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Interview with Master Robert White

This video interview was shot at Master White’s school in Northville, Michigan, on August 15, 2009, directly after his Novi-Northville Open Karate Tournament at Novi Middle School earlier in the day.

(note: sorry about the dust on the lens)

Master White, Robert L. White. I’m presently 70 years old. I was born in 1939. And I learned to fight initially from my dad. My dad was a professional boxer. He used to box with the Brown Bomber, Joe Louis, and he was a sparring partner. Back then in 1947 they paid 25 cents a round. But I learned my fighting from him.

And then I got into football. I played high school football in the sixties…and then I played with the World Football League for 4 years. Then in 1965 I started training Shorin-ryu with Jim McLain in Grand Rapids. He was a student of Robert Trias who founded the United States Karate Association. At the time, in the seventies and part of the eighties it was the biggest karate organization in the world. It had 1,200,000 members.

Master Trias wrote several books that are out, manuals, on the Shorin-ryu and Shorinji-ryu system.

So after ’65 I moved to Detroit and I started training with Dr. Ken Pittaway, and with Bill Pogue, and with Willie Adams. Then in 1973 I went and visited Tatsuo Shimabuku and trained with him a very, very short time, in Okinawa, in Agena, Okinawa. Then from there I trained with other instructors in the martial arts; in the Chinese system, the Japanese system.

And then I got in also with Master Ung who is a Chinese Hsing-I Pa Kua instructor. I got into Qigong and Chinese acupuncture. So right now I try to cover, except for the sport karate tournaments, I try to enhance my students with a broad range of Okinawan, Japanese and Chinese martial arts, and included with the Chinese medicine. I’m a practitioner and I have a doctorates degree in homeopathy and acupuncture and I have also a Master’s degree in Chinese Qigong and Hsing-I and Pa Kua.

All traditional karate that I know, that are strict traditional and are hardcore, have a hard time making money, have a hard time making a living in the United States.

(Question: Is that the case with you also?)

Yes, my Qigong and acupuncture and holistic health classes are very small. You know like 4 or 6 people at a time. But I do it because I love it, and I’ve had several elements that would have killed people and because of my Qigong and because of my Chinese medicine, because of my acupuncture I’m still here alive and I’m strong. Not too many of the practitioners here are 70 years old, and I am, as of July.

It’s because of the training and practice, not me. I’m not a super-human. It’s just (???) over the last 44 years that I’ve been at it and it helps me and my health and mentally. There’s so many people today that are having mental problems. We’re the biggest country with drugs of anti-depressants in the world. That’s because people can’t find themselves. They can’t handle the stress of today’s living, and it really is important for that. They think of it as medicine or something they got to take or something. No it’s the meditation helps keeps you centered. So it’s very important and keeps your health centered.

(Question: As far as the importance of getting kids involved in the martial arts, can you talk a little bit about your philosophy on that?)

Kids is a good program. i think it teaches kids confidence. It teaches them basic self defense. But you know you’re not going to make any hardcore kids in this society, because no one can endure the pain of being a hardcore fighter. Oh and by the way, I fought 11 years in cage fighting. That’s why I don’t have any teeth. (laughs)


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