Grand Masters

Grand Master

Grand Master Michael Whittle
Position:
Grand Master Michael Whittle
Miscellaneous Information:

Grand Master Michael Whittle
Instructor: GM Baker & SGM Tony Lasit

Hawaiian Martial Arts LLC 1504 North Monroe Street Spokane, WA 99203 509 838-3713 (T) I was seventeen years old when I joined the Bergstrom A.F.B. Kajukenpo Karate Club in 1968. I was a junior at Reagan High School in Austin, Texas. One of the guys in my P.E. class was already a member of the club and he invited me to come to class with him. The class was held at the base gymnasium in the wrestling room. The class was primarily young airmen. Sensei Tony Lasit was the chief instructor. He had been assigned to Vietnam just before I joined the club so I never met him. Sensei Jim Johnson was the black belt instructor in charge of the class when I joined. We wore white uniforms and instructors wore black. Our club patch was a red circle with a white clover in the center. There were three different hand positions indicated on the clover. Kajukenpo was spelled with a 'P' at that time. Our belt rank system was white, purple, blue, green, brown and black. There were three brown belts awarded as 3rd degree, 2nd degree and 1st degree. It took one year to become eligible for your purple belt test and six months for each color belt test thereafter. Classes were held on Tuesday and Thursday nights and were three hours long. We were aligned by rank from left to right in rows. When class began we stood at attention stance with our belt folded neatly at our feet. The instructor faced the class and bowed and everyone bowed to him. When the command was given we knelt down on the floor, picked-up our belts and tied them around our waist. When the command was given we stood tall in attention stance. We started class with stretching exercises and calisthenics. Commands for stances, kicks, blocks, punches, strikes, break falls and roll drills were given in Japanese. The forms were called katas, the grab arts were called covers and the punch defenses were executed after being pushed forward, rolling and turning to face your attacker in cover. These techniques were called rolls. We fought at the end of every class. Everyone sat down one side of the mat. Usually the lowest ranked belt would bow onto the mat, walk down the line and face who he wanted to spar with. He would bow to him and back away to the center of the mat. The instructor controlled the match and called points. Sparring was emphasized at this time. Karate was new and popular in the states. The fighting was more precise and controlled to avoid serious injuries. Safety punch and kick equipment had not been invented so bare feet and hands was how we fought. We had groin protectors and most of us invested in shin pads. Sensei Jim Johnson completed his active duty in the Air Force and left Bergstrom in 1969. Tony Lasit promoted Dan Baker to black belt and he took over as Sensei. In 1969 a new base commander was assigned to Bergstrom A.F.B. that hated long hair. An edict was given that no one with long hair was allowed on the base. I had long hair and was not about to cut it off for any base commander. I was not allowed to enter the gate of the base while he was base commander. He was finally reassigned to another base and left Bergstrom in 1970. Ben Calvo had joined the club around 1970. Ben was a brown belt at that time and had previous training in another style of karate. His execution of kata was picture perfect. When I rejoined the class Sensei Dan Baker promoted me to green belt. We went to a tournament in College Station, Texas when Ben was a brown belt and I was a green belt. Ben was disqualified for performing a kata that the judges believed was too advanced for his belt level! I was disqualified for kicking a guy in the face and busting his skin open on his cheek bone. That was my first tournament competition. Sometime before 1972 Dan went to California to test for his 2nd degree black belt. I'm not certain, but I think it was with Vince Black in San Diego. The rule for instructors was that they could promote to the belt level below their rank. Dan had to be a second degree black belt to promote anyone to first degree black belt. Another rule was that the chief instructor had to sign to certificate for it to be valid. The chief instructor had to be a 5th degree black belt or higher. My black belt certificate has Dan as the instructor and Tony Lasit as the chief instructor. I was told that Tony Lasit had a 5th or 6th degree black belt in Shotokan Karate before joining the Kajukenpo Karate Club in Hawaii. Ben was Dan's first black belt and was promoted in 1972. I was Dan's second black belt and promoted in 1974. Jay Vera was the third black belt promoted in 1975