Practising martial arts for over fifty years, Devorah Dometrich is one of the foremost Kobudo practitioners in North America. She has done much to promote Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai in the United States as taught to her by Eisuke Akamine.
Devorah Wear was born on 2 May 1951, in Covington, Kentucky, USA. Growing up, she was a tomboy who was very competitive and enjoyed fighting. She went by the nickname ‘Termite‘. For some time her home life was chaotic and she had no permanent residence.
When Devorah was aged 14, she was challenged by two boys to train at the Yoseikan dojo of William Dometrich. Never one to back down from a challenge, she enrolled at the dojo of Dometrich, who was a local police sergeant.
Dometrich taught Chito–Ryu Karate and had been a student of its founder, Tsuyoshi Chitose. He was Chitose’s senior representative in the United States.
Devorah enjoyed her Karate training, finding that she was a natural. William Dometrich, and his wife, Barbara, took an immediate liking to her. Over time they developed a strong bond. The Dometrichs eventually adopted her.
Chitose frequently visited his students in North America. On one of these visits, he met Devorah. Unable to pronounce her name, he gave the name Yoshiko.
In May 1966, the 1st National Karate Championships were held at the United States Armoury in Washington DC. Devorah Dometrich entered the tournament while still only a white belt. She became the first Women’s National Karate Champion. She was 16 at the time. She won both the kata and kumite events. In the kumite event, there were no eliminations or divisions based on rank, age, or weight. She had to face every contestant in two-minute bouts. After around 20 bouts, she emerged as the champion. She was presented with her trophy by Hollywood actor, Robert Culp.
Devorah Dometrich decided to follow in her adopted father’s footsteps by joining the Armed Forces. She began serving in the USAF (United States Air Force) in April 1972. She was stationed at the Lockhorn Air Force Base in Columbus, Ohio.
By 1972 Dometrich had been promoted to 2nd Dan. She was asked to teach classes at the Shotokan Karate Club at the Lockhorn Air Force Base. The club’s resident instructor had been deployed to Vietnam. Apart from teaching she also trained for competition.
In 1974 Dometrich was crowned kata champion at the JKA All-American Karate Championships, held in New Orleans. In October of that year, she was also successful at the All-American Karate Federation Championships.
Dometrich was deployed to Okinawa in December 1974. She served with the 376th Strategic Air Command, based out of Kadena Air Force Base.
In Okinawa, Dometrich struggled to find a suitable Karate dojo to train at. She contacted her father, who in turn contacted Tsuyoshi Chitose. Chitose contacted his student, Masaru Inomoto, who contacted her.
Masaru Inomoto was a Japanese soldier based at the Naha Air Force Base. Dometrich trained with him, alongside 15 other Japanese soldiers. She also began learning Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaido from him.
In March 1975, Inomoto introduced Dometrich to Eisuke Akamine. He taught Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai. She had seen Inomoto practising Kobudo and was interested to learn it.
Akamine taught from his Shinbikan dojo in the village of Tomigusuku. He had been a senior student of the Kobudo master, Shinkin Taira.
There were no foreigners training at Akamine’s dojo. Dometrich, visited his dojo every day for two weeks before being allowed to train at his dojo. She became his only foreign student. In time they developed a close bond.
Dometrich spent all her free time training either with Akamine or Inamoto. She would travel 90 minutes a day to go to training. She trained twice a day during the week, training with Inamoto. On Saturday she and Inomoto both trained privately with Akamine.
Dometrich spent her Sundays alongside Inomoto teaching Karate to the children of the Japanese servicemen stationed at the Naha Air Force Base.
In 1975 a beauty pageant was held at the Kadena Air Force Base. Dometrich won, becoming Miss Kadena.
Dometrich managed to secure a transfer to the Naha Air Force Base in 1975. This eliminated her 90-minute journey to and from training.
In 1976 Akamine organised the 1st All Okinawan Kobudo Shiai. Dometrich competed in the tournament. She won second place in Bo; second place in Sai; second place in Tonfa; and second place in Nunchuku. This earned her Grand Champion second place.
In March 1976 Dometrich travelled to Kumamoto, Japan. She was promoted to 1st Dan in Muso Jikiden Eishin-Ryu Iaido.
Dometrich was promoted to 3rd Dan in Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai in 1977.
On 7 February 1977, Dometrich was honourably discharged from the US Air Force. Rather than return to the United States, she chose to stay in Okinawa to continue her martial arts studies. She stayed in Okinawa on a three-month tourist visa. By this time she had learned to speak good Japanese.
Prior to returning to the United States in April 1977, Dometrich was awarded a teaching license by Akamine. He also appointed her the head of the US Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai.
Following in her father’s footsteps, Dometrich enrolled at the Kentucky Police Academy. After graduating from the Police Academy in 1977, she joined the Fort Mitchell Police Department.
In 1979 Dometrich married Paul Herbst, a state trooper who had met she had met the previous year. This was her second marriage. She had previously been married for a short time in 1977 to Ken Sakamoto, a student of Chitose.
Dometrich and her husband moved to Arizona in 1980, where they graduated from the Arizona Highway Patrol Academy. Homesick, they return to Kentucky the following year. They resumed their careers in law enforcement.
Dometrich had maintained her martial arts training. In 1986, he began holding regular Kobudo classes.
In 1995 Dometrich was invited to participate in the Taira Shinkin Embu Taikai. The event commemorated the 25th anniversary of Shinken Taira’s death.
Masaru Inmoto visited the United States in 1995. He was hosted by Dometrich.
In 1996 Dometrich retired from the police force. She decided to concentrate on teaching Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai throughout the United States and Canada. By this time she had become one of the foremost Kobudo instructors in the United States.
The 1st Okinawa Karate and Kobudo World Tournament was held in 1997. Akamine asked Dometrich to help with teaching clinics at the tournament.
On 18 October 1997, Dometrich was promoted to 7th Dan by the Board of Directors of the Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai. She became the first woman to receive the rank in Okinawan Karate or Kobudo.
After being promoted, Dometrich was featured in several Okinawan newspapers. He was also featured in a special television news report. She was also invited to become the first foreigner to participate in the traditional Okinawan Suna Hiki Festival, as a member of the Wakasa group.
In March 1998 Dometrich returned to Okinawa to visit her teacher Akamine. She also travelled to Kunamoto, where she was promoted to 3rd Dan in Iaido.
In May 1998 Dometrich attended Ryukyu Shinpo Banquet. At the banquet, Eisuke Akamine received the Living Legend Award.
On 13 January 1999, Eisuke Akamine died, aged 73. With his death, Dometrich lost her mentor and teacher. She travelled to Okinawa to attend his funeral.
By 2009 Dometrich was recognised as one of the top Kobudo instructors in North America. She was frequently invited to give courses and seminars. She was frequently invited to the Masters Memorial.
On 22 March 2012, William Dometrich died aged 77. He had been a big influence on her life.
In 2018 Dometrich gave a Bo seminar at Arnold’s Battle of Columbus. She was also presented with a lifetime achievement award.
Dometrich was promoted to 9th Dan in Ryukyu Kobudo Hozon Shinkokai in 2019.
Devorah Dometrich has dedicated her life to one of service. She has served her country as a member of the armed forces. She has served her community as a member of law enforcement.
As a 9th Dan, Dometrich is one of the highest-ranked martial artists in the world. Her knowledge is second to none. What makes her special is her desire to learn and improve.
Away from Karate Dometrich and her husband, Paul, have a farm, where they raise cattle and chickens.