I was born in Chicago in 1951. My family lived in Des Plaines Illinois, about two miles west of O’Hare Air Port. My father was a tradesman. Through him I learned valuable skills in home building. My mother was the first in our third generation family to earn a college degree. My sister Jo Ann was always a scholar and gifted as a writer. My mother’s pursuit of higher education in our otherwise blue-collar family was groundbreaking and inspired my educational ascent.
As young adults we attended Main Township High School West. The Maine Township System boasts notable attendees such as Harrison Ford and Hillary Clinton.
The Chicago area provided excellent access to information and services. I actually started the martial arts in school with six years of Roman Greco Wrestling. In 1966, I studied the art of Judo at our local Y.M.C.A. In 1967 the Y.M.C.A. offered Karate, which occupied my focus and remains my life long love. I participated in Karate throughout the Chicago area until high school graduation.
Upon graduation, I enlisted in the army and was assigned to the Airborne Light Infantry for two years. The Unit, A Company, Third of the Fifth Infantry had been deemed an experimental unit. The ‘experiment’ consisted of assigning one airborne company to a battalion of ‘Leg’ infantry. It was conceptualized that airborne would take a runway facilitating access for the ‘leg’ infantry. To accomplish this, we were highly trained both in jungle and urban warfare.
The unit was housed at Ft. Kolbe, a corner of Howard Air Force Base in Panama. Prior to that time, I had never witnessed the degree of abject poverty or government brutality that was practiced in Central America. It was this experience that inspired a deep sense of responsibility within me. I committed myself to help young people build the discipline and confidence to overcome these circumstance through karate.
Shortly after leaving the military, through the 101st Airborne Division, my father died. My mother, sister and I decided to relocate leaving the city behind. In 1974 my mother and I toured the United States looking for a western town offering education and opportunity for personal growth. As fate would have it, we sought refuge from a snow/ice storm in San Angelo Texas. We fell in love with the people, customs, and ambiance of West Texas and made it our new home. We bought a pecan farm and hunkered down to enjoy our new world. I attended Angelo State University where I aspired to become a special education teacher.
The second love of my life karate, History, was one of my majors along with Journalism and Education. During my college period I met James Cummings Jr., Sensei, who was a classmate. We found we shared many common life experiences, which created a bond within our friendship. Over time James, his wife, and children became part of my family. More importantly, James became my mentor.
Through James’ tutelage I absorbed Tang-So-Do with passion. James ultimately became my ‘Master’ gifting me the knowledge, discipline and skills that have enhanced my adult life. Out of deep respect I practice the style of Tang-So-Do taught by James passing on the skills and traditions of Sensei’s past. In my role as Special Education Teacher, Tang-So-Do enabled me to double my ‘educational punch’. By day, I could teach those nouns and verbs, and in the evenings I could run karate as an extra-curricular activity. The same learning skills used to teach, for example, a back kick could be applied to any core discipline such as math, history, or science. It makes sense that motivation, discipline, and mastery create an overwhelming sense of self-confidence that inspire a student to want to learn and excel.
James helped me start the first school of Karate in Lamesa, Texas. My first humble dojo was the gymnasium in the school where I was teaching at the time. Still under James ‘wing’ our little karate school became a great success. It was in Lamesa, that I met my lovely wife, Leticia Garcia Kaminski. We have been married for 30 years. Leticia is an avid disciple of Tang-So-Do. Among Leticia’s many accomplishments she has achieved a Red Belt. Currently, she teaches a women’s karate class in Comstock, Texas.
From our humble beginnings Leticia and I were able to touch countless lives through karate. After initially settling in Del Rio Texas I was again able to utilize the gym in the school where I taught as a dojo. For 15 years, I accepted students without charging hoping to teach them the gifts inherent in karate while instilling a sense of altruism and communal responsibility. Through this venue I was able to provide an education outside the financial ability of many children, teaching them valuable skills and instilling a sense of confidence to take into their adult lives.
One unintended outcome manifested in my becoming doubly effective as a teacher. Teaching became my pleasure, my calling, and my salvation. After more than three decades, I retired from teaching in 2005. I continue to remain active within the karate community and practice karate on a daily basis. My son, David has carried forth the tradition of Tang-So-Do and teaches in the Midland/Odessa Texas area.
Prior to his death, Grand Master Cummings integrated Tai Chi into our system. I have learned and implemented the Yang form of Tai Chi thru Grand Master Joseph Adriance, a Tai Jitsu Instructor. Joseph Sensei ranks among the best the world has to offer, and I am thankful to him. I am also grateful to those who have taught me skills in meditation and furthered my study of Buddhism. I have a black belt in Arnis.
Looking back, I understand the many life experiences that have contributed to my commitment to martial arts. I hope that among the many lives I have touched, I was somewhat integral in my sister, Jo Ann’s journey to open her private psychology practice (www.soulfoodcounseling.net) providing support and guidance to those of limited financial means. My Mother has also devoted her life to altruistic causes and helping others. She and my sister both reside in Abilene, Texas.
Among my many life blessings, I consider Grand Master Cummings to have been one of the greatest. When one thinks in terms of probabilities meeting such a man could not have been a coincidence. The experience to have lived, learned, and worked with such a being as Grand Master Cummings remains one my life’s greatest gifts. He provided me the tools to give back to society and contribute to the over all ‘good’ through my work with children.
We were gifted the opportunity to teach young people there was more to life than the physical, more than the streets, more than the desire to demand and ‘take’ from society. James asked nothing from me. His satisfaction was derived from my devotion and commitment to excellence in the art he loved so much. I can say with honest reverence that our decades of friendship never wielded an unkind thought, word, or deed. James was a true Master and will live on forever through the works of myself, and those who were fortunate to have shared his teachings and dreams.
Larry (Lars) Richard Kaminski
P.O. Box 716
Comstock, Texas 78837