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"Living the Way"

"A First Generation Student Speaks Out"

Sensei's Diploma



Photo of memorial to Sensei Harrill at Hope Yama Dojo
Sensei Harrill Memorial at Hope Yama Dojo

"Living the Way"
(A story about respect, courtesy, and humility.)

"Living the Way" was written by the late Sherman Harrill. It appeared in an issue of "Southern Kicks Newsletter".1

The young man walked unsteadily down the street, talking to himself, smelling heavily of alcohol, and angry at problems known only to himself.

Approaching him was an elderly man enjoying his evening walk on the same street. When within a few feet of each other, the young man challenged the elder with slurred cursing. The old man said nothing, just letting him vent out his anger. At one point the young man shoved him. Increasing his verbal attack with vigor, he awaited some type of response.

What he received took the young man by surprise. The elderly man responded by saying, "EXCUSE ME SIR", I do not wish to fight you, but I would be honored if you would allow me to walk you home and for you to talk with me. In my elderly years I have few friends with whom I can talk."

With this reply the young man's aggression diminished. Shaking his head to clear his thoughts, he looked into the face of the person his attack was directed towards. He saw the face, weathered by the passing of time, showing wisdom, compassion, and a peaceful understanding of his fellow man. Feeling embarrassed by his actions, he apologized and continued on his way.

A pleasant smile came over the elderly man's face as he continued his walk to the dojo.

As a master of the martial arts, he had put into action the techniques of many years.

RESPECT: To another, his sensei, to his many years of study, and himself.

COURTESY: Regardless of the turmoil and unrest; allow time for them to run their course.

HUMILITY: Courtesy and respect make up humility. When understood, this shows real inner strength and understanding of one's self and others. Humility is many times taken as a weakness because people do not see it for what it is.

You decide from what you have heard. Is it weakness or is it strength?

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Photo of young Sherman Harrill at Agena Dojo 1960
 Agena Dojo, Okinawa - February 14, 1960
(left to right) Charlie Conners, John DeSantis,
Sherman Harrill and Gary Baker

"A First Generation Student Speaks Out"
Copyright 2001 by Sherman Harrill2

All I can do is speak of my own experiences as how things happened to me when I trained in the Agena Dojo in 1959-1960.

Rank: Sensei Shimabuku promoted me to green belt after about 6 months with no testing. He just came up to me and said Harryu you catchy green belt. No big deal I then went and bought one. After another six months the same thing was done when he told me to catchy Black Belt. Upon leaving Okinawa Sensei sat John DeSantis and I down and asked if we were going to teach Isshin-Ryu when we went back to the States. At that time I had great hopes of doing just that. Sensei at that time did not promote me to the rank (there is a big difference between a promotion and entrusting) of Roku-Dan, he entrusted it to me. He said after 15 years plus training that it could be used. There was no contract just a handshake and my work, which was good enough at that time. Things do not always turn out the way we plan, for I didn't open a dojo for a long time. After I did and 22 years later I assumed the rank as I felt that I had done as Sensei had asked of me.

Now the big question most people want to know, what was my rank when I left Okinawa. I hope that I might have been a half way decent Sho-Dan but that would depend on what standards were used. One thing you will find out is that I will be able to hit someone just as hard with a white obi on as with a black one.

Secrets: If there were any secrets I sure in the hell didn't know any of them. I was neither one of Sensei's favorite or better students. I was just one of many young Marines that passed through the Agena Dojo. Almost everything I was shown was very basic, block, punch and kick. This along with a lot of guts or sometimes no common sense made for some very strong fighters out of the Dojo. There was two things that made a big difference in my personal training after leaving: one was having the code broken down by an Okinawan and two was working on the Kumite that Sensei taught. Kumite was not sparring but what people now know as bunkai.

42 Years Later: I have seen a lot of comments made by people about Shimabuku, Sensei. Some have been very good, others question his reasons for the way he developed Isshin-Ryu and promoted his students. Sensei was just another person and that means that he made some mistakes but NO ONE knows what his plan was except Tatsuo Shimabuku.

I have no problem with anyone who brings new ideas and knowledge into the system as long as you don't break one rule. Don't try to fix something that is not broken. There is nothing wrong with the way our basics or katas as taught by Shimabuku, Sensei. I suggest that if you do not like the way he done things or how he set up the system then look for another style and leave Isshin-Ryu alone.
Tatsuo Shimabuku trained and proud of it.

Sherman Harrill, Sensei

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Sensei Sherman Harrill's silk diploma

Sensei Sherman Harrill's silk diploma
Sensei Harrill's silk diploma2

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1. "Living The Way", by Sherman Harrill. Southern Kicks Newsletter, Volume 2, Number 12, page 11.

2. Private source.

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