AN INTERVIEW WITH
MASTER ANDRE MASON
JAN / 2012
Greetings, my name is Franklin Puello and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Martial Arts Magazine. When it comes to training in the Martial Arts one realizes immediately that the training is hard and the teacher is demanding and unforgiving at times. You embark in the journey with the understanding that the teacher is a guiding light through a thick fog leading to knowledge and abilities never before thought possible to achieve. Teachers that are demanding, unforgiving, yet kind with their highly technical contributions to the students learning and successful progress in the journey of the Martial Arts. They may not be making the big money from teaching 40, 50 or more students, but are in fact making the difference with the very few that are willing to learn properly while enduring grueling training sessions, and being rewarded greatly at every level of achievement. The subject of this interview is one of the aforementioned elite teachers, who boast no big numbers of students but has students and close Martial Arts associates. I commend him for his dedicated training and service to the Martial Arts. In addition, for maintaining the high standards needed to perpetuate the teaching of real Karate- Do. Domo Arigato Sensei.
Interview by Franklin Puello
Martialforce.com: What is your Full Name?
ANDRE MASON: Andre' Mason
Martialforce.com: Where were you Born?
ANDRE MASON: Little Rock, Ark.
Martialforce.com: Where originally from and where did you grow up?
ANDRE MASON: Mt. Vernon, New York
Martialforce.com: What is your current occupation?
ANDRE MASON: I am with Homeland Security, and I am a Part Time Investigator with Brookhaven Town in Suffolk County N.Y.
Martialforce.com: When was your first introduction to the martial arts?
ANDRE MASON: Like most of my dojo buddies it all started late 1960's with the Green Hornet (Bruce Lee)
Martialforce.com: What Style of Karate?
ANDRE MASON: Shotokan Karate
Martialforce.com: Who was/ were your instructor/s?
ANDRE MASON: My formal training started with Sensei Bill Richardson, to Nidan ( 2nd Degree Black Belt).Next with Sensei Ozawa in Las Vagas who turned me on to Sensei Kanawaza, Sandan/Yodan ( 3rd & 4th Degree Black Belt )
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you were Training towards your Black Belt?
ANDRE MASON: Well unlike today’s students, becoming a Black Belt meant more than just a black belt around ones waist. I trained for years for that test. I'm talking about running everyday, pushups, sit-ups, stretching, Kata, hand conditioning, bag work, then karate training for 2 or 3 hours plus the 3 classes a week with Sensei Richardson. O, and never missed a class because I was afraid I would miss out on something.
Martialforce.com: Please describe Training, when you were competing in Karate Shiai and or Tournaments?
ANDRE MASON: Tournament then was not about the competitor as much as it was for the Dojo, so getting ready for a tournament was serious training and only for those who Sensei said could go. Training was after regular class and lasted late into the night sometimes to morning.
Martialforce.com: Describe your preparation to enter the Martial Arts competition Arena?
ANDRE MASON: Hitting something hard, like the gym walls.
Martialforce.com: Why? What was the Attraction?
ANDRE MASON: Why Karate, it seemed more powerful than boxing.
Martialforce.com: When and who did you fight?
ANDRE MASON: My first tournament as a Black Belt was a Ying Yee tournament in Brooklyn (1970), I fought a known BB Sensei William Oliver for Grand Champion. I know I had no chance of winning but I gave it my best. I took him into double overtime before he put the finishing move on me (at 2am). I learned allot about myself that night and what it was like to be in with a good fighter such as he was.
Martialforce.com: What was tournament competition like when you were first introduced?
ANDRE MASON: Training was hard for just a small trophy and that was for 1st place, only Grand Champions received the 6 or 7 footers not like today when Kyu belts (beginners) now get them.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers who were some of the Noted Martial Artists you had to compete against?
Sensei William Oliver, Sensei Earl Bennet, Sifu Tayari Casel (I hope I spelled it right) and a host of others such as yourself.
Martialforce.com: Please describe specifically how you developed your tactics and techniques?
ANDRE MASON: Sensei Richardson trained me hard to have that one punch hard hit (knock out/ Kill). My hands were strong enough to break blocks of ice and finger thrust through boards.
Martialforce.com: Explain how you perfected their utilization in Kata and specially fighting?
ANDRE MASON: I loved doing kata from watching greats as mentioned above. My fighting was all from Sensei Bill Richardson who showed me how to focus on the target.
Martialforce.com: What specific training did you engage in to develop your Balance and Power?
ANDRE MASON: Running, lots of Kata, bag training (heavy bag and double end speed bag).
Martialforce.com: Could you tell us about the toughest competitor(s) facing you during your competition time?
ANDRE MASON: In the beginning they were all tough until you go back and retrain, playback in your head what went down in the fight.
Martialforce.com: What made them tough?
ANDRE MASON: The long eliminations. Black Belt division was only divided in two: heavy or lightweight.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe the practice of Kata is useful and important?
ANDRE MASON: Yes, it is the KEY to Karate, revealing the secrets (application of all techniques) but only if you work it and not just “do it” like most students.
Martialforce.com: What is your Most Favorite Kata?
ANDRE MASON: All of Shotokan Kata are my favorite, but Unsu is my dearest, because most Martial Artists say older people can not do it.
Martialforce.com: If more than one in different Styles of Martial Arts, please identify?
ANDRE MASON: Only Shotokan
Martialforce.com: What makes it/ them so Special?
ANDRE MASON: So much to learn from it because it has a blend of two styles
Martialforce.com: Are you presently training others in the Art Karate?
ANDRE MASON: Yes, I have a dojo in Selden, NY
Martialforce.com: When did you start and what is your teaching style?
ANDRE MASON: 1968 only Shotokan Karate
Martialforce.com: How would you instruct Kata Training to a Martial Artist of the present generation, who may not believe in Kata?
ANDRE MASON: Now advanced things have to be fun so if one adds music to it they may practice more.
Martialforce.com: What do you teach those who want to learn Survival Skills?
ANDRE MASON: I primarily teach them about themselves, because unless you can deal with yourself you can not deal with others. For example, from the beginning the students will be taught, and required to learn and apply, the principles of Courtesy and Control. In addition, the students really learn, through the years of training, patience, and Dispute Resolution techniques with which they are able to negotiate any altercation, whether they are involved or just mediating for others.
Martialforce.com: What is your view of the present Evolution of the Martial Arts and Tournament Competition of the present and compare to the past?
ANDRE MASON: Today’s Martial Arts is WEAK because today’s students are more into belts/rank not the ability of doing it.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell us about your relationship with some of the Masters of the Past and Present?
ANDRE MASON: Enlightening, to know that all are about learning about one self and how to improve yourself.
Martialforce.com: Did training in the Martial Arts played an important role with who you are today?
ANDRE MASON: Yes training in the Martial Arts develops the sound character of a good human being, and instill a sense of confidence that commands respect. Through the walk of life I walk confidently, because of Karate, and I command respect.
Martialforce.com: Can you identify aspects of your life or accomplishments that you directly attribute your success in the training received in the Martial Arts?
ANDRE MASON: My many years in Law Enforcement, as a Criminal Investigator in Long Island, where I had to used my assessment skills fined tuned through Karate training, as well as avoiding aggressive situations just by assessing the situation and remaining calm and collected demonstrating confidence in self, knowledge and skill to complete the job in a safe manner and end for all.
Martialforce.com: What have you personally gained from your practice of Martial Arts?
ANDRE MASON: Good Health from head to toe.
Martialforce.com: How have the Martial Arts training help you achieve Goals?
ANDRE MASON: Staying positive not giving up
Martialforce.com: Do you believe The Martial Arts training would be beneficial for any youngster or adult?
ANDRE MASON: Yes, I have already started training my grandson Anthony (3 yrs. old )
Martialforce.com: How would Martial Arts training benefit them?
ANDRE MASON: I can' t wait to see. I hope it does as well for him as it was for me.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on cross training in regards to other styles of Martial Arts?
ANDRE MASON: As I tell so many others: it’s the man that makes the Art, not the Art that makes the man. In other words, practice long and hard, give it your all and you will see the difference.
Martialforce.com: Do you think Tradition is important? Having a Martial Arts Legacy?
ANDRE MASON: Yes, Tradition is important. One must be knowledgeable of one’s roots and lineage. I believe that Tradition and Martial Arts legacy, is just like Geography and History teaching about Leaders, Events, and Places of Origin and Occurrence.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about Rank in Martial Arts, and the present practice of fast and advanced promotions?
Martial Artists must learn all required History, Principles, and Skills before they reach Black Belt and this takes many years of committed training sessions and exchanges with others. Now-a-days, advancement in grade is all about money.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe youngsters (12-20 Yrs.) could/ should be holders of Rank above Sandan?
ANDRE MASON: No, It is my belief that at that age they should not be holders of such ranks. Because, they are still too young to understand with they are doing unless you are talking about “sport Karate”, where it is all about a particular skill with no principles or philosophy behind.
Martialforce.com: Are you involved with any Martial Arts Association?
ANDRE MASON: I try not to be because of politics.
Martialforce.com: Compare differences in competing in Open tournaments in the Past and Present?
ANDRE MASON: In the pass tournament was a tool, to test your skills out and then go back to training to refine principles and techniques. Now everything is about winning a trophy or medal.
Martialforce.com: Would you or do you advocate for Martial Arts students to participate/ support Open Tournaments/ Competitions?
ANDRE MASON: Yes, karate still needs the exposure and students need to be exposed to, and exchange with, others practicing the Art, as well as needing exposure to other Systems within the Martial Arts
Martialforce.com: Do you continue to train and teach and if so,
ANDRE MASON: Yes, I continue to train diligently. My personally owned Dojo is located in Selden, New York 631 451-0473
Martialforce.com: What would you share with Parents or Kids who want to be involved with the Martial Arts?
ANDRE MASON: Do your research and visit multiple schools. Do not join one, just because it is around the corner.
Martialforce.com: Would you advocate young children to attend classes in Martial Arts?
ANDRE MASON: Yes, but start at the age of 6.
Martialforce.com: Thank you for accepting this interview and we here at Martialforce.com wish you the best in all future endeavors.