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

Friday, April 11, 2008

Martial Arts Roots & Shaolin Temple

Do you know your martial arts roots? Techniques, methods, and systems are passed down from instructor to student with varying degrees of success. Harold L. Hankins studied a number of martial arts and acquired proficiency in a few. Some of his teachers did the same.

Harold Hankins pushed his teachers to teach him the way their teachers taught them, even if it meant personal pain and struggle to himself. This way, he felt he could reach back, through his teachers, into the past, to get more of the essence from which their martial arts came. He wanted to gain the spirit of the art as well as the techniques.

These roots of martial arts grow deep and reach back to the Shaolin Temple. The roots often intermingle and cross along the path. Sometimes a student learns from his teacher, his teacher’s teacher, and his own classmates. For example, Choki Motubu learned not only from Itosu, but also from Itosu’s student, Kentsu Yabu--just as Harold Hankins learned, not only from Ki Wang Kim, but Kim’s student, Albert Cheeks, or was taught by Sifu Leung as well as Hankins' classmate, Dave Meadows.

Some of Master Hankins’ students also had access to his teachers, such as Duncan Leung, Shiyogo Kuniba, Ki Wang Kim, and others. The amazing thing is that his students did not have to seek out Master Hankins’ teachers, they also came to his school and taught. The little school on 537 W. 35th Street, in Norfolk, Virginia, was privileged to have witnessed some of the world’s greatest and most renown masters and legends. A brief lineage of three such masters who visited and taught at his school, is listed below. Their roots go back to the Shaolin Temple,

Tang Soo Do .................................Motobu Ha Shito-Ryu
\....................................... /
/ .......................................\
Ki Wang Kim ...............................Shiyogo Kuniba
Kanken Toyama....................................... Kosei Kukuba
Kentsu Yabu .................................Choki Motubu
\......................................... /
Yasutsune “Anko” Itosu
Sokon “Bushi” Matsumura
“Tode” (Karate) Sakugawa

Wing Chun Kung Fu
Duncan Leung
Yip Man
Leong Bik
Leung Jon
Wong Wah Bo (hard style) and Leung Ye Tai (soft style)
Leung Bok Chau
Yim Wing Chun
Ng Mui

Other styles studied by Master Hankins:
  • Boxing from Roy Luson;
  • Judo & Jiu-Jitsu from LT. Charles O. Neal;
  • Pa Kua and Hsing-I from Robert Smith;
  • Aikido from Akio Mitake and Nebuhiro Hayashi;
  • Tae Kwon Do from Kwang Hyung Kim, Ilhoi Kim and Jong Kwan Park
Additional Training from classmates:
  • Tang Soo Do from Albert Cheeks
  • Wing Chun from Dave Meadows

The tradition continues. Several of Grandmaster Hankins' students now teach. At least 3 have prospering schools in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia; Willie Hunter, Herbert Lee Fayton, and Jack Dark, III.

Masters Dark & Fayton have also expanded their martial arts training by gaining expertise in Haidong Gumdo under Master Dong Jin Park, USA Haidong Gumdo President.

Jack Dark Tae Kwon Do Champions

Fayton Martial Arts Academy

Tiger Martial Arts Academy

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Our Legacy

It was a long, torturous, fascinating journey. It was perilous road congested with prodigious pitfalls, and intriguing turns. Phenomenal is the man capable of surviving such an expedition. Harold Lee Hankins not only survived this road, he conquered it.

The journey began over fifty years ago, on the hazardous streets of the wrong side of Norfolk. A part of the city where you wake-up each day wondering whether you would be predator or prey. Each day brought with it new lessons in survival. Young Harold became a street warrior, not by choice—by necessity. This was a daily struggle of life and death.

However, as the Fates would allow, this warrior was also an award-winning scholar. So outstanding were his mental gifts that he was feared for his mind as well as his wits. People then, as now, often shuddered at the mere sound of his voice. He possessed the skill, knowledge, and determination, to have become a brilliant lawyer, or masterful surgeon. Circumstances forced him to sacrifice degrees in arts and sciences for degrees in other arts.

As a young man, Harold Hankins was thrust into boxing. His teacher, Roy Luson, was five times heavyweight champion of the Navy; only an injured hand prevented this knockout specialist from representing the USA in the 1956 Olympics. Luson built an elite core of young amateur boxers, which included Hankins. So viciously effective were these “farmers,” that they were banned from any further fights with the Navy’s champion pugilists.

Sensing there was more to fighting, Harold Hankins sought out qualified Masters in the Asian fighting arts. He wrote letters, made telephone calls, and traveled to meet them. He recruited and petitioned membership to build a school. The odds against him often seemed insurmountable.

Once he a found a Judo school and applied for membership. The Instructor blatantly insulted Hankins by telling him his race of people were inferior, unable to grasp and endure the training. “We find colored people lack the culture to learn this discipline,” he was informed.

Disappointed—but not discouraged, determined to learn Martial Arts, start his own school, and open its doors to any and all with a desire to train, Harold Hankins continued studying and traveling many miles, sacrificing pleasure for his principle. He opened the first Karate school in Norfolk, Virginia. Many world renown Masters contributed to this unique and profound school.

Some of the teachers are in the Black Belt hall of Fame. Some were sadistic, brutal, ruthless, unsympathetic, intolerant of mistakes, or just downright mean. Sometimes Harold Hankins traversed lengthy stretches of lonely highways and waited endless hours in empty hallways for classes to begin. He endured “No Pity Nights”; classes in which even the teacher suffered broken bones.

He endured horrors of training and drilling which would give Freddy Kruger nightmares. Few pulled through these panic filled classes of agony. Those who did are to be revered. His Master instructors were trained in the old tradition. They honed their skills on battlefields. Some had killed numerous men. A spectacular collection of Korean Masters, Japanese Masters, Chinese Masters, CIA Agents, and authors of Martial Arts books, were these internationally recognized Martial artists.

Harold Hankins persevered and mastered the techniques taught to him by this illustrious roster. The diversity of their styles and methods created a monster in the eyes of the Martial Arts community. Mere mention of his name was cause for alarm. Only those with the warrior’s spirit were capable of training with him. The Judo school, which originally refused him membership, asked him to return and teach classes. Mr. Hankins “politely” declined their offer.

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. Thus was born the Authentic Karate Club, borrowing on the name of the Authentic Jiu-Jitsu Club in which he previously trained.

So from the expertise and proficiency he received in:
  • Boxing from Roy Luson;
  • Judo & Jiu-Jitsu for LT. Charles O. Neal;
  • Pa Kua and Hsing-I from Robert Smith;
  • Aikido from Akio Mitake and Nebuhiro Hayashi;
  • Tang Soo Do from Ki Whang Kim and Albert Cheeks;
  • Tae Kwon Do from Kwang Hyung Kim, Ilhoi Kim and Jong Kwan Park;
  • Wing Chun King Fu from Shiu Hung Leung and Dave Meadows;
  • & Motobu Ha Shito-Ryu from Shiyogo Kuniba,
  • Harold Lee Hankins created a devastating system.

From the Wrecking Crew, to the Wild Bunch, to the Bulala Bunch, 537 West 35th Street in Norfolk, Virginia was truly a House of Warriors. Those with the patience to stay and receive the proper training built character and became champions. Students under his command changed the face of tournaments in this area forever, bringing about revisions of rules, annihilation of certain divisions, and the proliferation of closed tournaments.

“When I speak—you function!” he was often heard saying to sweating and struggling students. Devotedly they practiced his preachings. Flawless technique was the goal. The by-products were strength of character, discipline, clarity of thought, confidence, patience, leadership qualities, deductive reasoning, pride of self, and winning—in anything.

“If you stay with me, and do like I tell you, you can go anywhere in the world,” he often prophesied. “You might not speak the language. You might not know his forms. But you’ll be able to fight—with anyone.” His students have been victorious in Asia, Europe, the Caribbean, North, and South America. Wherever they went, people wanted to know, “Who taught you?” The students of Harold Hankins have stood with the best of them, and stood over the rest of them.

It is one thing to learn Karate. It is another thing to become Karate. Harold Lee Hankins and his black belts epitomize this thought. His teachings have permeated every aspect of their varied lives. He has taught federal and local government agents, ministers, doctors, lawyers, actors, police officers, soldiers, Muslims, Christians, Jews, Blacks, Whites, Asians, Hispanics, and anyone else with the desire to learn his ancient techniques manifested by modern methods.

Those who were fortunate enough to thrive under the hand that managed “the stick” or suffered “the block” will never forget HIS NAME, or the lessons he endeavored to instill in us. He gave us his heart. We have witnessed, on countless occasions, his students defeating not only the students of other Masters, but the Masters themselves.

I personally can testify that I saw globally recognized Masters retreat from the challenge to battle a most willing Harold Hankins. I have seen this walking Martial Arts encyclopedia mesmerize audiences, contenders, and pretenders with his vast knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of the arts and warriors. They always stand in awe of his mental and physical prowess.

He took us in, nurtured us, and cultivated us as his children. He taught us to be officers, and gentlemen, and ladies—warriors as well as scholars. Now that we have matured and have children of our own, and students of our own, they are his grandchildren. With eminent appreciation, we acknowledge his accomplishments, already of mythical proportions. He is genuinely a present day legend, devotedly loved and admired by those who felt “the stick.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Finding Time To Train

No matter how good the instructor and instructions, you must put in your own time to train and practice, especially these days. You can squeeze in time to train. I used to walk to class daily--a distance of approximately 5 miles. Master Hankins used to tell us the story of a Hsing-I master, Shang Yun-hsiang, who would train the 20 miles, to and from his teacher's house, barefooted, with his shoes draped around his neck, while Shang practiced the "half bamboo step." After awhile, I noticed that it seemed every time Master Hankins told the story, he would look directly at me. Finally, the light bulb went off.

So, instead of just walking to class, I would train on the way to class, practicing a technique or doing some drill to utilize the time. For three months at a time, I would practice the same thing. For example, I would hold some weights in my hand and practice striking techniques all the way to class. I wouldn’t put my arms down to rest them, just kept them up. At times, it felt like 10,000 needles were sticking in my arms.

It seemed every night, on the way back home, When I was close to home, going across the Campostella bridge, my arms would have the most needles pricking them. I would have the urge to throw those weights into the river below. But the thought that Master Hankins would make me dive into the water to retrieve those weights (I figured he wouldn’t let me replace them), was deterrent enough to force me to continue with weights in my hands. Eventually, my arms would return to normal, and I would be home. After three months of this, I had a much quicker and devastating striking technique.

For another three months, I would punch every telephone post along the route to class with my right hand (a distance of approximately 5 miles). On the way home (unless I was fortunate enough to get a ride), I would punch every telephone post with my left hand. A telephone post is not as forgiving as a makiwara. There were many telephone posts along the route. I developed a formidable punch, I couldn’t even punch a person in play without doing tenable damage.

I remember after three months of punching telephone posts, I reached the corner of 35th & Newport for the final pole. A police car with two officers were watching me. I was in my usual ill-tempered mood after such a punishing training regimen. I glared at the two officers and then delivered a shocking punch to the pole. By then, my technique was good enough that the lamp on top of the pole visibly shook. The two officers looked at the lamp, looked at each other in disbelief, then sped off. I knew my punch was pretty good then.

I would train while watching television shows. I would stay in a stance while watching a show, and do push-ups, leg lifts, or some other exercise when a commercial came on. Even if sitting somewhere, like in a movie theater, I could practice and perfect a blocking technique or something.

Training was a ritualistic routine like personal hygiene. I just did it. The by-product of such training became quite evident. I would practice a technique over and over and over and over and over until I got tired and bored with it, then I would practice it over and over and over and over and over until I found comfort in doing it. It would become a natural reflex action. I only wish I would have dedicated as much time to stretching--I could use the flexibility now.

Everyone I know, who was ever any good at martial arts, put in extra time training. My senior student and classmate, Jack Dark, III, now a master himself with his own school, used to run or ride his bicycle to class, arrive early to train, train with the class, train after class, then run or ride his bike home. Some days, we would put in extra training sessions, or leave 35th Street dojo after class and go to practice with Sifu Duncan Leung at his Wing Chun class.

Jack would train so hard, Marines fresh out of boot camp, or champion body builders could not keep up with him training. He would be so quick and elusive, fighting him would be like fighting a ghost--a ghost who could hurt you at will and evade any attack you launched.

You had to be dedicated (or crazy) to go through such training as our Grandmaster Hankins had in store for you. But you would receive remarkable results. He would often say, “If you stick with me, you’ll be in such good shape, you could run in the Kentucky Derby. You might not win it--but you’ll be in it.”

Train harder and more frequently. It has rewards and by-products you cannot imagine.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A journey of 1000 miles begins...

In May of 1976, I met two men who changed my life forever. One was Harold Hankins, the other was Duncan Leung. I stand tall with feet planted on the shoulders of these martial arts masters. The lessons they infused into me have enabled me to accomplish much more than I could ever dream. Along the path in which they guided me I have been fortunate enough to have also met others who have impacted my life in a glorious manner.

This blog is dedicated to some of the adventures and lessons I have acquired along this path. I trust it will both educate and entertain others who are traveling similar paths. It will hopefully also set the record straight on many matters and misconceptions.