Byron Mantack: Okinawan Shorin-Ryu

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Byron Mantack

In 1957 Byron Mantack was introduced to the Martial Arts in his home country, the Caribbean Island of Jamaica, at the tender age of ten. He began studying Judo, and Shorin-Ryu, under the tutor ledge of Sensei Lloyd Dawkins, a fourth degree black belt (Yondan), in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate, and third degree Black Belt (Sandan), in Kodokan Judo.

In 1958, Sensei Dawkins promoted, Mantack to the rank of (Ik-kyu) the first class brown belt in Shorin-Ryu, and the rank of (Ik-kyu) a first level brown belt, in Judo.

In 1961, Sensei Dawkins promoted Mantack to the rank of (Shodan), the first degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu, as well as in Kodokan Judo.

By 1963, still under the guidance of Sensei Dawkins, Byron Mantack was promoted to the rank of second degree black belt (Nidan), in Shorin-Ryu Karate, and a second degree black belt in Judo.

In 1966, at the age of 19, Byron Mantack joined the merchant marine, and began traveling throughout Europe. While in London, England, he seeks out a martial arts school that taught the Shorin-Ryu discipline. At the Eastham School of Martial Arts, in London, he met Shihan Gladstone Ross, a sixth degree black belt (Rukudan), in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, and a fourth degree Black Belt in Kenpo and began studying under him.

In 1967, Shihan Sensei Gladstone Ross, promoted Mantack to the rank of (Sandan), a third degree black belt, in the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu discipline, and a first degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. Between 1967 and 1970, sensei Mantack continued to travel through Europe as a merchant marine, and continued studying the arts; however, in February of 1971, Shihan Gladstone Ross, promoted sensei Mantack to the rank of fourth degree black belt (Yondan) in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, and a second degree black belt (Nidan) in Kenpo.

Sensei Mantack, competed in numerous martial arts competitions throughout Europe, and participated in demonstrations in England, Germany, and Holland. In August of 1970, Sensei Mantack participated in a judo demonstration in Hamsterdam, Holland; it was there he met Judo greats, Anton Gichin, and Jim Bergman; Bergman, at the time, was the President of the United States Judo Association (USJA).

In August of 1971, Sensei Mantack went to work for the United States Government, at the United States Naval Base, at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There, he joined the GITMO Judo Kai, and, because of the various martial arts disciplines taught there at the time, Sensei Mantack recommended the name be changed to the Guantanamo Bay Self Defense Club.

His recommendation was adopted, and the name changed. Sensei Mantack became the assistant instructor to Grandmaster Ramon Bodine, a Cuban National, and Chief Martial Arts instructor at the base. Additionally, instructing at the club, was Sensei Robert Price, a first class petty officer in the U.S. navy, who held the rank of Sandan, a third degree black belt in Judo. Grandmaster Bodine held the rank of (Nanadan/kyoshi) a seventh degree black belt in both Tae-Kwon-Do, and Shorin-Ryu, a (Godan) fifth degree black belt in Kenpo, and a (Yondan) fourth degree black belt in Judo. Sensei Robert Price held the rank of (Sandan), a third degree black belt in Judo, from the United States Judo Association (USJA).

On April 15, 1972, Sensei Mantack tested for, and was promoted by Grandmaster Ramon Bodine, to the rank of (Godan) the fifth degree black belt in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, and a (Sandan), the third degree black belt in Kenpo Karate. Grandmaster Bodine also promoted Master Mantack to the rank of (Sandan); a third degree black belt in Judo. Sensei Robert Price, sat on the board of examiners, and registered Sensei Mantack as a Sandan, with the United States Judo Association. Sensei Mantack was then named the chief assistant instructor of the Guantanamo Bay Self Defense Club, under Grandmaster Ramon Bodine.

In 1973, Sensei Mantack had the honor of meeting Grandmaster Albert Darrenburg, a first class Chief Petty Officer, in the United States navy, and a student of Hanshi George Van Horne. He became stationed at Guantanamo Bay; however, originally from Chicago, Illinois, and the holder of a (Hachidan), an eight degree black belt in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu, a (Rokudan), six degrees black Belt in Kenpo, and a (Rokudan) six degrees black belt in Kodokan Judo.

Grandmaster Darrenburg, became active in the Guantanamo Bay Self Defense Club, and ultimately, took over from Grandmaster Bodine, as the director, and Chief Martial Arts instructor at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

On February 15, 1974, after a three-hour test, Grandmaster Albert Darrenburg, recommended Master Mantack for the rank of (Rokudan), the six degree black belt, in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu. On June 15, 1974, the governing body approved the recommendation, and Master Mantack was promoted to the rank of (Rukudan), a sixth degree black belt, and awarded the title of Shihan. Grandmaster Darrenburg also reaffirmed Mantack’s rank as (Sandan), a third-degree black belt in Kenpo Karate.

Shihan Mantack, along with other students from the Guantanamo Bay Self Defense Club, would frequently travel to other U.S. Naval Bases, including Lapon Bridge, in West Virginia, and Rosey Roads, in Ceiba, Puerto Rico, to compete in Martial Arts tournaments, and to conduct demonstrations, and seminars.

In 1975, Shihan Mantack left Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and migrated to the United States, and, through his various contacts at Guantanamo Bay, and on the recommendation of the base commander, he procured a contract with the naval dependent recreational service in San Diego, and began teaching at several military recreational centers in San Diego county.

He was the Chief Martial Arts’ instructor at the Bay View Karate School, located at the Navy housing complex at Bay View Heights, in National City California, the Silver Strand Naval Recreation Center, located in Coronado, California, and, at the Gateway Naval Recreational Center, located in San Diego, California. Shihan Mantack took over as the chief instructor of the Gate Way Center, from Master Lary Blodgett Sr, a first class petty officer in the US Navy, and holder of a third degree black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, under Grand Master Emiel Wright.

Between 1976 and 1991, Shihan Mantack, along with students from all three martial arts schools, participated in numerous tournaments, and competitions throughout California, Nevada, Arizona, and Mexico. However, during the seventies, the eighties and into the early nineties, students from the United Karate Federation (UKF) practically dominated the tournament circuits, as a result, Mantack decided to resume his training in Kenpo, under Master Orned (Chicken) Gabriel, an eight degree black belt, under the late Grand Master Richard (Dick) Willett.

During those early years, Mantack competed against many formidable opponents; such as Reynaldo Leal, Pete Salas, Herb Hoffmann, Crane Ponder, and Tony Pablo, just to name a few. On August 17, 1994, Shihan Mantack was honored, by being awarded his seventh degree black belt (Shichidan) certificate, and promoted to the rank of Grand Master, by Grand Master Albert Darrenburg.

At the 12th Annual Tri-State Classics, Karate tournament held in San Diego, California, in 2012, Grand Master Mantack won the second place in the Masters division, losing only to Prof. Pete (Sweet Pete) Salas, from the Chinese Kenpo Federation (UKF), who is ranked among the top ten best point fighters in the United States.

On October 12, 2012, at Heritage Park, in Chula Vista, California, Grand Master Mantack was presented with a certificate of promotion, elevating him to the rank of (Kudan), a ninth degree black belt, in Okinawan Shorin-Ryu.

On May 4, 2013, Grand Master Mantack was inducted into the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame by Grand Master Eric Lee. He was presented with the Supreme Martial Arts Achievements Award, and was appointed the area three director of the USA Martial Arts Hall of Fame, by Soke Grand Master Jim Thomas.

At a ceremony held in Los Angeles, California on January 11, 2013, Grandmaster Donnie Williams, one of the founding members of the Black Karate Federation, and the chief instructor of the International Christian Karate Association, promoted Grandmaster Mantack to the rank of a seventh degree black belt in Kenpo karate.

On October 2, 2013, Grandmaster Pat Burleson, of the World Martial Arts Ranking Association, certified Grandmaster Mantack’s rank as a ninth degree black belt in the Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Karate system, with certificate number, 04202.

Currently, Grand Master Mantack is the chief instructor at the Martial Arts Academy, which is a ministry of the church he attends in Chula Vista, Calfornia. There, he teaches the Martial Arts in a Christian environment, with Christian principles, and emphasis on tournament fighting, and practical street defense techniques.

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