Karate is a fighting art. You must train with deep seriousness from the first day. Each punch, block, or kick must be delivered with the power of the entire body in unison. No matter how much time you devote to training – months or years – if your training consists of no more than moving your arms and legs… you may as well be dancing, and you will never understand the true meaning of Karate.Doug Perry
A former US Marine, Doug Perry was the first non-Okinawan promoted to 9th Dan within the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Shorin-Kan Karate Association. He was one of the first group of students to practice Karate in its infancy in the United States.
Douglas Perry was born Marshall Douglas Tuttle on 15 June 1937. He was adopted when he was 8 months old. His name was changed to John Douglas Perry by his adoptive parents, John and Bessie Perry. At the time of the adoption, his adoptive mother was 56 years old.
Perry grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. As a child, some people thought him a little unruly. He would frequently get into fights with other children.
At the age of 9, Perry began boxing at the Optimist Boxing Club. He had his first amateur boxing match shortly after starting. During the bout, his shorts fell down, but he continued fighting. He won the fight by decision. This was the first and last time his father, John, attended any of his fights.
Perry had developed into a good boxer. In 1950 he began boxing at the Police Athletic Club. He was trained by Leo Johnson, who had once fought heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Louis. Perry would go on to have 147 fights. By 1956 he had reached National Golden Gloves level.
Around 1952 Perry began building a relationship with his birth mother, Francis. They would go on to have a close relationship.
A day after turning 18, Perry’s father took him to the Marine Corps Recruiting Office. His father felt there were not many job opportunities in the community. Many of the boys from the local community were getting into trouble with the police.
The Recruiting Sergeant thought Perry was too small, at 5 foot 6 inches to become a marine. However, Harry’s father told the Sergeant that Perry had over 100 boxing bouts. Perry was given a waiver and allowed to join the Marine Corps.
On graduating from Marine Boot Camp, Perry was hospitalised with a case of double pneumonia. He was in the hospital for around three weeks. After leaving the hospital he was deployed to Parris Island, South Carolina.
Due to his boxing experience, Perry was selected to train with the Marine Boxing Team. One day while training, he noticed a group of marines kicking and throwing each other. Fascinated, he approached them to find out what they were doing. They were practicing Karate. After they had demonstrated some techniques on him, he asked if he could train with them. It was October of 1956, and this was his first introduction to Karate.
Towards the end of 1956, Perry was transferred from Parris Island to Camp Lejeune located in Jacksonville, North Carolina. From Lejeune, he was then transferred to Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Cherry Point, where he was assigned to a special weapons training unit.
Part of Perry’s duties were to escort classified equipment to Okinawa. There were many Marines stationed in Okinawa. Some had learned Isshin-Ryu Karate. He would practice with them whenever he got the chance. He was told that he should try training at the dojo of Tatsuo Shimabukuro.
Tatsuo Shimabukuro was the founder of Isshin-Ryu Karate. His dojo was based in Agena. Perry had the opportunity to train there for a short time. On his return to the United States, he resumed his Isshin-Ryu training with the guys he had previously trained with.
Perry had fallen in love with Karate. In 1959 he gave up competitive boxing to focus on Karate.
March 1961 saw Perry compete in one of his first tournaments. He competed in the White Belt Division of the Charleston Invitational Karate Tournament, in South Carolina. He finished in third place.
June 1961 saw Perry compete in two competitions. He entered a competition in Sumter, South Carolina, where he finished in third place. He also entered another competition in Columbia, South Carolina where he earned a second-place finish in the Kata event and a first-place finish in the Kumite event.
By 1964, the Vietnam War had been waged for almost 10 years. A few weeks before he was due to be deployed to Vietnam, Perry married his wife on 8 November 1964.
By the time of his deployment, Perry was a Marine Staff Sergeant. Due to his high-security clearance, he was staged in Okinawa for three weeks before being deployed to Vietnam.
During his time in Okinawa, Perry resumed his training at Tatsuo Shimabukuro’s dojo. The training at the dojo was tough and sessions usually last around two hours. He mostly trained with guys on their way to and from Vietnam. Training revolved around makiwara practice, kata, and sparring.
On 17 May 1965, Perry was deployed to Vietnam for his first tour of duty. When time permitted he would try to practice Judo and Karate.
In 1966 Perry returned to Okinawa where he resumed training with Tatsuo Shimabukuro. He was eventually awarded his 1st Dan by him.
Perry was redeployed to Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC) in 1966, where he was assigned to the Joint Staff at the Pentagon.
At his new posting, Perry had the opportunity to learn Judo from Jan Vandersluis, the President of the Armed Forces Judo Association. He also continued practicing his Karate. He had the opportunity to compete in several Karate and Judo tournaments. He was disqualified from several Judo matches for using Karate techniques.
Perry’s career in the Marines was progressing well. On 1 March 1967, he was promoted to Gunnery Sergeant. The following year he became a Commissioned Officer. On 15 November 1968, he was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant.
In 1970 Perry was re-posted to Marine Corps Station (MCAS) Cherry Point. It was around this time that he met Bill Hayes.
Hayes had studied Shobayashi-Ryu Karate in Okinawa under Eizo Shimabukuro. Hayes wanted to put together a group of soldiers, who had some experience of martial arts training, to train together. It didn’t matter what style they had practiced, it was just about training.
At the first training session organised by Hayes, 14 guys turned up. They went through basic techniques and sparring. At the next training session, only six guys turned up. Perry was one of them.
Perry started learning Shobayshi-Ryu Karate from Hayes. He also had the opportunity to train with Eizo Shimabukuro, when he visited the United States.
By 1974 Perry had been promoted to Marine Captain and had been transferred to Futenma, Okinawa. Unfortunately, he was unable to train with Eizo Shimabukuro, whose dojo was located in another part of Okinawa.
Perry searched for a place to train. He trained with a group of Motobu-Ryu practitioners. He also had the opportunity to train with Kanei Uechi, from who he got some key tips on kumite.
Perry finally found his Karate home at the dojo of Jiro Shiroma, a senior student of Shugoro Nakazato, where he learned Shorin Kan Karate. At this dojo, his Karate flourished.
In 1978, Perry transferred to the Marine Corps Development and Education Command in Quantico, Virginia. By this time he had been promoted to Major.
Perry established a small dojo in Quantico. One of his students was his commanding officer, a 3-star General. The other students at the dojo included students from the Officer Candidate School, some full-contact fighters, and his eldest son, John.
After almost twenty-six years serving his country, Perry retired from the Marine Corps on 1 March 1981. He moved to Hendersonville, North Carolina.
In Hendersonville Perry opened his first dojo at the local YMCA. However, he had to move the dojo after three months due to the number of students he attracted. There were other martial arts schools in Hendersonville, however, his traditional Karate school attracted many students. He eventually rented a unit in a shopping mall.
In 1981 Perry started training directly with Shugoro Nakazato and his Shorin-Ryu Shorin Kan Karate Association. He arranged for him to visit the United States to teach. He also visited Okinawa to train with him whenever he got the chance. Small in stature, Nakazato had the reputation for being a phenomenal fighter.
In 1987 Perry was named Co-Vice President of the North American Shorin-Ryu Shorin Kan Karate Association, alongside Bob Houghton. However, he parted ways with the Association due to differences in how Karate should be promoted.
Perry started holding a Shorin Kan Training Camp in 1991. Over time, the training camp attracted karateka from other traditional Okinawan styles like Isshin-Ryu, Shobayashi-Ryu, Kobayashi-Ryu, Goju-Ryu, and Uechi-Ryu.
When Perry started teaching, being a Marine, his teaching style was very tough. However, even though the training still was tough, over time he changed some of his teaching methods.
Apart from teaching his students, Perry continued training with Nakazato in Okinawa, whenever he got the chance. He steadily progressed through the ranks.
On 7 January 2009 Nakazato promoted Perry to 9th Dan at a ceremony held in his Aja dojo in Okinawa. Perry had traveled to Okinawa with his son, Jason, to train with Nakazato. This was the highest grade awarded to a non-Okinawan student by Nakazato at the time. On his return to the United States, the General Assembly of the North Carolina State Senate presented Perry with a certificate in recognition of his achievement, on 22 January.
In 2012 Shugoro Nakazato relinquished being head of the Shorin-Ryu Shorin Kan in favor of his son Minoru. With the change in leadership, many of the senior instructors left the association to establish their own organisations.
As a senior member of the Shorin-Ryu Shorin Kan, Perry had helped with the promotion of the Association. Due to his schedule, he was not always able to focus on teaching his own students. In 2013 he established his own association, the Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kensankai.
In 2016 Joen Nakazato died. He had done much to influence the Karate of Perry.
Although Doug Perry has taken a step back from his day-to-day teaching, he remains the head of the Shorin-Ryu Karate Kobudo Kensankai. His desire to learn and improve saw him as the first non-Okinawan promoted to 9th Dan within the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Shorin Kan Association. He was one of the first generations to practice Karate in its infancy in the United States.