Hanshi Bill Wendell 9th Degree Black Belt (Kyu-Dan)
Born September 15, 1947, Hanshi Wendell began training in the Martial Arts at age of 13 at Fort Campbell Kentucky, home of the 101st Airborne Screaming Eagles. Hanshi Wendell’s training started in 1960 studying Hapkido under Sergeant Henderson of the 101st airborne at Fort Campbell Kentucky. Shotokan and Goju styles were also taught at Estep gymnasium but Hapkido appeared to be most like Aikido which Hanshi Wendell had read about and was enamored with.
Sergeant Henderson was sent to Vietnam in 1963 and Hanshi Wendell was immediately adopted by a Shotokan instructor, Sensei Ramirez. He taught Hanshi Wendell the required Heian katas and self defense for Black Belt and Hanshi Wendell was tested. After approximately one year he was transferred to another duty station and Hanshi Wendell never received documentation for a Black Belt.
In 1965, during college, Hanshi Wendell trained with a Tae-Kwon-Do stylist whose name to me was only known as Sensei Frank. He was in charge of riot control at Fort Campbell Kentucky 101st Airborne. Hanshi Wendell trained for two years while attending college with Sergeant Frank at the National Guard Armory.
During the summer months Hanshi Wendell trained in Chicago under Sensei Algene Caraulia and Sensei Jim Consevik in Shorinji Kempo and Judo. Training was from 17:00-20:00 hours, five nights per week (trained in beginner, intermediate and advanced classes). Hanshi Wendell was tested for Black Belt and passed. While attending college Hanshi Wendell competed in Master Cecil Patterson’s East Coast Karate Championship and won 1st place forms in his first competition.
In 1968 Hanshi Wendell trained under Sensei Jim Alfano in Hialeah, Florida until joining the Marine Corp. Sensei Alfano proceeded to put Hanshi Wendell on the fast track for Black Belt in Goju. Hanshi Wendell was to be tested under Master Mike Foster but was about to be drafted so Hanshi Wendell quickly joined the Marine corp.
After boot camp and infantry training, Hanshi Wendell was sent to San Diego California for electronics school, in 1969. Hanshi Wendell discovered an Isshin Ryu instructor in the Navy band who acquired his rank in Okinawa. Hanshi Wendell trained with him for one year and was tested and passed for Black Belt.
In 1970, after electronics school, Hanshi Wendell was assigned to New River Air Station in North Carolina until a quota for Vietnam troops was required of his unit. Hanshi Wendell was sent to Okinawa for processing before being sent to Vietnam. While in Okinawa Hanshi was reassigned to a MATCU complex (Mobile Air Traffic Control Unit) which was in need of emergency repairs in Iwakuni, Japan and Hanshi was the most qualified in the immediate West Pack area. After repairing the M.A.T.C.U. unit, the base commander promoted him to E-5 and gave him a work schedule of 24 on and 48 off.
This fortunate turn of events allowed Hanshi Wendell to extensively train in the Hombu Dojo of Wado-Ryu, under Hanshi Eiichi Eriguchi. When first arriving at the Dojo, Hanshi Wendell was required to purchase a Gi, and while trying the Gi on for size he wished to hear what it sounded like. Hanshi Wendell threw a punch and it cracked nicely, after which, was heard a torrent of Japanese dialogue punctuated with Shodan at the end. They determined Hanshi Wendell was a Black Belt and had him represent the Dojo as a Black Belt in competition, but Hanshi Wendell wore a white belt in class.
Hanshi Wendell competed often, successfully representing the Dojo. The culmination of his competition resulted in qualifying for the Japanese Nationals. He was informed that he was the first Caucasian ever to qualify for the Japanese Nationals and received an invitation littered with the Hans of well known Japanese masters. Hanshi Wendell was tested at the Wado-Ryu Dojo for Black Belt and passed. Unfortunately, he was transferred back to the U.S. before the tournament and before he received his certificate, with only three days notice before he was flown out. The Dojo lobbied for an extension of his tour in Iwakuni but three days was too short for them to effectively prevent his transfer.
Shortly after returning to the U.S, in 1972, his military obligation complete, he began civilian life in Florida were his father was residing. Hanshi Wendell discovered a Dojo within walking distance from the house owned by Sensei Steve Beattie. At that time, the U.S.K.A. Grand Nationals was one of the largest and most competitive tournaments in the United States. Dr. Mel Weiss, Ken Ogawa, Ridgely Abele, Mike Foster, Herbie Thompson and John Giordano were just a few of his competitors. Hanshi Wendell won 1st place in kata.
During this competition he had the opportunity to observe Master Giordano’s style of kata and kumite, and recognized similarities of technique to the masters in Japan. After which he realized that Sensei Beattie’s brute force approach to karate technique was not the direction he wanted to pursue. It was this stark contrast in approach that led Hanshi to accept Master John Giordano’s invitation to meet Grand Master Frank Ruiz and train in the Nisei Goju Ryu System.
Master John Giordano’s technique focused on developing relaxed spontaneity. When he fought, he moved like a rag doll with seemingly random bouncing and swaying. Out of this miasma sprung forth articulated technique which immediately returned to formless movement. Master Giordano’s contribution to his techniques and fighting ability are huge and he is forever grateful for his knowledge and teaching
At this point of Hanshi Wendell’s training he began to realize that the traditional distinction between kata and kumite was in fact an illusion. The chasm that most martial artists perceived started to disappear. Where two separate disciplines had existed they now merged in to one cohesive philosophy. Kata and kumite were roads that led to the same destination, and were in reality not different at all. Impressed by these revelations Grand Master Ruiz invited Hanshi to train directly under him.
In 1980, Hanshi Wendell was directed by Grand Master Ruiz to join the F.B.B.A. (Florida Black Belt Association) and be the flag bearer of Nisei Goju Ryu in the F.B.B.A.. Hanshi Wendell resumed competition in 1981 and within two years he became one of the top competitors in the state of Florida.
In 1983 Hanshi Wendell was voted in as F.B.B.A. president and then again in 1984. Grand Master Ruiz was pleased and Nisei was at the fore. In 1983 Grand Master Frank Ruiz presented Hanshi Wendell with the “Eagle Award”. Hanshi treasures this award above all others. It was Grand Master Frank Ruiz’s personal award that he created and bestowed on only a few of his beloved. In 1982 Master Herbie Thompson awarded Hanshi Wendell the Dr. Mel Weiss Memorial award. Also in 1983, at the F.B.B.A. honors banquet Hanshi Wendell received the following awards: Man of the Year, Judge of the Year, Top Competitor of the Year, Top Fighter of the Year, and Top Forms Competitor of the Year.
From 1977 to 1988 Hanshi had been teaching at his own school at various locations in Broward County including North Lauderdale, Davie, and Plantation. In 1988, Grand Master Ruiz’s health began to deteriorate, due to diabetes. It was at this time Hanshi Wendell abstained from having his own school for several years to insure quality control and to assist other instructors in the Nisei System as Grand Master Ruiz’s representative. Hanshi Wendell was honored to teach for him, and their bond grew closer at this time. It was during these years, from 1983 to 1990, that Hanshi Wendell received his rank promotions from 5th Dan to 7th Dan. In 1989 Grand Master Ruiz designated Hanshi Wendell as the Chief Instructor of the Nisei Goju System. In 1991 Hanshi started his own school once more in Dania. Along with his own teaching he continued the duties of Chief Instructor visiting the various Nisei schools in the South Florida area.
In 1995, Hanshi Wendell received his 8th Dan. Grand Master Ruiz promoted several people at this time, including Hanshi Roldan, Master Herbie Thompson, and Master Rex Lee. Hanshi Wendell, during a visit in early June, just days before Grand Master Ruiz passed away, and was presented with a challenge. Grand Master Ruiz presented him with a signed certificate conspicuously missing the rank and declared “Let’s see what kind of balls you got!” Hanshi Wendell knew that Grand Master Ruiz loved a good fight and perhaps he wanted Hanshi Roldan and Hanshi Wendell to fight over the Nisei System. Hanshi Wendell knows Grand Master Ruiz loved Hanshi Roldan and raised him as if he were his own son. Upon reflection he decided to leave the Nisei System in the capable hands of Hanshi Roldan. In 2005, he accepted the challenge presented to him by Grand Master Ruiz and solidified the culmination of his years of martial arts knowledge and teaching through the creation of Mushin Goju Ryu.
Mushin Goju Ryu will serve as his homage to Grand Master Ruiz and his lasting influence. For this reason, Mushin Goju Ryu was established in June of 2005, at “The Shihan Ruiz Memorial Dinner”. It was in this year, the tenth anniversary of Grand Master Ruiz’s passing that he decided to accept the rank of 9th Dan and use the certificate presented to him in 1995. Present at this dinner were Soke Joe Williams, Soke Marty Ferrick, Hanshi Steve Malanoski, Hanshi Ulysses “Pop” Winn, Frank Ruiz Jr., and Dr. Dennis Tartikow.
Hanshi Wendell has served on the Board of Directors of the I.M.A.A. and the Executive Board of the Martial Arts Foundation. In 2002, he was inducted to the E.U.S.A.I.M.A.A. Hall of Fame. In 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 he was honored by the Gold Coast Hall of Fame by Soke Joe Williams. In 2005, Hanshi Wendell was honored by the World Head of Family Sokeship Council, and again in 2006, and 2007.