To strive for perfection of technique in training so when the time comes to use it in self defence, in the heat of battle, the training takes over automatically. A real fight is not going to be pretty, not like on TV or in the movies. The quality of your technique and timing will drop a notch or two in real combat situation. So, you want to drop from as close to perfection as possible. The goal is to have your average performance to be better than your attacker’s best performance.Frank Grant
A direct student of Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate founder, Shoshin Nagamine, Frank Grant spent much of his Karate life promoting the teachings of this Okinawan Karate master. Grant took the foundations given to him by Nagamine and built on them.
Franklin Grant was born in Paris, Kentucky on 21 June 1933. He was the 9th of 12 children born to parents James and Elizabeth Grant.
In 1941 the Grant family moved to Dayton Ohio. A quiet child, Frank Grant began working at the age of 10. He worked for a local photographer, helping to tend his garden.
In the early 1950s, after graduating from McKinley High School, Grant enlisted for the US Marine Corps. This was during the Korean War. He was stationed in Japan for around 18 months. It was during this time that he fell in love with Japanese culture.
Grant was honourably discharged from the US Marine Corps in 1954. He returned to the United States.
In June 1954, Grant met Marjorie Huff and they were soon dating. On 27th November they were married in Liberty, Indiana. They settled in Dayton, Ohio, Grant started working in the printing trade as a lithographer.
Grant began learning Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate from James Wax in 1959. He knew Wax from the same church they attended.
James Wax had trained with Shoshin Nagamine, the founder of Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu-Karate, while he had been stationed in Okinawa. Wax was the first American to grade to black belt in the style.
While the training was physically demanding Grant loved the structured nature of the classes. His wife Marjorie eventually started training as well. She would become the first female Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu black belt in the United States.
By 1961 Grant had been promoted to green belt by Wax.
In 1962 Nagamine sent his student, Ansei Ueshiro, to promote Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu in the United States. Wax acted as Ueshiro’s sponsor in the United States.
Both Wax and Grant started training with Ueshiro. Grant’s training took on a whole new intensity.
In 1963 Grant was promoted to 1st Dan by Ueshiro and Wax. Shortly after being promoted, he began teaching a small group of students at his home.
Kumite in the early days of Karate in the United States was a brutal affair. Hardly any protection was used. In 1964 Grant was admitted to hospital, after sustaining injuries from kumite.
Grant had been involved in a kumite session with his students. He had fought with 25 of his students one at a time. The last student he faced had kicked him in the back. This led to three broken ribs, with one rib puncturing his lung. He spent over a week in hospital.
Ueshiro had been teaching in New York. He returned to Dayton to stay with Grant after his release from hospital. He helped nurse him back to full health.
In 1965 Grant attempted to grade for his 2nd Dan with Bobby Yarnell. The grading was conducted by Ueshiro who told them that the winner of the kumite fight would be promoted. In a tough fight, both Grant and Yarnell fought valiantly. Both men were promoted to 2nd Dan bu Ueshiro.
Now a 2nd Dan, Grant opened his first commercial dojo in Dayton, in partnership with Ueshiro.
A deep thinker about his Karate, Grant had begun to feel that he had gone as far as he could with his training in the United States. This was not a bad reflection on his instructors or the training he had received. He just wanted to advance his knowledge as a karateka.
In November 1966 Grant travelled to Naha, Okinawa with the intention of training with Shosin Nagamine. Without any prior correspondence with Nagamine, he had taken a six-month leave of absence from his job. His wife and top student, Tommie Harris, were left in charge of running the dojo.
On arriving in Okinawa, Grant made his way to Nagamine’s dojo. On his first meeting with Nagamine, he asked him for any help to develop the mental aspects of Karate that he believed he was missing. Nagamine decided to accept Grant as a student.
Nagamine took Grant’s Karate to another level. Nagamine prepared a training schedule for him. He trained for around 14-16 hours a day, from 7 am to 9:30 pm. Another of Nagamine’s students, Chotoku Omine helped translate Nagamine’s instructions to English for Grant.
Grant had moved into the dojo, shortly after arriving in Okinawa. Lacking shower facilities at the dojo, he would have to use a public bathhouse, located nearby.
Nagamine was a Shinto Priest. Not all of Grant’s lessons were of a physical nature. Some of his lessons were of a spiritual nature. Nagamine also sent him to train with masters of the five main weapons of Kobudo (bo, sai, kama, tonfa, and nunchaku).
After three months of training with Nagamine, Grant was teaching classes at Nagamine’s dojo, even though he didn’t speak much Japanese.
In 1967 Grant returned to the United States. Nagamine had promoted him 4th Dan. The grading had taken place on 14 April 1967 in front of Nagamine and Chotoku Omine. Grant was now driven by a passion to spread his Nagamine’s Matsubayashi-Ryu Karate teachings in the United States.
Grant sponsored the move of Nagamine’s son, Takayoshi, to the United States in 1967. Takayoshi moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he operated a dojo until 1975 when he returned to Okinawa.
In 1969 Shosine Nagamine visited the United States. This was his first visit to the United States. Chotoku Omine joined him on the visit. He visited the various Matsubayashi-Ryu dojos that had been set up in the United States. By this time Ueshiro established over 20 dojos. Nagamine visited his son’s dojo in Cincinnati. He also visited Grant’s dojo in Dayton.
Grant establish the World Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do Federation ( WSKF), with the blessing of Shosin Nagamine. This was the first Matsubayashi-Ryu organisation formed outside of Okinawa.
The aim of the WSKF was to promote Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu. The organisation emblem was designed by Grant who was also appointed the President of the WSKF.
The WSKF held its first annual training in 1970. The camp typically lasts four days and is open to members and guests.
In 1976 Shosin Nagamine visited the United States for the second time. This was to promote his new book, “The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do“.
Through the 1970s and 1980s Grant continued with the establishment of Matsubayashi-Ryu in the United States. He continued his drive to teach the Karate given to him by Nagamine. During this period the membership of the WSKF grew. He also opened a number of new dojos.
In 1991 Shoshin Nagamine celebrated his 85th birthday. Grant travelled to Okinawa with some of his students to honour his teacher. At Nagamine’s birthday celebration Grant and his students performed a kata demonstration. During the visit, they had the opportunity to train at Nagamine’s Naha dojo.
1997 was a difficult year for Grant. His wife and soulmate, Marjorie, died, after a battle with cancer. On 2 November, his teacher and mentor Nagamine also died.
Sometime after the death of his wife, Grant moved to Piqua, Ohio. He continued teaching his students and promoting Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu.
The WSKF celebrated 50 years of Grant’s time in Matsubayashi-Ryu, with a 7-day Caribbean cruise, Departing from Tampa, Florida. Over 120 students and their families joined the cruise. The ship became a floating dojo, with students training three times a day. On the last day of the cruise, everyone was treated to a celebration party.
2008 was a big year for Grant. He was presented with a Diamond Award by the Miami Valley Tournament Association. Recipients of the award are chosen for being outstanding martial artists and for their years of dedication, service, and sacrifice.
The WSKF organised a weeklong celebration to mark Grant’s 75th birthday. The WSKF Board of Directors awarded Grant the rank of 10th Dan.
In 2010 Grant created a WSKF Scholarship Fund. Each year at the WSKF International Camp, educational scholarships are awarded to deserving student applicants. Education was very important to Grant. He felt it was important for people to have an understanding of themselves and also of the world.
Between 22-24 July 2013, the WSKF Internationals were hosted at the Sirata Beach Resort in Florida. This year was a celebration of Grant, who was now 81 years old.
Grant’s book, “My promise to the Master” was published in 2014. The book is intended as a continuation of Shosin Nagamine’s 1976 book, “The Essence of Okinawan Karate-Do“. The book provides an analysis of the Next steps in Matsubayashi-Ryu and is mainly intended for advanced students of the style.
2016 marked the 50th anniversary of Grant’s first visit to Okinawa to train with Nagamine. The year also saw the publication of his second book, “Walking in the Footsteps of the Master: The Natural Laws of Karate-Do“. The book mainly focuses on the mental aspect of Karate.
August 2019 saw Grant hold his last black belt class.
On 26 December 2019, Frank Grant died at the age of 86, surrounded by his family and students, at his son’s home. He was the last surviving member of his siblings. He was survived by his two sons, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.
On 18 January 2020, following Grant’s wishes, a celebration of life was held, instead of a funeral. A memorial gathering was held in Troy, Ohio, for family and friends.
Frank Grant has done a great job of keeping his promise to his teacher Shoshin Nagamine. He has helped advance Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu Karate, with the blessing of his teacher, while also remaining true to the fundamentals of the style.
Many of Grant’s students trained with him for over 15 years, and the promise he made to his teacher remains in good hands.