When I started Isshinryu was not a history lesson, It was literally a trial every day to remain training.
One day I recall very well, My wife and I lost our daughter being stillborn. My first thought when she was in delivery was to call Sensei Lewis and explain why I would not be in class. That did pass and the time training continued.
Isshinryu was not static, it was very much in play. What was the standard was the very high caliber of Seniors who trained with Lewis Sensei.
After intense training under Charles Murray, and obtaining my Sho Dan, I was too soon on my own. Never had much money to travel an meet others is Isshinryu. There were many things I had to learn on my own to teach. I did seek out others skilled and train with them.
The Isshinryu I met at tournaments, rarely had the time to do more than say hi. And as I was not their brand of Isshinryu, nothing went further.
The more I experiences, the more I learned by teaching, the more I trained with extremely skilled friends, the greater my resolve to strengthen my Isshinryu became.
Then the wheel turned, and I had to move for work. I recommenced my program, added an adult class. For decades I drove hours a day to and from work, for two years commuted every other week to Pasadena California. But I kept the program going.
There was always too little time to train, so much to share. Isshinryu remained as I was taught, what occurred on the dojo floor, not so much a lesson in history.
My own interest was intensely personal. In my day there was not attention paid to the application potential to the Isshinryu kata, within our tradition. In addition to teaching I worked on my own studies.
Of course in those earlier days, many of the schools I did visit in my area, most not Isshinryu, they on the whole did not work on application studies either. One program on Shotokan did extensive application studies in Black Belt training. That school taught me their meaning of ‘BUNKAI’ long before the word came into use. Years before the magazines, the internet of that day, came to use the term.
But ‘BUNKAI’ as they used it was very different from what the term came to mean with most others around the world.
What I began was to logically look at the application potentials of the Isshinryu movements. As time passed I learned a real lesson. Those movements I had learned an application potential for, knowing the answer, also meant I did not look at those movements further. Many, time many I learned much later there was always much more there.
Then in 1995 I met Sherman Harrill. It was serendipity, but he was in the immediate area, and I learned from him he had been friends of Tom Lewis back on Okinawa. I know I am not alone being astonished at what he was doing. I do have some video tape of the first time he and I worked together.
For about a decade I was able to attend clinics with him throughout New England. I learned whatever was being shown. He did make it clear that only part of his studies could be in a clinic. Explaining somewhat what was different.
My proudest moment came when was able to get him and Tom together for a weekend.
However, he passed away. A too brief moment in time.
What the experience did for me was to double my own efforts to understand what the application potential, to Isshinryu, could be.
I kept teaching, kept studying. The fire in me burned ever brighter.
Five years later I drove to Chicopee Mass., to meet John Kerker. And of course I was schooled. Many of the things he shared with me, which often continued things Sherman could share. This continure for almost another decade, though but a few short hours I morning a year.
Then more time passes and my time came to a close, I could not continue to teach the young. Where history was never part of what we discussed in detail, have shared a great deal privately with my students by writing to them. And my blog where I shared much more.
Isshinryu for me is always that which occurs on the training floor. Building the body and spirit of Isshinryu. Always fanning the flames for new generations, never enough time. Working to make the best use of the time that is available.