WEST COAST SHOTOKAN KARATE ASSOCIATION CELEBRATES 40TH ANNIVERSARY
“Foorty Yeeaars!” Toby Palmquist exclaimed in wonder as he pondered the upcoming October anniversary of Temple City’s West Coast Shotokan Karate Association, which opened in 1968.
Palmquist, now a resident of the state of Georgia, will be returning for the festive occasion where he will be one of the distinguished guests, having been the group’s first instructor to be designated “Sensei”, a title reserved for 3rd degree black belts and up who have proven their skills as a teacher. He is now a 4th degree black belt.
Richard Huddleston, the school’s first student to achieve black belt, is expected to be on hand for the weeklong celebration beginning Monday, October 13 and concluding with a banquet at the Duarte Elks Club on Saturday, October 18.
Joining these early students at the dojo located at 9506 Las Tunas Drive will be a contingent of prominent international instructors as well as many of the hundreds of black belts promoted over the years.
Grandmaster “Lucky” Luciano of the Kajukempo Self-Defense System is one of these instructors who will conduct a seminar during the anniversary week. He travels from San Diego and was a lifelong friend of Shihan (Master) Edwin Hamile, who founded WCSKA. Both were natives of Hawaii. Hamile passed away in June, 1999 at the age of 75, a 9th degree black belt.
In from Hawaii, Shihan George Sasano will be offering 2 seminars. He was Hamile’s senior in the highly acclaimed Karate Association of Hawaii. During Hamile’s reign as President of KAH, Sasano’s sparring competition team became the first non-Japanese to beat Tokyo’s team in World Championships.
A possible guest is international chief instructor of West Coast Shotokan Karate Association, Shihan Shalom Avitan, of Haifa, Israel. Avitan is the leading martial arts figure in that country, where he maintains approximately 50 schools with over 4,000 students. WCSKA international has spread from Temple City to over 40 countries.
Holland’s visiting group will probably be the largest and is led by Chief Instructor, Sensei Andre Kila (5th degree black belt). Two of his students will be taking a special black belt examination during the day on October 18.
Belgium’s Chief Instructor, Sensei Ludo Bellemans (8th degree black belt) has been a visitor to prior anniversary events, and is a likely guest. Mexico Sensei Jose Linares of Ensenada (6th degree black belt) is expected to be in attendance.
Locally, Camarillo Chief Instructor, Sensei Victor Young (8th degree black belt) who was a member of Karate Association of Hawaii and close friend of Hamile, will add to the list of notables. Sensei Mike Whiteside (5th degree black belt) of Ontario will be present. Along with Palmquist and Huddleston he was one of the pioneers of the dojo and was in class the first week it opened.
Currently the school is owned and managed by 1960 Temple City High School grad, Ed Shanick, a 4th degree black belt. He started with Hamile in 1970 and was joined in the years that followed by current senior staff. They are Chief Instructor Sensei David Hurlbut (7th degree black belt); Assistant Chief Instructor Sensei Randy Tyrell (6th degree black belt); Sensei Will Adams (5th degree belt); and Sensei’s Tony Duran and Theresa Duenas (both 4th degree black belts). Randy’s father, jack Tyrell, was one of the Temple City’s first City Council members and remained on the council for over 20 years.
The staff shares a rich tradition established by Hamile, who was a student of Masters Hirokazu Kanazawa, Tetsuhiko Asai, who served as chairman of the Japan Karate Association, and Masataka Mori. Kanazawa has been described as the finest martial artist of the 20th Century and Asai has been labeled as probably having “no equal” as a martial artist.
Hamile started karate in Hawaii as a 34 year old, hoping to gain skills in self-defense and anger management. Already a well-rounded sportsman, he surfed, ice-skated, played tennis, rode horseback and piloted private planes.
Hamile was a radio announcer and disc jockey for radio station KIKI, Honolulu as well as a band leader in the French Quarter in Hawaii-the first musician to bring jazz sessions to Hawaii.
In the same year he began karate, Hamile married Manon Sumiko Smith, an entertainer who specialized in Japanese songs. The following year she was awarded the first “Mrs. Hawaii” title.
After moving to Southern California, Hamile taught karate in little Tokyo, while bartending in Chinatown. One of his karate students, ex-professional boxer Alberto Ayala sought a building where Hamile could have his own school.
Ayala found a vacant bakery at 9506 Las Tunas Drive and in October, 1968 a karate dojo opened there under the newly-formed West Coast Shotokan Karate Association.
Shanick recalls the days the building was a bakery. He claims to have taken his younger brothers and sisters soda pop bottle-collecting to exchange for small cash to buy some of its “delicious” donuts. Much like Palmquist, he expresses disbelief the time has passed so quickly.
As a “French, Filipino, Portuguese, Chinese”, Hamile was one of the Asian pioneers of the modern Temple City business community. He was a Temple City resident and served extensively as a Board Member at the Temple City Chamber of Commerce.
In his later years, Edwin maintained a mobile home residence in the desert community of Boron, California, where son Steven Hamile would occasionally land his helicopter on the front lawn to say a quick hello. Like his dad, the pilot, Steven distinguished himself in karate by becoming one of the youngest brown belts in America back in the 1960’s.
Hamile’s legacy is enthusiastically carried on by his students. This new gen
eration of leaders is strongly committed to “Ohana” (The Hawaiian idea that all involved in the dojo-students, parents, other family and friends-are part of an “extended family”).
The 40th anniversary banquet website is duarteelks.org.