Back to Sensei Speaks     www.  bohans-family.  com

 

"A Collaborative Interview with a few students of Isshinryu Founder Tatsuo Shimabuku"

"PART TWO"

    

(This interview was done both electronically and by phone conversations.)

Interviewer's note;

 

"I had been contemplating doing a multiple member interview for some time now.  I got the idea from an old “Official Karate” magazine interview in which several prominent martial artists of different backgrounds (karate, kung fu, tae kwon do, etc) got together and answered some general questions regarding the state of martial arts at that time. Originally, I had planned on interviewing four first generation students who weren’t part of the famous Agena dojo of the late 50’s/early sixties, and getting a different view of Isshinryu which was by then, a few years older.  Instead, I decided that the Isshinryu community would get greater benefit from hearing from thirteen first generation students from different eras.  I want to personally thank these gentlemen (who I affectionately call the lucky thirteen....we’re lucky that they agreed to do it, not everyone approached was as....delightful) for agreeing to do this interview and I also wanted to let the readers know that all participants were enthusiastic about the project.  As always, I hope you enjoy reading the interview as well as I had doing it."

 

Respectfully,

H.P. Henry

 

Interview Questions - "Part Two"

 

 

Q3. What were your re-collections of training (curriculum, weather, atmosphere amongst students) at the Shimabuku dojo?  Was any one area of training stressed more than others?

 

A3. - Jake Eckenrode - “The atmosphere among all students was friendly, courteous, and respectful. Anyone of higher rank willingly instructed those of lesser rank and this included Master Shimabuku himself.  On many occasions he instructed me one on one even when I was a greenhorn white belt.  The training curriculum stressed proper technique to learn punches, blocks and stances for the purpose of blending these techniques into the performance of the katas.  The weather was hot and humid (frequently over 90 in both temperature and humidity) with mosquitoes mixed in.  When the sun was shining brightly, the cement floor and block walls seemed to lock in and intensify the heat like a sauna......even jarhead Marines struggled under these conditions.”

 

(Tokumura Kensho and Jake Eckenrode)

(This picture was taken at Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku's Agena Dojo. Master Eckenrode wrote in his photo album: "Speedo" and I at Popasan's new dojo.)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Clarence Ewing - “Each student trained according to his degree of skill.  Some trained on kata, some on makiwara, weapons and heavy bag.  Sometimes Kumite and Ippon-Kumite if it was not too crowded.  The dojo was open and the weather was perfect.  I think kata was stressed more than anything.  Makiwara was probably next.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Paul Heffernan - “As I recall the students at the Dojo were Okinawa’s and Marines.  The Okinawa’s were hard working people.  As for the Marines; everyone knows how tough the Corp is......“Gung-Ho!”  At times the Dojo was very cold and at times it was very hot.  We would do basic exercises for the first hour of warm-up; with a very hard and fast pace.  Training with the Master was as intense as training with any Marine Corp D.I..”

 

(Dave Zaslow / Paul Heffernan / John Bartusevics)

(Kin Village workout (1962). All of the karate-ka in this picture were members of the 3rd Tank Bn. Camp Hansen, Okinawa)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Ed Johnson - “Upon arrival at the dojo in Agena, one bowed to Sensei, changed clothes, bowed to the goddess in Sensei’s shrine (or not, it was not required) some crossed themselves - as there was a picture of Christ above the shrine - and began charts 1&2.  After the charts, we were free to do kata or punch the makiwaras. When taking a break, Sensei furnished hot bancha tea to drink.  When drinking tea, one had the opportunity to visit with Sensei, his wife, Shinso (who we called Ciso), or anyone else taking a break.  Nothing was required of us and we worked out at our own speed and motivation.  If one worked out on the weekends and the temperature was hot, the concrete deck got too hot to stand on and Sensei would throw a bucket of cold water on the deck to cool it down.  When it was raining (we had no roof at that time over the large workout area) we would be careful not to slip and fall.  We also took the makiwara pads off the 2x4’s and brought them inside.  When it began to rain hard we would get off the dojo floor and wait under the covered part of the dojo until it stopped raining.  Unless it was payday, most of Sensei’s students trained and left within an hour or two.  I stayed everyday until Sensei closed at 10pm.  An Okinawan named Guchi helped me when I first started, but he quit coming not long after.  Then Shinso helped me alot.  Bill Blond and I became friends and were the same rank.  Blond had been discharged from the Marine Corps on Okinawa and married an Okinawan woman.  They rented a house down the street from the dojo for $5.00 a month.  Blond and I had contests as to who could attend the most classes in a month.  I had guard duty one night and Blond won having attended all the thirty one days.  Unless Sensei appointed someone to teach me, we usually didn’t interact with the other students.  Besides Blond, I sometimes visited with Armstrong and Advincula.  At that time, I was the only one from Camp Hansen taking Karate.  Later, Frank VanLenten was stationed at Camp Hansen.  Kata seemed to be stressed more than anything else; though once when Sherman Harrill broke some tiles at a demonstration and his knuckles immediately swelled, Sensei looked at his hand, slapped it and said, “too much no workee”!  Meaning, he hadn’t punched the makiwara enough.” 

 

(Ed Johnson and Unknown)

(This picture was taken at Master Shimabuku's Agena Dojo)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Tom Lewis - “Rarely, was there an organized class because the dojo was open long hours and the military personnel would come and go.  The dojo was like a closed in patio with no roof at the time and on a concrete floor, it didn't take long for your feet to toughen up.”

 

(Tom Lewis)

(This picture was taken at Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku's Agena Dojo)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Harold Mitchum - “I was introduced to the dojo by a fellow Sgt. by the name of L.D. Hall. Sgt Hall also taught me the basic techniques and exercises.  There were two charts that we followed at each workout and they consisted of 10 strengthening and stretching exercises and eight kicks on the one chart and 16 blocks and strikes on the other. When I first got there, I met Harold Long and a Gunnery Sergeant named Keith.  The two of them and L.D. Hall all left soon after my arrival so I didn’t get to train with them much.  The weather was real hot in the summer and Master Shimabuku would throw water down on the cement to cool it off.  During monsoon season, there was no training.  As far as the atmosphere at the dojo, everyone got along.  Basics were stressed more than anything else at the dojo and Master Shimabuku taught the Kata’s himself.  As time went on, some of us senior guys would teach the new guys the basics and kata.”

 

(Front Row (L-R)-William Blond/Kinjo Chinsako/Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku/Harold Mitchum/Ralph Bove)

(Second Row (L-R) - Unknown / Mae Kana / Unknown / Kinjo Chinjo / Unknown / Unknown)

(Third Row L-R - Louis King / Isaac Dawson / Unknown / Unknown / Unknown / Unknown / Unknown)

(Back Row (L-R) - Unknown / Unknown / Unknown / Unknown / Unknown / Unknown / Unknown)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Charles Murray - “There were few organized classes at the Agena Dojo while I was there.  Essentially, you went there and went on the little platform at the end of the workout floor and gi-ed up and then just worked out.  In the evening Master Shimabuku would sometimes come down and correct your kata.  I remember his English wasn't real good (largely consisting of the words "number 10" and "number 1" - mostly number 10 when he referred to things that I was doing.  That said we quickly figured out what he wanted and did it, as they say pain is a great teacher.  It was very hot and humid there most of the year.  Sometimes in the winter a jacket would be required but most times it was just hot and humid.  I can remember being able to wring the sweat out of my obi on many occasions while I was there and my gi was always soaking wet.  The Okinawan students seemed to mainly frequent the Agena Dojo.  They would mostly come after work and would come by the dojo, do a few (not many that I recall) Karate exercises (combinations, katas and the like), and then sit on the steps to the platform at the end of the workout floor and talk to each other and drink water or tea.  Master Shimabuku's wife always kept a pitcher of tea and water there. It was much like guys/gals who go to the local pub for a drink/ conversation to cool down after a hard day at the office.  The type of training most different from what I did in the states was the body hardening exercises; also the carrying of the water containers/jars to strengthen the hands and fingers.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Bill Steigner - “Training started with running in the dojo in a clock-wise pattern then switched to counter-clockwise, then a figure eight, this was done to help warm-up the body.  Next, we would review charts one and two.  By the time you finished going through the charts, you would be standing in a pool of sweat. We then would work on kata, followed by Tatsuo Shimabuku’s kumite and finally free sparring kumite with or without the Bogu equipment. The three primary instructors at the dojo during that time were Kichero Shimabuku, Angi Uezu and Louis King.  The curriculum was pretty standard amongst the instructors, but they tended to carry their own little messages especially when teaching the Kata's.  The classes during my time (1966-68) ran for about two hours  starting at 6:00pm and were much more structured and very business like.  The students (U.S.) were focused on going “in country” (Vietnam) so more of their attention was spent on combatives.  No particular area in training was stressed more than the other at the dojo but my favorite was kumite with the Bogu gear.  Kumite without the gear was fun too.”

 

(Bill Steigner)

(This picture was taken at the Isshin-Ryu Network's annual workout, January 19, 2008, Orange City, FL)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Carl Sutherlin - “The late 60 s and early 70’s was a time of transition at the Agena dojo.  Sensei was still teaching kata, and classes with the advanced students.  However, Kichiro was starting to take over most of the business associated with the classes. Sensei himself was beginning to teach fewer and fewer of the beginners classes, however he would generally “jump in and teach” when it was time for kata.  In 69, one of the more senior students would usually take the class through the basics, and the repetitive kicks and punches, and Sensei Shimabuku would teach kata, unless he was feeling under the weather.  I would drop in during the day or later at night whenever I could due to my work, and seemed to get much more “face” time with Sensei because I was working with other Okinawans.  Workouts were generally warm up, basics, long sets of kicks and punches, kumite, where hard shell chest protectors were worn, and kata.  The more senior students would often be in small groups in the corner working on weapons.”

 

(Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku / Shinso Shimabuku / Carl Sutherlin)

(This picture was taken at Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku's Agena Dojo)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Frank VanLenten - “There were not a lot of structured classes.  The dojo was always open. Kata and Kobudo were stressed. There was good camaraderie among the students.”

 

(Frank VanLenten)

(This picture was taken at Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku's Agena Dojo)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - John Bartusevics - “The weather in Okinawa was hot in the summer and cold in the winters.  In the Hamada (North) Dojo where Kikiyama was the Sensei, Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday-they stressed a lot of bag work with the legs and kumite.  In the main Dojo (HQ) where the Master Shimabuku Tatsuo was the Sensei.  Monday, Wednesdays and Fridays, they stressed Katas, Self-Defense technique and weapons.  The important fact was they both switched location on Tuesday and Thursday so you benefited on all-round work-out.  The serious student always came early and left late.  Many students would work out on Saturdays and Sundays as well, those were more informal.”

 

(Russell Best / Unknown / John Bartusevics / Unknown / Angi Uezu)

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A3. - Russell Best - “The training was very hard for the military karate-kas, but I found a second level of training took place for the Okinawan karate-kas training class.  This I discovered later, by accident, after our military class we left, but I returned to retrieve my motorcycle helmet see a Okinawan karate training class.  After a little bit of doing I attended “both” training classes.”

 

(Russell Best)

(This picture was taken at Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku's Agena Dojo)

 

 


 

Q4 - What was your favorite part of training?

 

A4. - Clarence Ewing - “I liked kata”.

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Paul Heffernan - “My favorite part of training was putting on the fighting gear and fighting full-contact.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Ed Johnson - “My favorite part of training in Agena, was punching the makiwara and the self defense I learned there.  At first, I punched the makiwara until I saw blood from my knuckles, but soon learned that if I went to far it took awhile for the knuckles to heal.  After I developed Callouses on the knuckles, I'd punch 250 times with each hand. At that time, the Marine Corps didn’t give us much hand to hand training so I liked what I learned in the dojo.  But then I was in Tanks....so maybe they figured i didn’t need it.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Tom Lewis - “Kata and makiwara training were my favorites.  I don't recall a lot of sparring because Sensei wanted everyone in Kendo gear and it was time consuming to gear up, plus, it was so hot that often we worked out in just our gi bottoms.”

 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Vern Miller - “My favorite part of training was Kata as taught by Sensei and W. Blond with occasional help from other instructors and unknown students.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Harold Mitchum - “Basics were my favorite part of training.  You have to have them down because if you don’t have good basics, you don’t have good kata.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

 

A4. - Charles Murray - “My favorite thing was when (and it didn't happen often) Master Shimabuku would come out and work with me on kata.  Of interest to me was that he would teach different bunkai to the kata movements depending largely on the size and strength of the person he was teaching it to.  Also, I should say that I am appreciative that Master Shimabuku's second son was there a lot while I was there.  He spoke passable English and spent a lot of alone time with me.” 

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Bill Steigner -  “When Shimabuku Sensei came on deck and taught lessons was without a doubt my favorite time in the dojo.  He always was there to correct technique, but leading class was left to the senior Yudansha.  When he did teach, the curriculum remained the same but he pushed you harder.  “More Ippon” (one more time) was often heard from him.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Carl Sutherlin - "Any time that I could spend with Sensei Shimabuku was special to me."

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Frank VanLenten - “My favorite part of training was learning Goshin-Jutsu and Bunkai.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - John Bartusevics - “I have to admit Kata’s are important, but I always enjoyed the makiwara, bag work and my favorite was kumite.”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Russ Best - “I enjoyed all phases of the Agena Dojo training and especially looked forward to the kumite  (free style fighting).  Often, Soke Shimabuku would pit students of his Isshin-Ryu Headquarters, Agena dojo, near Camp S.D. Butler and Camp Courtney against students from his other dojos, Kin Village near Camp Hanson and a third in Henoko (outside Camp Schwab).”

 

 

_____________________________________________________________________

 

A4. - Jake Eckenrode - “My favorite part of training was the fellowship with Marine and Okinawan students and Master Shimabuku.  Learning the katas was for me both fun and challenging.  Communicating with each other was interesting and exciting - a lot of body language and adaptation of words were necessary.  It seemed that something exciting was always happening at the dojo. For example, on several occasions Shinken Taira showed up.”

 

(Jake Eckenrode)

 

 


 

(NOTE - Part three will be released April 15, 2010)

 

Click here to view "Part One"


 

Copyright © 2010 Wayland's Isshin-Ryu Karate LLC. All Rights Reserved

 

 

Back to Sensei Speaks     www.  bohans-family.  com