AN INTERVIEW WITH
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER
JAN / 2012
Greetings Martialforce.com readers, my name is Franklin Puello from New York, your humble contributing editor, presenting this interview of a Great Martial Artist who has been involved in the scene for well over 50 years. He trained in a time when Karate training was a serious phase in life, learning techniques with the primary goal being Self Defense. He grew up in a rough area of New York City where your Mental and Physical self defense skills could have determined whether your survived an encounter or not. I will introduce to you a Teacher of teachers who has for more than half of a century been imparting knowledge, skills, and abilities to hundreds, if not thousands as life skills for any situation in life. Domo Arigato Shihan.
Interview by Franklin Puello
Martialforce.com: What is your Full Name?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: William Vernon Slader
Martialforce.com: Where were you Born?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I was born in Women’s hospital in Manhattan, New York
Martialforce.com: Where are you originally from and where did you grow up?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I grew up in the Bronx New York
Martialforce.com: What is your current occupation?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Presently, I am a Federal Law Enforcement Officer, US Marshall. I handle a variety of duties and responsibilities such as Building Security, Security Details and prisoners’ extraditions.
Martialforce.com: Most Martial Artists are very community service inclined, what was your occupation before U.S. Marshall?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I was a member of the New York City Police Department: Patrol service in the 43 Precinct located in the southeast section of the Bronx; the Police Academy as a Physical fitness instructor; Auto Crimes Division; Bronx Special Victims Squad, and returned to the Police academy as a Police Tactics Instructors (an innovative new approach to training martial arts skill in a pure self defense approach; adapting the regular Martial Arts skill taught in the private sector to be taught in a modified manner to police officers while being harnessed by all the equipment carried during patrol).
Martialforce.com: When was your first introduction to the martial arts?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Back in 1961, I attended some seminars at Bronx River housing development, by Grand Master Moses Powell, from there I went to Nisei Judo on Zerega Ave. In the Bronx. Karate and Jujutsu you had to be 18 years old. Some of the Teachers were: Artie Aviles (Goju Ryu Karate); Harry Paz (Karate), Ted West (Ju Jutsu) and Frank Ruiz (Nisei Goju).
Martialforce.com: What Style of Karate did you study?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: started with Judo, Earl Monroe was teaching Ju Jutsu under Ted West, as it was required to spend at least 6 months in Judo, and 6 months in Karate before a Black Belt in Ju Jutsu was awarded. Another great Martial Artist of the times I met at this Dojo, was Fred Miller, with whom I attended High School.
Martialforce.com: Who was/ were your instructor/s?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Harry Paz, in Judo, was my main teacher
Martialforce.com: Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you were Training towards your Black Belt?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Running around projects in the Bronx, played Basketball, Push ups, pull ups, stances, blocks, punches, lots of repetition with basics. When I left Nisei Judo, I attended S. Henry Cho Tae Kwon Do in Manhattan; they had no age requirement for Karate. I started learning all the basics. Julio Lasalle, John Dinkins, Carlos Farrel, Robert Zichski, Adolpho Velasco, were some of the great karate ka product of Henry Cho Karate Institute.
Martialforce.com: Please describe Training, when you were competing in Karate Shiai and or Tournaments?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: When Karate Tournaments were approaching, the classes were with emphasis in free fighting. Lots of kicking techniques for timing. Getting in and out, timing attacks, and lots of speed drill. There was a drill standing in front of a heavy bag while others were kicking full power while you took the impact trying not to move simulating taking impact from bigger fighters.
Martialforce.com: Describe your preparation to enter the Martial Arts competition Arena?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I had to gather myself and deal with the opponent’s psychological games and set ups. At the time of competition at the Sunny side Garden arena it was a big stage. Lots of blood baths and brawls. Competition was very solemn and respectful, Kiai were heard in “Killing blows” not the word Kiai, which means Shout in Japanese but the sound that gathered all strength into the technique and is intended to shock or startle the opponent.
Martialforce.com: What was the Attraction?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Self test, can you face and survive known opponents who had been training for a long time. Hoping to prove one belonged standing in same ring as the big men of karate at the time, and make a name as a karate technician.
Martialforce.com: When and who did you fight?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I started competing in 1968; I fought some of the names like Tayari Cassel. Joe Hays, Eddie Cunningham, William Coe (Fred Hamilton’s student) Gilliard “Gilly” Williams, Ron Scott (Snoopy), Ruppert O’brien.
Martialforce.com: What was tournament competition like when you were first introduced?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: It was a highly competitive arena where there were real techniques being performed with full speed and power intending to hurt any untrained opponent, while competing with one another in a sharing spirit and learning from each other.
Martialforce.com: Please describe specifically how you developed your tactics and techniques?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Mostly training with all the great names mentioned and others, who are legends. A teaching / learning experience by itself. By learning something new every time I shared in exchanges with other Dojo’s. Attending competition when and where the importance was in the spirit of sharing more than winning a match. Always learning from others by observing the speed, mobility and power of other Karate Ka so when I had to face them I would know how to handle the situation.
Martialforce.com: Explain how you perfected the utilization of Kata technique in regards to fighting?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: All fighting is Kata, training in Kata improve all techniques to be used in Kumite. Repetitive Kata training was a requirement not just for fighting, but also for advancement in grade. Training Kata one will develop and refine techniques that are not used by many all the time, unique techniques that by using them will give you the element of surprise and have the opponents at a disadvantage trying to block or evade these techniques.
Martialforce.com: What specific training did you engage in to develop your balance and power?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Cross training in my personal workouts did a great deal for me. I played basketball and used skills learned from the Martial Arts into Basketball and vice versa. All skills and principles learned have to be incorporated and used in all other aspects of life; this is why it is said that Karate is a Way of Life.
Martialforce.com: Could you tell us about the toughest competitor(s) you faced during your competition career?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Eddie Cunningham and Ruppert were the toughest guys. Fast and powerful! Eddie played football as well and for being a big guy was able to shift in and out with speed, generating tremendous power.
Martialforce.com: What made them tough?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Their Speed, Power, and smooth maneuvering like a flow of water.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe in the practice of Kata and is it useful and important?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Absolutely, Kata encourages new ideas for fighting techniques, kata provides different techniques that are not regularly used in Kumite by most, and after you perfect them they become your unique weapons. For example, after training a part of a Kata containing a combination with a U Punch, I used to use the U punch in tournament and scored. While my opponent was throwing a Mawashi geri (Round house kick), I countered with the U Punch and scored to both the head and lower abdominal area. Kata has to be trained to perfection, and personalize it, make it your own. Perfecting all the techniques during Kata, then training on the heavy bag to make the techniques are strong and fine tuned. This in turn makes a smooth transition to using kata techniques with Uke (training partner) during fighting.
Martialforce.com: What is your Most Favorite Kata?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Kwan Do Yung. A Kata I really had to Train and “Work” to get the most out of.
Martialforce.com: What makes it Special?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: It is a very hard Kata, with a variety of strong techniques, with the hardest combinations coming to the end, specifically where: with back straight, and good balance have to jump in the air, spin, and nail the landing with a strong X Block.
Martialforce.com: Are you presently teaching Karate?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Presently doing my personal training to maintain, but not teaching in a dojo. The last teaching conducted was at the NY Police Academy, but still conduct training seminars with the Martial Arts family in New York.
Martialforce.com: When you began teaching, what was / is your teaching style or methodology?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: “Nose to the Grind stone” Train hard all the time. Self Defense has always been first and foremost to me, so when that time comes when you must use Karate skills for defense, you must be victorious and survive.
Martialforce.com: How would you instruct Kata Training to a Martial Artist of the present generation, who may not believe in Kata?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I would challenge them to line up against the advance belts in the class, the advanced belts to use portions of Kata during the fighting, to teach the youngsters to be unpredictable and versatile. “If expected to enter a room from the front door, enter from the side or rear.” “Always be ready for any occurrence and adapt on the move.”
Martialforce.com: What do you teach those who want to learn Survival Skills?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I would teach Ju Jutsu techniques. In my opinion, Ju Jutsu lends itself to being the best system for pure self defense. When attacked, and survival is first and foremost, specially when attacked by more than one, one will not be doing high kicking and posing techniques. One will be looking to render the attacker disabled on the first opportunity. There is no time to linger and complete multiple techniques, one attack and one disabling technique!
Martialforce.com: What is your view of the present evolution of the Martial Arts and Tournament Competition in comparison to the past?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Competition is always good to gage our standing in learning, but at times loose focus on proper techniques. Competitors become “flash” fighters or flying through a Kata sacrificing balance, power and the intent of the techniques. We have to get back to making every technique count and show that the intent of every technique is to disable the opponent, not taping or “dusting”. Punches and kicks have to be executed “with mean intentions.” We have to give emphasis back to “the Killing Blows”, Proper deployment, location of pressure points, proper alignment and all the elements that multiply or enhance efficiency.
Martialforce.com: Can you tell us about your relationship with some of the Masters of the times, Fred Miller, Al Gotay etc?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: I attended High School with Fred Miller, whom I later met at my Martial Arts school in the Bronx, New York. Fred was a good friend, and an outstanding Martial Artist. Fred was in the habit of studying everything around him, especially other Martial Artists. He would note favorite and best techniques, how they moved to evade an attack and counters used, then he would work on exploiting weaknesses to be ahead of opponents. Fred Miller would also learn from you by talking general techniques, training and execution to then go to the proverbial drawing board and work on how to defeat you. He always demonstrated a sense of being ahead of his time in regards to training and smarts in combat.
Al Gotay has always been a Mentor to me, and a great example about what a Martial Artist was all about, in principle, as a person, an example and contributor to the community. He is a beacon of light to all around him or to those that were fortunate to know him, an inspiration! I was fortunate to train and work for him while I was assigned to the Police Academy’s Police Tactics Training and it was a great pleasure continuing to learn from him, a Teacher who always strived for excellence. I will always cherish the opportunity to train and learn from the many Masters around me, Miguel Ibarra, Abdul Bilal, Lenny Holmes, The Lugo family from Shihan Pereira’s lineage, the Masters from Sanuces Ryu: Lamar Thorton, Shabazz, and others, Professor Visitacion.
Can you tell us more about training with Shihan Al Gotay?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: During my assignment in the NYCPD Police academy, I did train with him. Boxing, Martial Arts, Grappling and Fitness. Gotay is a believer in cross training, as I am, and as an example has always maintained excellent physical condition. In looking at him, no one would guess his age. Running, inside and outside; out in the cold, rain or snow. He is a great motivator, who taught from the floor. He never sat down or quit, he always led the pack in the physical training with a lead by example method.
Martialforce.com: Do you feel that Martial Arts played an important role with who you are today?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Absolutely, there is a piggyback effect from my father’s teaching, like a drill sergeant, to the training and discipline gained from the Martial Arts. I was in the armed forces since I was very young, perhaps influenced by his U.S. Navy service where he was a lightweight boxing champion. The rigors of discipline and training in the armed forces was simple fitness exercises to me at the time.
Martialforce.com: Can you identify aspects of your life or accomplishments that may have attributed to your success, as a result of the training you received in the Martial Arts?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: The Martial Arts really teach and develops in the practitioner discipline and determination, coupled with the search to succeed while performing at a high technical level and searching for excellence. The Martial Arts also instill the Never Quit, Do not hesitate or deviate from the course to achieve excellence; hence we always strive to reach higher goals.
Martialforce.com: What would you say is your greatest achievement?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Still being here among the living, as the Martial Arts helped to evolve me into a better person and contributor to life. Growing and loving others, as the love for others will be returned to you.
Martialforce.com: How have the Martial Arts training help you achieve goals?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Training in the Martial Arts, was another segment of teaching I was receiving from my parents, as I was raised. The Martial Arts strengthened all their teaching; hence I followed my dreams and reached all the goals I set in regards to personal and professional.
Martialforce.com: Do you believe The Martial Arts training would be beneficial for children as well as adults?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Children will most certainly benefit, especially in the sense of learning leadership and being a constructive human being instead of heading into destruction. Kids need to be introduced and have practiced skills that will teach them morality and how to utilize the innate gift to succeed. Training in the Martial Arts will also enhance their communications skills, for the students cannot learn more advance techniques without the gift of communication and sharing. The Martial Arts is a positive concept. It’s much more than just kicking and punching. The Martial Arts will teach presence and control, as well as mediation techniques and positive thinking to avoid confrontations.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts on cross training in regards to other styles of Martial Arts?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: As I stated before, I am a believer and advocate for cross training. Any Martial Artist who really loves the Art will inevitably cross train and learn from other Systems. While learning a new system or technique, one must continue and challenge the self to perfect and sharpen their base or primary style, while continuing to learn. The Way- “Do”- is all about our understanding that learning never stops, and that nothing is absolute. All learning must come together with purpose to enrich the student/ person.
Martialforce.com: What other Martial Arts Styles, if any, have you trained in?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Ju Jutsu, and still looking forward to learn and pick up more grappling.
Martialforce.com: Have you trained with Family members, and/ or taught any family members?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Trying to teach some techniques, and refine the techniques he is learning from his teacher.
Martialforce.com: Who do you feel was one of your biggest influences in Karate and or life?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: So many influences: Reno Morales, Moses Powell, Al Gotay, Rico Guy, Julio Lasalle and many others who were real role models, building determination and maintaining the motivation to succeed. Others like Dave Washington, Abdul Mutakkabir, etc, who were integral part of the motivating core/ driving force behind.
Martialforce.com: Do you think Tradition is important?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Yes tradition is important, because of the significance of history. Everything evolves, but every evolution starts from a historic point leading to where one wants to be. When one grows and decides or feels the need to create something new, that creation is based on previous principles, knowledge and skills learned. tradition is the Base or foundation upon which one builds.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about rank in Martial Arts, and the present practice of fast and advanced promotions?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: Do not tell me/ give me your rank; just tell me how long you been training. Rank is a “Passage”. “The Journey” is a demanding and long one. What besides Karate skills does one have to pass on to students.
Martialforce.com: What are your Long or Short-term Goals in Martial Arts?
WILLIAM VERNON SLATER: “Grappling”, I want to undertake the learning and training in grappling. I know it has been a few years (about 50) when I was in high gear training in Judo, but soon enough I will find a place to go and jump right in. I am Still a Student, and learning is infinite.
Martialforce.com: Master Slader, I personally want to thank you for all the fun and laughs we had during this interview, although you made me really work for this one.
Thank you Franklin, you made this uncomfortable situation an enjoyable one. I had a great time sharing old memories with you and the Martialforce.com magazine followers, and hope all continue in good health and great learning in The Martial Arts.