The Journey Continues;
Masters Hall of Fame’s 10th Anniversary
By Mike Sullenger
Jan / 2010
Anticipation of this year’s Masters Hall of Fame event was growing. Since receiving word our founder Ernest Lieb was to be inducted posthumously and one of our younger sensei to receive Instructor of the Year award from the Academy of Masters, I was anxious to once again participate and enjoy the festivities. This year’s event was held at the Long Beach Convention Center in conjunction with the Long Beach Internationals. This competition is one of the longest continuous annual tournaments in the States. The ceremonies and banquet were attended by 450 martial artists and dignitaries from around the country, as well as from Europe.
My experience during last years event was highlighted by meeting many well known martial artists, as well as many who are lesser known nationally, but who are great leaders in their respective communities. This year’s event was no different. This star studded banquet was attended by eleven time World Kick Boxing Champion and action movie star Don “The Dragon” Wilson, who was also one of two guest speakers. At my table I had the pleasure of sitting next to Bo Svenson who is a well known Hollywood actor, director and writer, as well as an accomplished martial artist. His commentary and sense of humor kept us in stitches for much of the evening.
At other tables around us were Jeff Speakman from “Lethal Weapon,” Taimaki Guarriello from “The Last Dragon,” Fabian Carrillo from “Double Tap, five time World Kick Boxing Champion Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, Grand Master Eric Lee, five time World Kick Boxing Champion Robert Parham, Issac Florentine a director of action films, Grand Master John Natividad, Grand Master Fred Brewster, Kenpo Master Ed Parker Jr., Professor Bob White, and seven time World Karate Champion Grandmaster Eric “Lionman” O’Neal Sr., to mention but a few.
During the dinner, while refreshing my adult beverage, I was fortunate to meet a couple of other martial artists – John Ellliott and Richard Daniel - who were also retired law enforcement officers. This further enhanced the enjoyment of the evening and added to the number of fellow cops and students of the arts I’ve met since becoming involved with the Academy and the Masters Hall of Fame, which also included the evening other guest speaker Sheriff Stanley Sniff of Riverside County. During last year’s event I had the pleasure of meeting and training with Luis Salseda and David Dye. Like the CEO of the Masters Dan Hect, David is also one of the key leaders of the organization. The reason I enjoy meeting those with a similar background is over the nearly four decades of my cop career I rarely met someone with other than a cursory involvement in the arts. To meet others with much more extensive involvements has been a treat. Dan also fits that bill as he is also a cop, in the military, and a noted martial artist.
Likewise I didn’t run across other officers during my twenty plus years in the military, who were involved in the martial arts, at least to the extent I was. So imagine my surprise when one of the people being inducted into the Masters Hall of Fame is also a career military man. What made this even more unique is his service was in the legendary French Foreign Legion.
Grand Master Tamas Weber received the Platinum Life Achievement award during the evening’s induction ceremonies. This singular honor takes its place alongside his award of the rank of Knight, which was presented to him by Frances’s President Francois Mitterrand in 1991, and the rank of Commandeur of the Merit of France in 2006 in recognition of his distinguished service in the Foreign Legion.
Sensei Weber holds the title of Kaisho in Shito Ryu Karate and earned his 1st degree black belt in 1957. He has been an instructor since 1965 and was a member of the Swedish national karate team in 1975. He has had the good fortune to have trained under a number of famous masters, including Nanbu, Fujiwara, Hayashi, Tani, Kawata, Miyazato and Kuniba to mention a few. During Sensei Weber’s 58 years of study and training he has also earned black belts in Judo, Aikido, and Jiu jutsu.
Today Soke Weber runs a martial arts training center in Stockholm, Sweden that houses a variety of martial arts clubs. In addition to running the center and participating in active instruction, he focuses much of his time on the continued development and growth of Sanshin-Kan International, which he founded in 1965. At 67 there doesn’t appear to be any slowing down for this all around martial arts entrepreneur and leader.
Suffice it to say one never knows who he will end up rubbing elbows with during the annual Masters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. Now if that isn’t enough, it was recently announced by Hanshi Dan Hect, that next year’s celebration will be in conjunction with Disney Land’s Martial Arts Festival, which will be held the weekend of June 19th, 2010. There are other organizations that make an effort to recognize excellence in the martial arts through the Academy of Masters, and to honor the leadership and dedication of those who have devoted their lives to training, studying, and teaching others by induction into the Masters Hall of Fame. But I’m afraid they pale in comparison.
To the leaders of the Academy and the Masters Hall of Fame a hearty well done!