Okinawa Remembered
By Don Griffiths

In 1960, Robert Safreed began studying Shotokan Karate at Michigan State University.  On graduation day, he joined the Marine Corps to become part of the finest fighting force in the world.



 Robert Safreed tells a story of what he remembers about studying with Tatsuo. Photo taken during a Tomo No Kai seminar September 19 & 20, 1998 in Oceanside, California

Mister Safreed was commissioned after completing Officers Candidate School at Quantico, Virginia in late 1962. Upon completing OCS, Mister Safreed was assigned to 2nd Battalion, 9th Marines in Okinawa. While on the way, during a lay-over at Treasure Island California, he met a Special Services Officer who had just left Okinawa. Mister Safreed, having a strong desire to learn, asked the Special Services Officer who the best karate instructor was on Okinawa. The Special Services Officer suggested Mister Safreed contact a Corporal Dawson, who was the 3rd Marine Division Special Services Non-commissioned Officer for Karate and Judo. Corporal Dawson recommended Master Shimabuku located in Kin Village.


Marine Corps Lieutenant Robert Safreed is standing behind
Kikuyama, the Okinawan wearing the black top gi.

Photo taken by Gayle Beams at the Agena dojo in May, 1963.

Master Shimabuku was working for Special Services making $250 per month--more
than most Okinawans of the time. He taught at two dojos, one at Kin Village and the other in Agena, alternating between them. The classes at both dojos were two hours long on Monday,Wednesday, and Friday. Tuesday and Thursday were a light workout. The Agena dojo was also open on Saturday from 1200 to 1600. Master Shimabuku had a few American assistant instructors. They were Bill Blond, Ni-dan; and John Bartusevics, Ni-dan; and occasionally A.J. Advincula, San-dan. Usually, Sensei Bartusevics taught basics, but he was known for his enthusiasm and superb ability at kumite. Sensei Blond usually conducted the warm-ups. On special occasions, such as demonstrations of bunkai or kumite, Sensei A.J. Advincula would participate by request of Master Shimabuku. According to Mister Safreed, Master Shimabuku referred to Sensei Advincula as his number one student because of his depth of understanding of bunkai. This was demonstrated by the fact that Sensei Advincula would easily and victoriously end kumite in about 10 seconds. The katas Seiunchin, Naihanchi, and Wansu were not taught at that time because Master Shimabuku thought his students were trying to learn too much too quickly. Instead, Master Shimabuku taught the bo and the sai. Unlike those previously mentioned, most Americans were in a hurry to participate in kumite without being firmly rooted in the basics. Master Shimabuku's continual stressing of the basics frustrated most Americans who were always in a hurry to practice kumite instead.



Okinawans free fighting at the Agena dojo.
Photo taken by Gayle Beams in May, 1963.

In November 1963, Mister Safreed was promoted to Sho-dan by Master Shimabuku.However, he left the island in March of 1964 unknowingly as a Ni-dan with orders to Camp Pendleton, California. Master Shimabuku occasionally promoted his most devout and capable students to Ni-dan as they left Okinawa in order for them to qualify as instructors. Such promotions created a degree of controversy. Upon leaving Okinawa, in 1966, Mister Safreed began working in the security business. Soon after, he completed 4 years of active duty and went back to graduate school at MIU where he obtained a Masters Degree in Police Administration and Public Safety while also staying in the active reserves. He completed a total of eight years active reserves and achieved the rank of Major.


Kikuyama on left, free fighting Okinawan student at
the Agena Dojo May, 1963.

Photo by Gayle Beams.

Though Mister Safreed went to other dojos in the United States, he rarely worked out in them because, in his opinion, so few Americans truly understood karate. While at Camp Pendleton from 1966 to 1968, Mister Safreed was unable to go to Sensei Advincula's dojo even though it was about a mile away.



 Kensho Tokumura, Arcenio Advincula, Robert Safreed and Sherman Harrill all first generation students of Master Tatsuo Shimabuku. Sept 19, 1998 at Tomo No Kai seminar.

Mister Safreed remembered the high regard Master Shimabuku and other Americans instructors held for Sensei Advincula and began studying with him in 1981, after relocating to California from Michigan. He stayed because of Sensei Advincula's enthusiasm and motivational ability. Mister Safreed credits Sensei Advincula with helping him through some very tough times because of his very positive and inspirational influence. All of his promotions since Ni-dan have been granted by Sensei Advincula.Mister Safreed has written numerous articles for many martial arts magazines to include a January 1986 article in Inside Karate and a November 1988 article in Karate Illustrated about his current Sensei, Master A.J. Advincula.


Kikuyama using a flying jump kick.

Photo by Gayle Beams, Agena Dojo, May 1963.

July 13, 1991, Robert Safreed was promoted to 7th degree black belt by Sensei Advincula.




Chief Don Griffith is a Retired Chief Hospital Corpsman. He has studied
Shorin-ryu karate and other martial arts before studying Escrima, Hindiandi,
and Isshin-ryu, from Advincula since the early 1980's while stationed at Camp
Pendleton, California.

This article was written and published in Vol.1, Whole Heart News, Spring
1992, Issue No.7
We thank the publisher, Michael Storms for the use of reprinting this