Shihan Thomas White, founder of San Do Kai Martial Arts School in Long Beach, passed on May 30, 2012.
White began his journey in martial arts more than 50 years ago and received his first black belt on the Island of Okinawa. He then moved to Long Beach and in 1968 opened the first Shorin Ryu School in the South Bay– Ukinju Benevolent Society or Ukinjukan (The School of Quiet Water).
While in Long Beach, White met Tsutomu Oshima, who studied directly under Gichin Funakoshi, the creator of Shotokan karate. White later received a black belt in Shotokan under Oshima, who is the founder of the Shotokan Karate Association of America. In 1971, White became the first African-American to win the Nisei Week Karate tournament, a traditional Japanese tournament held in Los Angeles’s Little Tokyo.
Shihan’s journey took him to Northern California, where he studied Tibetan Yoga under guru Albert G. Van Den Berg. That experience later became a substantial part of the spiritual foundation of San Do Kai Martial Arts.
White returned to Long Beach in 1990 and founded San Do Kai Karate which later became the San Do Kai Martial Arts and Cultural Center. He later received his 7th degree from Yodansha Society, an organization for black belts only. He earned his 9th degree from the Black Ryu, an organization of black martial arts masters.
He was recognized and promoted to grandmaster by Sijo Steve Muhammad and a board of fellow respected martial arts masters. Most recently, he received the Gold Sash Award for Martial Arts Excellence.
While living in Long Beach, White started a host of youth programs to encourage, enlighten and teach kids of Long Beach how to become outstanding citizens in the local and global community in which they live. White became Long Beach’s first gang-prevention program coordinator and the first director of the city-wide youth counsel.
White is a former member of the Rosicrucian Order and the Arcane School of Esoteric Teaching. He was ordained in 1969 at the Universal Church of Science Mind in Long Beach.
White was also author of Three Golden Pearls on a String, Heart of the Way, and A Martial Artist Journal.
He was also an active member of the Knights of Pythias and was involved in the Holman Rights of Passage program, as well as serving as the executive director of the Pythian Youth Foundation of California, which gives underprivileged youth the opportunity to experience the joys of going to wilderness camp.
Services will be at Penuel Baptist Church, 215 E. 108th St. in Los Angeles on Friday June 22 at 11am. To make a donation to help pay for services, make check payable to: San do Kai, 1140 E. Ocean Blvd. Unit 140, Long Beach, CA 90802.