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Stephen (Steve) Harry Armstrong


Steve Armstrong was born in Guymon, Oklahoma, September 22, 1931. He began studying Karate at 16 years of age. Armstrong grew up in Texas where he says he was, "A fair to middlin boxer."


Armstrong began his career in karate at a dojo near a train station in Kobe, Japan, in 1948. In 1949 he had to take time to travel to China. After training for about a year in Japan he earned a black belt in karate. Armstrong had spent about a year and a half in the Orient.


After a 30 day leave, he found himself once again back in Japan. This time he was stationed at the Marine Barracks in Yokohama, Japan. Again he started his studies in Karate, but this time, he was required to begin anew as a white belt as this was different from his original style of Karate. He continued to study Karate in the area and achieved Black Belt status in this new discipline. Then one day in July, 1950, his outfit left for the Korean War.


After having served in Korea, Sensei Armstrong returned to the USA to be stationed at the world famous Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., where he found himself on the Presidential Honor Guard for President Truman. During these years he continued his studies in karate on his own. Finally, he decided to leave the Service to go to college at the University of Texas.


After leaving college, Armstrong re-enlisted in the Marine Corps in 1959. This time he was stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa where he met a man that would change his life: Master Tatsuo Shimabukuro, Founder of Isshinryu Karate. Although already a Black Belt in two different styles of Karate, Goju Ryu and Shorin Ryu, Armstrong was again required to start as a white belt.

Sensei Armstrong has stated that while under the tutelage of Master Shimabukuro: "This is where I started learning Karate and what it is all about. My other instructors were good, but I wasn't a good student. Karate was only a method of fighting for me, until I met Shimabuku."


In 1960, Master Shimabuku, Harold Mitchum, Steve Armstrong, and several others formed the American-Okinawan Karate Association (AOKA). Harold Mitchum was the first AOKA president and Steve Armstrong and Ralph Bove were association officers.


Upon returning to the United States in 1961 Armstrong established a dojo in Tacoma Washington. He eventually expanded into several locations, including a few of the Colleges and Universities in Washington state.


Sensei Armstrong became one of the leading instructors in Isshinryu karate in the USA.


In 1966 Tatsuo Shimabukuro made his 2nd and last trip to the United States, spending time with Steve Armstrong in Tacoma, Washington; Harold Long in Knoxville, Tennessee; and Don Nagle in Jersey City, New Jersey. At this time, all three were promoted to 8th Dan by Master Shimabuku. At Armstrong's dojo the famous 1966 film was made with Sensei Shimabukuro demonstrating all Isshinryu kata.


He was inducted in the Isshinryu Hall of Fame in 1985.


In 1986 Dutch sensei Fred van de Vijver studied under Steve Armstrong and together they founded the NIKA (Netherlands Isshinryu Karate Association).


In 1988 Sensei Armstrong visited the Netherlands and the EIKA (European Isshinryu Karate Association) was founded. That way creating a strong foothold for Isshinryu in Europe.


The last years of his life he was treated in Washington Veterans Hospital.


Sensei Steve Armstrong passed away on November 15th, 2006.

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