Karate — One Way To Defend Yourself

This article originally appeared in The Bay Star on September 1, 1971.

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The younger you start, the better youwill be,” said Barry Smith, Cambridge karate teacher. He walks across the shiny wooden floor, eyeing each student as they await his next instruction.

“This boy is exceptionally mild mannered and it is difficult for him to get in the so called frame of mind to fight. But when he does fight, he wins.” He stops in front of a boy, who is clad in a white robe.

Suddenly Mr. Smith flings his hand toward the youth’s swinging arm, concentrating on an invisible foe. “Don’t play games, when you move that arm to strike, strike with your whole body.” As the teacher finishes speaking, the student pauses and bows slowly from the waist down, a typical courtesy.

“It’s your friend that you can’t trust. Soon after you have a few karate lessons, it will be your friend who will try to embarrass you in a crowd. They’ll teach you the lessons you won’t forget!”

The stocky muscular teacher again moves down the line as the small group of 15 students practice the lessons Mr. Smith demonstrated at the beginning of class.

During the summer months a group of 15 students attend the karate class, which lasts indefinitely.  “But during the winter, I’ll have about 25 people, some stay—some enjoy the discipline and the nature of the lesson.”

The class routine begins with an half hour of general exercises and other forms of physical conditioning intended to “strengthen from the belt up and loosen from the belt down.”

“During conventional fighting, most people are unskilled in the art and have a tendency to become awkward and move in blundering steps. In karate, grace, speed, and agility are absolutely essential for the successful termination of a fight, meaning that the good karate man wins, and wins fast.”

The black robe and pants give Barry an even more solid appearance. “It isn’t my intention to impress my students with my knowledge of karate, I’m here to help them learn, not to work them out and make fools of them or myself.”

Smith has been a black belt holder for eight months. “I am still a student. My teacher is Walter Cooling, a six degree black belt holder in Chesapeake City. I’ve been learning from him for the past two and a half years. I just hope to be able to perfect what I have been taught.”

An observer can readily tell that Barry’s students have a strong admiration and respect for the black belt teacher. Said one youth, “I was small and my brother continually picked on me. He doesn’t now.”

Most students appear to possess a calm selfconfidence. “I teach my students to get the job done when the opportunity is presented. I do not believe in that old saying ‘step outside’. If you’ve got to defend yourself, then do it. I don’t want to hear of any student moving around to find a ‘good place’ to settle a fight. The right time and the right place is wherever an incident happens.”

Barry Smith is a deputy sheriff in Dorchester County and also works as a foreman at the Cambridge Port. As the class ended, Barry Smith stood in the doorway, facing the Order of Isshinryu poster on the wall. “I will show a student anything I can help him learn, as long as he’s dedicated and wants to know.”

NOTE:  Sensei Barry Smith has been a student of Master Cooling’s for just shy of 40 years. He was inducted into the International Isshin Ryu Hall of Fame in 1996 having previously been recognized with Instructor of the Year and Dojo of the Year awards. Smith was promoted to Hachi Dan (8th degree black belt) in February 2011. Sensei continues to display his expertise by actively training all levels of military, law enforcement, and civilian students.