Master Aaron Banks and Old School . . . Osu

Aaron Banks
Photo by Rene Carson of By Hand Media

It is 1993, the vision of the Sport Karate Museum was already in my head and Johnny Kuhl had given me Master Aaron Bank’s phone number, so I called him. I talked with Master Banks for almost two hours about everything and everybody, from his breaking of all those boards on the Mike Douglas Show, to his being the super promoter he was. At the end of the conversation he said, “I like you Gary, normally I charge by the minute to talk on the phone and we spent have quite some time on the phone, but this time I will let it slide.

I didn’t call Master Banks again until the Michael Depasquale Roast, we wanted to honor Mr. Banks and give him a beautiful pioneer award for his service to the martial arts. When I called and told him what we wanted to do, he said we could honor him, however we would have to pay him $1000 for the privilege of honoring his greatness : ).

Another great story about my involvement with Grand Master Banks is how I met Joe Hess, Heavy weight Champion fighter, and the legendary Master Johnny Kuhl. It was the early 70’s and I was hitchhiking everywhere, chasing karate and adventure, and I ended up in New York City on a greyhound bus, heading toward Wenham, Massachusetts to meet a girl. Out the window of the bus, I saw a huge billboard promoting Aaron Bank’s Oriental World of Self Defense at Madison Square Garden.

I made the bus driver stop so I could get off the bus. I stopped passerby after passerby and asked for directions to Madison Square Garden. I was so raw and uneducated about life, and I wanted to go perform at his event. Heck, I even thought every martial artist did the same karate I learned in Hawaii. I was carrying my Surfboard, sai’s, nunchucks, kama’s and a jo along with my backpack. I finally got a ride to the Garden and by this time it was pouring down rain.

I went to the back of the Garden and knocked on the door. When the door opened there stood two of the biggest men I have ever seen. It was Joe Hess and Johnny Kuhl. They asked me, “What are you doing standing in the rain with all those weapons, and WHY do you have a surfboard here in the city?” I told them, “I’m here for the show bra, to perform! They explained, nicely, that it was a professional show and they closed the door.

I left hurt. I was ignorant, young, and wet, and now I was stuck in the middle of New York City.

Years later I would honor Joe Hess at a Living Legends, but my reunion with Master Kuhl always sticks in my mind. It was 1999 and Grand Master Allen Steen’s 60th birthday party in Dallas, Texas. I was greeting the guests at the door and the guest list was truly a who’s who in the martial arts. One of my friends pointed to a big guy across the room who was asking questions about me. I approached the guy and asked, “Sir, may I help you?” He asked me if I was that scrawny little kid with all those weapons and the surfboard at the Oriental World of Self-Defense. I remembered Johnny Kuhl. He was one of the BIG security guys who answered the back door at Master Bank’s event at Madison Square Garden.

Great Grand Master Banks you were and are one of the reasons I do what I do, record and celebrate Sport Karate History.

Rest in peace Great Grand Master Aaron Banks, and thank you for being “Old School”. Osu.