Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Member Profile: Herbert Wong

Herbert Z. Wong Sensei's first exposure to the martial arts occurred in the Chinese schools he attended as a young boy in San Francisco's Chinatown. Martial arts were taught as part of the cultural arts curriculum and on an ad hoc basis at Chinese community centers. In 1959, Wong Sensei began his formal martial arts training in karate-do with Walter E. Todd Sensei at the International Judo, Karate and Aikido School. He was one of the first group of students at the school to earn a black belt in karate, which he received in 1961. He continued to train diligently and was awarded his second dan in 1963.

The United States Army drafted Wong Sensei in 1963 and sent him to Okinawa. During that time, he began training with Grandmaster Shimabukuro Eizo in Shobayashi Shorin Ryu karate-do. Throughout the time he was in Okinawa, Wong Sensei managed to train almost every single day. Because of this dedication and his previous experience, Wong Sensei earned his black belt in Shorin Ryu near the end of 1964. He was awarded his second dan in August of 1965, which was shortly before he finished his military service and returned to the United States.

After returning from Okinawa, Wong Sensei resumed his undergraduate studies at San Francisco State University and continued to practice Shorin Ryu. In 1965, he started the Asian Martial Arts School in San Francisco with Andrew Chan Sensei. He also began training in Sil-Lum Hung Gar (Tiger-Crane) kung fu under Master Y.C. Wong in San Francisco that same year. Wong Sensei was one of Master Wong's first three students in the United States. Wong Sensei continued to train with Master Wong and teach at the Asian Martial Arts School until he left the San Francisco Bay area to pursue his graduate studies.

In September of 1970, Wong Sensei started in the doctoral program at The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. While simultaneously pursuing his doctorate degrees in clinical and organizational psychology, he was also teaching classes in Okinawan karate-do and Chinese kung fu. In the beginning, Wong Sensei accepted only four students, including Karl W. Scott Sensei and Gary Hu Sensei.

After almost four years, Wong Sensei tested his assistant instructors and promoted them to black belt. Shortly after these promotions, he strongly suggested that one of them, with the help of the others, should open a full-time martial arts school. In 1974, Hu Sensei and Scott Sensei opened a school in Ann Arbor. This school has continued to exist since that time and is now known as the Asian Martial Arts Studio. Scott Sensei has been the Director of Training at the school since 1979 and he continues to carry on Wong Sensei's karate legacy in Ann Arbor. In 1974, Wong Sensei was also made the head of Shorin Ryu for the Midwestern and Southern Divisions of the United States by Grandmaster Shimabukuro.

After receiving his doctorate degrees, Wong Sensei returned to the San Francisco Bay area in 1975 to run a psychiatric clinic and psychology training center. A few years later he started doing consulting work in addition to running the clinic. He now has his own consulting firm that specializes in management consulting and organizational development.

Over the years, Wong Sensei and Andrew Chan Sensei also ran a number of martial arts schools together. Wong Sensei also made regular trips to Ann Arbor to teach seminars, classes, and private lessons at the Asian Martial Arts Studio. In addition, he continued to travel to Okinawa to train with Grandmaster Shimabukuro. He received a number of promotions over the years and was awarded his eighth dan in 2005. He was also awarded the title of Shihan ("Full Professor" or "Teaching Model") by Grandmaster Shimabukuro.