Sensei Garland passed away on September 10th, 2009. As the third anniversary of his passing comes near, I want to share my memories of him as a tribute to this great man’s life and achievements in martial arts. One thing that made Garland Hanshi great was his character.
Getting to Know Mr. Garland
Mr. Garland was of the generation that brought karate from Okinawa and Japan to the United States, many decades ago. He was one of the first, if not the first to craft traditional weapons here in the United States, and was a master weapons maker long before I met him at the turn of the century. When I saw him for only about the second time, back at the beginning of 2002, I was a lowly brown belt training inside a gym, part of a small dojo in Gilbert Arizona. And yet, Mr. Garland, then holding the title of Kyoshi, took the time to sit and talk with me after classes. He struck me as a caring, regular, down-to-earth human being. He was happy to talk about the subjects I brought up in our interview and also to add more knowledge to the mix.
As I got to know Garland Hanshi a little bit more over the years, it struck me how much he cared about his grandchildren. It was also obvious how much thought and consideration he put into each and every weapon he crafted. Just this year at Summer Camp at Headquarters, I learned that Mr. Garland was one of a small group in attendance at the first United Ryukyu Kempo Alliance Summer Camp. Gordon Garland Sensei was a friend to Michael Newland Sensei, and was responsible for the introductions that got our dojo involved in Ryukyu Kempo. Because of that I, personally, am a stronger martial artist, and so are my students, and I will always be glad for those introductions.
2002 Article about Garland Kyoshi
Here is the article that resulted from my meeting with Mr. Garland. This was printed in the February, 2002 East Valley Kicker, the official newsletter of my dojo, East Valley Martial Arts:
WORDS OF AN 8TH DAN KYOSHI
I know what you’re thinking: ‘who’s this Dan guy, what is he eighth in, and what does kyoshi mean?’ Let me clear things up a little – Dan, is a Japanese word for level (like level of black belt), and is pronounced, “don.” Kyoshi is a special title given to certain people with 7th or 8th level black belts. Titles like Kyoshi are awarded for exceptional achievement and outstanding character (not just because a person earns a certain rank).
I had the honor of talking with Kyoshi Gordon Garland, who recently earned his 8th Dan black belt, and his words are what I would like to share with you.
Interview with Garland Kyoshi
My first question was, “What does it take to achieve 8th Dan?”
Kyoshi Garland responded, “It takes about 34 years of visiting everybody, seeing everybody, going to seminars, learning about all of the different weapons, all the different people and different styles. From 5th Dan on, it’s mostly honorary. Nobody says, ‘now you’re going to test for 7th Dan.’ The higher levels are mostly based on past accomplishments. The title of Kyoshi was given to me by John Pachivas of the United States Karate Association Incorporated, Head of the Shuri Ryu (Karate) system. He also gave me 6th Dan and a rank in Kobudo [traditional weapons].”
Kyoshi Garland’s Martial Arts studies began in 1945, “I was in Okinawa and Tokyo, Japan. On the island of Sacebo, I started studying Judo. I carried that Judo to the United States with Robert Trias.”
Kyoshi Garland has two children who took Martial Arts, “Frances dropped out when she was about a yellow belt. Gordy never did drop out. Today he holds a 4th Dan.”
A highly respected martial artist, Kyoshi Garland was there when the ancient arts came to America. Today he uses modern technology (a web site) to distribute his hand-crafted martial arts weapons. This qualifies him to give this advice, “You can’t always trust what you find on the Internet.”
I will leave you with that wise advice from Gordon Garland Hanshi as you return to the World Wide Web.
by Jenifer Tull-Gauger