Super! That sums up the United States Martial Arts Association camp and Hall of Fame 2000. The CJA had four Black Belt representatives who made the trip to Little Rock for the event: Prof. Edwards & Lora, David Hallowell, and Chris Andrews. We all had long flights with multiple stops. Lora and Prof. left Kalispell at 2 pm on the 9th, with stop overs in Minneapolis, and Memphis, arriving in Little Rock at 10 PM After a short ride to the Excelsior Hotel, billed as the finest in Arkansas, we met Chris in the Lobby. He arrived 5 hours earlier. We practiced the Tai Chi form in the Lobby, and then David showed up.
|Master Fusei Kise from Okinawa|
We were up early the next day, the 10th, because classes started at 8 am. There were a total of 5 four hour class blocks during the camp, each divided into one hour instructional segments. There were classes in Judo, Jujitsu, Karate, Aikido, Cane fighting, etc. by the leading teachers in the U.S. We also had special classes offered by foreign masters. For example we had a special class by a Kempo master from Spain, another by Master Fusei Kise from Okinawa, etc. At the same time, some of the top law enforcement martial instructors in the US were teaching classes exclusively to law enforcement people.
We were especially impressed by the cooperation and friendly demeanor of all these fiercely independent leaders. Each showed respect toward the others. There was no pompous, arrogant strutting, ego mania, and belittling that we have seen so many times at other martial arts conventions and events. Here there were real masters attending classes of other styles, humbly trying to learn and appreciate different kinds of moves and approaches to various attacks. They were putting their own self interest and pride aside, so that they could boost camaraderie and the high purposes of the USMA! It made one proud to be a member of the USMA!
There were some major problems at this first USMA camp and HOF. The individual responsible for the mats and instructional program scheduling, moved 2 months before the camp and did not tell anyone. Prof. Marty Cale, coordinator of the event, rushed around at the last minute obtaining some large carpets to put on the concrete floors. Scheduling was done by the “seat of the pants” as the event unfolded. Yet every class was held, and everyone participated without tossing their opponent’s hard on the concrete. It was great to see everyone pull together to make it work. Many “masters” of different styles did not get a chance to teach due to the schedule foul up, but they all took it in stride, acting with the maturity reflecting their rank. Again, it made one proud to be a member of the USMA.
Chris, Lora, David, and Prof worked out in many classes, picking up lots of interesting ideas and arts. We also had several of our own special workouts between and after other sessions to do Tai Chi, Nage (there were a few folding mats), Shinen, and a couple of Shinyo arts. We met so many interesting and special people that we could not report them all here. There were at least 300 people working out in the regular classes through out the camp.
Police Class with the “Red Man” suit
While we did not participate in the Law Enforcement training programs, we did notice that they were making good use of the “Red Man” suit, and were pounding each other pretty thoroughly. Skip would have had a “Hey Day”!
O’Sensei Phil Porter, 10th Degree, 78 years young, and President of the USMA, taught several Judo classes. He was as sharp and as smooth as a 30 year old. Walther von Krenner, a Kalispell, Montana, Aikido teacher, is world recognized in his field. We had the opportunity to attend his classes and get to know him much better. He was later recognized at the HOF as “American Aikido Grandmaster of the Year”! He and Don Angier used to teach together in their own dojo years ago in California. Another very interesting fellow was Reno Morales, a kickboxing, Muy Thai, etc. teacher from the Bronx in New York. He was a veteran, having served with the “recon” marines in Vietnam, and was now involved heavily in executive protection. We hope to run into him again next year, if not sooner. Another interesting teacher was Gary Moro from San Francisco, who teaches Aiki-Jitsu, which is very different from standard Aikido. Then there was Lora and Carl Mayhugh. Carl teaches Jujitsu, Kickboxing, etc. in Hesperia (So. Calif.) and trains with Gene LaBell, the famous Judo Master and wrestler. In the “it’s a small world” category, they will be starting Okazaki Massage training with Bob Hudson next month. We could not leave out Prof. Klaus Schuhmacher, the “human dynamo” from Germany, who heads up the World Martial Arts League. There are so many, many others, that we just cannot include them all.
Chris was our gourmet guide, helping us get to Subway for lunches, and to Shorty Small’s (for famous Arkansas ribs), and the Pub (for authentic fish and chips). Our adventure at Shorty Small’s was a bit too long to include here, so you will have to ask about it!
So after 5 long training sessions, we got an afternoon off. We had a Danzan Ryu workout, and then went sightseeing. Next door to the Excelsior was the old Arkansas State House, which had been converted to a museum. Besides the shrine to President Bill Clinton in the hotel, there was another entire room in the old State House enshrining him as well. Under glass one could view his famous saxophone and his ratty tennis shoes. The room was literally filled with Clinton “memorabilia”. There was even a taped video presentation by the President that just played over and over. We were VERY impressed! Especially by the hidden cameras and microphones leading into a security room with armed guards. Go figure! However, the rest of the museum was dedicated to historical events of the past, and had many remarkable exhibits.
Finally it came time to prepare for the Hall of Fame dinner and banquet. After a much needed shower, and fiddling over “cumber buns” and the like, we made our way to the banquet room. In addition to the four of us, we were joined by Stan Smith and his wife. Stan, a 4th Degree, teaches Kempo, Judo, Jujitsu, and Kajukenbo in Austin, Texas. When the meal was served we were really impressed. Even though there were about 500 or so in attendance, the food was excellent and there was plenty to eat. We were served at our tables and not cafeteria style. We never saw so many tuxedos at a martial arts event before. Every master and inductee was wearing one, so there were hundreds dressed in formal attire. Prof. Cale and O’Sensei Porter both gave good speeches, and the awards ceremony began.
Prof. had intended for every active “veteran” Black Belt (15 or more years) who was a member of the CJA, to submit their biography for review for the USMA HOF 2000. We were proud to have those CJA black belts who did submit the application and biography inducted: Prof. with the “Golden Life Award”, David as a “Master”, and Lora as an “Instructor”. Although unable to attend, Skip West was also inducted as “Law-Enforcement Instructor”. But the very best was yet to come. Tears came to our eyes as the master of ceremonies called out the name “Henry Seishiro Okazaki”, honored and inducted into the USMA Hall of Fame as a “Martial Arts Founder”. Equally as moving was when the MC read off the name “Merlin ‘Bud’ Estes” as a “Most Distinguished Grandmaster”, and the only one that night to receive this high honor. When Prof. Edwards went forward to receive these awards, Prof. Cale told him that these were the kind of leaders that they were looking for in these categories, and that he was proud to present these awards. One only needs to read the biographies of these two martial arts giants to understand why they could be so honored. We were proud and humbled to receive them in their memory.Unfortunately we had to say goodnight early because Prof. and Lora had to catch a 7 am morning flight, and needed to be at the airport an hour early for check in. The trip home was without incident. In summation, it was a great conference, we met some wonderful people, and we were honored to have been present for the presentation of the awards to Master Okazaki and Prof. Estes. We are looking forward to next year’s USMA camp and the CJA summer camp as well!