Sam D. Pearson,

Sensei, Soke


As a martial artist of half a century of dedicated training and teaching thousands of karate students, when asked of his proudest achievement, he replied:

"My service with the United States Marine Corps"


Watai Karate-Jitsu, 9th Dan, Hanshi, Soke

Shorin-Ryu Karate Do, 9th Dan

Kobudo, 2nd Dan

Judo, 1st kyu



Pearson, Sensei first began his martial arts training while serving his first tour in Japan with the United State Marine Corps, and later continued when stationed in Okinawa. A young man fresh out of Marine boot camp training, he was eager to see what lay ahead of him in the world and in martial arts. As an adolsecent in mid-Florida, he attanded high school, played baseball and was always a "high energy" kind of guy. Always looking for something else. Something new, or a way to improve that in which he was currently envolved. This was true when I first met Sensei 30 years ago and is still true to this day.

Like many of his era Sensei's early life was not easy, born in 1936, he was raised by his grandmother in Florida, when his granny became disabled, he was returned to his mother. “She was on her third husband by that time,” he said. In regards to his father, Sensei commented to a recent reporter by saying his recollection of his father as a child is simple. "He was around, but he wasn’t around me”.

At 17, he was a teenager looking for direction and he found it when military recruiters came to his Florida high school in 1953. “I wanted to get away and do something,” he said. It seemed that Sensei and the Marines had a mutual respect for a no-nonse and disaplined approach, as well as a direction for his future. Their relationship last for 20 years and according to Sensei is his life's crowining achievement. Similarly, his long term relationship to martial arts has lasted until the present and many who have trained with Sensei will attest that as the Corps had done for him, in large part, his enfluence changed their lives.

Above are the photos that span a career. The first is Pearson, Sensei and his teacher Grandmaster Shimabuku(ro), Eizo, in 1959 the photo was taken in Okinawa. The second of the pair was taken in New Bern, N.C. in 1996 at a reunion seminar hosted by Scott Warren, Sensei, the successor to The New Bern School of Martial Arts.

The above left photo is Sensei and a Vietnamese Soldier during Sensei's "Gunny" days in Vietnam. The photo on the above right is Pearson, Sensei with Grandmaster Toyama, Kanken. O'sensei Toyama promoted O'Sensei Shimabuku(ro) to 10th Dan.


Sensei is a man of many firsts . . . He was the first (and only) in his high school class to enlist in the Marines, was a first generation student of the founder of the systems of martial arts in which he trained. Watai, Kanjo of Gotemba Japan (Watai Karate Jitsu), and and more notably Shimabuku(ro) Eizo of Morisato, Okinawa, Japan (Shorin-Ryu Karate). Pearson Sensei, was one of the first to return to the United States and begain teaching karate in this country and has become one of the premier founding pioneers of martial arts in the history of U.S. martial arts today. Pearson, Sensei opened a dojo at Camp Lejeune N.C. while stationed there and represented the Marine Corps at tournaments around North America.

A quick search of the internet regarding Sensei will produce an ever expanding number of martial artist who point to Pearson, Sensei as part of thier foundation and training. It speaks to the respect he has garnered over the years. He was one of the earliest practitoners of the arts to be ask to demonstrate the art to for sitting President (Gerald Ford) and to provide training to the FBI. After retiring from the Marine Corp Sensei settled in New Bern, North Carolina and soon opened the New Bern School of Martial Arts where he produced many notable students and ran the Annual Battle of the Carolinas Karate Tournament for more than 20 years.

Above is the group photo of the 1963 Canadian Karate Championships. Pearson, Sensei is third from the left on the front row.

It goes without saying that if you have been doing something as long as Pearson, Sensei, you make lifelong friends, aquantences and assorted others. Above left is from the 1965 Nationals. Sensei with John Pachivas, Henry Cho, Harold Long, Pioneers all! And on the above right, Sensei is pictured Don Bohan on the left-front a long respected teacher of Isshin-Ryu.

Feeling like he had accomplished much of what he set out to do, Sensei once again begain to look for new ground to cover and decided to turn over his Shorin-Ryu Dojo to his senior student and revisited his earlier roots of Watai karate and began restoring and teaching the system in which he began is martial arts journey, so that the system and his teacher's efforts would not be lost in time. For more information on Sensei's Watai journey please check out the link:

And so the work continues. Above left, Sensei is with his two ranking Watai students, Brian Authur (left) and Steven Wood (right) who are carrying on the long tradition of those that went before them, and upper right Sensei just finishes testing of which I was fortunate to be a part.

Sensei is still working on perfecting his skills and eventhough he has had some health issues of late, his spirit remains indominable. I am sure I speak for hundreds of students, present and past when I say thank you for all your hard work both for yourself and for us.

Pearson Sensei has always posessed a sharp and active mind. Years ago he felt like it would be a worthy goal to become a member of MENSA which is the international IQ-society and at the age of 74 still works tirelessly to stay active and keep his mind sharp.

You may find more information about Sam D. Pearson, Sensei, at the following links: