Beverly Hills business couple, Don and Judy Quine, who helped finalize
negotiations with Universal Television. In late August, the Quines and Anderson
formed the Professional Karate Association (PKA), the sport's first sanctioning
body, to establish full-contact karate as a major professional sport with
recognized champions, standardized rules, and network television coverage of its
bouts. Anderson also persuaded Bob McLaughlin and John Corcoran, editors of
Black Belt and Karate Illustrated, to work jointly as editors of Professional
Karate. Instead of editing, however, the two worked feverishly on the fast
approaching World Championships.
On the night of Sept.14, 1974, at the Los Angeles Sports
Arena, 14 fighters from eight countries vied in a double elimination for the
inaugural titles. Four emerged as world professional full-contact champions:
heavyweight Joe Lewis, light heavyweight Jeff Smith, middleweight Bill Wallace,
and lightweight Isaias Duenas of Mexico City. Among the American entrants, only
Howard Jackson, suffering from a severe knee injury, lost his bid for the title.
This extravaganza drew one of the largest live gates for competition karate,
$50,000, and attracted more than 10,000 spectators. Anderson awarded an
unprecedented $20,000 in total prize money Each champion earned $3,000, while
runners-up received a smaller purse. All fourteen participants were given a
guaranteed minimum. Much of this impressive news soured, however, when Anderson
later reported a personal loss exceeding $60,000. Tom Tannenbaum sold the
broadcast rights to ABC's "Wide World of Entertainment." The event aired twice
as a 90-minute special, the first time acquiring the highest rating of a "Wide
World" special for 1974.
Great controversy ensued. The traditional karate community
contended that full-contact degraded the art form and would have a negative
influence on school enrollments. This faction felt the television coverage for
the sport gave the impression that full-contact was taught in schools everywhere
as a required course of learning and would therefore discourage parents from
enrolling their children. Moreover, detractors protested the association of the
word "karate" with full-contact and vocally sought a name change to
It wasn't to be. For one, the sport could only be sold to
television because of the popularity of
karate. It was a word and an activity with which television executives were
on the other hand, was associated with the far more brutal sport popular in
Thailand and Japan. When its promoters attempted to get it on American
television, they failed. TV executives felt it was too violent. Consequently,
the name "full-contact karate" was retained.
In Oct. 1974 tae kwon do was recognized as an amateur
sport separate from karate by the AAU. This development was chiefly due to the
efforts of Ken Min, tae kwon do coach of Berkeley University, with the support
and aid of members of the AAU Judo Committee and a dozen tae kwon do masters. A
number of important tournaments-starting with the 1st AAU Invitational Tae Kwon
Do Championships in June 1974, held at Berkeley under Min's able direction,
through the 1st National AAU Tae Kwon Do Championships, conducted at Yale
university in Mar. 1975, and the Mar 1976 version held in Kansas City-promoted
and publicized the sport aspect of this Korean art.
It was in Kansas City that a U.S. tae kwon do federation
was conceived with the purpose of supporting the National AAU Tae Kwon Do
Committee. Tae Kwon Do programs in American universities reached a new level of
progress with the advent of the 1st National Collegiate Tae Kwon Do
Championships, held at Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La.
From 1975 onward, two activities dominated the martial
arts: films and the sport. These continue to be the most active and visible
aspects of the industry, based simply on mass exposure through the various
The year 1975 was one of economic disaster, signaling the
beginning of the end of the martial arts movie boom. The industry suffered a
double blow when it was victimized jointly by the depressed national economy and
the pronounced tapering off of martial arts in the cinema. Some instructors
blamed the new full-contact movement for deteriorating enrollments at the school
level. Others felt it was not the sport itself, but poorly conditioned fighters
and unprofessional promotions.
Following the inaugural world championships, a rash of
full-contact promotions broke out in 1975, spreading to epidemic proportions. At
one point in Los Angeles alone, hardly a week passed without a full-contact
event. Within a year of its birth, no less than seven full-contact karate
organizations sprang up. Their organizers were convinced that the infant sport
and its potential sales appeal to television might be the financial salvation of
the declining martial arts industry. It wasn't.
In all fairness, the army of inept promoters who tried to
capitalize on the young sport were not totally at fault. Some blame has to be
shared by the fighters themselves. Many entered the ring preposterously under
conditioned, and none of them had any ring experience.
Those organizations that moved into the promotional end of
the sport in 1975 were: Tommy Lee's World Series of Martial Arts; Jhoon Rhee's
World Black Belt League (WBBL), a team concept; Joe Corley's South East
Professional Karate Commission (SEPKC); Aaron Banks' World Professional Karate
Organization (WPKO); and Larry Scott's and Valerie Williams' National Karate
League (NKL), another team concept. Each association created its own rules,
sanctioned its own promotions, and established its own champions. Each
independently sought television exposure for its promotions. Of these early
organizations only two remain: Banks' WPKO and Rhee's WBBL.
The Scott/Williams NKL featured Benny Urquidez as its
premier star. Urquidez quickly accumulated the most impressive record in his
sport by virtue of his consistent victories in 3- and 5-round NKL team bouts
across the country. However, the NKL was under-financed and suffered major
losses. It disbanded in 1976. Its principals left substantial debts in their
wake, as well as a negative business reputation for karate in general.
In 1975, 50 million viewers saw full-contact karate when
Jeff Smith defeated Karriem Allah. The closed-circuit broadcast was a
preliminary card to the Muhammad Ali/Joe Frazier "Thrilla in Manila" fight.
On May 3, 1975, the PKA, in conjunction with Joe Corley's
Battle ot Atlanta in Georgia, produced a full-contact card whose main event the
much-acclaimed bout between Corley himself and Bill Wallace. It marked the first
title defense of the new sport and, as in Los Angeles, it attracted more than
10,000 spectators to the Omni Arena. Wallace retained his crown with a 9th-round
Notable at this event were two new concepts: the addition
of professional kata competition to the regular competition, an innovation of
Mike Anderson's at his Top 10 Nationals in St. Louis; and the introduction of
martial ballet, created by Jhoon Rhee, in which a team of black belts perform a
synchronized kata routine to classical music. This latter concept served as the
prototype of the musical kata divisions gaining popularity in American karate
One week later, on May 10, Aaron Banks conducted a title
defense held under the auspices of his WPKO. Presented at the Nassau Coliseum in
New York, Banks' event later aired on ABC's "Wide World of Sports," a
development creating a fierce dispute between Banks and the Quines, whose
original PKA event had aired as an ABC network special. The PKA felt it was a
conflict of interest on the part of ABC to air two different events that
declared two different sets of "world champions." Banks' card crowned four
divisional champions: heavyweight Joe Hess of New York (now of Florida), light
heavyweight Fred Miller of New York, middleweight Kasim Dubar of NewYork, and
lightweight Benny Urquidez of Los Angeles. By year's end, Urquidez was the
leading money winner of his sport,having earned more than $30,000.
In June 1975, Mike Anderson resigned as an executive
officer of the PKA to pursue the promotion of the sport on his own. The Quines
assumed complete control of the PKA, while Anderson eventually formed the World
All-Style Karate Organization (WAKO) with George Bruckner in West Berlin,
Germany. At the same time, Anderson's Professional Karate magazine was suffering
from poor sales. He decided to move His operation back to Oklahoma City. Bob
McLaughlin entered the public relations business; John Corcoran joined author
Bob Wall as editor of Wall's self-published book, Who's Who in the Martial Arts.
By autumn, Corcoran launched a full-time career as a free-lance writer
specializing in the martial arts.
Professional Karate, it must be emphasized, left a lasting
mark in its field. No magazine before or after it had such a profound impact on
all aspects of the sport, its participants, and its formation of a professional
foundation. Through Professional Karate, careers were launched and professional
karate athletes began to receive a degree of respect and admiration they had
never before known. Most of these benefits can be directly attributed to the
magazine's founder and publisher, Mike Anderson, who often put his money where
his heart was to promote the sport.
The movies of 1975 included the Stirling
Silliphant-scripted The Killer Elite, directed by Sam
Peckinpah. The film featured a bevy of West Coast martial artists clad in ninja
disguises engaging in poorly staged fight scenes having nothing to do with
ninjutsu. The Killer Elite suffered from production disputes and inferior
editing. It did average box-office business.
Bruce Lee: His Life and Legend, to which Warner Bros.
devoted $200,000 in development costs, never advanced from preproduction.
Warners launched a worldwide search for a candidate to play the lead role in
this Bruce Lee bio, co-scripted by Linda Lee, Bruce's widow, and director Robert
Clouse. Advertisements seeking the candidate were run in major newspapers across
the U.S, and thousands of aspiring martial artists swarmed the Burbank studio
appying for the role. Denver's Al Dacascos was given serious consideration. The
producers eventually settled on Chinese-Canadian Alex Kwok of Vancouver. After
changing his name to Alex Kwon, capping his teeth, and paying him a holding fee,
the producers dropped the project and the film was never made.
The big disappointment of 1975 was the final retirement of
superstar Joe Lewis following two back-to-back nontitle defeats. Remarkably, in
the last of these bouts, Lewis dislocated his right shoulder after the 1st round
and, despite excruciating pain, continued fighting for the duration of the
contest. He lost a seven-round decision to Ross Scott because of penalties for
Ed Parker's Internationals in Aug.1975 awarded the largest
sum of prize money ever for a Pro/Am karate tournament, a total of $16,250. Kata
winners were awarded an overall $1,000 of that sum. The two figures stand as
records to this day.
Along with Washington vs. Dominican Republic team matches
on Sept.14, 1975, Jhoon Rhee presented a special politician's semicontact
division pitting a trio of Democrats against a Republican threesome in whet was
called the Capitol Hill Grudge Bout. Presented under the auspices of Rhee's
World Black Belt League, the novel division featured Democrats Rep. Walter
Fauntroy (D.C.), Rep. Tom Bevill (Ala.), and Sen. Quentin Burdick (N.D.) against
Republicans Rep. Willis Grandison, Jr. (Ohio), Rep. Floyd Spence (S.C.), and
Sen. Ted Stevens (Alaska). The Congressmen appeared on behalf of the Freedom of
the Press Foundation; they were members of Rhee's twice-weekly classes and have
come to be known as the "Capitol Hill karate corps." (The match was drawn.)
On Sept. 21, in conjunction with Georg Bruckner's All
European Karate Championships, America's Gordon Franks met Mexico's Ramiro
Guzman to decide who would emerge as the first world super lightweight champion
of full-contact karate. Franks, then a Ramiro Guzman 20-year-old college student
from Minneapolis, won the title in a unanimous 9-round decision. Promoted at the
Deutschlandhalle Arena in West Berlin, it was the first full-contact world title
fight to be staged in a foreign country. The promotional budget was reportedly
$130,000, the single most expensive karate promotion up to that time. Franks,
besides being the original champion in this 139-lb division, was also the first
black fighter to become a full-contact world champion.
Also in 1975, the 3rd WUKO World Karate-do Championships
were held, for the first time in the U.S., at the Long Beach Arena. It was an
uneventful tournament for the U.S. amateur karate athletes. The British team
emerged as the new world champions, and the Japanese fighters, as usual,
dominated the individual competition.
In Black Belt's 1976 survey respondents in karate
registered an 11 percent increase in students from 1975-76. Judo and tee kwon do
registered no increase or decrease. Yet, many leaders in karate stated that a
decline took place. One answer may be that the decline was registered in 1974-75
and that interest had picked up in this year. A statistic of interest was that
18 percent of all students in both 1975 and 1976 were female. Approximately 31
percent of all students were children,14 or younger. However, it was not clear
from the survey that girls age 14 or younger were not also included in the
female as well as the children's statistics.
In 1976 the full-contact karate movement continued to be
the pacesetter for the industry. By now, most of the smaller promoters found the
expense prohibitive, and the more distinguished entrepreneurs took command of
the sport. Most of the lavish events were filmed for television and appeared on
sports shows such as "The Champions," "CBS Sports Spectacular," and the PKA's
90-minute "Sports Special of the Month."
The year kicked off with champion Bill Wallace becoming
the first karate athlete ever to participate in ABC's "Superstars" competition.
Wallace appeared in the third set of eliminations on Jan. 31, which was
broadcast nationwide on Feb. 7. Wallace placed in two events, but finished only
tenth out ot 11 entrants in his elimination series, besting Lynn Swann of the
Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite a disappointing finish, it was an extraordinary
endorsement tor the sport of karate.
Prior to Wallace's appearance, Don Quine, who now managed
the champion, originated the nickname "Superfoot," a nickname attributed to
Wallace's uncanny kicking ability.
A PKA event held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena on Oct.
1, 1976, marked the beginning of the association's contractual arrangement with
CBS Sports, as well as a merger attempt with promoter Howard Hanson ot
Westminster, Calit. The CBS deal eventually accounted for tour network
broadcasts per year ot PKA sanctioned world title tights. Critics accused the
PKA of conflict ot interest. The organization was operating both as a
sanctioning body and, through Sport Karate, Inc., a sister corporation, as a
promotional body. The PKA principals, Don and Judy Quine, countered by claiming
the sport's survival depended on their synthesis ot its various activities. The
PKA sanctioned a total ot 19 events in 1976.
After his merger attempt with the PKA soured, Howard
Hanson formed the World Karate Association (WKA), a full-contact sanctioning
body that became the PKA's strongest competitor. As its president, Hanson
survived by arranging promotions in Japan, pitting Japanese kick-boxers against
American full-contact karate fighters, using a combination ot the two sports'
rules. After the PKA stripped Benny Urquidez ot his lightweight title in 1977,
the champion fought predominantly in the WKA and quickly established himself as
a superstar in Asia, where he defeated every kick-boxing challenger and champion
The most bitter conflict between the PKA and the WKA is a
dispute over rules. The WKA advocates the use of leg kicks, while the PKA
rigidly opposes them. The issue is one of potential injury to the athletes. The
PKA maintains that these techniques are dangerous to the fighter's physical
safety and his career longevity. Hanson parries this charge by pointing tothe
Orient, where some kick-boxing champions remain active after more than 50 fights
where leg kicks, at their most vicious, are employed.
In Sept. 1976 California passed a law placing full-contact
karate under the jurisdiction of the
State Athletic Commission (SAC), which regulates professional and amateur boxing
and wrestling. It marked the first time that any form of American karate was
regulated by a government body, even though many martial artists had been
attempting tor years to bring traditional karate under government supervision
tor licensing ot instructors. The California commission sanctioned the
organization of the volunteer group called the Full Contact Karate Advisory
Board to assist in the formation of standard rules and practices tor the sport.
The state athletic commissions, which regulate
professional and amateur boxing and wrestling have gradually begun regulating
full-contact karate since 1976.
In California, the SAC generally recognized the PKA's
rules and policies as standards tor the sport, with the exception of the
controversial leg kicks. In July 1978 the North American Boxing Federation, to
which all SACs belong, approved a motion to officially recognize the PKA as the
international governing body of professional full-contact karate.
Finally in 1976, amateur karate, under the WUKO, was
accepted for membership in the General Assembly of International Sports
Federations (GAIF), bringing it one step closer to the Olympics. In the
following year, however, the General Assembly ot the International Olympic
Committee (IOC) issued a directive specitying that the two world karate bodies,
the WUKO and the IAKF, had to unity before Olympic recognition ot karate would
be granted. As a result, that recognition was postponed indefinitely.
1976 WORLD TITLE FIGHTS
Date: 2/8; Site: Atlanta, Gal; Sanction: SEPKA; Division:
Lt. Hvywt.; Winner: Jeff Smith;
Loser: Wally Slocki; Promoter: Joe Corley; Television: "The Champions"
Date: 3/13; Site: Las Vegas, Nev.; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Midwt.; Winner: Bill,,Wallace;
Loser: Jem Echollas; Promoter: SKI; Television: "Sports Special of the Month"
Date: 5/29; Site: Toronto, Can.; Sanction: PKA; Division:
Midwt.; Winner: Bill Wallace;
Loser: Daniel Richer; Promoter: Jong Soo Park; Television: Filmed by ABC "Wide
Sports" but not aired.
Date: 8/28; Site: Honolulu, Hawaii; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Hvywt.; Winner: Teddy
Limoz; Loser: Mike Arroyo; Division: Ltwt.; Winner: Benny Urquidez; Loser:
Earnest Hart, Jr.;
Date: 10/1; Site: Los Angeles, Calif.; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Mdwt.; Winner: Bill Wallace;
Loser: Gary Edens; Division: Ltwt.; Winner: BennyUrquidez;Loser: EddieAndujar;
SKI/Hanson; Television: "CBS Sports Spectacular."
Activities in the sport and movies continued to remain at
the forefront of the martial arts for 1977. The big news was the starring debut
of Chuck Norris, the first karate champion turned actor. Norris was best known
to film peers for his performance against Bruce Lee in the climactic fight scene
of Return of the Dragon. His first starring role came in Breaker, Breaker, a
low-budget exploitation film that attempted to capitalize on Norris' karate name
and expertise and the CB radio trend. Filmed for under $250,000, Breaker,
Breaker, according to director Don Hulette, grossed
Before the release of Breaker, Breaker, Norris signed a
three-picture deal with a new production company called American Cinema and
began filming Good Guys Wear Black. By the time it had run its course, Good Guys
had grossed $20 million.
The ramifications of this film are extraordinary. Norris
had singlehandedly restored interest in the martial arts genre at a time when
Hollywood refused to make such films.
Other film making efforts featuring the martial arts this
year included Revenge of the Pink Panther, starring Peter Sellers with Ed Parker
as a hired karate assassin. A Fistfull of Yen, starring Bong Soo Han of Billy
Jack fame, was one of three vignettes composing the satirical Kentucky Fried
Movie. Yen is actually a parody of Enter the Dragon and is perhaps the first
American made comedy related to the martial arts genre. It has become a cult
With two national television broadcasts and a total of ten
sanctioned events in 1977, the PKA remained at the forefront of contact karate.
The April 23 "Triple Crown" championship from the Las Vegas Hilton was broadcast
live by "CBS Sports Spectacular," marking the first live broadcast of karate in
any form in U.S. history. But the PKA principals, Don and Judy Quine, were also
pressing its world champions to sign exclusive contracts with them. Refusal on
the part of several
led to the Quines stripping them of their titles. One of these stripped
champions was Benny "The
Howard Hanson, who had just formed his World Karate
Association quickly recruited Urquidez to fight in the Orient under the WKA
banner. Urquidez went to Japan and became the first American fighter ever to
beat the Japanese kick-boxers at their own genie. Urquidez scored a knockout
over champion Katsuyuki Suzuki on Aug. 2 before a national television audience
in Japan. His victory amounted to a national insult to the Japanese, who take
their sport very seriously. Following his win, retired and undefeated champion
Kunimatsu Okao publicly
challenged Urquidez to a bout for which he would come out of retirement.
Urquidez accepted. On Nov. 14, at the prestigious Budokan in Tokyo, the two met
in a vicious showdown resulting in an Urquidez victory. Bloody and battered,
Okao was knocked out cold in the 4th round and had to be helped from the ring.
The bout was carried over Japanese national television and drew an
unprecedented $500,000 live gate, the largest on record for professional karate.
The victory brought Urquidez' record to 40-0 with 38
knockouts, the best in his sport, and made him an international celebrity. In
Japan, he became a cult hero and the central figure of a series of comic books
entitled Benny the Jet. He also represented his sport in a Japanese documentary,
Kings of the Square Ring, which also features boxing's Muhammad Ali and
wrestling's Antonio Inoki.
Howard Jackson became the first karate champion to enter
professional boxing and win. Within one year, Jackson amassed a pro boxing
record of 14-1-2 with 11 knockouts. Jackson's precedent has since 1977 led the
way for other karate athletes to pursue dual careers in the boxing and karate
The 4th WUKO World Karate-do Championships in 1977 marked
the return of this international event to Tokyo. The tournament, held at the
Budokan, featured kata competition for the first time. American players fared
better at kata than fighting, but tied for fifth place in team fighting. Japan
dominated the kata competition, winning the two top positions, and the strong
Dutch contingent surprisingly dominated both the team and individual fighting
titles. Otti Roetot of
Gary Sproul wins WAKO full-contact light heavyweight title
in Tampa, Fla., 1978.
On March 5, 1977, the 3rd National AAU Tae Kwon Do
Championships were held at the University of California at Berkeley, in
conjunction with the 1st North American Tae Kwon Do Championships. The latter
event was highlighted by the first organizational meeting of the North American
Tae Kwon Do Union. Later, on Sept.15-17, at the Amphitheater in Chicago, the
Tae Kwon Do Championships made its debut in America.
1977 WORLD TITLE FIGHTS
Date: 3/12; Site: Los Angeles, Calif.; Sanction: WKA;
Division: spr.. Ltwt.; Benny Urquidez/Narong Noi (Declared a no contest);
Promoter: Howard Hanson.
Date: 4/23; Site: Las Vegas, Nev.; Division: Hvywt.;
Winner: Ross Scott; Loser: Everett Eddy; Division: Midwt.; Winner: Bill Wallace;
Loser: Pilinky Rodriguez; Division: Ltwt.; Winner: Benny Urquidez; Loser: Howard
Jackson; Promoter: SKI; Television: "CBS Sports Spectacular" (Wallace/Rodriguez
Date: 5/21; Site: Providence, R.l.; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Midwt.; Winner: Bill Wallace; Loser: Ron Thiveridge; Promoter: Hee II
Date: 5/21; Site: Charlotte, N.C.; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Lt. Hvywt.; Winner: Jeff Smith; Loser: Jim Horsley; Promoter: Jerry
Date: 8/2; Site: Tokyo, Japan; Sanction: WKA; Division:
Spr.. Ltwt.; Winner: Benny Urquidez; Loser: Katsuyuki Suzuki; Promoter: Howard
Hanson / Ron Holmes / Hisashi Shima /Antonio Inoki; Television: Japanese
Date: 10/8; Site: Indianapolis, Ind; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Midwt.; Winner: Bill Wallace; Loser: M. Pat Worley; Division: Welwt.;
Winner: Earnest Hart, Jr.; Loser: Eddie Andujar; Promoter: SKI; Television: "CBS
Date: 11/14; Site: Tokyo, Japan; Sanction: WKA; Division:
Spr.. Ltwt.; Winner: Benny Urquidez; Loser: Kunimatsu Okao; Division: Ltwt.;
Winner: Kunimasa Nagae; Loser: Tony Lopez; Promoter: Hanson/Holmes/Shima;
Television: Japanese national TV.
Date: 11 /28; Site: Honolulu, Hawaii; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Mdwt.: Winner: Bill Wallace; Loser: Burnis White; Promoter: Kip Russo.
Participation in the Korean martial arts reached an
all-time high from 1977-78, according to Black Belt's 1978 survey. Almost 65
percent of the respondents were either students or instructors in hapkido, tee
kwon do, or tang soo do. Also at an all-time high was the percentage of
practitioners in the category of "others," those from obscure or combination
arts. In comparison to
previous surveys, response from practitioners of the Japanese arts was at a low,
virtually equal to the number of respondents for the Chinese disciplines.
In 1978, while the WKA was idle, the PKA coordinated a
sanction for a light-heavyweight
title fight between champion Jeff Smith and challenger Dominic Valera, for a
decade Europe's greatest noncontact karate champion. Valera had made the
transition to full-contact fighting in mid-1975 following a fierce dispute with
the WUKO's amateur karate politicians. Valera met Smith for the PKA title on May
22 in Paris before a sold-out crowd. Smith won a dull 9-round decision.
Also on the international front, John Corcoran began to
syndicate his articles to martial arts
magazines across the world. This marked the first time a domestic writer secured
mass exposure abroad for American martial artists and events on a regular basis.
He became the world's foremost martial arts magazine writer and joined an elite
group of syndicated peers: Zarko Modric in Yugoslavia and John Robertson and
Arthur Tansley in Japan.
Semicontact (often called "point karate" or "tournament
karate") in 1976-77 had sunk to an all-time low in popularity and interest.
Chiefly responsible for the decline was the absence of recognizable stars: all
of the great fighters had turned to full-contact. In 1978, however, a star
emerged. Keith Vitali won the grand championships of two of America's most
tournaments: the Battle of Atlanta and the Mid-America Diamond Nationals. The
victories catapulted him to the pinnacle of every 1978 Top 10 rating poll in the
U.S. Vitali duplicated his number-1 rating for the next three years before
retiring in Feb.1981 at 28. He and Bill Wallace are the only point fighters in U
S. history to have been ranked number 1 for three years; Vitali,
however, is the only fighter to occupy the position in consecutive years
Vitali's intense rivalry with
Texan Ray McCallum, beginning in 1979, infused new life into a sport sorely
needing it. Although the pair met only three times in competition, with Vitali
winning twice, the contests were classic encounters. Through their presence and
performance, point fighting was rejuvenated and more martial artists took an
interest in the sport. Vitali won the rubber match at the 1981 Superstar
Nationals in Oakland, Ca., where he was
grand champion runner-up and announced his retirement from competition.
1978 WORLD TITLE FIGHTS
Date: 3/1 1; Site: Providence, R.l.; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Midwt.; Winner: Bill Wallace; Loser: Emilio Narvaez; Division: Welwt.;
Winner: Bob Ryan; Loser: Earnest Hart, Jr.; Promoter: SKI/George Pesare;
Television: "CBS Sports Spectacular."
Date: 5/22; Site: Paris, France; Sanction: PKA; Division:
Lt. Hvywt.; Winner: Jeff Smith; Loser: Dominic Valera; Promoter: GuyJugla/Marc
Date: 7/22, Site: W. Palm Beach, Fla.; Sanction: PKA;
Division: Welwt.; Winner: Steve Shepherd; Loser: Bob Ryan; Promoter: Steve
Date: 11/30; Site: Atlanta, Gal; Sanction: PKA; Division:
Welwt.; Winner: Earnest Hart, Jr.; Loser: Steve Shepherd; Promoter: SKI /Joe
Corley; "CBS Sports Spectacular."
The SecondBoom By 1979, a martial arts movie renaissance
was underway. At the forefront of these films was Chuck Norris, in A Force of
One, produced by American Cinema. Due to Norris' personal philosophy, A Force of
One earned a PG (Parental Guidance) rating and
consequently reached a huge market of youthful moviegoers. Also starring
Jennifer O'Neill and Bill Wallace, who made his film debut, Force was a
box-office hit from its outset and even received favorable
Joe Lewis, who once competed against Norris in the karate
ring, became the second American karate champion to star in a motion picture.
Lewis' transition had been expected by martial artists, since it was common
knowledge that he had been seriously pursuing an
entertainment career since 1970, when he took up acting. Filmed on locations in
Europe and Asia, Jaguar Lives Lewis' first film is a spy action adventure in the
James Bond tradition.
In 1979, two projects that originally involved Bruce Lee
finally appeared in American theaters. Game of Death, partially filmed by Lee
before Enter the Dragon but unfinished at his death, and Circle of Iron (a.k.a.
The Silent Flute), originally written by Lee, Stirling Silliphant, and actor
James Coburn, were replete with production complications and controversy.
Overall, more than 40 PKA-sanctioned events were telecast
over the ESPN in 1980, and CBS aired three more. The rival WKA broke into the
American network with one broadcast over "NBC Sports World" and signed a
television syndication pact with Hollywood Programmed
Entertainment for the broadcast of 26 full-contact cards domestically and
In August, Chuck Norris, with a media blitz and personal
appearances, publicized the release of The Octagon. Having fulfilled his
contract with American Cinema, Norris became a free agent. In 1981 -82 he
starred in three films-An Eye For An Eye, Silent Rage, and Forced Vengeance-and
formed his own production company.
August also marked the second American tour of a Chinese
wu shu troupe, through the coordination of San Francisco's Anthony Chan, a wu
shu stylist and one of America's great form champions. The first visit had been
in 1974; the 1980 tour took the Peking troupe to San
Francisco, Oakland, Los Angeles, St. Louis, Boston, New York, and Houston. The
troupe's San Francisco performance was filmed by ABC's "Wide World of Sports"
for later broadcast.
Full-contact karate was televised in two national
broadcasts of PKA bouts, one on "NBC
Sports World," the other on "CBS Sports Spectacular." NBC aired the unexpected
defeat of PKA heavyweight champion Ross Scott by Demetrius Edwards, via a 7th
round knockout. This marked the first of two matches within a one-week period in
which established world champions were defeated by challengers.
On August 9th, challenger Cliff Thomas of El Paso, Texas,
assumed the PKA world super-lightweight title,
upsetting Gordon Franks by a 3rd round TKO, Old champions give way to the new
young challengers. The field starts opening up on a grandeur scale making way
for international contenders. The effect is synergistic as the sport renews
Perhaps the greatest event of the 1980 martial arts
renaissance was the staggering success of the television miniseries Shogun.
Based on James Clavell's best-selling novel, the $22 million project aired on
NBC the week of Sept. 15-19 in five parts, and presented American audiences with
the first insight into the world of the feudal Japanese samurai. Shogun captured
125 million viewers, or more than half of the total television viewing audience
in the U.S. Shogun's
phenomenal success created a new wave of interest by the American public in
learning the "samurai arts." Supply companies reported a sudden boost in orders
for samurai swords and other Japanese-related weapons. Karate schools were
inundated with phone calls from potential
students, and business increased dramatically.
With the 1980 Warner Bros. release of The Big Brawl,
general American audiences were introduced to the irrepressible new king of
kung-fu, Jackie Chan. Chan's fame spread from Hong Kong when, beginning in 1978,
three of his pictures surpassed the grosses of Bruce Lee's films in Asia:
Drunken Monkey in a Tiger's Eye, Pearless Hyena, and The Young Master, the last
sold more tickets, according to its producers, Golden Harvest, than any picture
of any genre ever to play Hong Kong. Chan was quickly discovered by Hollywood
and cast in his first American-made film, The Big Brawl, his American debut,
however, failed to duplicate his
When Mexico suffered last-minute sponsorship problems, the
5th WUKO World Championships was picked up by Spain as the host country. The
event, originally scheduled for 1979, was delayed one year by this development.
The tournament took place in Madrid on Nov.
28-29, with 55 countries represented. The AAU had conducted its team selection
tournament in New Jersey, from which America fielded its strongest, most
experienced contingent ever. Head coach Chuck Merriman anticipated the
possibility of returning home with a world championship.
Tokey Hill of Ohio became the first amateur world champion
to emerge from the ranks of America's fighters. Not since 1970, at the inaugural
WUKO tournament, had an American placed in individual fighting, when Tonny
Tulleners won third place. Hill won a gold medal and Pennsylvania's Billy Blanks
defeated the Spanish national champion to advance to the finals, where he took a
silver medal in the open weight class. Blanks then took a bronze medal in the 80
kg division, making him the only American double medal winner in world class
amateur karate competition.
Another new division, in addition to the open weight
class, was women's kata competition. Kathy Baxter of New York and Pam Glaser of
Massachusetts placed within the top 8 finalists, with Baxter taking a
respectable fifth place.
Significantly, the 1980 AAU karate team was composed of
players representing a multitude of karate styles, whereas earlier, most of the
U.S representatives had been predominantly Japanese stylists.
The international rivalry between the WUKO and the IAKF
took a bright turn on Dec. 25, 1980, when a unification meeting between the two
organizations took place in Tokyo. Zentaro Kosaka, president of the IAKF, and
Ryoichi Saxakawa, president of the WUKO, initiated talks for the consolidation
of international amateur karate-do competition.
Since 1977 the International Olympic Committee had
directed that prior to consideration of karate as a recognized non-participatory
Olympic sport, application for this status must emanate from only one federation
truly representing the great majority of karate federations worldwide. The Dec.
25 conference resulted in unification of the WUKO and the IAKF in Japan only-the
intention was to unify amateur karate in those parts of the world still divided
between the two
organizations. With world unity essential to IOC acceptance, it is believed the
overcome the remaining obstacles to that recognition.
Hawaii During the era of Japanese immigration to Hawaii, in the late 1800s and
the early 1900s, many Japanese immigrants trained in the art of Kodokan judo
arrived. The first judo club in Hawaii, the Shunyo-Kan, was formed on March
17,1909, by Shigemi Teshima and Naomatsu Kaneshige. Consul-General Isami
Shishido, 7th dan, joined the club in 1919 and served as chairman of the club's
board of directors for many years.
The Shobu Kan judo club was founded by Yajiro Kitayama, Nakajiro Mino, and
others. Its first dojo site was the basement of the Ono Bakery on Beretania
Street, followed by several locations in Honolulu, until it was moved to its
present location on Kunawai Lane in the Liliha area.
Other clubs were subsequently established, and in 1929, three of the major
judo clubs, Shunyo Kan, Shobu Kan, and Hawaii Chuugakko (junior high school)
initiated an effort to organize judo in the territory of Hawaii. The
organization hoped to demonstrate a united effort to the community and to be
recognized as an instrument through which the social and cultural
significance of this martial art would be transmitted and perpetuated. Organized
judo grew rapidly under the supervision of this body, the Hawaii Judo Kyokai. In
1925, the Kodokan issued the first certificates for black belts to judoka in
Hawaii. In 1927, a judo seminar was conducted by a visiting Waseda University
judo group, headed by Mr. Makino, 6th dan. By 1932, the Hawaii Judo Association
had several active clubs, and received official recognition from Prof. Kano
during one of his stopovers in Honolulu. The certificate of recognition, #76,
issued by the Kodokan Judo Institute on November 15,1932, was the first such
authorization granted to a yudanshakai outside of Japan.