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Diamond sensei: Basin karate teacher reflects on four decades of training

by SAM FLETCHER
Staff Writer | May 12, 2021 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

This is a foremost maxim of Shudokan Karate-do, an Okinawan martial art developed in the early 20th century, according to a founder of a Columbia Basin karate school.

Shihan (teacher of teachers) Terry Stone, a fifth-degree black belt, has trained in Shudokan for more than four decades, he said, teaching in Othello and Moses Lake for more than 25 years.

For him, the path to karate started with worry, anger, fear and trouble.

“If it weren’t for karate, I would either be dead or in prison,” he said.

Stone joined the U.S. Coast Guard out of high school in 1972 during the height of the Vietnam War and left in 1976, when he started “running with the wrong people” and experimenting with drugs, he said.

In March 1980, he attended a karate tournament in Yakima, where he watched a young girl, bubbly and vibrant, beat out 1,000 other competitors and win grand champion in kata (form).

He observed her passion, her commitment and most of all, her control, all of which he was lacking in his own life, he said.

By April, he started training.

Kanken Toyama started the first Shudokan dojo in Tokyo in 1930. Toyama began training at the age of 9, not only receiving a black belt in all forms of Okinawan karate throughout his life, but a certificate from the emperor to award black belts in all forms as well.

Walter Todd, from Oakland, Calif., first started training in karate in 1945, when he was stationed in Tokyo with the U.S. military. He was an eighth-degree black belt in judo, became the first American to earn a black belt in karate and, after two more black belts in other styles, Toyama awarded him the title of Shibucho (general) to bring Okinawan karate to the United States.

Stone trained under Todd and was introduced to the form by Todd’s student, Hanshi (exemplary teacher) Morris Mack, a 10th-degree black belt who passed away in Yakima in 2017.

At Stone’s yellow belt test, second after white, Mack failed him and said his personality was not fit for karate, Stone said. He said he held everything in, a bomb waiting to explode.

Once again, the lack of control haunted him. Stone had to beg his way back in, he said, and trained to prove otherwise to his sensei.

In 1985, Stone competed in his first national tournament in Seattle, he said. Judges told the competitors they couldn’t have patches on their uniforms nor roll up their sleeves. They made Stone wear his gi inside out and with the sleeves over his hands and feet, and he failed.

This sparked an increasing fire, Stone said.

He continued competing for years, doing better and better, he said. In 1989, he attended the AAU national championship in Chicago with Todd and Mack. There, he won first in fighting, first in weapons, second in synchronized kata and fourth in individual kata.

A decade into training, he became a sensei at Mack’s dojo in Yakima in 1990, he said.

As they took their students to tournaments, Mack would tell them, “I want you to be like Terry (Stone) when you’re out there,” Stone said. “He’s the same before, during and after. There’s no anger. No aggression. Try to be in control all the time.”

It was a powerful moment, Stone said. He’d been seeking that his whole life.

Before Todd passed away in 1999, he signed one of Stone’s books with the phrase, “diamond teaches diamond.”

Along with his fifth-degree black belt in Shudokan, Stone also holds a first-degree black belt in Doshin Kan, a first-degree black belt in Goshin Jujitsu, a second-degree black belt in Nakamoraryu and a second-level instructor’s certificate from Au’s Shaolin Arts for Chi Kung.

Under Mack’s instruction, Stone started the Othello School of Karate around 1996, he said. A few years later, he started a Moses Lake school, as well.

More than gold medals, ranks and grand championships, Stone’s proudest achievements have come from teaching, he said.

“My title is shihan, professor, but sensei means so much,” he said. “One of my proudest moments, I had a student call me and tell me he had a lot of problems last night and wanted me to help him get through that.”

Basin Karate, in Moses Lake and Othello, is a life skills school, not a fighting school, Stone said.

“If you want to be a good fighter, I can definitely get you to be a good fighter,” he said. “I can show you all the drills (Hanshi Mack) had me do. I can do them with you. It’s about speed and not losing control of your temper, things like that.”

Mack once said the main difference between Shudokan and other styles of karate is the stories, Stone said.

When Mack started teaching, he studied the greatest teachers of all time, Stone said. To him, it was Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ taught through stories and parables.

At the end of each class, students gathered on the mat and listened to stories.

One of Stone’s favorite stories he likes to tell involves a man walking through the forest, he said. As a tiger stalks him he picks up his pace until he is running as fast as he can.

Trapped cliffside, he must climb over the cliff edge before the tiger pounces. Hanging onto a vine, he notices a second tiger circling below.

As he hangs on for dear life, a mouse emerges from a crack in the cliff face and starts gnawing at the vine.

At that moment, the man sees a patch of wild strawberries growing off the cliff. He reaches out and plucks one, plopping the plump and ripe berry into his mouth.

It’s the best strawberry he’s ever tasted.

The man never gives up, Stone said, right up to the end.

The cornerstones of Basin Karate are honor, respect, humility and gambatte (do your best; don’t give up). More than fighting, Stone said, these are the main takeaways from his school.

“Just because you’re in karate doesn’t mean you’re a great fighter,” he said. “I know a lot of karate black belts that couldn’t whip themselves out of a paper bag, but the main thing is that they won’t give up.”

Short-term goal setting, regular achievements and living with compassion and honor will change a person’s life, he said. The singular takeaway from lifelong training is for students to understand they are better than they think they are in every way.

In Stone’s career, he has taught tens of thousands of students, he said. He commuted from Yakima for nearly three decades. He’s been on the road and missed a lot of time with his four children.

Nearing retirement brings mixed emotions, but with grandkids now it’s time to make up for lost time, he said.

As a new sensei takes over, Stone will still be around occasionally to help, he said. He will continue to test students, continue to expand the style and continue his personal training.

Stone’s next test will be for sixth-degree black belt, he said, where he will earn a red- and white-striped belt.

At the end of class May 5, Shihan Stone’s students lined up and bowed to the front of class.

After Stone bowed back, he told his students he loved them.

“I have 41 years teaching people they are better than they think, smarter than they think, faster than they think,” he said. “Now, I need a few years to convince myself of that.”

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Sam Fletcher/Columbia Basin Herald

Shihan Terry Stone grins before photos of hanshis Todd, Toyama and Mack at Basin Karate in Moses Lake on Wednesday.

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Sam Fletcher/Columbia Basin Herald

Shihan Terry Stone and his students come to attention at the end of Shimpa Tan, a core kata of Shūdōkan Karate-do.

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Sam Fletcher/Columbia Basin Herald

Basin Karate students practice Shimpa Tan, a core kata of Shūdōkan Karate-do on Wednesday.

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Terry Stone/Courtesy Photo

Hanshi Morris Mack (left), Hanshi Walter Todd (center) and Shihan Terry Stone (right) at the AAU national championship in Chicago in 1989.