Steve Armstrong was
born in Guymon, Oklahoma, September 22, 1931. He began
studying Karate at 16 years of age. Sensei Armstrong on his
beginnings in Karate:
"I was a young
Marine a long way from home and I was looking for something to
do during my off duty hours. I watched a group of Japanese
Karate-ka through the window of a dojo in Kobe, Japan, and I
decided to go in and show them a thing or two." Armstrong
grew up in Texas where he says he was, "A fair to middlin
boxer," having had 72 amateur fights and winning 68 of
them. This more or less set the stage for the eventful day in
Kobe, Japan, in 1948.
Things just didn't go
right for young Armstrong because when he started in Karate he
was not quite willing to accept that Karate was a
self-defense, and that the object was to avoid fighting if at
all possible. His belief at this time was summed up as:
"Why do all this training if you were not going to
Steve studied at a
Dojo not far from a nearby train station in Kobe, Japan. In
1949, he had to take some time out for a trip into China. His
tour of duty would be up later that year. At that time, having
achieved a black belt and after spending a year and a half in
the Orient, he was really looking forward to a tour of duty in
the United States.
After a 30 day leave,
he found himself once again back in Japan. This time he was
stationed at the Marine Barracks in Yokohama, Japan. Again he
started his studies in Karate, but this time, he was required
to begin anew as a white belt as this was different from his
original style of Karate. He continued to study Karate in the
area and achieved Black Belt status in this new discipline.
Then one day in July, 1950, his outfit left for the Korean
Time passed. After
having served in Korea, Sensei Armstrong returned to the U.S.
to be stationed at the world famous Marine Barracks in
Washington, D.C., where he found himself on the Presidential
Honor Guard for President Truman. During these years he
continued his studies in Karate on his own. Finally, he
decided to leave the Service to go to college at the
University of Texas.
After leaving school,
Armstrong re-enlisted in the Marine Corps. This time he was
stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa where he met a man
that would change his life: Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, Founder
of Isshin-Ryu Karate. Although already a Black Belt in two
different styles of Karate, Armstrong was again required to
start as a white belt.
Sensei Armstrong has
"flatly" stated that while under the tutelage of
Master Shimabuku: "This is where I started learning
Karate and what it is all about. My other instructors were
good, but I wasn't a good student. Karate was only a method of
fighting for me, until I met Shimabuku."
Prior to leaving
Okinawa for the last time, Sensei Armstrong had become
Shimabuku's number two student, second only to Harold Mitchum.
Upon returning to the
U.S., Sensei Armstrong established the Isshinryu Karate
School in his garage in 1960. Eventually, he moved first
to downtown Tacoma, Washington, then to the local YMCA, from
there to Washington Street, and finally, to its permanant
location at 54th and South Tacoma Way. He
eventually expanded into several locations, including a few of
the Colleges and Universities in Washington state.
- Obituary News tribune (Tacoma 11/23/2006)