I came into this study at a time in my life when I was not quite an American. My family and I arrived as refugees from Communist Cuba - victims of the communism so many foolish Americans seem to be embracing today. Having lost everything, home, wealth, and business, and likely on a government hit list, my father took his family and fled for America. There were no Cuban kids for me to call friends, and at a time when schoolyard fights were common, it was clear that I was not like every other kid in school. Karate was a physical language, and it demanded physical respect. I found where I belonged.
That is what I liked about Karate. Success or failure was dependent on me, and not anyone else. If I failed, it was my fault. If I succeeded, it was my success. In karate there was no point in the silly practice of "blame assignment" that is so popular today. Starting in the fall of my tenth year, it consumed every moment of my day and every thought in my mind, often to the dismay of my parents and school teachers. And at that time, fights between kids after school was common.
In 1979 I tested for 3rd Dan in front of Mas Oyama during one of his last visits to the USA. The board seen above was one that didn't break for me and was signed by Mas Oyama as well as Don Buck, Oyama's most senior student in the USA.
A year later there was some political bickering beginning between Japan and the USA as to who had "Real Kyokushin Karate" and it began to consume all training time. I took that as an opportunity to expand and learn other things. I studied Okinawan Karate, Shotokan Karate, Boxing, some Chinese Kung Fu systems, Filipino Martial Arts, and even some JKD (Bruce Lee's stuff). At the end of the day, noodles are noodles and it all has to do with how you flavor them. In other words, a punch is a punch and a kick is a kick. The objectives are the same whether you are in Africa, Europe, or Burbank California.
And moreover, later in life, I found that fighting with firearms is the exact same thing only faster and with more reach. The principles are the same. Indominable tenacity, a template from which to learn physical skills, the ability to think in violence, the ability to control fear and reaction to pain, and the realization that your limits are usually self-imposed.
Me at 17 years old - 1977 (Yeah...the hair...it was my "wildman" period)