In Memoriam: KOMON (顧問)- Executive Advisor
Henry Wilkerson, Godan
We lost one of Mumon's treasured advisors on September 2nd, 2023.
Henry at a young age demonstrated an understanding of karate beyond technique. He did not know it at the time but had entered into budo, where his knowledge of sen no sen and practice of iai expanded quickly and made him a fearsome opponent in kumite.
His knowledge threatened the best karateka, but he did not use it to boast or belittle.
His advice, insight, and friendship will be missed.
Thank you to Henry for years of commitment, passion, and compassion for karate.
Rest in peace.
Henry Wilkerson began practicing karate in 1964 when a friend took him to meet Caylor Adkins. Upon meeting Caylor and seeing what Karate was about, Henry decided to join. Henry demonstrated a real affinity and passion for karate.
Henry met senior, Mr. Sadaharu Honda at the 1965 Summer Special Training. Henry admits they called Mr. Honda "Mighty Mouse" as he was a "human dynamo". To this day they remain friends, and discuss Karate on a regular basis.
In 1966, Henry was invited to go to Japan to practice Karate at Waseda University. During this time, he met Master Egami and to this day is still trying to comprehend what he showed him. The most sage advice Master Egami gave to Henry was "to relax".
Henry’s fellow practitioners, Albert Kubota and Warren Griffin, continuously encouraged each other to improve and work towards obtaining a black belt. In 1966, Henry obtained his first degree (Shodan) black belt and by 1976, he had been promoted to fourth degree (Yodan) black belt. Henry took only 10 years from Shodan to Yodan, which is one of the fastest to progress Black Belt ranks in Shotokan Karate of America.
In 1970, Henry participated in the First World Karate Tournament with team members Jeff Klein, Ron Thom, Jon Beltram, and Don Dupree. They lost only to Japan, but represented Karate from the United States very well, marking the noticable entry of US Karateka as respected martial artists.
Henry and Don Dupree both testing for Yodan in 1976 at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Shotokan Karate of America. Both were awarded Yodan.
Henry continues to teach and practice in California. His emphasis has shifted from attaining rank to mastery and the deeper pursuit of Budo.
Mr. Honda has invited Henry to advise Mumon members. On Henry, Mr. Honda notes that "Henry has practiced Kumite around the globe with high-level practitioners. He attained mastery of the Shotokan way of sen-no-sen. Henry mastered sensing his opponent's readiness, mentally and physically, thus moving ahead of the opponent initiating the attack. This is a critical element to understanding Master Funakoshi's second principle of 'karate ni sente nashi'."
Attaining mastery in sen-no-sen can be a difficult task. Many do not attain it. In fact only a very elite few have, however it is attainable through practice and advisement.
We encourage Mumon members to learn from Henry, this and deeper elements of Karate.
Henry enjoyed teaching at various dojos in Long Beach; practicing with Bob Lopez, John Barber and Don Depree at Long Beach City College and Caylor at Long Beach Belmont Pier.
Henry and Mark Kohagura practicing a technique from Kanku