Sport Karate Stories
My all-time favorite Ernie "Radar" Smith R.I.P. story
It was the early 1980’s. I was good friends with Steve Fotenote R.I.P. He was one of Ernie’s Black Belts. There was Cocky also, Steve’s brother. When Ernie would get word about a Korean style tournament in the Houston Area, he would come and pay Steve, Cocky and my entry fees to enter the event to fight. We would spend the day together, fight, be coached and fight where normally we would not go. An all-Korean event, all Tae Kwon Do, all Korean judges, was definitely to our disadvantage, at least that is how Ernie thought. ERNIE would say to us,” Hey guys if you can win here against these odds, you can win anywhere!”
We would enter only fighting, except for me, I would do Japanese Kata in a Korean Tournament. The Koreans would be pissed off, but Ernie loved it. Funny thing is I won a lot of third places at these Korean events. I just love performing and Ernie knew that. We would go to this event put on by Young Brothers Tae Kwon Do and Ernie didn’t want too, but he paid for my Kata division as well on the day of the event. I took third that day out of 30 competitors, the only Japanese kata competitor in the group and earned a $50 check, which will come up later in the story. Winning and earning a third place in an all-Korean event was a big deal to me for I knew nobody was doing what we did, open tournament karate guys going to an all-Korean event. It went against the grain and Ernie didn’t get along with the Korean guys in the Houston area for some reason from the past either.
Well, Cocky wins Middle weight, Steve beats some guy in Heavy Weight and gets ready to face me to fight to see who fights the Korean champion for 1st place and the championship. We are warming up, Steve and I are getting ready to fight, and suddenly I hear Ernie’s loud, but normally quiet voice. As I turn around Ernie shoves Bo Kong hard, the producer of the tournament, in the chest and all heck breaks loose! After hollering and words were exchanged, a small riot breaks out. A big scuffle started and all of us are being pushed outside. Police are called and things are settling down a little, but not much.
The four of us were being escorted out the front by the sheriff and police that were present. It looked like “Big Trouble in Little Korea.” Halfway out I was screaming “I want my check! they owe me a check !!!!!!, he owes me a check for third place, I want my check!!!” I grabbed a police officer in the scuffle, and I talked the police officer into walking back into the gym with me. He reluctantly walks me back in where I asked Bo Kong kindly for my $50 check, explaining to the producer I had earned winning third place in Kata earlier that morning. The Korean’s knew we came to fight our style of fighting. They obviously didn’t like us being there, however they had no legitimate reason to deny me for back then I did immaculate Japanese kata and I won 3rd place in an all-Korean event with all Korean judges. Pretty hard to argue with that, lol You cannot fake real Kata no matter what culture you are, Chinese, Okinawa, Korean or JAPANESE
Master Kong was very professional and wrote me a check for third place Kata that day, even though I know he was pissed that I would even walk back in the venue after what he had gone through with Ernie’s attitude a few minutes earlier. Steve screams at me, “Don’t take a check. It will bounce since Ernie started a fight with him and started a small riot!” So, I asked politely that I wanted cash, please. I remember Bo Kong was so pissed. Master Kim Soo calmed him down, said I was nice, that he knew me, and that I wasn’t part of the group, even I was. Ernie was my coach and Steve and Cocky was my best friends, we traveled everywhere. He didn’t like it, but he went to the cash drawer and took the $50.00 check back and gave me two twenty-dollar bills and a ten back.
I walked back though the crowd and one of the judges stopped me and said,” I respect you for coming back in here!” I then said to him,” I just wanted my money that I had earned.”
The sheriff walked me to the car and Ernie, Steve, and Cocky, and I took those fifty dollars, to HOOTERS BAR AND GRILL where the pitchers were on me boys! I miss, my Louisiana coon ass friends Steve, and Cocky and I miss you Ernie, Rest in Peace my old warrior friend and coach, Osu.
Sport Karate Stories
Sport Karate Stories
”’ TELLING ME MY KATA NEEDED IMPROVED ATTITUDE” encounter with the Great ROBERT HALIBURTON R.I.P
It was the Second Living Legends Roast in Houston, Texas at Jim Harrison’s Roast that I had a few of the karate legends coming for the event and Robert was one of them. Robert was a true Legend, and a part of Japan Ways, a Shotokan School in Houston, with Jim Arwood and George Minshew in the early 60s before George created his Black Belt Academy Empire.
I had met Robert when Stuart Quan R.I.P and I would drive from Modesto, California down through California to Fresno, where I met Robert. I knew he was special; he had a talent for fighting and kata, which was exceptional. He had a front kick that was very impressive, and he would go through karate tournaments in his divisions like a lawnmower on rocket fuel. Robert as an outstanding fighter beating many of the champions of that era.
I was in the Ballroom at the Hilton Southwest where the Legends was held. I was extremely nervous for this was only my second event and major players in this sport from across America were going to be there. I could not sleep so I was in the Ballroom at 2:00am working my kata by myself. I had the door shut but I guess I was loud enough where Security was called. The Door opened and a security guard was there and so was Robert. He had just got in from the airport and he walked in with the security guard. The security guard told me I couldn’t be screaming at 2:00am in a hotel whether I was the producer or not. Robert stepped up and defended me to the guard and told him he would calm me down. I smiled, and hugged Robert for I had not seen him in years and welcomed him to the fun, respectful event I had put together for Mr. Harrison.
He stayed with me until about 4:00am working my kata, improving my nerves and attitude, and told me not to worry, I was doing a good thing. This National Sport Karate Museum idea, and putting heroes together was wonderful and to not worry. We went upstairs to the Sport Karate Museum display area and stayed till daylight and then he went downstairs and checked into the Hilton. He knew I was nervous, and he cared for me. I will always remember that he cared for my nerves and calmed me down at 2:00am when most people were sleeping. Robert and I were doing kata in Texas, OSU! We had a great event and Robert was one of the most incredible speakers.
Then a year later Robert passed.
A few years went by, and I hooked up with Texas Heroes David and Scott Caster who were revamping the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame Ceremonies and they helped me host their incredible event, and we cohosted the Texas Hall of Fame together at a Living Legends production also. I called Donna Halliburton and shared with her that even though Robert was from California he was part of Texas history, because of Japan Ways, and due to the influence, he had on many Texans he was nominated and was to be inducted into the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame. She came and excepted his acknowledgment and induction. It was so special to recognize his great contribution to sport karate and remember the 2:00 AM encounter too, Osu!
Robert Halliburton R.I.P, Texas Attitude.
Sport Karate Stories
In Memory of my friend and mentor Professor Wally Jay R.I.P
Sport Karate Museum Stories
A few years ago...
I woke up that morning and went to my computer and read that Grand Master Wally Jay is being taken off life support, and I became very sad, But I was also very happy that he had touched my journey. Grief is a strange thing, and I wrote this little tidbit of history when I found out he had a stroke.
I guess because he was from Hawaii, I'm having an especially tough time and he was one of my first real heroes, but I prayed for his family and had assured them I am just one of the thousands that are in grief and mourning.
Professor Wally Jay was a great man, and martial artist , a mentor, and friend, and I will miss him greatly, I am calling all my Black Belts this morning and we are in meeting in the park to have a special session of “Bull in the Ring” in honor of Professor Wally Jay to throw, joint lock, sweep, take down and put uki’s in pretzels and finger locks in my memory of my precious hero one more time. Thank you for your love and joy you have given me. I will miss you, sir.
Another memory, many years ago, back in the early 80’s, on a Saturday night, I was beating on my bag in my dojo and I got a phone call. It was from Professor Jay, and he was at the airport on an overlay on his way home. He got my number from my friend Al Garza, and he asked if I could come to the airport, and meet him for he had something for me
I had no car and I told him a taxi would cost a fortune, I was about 50 miles away from Bush Intercontinental Airport where Wally was at. I dropped everything and met him. When I arrived, he met me, and I looked at the Taxi fare and it was $43.00 one way! I freaked, because I only had $30 dollars to my name, Wally gave me a $ 100 dollar bill and said don’t worry about it. Just give the guy a $10 .00 tip and use the change to pay for the taxi back to the dojo. After he took care of the taxi ride, he took me to dinner inside the terminal at the steakhouse. I apologized, "Uncle Wally, I’m so sorry. I’m just broke. Thanks for helping."
At dinner, he reached into his luggage and gave me a picture of two men doing a Roto -Seginagi, and it was marked 1942. I looked closer and it was him when he was very young. The photo was very old and sort of tattered, however he signed it, and gave it to me. It was signed, "Gary, keep your Hawaiian spirit alive and remember your roots, I’m proud of you. ” Professor Wally Jay, Small Circle Jit-Jitsu, Black Belt Magazine Hall of Fame.
It inspired me to become the Champion and do what I have done in my journey. I love you Professor
Another memory of my journey with Professor Wally Jay.
Thank you, McCarthy Sensei. As you know he is very special to me and has been part of my journey. Here is another little tidbit of history when we did the Hanshi Sid Campbell Celebrity Roast in California 2008,
I am at Mark Gerry’s house, getting ready, and I received a call from Professor Jay. He shared with me he is not feeling well, and he would not be able to attend. We stay on the phone and talk and talk. Everybody from Eric Lee to Bob Wall is telling me we've got to go, or we are going to be late. I stay on the phone mainly because he is such a precious resource for me. I promise to mention him and do something special for him not being there.
I arrived at the roast. Hanshi Sid wanted me to do a Sai Kata, the same one I did to win the Gold Medel at the 1992 USAF Nationals in Dallas, Texas. I told him I had talked with Professor Jay, and he always loved the sword routine Banana cut, so that is what I did at the Roast, thinking of My Hawaiian mentor and friend, Professor Wally Jay.
The entertainment for Sid’s ROAST was Harry Mok and me and we did the routine we did at Magic Mountain many times before. Harry would lay down a bed of nails and I would lay a thick concrete slab on his stomach and took a sledgehammer and smashed it. He would then get up, grab an unsuspecting spectator, lay them down, and tear their shirt open. He then put cucumbers on their stomachs, throat and groin. The spectator would be freaking out since he was picked randomly all the while I'm screaming, "Kiai very loud!" Meanwhile Harry is trying to calm the spectator down. What the crowd don’t know is that spectator has been planted in the audience and is an actor.
The crowd is completely fool by our antics. I cut the cucumbers on the throat, stomach and groin. and then Harry peels a banana on the actor's bare stomach. Just when the audience thinks I am going to cut it, I bite it in two. The crowd goes wild!
Uncle Wally, Harry and I did that for you. Now, Harry is gone too. So sad, but such good memories.
I will always remember Uncle Wally as a mentor and a great martial artist but most of all as a friend who loved his Hawaiian roots. He is now with so many of our friends, Uncle Sid, Mako, Stuart, Howard, Glenn and many others who love sport martial arts. I know they are watching and being my guardian angels as I finish my journey, working hard because they taught me to be the best I could be though their memory while they were here.
Mahalo Professor Jay R.I.P, and Harry Mok R.I.P
My Memory of my friend and mentor Professor Wally Jay R.I.P
Sport Karate Museum Stories
Sport Karate Stories
Welcome the SPORT KARATE STORIES page. This section of the Sport Karate Museum houses the collected sport karate stories, and related subjects of Professor Gary Lee, CEO and Founder of the Museum and various respected contributors to the Museum archives. Submissions may be sent by email to firstname.lastname@example.org for consideration.
Sport Karate STORIES HUNTING THE ULTIMATE MAKIWARA BOARD
STOP ,,MAIM DISABLE,DESTROY MENTALLY,OSU
You are in the deep forest in the middle of nowhere, silent as a forest can be, you can hear every sound around you, every step is a new sound and in a distant,,, you hear a new sound
You hear a consistent sound over and over again,
It is mesmerizing because it had been silent in your dream.
A big “THUG”, the sound it is constant, “THUG, THUG, THUG, THUG, THUG ” over and over again,,,,,
You follow the sound through the deep woods underbrush, though the stickers, briars until an opening in the wooded area
You see a train track
You follow it until you see one large locomotive sitting on the track, by itself,, as you walk slowly around the huge steel piece of machinery
The THUG sound now is getting louder and louder, stronger and stronger,, now you hear a grunt with every THUG, GRUNT, THUG, GRUNT, THUG, GRUNT, THUG, GRUNT THUG,
You walk to the front and a small 5’5 Japanese man in a white uniform and Black Belt, drenched in sweat and hands bleeding standing in low Hicibi-Dachi horse stance hitting the front of the locomotive with low hard reverse punches and hitting with his Seiken (forefist) front second knuckle)”
Then you witness,,,, THUG, E-Yaaaaaaa THUG, GRUNT THUG, E-Yaaaaaaaa, THUG, GRUNT, THUG, K-Yaaaaaa, THUG, GRUNT, THUG over and over and over again and again.and again
These are the dreams of “The Karate Whisperer”
http://www.sportkaratemuseumarchives.comSport Karate STORIES HUNTING THE ULTIMATE MAKIWARA BOARD
Sport Karate Stories-
THE DAY MR. JIM MCINGVALE “MATTRESS MACK” FROM GALLERY FURNITURE TAUGHT ME A LESSON ABOUT BEING ON TIME.
2001 - Houston, Texas. The J. Pat Burleson ROAST and TRIBUTE by the Sport Karate Museum.
I received a phone call from Ed Daniel and told me he used to work out with Mattress Mack before he became the Furniture Guru and super enthusiastic man he is. Well, Mattress Mack is an amazing man, but what I didn’t know was Mr. Burleson and Mr. Daniel use to beat him up regularly and according to Mr. Daniel he was pretty good in the ring too. They banged on each other quite a bit back in the day at the health Spa Gym. Anyway, they were buddies. Ed suggested that I to go and meet Mattress Mack and maybe he could help in some way at the roast in Houston, Texas for Mr. J. Pat Burleson.
I called Mr. McIngvale, and I set up an appointment with him at his main store at 45 North Freeway for lunch. The day of the lunch appointment, I was an airhead and got involved with something else. I had forgotten completely about the lunch engagement until a couple of hours later and I called Mattress Mack. He answers, very politely, and I share with him I had forgotten, and could we try again if and when it was convenient for him. He quickly said, “yes!” “Gary, can you come in tomorrow morning at the main store on 45 North?” I said,” Yes sir. I will be there when you open, sir.” The next day I got there at the store at 8:00 am.
He is bigger than life. He has his front desk, just as it’s seen in the picture. I walk in and he greets me and asks me to go sit on the couch next to Elvis Presley’s Pink Cadillac that he has parked in the store. I thought to myself, it was so cool. I am sitting there watching as the store opened and starts to get busy. 9:00 am goes by, then 10:00 am, then 11:00 am, and then 12:00 pm. I see employees, and salesmen go to lunch, now it’s 1:00 pm! Finally, a lady comes to me and says, “Mr. McIngvale will see you now in his private office.”
I realized he was teaching me a great lesson on keeping my word and showing up for appointments. Five hours I waited next to Elvis’s Pink Cadillac on that couch. It was a great lesson. So here I am sitting in his office, and he looks at me and says, “You’re a friend of Pat and Ed, huh? What may I do for you Gary?” I asked if he could come speak at the roast or could I give away some of his books, that would be cool. He reached out and got 10 of his books, signed them and looked at me and asked, “Did you enjoy my couch?” I laughed and said, “Yes sir. “He said, “Please keep your appointments, people will learn to trust you then. I replied, “yes sir” and as I was walking out with my books, he stops me and says, “Gary I want to help you with the roast for Pat, here is a check for $1500. You can cash it right outside at the First National Bank next to the cafeteria.
That was an amazing moment and a great lesson he had taught me. I have never been late to an appointment ever again. What an incredible lesson he taught me. A few years later Gallery Furniture sponsored my son, Garett in a couple of events traveling across the country.
What a Mentor, friend and adopted Karate animal of two of the greats in our sport, Mr. J. Pat Burleson R.I.P and Ed Daniel. Thank You Mr. McIngvale, for the lesson. Osu!
THE DAY MR. JIM McINGVALE, “MATTRESS MACK” FROM GALLERY FURNITURE TAUGHT ME A LESSON ABOUT BEING ON TIME.
Sport Karate Stories-
Sport Karate Stories
“THE PHONE CONVERSATION THAT AARON BANKS CHARGED ME $1,000 FOR A 30 MINUTE PHONE CALL WITH HIM!”
It is the early 90s and I have produced a few events in Texas, and I was promoting events in the Astroworld and Astrodome called KIDS EXPO. This was my first encounter with stars of American Sports.
I was an actor for Astroworld Six Flags Amusement Parks then. Sports Illustrated Magazine had set up a Huge Autograph Show at the Dome and I was invited. I was sitting at my table in between Okeem Olijuwan and Nolan Ryan signing autographs, and wondering why am I sitting here? I really felt uncomfortable sitting in between these sport heroes when I was a just an entertainer / fighter / producer. I felt I did not belong sitting here, but Astroworld and Sport Illustrated did so here I am sitting at the autograph show.
I received a phone call on my cell, it was the beginning of the portable phone legacy, now everyone has a cellular phone, however back then it was a strange thing talking on these flip phones, I think it was a Razor Motorola, which back then these portable phones stood out. Anyway, I felt weird using this cell phone technology.
At an autograph show, at the Astroworld, Astrodome, with hundreds of spectators, and all these sport celebrities, I was nervous plus this huge event was sponsored by Sports Illustrated Magazine, I was not ready for a phone call from this legend when it came. Wrong Place, wrong time however I took it.
It started out as very casual and I told him how honored I was to be able to talk with the legend, Arron Banks, and why would he call me? He said he had heard of this” hot shot producer” down in Texas and he called around and got my personal number. After the introductions, this legend in the martial arts started to tell me what I would need to be more productive and to what to build and he would help me.
I was at a show and people were waiting, I did not want to be rude and hang up talking to this legend, but I had to go, it was going on 30 minutes. As I was saying goodbye and telling him how much I appreciated all the advice he shared with me,
he says, “Gary you can mail the check to”, I stopped him and said, “sir, what check?” Then he says, “Gary, I like you, normally I get $100 a minute for giving information on the phone, but for you I will give you a discount.” In respect I said to him, “Are you crazy? I ain’t paying you $1,000!”
Soon after I was going to the Tri State area to honor Michael DePasquale Jr with a Roast in New Jersey at the Atlantic City Convention Center. It was a Big One for the National Sport Karate Museum. I called up Mr. Banks and wanted to honor him along with the others that were there. He responded and said I would have to send him a $1,000 if I was to honor him, I did, however, put him in as a History General, and recognized him as one the great producers of our time in America and he that was deeply respected for what he had done for sport karate in America. After all, the Oriental World of Self Defense he produced at Madison Square Garden each year had jump started the careers of many of great martial artists with their appearance at his great event.
But I did not ever send him a $1,000 fee to recognize him and to honor him at Michael’s ROAST, Osu!
Aaron Banks R.I.P Sport Karate Stories
Sport Karate Stories
STOP, MAIM, DISABLE, DESTROY
1999, Houston, Texas
The First Living Legends and the introduction of the National Sport Karate Museum.
Everybody was there, it was magnificent. Having Allen Steen and the incredible group of iconic karate men and woman that helped build this incredible sport there was overwhelming without a doubt including Garett’s Black Belt Test and the introduction of the Sport Karate Museum… I was ready.
I put Garett by himself in front of these judges, a lot of pressure, that’s what I wanted, pure pressure. Honestly, I did not expect him pass for I was going to make it hard, exact fundamentals, but hard for a child. I told him; l would not sign his diploma until he turned at least 16 years of age. This was you showing what you knew and that you were ready for Black Belt competition and these icons were asked to witness you it. What blew me away was they all signed his certificate and certified him as a Black Belt and not as a Junior Black Belt.
Mr. Minshew suggested that Garett Test for his Black Belt for he was destroying his brown belt opponents at the time. I really didn’t want to do it however he was my instructor too, Osu
The TEST was going great except one thing, Mr. Harrison wasn’t there yet? I called my wife. She and he were stuck in Houston traffic. I was drawing out the exam, as long as I could, but I wanted him there to witness Garett. Mr. Harrison had done so much for him and had been such a big influence, I just felt he needed to be there, osu! I had Garett in Bull in the Ring, a kenpo self-defense exercise, and had him surrounded with 12- to 16-year-old Black Belts, headed by some serious young kids that would do what needed to be done in front of this group of icons and legends.
Garett knew these men and women were special watching him but didn’t realize till later in his life how special it truly was. I have to mention a few of these incredible people, (I still get excited in my mind when I remember being in the same room with these heroes), Linda Denley, Ed Daniel, Fred “Whirlwind Wren, Skipper Mullins R.I.P, James Toney R.I.P, Ralph Jaschke R.I.P, George Minshew, Zulfi Ahmed, Daryl K. Stewart, and Garett’s principal from his school.
I was running the exercise when Mr. Jim-Carol Harrison and Tammy, Garett’s Mother, arrived. We stopped, got up and bowed, as a real legend had just entered the ballroom. Mr. Harrison asked me to stop the test and replace the circle of 12- and 16-year old’s, with all black belt adult opponents. I did I replace them with Black Belts from the room, exactly as he asked me to do. There were adults who were dressed out in gis, in plain clothes, people I knew were black belts, and even a couple of black belt police officers I knew.
About 15 big, male adults now surrounded my son and we resumed the drill. One of the first black belts I called to attack him jump spin kicked Garett against the wall, hard, real hard. He got up, walked over to Mr. Harrison, crying, and I heard him ask him teary eyed, “what do I do, sir?”. Mr. Harrison sternly said, “Do what you have to do, son.” Mr. Harrison wiped his face and sent him back out to the ring center.
The next attacker was a police officer friend of my mine, a brutal type of guy. He grabbed Garett and would not let go, no matter what Garett did to free himself, so I stopped the drill. I then called a time out and Garett went over to Mr. Harrison. Time was restarted, and Garett reenters the Ring. I then called the same police officer, and he grabs Garett roughly by the lapel of his gi this time. Garett Kicks him in the Groin twice, hits him in the throat, gouges his eyes, kicks the groin again, simulates breaking his little finger, stomps his toes, sweeps him, and then jumps up landing on his chest. He then follows with a ridge hand to the groin, aka a “Texas Handshake”, then simulates ripping his eyes, elbows his face, stands to stomp his groin, again, and as he starts to walk away back heel kicks the groin for good measure. Garett then turns and bows to Mr. Harrison, a job well done.
The wisdom of the Great JIM “RONIN” HARRISON R.I.P, OSU
Stop, Maim, Disable, Destroy Sport Karate Stories
Sport Karate Stories-
Sport Karate Stories
I wasn’t the nicest guy on the block fifty years ago. I was young and just naive sometimes. I often learned things the hard way, but I was learning. This is a fun memory back when I chased the waves, and I learned a hard lesson then. Mako Sensei, was teaching me sword and how to surf, all the while making people laugh, and I was learning hard lessons which I will never forget.
I miss you every day, and this short story is dedicated to you Sensei. I love and miss you deeply.
The first and last time I ever got arrested. I was so scared. In the 70’s I hitch hiked everywhere. It was what I liked to do, seeing the country. Chasing waves and visiting karate schools is what I did when I first got to the mainland. I ended up in Florida on one of the three times I hitchhiked across America. My friend, Royce Livingston and I were avid surfers and we loved chasing waves, hitchhiking coast to coast from California to Florida, and along the east coast.
We ended up at Daytona Beach, Florida on one of our adventures and it was great. All my dreams of surfing Daytona Beach came true. It is one of the prettiest beaches I have ever seen, long stretches of white sand, and you could drive down to the ocean’s edge. Royce was surfing an aircraft carrier board, a 7-foot single Fin Mako brand and I, a Gordon and Smith five foot-seven-inch, twin fin cream colored finish with my Karate Symbol on its front. I carried that board everywhere. It was my connection with home, Hawaii.
The waves were four to five footers on a good break, as we started to move down the beach toward the end. Ahead there is a large canal directly that separates Daytona Beach from New Symrna Beach where the Coast guard station was located. Without us knowing, years ago they dug out the beach forty to fifty feet from shore for the canal so the Coast Guard Ships could come though easily, and there was a shelf underneath the breaking waves that made the waves at that end of the beach two to three more feet higher on the break. Now we are talking about seven-foot waves on a normal day, just because of that underwater deep shelf. We had found a Honey Spot!
The weather was changing, but we were in Hog Heaven and did not notice it. The wind was kicking up pretty strong though. The calmness had left, but the size of the waves made the opportunity to ride the seven-to-ten-foot waves in Florida irresistible. I was in Heaven by way of Dayton Beach, lol.
Royce had forgotten the “Frog Wax” for the boards and mine was needing a fresh batch of wax. It was getting slippery, so he left to get some at a convenient store, a Seven Eleven, up on the street.
I was alone. We did not know a Hurricane watch had been issued which is why it was getting rough, and everyone was told to get out of the water along both beaches! Now, the waves are almost breaking at ten feet, and a storm is coming but I didn’t care. It was then I heard the siren and loudspeaker coming from the shore. “You there get out of the water, now!” And I did. I was scolded and warned, and I left the beach until he was out of site. Mind you I was young and foolish. I wanted to surf and didn’t really understand it was for my own safety that the officer was concerned. I was wrong and I ignored his warning. So back in the water I go. I caught the first wave, then the second cut, cool, then I heard the loudspeaker, and this time he was upset. He treated me as if I was a vicious criminal, threw my board in the back of his trunk, handcuffed me, and sat me on the back seat.
I was scared to death. He then asked my age and I answered, “Sixteen”.Then he explained to me the reason I was treated in that was to help me understand the authority of a policeman, that they are here to help the public, and that I had been I warned and still went back in the water. Then he said, “What I am I going to do with you? Are you going to stay out of the water? If you go back in the water, I am going to take you to jail, and sell your board!” Then he winked at me and scolded me once more for good measure.
I told him about Royce and the Frog Wax, and he had no idea what I was talking about, but he gave me a ride until we found Royce walking back to the beach. When Royce saw me and the Sheriff pullup together, he freaked out and asked, “Hey Gary what did you do?” I answered, “I got arrested for surfing, did you get my Frog Wax? The Sherriff gave me a ride to find you and now you’re in trouble if you didn’t get my wax, lol.”
It was a good lesson at sixteen, Osu!
Big Waves of Hawaii and Sharks
Sport Karate Stories
Sport Karate Stories
The enjoyment of Bare-Knuckle Fighting
I HATED THE GLOVES OR SAFTEY GEAR AS IT WAS CALLED BACK IN THE DAY, IT GAVE RESTRICTIONS TO PURE TECHNIQUE.
In the 60s and early 70s there was no equipment, full contact, as it is called then with control, maybe a cup, a mouthpiece, taped hands maybe, but it was Bare Knuckles, it took control, it had Kime (focus). It was exciting, it was as real as real could be and it was safe to the pure technicians who had the control and focus. Sure, sometimes it got out of hand and to the public eye it was sometimes brutal to watch. I guess it was destined for someone to introduce safety gear and its focused attention it has received though the years.
First there were the Kempo gloves, then the Renbukai gloves, followed by the cloth/cotton pads. Ahh, historians, it was the first Superstar of Sport Karate, Mike Stone, who thought to introduce the idea and even develop some, or so I’ve been told by the source. However, it was the legendary Tae Kwon Do Master Jhoon Rhee who took it and ran with it. He built an empire with his Jhoon Rhee Safety Gear. The first prototype was white and were designed to look like a jacuzzi cup with a small strap to hold it in place.
Now to some, this new type of gear for karate fighters became a license make contact. The foot gear and the jaquzzi cup designed glove, the so-called padded karate glove, changed the game for Tournament players forever.
Then came the real glove. They came in various colors like yellow, red, green, black, and white, had places to put your fingers and of course the thumb, then came shin pads, arm pads and those dumb headgear. And then their use became law in Texas in 1984. 10 years after they were introduced, Texas started making every fighter in Black Belt division wear them, and I disliked that new rule. Then came the other brands, Top Ten, Macho, Protect, Kresge and others. Then the shoes followed; Mike Anderson’s Top Ten Brand, Fred Villari’s Conflux Shoe, Mitchell Bobrow’s Otomix Shoe, and Steve Shepherd’s Ringstar Shoe.
It Was Crazy. Whatever happened to true sparring without the false impressions? Tournament Karate equipment changed everything, I guess. Fighting became play, true kumite did not exist anymore. Thank goodness I pulled my strikes, if I hadn’t it would have knocked your head off, right! I very much disliked the use of any equipment in fighting in Karate. I was at a school that got all those prototypes in the beginning to try out. I did not enjoy them from the start.
I would bi*** about it with my first instructor in the states. Finally, he got tired of me fussing and he said “Gary, I tell you what, every time you knock the wind out of someone, stick someone really good, or knock them down wearing the gear, I will put a notch on your glove that you’re bi****** about wearing. Geeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzz “Gary for every five notches on your glove I will buy you dinner, but no blood though, OK?" When I left him, I had 17 notches on that glove I would wear sparring.
I still hated wearing them. I wore a size 10 shoe, and I would buy a size 8 safety boot so my foot would be exposed, especially my side of foot for bladed sidekicks and the heel exposed for back kicks. I know, I know with the right size boot you can still stick your side kick with the blade of foot and still kick with the heel with a correct size boot, it was just a mental thing I suppose. People would say, “Gary, the boot is too small. It was the same thing with the glove. I would buy a small glove too.
To fight, I would wrap my hands in duct tape, then in boxing hand wraps, then put the safety glove on. It was a ritual, heck the mindset for my ignorance was in coming to Texas in Karate Tournaments. It was different I know. It was not about trophies, it was not about fame, it was not about the ratings, and it was not about the magazine articles. Heck it even was not about the $25 they would give away, which I never understood. On a average, every producer makes $5,000 at their event if they’re smart and have any business sense, and the producers back in day would never give more than a $100 even for just GRAND CHAMPION alone. My mind set in Texas was I could hit people many times without ever getting arrested. It was crazy, but I really thought like that fighting in Texas.
Then Mr. Roy Kurban stepped up in the early 70s. He had produced an “A” rated Karate Illustrated Magazine Karate Event, “The Fort Wort Pro-Am. He made clear he would give in the Blackbelt Divisions 1st Though 5th place money, a Trophy, and Top Karate Illustrated Magazine Points toward the Magazine and he would give all Blackbelts TWO -POINTS for any Kick to a target area that is allowed.
In Texas, the groin is a targeted area, which in some parts of the country is taboo. The TWO POINT RULE was too powerful for great fighters across the country to turndown. Each year it got bigger and bigger, until all the events around the country was giving TWO-POINT KICKS, soon after it was in all divisions, and then it was used all around the world. The TWO-POINT KICK WAS BORN, and it had been a life changer, now it is everywhere.
Maybe Gear isn’t so bad after all, lol. Head Kickers loved it; groin kickers thrived on it. With any kick to any part of the body, that is legal in the tournament, guys would lift they’re leg and “Whap!” TWO POINTS, first person to five was born Sometimes you could win a match in less than a minute within the two-minute time limit.
It was a game changer, it was motivational, and it was finally rewarding to be a BLACKBELT POINT FIGHTER.
Thank You Mr. Kurban, Osu!
Sport Karate Stories-
Dear Leo, R.I.P
I have just heard and confirmed though strong resources that an icon in martial arts, Leo Fong, is gone.
I am very sad for he was a dear friend, mentor, and advisor for what I have done for thirty years. He was one of the original History Generals for the National Sport Karate Museum.
He had given me all his scripts to his movies, and signed posters of all his movies for the museum, always called me on holidays, and special occasions to check up on me. Now he is one of my Karate Angels.
At the 50th Long Beach Internationals anniversary, where I last saw him, he shared with me I was doing a good thing, keeping the sport karate history alive, and he assured me he would always be there to support my endeavors. Though the years of our relationship, it has been special indeed.
I remember back in 1982 when I went to Mr. Fong’s Karate Illustrated Magazine “A” rated event in Stockton, California, I took third place, but my favorite memory was in the early 70s, with him and karate school partner Mr. Ron Marchini. I was living and working in Modesto, California. I had been intrigued about Leo, and his history with Bruce Lee. I had bought his book on Sil Lum Pai Kung fu and just wanted to meet him. I had no car, but I was training with a man name Dana Carter in Modesto California. He was supposed to drive me to meet him, and he backed out, so I got on the freeway and hitch hiked to Stockton where their school was.
I had no idea where I was going except, I wanted to meet this great legend. It was a Sunday early afternoon, and, in my ignorance, I thought people like Leo would be there no matter what day it was. Finally, I got to Stockton, and got directions to the school. When I got there obviously it was not open on a Sunday. I sat in front of that karate school for hours just feeling the presence of Ron Marchini and Leo Fong and remembering the sport karate stories I had heard from Dana, Robert Halliburton R.I.P, Tim Berg, and others. I had all the magazine articles going round and round in my head as I was sitting there hoping maybe one of them would come by on a Sunday afternoon. I longed to meet the iconic Leo Fong, a man that had trained with Bruce Lee. “Wow”, I thought, that was so cool! I was so hard core back then and I would do crazy things to train.
Now it was 1982, and my life had changed. I was now chasing rating points all over the country and on the Top Ten Nationals circuit. I remember getting at the airport and Leo was there, he was so special. I felt so blessed just to be able to compete at a national level and share it with him. I was very lucky just to be an island boi on the mainland. What I remember most was he took my bags and picked them all up. I said,” sir, you don’t need to do that”, but he insisted. He then drove me to the hotel, walked me to my room, and made sure I was taken care of. It blew me away how kind he was. As he left me, he told me to stay in the zone to do my best.
He treated me like I was special, and I was just a traveling point fighter. As he left, I asked him about Bruce Lee, and Ron Marchini, his partner at the time, who was known as a great fighter. My mentor, John Natividad, would tell me stories about Mr. Marchini that were inspiring. I asked question after question, and he answered them all. I felt so privileged to have a conversation with this incredible man. Though the years, he mentored me and believed in me. I will miss his conversations and wisdom
The third place at the Stockton, California event was the best one I had ever earned.
Leo Fong R.I.P, Osu
OUR FAITH, OUR FLAG, OUR MEMORIES, OUR COUNTRY
Sport Karate Stories
My love for my country, my fellow Americans, and our flag. Osu!
The 70’s new nightclub business was tough. Add to that, I was young and had no business experience and was thrown into management. I just did not have the maturity, yet, to manage a business. I still had uncontrolled emotional content in my mind, but this story is a reminder how I matured quickly, and I grew proficient in business because of moments like this. It is 1979 and I am planning on moving to Texas to pursue my Karate Journey and in my mind, I was closer to my birthplace, my beloved Hawaii. I missed aloha, every day.
I believe America was still suffering from the recent end of the Vietnam War and was not ready for the Iranian hostage crisis when it came, which is just my opinion.
The club I was running at the time was busy as ever and on college night we would get all sorts of groups, alumni, and models. Right after the Hostage Crisis began, we had a group of Iranian students start coming in, sitting together, dancing, drinking, and having a good time. It was a very delicate situation and time in history. Americans were pissed off and confused. The younger generation was radical about it.
One night I was in the cock pit or DJ Booth where I could see the whole club and I saw something that really upset my sense of righteousness from deep within me, and it became uncontrollable. Four Iranian college men had a table amongst some others and the four covered their table with an American Flag as a tablecloth and set their pitchers of beer and drinks on it.
I went nuts! I called my guys over, approached the students, took the flag off the table, and asked them to leave. Then, as if they had planned it, all three gentlemen, big boys, got up from the table including their ladies/girls, and confronted me. I had six guys on staff that night plus two or three bartenders that jumped in, but still, there was at least thirty or forty Iranian students we had to control quickly, the night turned ugly.
The two months later, at the deposition, we were in front of the authorities with the judge discussing our case. My boys all walked in wearing American Flags on their sleeves and I had my folded American Flag in hand. Our lawyer made his remarks and then I shared what I felt that night when I saw whoever disrespected our/my American Flag that represents all of us. Then, I started reading name, after name, after name, that I had copied from the Vietnam War Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. I was well into the beginning of the 58,318 names when I was stopped by the opposing lawyer who said, “We need a break for a moment.” When the Iranians came back, they dropped all charges against the Electric Warehouse, my guys and me. I remember, I started to read the names again as they all were getting up and leaving. I kept reading name after name until everyone from that group was out of the room. Additionally, they never came back to the Electric Warehouse club.
Later that week, Griffin, Lassitor, and Jeremiah Segal, the club owners, let me put a twelve-foot by twelve-foot American Flag in the front entrance. Well, off to Texas I go!
Sport Karate Stories
Sport Karate Stories
THE DAY I THOUGHT I WAS GETTING ARRESTED FOR BEING FUNNY!
It was a typical day at the Astroworld Amusement Park where I was working. It was 1981 and I had signed my first big contract doing live shows in front of thousands of people at one of the largest amusement parks in the country.
I was the comedian Karate Guy that the park hired to draw some different ideas into the park plus I was hired to be creative for the park’s future.
“Gary is an historian, an educator, an actor, an entertainer, a Samurai and a Big Kid rolled up into one heck of a role model for kids, young adults and parents. I have really enjoyed watching his talent grow into the force of a sport karate museum for the world. There is no one I know who has the elite history he does in sport karate, after all he sold me back in 1981 to be the first martial arts show at Astroworld. He has helped create many shows after that year with fight scenes, high falls, tricks, weapons, and comedy. The Hollywood Stunt Show was a big hit and Gary played the lead. Gary is like a Tsunami, this huge wave that hits you without any warning, but you love the ride, and you cannot wait to get hit again and again!
If Gary puts his passion into The Sport Karate Museum like he has his acting and showmanship, it will be another winner!"
Entertainment Director, Astroworld, U.S.A
I had just finished my set of back-to-back shows and I am in my trailer taking my break before my second show set and there’s a knock on the trailer door. It was park security, and they want me to follow them to the park’s office. They told me there was a security problem and Mr. Logan, the entertainment, director wanted to see me up the front office.
I arrived in his office and there was a lady, Mr. Logan and about six police officers, and I was wondering what was going on here. Then I was told at one of my shows it was witnessed I had done child abuse and that the lady in the office was the complainant. She was an executive of child abuse services in the Houston area, and she had brought her kids to Astroworld and had watched the karate show. She had witnessed me picking up a kid and then slamming him down in the show. She had felt it was inappropriate.
I went nuts, screaming and shouting, I finally calmed down and sent security to go get Jason Grable from the trailer, the child performer I slammed down eight times a day and at numerous rehearsals before the “Live Shows.”
He is six years old. My assistant, and I had been teaching him since he was two years old, he was family to me. I know people who we entertained didn’t know my relationships with the actors. It was presented to be very real but funny in the presentation, but my peers did understand acting and humor like Mr. Logan.
When young Jason arrived in the office, Mr. Logan asked me to show the slamming down stunt with Jason in slow motion and I did, then asked me to do it in medium speed, then full speed realistically, all this demonstrated technique. Jason and I did the scene in his office in front of the case worker, the police officers and the small crowd of office workers watching. Jason and I blew them away, watching it done in stages from the beginning to the final “GAG” where I pretended to slam him down. I was told after the performance in the office to not worry about any of this, it will be taken care of, and I and Jason went back our trailer and get ready for your next set.
I never heard any more about it. I Think we performed that “GAG “hundreds of times. We opened for Heart, Billy Idol, Night Ranger, and the Beach Boys concerts with that “GAG “making countless people laugh. However, that day in the office, I thought I was going to jail for being funny. LOL
THE DAY I THOUGHT I WAS GETTING ARRESTED FOR BEING FUNNY!
Sport Karate Stories
Early Texas dojo.
I remember our first dojo; it was less than a thousand square feet! No wait let’s go back farther in my memory. It was a small two-bedroom apartment and we converted one 10 x12 room into a working dojo, holes in the wall from Sensei kicking guys into the wall, and the neighbors calling the police for the loud noises every Tuesday and Thursday night. Sensei scared a lot of people back then. What’s funny is three of the policemen that came to the complaints became students!
We later moved to a little strip center, and I remember we had a huge square stilt in the middle of the small studio, and we had to wrap it with blanket so we wouldn’t get hurt hitting against it. Sensei would knock us into it on purpose because he said, “that was the guy you didn’t expect and probably would hurt you the most in a street encounter”, ouch. We built a wooden brace to hang an old canvas heavy bag, and I remember the rolls of duct tape we went through to keep that bag alive.
The space had a table and one chair for our sign ups, one bathroom for changing your clothes and do your business. There was Bamboo curtain, and two mirrors side by side, that had cracks in a few places from fight nights and a wooden silhouette of a man with holes in it. That was for the Star throwing that we use to do with Rice Chex Cereal targets. Sensei would take Elmer’s glue and glue these Rice Chex Cereal squares all over the man silhouette, and for everyone we would hit, we didn’t have to the do pushups and all the other calisthenics and could go straight to fighting,
Sensei was kinda weird, but it worked for him. We developed focus which he called it Kime. Fights nights would be open to anyone, and I mean anyone! Sensei would put a add in the local newspaper and it would say “Fight Night” at the Pashou School of Self Defense, that’s all. They would flock in like seagulls eating popcorn!
There would be a waiver to sign and fishbowl to put one dollar in to participate. You would then drop your name in a little box before the fights began. Sensei drew two names randomly and the pairs would fight or spar for 3 minutes, sparring gear was optional, and I mean all kinds too. Some folks had an attitude, some wanted to work out, some wished to watch, or some just wanted to beat up Gary Lee since it was that crazy of a time when everybody wanted to be like Bruce Lee or Billy Jack. Often it was brutal to watch karate people, bikers, cowboys, ninja types, high ranking wanna be fighters and my favorite Boxers mix it up. And sometimes a real Boxer would come in, and we would all get the crap beat out of us!
Again, Sensei would put everybody’s name in a bowl and two names would be drawn and they would fight, period. The only problem is these guys I mentioned was they had no idea who they were fighting, sparring, or getting it on with sport karate fighters that Sensei was friends with. On a regular basis there was Louis Vazquez, Al Garza, Steve Fotenote, Linda Denley, Kevin W. Scott, Ernie “Radar” Smith, Jeff McRae, Cocky Fotenote, George “Lighting “Sorrell, Chris Klecka, Kevin Roy, James Vernon, James Sparkman, John Sparkman, and Hippie there ready to rock. I also remember Sensei’s three kids and they were tough. They came from that little apartment dojo, Stacy Love, Kevin Roy, Troy Smith. I could never figure out why Sensei would put those Kids in with all those fighters, now years later I understand, fighting adults made them mentally tough so if they could do this, so when they grew up they could do anything!
The thing I remember most are the expressions of the spectators watching Sensei fight or spar, however it was real fighting, and it was cool. He could tell them where he was going to kick or punch them, and he would. He was smooth and unnaturally fast, and it was so cool to watch. One night, he made all of us wear real football helmets and he fought all of us. Getting punched, ridge handed, and kicked with a football helmet on was a whole new experience for some. For me, I was thankful for I have seen what Sensei did to people off the street with no helmet or protection on.
So many others walked though that little Dojo! All I remember the next day or two afterward, I couldn’t walk, and it was extremely hard moving around in the RV I was living in. Sensei would come over and give me Tiger Balm salve for my pain and money for gas. I would, in turn, bring him sushi every Wednesday night after class, with the leftover gas money I saved up. I wouldn’t touch that raw fish, although he tried to make me eat it sometimes, but I would make him buy me a Texas Steak instead, lol! I miss those brutal workouts.
Signed, a martial art fan.
Sport Karate Museum Archives