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Robert Trias

1923 - 1989 American Karate

In a world of fly-by-night martial arts masters,

where every Tom, Dick, and Chang claimed to be the

father of this style or the grandmaster of that art,

Robert Trias was an exception. He was not

universally-loved, but whatever the many opinions about

the man were, one fact remains: Robert Trias perhaps did

more for the martial arts in the United States than any

man ever, including Bruce Lee.

Trias long career began when he was a boxing champion

in the U.S. Navy while stationed in the British Solomon

Islands during World War 11. During that tour of duty,

he learned the rare Chinese art of fusing-i chuan from

kung fu master Tung Gee Hsing. That knowledge led to his

quest to learn other martial arts. Trias traveled to

China, Japan, Okinawa, Hawaii, and other locations,

training with the likes of James Mitose and Yasuhiro

Konishi, acquiring expertise in shuri and shorei-ryu

karate, kempo, ju-jitsu and judo. He would later become

style head of shuri-ryu karate, the worlds recognized

top authority on that art.

Trias then returned to Phoenix in 1946, where he opened

one of the first karate schools in America, and

immediately became the font of knowledge for a nation of

aspiring karateka. A few years later, he began the

United States Karate Association (USKA), with the intent

of disseminating knowledge about the martial arts to the

public, organizing the nations martial artists into a

cohesive, powerful body, and carrying the sport to

financial health.

Today, the USKA claims more than a half-million members

worldwide. Through his teaching, Trias carried the

message of the martial arts to millions more across the

globe, organizing tournaments, giving seminars, striving

tirelessly to communicate karate's ideas of honor,

discipline, and respect to new generations. My purpose

is to make the practitioner aware of the changes in

karate, from the karate of the past to the karate of

today, Trias said in one of his many prepared public


Unfortunately, he never saw all his goals realized.

Trias was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1987, and his

body weakened as the disease spread. Nonetheless, he

continued to teach and give seminars as long as his

failing health would allow. Some students spoke of

caring for Trias before seminars, giving him shots of

morphine to help control his agony during demonstrations

which he refused to cancel.

On July 11, 1989, Robert Trias courageous struggle ended

as he passed away in a Phoenix hospital at age 67. Since

then, efforts to replace him as head of the USKA have

been acrimonious and confusing.

However, as unpleasant as the USKA power struggle has

been, the infighting and propaganda have not dimmed the

image of a great karate pioneer. Though his organization

is in some turmoil, Trias USKA remains strong and

popular, and the memory of the man is that of a great

master, teacher, and innovator. The late Robert Trias, a

father of the martial arts in America, is unquestionably

a worthy recipient of the 1989 Black Belt Hall of Fame

Honorary Award




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