Sensei Sherman Harrill
I am talking now of memories of Forty plus years ago and the fact that I sometimes have problems remembering what I have done the day before. One will have to realize that this is how I saw the training at that time through the eyes of a very young Marine and is my story. Stories of others will be different because people seem to see things just a little different.
I would enter from the alley at a small door located at the edge of the porch of Sensei's house which would be to the left when facing it. At this point I was a tag along with either Baker, DeSantis or Conners and almost everything I did was to follow their actions. We would pay our respects to Sensei, remove our shoes and change into our gi's. I had no idea of the meaning behind the alter so I just bowed to it because that is what everyone else was doing. The basics were listed on the wall and that was where it all started. A student would work on basics until they could get through them then move to the dojo floor.
Other than Sensei Shimabuku there were two Okinawans that were teaching the Marines at the Agena dojo. His number two son Shinsho (Ciso) Shimabuku and Kensho Tokumura. Both of these men were around 17 years of age at that time (Tokumura was born in 1941). Kensho Tokumura taught Basics to the beginners and Ciso would help his father in the teaching of the katas.
First I need to set the record straight that I was never one of Sensei's favorite or better students. I was just one of many young Marines that passed through the Agena dojo. A lot of the instructions to beginners was by other Marines that had already been training at the dojo. You might say the blind were leading the blind with what knowledge we had of the martial arts at that time.
The dojo hours were 4:00 pm to 10:00 pm during the week and 10:00 am to 10:00 pm on the weekends. There seemed to be a pattern on the amount of attendance at the dojo and it revolved around pay day. The closer to pay day the attendance was up but on pay day it was very low. All of the young Marines were hitting the village and most would blow their paycheck in short order then back to the dojo. :-) At the time I was there very few formal class were held. You would arrive at the dojo and depending on the time of day there may be very few people there. You spent whatever amount of time you wanted to at the dojo training. There were many times when I would see someone come in and not even be there a half and hour then leave.
I would run through my basics and then work on whatever I had been taught at that time. Sensei would show some more on kata and leave you to work on it on your own. If you were making mistakes he would come over and make the correction but if you didn't get it right after a couple of times he would take his finger and smack you on the head and call you dummy or tell you that no body stay home. A lot of time I didn't get it because my head felt like a pickle. Most of the corrections actually came from Ciso when he was there. One has to
remember that Ciso and Tokumura were school boys and were not at the
dojo all the time.
One thing about training at that time, there were no thoughts about rank or associations. I didn't even understand the ranking system and the associations had not yet entered into the system. You went to the dojo to learn and sweat your backside off and throughout this there were friends made that have withstood the test of time. They were and still are very close friends.
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 ask 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. [As I stated above,] 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 make 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