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Tom Lewis


Tom Lewis

Isshinryu Karate

Mr. Lewis with Derry’s Bushi No Te Isshinryu

I began my studies in Isshinryu Karate at the Salisbury, Maryland Dojo of Tom Lewis in the mid 1970’s.

Mr. Lewis began his training in Okinawa in 1959, while stationed there as a member of the United States Marine Corps.  He later returned home and eventually began teaching Isshinryu there from 1966 through 1987 when he moved to Wyoming and retired from Isshinryu for a while.  During that retirement he remained in contact with his friends, and was able to visit us in June of 1998 when Sherman Harrill was conducting a clinic in Derry.  Eventually in 2005 Isshinryu pulled him back into active duty as an instructor and a senior leader of Isshinryu in the United States.

Mr. Lewis’ dojo in Salisbury, Md. was custom built for the Isshinryu Karate Club, resembling a barn from the outside but inside a very nice training hall. I trained with Mr. Lewis and the IKC instructors Al Bailey, Dennis Lockwood, Reese Rigby and Wayne Webster at the Salisbury Dojo and their other school locations until work caused me to move onto Scranton.

My time training with him was very short, but the course his program set me on for my Isshinryu studies has always been my inspiration. His generation created an American desire to study Karate by their example, their work and sweat to share their passion.

I would like to share a few words from Mr. Lewis and some photographs on a small part of his journey representing Isshinryu throughout his life, keeping his love of Isshinryu Karate in our tradition forever.
Victor Smith

“I began studying Isshinryu Karate in July 1959 under Master Shimabuku while serving in the Marine Corps."

“It was fortunate for me to have been in the company of legends such as, Harold Mitchum, Don Bohan, Ed Johnson, Sherman Harrill and others.  Sensei promoted me to black belt in October 1960.”

"I was discharged in 1963 and traveled to New Jersey to further train with Don and Jim Nagle. In 1964, I began teaching a few students and opened my dojo formally in January 1965. In addition to Isshinryu, I was a member of the American Bando Association and studied with Muang Gi and Bob Maxwell."

In January of 1979 I was tested for my Sho-dan by Mr. Lewis and the entire IKC. Harold Mitchum had run several clinics earlier in the day and was present for my testing. That evening Mitchum Sensei promoted Mr. Lewis to Seichi-dan. - Victor

“Throughout the years several of my Black Belts went on to open their own schools, Reese and Judy Rigby in Delaware, Victor Smith in New Hamshire, Harvey Hastings in Florida and others."

For many years, Mr. Lewis competed in Region 10 in Masters empty hand and weapons divisions.  I was able to attend many of those competitions and enjoyed observing his crisp technique execution.

Mr. Lewis trained alongside Sherman Harrill back on Okinawa. They remained friends over the years and each of the times they got together were special days for each of them.

"In 1970, Harvey Hastings and myself promoted the 1st. Isshinryu-Bando Tournament and was attended by Steve Armstrong and Muang Gi. Over the years ,I held tournaments and shiai's in the Maryland area including a Friendship Tournament for Rick Niemira. During the mid 80's I coached a full contact team known as the "Lewis's Demons" and competed in the Baltimore/Washington and Pennsylvania area."

"In 1980, I wrote a book entitled " Karate for Kids" and is still in circulation. 1981 I was awarded outstanding masters weapon competitor in the mid-atlantic region."

"The following year I made outstanding referee."

"In 1989, I moved to Jackson Hole, Wy. and turned the hombu dojo over to Dennis Lockwood, still the chief instructor. Once in Wy., I found an Isshinryu School there and taught for about a year."

"In April of 2005, I attended a seminar in New Orleans and was promoted to 9th dan by Grand Master Mitchum. Later in Bozeman, Mt.  I was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award by the U.I.K.A."

"Presently, I teach on my ranch, the Heart 2 Heart in Cody, Wy."

Several recent photographs of Mr. Lewis’ Isshinryu journey.

Mr. Lewis and Ed Johnson

Mr. Lewis’ contributions and participation in Isshinryu in the United States is much larger than these few photographs show. I have tried to select some that touch my journey with him and hope my students can share in his efforts.

To close let me select the one photograph that represents his true Isshinryu spirit best.
Sensei forever.