SABUNIM DAVID WASHINGTON
AUG / 2010
“I have truly benefited from the interaction of different Masters, Regardless, my teacher is Grand Master Dae Hyun Kim.”
Interview by Eddie Morales
My name is Eddie Morales and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial arts magazine. I want to introduce our readers to Sabunim David Washington. Sabunim Washington is an old school traditionalist that has a deep respect for the accomplishments of the grand Masters of the past. He has established relationships with many of our prominent Masters through Training, Respect and Honesty. He follows a code of honor and practices the way of old, while understanding its modern versions. His demeanor is very humble in his daily life while expressing his tenacity and determination in his Karate practice. I have heard many great words throughout the years in regards to Sabunim Washington and at this time I offer a heart felt salute to his many years of dedicated training. Sabunim Washington has a very positive outlook on life, which becomes apparent when speaking to him on any given subject. His central belief is simple as it is centered on the empowerment of our youth by building their self-esteem and character through Karate training. His passion comes from his own experiences and it is his thought that by educating our youth and helping them reach their potential we can build a more strong and caring society. We here at Martialforce.com are proud to bring you this interview and we hope you enjoy it.
Martialforce.com: Where are you originally from?
DAVID WASHINGTON: I was born in 1954 and raised in the Soundview Housing projects located in the South Bronx, New York City.
Martialforce.com: What is your occupation?
DAVID WASHINGTON: I am “retired” from the New York City Police Department. I currently “serve” at a faith based community program in Orlando Florida.
Martialforce.com: When did you begin your Martial Arts training and with whom?
DAVID WASHINGTON: I began my training in 1970 in a style called Japanese Gojuryu Karate. The Dojo (School) was located off Westchester Avenue and Strafford Avenue. Back then, just getting to the Dojo was dangerous in itself. I stayed for approximately seven months and in 1971 I met Mr. William “Vernon” Slater who was a Black Belt student of Grand Master S.Henry Cho (Ji Do Kwan Tae Kwon Do).
In 1972 I began training with Grand Master Dae Hyun Kim (Sang Moo Kwan Tae Kwon Do). The relationship with GM Kim was one of a second father to me. He has stood by me and I him in the best of times and darkest of times as well.
Grand Master Dae Hyun Kim and Sabunim Washington
Martialforce.com: Did you teach Law Enforcement officers Defensive Tactics / arrest and Control?
DAVID WASHINGTON: Yes, I retired Detective “Senior Master Instructor” from the New York City Police Academy. I taught in the N.Y.P.D. Physical Education and Tactics “Recruit School” and also at the famed N.Y.P.D. Tactical Training Unit. In total I have had the honor of training approximately 40,000 N.Y.P.D. personnel.
I instructed personnel in the following: Boxing, Judo, Defensive Tactics, Pressure points, PR-24, ASP Baton, Felony Car Stops, Room Hallway entries, Speed handcuffing, Straight Baton, Riot Control, Fitness, CPR, First Aid, Water Safety and Tactical Communication.
I have instructed the following N.Y.P.D. Units: Narcotics, Warrants, Street Crimes, Organized Crime Control Bureau, Gang Intervention, Vice, Diplomatic protection, Intelligence, Highway, Emergency Service and Patrol.
I have interacted/Trained with Law Enforcement/Military organizations such as the following: Japan, Israel, Korea, Spain, Germany, Brazil, Philippines, Taiwan, India, F.B.I., U.S. Customs, N.Y.P.D. / Joint Federal Task Force, Argentina, Bureau of I.N.S. and many more.
Martialforce.com: How has Martial Arts training helped you in your daily life?
DAVID WASHINGTON: It has helped me attempt to instill a Godly character, Humility, Patience, Gratitude, Peace, Compassion, Courage, Joy and Perseverance. In addition it has helped me build a strong Mind, Body and Spirit.
1973 College Football
Martialforce.com: Who in your life influenced you the most regarding Martial Arts and or life in general?
DAVID WASHINGTON: My lord first and foremost, family, teachers, couches, mentors and friends. In regards to Martial Arts influences: GM Kim, GM Al Gotay (U.S.A. Goju), GM S.Henry Cho, GM BM Lee (Honda Martial Arts Supply in New York) Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, GM Ki Chung Kim, Antonio Pereira, Shihan Thomas Boddie, Soke Little John Davis, Tony “Chino” Archival, Ralph Gastiaburo, Grant Campbell and Shuseki Shihan William Oliver. Most people talk or read about these people, I have been with them. I have been in front of the giants of the Martial Arts. Its very humbling, these gentlemen have great hearts.
Martialforce.com: Do you practice or believe in Kata (Pre arranged movements) and if so, why?
DAVID WASHINGTON: Hyung/Kata with “application” is essential to the Martial Artist. It is Budo/Mudo to basics, forms, fighting, weapons, self-defense and history. There must always be balance in training. I find fighting easy (I’m from the South Bronx New York) in the sense of my own nature. Hyung/Kata is harder for me. We would always train with four people in front of us. This gave a true sense of danger and a high measure of reality.
The teacher would count or no count. If you didn’t block, you got hit. I have seen a lot of people hit the floor as a result of this training. Kata enhanced your stances, punches, blocks, kicks and timing. Lastly the mindset should be that of life and death while doing a Hyung/Kata.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe that Martial Arts is good training for children and why or why not?
DAVID WASHINGTON: Yes, children can benefit in so many areas. Trainig in a Dojo/Dojang can be positive in the following ways: Socialization, focus, respect, self-control, effort, gratitude, perseverance family atmosphere and fitness. Adults, teens and kids are isolating themselves in an electronic world. We all need interaction and movement. A constant sedentary lifestyle can create a long list of maladies. The kids I see training in Martial Arts are having fun and truly enjoying the experience. Kids also learn conflict resolution. Bullying is a major problem today.
(L-R) GM David Moon and David Washington in 1993 at GM Cho's tournament.
"Even though their Martial expertise/skill in kihon, kata, kumite - Budo was on a "very high level", most important to me, was their love and friendship. RIP Sensei Chino, Sensei Bobby and Shuseki Shihan. Sensei Santiago, thank you for making me better."
Martialforce.com: Do you believe its beneficial to study with different instructors or systems and if so, why?
DAVID WASHINGTON: This is a “touchy” subject in regards to Martial Arts etiquette. Loyalty is a very important component in a teacher/student relationship. I believe a student should follow his/her teacher with sincere gratitude and dedication. There are some mitigating circumstances that change this. I believe the simplest fact is to receive the “blessing” of your teacher. I have had the great privilege to train/sweat and socialize with some of the “icons” of the Martial Arts community. If I may, you don’t just walk up to an Al Gotay, Luis Delgado, William Oliver, Little John Davis or Grant Campbell and say “lets work out”. Relationships are made over time. Senior Martial Artist are warm and caring but they don’t let people in too readily. To answer your question directly I feel that I have truly benefited from the interaction of different Masters. Regardless, my teacher is Grand Master Dae Hyun Kim.
Sabunim Washington’s 50TH birthday
JKA Shotokan group 1981
Martialforce.com: Do you study any form of Kobudo (weaponry)?
DAVID WASHINGTON: No, I have recently dabbled in Kobudo. I have taken a number of Gassuku with Kyoshi Devorah Dometrich. This was with the Bo and Sai. Kyoshi Dometrich’s knowledge and technique is unbelievable. I also had the great honor of taking instruction with kyoshi Bob Elder (Orlando Florida-Owner of East Coast Martial Arts Supply). Kyoshi Elder teaches Toyama Batto Ryu. This deals directly with strong basics, kata and “actual cutting.” I would strongly suggest Martial Artist contact these fine people for seminars.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on cross training regarding weights, running etc?
DAVID WASHINGTON: This is a very important component. I have played High School football and Baseball. My college team won a championship in football as well.
I served my country in the U.S.Army’s famed 82nd Airborne Division Infantry “Red Beret” Paratrooper. Pushups, situps, three mile runs everyday. Living in the boonies/outdoors 85% of the time. Walking with an 80-pound plus “rucksack” for ten – fifteen miles will strengthen you. My approach to physical training is different now. I like to do high impact sprinting for a mile on the treadmill. I don’t train with weights anymore. I do pushups and warm-up right into Martial Arts training. The Martial Arts training is the main focus and workout. My body fat is about 12%, which is not bad for a 56-year old.guy.
1976 United States Army Paratrooper- School
Martialforce.com: Do you believe that tournament competition is good for your students and if yes, why?
DAVID WASHINGTON: I do believe competition is positive as long as it is kept in the proper perspective. My students attend tournaments that demonstrate proper Mudo/Budo, proper etiquette is important. The tournaments that are top on my list are: Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura’s World Seido Juku Karate Benefit tournament in New York City every October. GM S.Henry Cho’s contest in March NYC is always a wonderful experience.
Shihan Grant Campbell’s “Shiai” is always fun and very organized. The New York Traditional Karate League under my good friend George Aschkar Jr is very positive as well. Too much competition I believe is detrimental. It is better to build a Martial Artist than a tournament champion.
S.Henry Cho and Sabunim Washington
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on the difference between tournaments today as opposed to twenty years ago?
DAVID WASHINGTON: The athletes of today are bigger, faster and possess a wide variety of technique. Today’s Budo Ka has access to plyometrics, nutrition as well. I believe the spirit of Budo/Mudo of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s were the best. Back then there was more respect and sportsmanship. Instructors and judges had more respect as well. If GM Peter Urban, Don Nagel, S.Henry Cho, T.Nakamura were officiating your ring, win lose or draw you just bowed and moved on. If you had a negative or inappropriate attitude you were in trouble. We all knew that the senior judges back then had sweated, bled and worked on their Martial Arts, there was no question.
I believe safety equipment is a great thing in many ways. In previous time at the Dojo/Dojang and tournaments you had to really know how to block, body shift, sweep and counter. I don’t see a lot of blocking today. I see great offense, you have not lived until you’ve felt a punch, front kick and sweep from my good friend Errol Bennett. Mike Warrens double, triple kicks and punches always found their mark. The names of Frank Smith, Tonny Tulleners, Joe Lewis, Mike Stone, Alan Steen, Dwight “Hawk” Fraizer, Louis Delgado, Earl Monroe, Joe Hayes, Byong Yu, Jeff Smith, Bob Engle, Ron Marchini, Wiiliam Oliver, Sam McGee, Ralph Gastiaburo, Ron Van Clief, Little John Davis and Rupert O’ Bryan could really bring it.
Without the safety gear it is a totally different fight. Sweeping and grabbing is not taught anymore either. Side note, I love watching Sensei Frank Brennan of the KUBG of England, total package. Speaking as a Police Officer, can your Martial Arts truly work on a roof or subway platform, that is the real question?
Martialforce.com: What would you say is you greatest achievement to date?
DAVID WASHINGTON: Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. He laid his life down for me, that’s true love. This moves me in my most inner place. I have learned to follow him.
Martialforce.com: What are your long and short-term goals regarding Karate practice and teaching?
DAVID WASHINGTON: Simple, keep training and polishing myself. Continue to seek out qualified senior instructors.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on teenagers with high ranks such as 5th and 6th degree?
DAVID WASHINGTON: Honestly, I don’t think about these things too much. I simply focus on training my students and myself. I have been training now for 40 years. My senior student Terrence Postell 4th Dan Black Belt has been with me for 27 years. He earned his way up the old fashion way. He is 39 years old and a gentleman, husband, father, businessman and Martial Artist. He is a man passing on the legacy at Karate USA Academy 3663 Route 112, Coram, Long Island New York. It took him seven and a half years to make Yudanja.
Terrence Postell and Sabunim Washington
Martialforce.com: You recently celebrated 40 years in the Martial Arts. What keeps you driven to continue its practice?
DAVID WASHINGTON: I am still passionate about putting on my uniform and continuing my quest for knowledge. Constantly keeping sweat on my brow.
Martialforce.com: There are so many reasons that the youth create for giving up and not really trying. Do you have any words for the youth in regards to this matter?
DAVID WASHINGTON: Today’s youth has to truly understand patience and effort. We live in a society with instant gratification. In all facets of life we will have victory and unfortunately failure.
The key is to stay on the path. The kids in our school adhere to the point of “fall down seven, get up eight,” and giving up is never an option.
Sabunim Washington’s daughter Natalie graduating
from Hunter College honors 2005
Martialforce.com: Have you ever written any books or filmed any videos in regards to karate?
DAVID WASHINGTON: I have been asked by many individuals that I admire and respect to write a book. If I choose to begin this endeavor the specific premise of the book would not be about me per say. On my journey I have been able to walk with the giants so that is what I would write about.
Martialforce.com: We here at martialforce.com thank you for this interview and wish you the best in all future endeavors.
DAVID WASHINGTON: Thank you for this great opportunity and continued success in your endeavors.