AN INTERVIEW WITH
William “Billy” Beason
AUG / 2009
“NO CRYING, JUST KIA-ING”
Interviewed By William Rivera Shihan
Written By Lydia Alicea
Martialforce.com Online Magazine
Over the years, I have known about many martial artists on various levels. Whether it was on the dojo floor, inside or outside the ring, or perhaps within the familiar circles where my dojo brothers and I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Among these artists are those whose uniqueness for one reason or another left a lasting impression. Whether it was because of his style, intensity, brilliance or brute force, or perhaps all the above, it was someone you could never forget. I remember Billy Beason.
Those like me who know of or knew Billy Beason can attest that he is without a doubt one of those exceptional artists. Just like the pioneers whose’ paths preceded his, and those who came up “back in the day” (as he often describes) for these martial artists it was adherence to hard-core principles and steadfastness to traditional training that produced several generations of incredible martial artists, particularly, in New York City. Perhaps as a response to growing up during the turbulent days of the 1960s, 1970s and even 1980s; or the raw appeal created by the visuals of popular karate artists. Whatever the reasons were, the result was the realization that there is a power one could harness, not from the gun, or a knife, but from within, from the soul through the kia-ing, but not the crying. Billy made that connection very early, was able to tap that power, and used it to his advantage in and outside the dojo. In addition, what he did with it was amazing as we remember.
Trophies are trophies whose worth is for a moment; the real reward comes to you when the martial arts can teach you how to use the power within on the dojo floor and in life. For Billy Beason, his kia-ing is as effective today as it was yesterday.
Martialforce: Please tell us, where were you born and raised?
Bill Beason: “I was born and raised in the Bronx, New York and grew up there until the age of 18. I entered the U.S. Navy in 1979 where I served until 1983.”
Martialforce: When did you begin karate instruction and with whom did you study?
Bill Beason: “When I began is at the root of my story because it was early in my life at the age of ten. My uncle, Mike Jackson, currently the head instructor at American Shotokan Karate Academy (A.S.K.A.) in Killeen, Texas, was my first teacher. Mike began to teach me when I was 10 years old when he was a novice. I always considered Mike to be an educator from a philosophical standpoint because he taught me about the many intricate lessons in life.
Mike and I are only six years apart in age so our relationship was more brotherly than as uncle and nephew. I remember how he would come home from class always eager to teach me anything he learned while using me as his kicking bag. Instruction began in my grandmother’s living room and we later needed to move it into the basement of her home as my uncle recruited other kids in the neighborhood for lessons.
Mike received a membership to Jerome Mackey’s school during in the early 1970s. Jerome Mackey was a judo instructor and was one of the first to franchise karate schools in the U.S. Mackey successfully assembled several notable martial artists of that time and employed them as instructors at his various school locations such as Toyotoro Miyazaki, Tayari Casel, Donnie Collins and I think “Little” John Davis. There were others although I cannot recall their names.
Beason and his Uncle Mike Jackson
In time, my uncle brought me to some of the classes at the midtown Manhattan school on Lexington Avenue near 59th Street. Miyazaki was the main instructor for the Shotokan class, which included students, Willie Pugh and George Aschkar who were both testing for shodan about that time. I suppose they recognized something in me early on because they allowed me to train with them, though I never trained directly with Miyazaki.
Eventually these instructors moved on and opened their own dojos after Jerome Mackey dismantled his schools. Since Aschkar Sensei was in Queens, we sought instruction closer to home in the Bronx. Mike became friends with Arthur "Joe" Barnes, a neighborhood black belt. He suggested we check out a fellow named Errol Bennett, which we did. Mike and I joined Bennett’s dojo in 1974. I began at green belt, and in the following year made shodan.”
Martialforce: Please tell us about some your instructors.
Bill Beason: “My uncle Mike was all serious business. For him there was only hard rules no place for laughter in karate, no crying in karate and no joking in class. If you mistakenly laughed, you heard “tighten up!" which was followed with a kick or a punch to the abs. I learned early on that I needed to change not who I was, but rather, how I needed to be. My motto became, ‘No crying, just kia-ing’ which meant that if I hurt, I would need to dig deep inside, and let my kia roar from within me. I would let my mind remove any pain and I taught myself to go beyond my stopping point, never allowing whatever was bothering me show.
For me, typical childhood behaviors like laughing and silliness soon left after training began. At the age of eleven, I recognized the serious nature and discipline required to excel. Mike was very proud of my skills, and arranged street fights between his classmates from his high school, Art and Design or myself against the neighborhood kids. Now, these people were his age, four to six years older than I was. I remember many weekend summer evenings sparring some local person at the street corner or in front of my grandmother’s house. Eventually they joined his basement dojo after I took care of them. Mike did not fight them because his skills were far too superior and it would not have proven his ability as a teacher, only as a fighter. He was a purple belt under Miyazaki Sensei at that time. Today at age 52, Mike is in great shape and just as limber as ever.
With Aschkar Sensei, as well I learned about the serious nature of the art that one needed to uphold while training. I was in awe of the speed of his feet and hands for such a big person. His kicks always seemed to set up these lightning fast reverse punches and his focus was incredible. Willie Pugh was just as quick with everything he did. They are both great men.
Many years later, I acknowledged that what impressed me most about Aschkar Sensei was his humbleness. He could have easily dismissed my uncle and me as traitors for not continuing our karate careers under him. Instead, Aschkar always remained gracious and friendly toward us even after we began attending Bennett’s dojo. That man had his ego well intact and is an exemplary individual until this day.
Of Bennett Sensei, I am forever grateful to him for all the lessons learned in and outside the dojo and for his generosity in allowing me to slide many months in my monthly fees for classes. He must have recognized ‘something’ in me to allow my practicing despite my family’s inability to afford the dues. Bennett Sensei is a great champion himself and an exacting instructor. He taught me to sweep, where I just took it and made it my own. I remember that he would correct my pinky finger when I would make shuto-uke years later, I learned why that finger was so important.”
Martialforce: Please tell us about your classes, what were they like?
Bill Beason: “Classes were never just about instruction; it was always so much more. Back in the day, my fellow students and I ate, drank, slept, and lived karate all day long.
If we were not physically training, we were reading about it in books and magazines, watching movies in Chinatown or 42nd Street, or just talking about it. If a movie or television show had any kind of martial arts in it, we would seek it out and digest it repeatedly. Friday nights it was Kung Fu, Kwai Chang Caine. If the house were on fire, for sure we would not leave until the show ended and then later acted out the scenes.
During formal training, we would leave the dojo to go home only to practice more. The earlier classes at Jerome Mackey’s dojo I vaguely recall, but those at Bennett’s I certainly remember. There was nothing fancy about Bennett’s dojo in the Bronx. It was a narrow storefront, with a red door, red floors, and holes in the walls (created when Bennett's kicks knocked us into the walls). Hung from the ceiling was a bag and a few mirrors along the walls to check out our forms. I never once trained in a children’s class. Sensei required me to train along side the adults. In addition, there were very few women training in our dojo.
We called it the, “school of hard knocks, and knots”’ no safety equipment. Shin guards were useless and man, were they smelly! Those of us from that time know all about those knots on the shins and forearms, right?
We would train in the dojo under any condition, in the cold during the dead of winter, with noheat and in the sweltering heat of the summer with no air-conditioning.
Training at the dojo was on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; all other days it was in the basement or at our secret location in the woods. Central to training was repetition and kihons, the basics from which you can build whatever structure you like so long as your foundation is solid. Stressing the basics, kicks, blocks, kata and making each one better than the previous, were what Bennett Sensei instilled in us.
My earliest recollections about training 30 years ago were that I was probably nervous and excited at the same time. By the time I entered formal classes, I had already learned a great deal about the basics from my uncle. Training became like food for us where we nourished ourselves. We constantly wanted to become stronger physically, but most of all, mentally. We knew back then that the physical aspect of the martial arts went only so far; we needed to get our minds just as strong as our bodies.
During the mid 1980s, Bennett’s Sensei dojo joined with Shotokan Karate of America (S.K.A.). Moreover, I had the honor to train with some of its members. I also received personal instruction from Master Tsutomu Ohshima on several occasions in New York, Los Angeles and at special training events sanctioned by the organization. What an incredible person he is!”
Martialforce: Did you participate in other sports in school?
Bill Beason: “Actually, I did not participate in other sports while in school."
Martialforce: Please describe your Shodan grading.
Bill Beason: “It was the first real test I received. Shortly after I came to Bennett’s as a green belt, he handed me a brown belt one night. The following year I tested for shodan. Our school was very traditional, white, green, brown and black were the only ranks. Test night included my uncle Mike, our friend Mike Dacosta and me for Shodan, and perhaps a few others. All Bennett's senior black belts were present, Ricardo Pickens, Joe Barnes, Earl Razor, and Walter Kong. All week we practiced long and intensely. I am sure I made some mistakes but I was just trying as hard as I could not to be sloppy or give up.
The test-included kumite where we fought one another as hard as we could, bare knuckled with as much spirit as we could muster. I remember being dead tired and the final part of the test was a 45-minute kiba-dachi stance. As Bennett went into his office, leaving us under the watchful eye of his seniors, he said if anyone rose from their horse stance, they would fail.
After 45 minutes, we lined up to bow out. He said some words about how we needed to train harder then instructed us to take off our belts. Bennett Sensei then presented us with our obi. Today, that belt continues to hang on a wall in the dojo of the great Kevin Thompson.”
Martialforce: From our research, we learned that you competed consistently during the 1980s and 1990s. My question is, was tournament competition something you chose to do, or was it just part of the dojo routine?
Bill Beason: “Actually, I began to compete in the 1970s as a junior and super junior. I do not think I chose to go to competitions although they did present the opportunities to see how our skills matched up against others. We would also have intra-dojo matches that were always interesting. Bennett is a great competitor and a kata man himself among many other New York City greats: Fred Miller, Ron Van Clief, Owen Watson, Rupert O’Bryan, Wildcat Molina, Sheldon Wilkins, Ron Brown, Mike Arroyo, Sam McGee, William Oliver, Mike Warren, Earl Thompson, Donnie Collins, and Phil McCrae. The list goes on.
Participating in tournaments became the thing to do with the skills acquired. My first tournament where I won a trophy was at an event hosted by the late Master Leon Wallace. It was a kata trophy, about 6 inches high, where I performed Heian Nidan. I remember Master Wallace asking me, ‘Where the heck did you come from?’ I could only guess that his questioning implied that my skill level for a green belt was good.
I received my first trophy in kumite during an Ed Brown tournament in New Canaan Connecticut. I was often disqualified in the super junior standing because I was hitting kids as if they were men, the result of training at a young age with men.”
Martialforce: Can you describe your training with Bennett Sensei?
Bill Beason: “I never trained in a children’s class and do not recall if Bennett Sensei even had children classes at that time. The best way I can describe our training with Bennett Sensei would be to compare it to that of the samurai, where focus is critical and the environment is simple. Consider the use of mats found in many schools. They were missing in Bennett’s dojo because, he explained, ‘you do not find them on the street; therefore, learn to fall on the hard floor.’
He was hell bent on making us as steadfast and exacting in whatever we did. Training included learning and performing many kata, and sparring kumite was with everyone, regardless of size or height. I was the short one, 5 ft. 3 and young, so whenever I hit someone with a punch, it had to be just as effective as on a grown man. The same tactic applied to a kick or a sweep. At times it was necessary for me to refrain from applying a technique so as not to hurt someone’s child in the dojo.
Bennett also used an exercise where we would have our backs to the wall with one hand behind our backs tucked into the belt and the other hand to work on defensive blocks only you could not move, punch, or kick, just block. Your face was a target too, but in those days, at least we used Safe-T equipment. Working the heavy bag was a big part of my training to develop my reverse punching power and sweeps yes, I would sweep the heavy bag. As many may know, sweeping my opponent was one of my favorite techniques.
Another important part of training was learning how to endure hits to the body. I always felt empowered after getting hit by a grown man’s best shot and not flinching only to return the favor at the next available moment. Being hit and able to withstand the pain, or better yet, not feel the pain at all, let me know where I stood. On the next series, I would deliver a blow or other technique and drop that same opponent. It was as if I absorbed his power and then returned him with a little of my own.
I loved sparring in the dojo. It is where your karate skills are really developed and tested. Tournaments were a sprint where as dojo sparring was a marathon. Sometimes I would fake being tired in the dojo, because if you looked tired, Bennett would keep you fighting to build you up. If you looked hurt or tired, he would put the best against you to keep up the pressure. We all knew that it made us better if we were not easy on another. Bennett had some great black belts in the day. I thank them for not being easy on me.
I trained with some of the best tournament fighters back in the day. Because I was not the fastest I made sure to take one shot just so I could give two if you know what I mean, and vice versa.
Some people that could not beat me in a tournament would put some stuff on me in the dojo. I consider that good karate, the kind that works. Point sparring is abbreviated a lot of the time.
When continuous matches became the norm in tournaments, it resulted in too many people getting it confused with full contact and it just did not pan out. As such, I believe it appears sloppy and more like a street fight rather than good dojo kumite.”
Martialforce: You have competed and won consistently in fighting and forms, do you think tournament competition has changed and if so how?
Bill Beason: “I have not been to a tournament since 1993. By then the competitive arena had already evolved into something that differs from what we were accustomed. I can only imagine how it is like today. Although my opinion may not be right, I am nostalgic particularly because of the way things have changed.
I came from an era where mouthpieces were not mandatory and safety equipment consisted of tape and shin guards, nothing else. Your gi was usually still wet and stinky on Sunday from practice on Friday and Saturday. At a tournament, you paid ten dollars for one event, fifteen for two, and you gave it your all. You won a little trophy and had bragging rights for about two or three weeks until the next tournament. Everyone stayed for the nighttime finals, and watched all the division winners, the black belt finals, the grand championship matches, which culminated with the two final championship trophies in Kata and Kumite.
Before I retired from tournament competition in 1993, trophies meant nothing to me. In fact, I won them and gave them away to anyone who stuck around long enough to watch. Around 1987, I saw that tournaments in the New York City area were heading in a different direction, moving away from traditionally based, to those of an ‘entertainment’ platform consisting of musical kata, fancy gi's and ‘flip-kick karate.’
What do I mean by ‘flip- kick karate’? Consider this: it seems that in various competitive sports, be it gymnastics, skateboarding, or ice skating, where one requires a reasonable degree of creativity, you will find that many will push the limits and form a new standard.
Take for example, skateboarding. In its early form, you had a board with skate wheels attached to the bottom and you did your best to go as fast as you could without falling off. Today there are expensive engineered skateboards with Teflon wheels and titanium bearings, and composite boards that allow its riders to perform tricks that seem to defy the laws of physics. New technology and design has afforded many young riders the opportunity to make a living of developing more complex maneuvers, jumps and flips, ones which are based on the basics of some of the earlier tricks that at one time seemed as risky or groundbreaking.
A similar pattern emerged because of change taking place in karate within the tournament competitive arena. As more people became involved in the martial arts or cross-trained with other disciplines, some incorporating music, gymnastics, with greater degree of flexibility, the ‘art’ appeared to change. Indeed, it was groundbreaking, new, and phenomenal, great to look at, and it was winning, yes to many, but it was no longer karate. I even saw that some were incorporating break dancing to their art. Now I ask you, is that karate? Talented individuals for sure yet they were not practicing true Karate.
The establishment of traditional divisions such as for forms were needed because traditional competitors could no longer compete with someone that could put seven kicks from 90 degrees to 180 degrees, in rapid succession in beat, with a musical overture. With respect to sparring, it became a sport of tag amongst the speedy crop of technicians, incredibly fast, but also considerably weaker than the earlier generations.
Therefore, you had the fast and fancy emerging as the winners. Now, do not get me wrong, they were some of the heavy hitters of the day during that evolutionary period, Steve Anderson, Billy Blanks, Terry Creamer, Mafia Holloway, Pedro Xavier, Chip Wright, Jeff Gears, Hakim Alston, Jerry Fontanez, Larry Tankson, Derek Panza and the list goes on. They could all hit you and cause considerable damage. I am sure there are powerhouses out there today, although the ones I just mentioned were probably closer to the beginning of the changes that are evident.
The New York City area lagged behind the trend taking hold in other parts of the country. We competed in tournaments to fight hard and still fought just like back in the old days. Yet we were at a disadvantage by using sweeps and snarling (that is what I called kime, my focus) towards our opponents. It made one appear as if you had a bad attitude and the judges did not like that. They liked the people that smiled, helped their opponent up off the ground, tapped gloves, and played nice. I had to adapt my attitude to win judges favor, if you know what I mean, to convince them that I could play nice too. I preferred it the other way.
Again, it seemed as if tournament karate became a bouncy game of tag, where mule kicks used defends one against blitzes, and hit and run punches ultimately makes for champions. Everyone competing seemed to be on the offense ignoring any form of defensive strategy. Again, this is my opinion. I miss the good old days where your strategy was to stalk your opponent until you saw the opening to win by using one well-placed technique rather than racing to accumulate as many points as possible in a two or three minute round. Back in the day, the rule was a half point for technique, two half points winner or one full point for an effective technique.
Another distressing change I saw emerging before my retiring was karate becoming more of a business practice. Membership to a martial arts school has become an activity for parents to purchase for their children, a place for them to play after school or on the weekends; in addition, many of these schools are selling the idea of tournament competition as an outlet for kids to feel good about themselves because everyone seems to win something. Kids get medals just for competing.
There are truly talented people, young and old competing today, but everyone cannot be a champion, not every 1st place winner should receive a giant trophy. The arena today presents plenty of divisions or opportunities for someone to walk out with three to four trophies validating one’s sense of ‘championship status.’ Yet, when presenting tournament competition in such a manner, does it promote an environment where the individual really understands and appreciates what the martial arts are supposed to represent, that it is not about winning trophies, wearing flashy uniforms and fancy kicks?
I must admit that the crew coming up in my later days frustrated my style of fighting. To avoid a penalty, I had to adapt very quickly. My attitude changed, which may have made me nicer but not as focused. My very last tournament fight was with a very fast, young competitor whom I respected tremendously, but I lost the fight on points. I heard later that he ended up in the hospital after the tournament because of one of my punches to the body. My point is that the later generations were becoming faster but not necessarily stronger, the case of old school verses new school. You might win in the tournament but you will have problems with us in the dojo. Of course, the intent was not to hurt, but I was taught by Bennett Sensei that if you got hurt it was because your technique was weak.”
Martialforce: Would you recommend tournament competition to anyone that wants to compete?
Bill Beason: “Well, that is a loaded question. Today, any real competition for the most part will take place in the tournament arena. I say try it, if successful, you will only want to compete more. I will stress to an individual to consider that losing is not the end of the world. You will just need to train harder, watch others carefully, study your division, figure out what works, understand the rules, pay your entry fee and try again.
What did impress me were the people who would come to tournaments and lose every time! I wondered what made them keep coming back, I later figured out why. They loved what they did and eventually some of them got better and became winners. Then one day, they were gone.
They wanted to validate their skill and after they won even 3rd place or so in a division against a Jerry Fontanez, Kevin Thompson, Tony Morrison, Errol Bennett, or Derrick Williams, they could then count themselves as worthy of a great accomplishment. They competed at championship levels and for that, they earned credit for perseverance to be among greatest. How many people do you think could say, ‘See that guy on the Tae Bo commercial? I fought him once and came in 3rd place.’ There are probably hundreds. Some even went on to be the next level of champions, my hats off to those. That is why I can say, win or lose, being from New York City allowed me the privilege to compete with some great martial artists of that era. I wish I could have been around 15 yrs earlier; Delgado, Hayes, Miyazaki, Robbins pioneers man, pioneers.”
BILLY BEASON VS DERRICK WILLIAMS
REFEREE, TOYOTARO MIYAZAKI
Martialforce: I viewed your tournament tapes on You Tube and it shows that while being technical you were also a very aggressive fighter; in fact, you took many fighters down to the ground. My question is, were you aggressive because of your training or because of that place and time in your life?
Bill Beason: “My answer to your question is both. I was aggressive because it was part of my strategy, to take someone to the ground by throw, sweep, or to drop someone with a punch, or a kick early on in a match. It takes a lot out of your opponent especially when it is at the hands of a little person like me. They think, ‘Wow, he swept me,’ or ‘I have to watch out for that next time, do not want to be embarrassed in front of my students or girlfriend because they think I am great.’ It becomes a mind game so as they think about it you are in control of the fight. Now of course the greats were hard to intimidate that way so sometimes they came back and swept me, though rarely.
Yes, my training was suited for my size, my attitude, my level of commitment to a technique and me. However, as I mentioned earlier, as time went on, I had to change or lose. I remember once in California while in the service I went to a local tournament, hit the person to the body, and dropped him. Instead of getting a point, they discussed disqualifying me. I asked why, after all, it was a clean shot. They explained that they did not like “my attitude,” and I had hit him too hard. My response to that was that if he is a black belt, he should be able to defend himself. I ultimately was disqualified that day; I was not ready for change just then.”
Martialforce: During your tournament career, who were some of the toughest fighters you competed against or were there any one fight that stand out in your mind today?
Bill Beason: “Where do I begin? They all were tough, not one that I will mention was easy. New York and the tri state area had some great fighters before my era during the 1960s and early 1970s. I started in the adult division around 1977 because the judges would not allow me to fight as a super junior.
The one competitor that I fought the most is a Van Gough of a martial artist, Lil K.A. aka Kevin Thompson, probably all round best technician I have ever seen or fought, still out there and winning, a tremendous person. When we would get together one on one to play chess, he was a completely different person. We were somewhat like Rocky and Apollo when their gloves came off away from the competition it was another thing. We always made one other look good. We probably fought at least 30 - 40 times from 1974 to 1993. My thoughts on other competitors:
· Donnie Collins: AKA... Clark Kent, ...mild mannered but really Superman" Lightning fast hands.
· Larry "Thunderfoot" Cureton: After he went heavyweight, he was a hard hitter.
· Abdul Mutakabbir: Great kung fu.
· Jesse Harris: Strong as a bull!
· Willie Boynton: Solid rock.
· Jerry “Fast Feet” Fontanez: I do not think he ever got me with his feet; it was always those fast hands!
· Derrick Williams: “Mr. Unsu.”
· Kevin and Kerry Garris: "The Twins."
· Ronald and Donald Brady: Fastest twins alive.
· Pedro “Axeman” Xavier: Could comb your eyebrows with his feet if you let him.
· Tony “Top Gun” Morrison: Tops in my book for sure.
· Jonas Nunez: What a tremendous left hook!
· Andre “Juggernaut” Richardson: He could backhand you for days like a whip!
· Billy Blanks: Hardest head shot that I ever received was from “Mr. Tae Bo”
· Andre Tippett: Ever been hit by a NFL all pro linebacker and lived to tell the story? I will tell you the story if you want to hear it.
· Sam McGee: Harlem Goju, a timeless gentleman.
· Mafia Holloway: I equated his legs more to rubber bands than anything else.
· Gerald Robbins: Fastest big man in the world!
· The late Adriel Muniz: He was my friend, who would beat me with hands like bricks when we sparred in his dojo.
It was an honor to have had the one match with the late William Oliver. It is interesting to me that I end with him because there is a funny story here. My very first tournament and earliest recollection of the great William Oliver was in 1973 during a Mas Oyama tournament in New York City. As he performed, I was amazed at the speed, flexibility, and stamina that he exhibited in his kata followed by the roar of the crowd, tremendous!
He was the closest thing to a celebrity that I had ever seen because of “Fighting Black Kings,” the documentary that featured him.
I was in the novice division and my very first fight was against a girl. Now, I did not want to hurt her but they were not giving me any points so I had to tag her good, where I then got a warning. Anyway, the girl then threw a punch that was about a foot away from my chest and they gave her the point and the match. I got my ring card, went to another ring, and put my card in the rotation. I reached one of the top two spots in the ring but what I did not realize was that the division was so large that the referees split it into two rings, and then would have the two winners from each ring fight for first second and third. The girl, whom I lost to won, came over later with her father and ratted me out to Lil John Davis, the center referee. He looked at me and asked, ‘You lost to her?’ I said yes and they disqualified me. In the end, anyone can say, ‘You know that guy Billy Beason? He lost to a girl,’ and they would not be telling a lie.”
Martialforce: You mentioned fighting Andre Tippett from your “Who’s Who” list of competitors. Tell us more.
Bill Beason: “Andre Tippett. I remember we attended a tournament in the New England area, in 1984 or 1985. I had won the lightweight division, Billy Blanks won the light heavyweight and Andre won the heavyweight division. I am not 100% certain if there was a middleweight division or not, though I am inclined to say yes when I remember thinking about the "politics at hand.” Typically, the light and middle fighters fought to determine who would fight the winners of the light heavy and heavy divisions for the grand.
The reason I believe it was a set up was that they paired me with Tippett and Blanks with the middleweight winner, figuring that this would ensure that both New England players would be in for the grand. Anyway, Blanks dusted off his match and here I stood with this giant of a man, Andre Tippett. I had no idea he was a professional football player. With Andre being a full foot (6’3") taller than I (5’3”) am, and at least 80-90 lbs heavier, I knew I was in for it. Again, being the kind of fighter that I was, always used to fighting bigger people, I figured that I would make him fight my game and bring him down to my level, size wise.
I think it was always a challenge for big guys to fight me because of my speed and size. I also figured that because he was a pretty much a traditional style fighter I could use that to my advantage. Indeed, I surprised him because I was immediately on the offense, attacking him, coming in close with hands and with strong kime, focus. Like a small dog attacking a bull!
Now, what I remember most about our fight was that at some point, he unleashed a front-kick, which at his level would have been about hip height to someone his size for me, because I was fighting from a low stance, hit me in my right upper chest and shoulder. This kick launched me into the crowd, I may have flipped over, but when I looked down at my gi, I saw this big footprint. It reminded me of when Kareem Abdul Jabbar kicked Bruce Lee in Game of Death. When I pulled my gi aside, I saw that I was bleeding. I was like, ‘Oh snap, this dude cut me with a kick!’ I do not know what he or the crowd thought but if I were a spectator, I would have begged me not to go back in the ring with him.
Of course being me, never backing down to anyone, I returned and continued to fight. We continued to fight hard. He won that match but I believe I won his respect. A few years later, I saw him at a Rich Baptista tournament in New England. He came up to me remembering our match and we spoke briefly. I thought that was nice of him, a true gentleman. Therefore, I fought a NFL all pro linebacker, as a lightweight, lived to tell the story and yes, and lost to a girl. So now, you know some things about me that did not before. And oh yeah, Tippett and Blanks fought for grand and Blanks won.”
Martialforce: Looking back in your life, do you think that any aspect of Karate has been a tool that you used to help you throughout your life?
Bill Beason: “The most helpful aspect of Karate for me, in the twenty plus years that I was involved were not the trophies, or the degrees of rank, or even the matches. What made me rich had to do with the mental training, which helped me to become a confident person. It kept me from being involved in things that could have caused me harm or trouble as a youth. It helped me to mature and it trained me to be able to focus so that when I would face important matters later in real life, I would not be so overwhelmed. I credit that to the discipline I learned from studying karate, but my path changed.
I find that when matters of life require more effort, subconsciously I am sure my mind is saying, ‘Dig deep, no crying, just kia-ing, that is where you find the answers, Bill, dig deep’. Today, I dig deep into God's Word, the Bible where my family and I serve as Jehovah’s Witnesses.”
Martialforce: we would like to thank Mr. Beason for taking time from his busy schedule and giving us this opportunity to interview him.
Billy Beason was one of those Karate Competitors with an indomitable fighting spirit. If you got in the fighting arena with him, you knew you were in for a FIGHT! Thank you Billy Beason, we at Martialforce.com salute you for being part of Karate history.