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Okinawan Karate Clubs

8830 Currie Rd.   Northville, MI 48168 

248-349-4518

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grandmasterwhite_lo_resMaster Robert L. White was born July 14, 1939. He grew up in Pennsylvania, but for most of his adult life has called Michigan home. He attended Western Michigan University, where he played football and studied to be a teacher. After graduation, he taught science and history in Junior High School and High School, and played football professionally, as a linebacker for the Grand Rapids Blazers of the World Football League. (Some teams from the WFL eventually joined the AFL, which became today's American Football Conference of the NFL). In those days, the early 1960's, pro football paid so little that Master White needed his teaching job to make ends meet. And, when the principal of the high school gave him the ultimatum to choose between football and teaching, Master White chose teaching. Besides playing football and teaching, Master White has worked as a salesman for Charles Pfizer, and later for Bristol-Meyers Squibb.

He missed the contact of football, and that led Master White to the Martial Arts. In 1965, Master White met Sensei Jim McLain in the Grand Rapids YMCA. Sensei McLain was a top student of Grand Master Robert Trias, founder of the USKA, and the first person to open a karate dojo in the United States (in 1946 in Phoenix, Arizona). Master White joined McLain's dojo and rose to the rank of Brown Belt in the Shorei-ryu style of karate before Sensei McLain moved away.

Afterwards, Master White went from school to school, searching for the real karate he was after. He finally found it in Detroit, at an Isshin-ryu school taught by Doug Noxon and Willie Adams, the school founded by Ken Pittaway. Master White earned his Sho-dan (first degree Black Belt) with them in 1970, and his Ni-dan in 1971 (with certificates signed by Tatsuo Shimabukuhimself). He studied with such other notable Isshin-ryu Masters as Norbert Donnelly, Bill Pogue, Angi Uezu, and Kichiro Shimabuku. Master White has studied and taught Isshin-ryu ever since, though he has expanded his interests by learning from such accomplished Martial Artists as Remy Presas (stick fighting), Seiyu Oyata (Tuite Kempo, grappling, nerve point fighting), Shinkichi Oddo (Okinawan weapons), Ed Parker (American Kempo), Roy Osborne(Shorinji Kempo), Michael Brodman (Shorinji-ryu), Master Koshida (Aikido), John Osako(Judo), Al Wasil (Kung Fu, Tai Chi, Chi Kung), Jwing-Ming Yang (Tai Chi, Chi Kung), andTadashi Yamashita (Shorin-ryu). (Yamashita was in the Chuck Norris movie, The Octagon). Master White also traveled to study with Isshin-ryu pioneers Don Nagle, Harold Long, andSteve Armstrong, and as recently as February, 1997, journeyed to Thailand to study Muay Thai kick-boxing.

Master White served as an officer in the American Okinawan Karate Association (formed by Shimabuku, Mitchum, Armstrong and Long), a member of the board of the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame and is currently President of the Okinawan Karate Clubs, Inc. He has been teaching for over 20 years in Northville, Michigan, and has added classes in Novi, Ypsilanti and Plymouth. He recently began offering Tai Chi classes through Northville, and Cardio-Karate classes (aerobics) in Novi. Through his karate classes, he has spread Isshin-ryu to a new generation by promoting over 100 students to the rank of Black Belt. MrsBarb White, Master White's wife, is also a high ranking Black Belt.

In the 1970's, Master White competed in hundreds of tournaments, facing tough competitors such as Mike Stone, Nick Adler, "Sugar Bear" Bob Hogan, "Monster Man" Everett Eddy, Jim LaRocco, Joe Lewis, Benny "the Jet" Urquidez, and Shorty Mills (who was nearly seven feet tall and appeared in the movie Black Ninja). Before retiring from the tournament scene, Master White won over a hundred trophies and plaques, for both his fighting and for his kata performances. 

In 1973, while traveling the world as a salesman for Squibb, he visited Okinawa, where he personally met Tatsuo Shimabukutatsuo_robertThis was less than two years before Shimabuku's death. (See picture at right).

Study of the Martial Arts often leads to an increased interest in health and alternative medicine. Master White has pursued studies in acupuncture, acupressure, Naturopathic treatments, and herbal remedies. He is a collector of knowledge. One time he joked it would only take him 30 lifetimes to learn all the subjects he wanted to study. It is his delight to pass on his knowledge in these fields to any of his Martial Arts students who express an interest.

On December 6, 1997, Grand Master Ken Pittaway, a 9th degree Black Belt, promoted Master White to 8th degree Black Belt (Hachi-Dan). At the same ceremony, Grand Master Pittaway promoted Master Bill Pogue to 8th degree Black Belt, Master Tyrone Melton to 8th degree Black Belt, and Master Danny Bartley to 7th degree Black Belt. Following this historic ceremony, the Masters held a testing for lower ranking Black Belts, at which, eleven of Master White's Black Belts were promoted to Ni-Dan or San-Dan, and one of his Brown Belts was promoted to Black Belt.

Master White has been profiled in Who's Who in Isshin-ryu, and in Harold Long's book Isshin-ryu Karate-The Ultimate Fighting Art, and is mentioned in Norbert Donnelly's book Dojo, and has been written up in a number of articles in Black Belt magazine.

In 1999, Master White's dedication to Isshin-ryu was recognized by the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame when he received the organization's first ever "Lifetime Achievement Award." In the year 2001, he achieved the high honor of being inducted into the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame!

In 2008, Master White received his greatest reward - for all the time and effort he has put forth as a: Father and Teacher- never being selfish of his time, the rank of "Ku-Dan" - Red Belt/ 9th degree was Awarded to Sensei White while attending a martial arts tournament to benefit children in "Aids/reserch". Sensei White was recognized by a quorum of the highest ranking Masters in our system today, and thus awarded the rank of 'Ku-Dan'!

"The mediocre teacher tells,

The good teacher explains.

The superior teacher demonstrates,

The great teacher inspires."
... William Arthur Ward

Thank you, Sensei for: "telling, explaining, demonstrating and most of all inspiring all of us"          The Yudan shi and Students!

 

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Grand Master Bob White, Master Barb White and Jr. Master Brian Hubbard 2016 

 

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