Monday, August 18, 2008

Sid Campbell, RIP

The martial arts community lost another giant tonight when Hanshi Sid Campbell, 10th Dan in Shorin-Ryu, passed away just before 8pm. Coincidentally and symbolically, this was both sunset and low tide here in the San Francisco Bay Area where he taught for over 40 years.

In 1966 Sid became the first person to open a Shorin-Ryu school on the mainland of the United States, under the auspices of his teacher, grandmaster Shugoro Nakazato. During his career he taught over 15,000 students, of which 850 attained black belt, but Sid’s influence extended far beyond his immediate students.

A prolific writer, he published over 50 books on martial arts, unveiling the techniques and history of many now well-known Asian weapons. The book he co-authored with Sonny Umpad, Balisong: The Lethal Art Of Filipino Knife Fighting, for instance, was one of the first and most comprehensive on that subject, and helped propel Sonny’s career. Most recently Sid co-authored three volumes (The Dragon and The Tiger, vols. 1&2, and Remembering The Master) about the relationship of Bruce and James Lee, whom he both knew, providing insights into the development of Jeet Kune Do and James’ lesser known but essential contributions to that art. Unfortunately there were two more volumes yet unfinished in Sid’s computer when he passed away.

Sid was not only a writer but an accomplished artist as well. He was one of only a handful of painters worldwide doing authentic depictions of warrior arts. A couple of years ago he produced a large art book, Warrior Arts and Weapons of Ancient Hawai'i, depicting scenes of Hawaiian village life and tribal warfare, based on his close connections with legacy holders of Hawaiian society. This book is now a text in cultural studies at the University of Hawaii. He also was working on a companion volume on the samurai, for which most of the artwork was done, again historically true to the heraldry and fighting tactics based on extensive knowledge and research.

Sid lived large. He loved going out for dinner and sharing a beer, yet somehow managed to pack more into a day than most people could dream. In addition to teaching, writing and painting, he was a promoter and producer, and was both a member and organizer of numerous organizations and martial arts halls of fame. With such a rich involvement in the arts, he was a great storyteller with a deep sense of humor.

I was privileged to briefly be in business with Sid, along with Bill Rodriguez and Jack Long, at "Pathways to the Orient", a multidisciplinary school in Oakland back in the early 90’s. Though the partnership didn’t last long, that was my introduction to him. It took a few years to reconnect but Sid was never one to hold a grudge. He had a huge heart and loved the arts, and that extended to anyone else who shared his passion. About two years ago there was a big roast for him in Alameda, a star-studded event with hundreds of martial art celebrities from around the globe. It was a night filled with humor and spiced with the love for this man felt throughout the community. It was an honor and privilege to be there as a fly on the wall, and of course Sid had the last laugh when we all left at the end of the evening to find fake tickets on all of our cars!

Three weeks ago I felt a strong urge to visit Sid. I knew he’d been fighting cancer for a couple of years, and I thought he’d get a lift from seeing the weapons I’ve been making. I barely recognized him when I saw him because he’d lost so much weight, but once he was settled in his chair at his desk, he lit up handling various swords and knives I’d brought for him to see. It was one of the few times he and I just sat and talked alone, and his warm encouragement and support will always be remembered.

Two nights ago I had a dream about being in a huge airport ticket lounge. I was in a line of people buying tickets to go to New Zealand. Everyone who got a ticket had a polaroid photo affixed to the wall, showing their place on the flight. One image there stood out, a large, full face. I didn’t understand who the dream was about when I awoke, but I knew it was a death dream as I’ve had these before. It wasn’t until I heard this afternoon that Sid had gone back into the hospital that I realized it was his face I’d seen in my dream, and I knew his time had come even before getting the call a couple of hours later.

It might not have been New Zealand, but that just meant somewhere far away across the waters. In my heart, I know Sid is in his beloved Hawai'i tonight.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The following is a list of Hanshi Sid Campbell's awards and achievements, courtesy of his close friend Sifu Mark Gerry:

Soke Sid Campbell has been a featured inclusion in virtually every martial arts magazine in the world. He has been chronically documented in dozens of Okinawan related text and historical books written by authors that specialize in martial arts publications. Among some of his most notable achievements include being awarded the Presidential Sports Award (by President Jimmy Carter) for instructing the armed forces, listed in Bob Wall's Who's Who in the Martial Arts, contributed to and listed in Who's Who in Karate, inducted into the Professional Black Belt Hall of Fame, registered in the Who's Who in the Martial Arts Elite, featured in The Men of Merit (International Biographical Centre, Cambridge, England), seated on the Board of Advisors for Horizon Publications, dedicated inclusion in the Knights of Heaven Brotherhood of Martial Artists (volume 12), on the Board of Directors of the International Tao of The Fist Martial Arts Fraternity, profiled in Marquis Who's Who in the West, Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in Entertainment, Master Instructor (1993) World Martial Arts Hall of Fame, awarded the CRYSTAL AWARD (comparable to the OSCAR for Martial Arts) in the category of LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT, featured inclusion in Contemporary Authors (volume 116), National Advisor to the United States Defense Tactics Association, retired vice-president of the United States Shorin-Ryu Karate Association, Director of the Pathways to the Orient Sports Academy, past Secretary of the Northern California Referee's Association, featured in Who's Who of American Martial Arts and Martial Arts: Traditions, History and People, Consultant to John Corcoran's "The Martial Arts Source Book", featured inclusion in the World Head of Family Sokeship Council's The World Martial Arts Elite, a book of authorized Biographies, (First edition, 1999) and bestowed with the prestigious Golden Fist Award for Outstanding Okinawan Instructor.

Sid Campbell is also on the Martial Arts Network Advisory Board for Chop TV, a distinguished member of the Board of Advisors to the International Congress of Oriental Medicine and Martial Arts, Creative Director for TRAC Productions and Co-Founder of the Kobudo Warrior Gear equipment company. He is also Co-Founder of the Islands Holding Company as well as a recipient of the Golden Halo Award bestowed by the Southern California Motion Picture Council.

As a leading authority on traditional Okinawan and Japanese martial arts, Soke Sid Campbell has written over 50 books on various topics including: Ninja Shuriken Throwing, The Weapons of Okinawa, Shadows of Darkness; Secrets of the Night Fighter, Exotic Weapon's of the Ninja, Kobudo Weapon Fighting; Techniques, Tactics and Styles, Balisong; Lethal Filipino Knife Fighting, The Mercenary's Tactical Handbook, Kata; The Essence and Inner Meaning, Martial Arts Philosophy Made Easy, The Samurai Chronicles (Trilogy), Ancient Fighting Secrets of the Yin-yang, Weapons of Okinawa; A Devastating Kobudo Arsenal, Kobudo Weapon Fighting: Tactics, Techniques & Styles,Weapons of the Samurai. Bushiso Arts of War and numerous other titles. His short stories number over 200 and have been read by millions across the world.

Cinematically, Soke Sid Campbell has been involved with the martial arts motion picture industry for over 20 years. He has written motion picture scripts which include "China Bomb", "Falcon Claw", "Wingless", Bushwhackers". He has appeared as an actor in Ninja Busters, Weapons of Death, Death Machines and as of most recent, co-starred with legendary kung-fu master Eric Lee in The Master Demon, Martial Medicine with Dr. Zee Lo and Chasing the Dragon. He has choreographed over 600 action fight scenes that have been seen in various martial arts films.In 1997 he was nominated for inclusion in the prestigious World Head of Family Sokeship Council. He also serves as an Expert Witness on Federal criminal cases ( involving weapons and other items of a martial nature involved in the commission of Federal and State crimes.

He has also been featured in numerous video instructional tape series including Super Nunchaku (beginner's course), Super Nunchaku (semi-advanced course), Super Nunchaku (advanced course), The Tonfa Police Baton, Boots, Buckles & Blades; Practical Street Fighting Secrets for the Urban Traveler, Fist Load Weaponry; Awesome Tools of Self-Defense and produced Eclectic Escrima for Self-Defense. Many of his literary works and video productions are presently being converted to CD-ROM. He also wrote, produced and is the host of "Just For Kicks", a cable formatted television program that features martial arts talent and guests. Shortly thereafter he was inducted into to MARTIAL ARTS GALLERY OF FAME. As of July 20th, 2002 Sid Campbell was inducted into the Martial Art Masters 2002 HALL of FAME in Newport Beach, California and on August 17th, 2002 he was awarded the LIVING LEGENDS AWARD for Martial Arts Historian at the Bob Wall Celebrity Roast in Burban, California. He is also of member of, an organization dedicated to the positive growth and unification of fellow martial artists worldwide. In 2002 he was elected as Vice-president of Oakland's Dimond Merchant's Association, the community of which he served and taught at his Honbu (headquarters) Shorin-Ryu Karate Studio.

He is also the CEO (Chief Executive Officer), along with Chairman of the Board Eric Lee, of LEGENDS of the MILLENNIUM Corporation. It is the first and only action-martial arts theme restaurant chain concept to be developed.