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First Generation Student
by Sherman Harrill - Agena Dojo 1959-1960
click to enlarge
Harrill Sensei and Shomen in dojo
"I reached a point where I could no longer
read the things being said about Sensei Shimabuku, his teachings, or how
he promoted his students. The idea that these people felt they knew the
way it was to be done, yet never trained under him whizzed me off. I felt
it was time the record be set straight."
All I can do is speak of my own experiences as how things happened to me
when I trained in the Agena Dojo in 1959-1960
Sensei Shimabuku promoted me to green belt after about 6 months with no
testing. He just came up to me and said Harryu you catchy green belt. No
big deal I then went and bought one. After another six months the same
thing was done when he told me to catchy Black Belt.
Upon leaving Okinawa Sensei sat John DeSantis and I down and asked if we
were going to teach Isshin Ryu when we went back to the states. At that
time I had great hopes of doing just that. Sensei at that time did not
promote me to the rank (there is a big difference between a promotion and
entrusting) of Roku-Dan, he entrusted it to me. He said after 15 years
plus training that it could be used. There was no contract just a
handshake and my word. That was good enough at that time.
Things do not always turn out the way we plan, for I didn't open a dojo
for a long time. After I did and 22 years later I assumed the rank as I
felt that I had done as Sensei had asked of me. Now the big question most
people want to know, what was my rank when I left Okinawa. I hope that I
might have been a half way decent Sho-Dan but that would depend on what
standards were used. One thing you will find out is that I will be able to
hit someone just as hard with a white obi on as with a black one.
If there were any secrets I sure in the hell didn't know any of them. I
was neither one of Sensei's favorite or better students. I was just one of
many young Marines that passed through the Agena Dojo. Almost everything I
was shown was very basic, block, punch and kick. This along with a lot of
guts or sometimes no common sense made for some very strong fighters out
of the Dojo. There was two things that made a big difference in my
personal training after leaving; One was having the code broken down by an
Okinawan. The second was working on the Kumite that Sensei taught. Kumite
was not sparring but what people now know as bunkai.
42 Years Later:
I have seen a lot of comments made by people about Shimabuku, Sensei. Some
have been very good, others question his reasons for the way he developed
Isshin Ryu and promoted his students. Sensei was just another person and
that means that he made some mistakes but NO ONE knows what his plan was
except Tatsuo Shimabuku.
I have no problem with anyone who brings new ideas and knowledge into the
system as long as you don't break one rule: Don't try to fix something
that is not broken. There is nothing wrong with the way our basics or
katas as taught by Shimabuku, Sensei. I suggest that if you do not like
the way he did things or how he set up the system then look for another
style and leave Isshin Ryu alone. Tatsuo Shimabuku trained and proud of
it. ___ Sherman Harrill, Sensei
Sensei Sherman Harrill Passed Away 10:00 A.M. Monday November 4, 2002
A first generation student of Tatsuo Shimabuku and a personal friend to
many of us.
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