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Steve Armstrong

(September 22, 1931 - November 15, 2006)


Courtesy of the Isshin-Ryu Hall of Fame Inc

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 fight?"

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 War.

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.

Steve Armstrong  - Obituary News tribune (Tacoma 11/23/2006)