ARTICLES & COMMENTS
two visits to the USA
in 1964 & 1966
Sensei was angry and upset after he left Tacoma in 1966, but was
also upset when he left Pittsburgh in 1964. He was not treated with
the respect he deserved, had a lot of 'cultural problems', like
going to the bathroom and not shutting the door, eating strange
food, etc., and was over worked. When he again was invited to come
to the USA in 1967 he did not want to go anymore. In 1967 his
son-in-law Angi Uezu went in his place.
Photo taken in 1966
Tatsuo Shimabukuro and Don Nagle
The story of how Tatsuo Shimabukuro came to be here in the United
Bill Duessel and Harry Acklin came to Harrisburg
seeking me out in order to go to Pittsburgh and teach them. It
wasn't as easy as it sounds, we started in a place called Millhall
and ended up on Forbes Ave, Oakland, Pittsburgh. I went for $50.00 a
weekend. Harry drove me in a Bank delivery truck to Pittsburgh and I
came home on a bus Sunday morning.
The school produced some of the best fighters on the
circuit, most were street fighters who wanted to sharpen their
skills. Harry and Bill wanted more, rank, the evil thing in karate.
Joe Pennywell wanted then what I teach today, he kept asking me, "Is
Isshinryu the true way?" Me, I could not answer him because I,
myself didn't understand what he meant.
The dojo went well for a long time and everyone
appeared happy. You
see every day after class we, Bill, Harry, Joe and Jimmy Lynn,
always ended up at a local pub, we became a gang so to speak.
One day a reporter of KDKA TV came upon the scene and
we got lucky and had a chance to appear on KDKA TV, and this is a
laugh, the program was called, "Feats for Feet", all about men who
did great things with their feet.
Unfortunately, the gang disintegrated and the
camaraderie disappeared. During the week Bill and Harry started their own
classes, not keeping me aware and naturally not giving me any of the
money. One of their students was a man named James Morabeto, a pizza
maker from Oakland, and he had big money.
Harry, according to Jim Lynn, went through my personal
belongings and found Sensei's address and to make a long story
short, they contacted Sensei and paid his way here to Pittsburgh.
One day they were at the dojo the next they were gone.
I never knew anything until I got an invitation from Harry Acklin to
come visit Sensei, and I never even knew he was in the states.
Picture this. I entered the dining room of Morabeto's
home. They had a long table set up in a small room. Sensei sat at
the far end and the side chairs were filled with beginners, those
who were new to Isshinryu and none of them knew who I was. I could
not get back to Sensei because there was no room to walk around. All
I remember was Harry yelling "Show Sensei the picture you have of
his daughter". That's how ignorant Harry was, bless his soul.
Making this longer than I expected. Couldn't even get
to speak with Sensei, naturally conversation was not possible anyway
so I left. A few days later I accepted the fact that there was
nothing for me in Pittsburgh, so I joined the Corp.
1964- SENSEI's FIRST TRIP TO THE USA
Sensei Shimabukuro stayed for 3 months in Pittsburgh,
PA, on invitation of Harry Acklin. He arrived in September 1964 and
returned to Okinawa in November 1964. James Morabeto, student of
Harry Acklin, sponsored the trip and sensei stayed in Morabeto's
home. Most of the time Harry Acklin, William Duessel and Joe
Pennywell were present, but none of the original students of sensei.
Don Nagle, Harold Long and Harry G. Smith visited Pittsburgh only
Photo Pittsburgh 1964
Sensei is in the center
Standing behind sensei (l-r): Harry Acklin, William Duessel, Joe
Pennywell, John Pringle & James Morabeto
It was in the winter time and Master Shimabuku wore
socks when he trained because of the cold weather. He did not like
the food and was mistreated. There were problems with his host
family, because of cultural differences, like going to the bathroom
and not shutting the door. They did not feed him well; he did not
like the American food. Also he was overworked, since he had to
teach most of the classes personally.
Tatsuo went home after 3 months and did not ever want to come to the United States
1966- SENSEI's SECOND AND LAST TRIP TO THE
Steve Armstrong invited sensei to come to Tacoma, WA.
Although not treated right during his first trip, Tatsuo Shimabukuro
came again to the United States. Sensei stayed for 7 weeks in
October and November 1966.
Photo Tacoma, WA 1966
Bob Ozman, Tatsuo Shimabukuro & Steve
The first 3 weeks he stayed with Steve Armstrong in
Tacoma. Bob Ozman came over from LA, Harold Long from TN and Harry
Acklin from PA. Sensei stayed in Armstrong's house and slept in his
oldest son's room. At first he seems to enjoy the stay: he liked to
stay in the first son's room, he enjoyed seeing that Steve's son
Wyatt was a karate boy-san. But the same cultural problems as in
1964 occured again. In Steve Armstrong's home Sensei went to the
bathroom while Steve's wife was taking a shower and Steve's wife
started screaming. Sensei did not understand, normal etiquette on
Okinawa, he was indifferent to Mrs. Armstrong's presence, and
mumbled: 'All American men hen-peck-ee'. Since he did not
like the food, he bought his own noodles, and one day he found a
burned out cigarette in the package of his noodles in the kitchen.
After the 3 weeks in Tacoma, Tatsuo stayed for 1 week
with Harold Long in Knoxville, TN. Sensei made repeated requests to
go see the mountains. Sometimes he would point and say something in
Japanese. Mr. Wheeler would say, "He wants to go see the Smoky
Mountains." Harold Long ignored that and kept him occupied when
not in the dojo.
Photo Bayonne, NJ 1966
Sensei with sai, Ed McGrath & Don Nagle
Than Tatsuo went to stay for about 1 week with Don
Nagle in Bayonne, NJ. Returned to Tacoma for a few days, flew to
Cleveland for 4 days and returned to Tacoma for his final 5 days in
During these last days of sensei's visit film
recordings were made of sensei performing kata. For many hours daily
they filmed, developed and edited kata after kata. Sensei was very
tired and over worked but gave his best. He was quoted saying 'Old
man kata'. This so called 1966-film became the standard for
Isshinryu kata. There was also filmed in 1964 in Pittsburgh and at
Don Nagle's dojo. There are recordings that is not used for the
'standard'-film and sensei teaching take-downs and bunkai.
Photo of sensei taken at Don Nagle's dojo in
Sensei Tatsuo Shimabukuro left the United States with a
deep anger and never came back. When he was asked to come again in
1967 he sent his son-in-law Angi Uezu, who stayed his first visit to
the USA for about a year teaching at dojo in New York, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.