AN INTERVIEW WITH
MASTER AKIN WILLIAMS
JAN / 2012
Greetings, Martialforce.com followers, my name is Franklin Puello, perennial student of The Martial Arts and your humble contributing editor from New York. I have taken on the pleasurable task to interview a great Martial Artist, a Traditional Martial Artist whom many would not categorize as such because of his innovative ideas, training and philosophy. As I learned from him, and about him, I challenge any one to find and provide a really sound argument to the contrary. He is a dynamic Martial Artist, who has a solid love for training in the Martial Arts and sharing with anyone around him.
He is a traditionalist who has evolved in the whole scheme of the natural process of Life and The Martial Arts. A sound practitioner of the Martial Arts, and a teacher of the Martial Arts philosophy and physical skills needed to reach level of high proficiency.
Interview by Franklin Puello
Martialforce.com: What is your Full Name?
AKIN WILLIAMS: My name is Akin wole Williams. I am also known as Akin, "Ak47" as well as "Tombey."
Martialforce.com: Where were you born and where did you grow up?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I was born on Long island, but grew up in Brooklyn. The best borough in New York City.
Martialforce.com: What is your current occupation?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I'm currently employed as a New York State court officer. I also teach cardio Kickboxing in the fitness industry.
Martialforce.com: When was your first introduction to the Martial Arts?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I was first introduced to The Martial Arts in elementary school.
Martialforce.com: What Style of Karate?
AKIN WILLIAMS: The Elementary school I attended was a private school, and for gym we studied Judo. I eventually studied outside the school with the instructor.
Martialforce.com: Who was/ were your instructor/s?
AKIN WILLIAMS: His name is Walter Bowe and I went as far as a purple belt. In 1982, I left judo and began studying Tae Kwon Do with Master Sabu Lewis. I left Judo because I had friends who studied with Master Sabu and the kicks and punches were more appealing to me. Not to mention the huge trophies they would bring home from tournaments.
MASTER SABU LEWIS
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you were training towards your Black Belt?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Training back then for us was demanding. Six days a week, at least 2 hours a day. Get to class early to hit the Makiwara board (striking board to train and harden hands and knuckles) and be ready for class. We focused on a lot of conditioning and fighting. By the time I was 13, I was training in the adult class (the only child in the class).
Martialforce.com: Did you ever enter Competition and what was the Attraction?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I just love competition; I started competing at yellow belt. Never really thought about competing, but it was what we did. I'll never forget my first tournament.
The Attraction: It was Binns galaxy of Stars in Brooklyn. Master Breaker Ron Jeter blew my mind with his breaking. It was the fist time I saw a child black belt. It was Garth Binns. I wanted to be a black belt like him. I competed consistently from '82-'99. I was on three karate teams, Philadelphia National Karate Team, Metro All Stars, and Team Elite.
Martialforce.com: Describe your preparation to enter the Martial Arts and/ or competition Arena?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Preparation? We stayed prepared. There's no off season. Lol, we train hard all the time, so I guess preparation was getting my entry fee ready for the day.
Martialforce.com: Who did you fight?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Who did I fight? that’s a long list! GM Sam McGee, Billy Beason ,Lil KA (Kevin Thompson), Tony Morrison , Shabazz Beecher, Eugene Floyd, Tony Young, Ibby Abdallah, Pedro Xavier, so many people I can not remember to mention all of them.
Martialforce.com: What was tournament competition like when you were first introduced?
AKIN WILLIAMS: The New York tournament scene is pretty much the same as when I started competing. I think there are fewer competitors though. I say that the tournament scene is the same with a sad face. Our tournaments still run late; Judges don't know the rules. Nowadays the main thing I hate is center referees who aren’t active in the tournament scene and run to be center ref; horrible calls get me mad too. I can deal with a call I may not agree with but the ones that make you go "huh?!?!" are crazy. Also, the lack of CODE! I miss the discipline in the old tournaments.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers who were some of the noted Martial Artists you have trained with / Competed against?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I've competed against many, trained with few. I trained and train with family. I've trained with Grand Master Hector Santiago at his White tiger dojo. I also study with Soke Haisan Kaleak. All of my training has been in house. I would study with people and go back to the dojo and train. As far as competition, I think there are too many groupies running around from school to school chasing whoever is hot. I never wanted to train with the top guys, I wanted to beat them. To answer your question I trained with my dojo brothers and sisters or alone. No one had names until Chris Styles and Jadi Tention came to the school. Actually they “weren't names” then. Lol
Martialforce.com: Would you describe, specifically, how you developed your teaching techniques?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Well I started teaching at the age of 15, so I tried to teach like my instructor. I still do but one must be able to relate to the student. A good parent has to be in tune with the child. As a teacher/ leader class must be hard and fun.
Martialforce.com: Since I love Kata I derive pleasure in this next question prefaced by “Kata is said to be “The Essence of Karate”; “It contains Many Secrets", and since the phrase has become a Cliché. Do you believe the practice of Kata is useful and important?
AKIN WILLIAMS: To quote Soke Haisan: everything is good in its place. So yes it's useful this in turn makes it important. How important is up to the practitioner.
AKIN WILLIAMS: To me Kata is a good form of active meditation.
Martialforce.com: What is your Most Favorite Kata?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I don't have a favorite kata.
Martialforce.com: Have you learned Kata from other Systems of Karate?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I have learned forms in Tae Kwon Do and Kuroshi-do.
Martialforce.com: What makes it/ them so Special?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I don't consider them special. I see forms as a martial art exercise or drill. They can also be done beautifully. But I don't judge a guy's martial art by if he does kata or not. Please note, I've been involved in the "kata: important or not" conversation/ question/ debate often. Martial arts is in many ways is like religion. How one practice/ observe religion, is truly between him and God. So in martial arts if the practitioner walks and talks the Code, they're alright with me. Lol and for the record....I have kata trophies as an adult in national tournaments.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell us about your relationship with other Martial Arts Teachers/ Sensei, from other Systems? How was training with them in exchanges, if applicable?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I love Grand Master Lou Ferrer and Grand Master Felix Vasquez. They use to come to Master Sabu's dojo and train. A real “training experience”, How many people can say the sparred with Felix Vasquez. I have much respect for William Oliver RIP; Errol Bennett; Sam McGee; Hector Santiago; Joe Pina (from Boston), to name a few.
Martialforce.com: How would you describe your Method of Teaching and how much were you influenced by Traditional Karate teaching?
AKIN WILLIAMS: All my instructors taught by example. Being on the floor sweating. So I carry on the tradition. Most of our learning is done through watching what our parent or teachers do. So if the teacher is sitting you can assume the student will be the same. Too many people sitting around talking about what they used to do and doing NOTHING now. True we get older. The body isn't the same. But, the student will feel that spirit when it's on the floor. That's what's traditional to me.... SPIRIT!
Martialforce.com: How would you instruct Kata Training to a Martial Artist of the present generation, who may not believe in Kata?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Lol, why would an instructor be teaching another Martial Artist kata if the Martial Artist isn't looking for kata? That is like going to a pizza shop looking for hamburgers. One should make a decision if that establishment is where they want to be.
Martialforce.com: Do you feel that Martial Arts and teachings learned played an important role with who you are today? Can you identify aspects of your life or accomplishments that you directly attribute your success in, to the training received in the Martial Arts?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I am who I am because of The Martial Arts, I live it! I have been doing it most of my life nonstop. My treatment of others, confidence, never giving up attitude, willingness to empty my cup, I attribute to my Martial Arts training. I don't know how to separate my (body and soul) from martial arts.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe the Martial Arts training would be beneficial for any youngster or adult?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I believe martial arts are great for youngsters and adults. Anything that will keep them focused, builds character and helps keep you in shape is good. The Martial Arts is that for me.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on cross training in regards to other styles of Martial Arts and what other Martial Arts Styles, if any, have you trained in?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I believe that "cross training" should be mandatory to any / every martial artist. When you research different styles to their roots, you will find that the original system had everything in it. Early Jujutsu had everything, weapons, throws, locks, pins, even kicks and punches. So for a "traditional" martial artist it would make sense to get as much knowledge as possible. I have studied Judo (w/Walter Bowe), Tae Kwon Do (w/Master Sabu), kuroshi-do (Soke Haisan Kaleak) and Aikido (Carl Riley). When I say studied I mean at least a consistent five years or better in each. I've also dabbed in boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, but my time is limited. My whole family trains. My son is a yellow belt (7 years old) and two daughters (11 &14) both red belts. My wife just received her Black Belt this past November. You were there. They get it all, old school and new school. It's a little different teaching family because you live with them. They have to deal with sensei daddy or husband. I don't mean we're in the house working out but I do everything from a martial arts theory. I stay on point as best as I can and hold them to the same standard. Lol they can't come home and complain about Sensei Akin or Sensei (uncle) Jadi and on the same note, I limit teaching at home. I have to let them have their own journey. They enjoy it and that's what's important to me.
Martialforce.com: Who do you feel was your biggest influence in Karate or life in general and why?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Though I started in Judo my biggest influence is Master Sabu! My INSTRUCTOR! He taught me the basis of everything I do. Whether doing it the way he did it or evolving the principles and techniques to fit me, he is the foundation. I grew up with my father but Grand Master Sabu Lewis is my martial arts father, and I am martial arts.
Martialforce.com: How do you define Tradition? Do you think Tradition is important?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Tradition: Is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present with origins in the past? Tradition and legacy are important. As the saying goes: you don't know where you are going if you don't know where you came from.
Martialforce.com: What are your Views of Evolution or natural changes in Karate?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Everything has to evolve. That's the way the world is. Movement is Life; stagnation is death (famous quote by Haisan Kaleak, Soke). We get too caught up with the ritual part of the martial arts when we should be focused on the principles and beliefs. I do have a problem with (what seems to be) people embracing another culture over their own. Black men who don't want anything to do with the African heritage, but know the whole Japanese tea ceremony? C'mon!
Guys worried about if another guy trains in a Gi ( Karate uniform ) or not? Or the color of the gi? C'mon! Don't get me wrong, I love donning a gi, I always train in a gi; And then we have people that don't change their conditioning methods. That's ridiculous if you really into conditioning. Hmmm? everything evolves.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about Rank in Martial Arts and the present practice of fast and advanced promotions?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I think rank really only counts in your school. Every school has different standards so I don't concern my self with that too much. As far as advanced ranks. ..... Same thing. If your instructor gave it to you on your merits..... Great! ‘If you “hustled” the rank in any kind of way’, shame on you! and the person who gave it to you. Those belts look nice but they won't even win a tournament fight for you. As far as fast rank promotions, I always found it funny those instructors who learned over seas, in the military; make their students train for 30 years to achieve higher rank. How long were “you” overseas?
Martialforce.com: Do you believe youngsters (12-20 Yrs.) could/ should be holders of rank above Sandan (Third Degree Black Belt)?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Good question, I don't know. Ever met a 20 year old with good technique and excellent character that has been training 15 years? How about a 35 year old that has been training for the same 15 years and he's a complete embarrassment? Once again, rank should come from Merit. Look at the things the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was doing at 19 or 20.
I will phrase my answer in this manner; I was taught that for each degree one should have spent that many years as the previous degree. Example: you should be a fourth degree for five years before being able to get fifth degree. I was granted a fifth in Kuroshi-do and a sixth degree under Master Sabu, but I still don't have the glow, so I just train!
Martialforce.com: What are your Long or Short-term Goals in Martial Arts?
AKIN WILLIAMS: To open a school and maybe give a tournament.
Martialforce.com: Would you or do you advocate for Martial Arts students to participate/ support Open Tournaments/ Competitions?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I like tournaments but it's not for everybody. But I would encourage a little competition. I’ve always competed in open tournaments so that’s what I like.
Martialforce.com: What would you share with Parents or Kids who want to be involved with the Martial Art? Would you advocate young children to attend classes in Martial Arts?
AKIN WILLIAMS: I would tell the world to get involved in martial arts. But to the parents, shop around and see what's going on. Do your research on the instructor and staff. If you have a young child, observe how the children are cared for. Stay and watch; and remember: children don't quit, Parents do! Be committed.
Martialforce.com: Who was or were your toughest opponents in competition?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Toughest opponent, Me! I've fought many great fighters. Respect to all of them.
Martialforce.com: Who is your primary source of inspiration in Life and the Martial Arts?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Primary Source of inspiration: GOD
Martialforce.com: What is or are your Goals in The Martial Arts?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Self-perfection. :)
Martialforce.com: What is the biggest misconception about you?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Biggest misconception, I don’t know.
Martialforce.com: Do you admire or have a favorite competitor/ fighter?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Favorite fighters: Jerry Fontanez. Tony Morrison, Keith Mckinley, Billy Blanks, Ibby Abdallah, young Mafia Halloway, Pedro Xavier, I like Cameron Dawson , “Jadi Tention is ok”. These guys are fighters. They loved competition. They looked forward to good fights. I loved Jerry's footwork.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about the current state of the Martial Arts?
AKIN WILLIAMS: Current state of Martial Arts, I’m happy with my current state of MA and the people I train with. I can only speak on my MA. The Martial arts world, and Martial Artists, is wide and diverse. Let me start by saying this, I feel we are more "traditional" than allot of people. When I say traditional I mean in belief. We hold ourselves to a high standard. We teach and live those standards. You don't see us disrespecting people, drinking, smoking or just acting ignorant. We play but we are serious about our school, family and how we portray ourselves. Back to your question, you won't hear me say this much but Jadi is like my younger brother. We met almost 20 years ago. He wanted to train with me so I introduced him to my instructor. Jadi was a brand new black belt then. I know he was, and is, his own man but what I was doing then had a part to play in where he and I are now.
I remember him asking me why I started training in Kuroshi-do. I was expanding my knowledge, he heard me reply. Initially, he laughed at me, he berated me with his laughter. Later he did the same with the BJJ and training with Soke Haisan. Our work ethic comes from Master Sabu. Jadi would be in my classes and I take his now. I never considered Master Sabu a “ritual traditionalist" so I don't consider my self or Jadi one either. I am what TCK is about. I mean that to my heart. That might be the biggest misconception (our relationship and its origins). That was my dude when nobody knew his name. So there should be no shock that we're together now.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)?
AKIN WILLIAMS: MMA? I like all martial arts. I just don't like people who act like savages. Osu
Martialforce.com: I must say, Master Williams, after learning about you, your principles and thoughts; and learning from you, I just reaffirmed my position as the perennial student of the Martial Arts.
AKIN WILLIAMS: I would like to acknowledge all my instructors. Thank you for sharing yourselves with me. My family. Jadi, keep being you! Chris Styles, get back in the dojo! Keith Mckinley and bobby Harris, get it going in Philly. Lastly, my oldest friend in the Martial Arts community, Jesse Wray. I love what your doing warrior, take it to the NEXT LEVEL!
Martialforce.com: Personally, and on behalf of our Magazine’s dedicated followers, in addition to the Martialforce.com staff I want to express to you our sincere appreciation for your cooperation with our endeavors to propagate The Martial Arts, while profiling Excellence in Masters like you who strive to teach the essential Principles that make The Martial Arts, the force in life it is.