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"An Interview with Grand Master Harold Mitchum"
(This interview was done both electronically and by several phone conversations. )
Q1. Can you give us a little background on yourself?
A1. I was born in Aiken County, SC in 1933 during those harsh years of the Depression. In my part of the country were the days of outhouses with corncobs, (you thought that was only a joke) and newspapers, but never toilet tissue.
My mother passed away when I was 2 1/2 years old, with two brothers, one about 6 months old and the other 4 1/2 years old and a sister seven years old. My dad really struggled to keep us kids together, with some of us staying with different relatives at various times. Because of my dad going from town to town, due to scarcity of work, dragging only me along most of the time, my sister, older brother and I only obtained a scant bit of formal education. Because of the Military I was able to obtain my High School GED and attended college at Albany JR College after retiring from the military.
I'll fast forward on past those harsh days until I turned 15 years of age and considered myself fortunate enough to land a job as a sheet metal apprentice, my pay was a whopping forty-five cents an hour. This was in 1948 before the seventy- five-cent minimum wage law came into effect.
I joined the SC National Guard at age 16. 51st Military Police Company in Cayce, S.C.
At age 17, I was driving a taxi in Columbia, S.C. At age 18, went to August, GA and got a job in a sheet metal shop, making union wages at $2.35 an hour.
I joined the Marine Corps in Augusta, GA at age 19 (1953). I Attended boot camp at Parris Island, SC and after boot camp, proceeded to Camp Lejeune, NC for carpentry school. I then deployed to Korea assigned to A Co 1st Engineer Bn, 1st Marine Division. I was later discharged at Camp Pendleton, CA in 1956.
I quickly became disenchanted with civilian life and missed being in the Marine Corps so I re-enlisted 93 days later and off to Camp Lejeune, NC for infantry training. After Infantry training I held various job assignments such as the boat house non commissioned officer in charge, motor transport maintenance, then off to Okinawa in March 1958.
March 23rd of 1958, I enrolled in Karate at the Agena Dojo with Master Shimabuku.
Some of the highlights of my military service include, one tour of duty in Korea (during that conflict) with 1st Marine Division, three tours of duty with extensions in Okinawa (totaling 71/2 years) and two tours of duty in Vietnam. I also served as Chief Drill Instructor on Parris Island. I retired with 23 ˝ years Military Service in 1973 as a 1st Sgt. in Albany, GA where I opened my dojo and with the urging of the late Major Ralph Bove, US Army, (former Marine Sgt.) started the United Isshinryu Karate Association.
Some of my martial arts career highlights include:
(Harold Mitchum -USMC)
1968 The late Ed Parker and I refereed the final matches at Steve Armstrong's Northwest International Karate Championship Tournament.
1982 Inducted in the Isshin-Ryu Hall of Fame.
1982 Featured in Who's Who in Karate 1982 Edition
2000 Recognized as Living USA Isshinryu Pioneer by the United States Isshinryu Karate Association
2000 Presented a Certificate proclaiming April 29th as Master Harold M. Mitchum day by the city of Anderson, SC for his dedication to the art of karate and visit to the city.
2000 Inducted into International Martial Arts Hall of Fame as Living Legend of the Year
2004 Presented a certificate by the International Isshinryu Karate Association Board of Directors recognizing Harold M. Mitchum as a 10th Dan and the Senior leader in Isshinryu Karate.
2007 Presented the National Treasure Award by the Karate International Association of
(Harold Mitchum - "finger-style" picking the guitar)
Last, but not least, is my hobby of "finger-style" picking the guitar. I started trying to learn to pick the guitar at 15 years of age with 2 formal guitar lessons. Most is self-taught with a God given talent of an ear for music. My idol has always been Chet Atkins and I have tried to pattern my style after him. In the early 1990's, I was most fortunate to attend a few of the Chet Atkins Appreciation Weeks in Nashville. That is probably the largest gathering of guitar pickers in the world. What an experience and honor. At one time Chet came and sat down by me in the audience during his break while someone else performed. During his autograph session he signed my "Chet Atkins Gibson" guitar. Some of my most treasured items are photos taken with Chet and my collection of his LP albums. I have checked on the internet and found I have a copy of most every album he has had produced.
(Harold Mitchum - "My idol has always been Chet Atkins")
Q2. There has been much speculation as to the actual date that Isshinryu Karate was created, what is your recollection of this?
A2. I doubt if anyone knows exactly when Master Shimabuku began formulating his theories and making changes to the katas and basics he had learned in Shorin & Goju. We do know though that it was perhaps several years before he gave his Isshinryu Karate an official birthday. The actual birthday of our style is what seems to be the controversy,
which is January 15, 1956. The document I have given to many high ranking Isshinryu people clearly establishes the exact birthday. This document Master Shimabuku gave to me personally to have translated copied and passed out to all Military Bases in close proximity to the Agena Dojo. I still have the originals in my possession.
**NOTE** Grand Master Mitchum sent us a copy of the document he references in this question. It has been added at the bottom of this document in it's entirety.
Q3. Isshinryu Karate-ka have argued for literally decades as to the name of the goddess shown prominently on the Isshinryu patch. What do you call her, and who told you this name?
A3. In all the time I spent training in Isshinryu I never heard Master Shimabuku refer to the Goddess by any other name than MIZU GAMI. I never heard him or any other person in the dojo utter the word Me Gami. Master Shimabuku told me the name Mizu Gami. If I were to see an exact replica of our figurine standing on dry ground, (which I never have) I would perhaps refer to it as a Me Gami, which would be correct. This I know, because one of my senior Karate students, Daniel Holloway, 8th Dan, who speaks and writes the Japanese language very fluently related the following story to me. While traveling in Japan a few years ago, and riding through a mountainous area on a bus, the Japanese gentleman sitting beside him pointed to a statue on a hillside which resembled our Goddess and said "Me-Gami". Therefore, technically speaking, Me-Gami would be correct. Historically speaking Mizu Gami is and should always be the only name we speak when we refer to our Goddess. Why? Because Master Shimabuku said it.
Q4A. Since Karate was a new endeavor for the naturally aggressive Marines, were there a lot of injuries at the Agena dojo? Did you ever see Master Shimabuku hurt any of the students?
Q4B. How did Master Shimabuku and the students at the Agena dojo deal with challenges from outsiders?
A4A. At the times when I was training at the Dojo, we always wore the Kendo Protective gear when fighting. It was almost impossible to seriously injure wearing this type gear. Only an occasional hurt leg from blocking, or a few times a semi unconscious blow occurred from a good chin punch, but nothing serious.
A4B. Master Shimabuku never hurt anyone to my knowledge. I remember once though when He told me "I can make you do anything with these two fingers (showing me his right index finger and thumb), then asked "you think so"? I said laughingly "I no think so Sensei" He suddenly grabbed my upper lip with these two fingers and commenced walking me across the Dojo and Sensei laughing "now what you think"? I said "OK OK Sensei I think you can do."
I never knew of anyone coming to the dojo challenging any of our students. I only remember one incident when an Isshinryu student from the states came to the dojo one evening, fresh off the ship, proudly strutting into the dojo and asked me "is the Master around"? (referring to Master Shimabuku). Sensei had gone to take Steve Armstrong on a sayonara party and left me in charge of the dojo. I relayed that info to the individual. He told me his name and the name of his sensei in the states. Soon after donning his Gi, he said he would like to kumite with some one. I told him that perhaps he should warm up a little first. After a few minutes, he said "I'm ready". I asked him “what rules are you used to when fighting”? He said, no protective gear! I told him our rules, but allowed a 3-point no gear match w/very light contact to head & body, no groin & backside contact. He lasted 2 to 1 and knew very well that he had been well beaten by a green belt (he was a Shodan). Armstrong tells this story in the book "Isshinryu Karate"
(Harold Mitchum working out at Master Tatsuo Shimabuku's Agena Dojo, Okinawa)
Q5. It's rumored that you once broke a 2"x4" board in the Agena dojo, could you tell us about that?
A5. I had been training in the dojo for about four months, and I always made it a part of my workout to train on the makiwara. I would punch and kick about 150-200 times each hand and foot. I believe it was one early Sunday afternoon. I had been kicking the makiwara quite a while and was about to finish up. I had no thought at all about breaking the 2"x4", I only thought to kick real hard on the last kick. But to my surprise and Master Shimabuku’s also, the board broke with a real sharp “Crack”. Master Shimabuku was sitting on the floor of the dojo, in the Gi changing area, reading the newspaper. He threw down the paper, jumped up and exclaimed, "aksamio"! I said, "gomenisai Sensei". He said "Oh no, joto, number one! He seemed to think that it was a big deal, or feat that I had broken the board. I thought that maybe it was ready to be broken from having been kicked on so many times by so many students. Several times after that little incident I heard Master Shimabuku say to others "Mitchum kicks, you die." The Okinawans really believed him because when sensei would have an Okinawan to Kumite with me for a demonstration they would say to me "Mitchum, you take it easy, ok?
Q6A. Many of the early pioneers of Isshinryu and Karate in general, advocated Tameshiwari (board/brick breaking) in their training and teaching. Did Master Shimabuku do much of this personally and did he promote breaking amongst his students?
Q6B. Also, what are your feelings about this type of training?
A6A. (A) Master Shimabuku did no board breaking whatsoever. I'm sure though that he could have if he had chosen to. He only purchased boards & bricks to be used at demonstrations. Normally, Sensei never purchased these two items to practice on. All building material was expensive even in those long ago days. He expected students to do their training for breaking on the makiwara. In most cases makiwara training was sufficient enough to enable students to break two to four boards and one or two bricks. However, there were times when a black belt failed to break boards or bricks, not so much from improper makiwara training or insufficient callous, but most probably from unfavorable mental attitude.
A6B. (B) Master Shimabuku, as stated always purchased boards and bricks for demonstrations only. He would rarely but occasionally purchase a few extra for those designated to break at demos to practice on. This brings to mind the first time I was scheduled to kick break four boards at a demo. Master Shimabuku had four boards for me to practice breaking. Someone held the boards, I positioned myself and kicked, nothing happened, my foot ached a little. I said, "no can do Sensei". I thought I had given it my best shot. But this was not long after I had kicked and broke the makiwara 2"x4" board. So I guess Sensei knew my capabilities more so than I. Master Shimabuku looked at me sternly and said, "Mitchum no, you can do, now, kick again more hard". So I figured, hell if he knows I can, then damn it, I can. So I summoned more determination and broke the boards. He wanted students to make a good showing at demonstrations.
I personally do not think it is in the best interest of the students to train hard on the makiwara in order to be able to break boards or do severe bodily harm to an opponent. There are two reasons why I say this.
1. In order to be able to break boards and not skin up a persons knuckles, he must pound the makiwara over a long period of time in order to condition his knuckles. By doing so the knuckles become enlarged and calloused to the point of not looking very good in public, and knuckles looking grotesque it makes the student look like a show off.
2. To illustrate, Kinjo Chinsaku had the best set of karate knuckles I had ever seen when I was training with him. But he was a businessman and was expected to wear a suit quite often. He told me that people would look at him kind of askance when they noticed his knuckles. He said that some day he would have them taken off. When I left Okinawa in 1964 Kinjo still had those fine looking knuckles but when I went back for a visit in 1999 there was no trace of those fine set of knuckles. I don't know if he had them taken off or just not pounding the makiwara caused then to just slowly vanish after 36 years. Mas Oyama stated in his book "What is Karate" that he had two students, one he had trained on the makiwara for two years, the other to not work on the makiwara. He tested them both after two years. The one who had not trained could break just as many boards as the one that had trained on the makiwara (probably skinned his knuckles though)
Q7. When did you first start teaching Karate in the U.S.?
A7. I think about mid 1965, I come back from Okinawa. In Oct. 1964, some 2nd Lt. from another unit was sent to me by a Marine Sergeant acquaintance of mine to ask me if I would start a dojo and teach Karate. I found a place in Carlsbad, Ca. where an Oriental was teaching judo three days a week, so we shared the rent and me and the other sergeant taught karate 2 days per week. It was not long before I was sent to Camp Lejeune for 13 weeks of school. The other Marine called me a couple of weeks later and said he was closing the karate portion because he had orders to go to Vietnam. So it was only a short period for karate in Carlsbad. I retired from the USMC in 1973, and opened my dojo in Albany, Ga. in mid '75. The dojo was open about 20 years . My three sons, James T. Albert Leon and Stephen A. grew up in the dojo and became very proficient Black Belts.
Q8. Who was your first Black Belt?
A8. My son James Tatsuo was my first black belt. I only promoted 23 Black Belts in the 20 years the dojo was open.
Interviewers note; James Tatsuo Mitchum is a fellow Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer who has proudly served his Naval career in the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) community.
Q9. What are some of the standards that you encourage Black Belts to have and maintain?
1. Maintain proficiency in all the basics, and at least the empty hand katas.
2. Standards of fairness in all dealings with fellow human beings.
3. Try to follow as many of the Golden rules as humanly possible.
4. Always remember that it is not who is right that is most important, but what is right that counts most.
Q10. You spent a considerable amount of time training with Kinjo Chinsaku Sensei, how was his teachings different from the Hombu dojo? Did you train in Isshinryu at his dojo?
A10. Kinjo Sensei stressed training in the very basics. Punches, blocking and kicking many many times. He never taught Isshinryu, however, he did learn Isshinryu from Master Shimabuku, but never chose to continue training in the art, only Shorin-Ryu. I learned several of the basic forms from Kinjo.
Q11. Were you the only American student of Kinjo Chinsaku? If not, who else trained at the dojo?
A11. When I started w/Sensei Kinjo, there was only one other Okinawan studying with him, and no Americans. I trained about 9 months, and during that time no one else. He never asked me to bring anyone, and I guess I was a little selfish for not wanting to share him with others. He was very wealthy according to Okinawan standards, so he didn't need any money. His home dojo was very small and could comfortably only accommodate about three at most. Kinjo did build a larger dojo in Tairagawa, about a mile from Master Shimabuku's dojo in Agena. Sometime after I left Okinawa, Joe Lewis, the famous heavy weight karate champion began training there with Kinjo. I don't know of any others, but most probably there were.
Q12. Do you know of any of Master Shimabuku's students ever fatally injuring anyone?
A12. I only know of one Okinawan whom Master Shimabuku told me about that killed another local with a single punch to the chest. He was incarcerated for a month or so. Master Shimabuku told me that he obtained several hundred signatures to a petition attesting to the impeccable character of his student and was very fortunate in obtaining a release.
Q13. What kind of relationship did you have with Master Shimabuku? Did he have a sense of humor? Did he express frustration in the dojo? If so, how?
A13. Master Shimabuku and I became very close after about my first six months at the dojo. I was invited to his home on several occasions, and he also came to mine several times. He asked for my help in resolving problems with special services a couple of times concerning his pay.
(A) He had a very good sense of humor. At parties he would sometimes play the Samesan, and even become happy and dance at times. I came in the dojo one evening and he was alone watching TV (wrestling) and just laughing up a storm at some of their antics.
(B) He seemed mildly frustrated at a demo once when he noticed one of his senior Okinawan students backstage had a noticeable bulge in the pelvis area. He walked over to the student and flipped him on the bulge area with the back tips of his fingers and said nai (no) the student said doishite (why). Master Shimabuku looked sternly at him, flipped him again a little harder and said again a little louder nai. The student was only going to perform a kata. If he had been scheduled to Kumite Sensei would not have made him remove the groin cap from underneath his Gi bottom. In fact during that early time, when we fought we wore the very wide and cumbersome metal groin protective apparatus on the outside of our Gi bottom. Master Shimabuku may have thought protruding pelvis area looked lewd. I never observed Master Shimabuku being frustrated in the dojo.
(C) On one other occasion I remember when we were at a staff NCO club for a demonstration and about ten of us were sitting in a very narrow dressing room, five against each side of the room facing each other. The Master of Ceremonies was outside addressing the audience and extolling the many benefits of studying karate. He really had a great gift for speaking to crowds, and was laying it on thick about Master Shimabuku's glamorous background and the history of karate in general. Try to visualize the setting. We students sitting on the floor in the dressing room, with just enough room for the Sensei to walk back and forth between us, no air conditioning or fans, and all of us sweating. The MC was merely trying to properly condition the audience for Master Shimabuku's appearance and our performance, and was doing a great job, but Sensei and all of us felt that he was taking too long. This went on for about 20 or 30 minutes. The sad thing is that Master Shimabuku had no idea what the MC was saying to the crowd. Remember now, when an Okinawan says something is number one that means very good, but number ten means that the event is very, very bad. When Master Shimabuku had about all he could stand he blurted out "Karate number 10, bullshit number one." We couldn't help it, so we all burst out laughing. Then my being senior I got control of myself and reminded the troops that Master Shimabuku was only implying that the MC was putting more emphasis on what he was saying to the crowd (#1) and placing our performance in #10 position. The Master of Ceremonies came to be highly respected by Sensei and myself as well. The Master of Ceremonies was none other than my good friend "Steve Armstrong".
Q14. What are some of the more common injuries associated with Sanchin kata? Have you ever heard of someone injuring himself or herself practicing Sanchin kata?
A14. I have only known one person to injure himself practicing Sanchin Kata. Steve Armstrong got hemorrhoids from improper tensing and had to be hospitalized in Okinawa. I know of no other type injuries.
Q15. It's been said that Kikuyama had a reputation as being a tough individual in and out of the dojo and that he was a member of the Okinawa mafia, do you have any information to support this? Also, did you ever engage in kumite with him?
A15. Kikuyama was a tough individual, and larger than the average Okinawan. I knew him quite well. I bested him in Kumite twice. He never showed for a demo in Naha where we were scheduled for a third time. He later told me "Mitchum I could beat you if your legs were not so Damn long." "I said, no Kikuyama, the reason you can't beat me is because you are too Damn slow! Kikuyama worked in the tire shop at Camp Butler and was very strong. I personally don't think he would have done that kind of hard labor if he was a member of the Okinawan Mafia. Most students were simply afraid to kumite with him and used the mafia as an excuse not to.
Q16. In many of the group pictures of Master Shimabuku and his students they are seen in what appears to be a social setting. Did Master Shimabuku socialize with his students often?
A16. When I was on the Island, after every demonstration we always had a party where we ate and had plenty of cheer. I remember once at a party house in Agena when we had partied very late, kept pooling our money several times until we were all broke. Master Shimabuku tried to get the Madam to extend us credit for a few more rounds with the promise to pay up tomorrow but the house madam would not. So we all reluctantly had to depart. Sensei was always game for a good steak and some beer, sake or good whiskey. I had a good friend at the mess hall that would always drop me off a case of steaks for the occasion.
Q17. You were friendly with both Harold Long and Steve Armstrong, what was your relationship like with Don Nagle?
A17. Harold Long had about 2 weeks left at the dojo when I came there March 23, 1958. Steve Armstrong came during my 2nd tour. He and I were instrumental in forming the A.O.K.A. He and I became very close friends. Mr. Long and I became close friends after I retired from the corps and started my dojo in Albany, Ga.
Don Nagle and I never met personally but I had spoke with him several times on the phone a few years before he passed away. I have nothing but the highest respect and admiration for all three of these pioneers that did such a great job of putting Isshinryu Karate in the forefront along side of the other traditional karate styles. I think that even though Don and I never personally met, he must have had a dream where in his dream he came to Okinawa and met up in the dojo we probably had a few rounds in the local bars, then went back to the dojo and put on the fighting gear. Don probably had a few more drinks (in his dream) than I did because He told Dennis Fink at the 1st Tribute to a Masters tournament honoring Master Shimabuku "tell Mitch when you see him I owe him one for breaking my nose in Okinawa". Even if it was only a dream I never the less took it as a compliment, because from what I've heard breaking Don Nagle's nose would not have been an easy task.
(Harold Long, Tom Lewis, Harry Acklin, Harold Mitchum)
Q18. How long did you have to train in Master Shimabuku's dojo before you were allowed to engage in kumite?
A18. There was no specific required amount of time training before being allowed to kumite, or any certain belt requirement. A person's demonstrated ability, agility, and co-ordination seemed to be the only ones Master Shimabuku paid attention to. A white belt could kumite with a green belt if Sensei thought that he could do fairly well. A green belt could spar with a black belt who had demonstrated those basic requirements.
Q19. Did you train in any other dojo's or in any other styles of karate while stationed in Okinawa? If so, how far did you go and what was learned?
A19. Other than training with Sensei Kinjo, I only stayed about a month at Sensei Odo's Kempo dojo. I had a Marine buddy training there, and he invited me to go with him one evening. I didn't particularly care for their style. I was very much satisfied with Isshinryu. I was not very impressed with even their basics, so I can't say that I learned anything that I wanted to keep.
Q20. What does your training routine consist of and how often do you train?
A20. I don't train as hard or as much as I used to since I am now 74.5, but I still keep up fairly well. I usually do something everyday five days a week. I do stretches as soon as my feet hit the floor about 5:30 am. Then I get my two dogs ready for a one mile walk round trip. Then I go for a two sometimes four miles walk alone. When I return I take a shower, and sometimes a ˝ hour nap. Next I eat a light breakfast. About 10:30 I go to my garage dojo and finish my stretching and strengthening exercises. I vary the remainder of my training throughout the week. If today I intend to work on kata, I work on kata only and not the other charts. I may pick only 4 katas and work only on those 4. I sometimes work all the katas 2 or 3 times, other times I may work one kata six times or more. Some days I work the charts 5 times each exercise (except push ups & set ups) I never go to what I consider the extreme anymore. I sometimes do 50 sit-ups 6 times and I don't consider that extreme. I do keep a daily record of my training so that I can look back and know if I have severely neglected any specific area.
Q21. As a career Marine, did you often run into other career Marines who were also students of O'Sensei Shimabuku? Men like Bartusevics, Bohan, Best, Advincula, Steigner, Van Lenten, and Dawson?
A21. Of those mentioned, Issac Dawson is the one career Marine that became a very close friend and with whom I kept in contact with through the years. Dawson trained with me in the second dojo in Okinawa. He also replaced Ralph Bove as the judo & karate coordinator for special services. Bartusevics, I knew briefly in Okinawa and he was the one that replaced Dawson as the judo & karate coordinator for special services. I never personally ran into John since leaving Okinawa in 1964. William Steigner trained with me in my Albany, GA. dojo for several months prior to retiring from the Marine Corps. I never knew him in Okinawa. I spoke with Bill on the phone a couple of times after he retired and we were swapping e-mails until we somehow lost contact. I never saw Bohan after leaving Okinawa. He called me in Albany, GA. after we were both retired, but we never ran into each other. Van Lenten I saw only once after Okinawa when I went to school at Camp LeJeune, NC. I never knew Best at all.
Q22. Did you train with Kichero Shimabuku or Angi Uezu? Did you ever meet Eizo Shimabuku?
A22. I never trained with Kichiro or Uezu. I never saw either of them in a Gi at any time that I was training on Okinawa. I only went by Eizo’s dojo once, there were no students training at the time since it was early in the day. We spoke only briefly.
Q23. There are several different versions of the Isshinryu patch. Can you explain the one you wear and who designed this version?
A23. I wear an oval patch. Steve Armstrong designed the oval patch shortly after he began teaching in Tacoma, WA. I made a very subtle modification in the face & hands only.
Q24. Were you stationed in Okinawa more than once? If so, how much different was your training each time?
A24. Yes, I had three separate tours on Okinawa. Total time on the Island was 7 ˝ years. There was very little difference in Master Shimabuku's method of training, most noticeably changing from the vertical punch back to the Goju style during my last years there, also leg blocks with the ulna bone part of the arms. In early years he taught to block with the muscle or meaty part of the arm. I believe those changes were caused by continual pressure from his senior Okinawan students. I've heard, via my marine interpreter, Kinjo Chinsaku say to Master Shimabuku at our meetings more than once, "Sensei, why you change karate"? The implication was meant, literally, "why did you change from Shorin-Ryu to Isshinryu".
Q25. Who were some of your closest friends at the Agena dojo?
A25. Some of my closest friends were - Steve Armstrong, Issac Dawson, Parrish, Bennett, Dillon, William Blond, Ralph Bove, Kinjo Chinsaku, Gucci, Shinsho, Tamashiro, and Kikuyama. There were many friends, but these were considered closest.
(Sensei Harold Long / Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku / Sensei Steve Armstrong)
Q26. What is your definition of Chinkuchi and how does someone develop this?
A26. My definition of Chinkuchi as it pertains to karate is having the ability to bring to bear as many of its elements, such as, but not limited to, concentration, focus, power, speed, breath control, and proper tensioning and recoil to a specific part of an opponents' body to such a degree (controlled technique) in order to render him incapable of a second attack, and only if necessary, depending on the situation to completely and fatally injure him. I believe the essence of Chinkuchi is not only difficult to adequately explain or teach but, even more elusive to master. When a person fatally injures another un-necessarily as did the student in article # 12 it proves that he has only developed Chinkuchi to such a degree as to be able to kill someone but, he had not been taught, or had not learned one of the most important elements, which is having the presence of mind to quickly evaluate the situation and then using (controlled technique) only the force necessary to temporarily disable his opponent unquestionably, the very best way we can develop Chinkuchi is the frequent practice our katas, and more specifically and most important, our Sanchin Kata. My personal belief is that many students dissipate their training time in numerous other disciplines and events such as tournaments, resulting in rarely developing Chinkuchi above the novice level.
Q27. Can you tell us about your Ninth Dan promotion and how it came to be?
A27. Dennis Fink, a first generation student of Master Shimabuku, phoned me in 1988 and asked if I could come to New York City for a special clinic by Master Masafumi Suzuki (who has since passed on). Master Suzuki was Head of the all Japan Budo Federation. Dennis had for several years regarded me as the senior American in Isshinryu and unbeknownst to me had arranged for Master Suzuki to promote me to ninth dan. I must admit that I was very flattered by this honor and will always be grateful to Mr. Fink for showing this kind of respect to me. Incidentally, I would like to say that Dennis Fink is very knowledgeable in several martial arts disciplines and perhaps knows personally many of the most senior people in Japan in the martial arts.
Q28. Describe for us please some of the martial arts demonstrations you witnessed while on Okinawa. Which one impressed you the most?
A28. I only went to two demonstrations other than our own. The one that I was most impressed with was where an elderly Goju sensei demonstrated the very best mind over matter and concentration act that I have ever witnessed. The old sensei, facing the audience, held his left arm out to his side, palm down, took what looked like a hat pin about 15" long, placed the tip of the pin on the bottom of his arm midway between his elbow and wrist, and started slowly twisting the handle and pushing upward. I saw the skin on the opposite side of his arm slowly push up, and "poof" the pin came out about four inches. The elderly sensei then took the loose end of the rope, which was tied to a two-wheel cart on stage and wrapped it around the top and bottom of the pin several times. He then asked about half dozen kids to come on stage and get into the cart. He pulled the cart from one side of the stage to the other. He then unwrapped the rope from the pin, pulled the pin out of his arm, then showed there was not even a drop of blood to be seen anywhere on his arm. This was the only event performed by elderly sensei, other than telling the audience that "all Okinawans should know Karate, "If you cannot do karate, then you are not Okinawan" (my friend Gucci interpreted for me). There were several other performances by other Senseis, but none nearly as impressive as the elderly sensei's.
Q29. Your DVD's on Isshinryu's empty hand katas are very popular. Any plans on a Kobudo DVD or even a book?
A29. I have an extremely difficult time writing anything, which is why it has taken so long to complete even this little session. No, I have no plans to write a book or make any Kobudo DVD's.
Q30. How has your career in the Marine Corps helped you in your martial arts training?
A30. I think being a career Marine has contributed a lot to karate by helping me stay focused on maintaining a certain level of physical fitness and the "stick with it attitude". I've seen so many sensei's that are lacking in the ability to even teach or perform to an expected level. I think that if I had not been a career Marine I may have wound up likewise.
Q31. Can you tell us a little about your friend and student Issac Dawson?
A31. Issac Dawson and I first met at Staging Regiment, Camp Pendleton, CA. in Jan. 1958. We became close friends, and played poker together aboard ship in route to Okinawa, which was to be my first tour on the Island. I did not see Issac again until Sept. 1959 when we were both again going through processing at Staging Regiment, Camp Pendleton for further transfer to 3rd Marine Division in Okinawa. I had been talking to Issac about Karate aboard ship, so soon after arriving in Okinawa I took him to the Agena dojo and introduced him to Master Shimabuku and he became a student. Issac was placed in the 2nd dojo with me as his sensei, where he became a very proficient black belt. Unfortunately my good friend Issac did not continue his training after leaving Okinawa in the early part of 1964. Dawson and his wife Sumiko settled in Memphis, TN. after retiring from the Marine Corps. We stayed in contact through the years ever since we first met. I went to see Issac shortly after his wife passed away in 2002 from cancer. In 2007 Issac was treated for throat cancer and a short time later had to have his voice box removed and replaced with a stoma, infection set in, and the cancer spread. I went to see Dawson in the hospital the day before he passed, lying there in a coma, with the stoma in his neck, he was a pitiful sight. What a tragic end for a previously robust career Marine. Both Issac and he wife had been smokers for most all of their adult lives. Both of their daughters were also hooked on cigarettes even after seeing the end that came to their parents as a result of nicotine inhalation. I certainly miss my good friend Issac Dawson, and the good times we had together, like the time in 1960 when the ship we were in route to the US from Okinawa stopped over in Yokahoma, Japan for a few days. We rode the Rickshaws and visited a few of the local brew houses, and even visited the "cat man” Gogen Yamaguchi's dojo.
(Harold Mitchum and good friend Issac Dawson)
Q32. Do you have a parting message for our readers?
A32. The best advice I could possibly pass along to our Isshinryu brothers & sisters, and anyone else would be, get to know food. As we all know we are what we eat. From my extensive reading, I've come to sincerely believe that most all of the sickness and diseases we are faced with is a direct result from our eating & drinking habits. If you become sick, stop eating for a few days. Animals are smarter than most humans. They instinctly stop eating and want only a little water and to be left alone and in some dark spot until they get to feeling better. A good book on this subject that I highly recommend is "Fasting Can Save Your Life", by Herbert M. Shelton. If you smoke cigarettes, do whatever you have to in order to quit the habit. And if you don't smoke, please, for your children and grandchildren's sake don't ever start. It is so very easy to find the least excuse to not do some type of physical exercise. Even if you get disinterested in karate, do something every day as long as you are physically able. Most anyone can at least walk. I met an elderly gentleman and his sister, ages 85 & 87 respectively, that walk 2 miles five days each week. He told me "we're afraid not to do this everyday". They don't walk very fast but they do keep moving.
This picture appeared in the "Triad" newspaper in March 1960.
(Front Row L-R) - Kenji Kaneshiro, Genyu Shigema, Shinken Taira, Tatsuo Shimabuku, Chinsaku Kinjo, Kensho Tokumura, Unknown, David Draper
(Second Row L-R) - Harold Mitchum, Rodney Kiaha, Unknown, Charlie Connors, ? Brantly, ? Gucci, John De Santis, Sherman Harrill, Clarence Ewing, Unknown
(Back Row L-R) - Donald Bohan, David Bennett, Isaac Dawson, Ed Johnson, Gary Baker, William Blond, Steve Armstrong, Unknown, Jake Eckenrode