Shihan Herbert “Herb” Edmon Jr. grew up in the South Broadway area, and due to the volatile situations he usually encountered living in this community, he developed an interest in marital arts to learn self defense. During the sixties, racial discrimination prevailed in most facilities offering marital arts training in the state; although one exception was the YMCA (Young Men Christian Association), then located at First and Central. The YMCA offered free classes, and in 1965 he started marital arts training, and he also played the sports that were part of the daily activities. He was impressed and liked the way the YMCA staff organized and supervised these games. This was very different from the way he and other boys played these same sports in the neighborhood’s Killer Park; as it was known then; at the corner of Edith and Stadium (now Avenida Cesar Chavez). The game rules were made as they played which generally caused disputes that, more often than not, led to fights by the end of the game.
Shihan Herb Edmon Jr. had a great interest in marital arts, and began studying these techniques in 1965 at the downtown YMCA, located at First and Central. It wasn’t only his interest in learning marital arts techniques, but at the YMCA he had the opportunity to play sports that were organized and supervised by the personnel, and this he liked. This was so different than the way sports were played in the neighborhood where he grew up. He, his friends, and other boys gathered to play sports in Killer Park (as it was known then) at Edith and Stadium (now Avenida Cesar Chavez), and rules were made as they played, which more often than not led to disputes and fights by the end of the game.
In 1968 Shihan Edmon enlisted in the Marine Corp, and while on tour of duty in Vietnam, he continued studying marital arts, and also in Okinawa, Japan when he was later transferred to a military base there. In 1969 he was promoted by one of his instructor’s; Won Lee to a brown belt in Taki Tan Do. After his military stint he returned to Albuquerque in 1970 filled with the desire and mission to do something to rectify the damage done to families in Vietnam by Americans. He decided one way was to address a need he had noticed in the community, and provide an avenue to learn self defense. Shortly after his return home he began teaching marital arts at the South Broadway Opportunity Center located at the corner of Broadway and Gibson, and he readily accepted women and youth in the classes. He had hopes of getting the city involved in assisting the disadvantaged and underprivileged in the surrounding community in this form of self defense.
Shihan Edmon had heard of an Afro-American from New York, by the name of Joseph “Chico” Burgess who was considered one of the best in Albuquerque, in the Isshin Ryu Karate style he taught. One night, Shihan Edmon happened to meet Burgess outside of Okie Joe’s Restaurant & Nightclub at University and Central, and was informed by him that he was in the process of opening up a karate dojo. Whereas when Burgess opened the dojo in late 1971, Shihan Edmon joined and was introduced to this form of Isshin Ryu Karate. The newly opened dojo was housed in the former Big Bear grocery store, located at the corner of Broadway and Dan, and is now part of the Elks Temple Lodge. Shihan Edmon not only became one of Burgess students but also helped out as an instructor. He was promoted in 1972 by Burgess to a black belt in Isshin Ryu Karate.
Over time the Isshin Ryu Karate dojo started experiencing financial difficulties because many of their students were impoverish and unable to pay dues. In 1973 a City Social Worker by the name of Anita Edmon unknowingly offered a financial solution to the karate instructors, as well as to some of the students. In this time period there was only one Afro American employed at the Fire Dept., and Black community leaders were pushing the City to hire more minorities. As one such community leader; Anita Edmon encouraged Afro American students; Burgess, Ali, Edmon and “Fat Cat” as well as young men from the surrounding neighborhoods to submit their applications for employment. All those who submitted applications were hired although one quit before he completed the training.
Due to the rigorous training the new recruits had too undergo, and the demanding schedule once they became firemen, there was little time left to handle the responsibilities for the upkeep of the dojo, financially or otherwise. This led to the closing of the dojo, although prior instructors and students managed to find other places to work out and practice Isshin Ryu Karate. As the new firemen worked to obtain financial security they also concentrated on their professional growth and advancement with the Meanwhile the new firemen concentrated on their professional growth and advancement within the Fire Dept as they gained security for themselves and families.
Shihan Edmon formally began teaching Isshin Ryu Karate in 1980 out of his home. He started with his wife; Sensei Barbara and their children; Herb Jr., Edward, and Sandra as his students. The neighborhood children got a thrill watching the family practice, and wanted to be a part of the action. Soon as more and more of the neighborhood children started participating so did the need for more room to hold these classes. Throughout this time as Shihan Edmon tried to get a foothold as a Isshin Ryu Karate teacher, Sensei Barbara was by his side, as well as the children; being supportive and encouraging him to follow his dream, and she has continued to do so over the years. Shihan Edmon admits that he might not have gained what they currently have if it had not been for her unwavering attitude that he could and would succeed.
Shihan then moved the classes to Thomas Bell Coummunity Center where he utilized the larger facilities for his classes. At Thomas Bell with the help of instructor Kenny Sewell new programs and activities were incorporated and the membership grew daily. In 1982, Kenny Sewell became the first person trained by Shihan Edmond who was promoted the Isshin Ryu Karate black belt. followed in 1988 by the black belt promotions of Barbara Edmon, Edward Edmon II, Dion Carrell, and Leah Lee Duran. During the years between 1984 -1994 the membership continued to expand and the club’s favorable reputation was recognized throughout the city for the quality of their programs. Again there was a need for a larger facility, plus Shihan Edmon had a desire to have his own place.
In 1984 an opportunity arose, and he was able to lease the Texaco gas station on Gibson that had gone out of business. He reconfigured the floor plans and remodeled the facility to fit the needs of his classes, and Isshin Ryu Club Inc. became its official name. Meanwhile in between 1993 and 1994 City Councilman; Steve Gallegos and City Manager; Mark Sanchez worked together, and was finally able to obtain from Intel Corporation the building that is the current home of Isshin Ryu Karate Club Inc., and since satellites offering Isshin Ryu Karate have opened at various sites throughout the city; such as Los Padillas Community Center, and Paradise Hills Community Center. Also Alvarado Community Center, as well as other community centers has hosted Isshin Ryu Karate events.
As Sensei Edmon continued to teach classes, he was also honing his Isshin Ryu Karate techniques, and has earned the honorable and respected title of “Shihan” with the distinction of being the only holder of a 7th degree black belt in the state of New Mexico. Isshin Ryu Club has thrived and grown, and provides a variety of educational, fitness exercise, and dance programs, and annually organize and hold community events almost every month of the year (see attachments for a listing of events and current programs).