1. #1

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    Hilo's own kung fu master

    Thursday, July 10, 2003



    By Peter Sur/ Tribune-Herald


    Gerald Okamura makes a couple of points with his eyebrows. They streak up and poke the sky, ending in high peaks against his shiny scalp. His eyebrows form a perfect counterweight to his long, scraggly beard. When Okamura poses for a photographer, his face contorts into a menacing scowl. He looks like that token bad guy in martial arts flicks such as "Blade," "Mortal Kombat" or "Big Trouble in Little China." Wait a minute: He is that token bad guy. What the heck is Okamura, whom Black Belt magazine dubbed "The Scariest Man in Martial Arts," doing in Hilo?

    Okamura, who in real life plays a grandfather, a 40 - year Boeing employee, a martial arts weapons designer and a fifth - degree black belt in kung fu san soo, has been visiting his hometown. He arrived two weeks ago from Los Angeles with three daughters, two grandchildren and his son - in - law, Gabe Frimmel. Frimmel described Okamura as "down to earth" and approachable, despite his on - screen persona. "He's a really easygoing, softspoken, plate - lunch kind of guy," said Frimmel in a telephone interview. Born and raised in Hilo, Okamura began taking judo classes when he was 13 years old. "When I first started, I was kind of a runty kid, getting picked on," he said Thursday, sitting on a covered bench at Lincoln Park. At Hilo High School, he played football and baseball, graduating in 1958. Okamura entered the Army and served from 1958 - 61. A picture taken during this time shows him as a young man in an Army uniform. He had hair on his head and no beard. His eyebrows were thick, though still tame.

    While stationed in South Korea, he learned tae kwon do. Later, he practiced kendo and aikido, and studied kung fu san soo under the legendary Jimmy H. Woo. Okamura, now a kung foo san soo grandmaster, said local martial arts instructors need to know what the black belt represents. "You need to respect your fellow men," he said. "But what you can get out of the art is self - confidence. Along with self - confidence, you need a little humility. You need the respect of your fellow men or vice versa. I'm only going to use the art to defend my life or defend my family." Okamura began appearing in television shows and movies in the mid - 1970s. According to Martial Arts magazine, he landed his first television role as a Shaolin monk for "Kung Fu" in 1975. He had a short black beard - which soon would double in length - and a skullcap to cover his hair. By 1977, when he appeared on the cover of Inside Kung - Fu magazine, the hair was gone. Since then, Okamura has appeared in dozens of movies and television shows, including "Showdown in Little Tokyo," "V.R. Troopers," "MacGyver," "Hot Shots! Part Deux" and "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers."

    Although usually typecast as the bad guy, Okamura insisted it did not bother him. He played an Elvis impersonator in 1996's "Day of the Warrior." Someday, he joked, he wants to play the leading role in a romantic movie. Until that day comes, he will continue work as a composite manager at the Boeing Co. plant in Huntington Beach, Calif., design martial arts weapons and host his own annual movie star martial arts convention, Dragonfest. The eighth annual Dragonfest, scheduled for Nov. 16 in Glendale, Calif., is expected to draw 3,500 martial arts enthusiasts and autograph seekers from across the nation. "It's a fun event," he said. "I get a lot of people here." This year's invited guests include Russell Wong, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Cari Tagawa and Shannon Lee. Proceeds from the event go to pediatric AIDS research.

    Okamura had advice for young people who might want to take martial arts classes and follow his lead: "I feel that martial arts is a luxury," he said. "So if you can sacrifice time to train and dedicate yourself to the art ... a one - day - a - week warrior isn't going to make it." A killer set of eyebrows helps, too.

    http://www.hilohawaiitribune.com/daily/2003/Jul-10-Thu-2003/news/news1.html
    Kungfoolss, Scourge of the theory-based stylists, Most Feared man at Bullshido.com, and the Preeminent Force in the martial arts political arena

  2. #2
    I know the title is from the article, but I would like to point out that a 5th degree black belt is NOT a master's ranking in san soo. The 8th degree of black is called "Master".

  3. #3

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    I know the title is from the article, but I would like to point out that a 5th degree black belt is NOT a master's ranking in san soo. The 8th degree of black is called "Master".
    Actually, it states that he's a "kung foo san soo grandmaster." Bad spelling aside, I believe Bill Lasiter would have a few things to say about the 'grandmaster' proclamation.





    Edited by - kungfoolss on July 11 2003 01:20:05
    Kungfoolss, Scourge of the theory-based stylists, Most Feared man at Bullshido.com, and the Preeminent Force in the martial arts political arena

  4. #4
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    I just can't figure out what he's doing with a day job. If I were in his situation, I would play the eyebrows and kung fu deal out, maybe get work as the "old sifu" character in a string of B movies, go to Hollywood and play off of the role in Hot Shots part Deux, etc.
    "The morning glory blooms for an hour. It differs not at heart from the giant pine, which lives for a thousand years."

  5. #5
    Merc: he already did that!!

    Kungfoolss: hah, the student government at my school make the same mistake... As for Master Lassiter, I'm pretty sure he satisfies the requirements now...

    Requirements:
    1) Be a teaching master with a school
    2) Teach a grandchild to black belt

  6. #6

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    I think he's my friends uncle...

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