It was never about self defense.
I did not start Isshinryu Karate because I wanted to be able to handle myself in a confrontation.
More a combination of separate events.
Before I started college I picked up Bruce Tenger’s book,
while at the beach in Ocean City, Md.
I did not try to study from that book (thank god)
More that it alerted me that karate was around.
Then while attending Temple University,
My college roommate started studying Shotokan,
With Okasaki Sensei,
He used to show some things to me, blocks and strikes,
To have someone to train with in the dorm.
I never felt the need to study myself,
But I suppose the seeds were strewn there.
I remember a story he told me about the Senior Cadet of the ROTC program,
attending class to give it a go.
He felt he was in shape for anything,
Then discovered how much his training lacked.
Now I look back with amusement at that.
But the hook was set I guess.
A number of years later my brothers and sister were studying something where they lived.
One brother studied in NJ near his Air Force base.
with was S L Martin and his Green Dragon Karate,
Another brother studied Tae Kwon Do at a Jhoon Ree School while at college.
Finally my sister and little brother were studying Shotokan, in York Pa.
So I had varied accounts of what was being taught is many places.
I was working constructions, at that time I was a laborer.
One evening I was at work at the Salisbury State.
We had poured the school swimming pool and I was there to observe the cure of the concrete. Which means I was not doing much but being there.
As one of the guy’s was leaving he told me about a karate program
Outside of Salisbury,
Held in what resembled a barn.
So with just the mere existence of that program I went on by.
There was no class that night,
the instructor was working in his office and he invited me to come in and talk.
After we talked a while he invited me to come and watch the next class,
So I did.
That was all, enough to interest me.
So I began.
As I look back on it, it was nothing but serendipity that I was at that Isshinryu Dojo of Tom Lewis.
Fortunate serendipity that I had such a great instructor and program to study at.
The first night there was the group warm-up,
then several green belts showed me Chart 1 and Chart 2.
Because of what my college roommate had showed me
I felt I had some idea of what I was shown.
Of course very quickly I learned that I really knew nothing.
The next class I was introduced to sparring,
I was paired with a younger green belt woman of 16.
I had no idea how talented the club greenbelts were at sparring,
So she was younger, 100 pounds lighter,
And every time she moved she kicked my butt across the dojo floor.
At will her round kicks would slap into my face.
I came face to face with the realization I knew nothing.
Dojo rules did not allow face contact,
But as I remember is seemed not to be enforced for women.
If they could strike your face, of course it was your fault.
I always suspected Sensei may have wanted women
To always strike a guy in the mouth.
Something at that time most men would not anticipate.
But this was just a feeling I had.
Then again I had learned something.
Two classes and I already had the first 3 moves to Seisan kata.
The next lesson was my third class.
Warm ups were often conducted
by whichever black belt was most senior that night.
Sensei was in his office, observing everything.
Later when Mr. Lewis described how his teacher taught,
He did not often conduct classes,
Someone was selected to work with the beginners.
Then Shimabuku sensei would watch everyone work.
Or not, at times share with someone working hard,
The rest of the time always watching.
Now I see Lewis Sensei was following the example of Shimabuku Sensei.
After warm ups that evening,
Lewis Sensei came onto the floor,
Then he told us to work kata,
And leaned back on the wall and watched us work.
So for the remainder of the class I worked on the beginning of Seisan which was all I knew.
Step out into ready stance.
Left foot step forward into Seisan stance and deliver a left side block,
Then deliver a right reverse punch.
Right foot step forward into Seisan and deliver a left reverse punch.
Left foot step forward into Seisan and deliver a right reverse punch.
That was all I knew,
And I did it over and over for the two hours of the class.
Although I worked construction,
I was too heavy and as I worked I did sweat.
When that class was finished there was quite a puddle of water around me.
Then class closed
And we Rei-ed out.
Nothing else was said by Sensei.
For one thing I learned to run and fetch a mop
After warm ups,
And mop up my sweat on the floor.
For safety of others.
I observed most new students
did not return after their introduction to sparring.
I also quickly realized that I was possibly the worst beginner that ever was.
Still I came, trained hard, never expected anything,
And in time I learned.
I discovered those green belts were incredible at sparring.
They were way beyond my abilities.
But I also had a secret weapon,
If they would kick me,
They would invariably fall when they placed their own foot down on the floor,
From my sweat.
That even worked when a black belt would kick me.
I worked hard,
And I learned a little.
It would be a year before my side kick could reach waist height.
I never felt discouraged.
Just inspired to work harder and longer.
Now classes at Salisbury really were kyu classes.
There were many black belts there
And they were coming and going,
From many associated IKC dojo on the Eastern Shore.
Later I realized black belt classes
were conducted on nights that kyu students did not attend
Then one evening a new (for me) black belt showed up.
It was Charles Murray with one of his friends,
also a black belt.
After warm ups they took to the floor to spar.
Immediately everybody moved out of the way.
The dojo floor was patterned after a ring,
and only was somewhat larger than a ring.
But nobody wanted to be anywhere near them when they were fighting.
I was astounded at the power and speed they showed.
Way above what I had seen in the dojo.
Back and forth they truly fought,
And Charles was the aggressor,
Yet his friend was no slouch.
It was something special to behold.
More time passed,
I had gotten my blue belt and that meant I had made some progress.
One evening I was called into Lewis Sensei’s office,
Al Bailey, Dennis Lockwood and Charles Murray were there.
He explained that Charles was away at college,
But this summer he was going to hold a self defense course
at a hotel in Ocean City Maryland.
He was doing this to make some money for college.
And the rest of the IKC was going to help present a karate demonstration
At the hotel,
To help him drum up interest.
What Sensei was wondering if I could help,
They need someone to spar with Charles during the demonstration,
And would I be interested.
Of course I only had one answer,
That was yes.
Then I had several weeks to worry about
Fighting him before my instructors.
And I also was aware he was vastly outclassing me.
The day arrived.
Charles had to be shown how to wear the new Safety-gear.
I had come out of the days before the gear,
But also had experienced how it was used and made a difference.
Before a crowd sitting at tables,
And in front of 25 or so of my seniors, instructors,
I stood before Charles waiting for the word.
And the word was given,
It was ‘Hajime’
Of course this was from a later day
I began tearing into Charles with everything I had,
Not that that was much,
But I tried my best to nail him.
In turn, he came back hard and fast,
And began tattooing my body with his fists and feet.
Yet I tore into him again and again.
And he did respond taking me apart.
Now as I heard it, several of the instructors were talking to Sensei,
“Victor is going to get killed.”
“Do you think we should stop the fight?”
Sensei just watched.
After a time we ended,
And while feeling IT, I was still standing.
The demonstration continued.
However I remember Sensei drawing me aside,
that was just meant to be a demonstration.
Just enough to make Charles look good.”
It seems nobody thought to mention that to me.
Of course there are many more interesting stories from those days that I have.
I have never experienced a greater group of people,
the Women and the Men that studied with Tom Lewis.
What he achieved with them continues to be an inspiration for me
To this day.