Monday, February 09, 2009

Tommy Gilbert, RIP

Feb. 10 - I just got back from an overflow capacity funeral for Pastor Tommy Gilbert. I've updated this post based on information provided during the services.

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A sobering part of growing older in the martial arts is seeing one's seniors pass away. The past six months have had a devastating toll on the Bay Area martial arts community, first with the passing of Hanshi Sid Campbell from cancer at age 65, then a month later the unexpected death of Master Luther Secrease from a heart attack at age 58. Last week marked the passage of another notable when Tommy Gilbert died of a massive heart attack at only age 55, just one year older than me.

As a colored belt years ago, I didn’t really get to know Tommy, but as one of the toughest fighters around, he was an old friend of my Kenpo instructor Sifu Al Thomas. A 6th Dan in Kajukenbo and former world champion point fighter, Tommy was founder of Best In The West, a school noted for turning out top fighters (eight world champions) who are just as tough on the street as in the ring; his son Damon Gilbert recently retired from the ring as a fourteen-time world champion, and is also an Oakland police officer. Damon, who is recovering from neck surgery, recounted how he successfully fought his retirement title defense only able to use one arm due to spinal injuries!

The final eulogy was delivered by grandmaster Ted Sotelo, who stated that Tommy was to have been his successor when he retires. Though I've yet to meet GM Sotelo, two of the best escrimadors I know, Ron Lew and Tom Meadows, consider him one of their mentors. In the world of martial arts, we are all connected ....


Tribute Service:
Monday, February 9, 2009
Time: 6:00-8:00 P.M.
2661 Alvarado Street #7
San Leandro, Ca.

Home Going Celebration
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Time: 10:00 A.M.
Where: Parks Chapel AME Church
476-34th Street
Oakland, Ca.

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