Christmas Day, I drove up to Arden, North Carolina, to have dinner with my dad at Ardenwood, a very nice retirement community where he lives. Ardenwood sits on mountain ridge overlooking the surrounding Appalachian Mountains. It is an incredible view, and they’d hired a new head chef and the food is pretty darn good. I was looking forward to the visit. We visited in dad’s apartment for about two hours, and then headed to the dining facility for dinner.
There were seven of us at the table, all friends of dad. Besides dad and myself, there were Gabby, Elaine, John, John’s son (also John), and his wife, Alita. Gabby was from Switzerland, Elaine had a PH.D in Organic Chemisty, John Sr. was a retired Army colonel, and John Jr. was a retired Marine Corps major. I am not sure what his wife, Alita, did. It was a very interesting group and the conversation was quite pleasant and enjoyable.
So, you may ask, what in the heck does any of this have to do with martial arts? Well, it turns out that Marine Corps retiree, John Jr., is also a life long martial artist, and had been stationed on Okinawa several times. He practiced Shito-ryu, and in his younger years, was a major USKF competitor. John knew and had trained with such people as Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, and Joe Corley. Having attended seminars with Bill Wallace and Joe Lewis myself in the 1980s, we suddenly had a lot to talk about.
During John’s time on Okinawa, he’d managed to train with several highly-respected Okinawan karate masters. He knew of Tatsuo Shimabuku, but never got to meet him. I understand that he did get to train with Eizo Shimabuku, Tatsuo’s brother, who taught Shobayashi Shorin-ryu.
He had also visited the dojo of a very good Uechi-ryu instructor who drove a cab for a living. That would have to be Tsutomu Nakahodo Sensei, who was designated by the Japanese Government as a Living Intangible Cultural Treasure of Karate.
John had also been to seminars taught by Taika Seiyu Oyata, where being a Marine and the largest man present, he’d the honor of serving as “uke” for several techniques.
John and I had a fantastic discussion, which the others present seemed to enjoy, at least for a while. We eventually brought our conversation to a close as the non-karatekas present’s eyes began to glaze over. It just goes to show you that you never know who you are going to meet during a dinner party! And that, the world of the traditional martial artist is simply not that big.