Sunday, July 17, 2011

In memory of our Great Grandmaster Harold Lee Hankins, who departed from us tonight, July 17, 2011. He was a father to many of us and ab inspiration to many more.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Real OG's (Original Gentlemen)

Battle of the 7 Cities Reunites Authentic Karate Masters

By Lincoln Stone

Special to the
New Journal and Guide

Some of the nicest people you would ever meet are some of the deadliest men you could ever know. This was particularly evident at the seventh annual, Battle of the 7 Cities, martial arts tournament which was held Saturday, June 5th, at Granby High School in Norfolk, Virginia.

The tournament is hosted each year by Virginia Black Belt Hall of Fame inductee, Master Jack Dark, III. This event showcases martial arts schools from all over the area and beyond. The practitioners competed in sparring and forms (choreographed movements which simulate fighting). Some of the form categories included various martial arts weapons. The top winners in each category received trophies, medals, plaques or belts.

Abundantly apparent during the event was the amount of respect, discipline, manners, attention to protocol, and positive energy each participant possessed. The older the black belts, the more reverence they managed to receive and project. These men earned their rank the old-fashioned way, through countless hours of grueling practice and dedication to their discipline, art and science of martial arts.

Among the many black belts in attendance was a core group who earned a difficult to achieve black belt from Norfolk’s own Grandmaster Harold Hankins. Hankins was a student of one of the pioneers of martial arts in America, Ki Whang Kim. It was Ki Whang Kim who granted Hankins (along with fellow classmates, Leon Nicholson and Gaylord Patterson) permission to teach Korean karate in this area.

Master Jack Dark
is the highest ranking student from Grandmaster Harold Hankins, co-founder of the first karate school in Norfolk, the legendary Authentic Karate Club which was located on 35th Street near Newport Avenue in the Park Place section of Norfolk. Hankins has retired from teaching and rarely but occasionally appears at events. He has left his legacy in capable hands.

Each of these veteran warriors has decades of martial arts experience and are reservoirs of deadly knowledge and fighting skills. Yet, they all are quick to smile when approached and project an aura of politeness and humility in the presence of others. Still, one gets a sense that these men could easily inflict massive and devastating punishment if they had the desire or need to do so. They are old-school black belts and gentlemen in the time-honored sense of the word.

Master Jack Dark carries on the great tradition of the 35th Street Karate system, a system which includes the teachings of some world renowned martial arts masters who visited and taught there. Besides Ki Whang Kim (Tang Soo Do Moo Duk Kwan), martial arts masters such as Shiyogo Kuniba (Motobu Ha Shito-Ryu/Seshin Kai), and Duncan Leung (Wing Chun) also taught at the little school in the heart of Park Place. Aikido, Ju Jitsu, boxing, and other martial arts studied by “Mister” Hankins were incorporated into this system as he brought in numerous martial arts masters to offer special instructions for his students to expand their skills.

Master Dark has taken that package, added Korean sword fighting (Haidong Gumdo) and has operated his own successful martial arts school for years now, which is currently located 928 Diamond Springs Road, #108 Cypress Point Shopping Center in Virginia Beach, VA. Dark’s charisma, skills, and engaging personality helps draw participants from miles around.

Grandmaster Albert Cheeks, former heavyweight World Tae Kwon Do champion and a member of the prestigious Taekwondo Hall of Fame was a special guest in attendance Saturday. Cheeks was one of the greatest competitors in the martial arts history of this country. Cheeks was the solo student of Grandmaster Ki Whang Kim at one time and continues to carryon the traditional teachings of the late, great Grandmaster Kim. Recently, Grandmaster Cheeks promoted Dark to 7th degree black belt.

Eugene “The Cyclone” Wynn was notorious for his devastating techniques in local tournaments on his way to winning championships, a minister; Wynn was a classmate of Jack Dark at the Authentic Karate Club. Together they were known as “The Dynamic Duo” and were a formidable pair in any tournament even participating in the infamous Fu Jow Pai full contact karate tournament which was held annually in New York’s Chinatown.

Austin “Butch” Simpson aka “Mad Dog,” was the first student to earn black belt under Harold L. Hankins at the Authentic Karate Club. Simpson was a fierce competitor who struck fear in the hearts of many tournament opponents on the way to numerous championships. “Butch” traveled from Maryland to assist his classmate, Master Dark, with his tournament. Coincidently, Simpson had another type of homecoming that day, being a graduate of Granby high school where he earned a number of awards in sports and music.

Herbert Lee Fayton
is also a senior black belt from the Authentic Karate Club. He has retired from the Norfolk Police Department where he was a detective who often worked under cover on a multitude of dangerous assignments. Fayton credit’s the skills he acquired from martial arts with saving his life several times. Fayton has his own school now, located 211 Providence Road, Chesapeake, VA.

Bernard Floyd
was a classmate of Albert Cheeks and a student of Grandmaster Kim. He was arguably the fastest competitor on the martial arts circuit in the golden era of the 70s. Floyd was known for his lightening kicks and precise technical skills. Master Floyd, now 7th degree black belt, has been lightweight, middleweight and heavyweight champion before retiring from the fighting circuit. He has also emerged from retirement a couple of times to reclaim championships.

One of the greatest fights ever, in the memory of those who witnessed it, was the battle between Bernard Floyd and Bernard Christia. Christia was also a champion black belt from the Authentic Karate Club and gained notoriety for his amazing speed and the fact that he competed with only one arm, the other lost due to an accident.

Josiah “Big Jo” Blount earned a black belt from the Authentic Karate Cub, where he operated as an assistant instructor to Grandmaster Hankins for 15 years. Blount has also been bodyguard for a number of artists when they came to town, such as Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman, Prince, Patti Labelle, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, and many others. Blount often operated as the school’s enforcer, even while building a career in the music business with his own Dangerous Jams record label.

Another black belt from the Authentic Karate Club, who showed up later at the event, was Willie Hunter, Jr. Hunter heads the Tiger Martial Arts Academy in Portsmouth, Va. As a child competitor on the local karate tournament scene, “Little” Willie was a martial arts prodigy. He currently operates one of the largest and finest schools in the area and continues to travel and study various martial arts styles to expand his own knowledge and hone his teaching methods.

Saturday, these well-seasoned warriors got a chance to reunite and pose for photographs following the black belt meeting before the competition began. They were all armed with warm smiles and magic memories as many in attendance recognized this historic reunion which was being witnessed at this prestigious event and snatched the opportunity to record the reunion for posterity.

Andre “AJ” Burden won the 18-29 lightweight black belt division. Burden was competing in the men’s division for the first time and is a student of Jack Dark III. Isaiah Pace was the 18-29 heavyweight winner and eventual grand champion. Pace is a Haidong Gumdo student of Jack Dark. The tradition of excellence continues.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

After Class (The Lessons Begin)

I visited a karate class recently. It was a good class, the students trained hard, the instructors focused in on some crucial elements of the arts, and it seemed all involved gained something from the class. When class was dismissed, practically all the students jumped up and rushed home, or off to some other pressing engagement. This kind of disturbed me.

I remember attending class on 35th Street. Class may have ended at 8 pm, but the students and instructors would often linger around until perhaps MIDNIGHT!! It was during this time, after class, when some of the key elements of martial arts understandings were revealed, and the invaluable experiences of the black belts were shared. I believe some of my most important lessons were learned after class. If nothing else, a lifelong bond was created with other members of the Authentic Karate Club, some of these relationships are even stronger than my own cohesive family relationships.

After class, we may have had some techniques clarified or improved. Sometimes we just listened to Baba Hankins explain how he learned. There were shared descriptions of fights and altercations, or memories of some tournament battles which were discussed and analyzed in detail. Occasionally, we would get together and go to a movie, or a meal, or to another school to train some more. There were even times when other martial artists would swing by and some impromptu sessions would evolve. It was amazing what happened AFTER class. It was incredible the things we learned AFTER class.

I don’t know how you can grasp
all that martial arts have to offer you if you don’t pursue it to its fullest and not just view it as something to do. It is a way of life--or at least that is what it once was. Those who I have witnessed to excel in these warrior ways, sought more from their teachers and seniors than the average student. They implored those who taught them to give them more. This way, they gained so much more than knowing how to throw a punch or block a kick, they learned how to apply their lessons to every aspect of their lives and how to benefit from this way they chose to travel.

You can’t get it by just going to class. You also need to get it after class and even before class. It certainly was worth it to me.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Authentic Karate Club Black Belts

On August 16, 1969, Master Ki Whang Kim granted Mr. Hankins, along with fellow black belts, Leon Nicholson and Gaylord Patterson, permission to teach Korean Karate. The school was named The Authentic Karate Club (after Lt. Charles O’Neil’s Authentic Jiu-Jitsu Club).

When Master Hankins decided to close his school years later, thus ending an almost legendary chapter in Hampton Roads’ martial arts history, these were the students who had earned black belt during that period.

Austin E. Simpson
Belden T. King
Alfrances Hankins
Joyce Patterson
James E. Shields, Jr.
Bernard Christia
Floyd Wright, Jr.
Alonzo Parker
Darryl Brisbane
Milton Haynes
Benjamin Hodges
H. Lee Fayton
J. Edward Shields, Jr.
Joseph Recca
Carter L. Wilson
Jack Dark, III
Amy Hankins
Michael Jackson
Nathan M. Richardson
Josiah Blount
Eugene I. Wynn
Willie Hunter, Jr.
Jesse Hunter
Joseph Garcia
Daniel Webb