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Pellman Sensei Takes a New Path

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In 1989, Pellman Sensei opened his first dojo, called the Skyline Karate Club, in Lemon Grove (a suburb of San Diego), California. He teamed with Bob Hutchins Sensei who, at hachidan (8th dan), was a highly respected judo-ka and had recently returned from living in Mexico where he had coached the Mexican Olympic judo team. For the grand opening ceremonies, they invited several martial arts dignitaries from the Southern California area to perform demonstrations. Among them was Shimabukuro Masayuki Shihan, who performed a demonstration of Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaijutsu.

After he was introduced, Shimabukuro Shihan grinned and told the audience with typical humility: "Please just call me Shima. More easier for American to say." He then gave a bone-chilling performance that reminded Pellman Sensei of the one he had seen at the Japanese wedding back in 1973. While thanking the demonstrators, he asked "Shima" Shihan to accept him as a student for iaijutsu. Thus began the relationship that eventually produced the Seishin-Kan, the book, Flashing Steel, and a series of iaijutsu and jojutsu videos.

As the months of his training in iaijutsu passed, Pellman Sensei found that it was re-shaping his performance of karate-do. His posture was different, his stances and balance different, the timing of his attacks and counter-attacks were different . . . he was no longer practicing true Tang Soo Do. Instead, he was performing the movements of Tang Soo Do according to the principles of classical Japanese martial arts. As he grew increasingly aware of the significance of these changes, Pellman Sensei realized that he needed to adopt a uniform set of martial arts principles for his training. So, in 1990, concurrently with opening a new dojo, Rancho San Diego Karate, he started the process of converting from Tang Soo Do to Shito-Ryu -- one of the four major systems of Japanese karate-do.

It was a difficult decision, because it meant starting over and working his way back up through the ranks, as well as turning away from nearly 20 years invested in Tang Soo Do. It took him two years simply to re-learn all of the fundamentals and kata just to again reach Shodan. At that point, he founded the Seishin-Kan, but continued to operate his dojo as Rancho San Diego Karate. After another two years of refining his techniques and learning new kata, he reached Nidan in 1994. At the same time, he had progressed to Sandan in iaijutsu, and completed writing (with Shima Shihan) Flashing Steel, as well as filming and narration for the video series, Samurai Sword: Mastering Eishin-Ryu.

Late in 1994, he sold Rancho San Diego Karate and moved to Aurora, Colorado (a suburb of Denver), where he attempted to establish a midwestern regional presence for the Jikishin-Kai. The move to Denver was an opportunity to complete his transition to teaching Japanese martial arts exclusively. After office politics blocked several attempts to start martial arts programs at local recreation centers and the YMCA, a sympathetic recreation center director introduced Pellman Sensei to a local Taekwondo instructor whose dojang was struggling to retain students. In an effort to convince him to share use of his dojang as a way of increasing its income, Pellman Sensei demonstrated iaijutsu, jojutsu, Ryukyu kobudo, and Shito-Ryu karate-do for him and a group of his senior students. However, instead of allowing him to share use of his dojang, a few days later, he offered to finance Pellman Sensei's purchase of the dojang, and claimed he had gained approval from the Kukkiwon (Taekwondo headquarters) to confer an 8th dan in Taekwondo on Pellman Sensei upon completion of the purchase.

This offer placed Pellman Sensei at another major fork in the road of his martial arts journey. Down one path lay the prospect of a slow, arduous climb to stature in traditional Japanese martial arts -- where his 20 years of experience in Korean martial arts was often more of a detriment than an asset -- and down the other awaited the opportunity to achieve instant "grandmaster" status, with full credentials in an art with which he was still more familiar and better known . . . .

To see which path Pellman Sensei followed, click here to go to the next page--

 

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2003   Leonard J. Pellman



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