To some, martial arts is not a sport, it is a way of life.
CHARLESTON, S.C - Tim Boykin, Space and Naval Warfare Systems operations research analyst and retired U.S. Navy commander, has dedicated his life to not only serving his country but also tomartial arts. He has excelled in the Isshin-ryū style of karate, becoming an 8th degree Master Isshin-ryū black belt, as well as a black belt in Ju-Jitsu and the first Navy officer to receive the Marine Corps black belt.
Isshin-ryū, Boykin's first martial arts love, is an Okinawan karate style founded in Japan after World War II. Military members, especially Marines stationed at Okinawa, were almost immediately drawn to the striking arts and stand-up fighting style Isshin-ryū offered. Today, it remains a popular style of karate throughout the United States, and Boykin volunteers his time to train service members at Joint Base Charleston.
According to Boykin, volunteering time to teach others is his duty as a Master black belt. It's a duty that began years ago, thousands of miles away on the far east corner of the globe.
It's the late 1970s and inside a large dojo somewhere in the Japanese countryside, the red sun rises over the snowy mountain tops and countryside, light radiates through translucent paper walls of the dojo and golden beams from the misty dawn illuminate the sacred training ground.
Meanwhile, more than 30 Japanese natives have already dedicated countless hours toward training on the same hallowed ground as their ancestors. Tradition and honor are just as important to them as the precision which they practice their martial arts.
Boykin, a young naval officer and martial arts brown belt at the time, is an outsider as he cautiously enters the dojo. He began his martial arts training outside of Charlotte, N.C., but has never trained inside a traditional Japanese dojo. The locals were often weary of outsiders. However, instead of being banished by the disciplined locals inside, the Master trainer requests him to stay.
"They didn't understand a word I said, and I couldn't understand them," said Boykin. "But, what we lacked in communication, we made up through martial arts."
Throughout that day, Boykin took part in more than 25 fights, including a kumite tournament. For hours, he fought through the pain and sweat and with every advancing round in the tournament, he gained a little more respect from his opponents. The kumite is a sparring style tournament, where individuals face off against an adversary in a combat style fight judged by Master-level black belts.
"After the tournament, the dojo Master offered me a drink," said Boykin. "Being accepted into a traditional Japanese dojo was one of my greatest achievements."
Years of crafting his martial arts artistry has garnished Boykin many successes over the years, including an induction into the Isshin-ryū Hall of Fame in 2010, IHOF Instructor of the Year in 2009, Spirit of Isshin-ryū in 1996 and many other recognitions.
However, according to Boykin, some of the greatest achievements he's experienced in martial arts haven't come from earning trophies. Its always came from earning respect, from his early days in the military in Yokosuka, Japan, to his years in the Cajun country of Louisiana with the U.S. Marines.
For three years, Boykin trained Marines in hand-to-hand combat in New Orleans .
Wooden planks weren't the only thing Boykin broke as he trained Marines preparing for deployment. He also broke barriers by becoming the first naval officer to receive the Marine Corps black belt. Traditionally, Marines wear their martial arts belt color as their webbed rigger's belt earned through the Marine Corps Martial Arts Program on their Marine Corps Combat Utility Uniform.
"It was very difficult for me to receive the black belt from the Marines," said Boykin. "But, I trained all the judges that were qualifying me, so it was hard for them to consistently deny my ability. And I'll be honest; it felt great to be an old Navy officer wearing that black belt with my blue uniform."
To this day, his times spent with the Marines are some of his proudest moments.
Boykin challenges JB Charleston Airmen and sailors to challenge themselves and step into his dojo and learn the basics of martial arts.
"Nobody expects new members to run across bamboo sticks like a kung-fu movie their first night," said Boykin. "But if anyone wants to better themselves, maybe build self-confidence or just want to get a good work out, then attending one of my classes is a great way to do that."