Philadelphia's First Karate School




(Chief Instructor)


For those of you who just want the fast facts, I have been practicing the martial arts for nearly fifty years and hold black belt ranking in several. My highest current rank is hachidan (8th degree black belt) with the American Self Defense Karate Association.

For those of you who would like a better insight into who I am and how I teach: My interest in the martial arts began on a Saturday afternoon in the spring of 1962. A Hercules movie was scheduled to play on TV that afternoon on channel 3 starting at 3:00 PM. At about 2:45 I turned on the TV and sat down on the couch to watch. (For those of you not old enough to remember; in those days it took the tubes in the TV a minute or more to “warm up” before the set displayed a picture. We also had no remote controls, so in order to change the channel you had to get up, walk to the TV and turn the dial.)

That day the TV was set to channel 10. When it came on there was a movie that appeared to have been made in the 1940's playing. “No big deal”, I thought, the Hercules movie wouldn’t start for fifteen minutes. I could watch a little of this movie, then change the channel at 3:00 o’clock.The movie was about a little Japanese detective named Mr. Moto. After a few minutes he started fighting with some guys who were nearly twice his size. He was tossing them around and flipping them using a fighting art that he called Jiu Jitsu. “WOW!”, I thought. “This is really neat!” (“cool”; “wicked”, “dope”, “bad”, “off-the-hook” ...)

3:00 o'clock came and went and I was still watching Mr. Moto and not the Hercules movie. I wanted to see more Jiu Jitsu. I wanted to know how to do Jiu Jitsu. I ran to my room and got a pillow from my bed. When Mr. Moto did a move, I practiced it with my pillow being the bad guy (Uki as I know it today).

When the movie ended, I immediately got out the phone book (no internet in those days) and looked up jiu jitsu. The listing was under “Judo”, but, I Found A Jiu Jitsu School! Problem was that it was in Jenkintown; nearly an hour away. I knew what the answer would be before I asked. – But, I had to ask,

“Mom, can I take jiu jitsu lessons?”

“What is jiu jitsu?” she asked.

“Some really cool stuff like Japanese wrestling!” was my reply. “I found a school in Jenkintown...”

To make a long conversation short: The answer was “Yes” I could learn jiu jitsu. “No” way she was driving me to Jenkintown to do it.

What was I to do? I HAD to learn jiu jitsu. I could look in the TV Guide (that was a little booklet that came out every week listing television shows) to see when Mr. Moto movies were on and make sure to watch. Even at eleven years old I knew that that wasn’t going to work. We had no VCR’s (that’s a video cassett recorder for all of you under 15) no DVD’s or Blue Rays. But, what we did have was movie 8mm movie projectors – and I had one!

So, off I went to Catagnus’ Novelty Store. If anybody knew where I could get a Mr. Moto movie on 8mm it would be Mr. Catagnus. When I told him what I wanted, much to my surprise, he knew who Mr. Moto was. And, a week later, he had found the film! And I could get a copy for $25.00... “$25.00!?”

It was not a cry of joy, but despair. In 1962 I could buy a coke for a dime. I could go to the movies all Saturday afternoon for a quarter. I could buy a brand new cub scout folding knife for a dollar... I was less likely to get my mom to spend $25.00 on a movie than I was to get her to drive me to Jenkintown twice a week. – But, I had to ask.


I was heartbroken.

Then one day mom came into the kitchen and handed me a book. American Combat Judo was its title and IT WAS JIU JITSU!

My pillows were again my first practice partners. Then, as soon as I knew I could do the moves better than they, I introduced all the boys on the block to the mysterious art of Mr. Moto. I practice every day for the next year. Sometimes with Ronny, other times with Johnny or Ricky or Curty or Sammy or the other Johnny from around the corner. Though no one of them was as dedicated as I, I could always find someone to practice with. That is until the day Girsham came home from the Saturday matinee and told everybody that they HAD to go see this movie. “It has that fighting stuff that Larry likes to do in it.” he told everyone.

The next day everybody was at the Norris movie theater to see From Russia With Love. And, the next Monday after school I was giving jiu jitsu lessons to all the want-to-be James Bonds in the neighborhood. Yep, being sensei was in my blood by age 12.

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