I can remember my first karate road trip like it was yesterday.
I believe I was a yellow belt in Salisbury Maryland. Back then classes were about kata half the time and kumite the other half. I knew I was not very good at kumite, in fact I was very bad. Sensei had a great crew of green belts who were spectacular at it. Working with them in kumite I felt like a practice dummy, In the old non safety gear hard knocks days.
Sparring felt like full body contact and I always felt it the next day after sparring with them.The brown belts were totally beyond me.
I had first seen Charles Murray then. He was home on a break from college and he came in the dojo with one of his training mates. When they took the floor, which had a ring set in the floor tiles, everyone cleared off. They engaged in awesome kumite, black belts who knew each other. Everyone just stood back and observed.
So it got to me, I wanted to do better that where I was. Now we understand everyone gets better in time, but that did not mean much to me then. I finally hit on an idea, we used to have black belts regularly drop in from associated schools by Lewis Sensei’s students. I hit on the idea perhaps if I traveled to one of them I might obtain additional training that would help me improve.
The school I decided to visit was the Isshinryu Club run by Reese Rigby in Dover, Delaware.
I knew of him from his visits to the Salisbury Dojo. But I had not met him on a personal basis.
So one Tuesday evening I drove for an hour to his club in Dover, Delaware, then met him and explained what I was seeking. I told him “I know I am not very good in kumite and I want to learn how to get better.”
Rigby Sensei was very kind to me and told me that he would try and help me. Then I joined in with the class training. I remember he spent a lot of time on warm-ups.
Eventually class led to kumite. Rigby Sensei told me that only by fighting could I get better. Then he pained me up with a green belt, Bill Dearing. Bill was a big guy like I was, so the pairing made sense I guess.
“Hajime.” We began. He was much more than I was. But we sort of went back and forth. He had a constant grin on his face. He was much stronger at it than I was. Suddenly he just leaped at me with a flying side kick, something I had never faced.
Without thinking my lead hand swept down, and I had both of his legs in my arm. It caused him to drop to the floor with a bang. He lay there on the floor. I was not sure what I had done, and remember thinking I had broken him.
While Bill was a green belt in Isshinryu, I did not know he was a black belt in Ju-jitsu. What he did was a break fall. He was ok.
I do not remember much after that, and later drove home to Salisbury. It would be the first of many visits to dojo of seniors under Lewis Sensei. More class time, always trying.
Bill was at my black belt test, I will always remember that.
We did have many good times training together. Reese Rigby always shared with me too.
Those were the days.