A long time ago....in a Galaxy far, far away...Mike took up the study of Shodakan Karate'...a very old Okinawan form. The time was about '66...There was an organization called "The Anchorage Police Karate' Association." We met, first, in the basement of Dr. Miller's dental building on Fireweed, just east of Spenard Road...later, we moved to the basement of the Police Department downtown. Laurella took the course, too...to learn more about self-defense.
A person became part of the Association by interview.. Jim Perham and Gene Cox were Brown Belts under the instructor, Rick Hill. The three of them did the interviews of potential students.
Students included the Gruffs, Wayne Stolt, Ray Nesbett (whose dad was Buell Nesbett of the Alaska Supreme Court), Archie Hutchinson of the Police Department, Tom Norris of the Police Department, Ted Milette of Brady's Floor Covering ("Under the arrow at Fifth and Barrow"), Rick Odsather, who brought his black belt in Tae Kwan Do to the group from his service in Korea, Ed Zarobsky from the Ft. Rich Civilian Maintenance shops, the guy who owned the lumber yard (Bear Lumber) over just west of Merrill field and ran dragsters out at Palmer...gosh what a bunch of names
The karate' style was called "Shoden," a word taken from the old Okinawan form Shodakan...and modified for not only self-defense courses offered to the public, but for non-contact sparring for the advanced students..It intimated, like the word Chi-Qong, a "study"...
In APKA, we rarely used contact in sparring. Instead, we were expected to be so able to control our 'chi' and strikes properly to get full velocity, actually contact the other person's "gi" (the oriental martial "dress") and "Pop" our clothes with velocity. Once and a while we'd put on bamboo chest protection and practice various strikes against resistance, just to get our bodies used to the effects of resistance. But we NEVER sparred with contact. We also avoided any contests with other groups...they lacked the control for which we were held responsible. And, our Brown Belts could easily defeat their black belts in sparring, which was very embarrassing to their groups. Our instructor, Rick Hill, said..."when you're confronted in an alley, waving your 'belt' at the guy usually isn't of much use...so belts are really of no great importance here." Rick only gave out 3 levels of "belts"....Green (equivalent to other groups brown), Brown (equivalent to other groups black) and Black (to our instructors when they showed the competence expected by the classic Okinawan groups with which Rick was familiar).
For me, it was a wonderful beginning in the Martial Arts...the training was terrific for physical benefits, and the emphasis on mental well-being and self control was just wonderful. I'd had a HORRIBLE temper previous to that...I was the guy who would launch a tool across the garage if things didn't go my way (infantile tantrums, really). The Mental aspects of Karate' opened a whole new attitude, self control, humility (a requirement) and a feeling of well being as well. To this day I recommend a good martial arts program for kids that are full of energy. NOT one of constant sparring, but one of self discipline in learning and displaying the "forms" required for the style they're studying. There are wonderful competitions for "forms" across the country, and I've seen kids who were absolutely fabulous, as well as HUMBLE. We studied it several years. Things changed when a student attacked me in Junior High School, and I was told I could not have been defended in court had I really used my training on him, I dropped the study (turns out that wasn't true, but Laurella and I were caught up in another study, a CULT ). I kept the student off me with my training, but didn't respond with any force...my sweeps, though, apparently broke a rib or two of his...which he earned...turns out the very next year the kid attacked a female teacher in High School causing HER a partial hysterectomy...I should have struck him a time or two, shouldn't I???
The cult was very superstitious about things like Karate'. They were convinced it involved "demons," "mind control," etc. What we called "empty mind" (a state of mind where you are not obsessing about your daily work, problems, etc...) was inferred to be that condition biblically spoken about as the empty house waiting for a demon.
Actually martial arts concentrate on getting the minds processes calm. A person can not function properly, or be healthy, with their mind full of stress, and their body reacting to that stress. All religions address the concept of "peace of mind." I've read many treatises, and seen many personal examples, of people whose extremely stressful lives ended with the sudden appearance of some mortal infection of Cancer...And Okinawa, much less the China/Asian mainland, is renown for the longevity they enjoy because of their daily incursions into mental peace.About a year and a half ago, between web reconstructions, I received a most pleasant letter from Rick Hill's nephew, Ronnie, who lives in Florida and still teaches martial arts. He filled me in on some of Rick's background. It was quite impressive. An amazing martial arts family.
Subject: Anchorage Police Karate Association
Date: Fri, 07 Nov 2008
Please let me introduce myself. My name is Ronnie Hill and I am the nephew of Rick Hill who founded the Anchorage Police Karate Association. I was performing a Google Search on my uncle and found your website which made mention to your time learning from my uncle Rick.
I thought you would be interested to learn about his style after he left Anchorage. My father, Rick's brother, was a world champion professional wrestler (Ron "The Golden Gladiator" Hill World's Lightheavyweight Champion 1962-1980). Together they founded a martial arts style called WREKAR (WREstling/KARate) in San Antonio, TX. WREKAR combined the submission holds of catch-as-catch can wrestling with the hard-styled strikes of Shodan. As you may know, Rick was also Black Belted in Aikido, Judo and Jiu Jitsu so this style has many of these techniques as well. My father also received a Black Belt in Shodakan Karate and Judo.
This style was taught to police departments in San Antonio, TX, Winter Park, FL and Lakeland, FL as well as to private students throughout the years.
I was taught WREKAR from the age of 12 (I just turned 40) and became a high ranking Black Belt in the style. I am a former Police Officer myself and have taught the style to local police/sheriff offices in the police academy and in my own school in Bartow, FL.
Unfortunately, both my Uncle and Father have passed away (Rick about 8 years ago and my father in August of this year) which means that I am the only surviving high-ranking instructor grade in the WREKAR style. It makes me proud to see others that have been touched by the Shodan system speak with it, such as you did on your web page, with a positive note.
If I can be of any assistance to you in your martial arts education, please let me know.
Ronnie Hill - Head Instructor, WREKAR Academy of Self-Defense and Street Survival
When we were free of the cult, I studied Shotakan Karate' in Morro Bay, California. My training 30 years before hadn't failed me. I was very comfortable with the beginning forms, and they were impressed that a guy nearly 60 could do what I was doing with NO recent training. They were particularly taken with the formality and accuracy I still retained...but...they were intent upon nothing but "sparring," particularly contact sparring. I found their rather confrontational sparring quite abhorrent. Contact sparring eliminates the need of full control for which we'd been held responsible in the Anchorage Police Karate' Association so many years ago. Sparring, in my estimation, also encourages a certain amount of showing off, which goes against the core belief of humility required for the mind in martial arts.
In the meantime, sparring has become an Olympic sport, and it seems a lot of Dojo's are able to teach it to their students and still maintain the mental control. Two of our grandchildren won national gold medals in Tae-Kwan-Do last year. They are terrific students and very humble and pleasant children.
As and aside, I wear a beautiful "Tai-Chi" t-shirt with the motto on the front that "True Humility is the Root of all Success." I really believe that. Humility is NOT self-debasement, it is the peace of knowing one is part of the flow of life in this Universe, and as beautiful an occurrence as a star, a galaxy, a peacock, a diamond crystal, a Guppy....etc. It is that very sense of well being that made these last few years of teaching my best...the most fun for me and my students.
About the time I began returning to the study of martial arts, Laurella was discovering massage therapy for her ongoing shoulder problems. The fellow, David Nelson of BOD-E-WORK, doing the therapy is Master of the Tai Chi Chuan - Yang style, the 112 movement form. He demonstrated the forms to us, and I was STUNNED by the beauty, control, chi, Qi-Qong....and there was much less damage to the joints than doing the hard chi Shodakan, Shotokan (which I tried a couple of years ago), etc.
Most of all, David exemplified the mental aspects of the martial arts. He concentrated on the study/use/circulation of Chi. He had exactly what I'd seen in Shodakan so many years before. The peace of self control. More than that, though, David was willing and a Master at teaching the aspects of Chi that we didn't really get in Rick Hills school so many years before. Many don't realize that the Orient kept much of the study of Chi secret until just 20 years ago. Finally the realized that the matter of the effects of Chi didn't really belong to them it belonged to all of Mankind, so they began sharing the study, and encouraging it's use all over the world.
At the same time I was back in contact with one of my APKA instructors, Jim Perham, in Alaska...he sent me some of the forms we'd used in Shodakan...but he, too, was interested in something less stressful to the joints than the Shodakan we'd practiced. You throw a couple of high energy thrusts at our age, and our backs and joints throw a real "hissy." Jim was also looking at Tai-Chi. (Sadly, Jim contracted cancer, and just died suddenly of heart failure - May,01).
One of the major points of emphasis in Tai-Chi is "SOFTNESS." Rather than the hardness (Hard Chi was what we called it), Tai-Chi concentrates on softness. Any of the typical hard muscles you find in boxing, or karate' are actually detrimental to the practice in Tai-Chi.These pictures, of Tai-Qi masters taken about 10 years ago show how well one ages when practicing Qi and allowing it to restore bodily energy circulation.
Another point that needs to me made is that the shape of your body (i.e.) pear, heavy, skinny...whatever, is irrelevant in Tai-Chi. There are no belts for progress. There is no end to the studies. You can study as much as you want, or as little (which is wasteful, of course). David displays a poster of a Chinese Master who must weigh at least as much as I, and shows movements as limber as a young person. It is just wonderful that you don't have to worry about your appearance. You don't have to worry about "costume," either. Ordinarily one just dresses comfortably, often working in stocking or bare feet if the floors permit.
I digressed...SO, it was off to Tai-Chi for me and Laurella.
Most of our studies at first were with David Nelson. He led us through the first third of the form. Then when he went to school in Santa Barbara for more Oriental modalities, including Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture, and Shaolin studies, the teaching was taken over by Jack Hanauer...and Jack taught me the rest of the forms over the next several years. It was wonderful training, because Jack was very careful to concentrate on the use of "Chi" in our studies. Occasionally David would come by and reinforce the training Jack had given us, and show off some of the more advanced "animal" forms he was learning in Shaolin studies. WOW!!!
I also subscribe to the TAI-CHI MAGAZINE , a veritable treasure trove of information by the Masters on the control of Chi, use of Chi in training, and the use of Tai-Chi principles in life. I was stunned to find that MANY of the Oriental Masters they were interviewing were in their 70s, 80s and NINETYS...paragons of health, if you will.
One of the most stunning aspects of Tai-Chi is the "Horse Stance." If a person maintains that stance for 20 or 30 minutes a day, with calm mind, and a good teacher, healing of the body can take place. The proper flow of Chi not only improves ones stamina, it tends to heal such things as arthritis in the joints, and other irregularities in the body.
The practicing of the various forms of ANY Tai-Chi, be it Yang, Chen, or whatever, dramatically improves one's balance. MANY elderly people came to our school to study. You can begin at any age, really. As they worked on the forms, their balance improved dramatically. Many noted a marked decrease in the discomfort of their arthritis in their knees. It has been found that the elderly fall MUCH less, and are injured much less with the study of Tai-Chi. It is being used more and more in senior centers. Our nation could do well to concentrate on it's use in senior homes because it is fine exercise, and could well contribute to less difficulty with brain circulation problems.
Before I end, I must mention that Tai-Chi is "anaerobic" (if I've chosen the right word. It isn't aerobic. For 25 years or more I did aerobic weight lifting. That meant I kept my heart rate at a certain level, then lifted weights. The heart was busy pumping blood to the body's extremities. In Tai-Chi, the exercises actually pump blood from the extremeties back to the heart. Think about that for a second. Think about blood stagnating in the limbs as it does in the elderly, and how beneficial it has to be to get that blood back to the trunk of the body where it can be properly oxygenated. That is a MAJOR benefit of Tai-Chi.
If you want more information...do some research on the internet. Please remember, Tai-Chi is NOT intended to be a martial art. It is an exercise, mental and physical. Martial aspects are occasionally mentioned because of their familiarity to people, but the Martial Aspects come in the Shao-lin, Qong-Fu, etc, studies. One can go from Tai-Chi Chuan to Swords, and "Push Hands" (the martial aspects)
Here is another of those pictures from a Tai-Chi magazine (click on the picture if you would like to look at their web site and subscribe to the magazine) and a 97 (yes NINETY-SEVEN) year old man who was a medical advisor to the last Chinese EMPEROR, if you will. You talk about limber...and longevity (in his article he addresses the matter of longevity)...and the mental aspect of surviving through two world wars and the present Chinese administration???
|This gentleman was in America early |
this decade to teach Qi-healing. He
demonstrated some movements at that
time, he, being close to 100 years old.
During one of our Cuesta College Health Days some years ago, Laurella spent about 4 hours doing quick table massages, and I demonstrated the forms, particularly Qi-Qong (Chi-Gung) forms like "Draw the Bow," and the "Horse Stance" to people, with emphasis on the healing powers these forms had on people who used them regularly. I also demonstrated "reverse breathing," and some other simple but effective techniques David had taught us in special Qi-Qong work shops at his school in Atascadero. I encouraged several people to look into Tai-Chi groups in the Paso Robles area....very successful day...I've attached a copy of the "information sheet" about Tai-Chi that I passed out that day...I used David's Tai-Chi information sheet as a cover and came up with this "Functions and benefits of T'ai Chi Chuan and Chi Gung".
In December of 2000, we left Paso Robles, and took our training with us. The neat thing is that we can do our forms anywhere, now, and people look on with great interest. Several years ago, Laurella was doing a massage clinic at Eastern Washington University down in Cheney, and I was doing my forms out on the lawn. Students came by..."Tai Chi???" "Yup"...they were very taken by the beauty of the form. Unfortunately, Laurella has had to give up massage therapy - her thumbs cannot take the stress any more. This loss of body is not uncommon amongst therapists.
Now, the study of Qi-Qong (Chi-Gung) is being inculcated in Nurse training courses in Junior Colleges in California. The medical industry is recognizing the POWER of Chi/Prayer in healing.
We have not given up on a "Zen Garden," even though our whole back yard is the domain of our German Shepherd "Shadow." Below is a small house "Zen Garden"....