Bill Hayes

In my opinion, one of the greatest mistakes in our training is not tailoring kata as time goes by.

Bill Hayes

A pioneer of Okinawan Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate in the United States, Bill Hayes is a leader of men. As a US Marine, he served in the Vietnam War. As one of Eizo Shimabukuro’s most senior students, he has done his best to keep his teachings alive.

William ‘Bill’ Hayes was born on 15 May 1945 in New York, United States father. His father was a semi-professional boxer, who had migrated from South Carolina to New York. Helping out at the Police’s Youth Boxing Program, he had taught both of his sons how to box.

In 1962 Hayes began learning Goju-Ryu Karate under Ronald Taganashi. He had previously learnt some Karate from a friend’s uncle who had been stationed in Japan during the war.

The United States had been embroiled in the Vietnam War, which had started in 1955. Hayes enlisted in the US Marine Corps in August 1964.

By 1965 Hayes was stationed at Marine Corps Air Station, North Carolina. During his free time, he practised his Karate. He also started teaching Karate to a few other Marines.

While stationed at the Marine Corps Air Station, Hayes had begun hearing about Eizo Shimabukuro from some of the Marines, who had trained at his dojo while stationed in Okinawa.

In 1966 Hayes arrived in Okinawa, on his way to Vietnam for his first tour of duty. Before shipping out for a 13-month tour of duty he was based at Camp Hansen. He had noticed Eizo Shimabukuro’s dojo, which was located very near to the army camp. however, he did not get a chance to train with Shimabukuro on this occasion.

In August 1967, Hayes returned to Okinawa from his tour of duty. He decided to pay a visit to Shimabukuro’s dojo. By this time he was a 2nd Dan and a hardened Marine Corps Sergeant. However, when he saw Shimabukuro training, there was no doubt in mind that Shimabukuro’s could kill him with a single blow.

Shimabukuro taught Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu, a style of Karate founded by the Okinawan master, Chotoku Kyan. He had also trained under other Okinawan masters including, Choki Motobu, Chojun Miyagi, and his older brother, Tatsuo Shimabukuro, the founder of Isshin-Ryu Karate. His dojo was known as ‘sky dojo‘, as it was located on the roof of a building.

Training at Shimabukuro’s dojo was challenging. Students needed to be in good shape to endure the hard training. Training sessions were typically 2 to 3 hours and was a mixture of kihon, kata and kumite. After training, students were invited to share a meal prepared by Shimabukuro’s wife. Although the training was very tough, the dropout rate was virtually zero. Students were free to use the dojo at any time.

Hayes was personally taught by Shimabukuro. Duties permitting, Hayes would train almost every day. He was taught the 23 kata of Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu.

In 1969 Hayes returned to Vietnam for his second tour of duty. He was now a Marine Staff Sergeant. For a while, he was assigned to the South Korean Marine Corps. Known as the Blue Dragons, Hayes served as a liaison to the Korean Marine Martial Arts Team. He and the team taught young Vietnamese children martial arts. They also took part in demonstrations.

After his tours of duty in Vietnam, he returned to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, in 1970. It was around this time that he met another Marine called Doug Perry.

At Cherry Point, Hayes wanted to get together a group of Marines who had experience in martial arts training. It didn’t matter what style they came from. At the first training session, around fourteen guys turned up. The session consisted of going through kihon and kumite. At the next session, only six people turned up.

Hayes started teaching Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate. One of these first students was Doug Perry.

In 1973 Hayes was offered the rank of Gunnery Sergeant and Warrant Officer. He decided to go the Marine Officer route. The following year he transferred to Marine Corps Base, Quantico, Virginia, to attend Officer Candidate School. He trained to become a Marine Warrant Officer. After his promotion he returned to Cherry Point.

Hayes was deployed to Okinawa in 1976. This time he was based at Camp McTureous, which was located in another part of Okinawa. He resumed his training with Eizo Shimabukuro. He trained whenever he got the chance.

Now a senior grade, Shimabukuro allowed Hayes to open a satellite dojo at Camp McTureous. Some of his students included members of the local police force because he had trained under Shimabukuro.

In 1977 Hayes returned to the United States. He re-establish his dojo at Cherry Point.

Hayes was transferred to Quantico in 1982. He was now a Marine Captain. He set up a dojo at Quantico’s Larson’s Gym.

In 1986 Hayes was selected to be the Aide-de-Camp to the Commanding General of the Marine Corps Combat Development Command. This left him with no time to run his dojo. However, he did maintain his personal training.

After the retirement of the General in 1988, Hayes asked to be redeployed to Okinawa. Now a Marine Major, the Marine Corps granted his request. However, as a Major, he had very little time to train with Shimabukuro or to run a dojo.

In September 1990 Hayes returned to the United States from Okinawa. On 1 October he retired from the US Marine Corps, after a 26-year military career.

Through the 1990s Hayes was involved in the early development of the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program (MCMAP). He had been approached by Master Sergeant Cardo Urso to be one of ten experts to help develop a martial arts training program for the Marine Corps. It was hoped that the program could be sustained over a Marines’ career. it was intended that the program have both a physical and mental component. Experts from Judo, Taekwondo, Jujitsu, Sambo, and Karate, were also among the experts brought in.

On 22 October 2017, Eizo Shimabukuro died in Okinawa, aged 92.

A nationally recognised weapons competitor, known for his use of the sai, Bill Hayes is currently ranked as a 9th Dan in Shobayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate. He is a member of the Shobayashi Kan, a research group dedicated to preserving the teachings of Eizo Shimabukuro.

Hayes continues to teach and share his considerable knowledge through courses and seminars. He is also interested in promoting the importance that wellness has on training and longevity.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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