Self Defense and Body Building
Chief Karate Instructor
10th Degree Black Belt
324 North Main Street
Hutchinson, Kansas 67501
Our Grand Master
SAM PRICE, A GOOD NAME By Pastor Marc Unger, 8th Degree Black Belt
It is true that “A good name is to be more desired than great riches, Favor is better than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1), but you don’t get a “good name” overnight. In the case of Tenth Degree Grand Master, Sam Price, his “good name” has been growing for some 48 years in the art of Karate. In fact, in Hutchinson, Kansas in 1960, nobody but a few relatives from his hometown had ever heard of the name Sam Price. Then again, at that time in the midwest, almost nobody had heard much about Karate either--but Sam Price would change that.
Life was simple and peaceful--but tough--for Rufus and Hattie Price in World War II Vicksburg, Mississippi, but just five days after Christmas in 1941, they gave birth to their second son, Sammie Lee Price. After his mother’s untimely death in 1946, Sam was raised, with his older brother, James, by his “no-nonsense” father. Rufus Price taught his boys early the value of “personal discipline.” In 1960, at age 19, Sam moved to Hutchinson, Kansas where his grandmother lived. There Sam landed a job at Hartmann Industries, an iron foundry where he would work as machine operator and union steward for the next nineteen years.
Shortly after arriving in Hutchinson, Sam met Cedrick Jackson one evening at the Ebony Club. Jackson was a former United States serviceman who had picked up a limited amount of Karate while stationed overseas. Jackson came to Sam’s back yard where the two, and Sam’s friends Mickey Gomez and Darryl Pope, engaged in shadow fighting and some light sparring. Pope had picked up a little Akido from a member of the Air Force Karate Exhibition Team while at Shilling Air Force Base in Salina, KS and from Bill Maze from the (then) Hutchinson Naval Air Station. Sam hadn’t yet been taught much about the basics, but that small introduction to Karate was enough to keep Sam meeting with anyone who knew anything about Karate, fighting, or weightlifting for the next two and one half years.
In about 1962, Sam and some friends attended a Golden Gloves fight at the Convention Center in Hutchinson. Sam noticed a man there “who was built real good” and inquired as to his occupation. The man was Larry Martin, who had earned his Black Belt in Shotokan Karate while in overseas US military service, and owned a small Karate school a half hour drive away, in McPherson, KS. Sam purchased his first Gi, joined Mr. Martin’s class, and began to commute to McPherson on a regular basis to study with Mr. Martin, earning his Green Belt in Shotokan about two years later. Since there was no Karate school in Hutchinson, Kansas, Sam began to teach what he had learned thus far to about fifteen students at his home on West B Street. Weather permitting, Sam would work his students out in his back yard or in Carey Park. On other days, the group would work out in Sam’s dirt-floored garage amidst ropes and pulleys mounted in the rafters for purposes of leg stretching. It was here that Sam’s students practiced on a Makiwara made of a 1/2 inch steel plate mounted between two 2 X 4’s and hung on the garage wall. It was on this Makiwara of steel that Sam and his students would throw reverse punches and power front kicks so hard and for so long at a time that their wrists and ankles would swell “like melons on a ripening vine.”
The training schedule was hard on Sam who would first put in a tough day at work in the foundry and then come home to train for hours with his faithful students. On many different occasions, Sam would train his students a whole hour at a time trying to perfect the technique of throwing a reverse punch--the strongest technique in Karate. Sam’s grueling Karate workouts were interspersed with one hour long weight training routines where all his students did high repetitions of various lifts and all had to share one weightlifting bench. They learned to work at a feverish pace in order to get all their workout done before the session was over. This training caused Sam’s students to develop great speed, endurance, and a high tolerance for pain. To the day of this writing, Sam still has the sign in his Dojo which proclaims, “No gain without pain.”
Sam’s first tournament competition came in about 1962 at an inter-school tournament held by another pioneer of Kansas Karate, Mr. Roger Carpenter of Wichita, Kansas. Sam and his students competed with Mr. Carpenter’s students and possibly, those of one or two other schools. There were about 50-60 students competing at the event. Sam still remembers the thrill of taking second place in the Green Belt division at that time.
While continuing to instruct his own students at home, Sam met his next instructor, James Stevenson, whom he heard about by word of mouth in about 1963. Stevenson held a Black Belt in the art of Sor Yu Kan Karate, a hard-style derivative of Shotokan, and taught at the Northeast Activity Center in Wichita, Kansas. Sam commuted 1-1/2 hours round trip to work out with Mr. Stevenson for about two years, from 1963 to 1964, and there earned his Purple Belt.
Sam and Mickey Gomez continued training in Hutchinson and would drive to Wichita to train with Roger Carpenter on Saturdays. It was Roger Carpenter who told Sam that he had dominated the Green/Purple Belt division for too long and that he’d have to be promoted in order to continue to compete in open tournaments. Accordingly, Mr. Carpenter promoted Sam to the rank of Brown Belt in about late 1964.
Then, while visiting friends in Denver, Colorado, in about 1965 or later, Sam attended a tournament where he met Russ Perrone, one of Mr. Kim’s (from Korea) Black Belts in Tae Kwon Do. Perrone invited Sam to train with him and Mr. Kim any time he was in Colorado. Sam took them up on their offer and trained with them about once a month, when possible, for the next couple of years. During this time, Mr. Perrone promoted Sam to Black Belt in order for Sam to be able to compete as a member of Mr. Kim’s tournament fighting team. At a later date, Sam appeared to test before Mr. Kim who told Sam, “You are no Black Belt.” When Sam respectfully asked what Mr. Kim meant by that statement, Mr. Kim replied, “You are a Second Degree Black Belt.”
By this time, Sam’s “good name” and notoriety as a fierce tournament fighter throughout the midwest was becoming known and talked about.
As his student base began to grow, Sam began to look for a place to train that would be more suitable than his home. In 1967, he opened the first Hutchinson School Of Karate And Self Defense at an old Laundromat. At that time, 20 to 25 new students signed up for classes, but with the workouts so demanding, few of these students continued to train for very long. So Sam wound up closing this school and moving the training sessions back to his yard and garage. Then in 1968, Sam moved classes to an old, red brick grocery store. It had one small window at the top of the ceiling and a “worthless old gas heater that couldn’t keep itself warm” in the Kansas winter. From there, Sam’s classes moved to a second old Laundromat, and then into the back room of the YMCA. In 1969, Sam was sharing Hutchinson’s Convention Hall with the boxing club where the boxers would work out on the stage and Sam and students would work out on the floor of the basketball court. At this point, all sparring in Sam’s school was done with bare knuckles, no face contact allowed. Sam’s fledgling school made one more move into an old fire station before moving into it’s present location.
In 1970, Sam held his first open tournament outdoors in Shadduck Park. He called it the First Annual All Star Karate Championship and hosted about 50 competitors and 30 spectators at that time. That annual tournament, and the ones to follow, gave Sam Price a “good name” for fair, non-political judging. The tournament outgrew Shadduck Park and moved into Roosevelt High School Gym, and then into Convention Hall. By 1983, Sam’s thirteenth annual tournament would host some 300 competitors with as many as 400-500 spectators in the stands. This tournament continues into 2008 at the Prarie Hills Middle School gymnasium with it’s 38th annual competition and has earned Sam a “good name” as a first rate tournament promoter.
Sam continued to earn his “good name” in Black Belt tournament competition through the 60’s and into the 70’s. In about 1971, Sam befriended Burt Kajita, an Isshin Ryu instructor from Topeka, Kansas. Sam studied weapons under Mr. Kajita while helping Kajita and his students sharpen up their fighting techniques. It was at this time that Sam learned to use the Bo and the Nunchakus.
Then, in about 1972 , Sam met James Henshaw in Hutchinson. Henshaw had been stationed with the US Army in Sachebo, Japan and had his Black Belt in Japanese Go Ju Ryu Karate. Sam studied with Mr. Henshaw and was first promoted to Black Belt, and years later, to Third Degree Black Belt. In fact, it was during his years with Mr. Henshaw that Sam traveled to the Twin Cities area of Minnesota to compete in the first Mid-America Nationals Tournament, later to be called the Diamond Nationals. Sam won first place trophies in both the heavyweight Black Belt sparring division and Black Belt Kata division. Sam went on to win the Grand Championship in fighting at that same tournament. A “good name”, but no diamond. The diamond rings would begin to be given out the following year.
By this time, Sam had continued to train as a drug-free bodybuilder. When starting Karate training in 1960, Sam stood 5’9” and weighed 135 pounds. By the early 70’s, Sam would weigh a muscular 183 pounds which he would cut down to 163 pounds to compete in bodybuilding tournaments.
On August 10, 1974, Sam promoted Truman Irving, to the rank of Black Belt. At this writing, Mr. Irving is one of Sam's Sixth Degree Black Belts and is one of only four “A rated” PKA Karate officials in the world. Later that year, Sam promoted his second Black Belt, Mr. Mickey Gomez.
Sam continued to dominate the heavyweight Black Belt division at tournaments throughout the midwest and was virtually undefeated during the early 70’s. At this time, in about 1975, Sam was competing at a tournament in Oklahoma City held by Bun Yun at which the famous Tadashi Yamashita was doing a demonstration. Yamashita told Sam that he seemed to be “holding back” and that since he was doing quite a bit of weight training that he should be asserting himself more in the ring. And assert himself he did. In fact, from 1973 to 1976, Karate Illustrated magazine had Sam listed as the number one heavyweight Black Belt fighter in region #5, the Midwest division comprising thirteen states.
Then in 1976, at age 32, Sam “retired” from active tournament competition in order to devote more time to training his growing school of students.
In 1977, Sam found an old arcade for rent at 324 North Main Street in downtown Hutchinson. Sam immediately rented this building and remodeled it to include an office in the front, the Karate work out floor, and a weight room in back. He continued to build a student body while continuing his personal training at Karate and bodybuilding. It was in the early days at this school that Sam trained with home made weight machines made from old tractor weights and huge iron gear wheels garnered from the junkyard. In 1978, Sam won big at the “Mr. Kansas” regional bodybuilding meet in Wichita, Kansas. He took “best body part” in four categories: abdomen, back, triceps, and biceps, taking third overall at this tournament--and earning a “good name” in bodybuilding.
Sam’s students persuaded him to come “out of retirement” in 1979 so that they could see him compete at one more tournament. Sam obliged them by entering the “Master’s” division at Roy Kurban’s prestigious Pro-Am tournament held in Fort Worth, Texas. Sam went undefeated that day and landed a spot in the evening finals where his nationally ranked opponent bowed out to him before the match took place, leaving Sam in first place.
In September of 1979, Sam hired one of his students, Marc Unger, as his first business manager. Unger had studied in Jim Harrison’s Bushidokan school in North Kansas City for two years before asking Sam to train him. Unger preferred to start again as a White Belt with Sam and made the 9-hour round trip commute to work out with Sam once a week--for 1-1/2 years. By that time, Unger earned his Purple Belt, moved to Hutchinson, and saw Sam’s student body grow to about 200 students in Hutchinson with about 20 more at a small satellite school Sam had acquired in Great Bend, Kansas.
In about 1981, Sam attained the rank of Fifth Degree Black Belt and appeared as a Fifth Degree Black Belt in the 1982/83 edition of Who’s Who In Karate. Unger became Sam’s tenth Black Belt on July 24, 1982 and continued to manage Sam’s growing school on a full-time basis until February, 1983 when he left for Dallas Bible College for training as a pastor.
In about 1984, Sam started forming an association, mostly active in Kansas, called the Midwest Karate Officials Association. Sam had begun to become concerned about the inconsistency of judging at Karate tournaments in the early 70’s. He aired those concerns in a Black Belt Magazine interview in about 1972 when the idea for a formal Karate refereeing association began to take shape in his mind. Since founding the M.K.O.A. in 1984, Sam has facilitated approximately 70 qualified Karate tournament referees who have received certification as Karate officials--adding to his “good name” as a Master Instructor. All of these referees are clad in heavyweight blue uniforms with no identifying school patch on their Gi tops--only the word “judge” printed down the left breast and a last name on the back of their Gi.
At age 66, Sam Price continues to teach about 15 Karate classes per week. At this writing, he has about 75 Black Belts that he has personally trained and promoted. Approximately 10 of his Black Belts have their own karate schools. Sam continues to work out with his bodybuilding students in the weight room at the back of his school through the week while keeping Saturdays open for tournaments. When asked by this author about how he felt concerning a 1996 nationally distributed magazine article in which he was referred to as “Grandmaster Sam Price” (a “good name”), Sam responded with typical humor and humility, “I don’t know about that but I feel like a grandfather.”
In fact, Sam is a grandfather. Sam has six children: Sandra, with Sam's grandsons: Richie and Adrian; Rita, Brenda, Sam Jr., Sarah (13), a Second Degree Junior Black Belt and his son, Joseph (7), a Brown Belt.
Sam’s wife, Jessica, is a Sixth Degree Black Belt and teaches at Sam's Karate.
Darryl Pope, who worked out in Sam’s backyard that first day in 1960, received his Black Belt from Sam on October 15, 1984. Darryl, who was instrumental in getting Sam interested in bodybuilding, says of his longtime friend, “It took a lot of self discipline and dedication for Sam to accomplish his lifelong dream in the martial arts--a Black Belt. Having learned these skills and abilities, Sam is now able to work full time at what he loves best. He uses his Karate training to shape other people’s lives.”
Mickey Gomez, Sam’s senior Black Belt, has been training with Sam since 1960 and now holds the rank of Ninth Degree Black Belt. Mickey, who owns his own Karate school in Wichita, Kansas, states, “Sam truly cares about people. In the Dojo he’s all business, but he really cares about people.”
Yes, it is true that “A good name is to be more desired than great riches, Favor is better than silver and gold” (Proverbs 22:1), but you don’t get a “good name” overnight. Whether that “good name” is as one of the pioneers of Kansas Karate, as a fierce tournament competitor, as a fair, non-political judge and referee, as a first rate tournament promoter, as a successful competition bodybuilder, as a Master instructor, as a Grandmaster, or as a person who truly cares about people, you don’t get a “good name” overnight. In the words of Tenth Degree Black Belt, Sam Price, “I have tried to do it right.” Over time (48 years), that will give you a good name!