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 "An Interview with John Bartusevics"

    

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

Interviewer note;

 

"I first heard of Mr. John Bartusevics like most of us on the east coast through pictures he was in and events he had attended. Around the September/October 2006 timeframe, I received a call from Mr. Wayne Wayland saying that he had just corresponded with Mr. Bartusevics regarding the website, and that he sounded very enthusiastic about sharing some of his vast collection of documents, pictures, and other tidbits of information with us.  I contacted Mr. Bartusevics soon after and am happy to say over these past months, have developed a friendship with him via e-mails and phone communication.  I decided early on that I would approach him about doing an interview and that I would assist him with his return to Isshinryu as best I could.  Mr. Bartusevics for those of you who don't know him is inquisitive by nature and tends to be passionate about his beliefs especially when it comes to his Sensei and the style his Sensei created, Isshinryu.  I have found him to me a virtual encyclopedia of Isshinryu knowledge, especially regarding the goings on in Okinawa and hope you enjoy this interview as much as I had doing it."

 

H.P.  Henry

 

 

(John Bartusevics)

 

NOTE*** For more information on Master John Bartusevics access his "Warrior of the Month" article on this web site or check out one of his photo albums "First Generation Photo Albums".

 

Interview Questions

 

 

Q1.  Mr.  Bartusevics, please give us some background on your beginnings in the martial arts, and also a little about yourself (career, family, etc.).

 

A1."I was born in Latvia, on March 29th, 1941.  In 1949, I immigrated to the USA through Ellis Island, and was raised in Philadelphia, PA.  At the age of 13-14 was introduced to the martial arts by my brother-in-law, Dave Clark.  Dave, was a former Marine and a teacher, he also taught Judo at the local YMCA.  After I completed High School, I joined the Marines in February 1960.  I was sent to Okinawa in mid 1961, where I ran into two friends that went through boot camp with me, their names were Adams & West.  They were both studying Isshin-Ryu Karate at Hamada (Camp Hansen) and so impressed me with their confidence, positive attitude, and fighting ability, which I asked where they were studying because I wanted to join. 

 

I retired from the Marines in 1990 after 30 years of service.  17 of the 30 years were spent in the Far East.  15 of those 17 years were spent in Okinawa.  My years with Master Shimabuku were as follows, 1961-65, 1967-68, and 1971-72.  I cherish the fact that all my Dan rankings have come from Master Shimabuku, Tatsuo.

 

My last promotion (Roku-Dan) was awarded in 1973.  I opened up my first Dojo in the US in 1965 in Oceanside, California.  At that time, Senseiís Harold Mitchum, Jim Advincula and Paul Heffernan had a Dojo in Carlsbad, the next town over.  Eight months later, I was sent to Vietnam.  In 1972, I operated two dojoís, the first in Camp Pendleton, Oceanside, and the second, in San Clemente.  I operated them both with the assistance of Paul Heffernan and Carl Sutherlin. 

 

Itís worth mentioning, that in 1968, I was sent to San Diego MCRD to be a Drill Instructor.  My final 10 months there, I was in put in charge of close combat for the Recruit Training Regiment, and was instrumental in changing their training and approach, to Self-Defense/Hand to Hand Combat.  I married to my wife Yasuko, 43 years ago, during my first tour in Okinawa.  We, have a daughter, son, and two wonderful grandchildren.  Weíve retired in Oceanside, California, to be close to our family."

 

(John Bartusevics)

 

 

 

Q2.  Tell us a little about the original AOKA, who was there, key personnel, etc.?

 

A2."The American Okinawa Karate Association was formed in 1961.  I have two original letters from Ralph Bove Staff Secretary, AOKA and Harold Mitchum President of AOKA, both dated April and June 1961 respectively.  Shimabuku Tatsuo was master of all Isshin-Ryu Karate, and Harold Mitchum, was President.  Kinjo Chinsaku was Vice President, Ralph Bove was Staff Secretary, William Blond was Treasurer, and Steve Armstrong was Treasurer for the U.S.  The purpose of the letters by Harold Mitchum, approved by the master, was to stop the inflated promotions given prior to 10 June 1961, and to bring the ratings and promotion of Isshin-Ryu to meet world-wide standards.  Also, its intention was to unite all the Isshin-Ryu Dojo's in the U.S.  with Okinawa.  Some of the students that I have AOKA registration cards on are, Wesolowski #4, Mitchum #6, Blond #10, King #12, Advincula #15, Ed Johnson #30, Beams #56, Booher #67, Christoff #68, Pickle III #73, Zaslow #76, Higgs #91, Heffernan #99, Bartusevics #100, Austin Long #104, Safreed #119, Whitney #120, Gardo, W.C.  #136, Richard Keith #140, and Wesolowski #4.  All the names mentioned were Black Belts at the time.  As you can see, I am missing a lot of early registration cards for the AOKA.  The cards were either given to the student when they left for the States, or they were lost.

 

In 1963, the AOKA was bickering over money misuse and or poor record keeping.  In turn, the money that was in the AOKA fund was donated to a charity, and friends became friends again.  During that time, we also voted for a new President, and Vice President Louis King, was voted in as President, and Jim Advincula, as Vice President.  In 1964, the original AOKA was disbanded for various reasons including bickering over the mismanagement of funds.  In January 1965, Master Shimabuku Tatsuo, after coming back from his first visit to the states, started up the new AOKA.  This AOKA would be run solely by the Master, and would have no elected officers.  The only exception to this new infrastructure would be for the Staff Secretary who would be there to serve the Master in managing the administration responsibilities.  This was needed, due to the large influx of new membership into the AOKA after the Masterís trip in 1964.  The Master felt that it would be best served, if the AOKA would be controlled from Okinawa and by him alone.  In 1974, Sensei Shimabuku, Kichiro who was starting to run the AOKA for the Master, disbanded the AOKA, and started up the Isshin-Ryu World Karate Association.  This new name served the association more correctly, as Isshin-Ryu was quickly spreading throughout the world."

 

 

 

 

Q3.  You were stationed in Okinawa for Soke Shimabukuís first visits to the U.S., can you elaborate on them?

 

A3."I received a letter from Harry Acklin for Master Shimabuku Tatsuo pleading for help, wanting to know if the Master could come and teach in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Harry Acklin, Joseph Pennywell and William Duessel all just pulled out of Harry G Smithís Dojo.  I presented the master with the situation and advised him that this would do a lot for Isshin-Ryu Karate.  I also suggested, that he would be the first Karate Master to undertake this kind of trip from Okinawa and that it would help him in being accepted and recognized in Okinawa for his new style.  After all, the Master was not afraid to be the first, be an innovator, or more importantly to follow his dream.  Enclosed are some letters, visa applications, and miscellaneous items, like letters pertaining to his trip.  After the trip, the Master told me that he was glad that he went, but he would never go back.  Turns out, he was really homesick and couldn't really adjust to the American customs and diet.  It was also very exhausting for the Master, he was used to working his schedule in Okinawa and all of a sudden they put him on the clock.  I should mention that a Mr.  James Morabeto financed this trip." 

 

(This picture was taken at the Naha Okinawa Airport's check-in counter. The trip was Master Shimabuku's first trip to the United States.)

 

 

 

Q4.  Can you tell us a little about your friend Paul Heffernan?

 

A4."Paul Heffernan was one of my peers and my closest friend in Okinawa, he started training a few months after me.  Although Paul studied with Don Nagle and Don Bohan at Camp LeJeune for a short time in the late 50's, he gave up karate until 1961.  While stationed in Okinawa, we were both assigned to Alpha Company, 3rd Tank Battalion.  In 1965, he helped Harold Mitchum & Jim Advincula run a Dojo in Carlsbad, CA.  In the early 70's, he was my assistant instructor at the San Clemente, CA Dojo.  We are still friends today, he lives in Idaho and we get together when we can.  He also maintains a close relationship with Ed Johnson, who was with Paul in Okinawa on their first tour in 1959."

 

 

(Dave Zaslow / Paul Heffernan / John Bartusevics -1962)

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

 

 

 

Q5.  I understand that you were awarded the Silver Star for heroism in combat during the Vietnam War, would you mind telling us about that?

 

A5."I was a 25 year old Sgt.  who was a Section Leader with 2nd Platoon, Charlie Company, 1st Tank Battalion.  My award write up is in the Historical Article Section of the Bohanís Family Website.  I just want to say that I was just trying to stay alive, keep my Marines alive, and just doing my job.  The real Heroes are the ones who didnít make it back from Vietnam.  My experience in Vietnam 1966-67 still haunts me today, I am diagnosed with PTSD.  As therapy, I ride my Harley Davidson almost everyday to clear my head."

 

 

 

Q6.  Throughout your career in the Marine Corps you spent a few of your tours (17 years) in Okinawa.  Can you tell us what some of the biggest changes you saw to the martial arts in general during that time and especially Isshin-Ryu?

 

A6."When I first got to Okinawa in mid 1961, karate was being taught as a art of self-defense and a way of life.  No frills, no ribbons, just a lot of hard work, the old school method.  Almost all the Dojo's were located out in towns, so you were forced to intermix with the Okinawan locals learning their custom and culture.  In the 70's, a lot of the Sensei's started teaching on base, most likely to attract new students and make better profits.  Due to rise of the Bruce Lee craze, the American people who bored with repetition and the old training methods, started to lean towards sport karate.  The change was very noticeable and you saw more tournaments, different belt promotions, and in turn faster promotions through the ranks."

 

 

 

Q7.  Who were some of the better-known Isshin-Ryu Karate-ka that you trained with in Shimabuku Senseiís dojo?

 

A7."I had the pleasure of studying with some top-notch black belts and karate-ka.  Kikiyama was instrumental in teaching me in my early years along with Jim Advincula.  Others that I worked out with were Blond, King, Kichiro Shimabuku, Angi Uezu, Bob Safreed, Bill Steigner, R.P.  Best, Paul Heffernan, and Lt Ruhl."

 

 

 

Q8.  I understand you have a black belt in Okinawan Kempo Kobudo, how does the way that system handles weapons differ from Isshinryu?

 

A8.  "In the early to mid 70's, I had Dean Stephen 9th Dan Okinawan Kempo Karate study Isshin-Ryu karate with me when I was teaching in Southern Ca.  On weekends, he would come over to my house, and teach me Okinawan Kempo Kobudo.  Eventually, he received his black belt from me and I received my black belt from him.  I did not see a big difference in the way I learned their weapons, the difference was in the quantity of weapons.  They not only have the Bo, Sai & Tuifa, but also teach the Kama, Nunchaku, Eku (oar), and the Naginata. 

 

I also had the pleasure to teach & study with Paul Andrews, also from Okinawan Kempo.  Both Stephen & Andrews studied with Master Odo.  Also, while I was in Okinawa, I studied with Master Odo in the late 70's for a short time."

 

 

 

Q9.  You ran Special Services for the USMC while stationed in Okinawa.  Who appointed you to that position, what did that job entail, and who else from Isshinryu held that position?

 

 A9."I was the Judo/Karate Coordinator for Special Services on Okinawa for the Marines; this was a very important and prestigious position.  Who ever had the contract to provide Judo or Karate instruction to our servicemen, was set financially.  A white collar worker (Banker) made about $60.00 a month in those days.  Master Shimabuku and Master Uechi Kanei each made $250.00 to provide instruction to all the Marines on Okinawa.  Okinawa Judo Federation for example, got paid $450.00 a month for the fine job they did.  I think the first Isshin-Ryu man that held that job was Ralph Bove; this was about 1958-59.  The story was told to me was that Eizo Shimabuku the younger brother of the Master and head of Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu, had the contract first and when Ralph Bove got the job in Special Services he gave the contract over to Shimabuku Tatsuo.  The rumor goes that this is why they could never get along after that.  The second Isshin-Ryu man to hold this position was Isaac Dawson, he replaced Bove.  In 1963, I was a black belt and Dawson was getting ready to go back to the states.  Master Shimabuku advised Dawson to give me the job.  The job entailed that first, the Marines were given proper instruction in Judo and Karate at a safe and proper Dojo that was equipped and maintained.  Second, which the instructor was paid on time and handled any problems between the instructors and Special Services.  And third, we were responsible for making the Marines aware of the classes that were offered to them free of charge.  This was done by demonstrations, matches, newspaper coverage, and posters.  I held this job with Special Services from May of 1963 until April of 1965.  When I transferred back to the States, I concluded four years of training with Master Shimabuku Tatsuo and my first tour in Okinawa.  The other important aspect of this job was the close proximity that you worked with the Master, you were the right person to be the Staff Secretary for the Master as well and he utilized me in that position as well.  This was an honored position and one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.  It was tradition that we kept this job within the Isshin-Ryu family.  When I was looking for a replacement, we had nobody that had enough time left on Okinawa to serve a full year.  We also, had 3rd Marine Division (Forward) leave for Vietnam.  I was desperate to find someone, and the only one that was available was a black belt in Judo, a Staff Sgt.  named Bill Dye, who accepted the job.  The Staff Secretary duties for the Master were turned over to Russell P.  Best, who did a fine job.  Eventually, the contracts were piece-mealed out, and by 1968 a lot of the instructors on Okinawa had a piece of the contract to teach on base.  Another important task that you had as the Judo/Karate Coordinator was protecting the contract that the Sensei's had.  One time, I was off-Island with the 3rd Marine Division Judo team at a tournament.  When I got back to Okinawa, the Athletic Officer a Lt.  John Skoog, told me to get in and talk to the Colonel who was the Division Special Service Officer.  Some Black Belts with another Sensei were trying to take the contract away from Master Shimabuku Tatsuo.  The Colonel asked me if that was what I wanted to do and I told him no way! We had the best and most qualified instructors teaching our Marines now."

 

NOTE - "Steve Armstrong was the first Judo / Karate coordinator.  He was followed by  Ralph Bove."

 

 

 

Q10.  You started out as an enlisted man and later became an officer in the USMC, can you explain to our readers the difference between the two and what was your biggest obstacle  in making the transition?

 

A10."As I stated earlier, I spent a total of 30 years in the United States Marine Corps.  My first 10 years were as an enlisted man, and my last 20 years as a Company Grade Officer, Warrant Officer to Captain.  Basically, the enlisted are the doers and advisors depending on your rank.  As an Officer, you are the leader who has to make the decision at the right time and right place.  The big difference in my career was the ton of paperwork you got stuck with as an Officer.  As long as I could work with Marines and Equipment, I was happy.  If you stuck me behind a desk like in a Staff job, then it was hell.  I was honored to serve our great country and my beloved Marine Corps for 30 years.  For a poor immigrant who came to this great country of ours with nothing, I owe everything to our Marine Corps and to the USA."

 

 

 

Q11.  You practiced both the vertical punch and the reverse punch while training with Soke Shimabuku.  Can you tell us why the master changed back to the reverse punch and then later reverted back to the vertical punch?

 

A11."The Master was feeling a lot of heat and non-acceptance from the other Masters on Okinawa for developing Isshin-Ryu Karate.  About 1964, he made the decision to change the punch to the twist punch just like Shorin-Ryu.  However, I advised the master not to change the side block or the head block but to keep it like we do in our style.  Since weíre blocking with the strongest part of forearm and not with the bone part I felt that this way of blocking was superior.  He agreed and that's the way we practiced until the late 60's.  Why he changed back, I was not present.  The Master changed back to the vertical style punch, but I suspect it was due to the vast and large Isshin-Ryu following back in the States.  I believe it was driven out of loyalty to his students and more importantly, sticking with his dream of Isshin-Ryu Karate."

 

 

(Grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku and John Bartusevics)

 

 

 

Q12.  In 1964, you were the overall Black Belt winner of an all style karate tournament held in Okinawa.  Were all styles invited, did all of them participate, and what was the tournaments main focus?

 

A12.  "On 20 Dec.  1964, the First Island Wide Okinawan Karate Championship was held.  I finished as the Black Belt winner, Second place was Eiji Shima Machinato Kempo Karate.

I had a vision and a determination to better karate on Okinawa.  To bring all styles closer together so that the Sensei's and the students would reap the benefits, have a better understanding between the different styles, and most importantly, to have Master Shimabuku Tatsuo recognized and accepted.  While the Master was on his first trip to the States, I went to work.  I first published letters of invitation in English and Japanese.  Next, an interpreter named Mr.  Nakasone and I traveled from the southern tip to the Northern tip of Okinawa and invited all the Head masters of all Styles.  At that time, there were five major styles of karate on Okinawa.  They were Isshin-Ryu, Shorin-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, Kempo, and Uechi-Ryu.  We had four masters accept the invitation, they were Master Shimabuku Tatsuo from Isshin-Ryu, Master Nakamura from Kempo, Master Uechi Kanei from Uechi-Ryu and Master Shimabuku Eizo from Shorin-Ryu.  Master Nagamine, Shorin-Ryu from Naha, declined on the invite and sent his best.  We only had one Dojo from Goju-Ryu participate, and that was the Kin Dojo.  The position that Goju-Ryu took, was that they did not support a sport tournament.  The tournament was a great success, and the Masters were very pleased."

 

 

 

 

 

 

Q13.  Who were some of your fellow students during the time you trained with Tatsuo Shimabuku?

 

A13.  "Jim Advincula, Paul Heffernan, Dave Zaslow, Austin Long, Jim Westbrook, Dana Whitney, and Lt.  Ruhl.  Down in the Agena Dojo were Bill Blond, Louis King, Christoff, Bohoor, Robert Safreed, Bill Steigner and Russell P.  Best."

 

 

 

 

Q14.  In 1973 there was a push to unify Isshinryu, can you tell a little about that event and who attended?

 

A14.  "In 1973, Harold Long was going to unite Isshin-Ryu Karate in the States.  He invited Don Nagle, Harold Mitchum, Steve Armstrong and a host of other first generation students of the Master.  Harold Long had just got back from a trip to Okinawa, and he wanted to have a conference in Fort Worth, TX.  He called me too personally to invite me, so I attended.  At the time, I had just started up an Armed Forces Affiliation/America Okinawa Karate Association.  In support of the Master, I accepted being that was our goal as well and to unite Isshin-Ryu.  Don Nagle, Steve Armstrong, and Harold Mitchum never showed up, so basically it was a failure from the start.  In attendance was Harold Long, Joel Chandler, Glen Webb, Ed Johnson, Harry Acklin, Carl Sutherlin and myself.  With the exception of Sutherlin, we made up the first Board of Directors for the IIKA.  Within six months, I resigned my membership."

 

 

(Joel Chandler / Glen Webb / John Bartusevics / Harold Long / Harry Acklin / Ed Johnson)

 

 

 

 

Q15.  Mr.  Glenn Webb and Mr.  Steve Trotter once trained with you, can you tell us how that came to be?

 

A15.  "In 1973, I was teaching at Camp Pendleton, Ca.  with Carl Sutherlin as my Assistant Instructor.  Glenn Webb and Dick Emory arrived from Washington State where they were working as lumber-jacks.  They said that Harold Long recommended that they stop and see me and see if they could train with me.  I offered my Dojo to them both, and they ended up staying for 3 or 4 months.  They both became my friends, and I promoted Glen Webb to Go-Dan.  In 1978, while I was stationed in Okinawa, Glenn Webb, Steve Trotter, and Pete Sheldon, came to visit and train with me.  When not working out, I took them around to the various dojo's and they were able to meet and study with Kichiro Shimabuku and Angi Uezu.  The highlight of that visit was the meeting of Shimabuku Eizo, younger brother of Shimabuku Tatsuo.  His brother spoke well of his older brother.  I still to this day stay in touch with Steve Trotter, and Glenn and I used to correspond with each other up until the early 80's.  Steve Trotter by the way was later promoted to Go-Dan by Donald Bohan."

 

(Steve Trotter / John Bartusevics / Grand Master Shimabuku Eizo / Glen Webb / Pete Shelton, 1978)

 

 

 

 

Q16.  In many of the pictures youíve allowed us to use on the website, your on the microphone during various demonstrations.  Can you tell us what a standard demonstration consisted of and what was the most amazing thing youíve witnessed?

 

A16.  "Since I was the Special Services Judo/Karate coordinator for all Marines on Okinawa, I was responsible for getting the information out to them on where they could study.  One way of getting the info out was to set up demonstrations at the different Marine Camps.  This was a very effective way to encourage them to sign up for classes.  I always got a thrill when the Master would pray the evil spirits away.  He would end with a little bit of salt and a loud Kiai; it would get everybody's attention.  Another was before we would break the wood post over the forearm; the Master would pull himself up on the post while two people held it on their shoulders.  He would then hang by his legs over the post head down, and then he would put his hands out and do a sort of a flip.  He was in his mid 50's at the time, and too much showmanship was not in his serious training.  He did this, to test the strength of the wood post.  Another awesome sight was, to witness the Master doing Chatan Yara No Sai in the demo.  He was always focused, powerful, and flawless, like poetry in motion.  The audience would always give the Master a standing ovation.  It was a thrill to be with the Master when he purchased the material for the demo, since Special Services paid for this, I had to be there.  He would inspect every single red brick, roof tile, wood board, and the wood posts.  Everything had to be to his satisfaction.  He would tap and pull the bricks on the deck for the sound, he would check the boards and post for knots, and everything had to be just right.  It was a ritual that he would go through before every demonstration; it was history in the making."

 

(David Zaslow / Jim Advincula / Angi Uezu / SSGT Anderson (Athletic Sect. NCOIC) / Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku / John Bartusevics)

(1964 - This picture was taken at a karate demonstration in Makiminato, Okinawa.)

 

 

 

Q17.  Have you trained with Kichero Shimabuku, Ciso Shimabuku, Angi Uezu, Kensho Tokumura, Kikiyama, and Kinjo Chinsaku?  If so, what did you enjoy most about training with them and what were their strongest attributes?

 

A17.  "Kichiro Shimabuku - Yes, when he came back from College sometime in 1964.  It was interesting to watch the Master try to get Kichiro into Seisan from the long Shotokan karate stances when he was doing the Kata's.  Always got along well & we maintained a good relationship even to this day.  We alternated teaching for the Master many times.   

 

Ciso Shimabuku - I never worked out with Ciso, in the early 60's he must have been away from home and away to college.  However, in the 70's, before the Master passed away, we spent many visits together in social settings over my house or at the Masters house.  I was very impressed with his humble demeanor and you could tell he was a kind individual.

 

Angi Uezu - Yes, we spent a lot of time in the dojo and at demonstrations, he lived in the back of the fighting dojo in Agena.  He was another person you could not help but like, very warm and personable.  He worked as a Japanese Security Guard at the Marine Bases.  Normally, when an Officer drives up to the gates, the Gate Guard would salute all officers and wave them in.  Angi, would salute and bow, then wave me through; this was out of mutual respect.  I always liked him very much.

 

Kensho Tokumura - No, I might have seen him in the early 60's but I can't recall.

Kikiyama - Yes, as he was the Masters Assistant who taught at the northern dojo (Hamada).  He would teach three times in Hamada and two times in Agena every week.  He loved life, worked hard, and played hard.  He was a real womanizer, but we all loved him.  He was a fighter who loved to teach us the kick bag, the makiwara, and kumite.  The Master finally had to let him go, there was a disagreement over pay.  After he let Kikiyama go he asked me to step in and take Kikiyama's position.  I promised the Master that I would try but some days I had to commit myself to the other Dojo's in fulfilling my duties as Judo/Karate Coordinator.

 

Kinjo Chinsaku - Never worked out with him.  However, I had seen him at the dojo on several occasions.  Kinjo opened up his own Shorin-Ryu Karate Dojo in the next town from Agena in 1962.  I'm sure the Master was disappointed in that some of our senior Black Belts also joined his Dojo."

 

 

 

 

Q18.  You currently live in Oceanside, CA., do you see much of Mr.  A.J.  Advincula?

 

A18.  "Jim Advincula and I have been together since 1961.  When I started in Okinawa, he was a Ni-Dan and was instrumental in helping me get started the first year.  We both retired from the Marines, both married Okinawan gals, and we both retired here in Oceanside.  My wife Yasuko knows Jimís wife Mitchi, as well as I know Jim, we go way back.  I see him periodically but not that often, probably my own fault since I have not worked out for the last 15-16 years in Karate.  I started back working out in Oct.  2006 and hope to continue as long as my body will allow me."

 

 

(Jim Advincula and John Bartusevics)

(1986 - This picture was taken at AJ Advincula's Oceanside, CA Dojo.)

 

 

 

 

Q19.  What is your opinion of Kotekitai, and how much time do you recommend someone practices this?

 

A19.  "Kotekitai, itís hard to define how much an individual needs to spend on this.  I remember we always finished the basics by doing kotekitai in Okinawa and I incorporated it in our training when I ran a Dojo.  An individual might feel that he needs more of this and he could put in the extra time on the makiwara or with someone before or after class."

 

 

 

 

Q20.  What was your opinion of Karate in the U.S.  after returning stateside after your first tour in Okinawa?

 

A20.  "My first Dojo was in 1965, I just got back as a Yon-Dan.  The Karate scene was still in the early stages and developing.  I opened a dojo so that I would have a place to work out and at the same time teach some good strong karate the way it was taught to me.  Tournament and Sport Karate did not interest me; therefore I didn't stress it in the dojo.  I teach and train in Karate as strictly an Art of Self-Defense and a way of life.  For the Marines, this was what they were looking for to survive on the battlefield."

 

 

 

 

Q21.  Can you tell us a little about the following first generation students: AJ (Jim) Advincula, Louis King, Bill Blonde, Robert Safreed, Paul Heffernan, Isaac Dawson, and Russell Best.

 

A21.  "Jim Advincula - We both were stationed at Camp Hansen, I was in 3rd Tank Battalion, and Jim Advincula was in 9th Engineer Battalion, so we worked out at Hamada together.  He was instrumental in developing me in my first year.  You could always count on Sensei Advincula to participate in the demonstrations we put on for the Marines and on special occasions.

 

Louis King - Was a powerful karate-ka, prided himself on good Kumite, and always volunteered to allow someone to break a wood post over his forearms, I always obliged swinging the wood post.

 

(Louis King and John Bartusevics)

 

Bill Blond - Hard worker, got along with everyone, very easy going.  He liked to lead the basics during our workouts.  Bill and King would put on the Bo/Sai Kumite, they made it look real.  The climax would be for the master to run out there and have them stop before they killed themselves, the audience loved it.

Robert Safreed - Big, powerful, hard-driving Lieutenant, who trained at the Agena dojo.  We could tell that he wasnít a quitter and would be around for a long time.  I spent a lot of time with Bob on Kumite.

 

Paul Heffernan - My peer and best friend in Okinawa.  We both were with Tanks at Camp Hanson until I transferred to Special Services.  He also married an Okinawan gal, so we spent a lot of time together.  In fact, most of the Black Belts were married to an Okinawan.  Once we were messing around in the Dojo and Paul moved in and grabbed me and yelled Judo! I punched him and yelled Karate! He went down against the wall.  The Master had seen him and asked me what happened? I told the Master that Paul was drunk.  The Master kicked him out accusing him of drinking sake and being drunk.  We still laugh about that today.

 

Isaac Dawson - I owe him a lot.  Once the Master recommended me to replace Dawson in Special Services, he kind of greased the skids for me with the Division Special Services Officer and put in an excellent recommendation.  He had not worked out that much in 62-63, and when I replaced him, he left for the States.

 

Russell P Best - A hard working and humble karate-ka that you enjoyed being around.  I spent a lot of time with Best and he always wanted more to learn.  We put on a Demonstration for the Commandant of the Marine Corps and three other Generals.  We awarded them with Honorary Memberships in the AOKA.  Anyways, Best screwed up a kata but finished it his way, the audience could not tell, however for a week Best stayed out of my sight.  He tells me that I was upset, but I don't remember.  When I rotated, R.P.  Best volunteered to take over the Duties as the Staff Secretary for the Master, a job he did well."

 

 

 

 

Q22.  Itís well known that you spent a considerable amount of time with Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku, are there any unique or interesting stories that arenít well known that youíd like to share?

 

A22.  "Master Shimabuku Tatsuo, after each workout at the Agena Dojo would let the senior belts stay and work out more.  After a while the Master would send his wife out to the store and she would come back with a bottle of Saki.  We cherished these moments and I will never forget those moments to just sit around and listen and learn, he always leaned on his knuckles to support him while sitting.  Another humorous story was that the Master loved fried chicken.  One day he sent some chicken over to my house in Tengan and asked if my wife could fry some chicken as he will be over later for a visit/meeting with me.  Well Jim Advincula and Bill Blond showed up at my house and I invited them to stay and join us.  Well Jim and Blond both said that we could surprise the Master and make Chicken Adobe.  I said, I don't think that was a good idea, but they convinced me and said that the Master would love it.  They slaved over the stove all afternoon.  The Master arrived later and found out that there is no fried chicken but instead chicken adobe, he was fit to be tied.  My wife said that the Master was really upset, however we all sat down and had a pleasant meal.  Thanks to Jim and Blond, Ha-Ha.  Another good one, I would get Special Services permission to take the Judo/Karate Sensei's deep sea fishing every 6-months.  The Marine Corps had a huge fishing boat that we would use for the different Marine units and take them out all day.  I picked up all the Okinawan Instructors at their homes with our Bus, we also picked up food and soda's that special services provided.  We spent all day out in the Ocean and the Sensei's had a ball with a good catch of fish.  I don't care to fish so I drank some beer and just enjoyed myself with this once in a lifetime experience.  All the Judo Sensei's with The Pres.  Tamaki were present, Master Shimabuku Tatsuo and his senior Okinawan belts there and of course Master Uechi and his senior belts from Uechi-Ryu, all total about 25.When we docked, I was rounding up everybody for the trip home, when my wife said that the Sensei's were stacking a bunch of fish together for me.  My wife was overjoyed and would not let me refuse.  I found out later that Master Shimabuko and Master Uechi suggested that idea."

 

 

 

 

Q23.  Did you ever get to meet/train with Taira Shinken?

 

A23.  "No, I might have seen Master Taira Shinken in the dojo in the early 60's, but can't recall."

 

 

 

 

Q24.  There are approximately 15 people claiming 10th Dan in Isshinryu Karate-Do, what is your opinion of this?

 

A24.  "I tried twice in my lifetime to help unify Isshin-Ryu Karate, too no avail, so why does that not surprise me.  We got about twenty different Isshin-Ryu Organizations through out the states, so why not that many red belts.  We lost the meaning of our belt ranking system somewhere along the lines of trying to be top dog.  Itís not the belt that makes a Sensei, itís the experience, knowledge, dedication and loyalty that one has in his style.  Having respect from the students and peers alike and more importantly a path of legitimacy in his belt promotions.  No legitimacy, no respect, and definitely not from other styles and organizations outside of Isshin-Ryu Karate.  I was led to believe from the Master, that you were authorized to promote up to only one rank below your rank, never equal rank.  It never made sense to me how a Board of Directors in an organization could promote someone to a higher belt than anybody on the Board had.  This was done by one of our original pioneers, not sure who but it opened up a flood gate."

 

 

 

 

Q25.  I have been told that you and your wife had a more personal friendship with Soke and his wife, can you tell us about it?  Also, can you tell us a little about Uto Shimabuku (Sokeís wife)?

 

A25.  "My wife Yasuko and I, became very close to the Master and his wife Uto, we loved and respected them both dearly.  We spent a lot of time together in the Dojo and out of it.  Uto would advise and counsel my wife on how to deal with a possessed Karate-Ka, who devoted all his spare time to Karate.  Uto would tell her life experiences to my wife so my wife would be able to cope with similar situations.  I also remember, one day the Master was over my house in Tengan visiting with us, when he noticed that I did not have a T.V.  set.  I was only a Lance Corporal which is one rank above PFC, my pay then was about $79.00 a month.  Anyway, the next day he took both of us into Agena and we went T.V.  shopping, the Master co-signed for my loan so we could buy the set.  My wife and I will never forget his kindness.  The master and his wife took us under their wing and always watched over us.  On many occasions when I had moments to spare at work, I would drive out to the Dojo in the morning and just visit.  Uto and the Master would welcome me and Uto would always pour the tea with sweet brown sugar pieces to taste.  More than once I dozed off and Uto would have a straw mat for me to rest on.  Uto Shimabuku was very kind and considerate, a perfect match for the Master, they had so much in common.  Before we left Okinawa in 1990 and I was heading back to the states to retire from the Marines after 30 years.  We visited Kichiro Shimabuku's house, Uto was living there as well.  My wife Yasuko spent all night chatting with Uto while I was upstairs with Kichiro Sensei tasting some of his good Saki.  I was not surprised that Uto lived till 100 years old; she was a strong person and a tough old gal.  Okinawa women have a reputation for living a long life; my wife's grandmother lived till 104.  We miss them both, and feel like we lost members of our family."

 

 

 

 

Q26.  When did Isshinryu officially get recognized as a system of karate in Okinawa?  Can you add anything to this question?

 

A26.  "I think that in 1968 the All Okinawa Karate and Kobudo council of Karate Masters accepted Master Shimabuku Tatsuo and the Isshin-Ryu System.  I feel that the beginning started when the Master hosted the First Island Wide Karate Championship in 1964, and having a student of his win the tournament didn't hurt either.  Also, his two tours to the States '64 and '66 helped clinch his status as a serious and legitimate Karate Master of Isshin-Ryu."

 

(P.M. Dierks, Kempo Karate / Black Belt Over-all Champion John Bartusevics, Isshin-Ryu Karate /  J.E. Griffey, Uechi-Ryu Karate. )

(This picture was taken at the First Island Wide Karate Championship in 1964)

 

 

 

 

Q27.  Now that your retired, how do you spend your spare time (if you have any)?

 

A27.  "My wife is disabled with COPD, so a lot of my time is spent as a caregiver.  However, I still find time to ride my Harley Electric Glide.  I belong to the Leathernecks Motorcycle Club and the Patriot Guard Riders (PGR).  Leathernecks support the Serviceman and their families, and the PGR attends all the memorial services and funerals for our fallen hero's and pay respect to them and their families.  Now that I started to work out again (which I always find time to do), I find myself busy with Karate practice again.  I sometimes train early in the morning and sometimes as late as 11:00 P.M.  I also started my granddaughter Moeka who just turned 7 in Shorin-Ryu under Master Tadashi Yamashitaís Organization.  It's truly a pleasure watching her progress and I work with her at home.  I also have a 1947 Mercury Coup that I take down to the coast about once a week.  Whenever I can, I like to spend time with my family.  My son is a Special Agent with [ICE] Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security.  He is stationed up the coast in San Francisco and when he makes it down here for a visit, we go riding together.  He just bought a 2006 Harley Street Glide when he came back from Iraq.  When I was serving my country for 30 years, I placed the Marine Corps as priority one.  Now that I'm retired, I'm making up all that lost time with my family."

 

(John Bartusevics' 1947 Mercury Coup)

 

 

 

 

Q28.  Who were some of the Okinawan students you trained with?

 

A28.  "There were about 5-7 high school boys that worked out with us in the Hamada Dojo, and about 7-10 Okinawaís in the Agena Dojo.  Unfortunately, I can't remember any of their names; it was such a long time ago."

 

 

 

 

Q29.  While training with Soke over the years, how did training regimen change? Also, when did Kobudo really start to evolve in Isshinryu.

 

A29.  "While training in Hamada or Agena, the training was almost always consistent depending on your belt.  Warm ups, basic punches, blocks, and kicks.  We kicked the bag, with side kicks, spin back kicks and jump side kicks.  We spent a lot of time practicing kata, and practiced our kumite with and without protective gear.  Repetition, repetition, and more repetition, we practiced until it was reflex.  If you were serious about working out then you got there early and you left late.  After formal classes [2-hours] you did makiwara training, kicked the bag or engaged in kumite.  In Hamada, you could stay as long as you wanted.  In Agena, where the Master lived, you got thrown out when the Master wanted to retire for the evening.  In 1968 and later at Camp Hansen Gym, before they moved into a Quonset hut and the Hamada Dojo was shut down.  Students did their best without makiwaras, kick bags and most importantly could not get training with Okinawan peers.  If you had a car, you could get to Agena often.  However, most young Marines did not have cars.  Kobudo has always been relatively the same; it depended on how many months you were in Okinawa.  Your unit assignment dictated how often you were able to train.  To learn all the Kobudo Katas would normally require you to stay longer than your normal tour.  In 1962 and 63, Tank Battalion would always go to Mt.  Fuji, Japan for training.  We would stay anywhere from 1 to 3 months.  There were about 8-10 tankers that were training in Isshin-Ryu and we would get together and work out in the cold and on the ash.  We had a Lt.  named Ruhl and he was the senior belt, so he took us under his wing and we were able to continue karate until we got back to the island."

 

 

(Grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku and John Bartusevics)

 

 

 

 

Q30.  Do you have any preference in the type of wood used to make the Bo and Tonfa?

 

A 30.  "Okinawan red oak has always been my favorite.  It's a hard and solid wood, and works well in kumite."

 

 

 

 

Q31.  Which of the weapons katas is your favorite and why?

 

A31.  "I never really had a favorite one; I tried to place equal time on all of them.  I loved to do the Bo-Sai Kumite, and tended to always have the Sai.  Maybe that was because you ended up taking the Bo away in the end."

 

 

(John Bartusevics and Gary Johnson - Bo-Sai Kumite)

 

 

 

 

Q32.  There has been some question as to the origins of the Kyan No Sai kata, what is your recollection of this form, and do you practice it?

 

A32.  "I spent 6 years studying with Master Shimabuku Tatsuo and I can't remember that Kata.  Since I came back from retirement in Karate, I was surprised to see that listed on a lot of web-sites.  I spoke with Sensei Harold Mitchum and Sensei Jim Advincula and got some background of what they can recall of Kyan No Sai.  That there was a kata called Short-Sai but it no longer was taught after the Master learned Chatan Yara No Sai.  It seems that some of the old students, Okinawan and American remembered that kata and started to teach it again."

 

 

 

 

Q33.  Did you have any dealings with Harold Long, Don Nagle, Steve Armstrong, and Harold Mitchum?

 

A33.  "Unlike Don Nagle and Steve Armstrong, Harold Long did not have any correspondence with the Master in the early 60's.  I got to finally meet him in 1974 in Fort Worth, TX.  He had just got back from visiting Master Shimabuku Tatsuo in Okinawa.  Great guy, I liked him right away.  We formed a friendship from letters, and before that first meeting, Glen Webb and Dick Emory (both his students) had studied with me all summer long in 1973 and had gone back to Knoxville with good reports.  I joined his IIKA when it first began and it was my understanding that all the pioneers would also be members.  I was put on the first Board of Directors and later found out that everybody was not on board, so I dropped out soon after.  I had a lot of respect for him (Long) and never heard anything bad about him.

 

Don Nagle - I never got to meet him.  He was well respected in the U.S., and was well known in Okinawa.  He wrote often to the Master after 1964, that was my first contact with him.  He always showed his support for the Master and the AOKA.  I also sent him a lot of gear, Sai's, Fighting gear, patches, etc.  We formed a mutual respect and friendship thru correspondence. 

 

Steve Armstrong - We all thought that Steve Armstrong was dead in Okinawa.  After the Master got back from his first trip to the USA in 1964, Steve Armstrong called the Master on the phone.  Two weeks later he followed up with his first of many letters, and that was my introduction to him.  I got to meet him twice, first time in late 60's in Long Beach, Ca.  and the second time in Oceanside in 1975.  He came down to have me join his Association, I humbly declined.  I stated to him that I would reconsider if all the original pioneers joined that as we know never happened.  I was on good terms with Steve Armstrong, and we remained friends.

 

Harold Mitchum - He was a career Marine also, so we spent a lot of time on Okinawa.  When I started in Isshin-Ryu, Harold Mitchum was a legend to us new guys, we all looked up to him and respected him.  When I became the Special Services Judo/Karate Coordinator in 1963, Harold Mitchum started to work out with Kinjo Chinsaku over in Tairegawa.  I got to see him one more time after that in 1964 before he left the Island.  In 1963, he was a member of a Country Western band that would play at the different base clubs.  We would rent Motorcycles and go to where he was playing and visit him.  I always admired and respected him, even to this day.  I have been in touch with him and hope to continue that.

 

We owe these four original Pioneers a lot because they are responsible for starting Isshin-Ryu Karate in the USA.  If you are in Isshin-Ryu, you can trace your beginning back to one of the Pioneers, unless you trained directly with the Master."

 

 

 

 

Q34.  How well did you know Don Bohan?

 

A34.  "I really did not get to know Don Bohan that well.  Both of us being career Marines and in Isshin-Ryu it was easy to know where he was at and what he was doing.  When he was in Okinawa, I wasn't and when I was there, he wasn't.  My first and only time I ever met him was in Vietnam in 1967.  I had come out of the field and was on my way to Okinawa for some much needed R&R, my wife was there and I was anxious to see my first born daughter.  I had to bum a ride on a Helo to take me to DaNang Air Base.  I had to stop at MAG-39 to get that helo, Don Bohan was stationed there and I made time to visit him.  He was glad to see me and we talked about Isshin-Ryu Karate while we drank his beer.  He was kind of comfortable there and I was a little envious, but the Marine Corps made me a tanker and thatís what I was.  When it was time for me to get on the Helo, we wished each other well and a safe completion of our tours in Vietnam and hoped to see each other again someday.  In the early 70's, I received some correspondence from Don Bohan announcing his tournaments, but that was the last that I heard from him.  He was well respected in the Isshin-Ryu community and talking to many students of his, they also had nothing but good thinks to say about him." 

 

 

 

 

Q35.  As Sokeís staff secretary, did you correspond with some of the students for the Master after they left the island?

 

A35.  "I did all of the correspondence for the Master while I was the Judo/Karate Coordinator and the Staff Secretary for Shimabuku Tatsuo from mid 1963-April 1965.  If he received a letter sent directly to his address, he would give it to me to get translated with our secretaries at Special Services.  When he answered them, we just reversed the process.  Most cases, I would advise the former students to address it to me.  This way it saved money and was more convenient.  In most cases the requests were time consuming.  They wanted charters, patches, AOKA certificates, the Isshin-Ryu Goddess on silk copied off the original, weapons, pins and fighting gear.  All this took a lot of time, a lot of running around and a lot of coordination.  However, I did not mind, it was a pleasure working closely with the Master and watching his AOKA prosper.  It was interesting to read letters from the Pioneers, in their writings they are all trying to correct things that are wrong in the USA, trying to unite with their take charge attitudes, typical tactics of the Marines that they were.  I respected them all, they all had the same ideas and goals that they were trying to accomplish and that was to spread Isshin-Ryu Karate and to unify it with the Master.  However, Marines do have big egos, so maybe that was what prevented them from working with each other.  When you put a bunch of leaders together, nobody wants to be second best.  We still have the same problem today, we have some 20 organizations in the Isshin-Ryu System, and everybody wants to be the top dog.  We need to be less negative of each other and be more respectful towards one another and each other."

 

 

 

 

Q36.  There seems to be a heated discussion in regards to the proper name of the Isshinryu Goddess, what was your recollection of the name used?

 

A36.  "We just called it the Isshin-Ryu goddess.  I called Paul Heffernan and asked him the same question and he gave me the same answer.  I have in my possession documents referring to the goddess by both names, Me Gami and Mizu Gami."

 

 

 

 

Q37.  Is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?

 

A37.  "Sensei Harold Mitchum, Sensei Jim Advincula, and I have spent the most time with Master Shimabuku Tatsuo [American].  There is a lot of credit and praise placed upon the four Original Pioneers.  However, I would place Sensei Jim Advincula among them.  We should be honored that Sensei Mitchum and Sensei Advincula are still with us, we owe them a lot.  Both have contributed greatly towards the growth of Isshin-Ryu Karate in the States.  I have the utmost respect for both Sensei's.  I would also include Sensei Kichiro Shimabuku and Sensei Angi Uezu as having played an important part in the growth of Isshin-Ryu through out the world and can credit them with Isshin-Ryuís success."

 

(1964 - This picture was taken at the Master Shimabuku's house after his first trip to the United States.)

(L-R First Row) - Unknown / Yego Kaneshi / Master Tatsuo Shimabuku / Kichiro Shimabuku / Mr. Yogi / Uto Shimabuku (Master's Wife)

(L-R Second Row) - Unknown / Unknown / Angi Uezu and son (L-R Third Row) - IHA / Unknown / Taba / Unknown / Unknown (L-R Fourth Row) - John Bartusevics / Louise King / Bill Blond

 

 

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