From 1968 through 1981, I competed on the karate tournament circuit in the southeast. During that time I managed to do pretty well earning Top Light Heavyweight in the SEKA (Southeast Karate Association) two years in a row, was rated #3 in the region by Karate Illustrated Magazine, and was the two-time Fighter of the Year in the South Georgia Karate Circuit. Altogether, I managed to win over 100+ tournament awards for fighting, forms, and weapons.
My last tournament was in 1981 and although I stopped competing, I have continued to teach martial arts. This past weekend, at a celebrity roast for Sam Chapman – another martial arts pillar I have had the honor of knowing for many years - I had a chance to reconnect with several of the individuals who made my competition journey worthwhile. Many of these folks I have not seen in almost 40 years!
The first one I saw was a man named Art Heller. He was originally from Texas where he studied with Allen Steen, among others. We met at my very first tournament as a black belt. I was 16 years old and we were in Asheville, NC. He walked up to me as we were waiting to fight and was a real gentleman. We wound up fighting each other - he won – but it was a real learning experience for me. We had a great time talking over the weekend.
I also had breakfast with Joe Corley. He fought Bill ‘Superfoot’ Wallace in Wallace’s first world middleweight title defense and had been a first-class middleweight fighter on the tournament circuit for years. He also co-founded SEKA and promoted the Battle of Atlanta for many years.
I reconnected with Mike and Tommy Genova. I had fought Mike a couple of times and he was a nationally rated fighter for some time. Bruce Brutschy was another reconnect. I had seen Bruce one other time since the tournament days, but it was great to see and reminisce with him again. ‘Hotdog’ Mike Goldman and I had a long chat and I found out he was a neighbor right across the river in South Carolina.
The event also included a symposium on Friday, and I was honored to have a short presentation on Martial Artists and Firearms and how to integrate them into training. It was well received by the crowd.
I have been extremely fortunate to have been associated with these martial artists over the years. They were the best and brought out the best in me, and for that I am forever grateful.