Blackhawk Walters is a very dedicated martial artist. He has bridged two worlds to blend eastern and native American culture into one modern disciplined martial art. Travel with us now as we learn more about the man and his very unique style of martial art and the method he uses to teach it.
BS-Tell us a little about your martial arts training.
BW-I actually started training at the age of five. My father, Grayhawk Walters is an ex-marine and he trained me in the marine corps brand of self defense. In high school I exchanged techniques with students of various karate styles. I wrestled one year in school and lost my first match, but won the next nine.
BS-Were you involved in any other scholastic sports?
BW-I received a scholarship to college in football. I did well in football, but my love was and is karate. I decided to devote my life to the martial arts and to the perseverance of Indian heritage. When I returned home from school I got a job, went to college part-time and enrolled in a formal karate studio. The karate studio of Virginia beach was a very formal school. The instructor was Noel Smith, a 5th degree black belt at that time. Sensei Smith was a wonderful and very knowledgeable teacher. In fact, he imparted to me by the example he set with his life a wonderful philosophy that I have kept for over two decades.
BS-Can you tell us what he said?
BW-Sure, "Always be approachable and friendly to your students and others. You teach more than fighting skills, you teach people by the example and the way you live your life."
BS-You had more teachers?
BW-Yes. Bill Currie another 5th degree Black Belt who taught me a very non-traditional martial art. He taught me that "The Martial Arts must be fun. A lifetime commitment is a lot more enjoyable when you have fun".
BS-You had some really philosophically oriented instructors that helped you with not only martial arts but a "way of life" as well. The way martial arts is supposed to be!
BW-Yes, and there are many others who shared their martial arts with me and I must mention two who seriously influenced me. The world champion, Tommy Williams of Oklahoma, took the time after one of his fights in Washington DC to talk and share with me the dynamics of how he did the jumping back spin side kick. This changed my whole outlook on the martial arts. I had been taught it was easy to evade the jumping back spin side kick, but watching Tommy hit a world class fighter like Dan Mingus showed me this was not true. In fact, Tommy had already knocked out 11 kick boxers with the technique. From that day on, I was completely open to all martial arts techniques. Last but not least, the master karate instructor Soak Richard Ballergion, a 9th degree black belt and the founder of the National Karate Jiu Jitsu Union. He was not only a Man's man, but a spiritual teacher. He was an ex-marine who not only had studied with the renowned Masters in the orient, but had boxed while in the Marine corps. Soke Ballergion had over 10,000 people under his organization. It was a great honor when he would stay at my home to train and teach me. He imparted many lessons to me. The image that remains embedded in my mind is Soke Ballergion a man in his 60s running step for step with me for 10 miles when I was 30 and a world class kick boxer. The important lesson I learned was physical conditioning could be a life long goal.
BS-You mentioned you were a kick boxer. When did that begin?
BW-My first official competition was at a karate tournament as a white belt. I had worked my way through to the final match. The gentleman was my equal in every way. The match was tied two to two and went into overtime. With ten seconds left we both made our move and connected at the same time. Two judges called his techniques and two called mine. The center referee smiled and said, "both gentlemen scored at the same time." But then he pointed to me, "this gentleman scored with style- point and match!"
This first victory sealed my fate as a competitor. In 1973, they had the 1st sanctioned televised world kickboxing championships. Joe Lewis, Jeff Smith, and Bill Wallace all won titles, but the welterweight who everyone knew would win was Howard Jackson and he had suffered a knee injury and was not up to full speed so he did not win. This fueled Jackson's determination ever more as he became the first karate man to be a world champion tournament fighter, a world champion kick boxer and the first karateka to become a world ranked professional boxer. This television exposure also fueled my competitive fires and I entered the kick boxing arena. Little did I know eight years later Howard Jackson and I would meet in Chicago for the world championship. Howard won the judge's decision, but the crowd of 3,000 booed as they and I had thought I won. I can say nothing bad about Howard Jackson as he is a great fighter and a gentleman. He helped bring karate to the forefront. After the fight, we shared food together and became friends.
I closed my fighting career in 1989 in a fight for the super middleweight world championship against David Humphries. I had seen him fight before and I was sure with my speed he could not even hit me and I would win easy. Boy I was wrong! Although they looked slow, his techniques were deceiving. They did connect and what power! I had always been the stronger fighter, but everything David threw hit like a ton of bricks. My speed was not working so I changed strategy. I had knocked out over 30 people and I was determined to show this guy I could hit! I proceeded to hit him with everything I had. Whenever I unloaded a technique to his jaw that had knocked everyone else out, he just stood there and smiled!! I was flabbergasted!! I switched strategies again. I was going to try to out point the guy. In the 7th round he caught me with a left hook and knocked me down for an eight count. I survived the round but from the 8th to the 12th round there was no more strategy. I was on automatic pilot. It was all instinct. All the years of martial arts training just flowed and I did not think, I reacted. I won all the rounds from that point on. When they read the decision, I had lost by one point! The knock down cost me the match. I never had one regret. I had given everything I had and could not throw another punch when the bell rang. Two things made me feel better after the fight. I met David after we had showered and got cleaned up and I could see bruises all over his face and I said to myself "at least I did some damage". Then I shook his hand and said, "David, you are a true champion and the toughest man I had ever fought. I hit you with my best and didn't even hurt you." He smiled and said, "That's not true, I blacked out twice". " But you never showed it" I said. He laughed and said "That's why I'm three time world champ". 30 days later he knocked out the #1 world contender in two rounds. I felt better!
BS-Wow, that's a great story! So you ended your career in 1989?
BW-Yes, my record was 37 wins and 7 losses. I fought under the name of Bubba Walters because my elders advised me it would hinder my career because of the public's view of a stereotypical Indian.
BS-From that great tournament career, we turn to your current teachings and training. Your style is unique combining the cultures of two worlds, can you explain?
BW-My life has always consisted of blending what I learn and changing that "into a way". Studying martial arts has led me to learn many styles. Although I have black belts in five styles, I always resist the nomenclature of styles. I always say "I don't teach a style, I teach people a way". Possibly because I was a professional boxer, it may have carried over into my martial arts. In boxing there are no styles, a jab is a jab and a left hook is a left hook. That is how I teach karate. I side kick is a side kick and a roundhouse is a roundhouse. I let the student develop his/her style and I just point out any weakness in the delivery of their technique. The same thing exists being an American Indian. People always want to know what tribe you belong to. They don't understand "only abandonment of your status as federally recognized tribal Indians frees a native American from the paternalism of the bureau of Indian Affairs and the supervision of Congress". They don't understand that for thousands of years tribes have mixed inter-tribally and for 500 years interracial. The result is many mixed blood Indians. Although I have Indian blood from several tribes and I do belong to a tribal band of Indians. I respond "I am an American Indian I belong to the Homoyakni, "The United Indian Nation".
BS-What is the United Indian Nation?
BW-It is an inter-tribal organization that believes for our race to survive we must unite and not be "715" separate tribes but one United Indian nation the "Homoyakni" which means "Red Nation".
BS-Your unique methods of teaching are very special. The phrase you use to begin your training..can you share that with us and explain what it means?
BW-Sure, I'd love to. My opening salutation I give before every workout is: Karate is my weapon. I study the way of the hawk. On the good road and the way of the creator. Of course, I do a salute that goes along with that. First I do the international sign for the martial arts with one closed fist and one open hand. The other signs are from the ancient Indian sign language. I make the sign for the hawk, then the sign for the good road and finish with the sign for the circle of life and all creation and the creator.
BS-Are there any forms in your system?
BW-Yes, we have forms. I show my respect by teaching one Okinawan form, One Japanese form, One Korean form. If the students like forms I encourage them to create a free form and to do musical kata. Some of my students love forms and learn 30 or more katas. One of my teachers, Soke Ballergion, is said to have known over 350 katas. I personally only learned whatever kata I needed to earn my black belt in that system. Today I practice the three we keep in our system. Of course if I saw Mike Tyson or Bill Wallace warming up before a fight by doing a kata, I'd make sure I learned that one.
BS-What does your personal training day look like?
BW-I mix martial arts with weight lifting, running, cycling and other sports. The day starts at around 9:00am with a bike ride. Later on in the day I may do weight training then I get to the school and teach a class. Every workout I do I have a definite goal of what I want to accomplish.
BS-You do more than just train for martial arts though. You rode your bike for charity, right?
BW-Right, I rode across the US with three of my friends riding 100 miles a day or more to cross the states in 30 days on our bicycles. We raised $10,000 for charity.
BS-Tell us a little about your "Television Project".
BW-My show is called "Blackhawk Warriors". It's shown every Saturday and Sunday morning at 9:10 and 9:40 on "Fit TV" which is carried across the country and shown in 11.2 million homes. Each show I start out with a moral or virtue that was taught to me through my native American culture. The following 18 minutes I give a heart pumping aerobic martial arts workout.
BS-What does the future hold for "Blackhawk"?
BW-I'm writing a book with my good friend Keith Fournier called "The way of the Hawk". I have done six other TV projects and hope one will get picked up. I also will be playing the lead in theater as Chief Quanah Parker the great Comanche chief in a play called "A Comanche's Sacred Love". There are also several people interested in a great movie script my brother and my wife helped write called "Sacred Blood" which of course is tailor made for me! The most important project to me is to do a true movie based on my father's life called "Shadowhawk: On Sacred Ground".
BS-Thanks Blackhawk, it was certainly an honor to speak with you and good luck to you. I guess you'll be busy with all these projects. We hope to see you again and I look forward to another interview. BW-Thanks and we will be in touch.
As you can tell. Blackhawk has had an amazing career and he has not slowed down.
He is a remarkable man that has crossed the intersection of east and west. He martial
arts prowess is proof that any man or woman can learn to be exceptional with the
proper drive, fortitude and most importantly, the proper heart to succeed. Blackhawk
certainly has the heart. He is quite a man. Quite a Martial Artist.
Ben Smith is a 20 year veteran of the martial arts having been trained in WingChun
Gung Fu/Washin-Ryu Karate and Pai Lum Kung Fu. He is also a freelance journalist
and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Ben Smith is a 20 year veteran of the martial arts having been trained in WingChun Gung Fu/Washin-Ryu Karate and Pai Lum Kung Fu. He is also a freelance journalist and can be reached by email at email@example.com .
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