Personal Martial Arts History for Robert Barton


Born in 1966 and adopted at birth my adoptive father sparked my interest in martial arts as he started teaching me basic punches and blocks as a small kid. Nothing major just some punches from boxing and some blocks and punches from karate. 

After my adoptive father died when I was in kindergarten I was not allowed to take lessons in anything. So basically I had friends show me whatever they had learned in their various martial arts classes and whenever their classes were over I would bug them the next day to show me anything new. I did this also to learn anything that I could about dance and fencing. Occasionally instructors would let me come in and take a few lessons here and there but I was not able to study long term with any martial arts or dance teacher as a child. 

 We moved around a lot during my childhood and the result of this was that I got to meet a lot of people doing a lot of different styles; it also meant that I exhausted the local libraries of their books on any sort of martial art. Most libraries had one or two books and each new town seemed to have different ones. I got to observe and occasionally participate in lots of different boxing and wrestling programs for short periods of time.

Some of the public schools in the 1970s still had combative programs in physical education so while I had no interest in any team sports I was occasionally able to box or wrestle at school and learn from those coaches in those programs. This inspired a lifelong interest in the martial traditions of Europe which had been sparked by my adoptive father teaching me the basic punches of boxing.

It was in West Columbia Texas when I was in high school that I asked my guardian to allow me to study with an instructor. There was only one in town and he was in his 20s and taught a group of about a dozen boys at his home in his shaded back yard. His name was Scott A. Stewart Sensei and he taught us a style that he called Shaolin Kenpo he had also been taught Aikijutsu and a bunch of sword kata by his mother Norma who would occasionally help out. We never knew much about the history of the art or his studies, we were kids and he could fight well and his mother was impressive. Lessons were every day except Sunday three or four hours at a time and we fought constantly without safety equipment. We were not able to test for black belt until age 18. I ended up getting my own apartment to stay there and study when I was 17 and then Scott and I rented an apartment together and I had my black belt test and award at 18. 

 I moved to Dallas at that time and I started learning Chi Kung and a few other Chinese methods from an acupuncturist. His name was Stuart Mauro Sifu and he had a clinic in Dallas and I went to him for herbs and he started showing me things from Southern Kung Fu. It was from him that I got the Seven Star Mantis herbal formula. I also worked out with many different instructors in the Dallas Kung Fu community but never became a full time student to any of them.  

I ended up moving to Tallahasee Florida in my early 20s where I met Gallop Franklin Sensei who had a dojo and was a member of Shinjimasu. I started studying from him and teaching in his school where I would eventually become chief instructor. Though Mr. Franklin was teaching us a style called Shaolin Goju many of the kata that he used were actually from Shotokan. I studied with him for several years, mostly because of his fighting abilities, honestly kata did not end up getting done much in those days but there were bruises aplenty. Mr. Franklin has been a controversial figure through the years people will say whatever they wish to say. I know the man and I taught beside him and studied from him for years he was, when in his prime, a good fighter, and his school was always a place where any student was welcome no matter their mental or physical handicaps, race, religion, gender, orientation or personal details; everyone period. 

I fit into Shinjimasu because it accepted people based solely on what they could do and so it was full of renegade martial artists. Not that my intention was ever to be a renegade but the quality of the people and the variety of instructors was great and so I was able to learn from masters of Chinese, Japanese, Okinawan, Indian, Malaysian and other arts. My loud insistence at that time that most of the ‘traditional’ forms of Okinawa were really Chinese forms and that I had been taught versions of them by kung fu teachers of the southern school was at that time generally unpopular. Shinjimasu accepted the connectedness of these forms back before many people in the U.S. would recognize these facts. 

 Many people make the mistake of thinking that Shinjimasu is a style when it is actually a family with members from many styles. Like any association it has a political side and the political side there was always intense because of the very strong personalities which many organizations would just throw out but were welcomed and dealt with in Shinjimasu. 

Mr. Thaddeus Parker Sensei was also in Tallahassee and I became a student of his for about a year, my motivation being that I was a top fighter in the School under Mr. Franklin but every black belt that Mr. Parker had would own me on the tatami. My intention was to become a better fighter and Mr. Parker had the intention of my becoming a better thinker. I was happy with what I learned about fighting but the intellectual and spiritual instruction was his greatest gift to me. I was able to study with Mr. Leon Fletcher Sensei before he died. Mr. Fletcher was a Roshi which functioned in Shinjimasu as a chaplain teaching spiritual and philosophical material. This job is present in recognition of the long association of martial arts with temples and philosophical traditions. 

I became a student of Charles A. Dixon Sensei who was the founder of Shaolin Goju and the head of Shinjimasu. A great deal is said about Mr. Dixon and details of his history and training you will need to take up with him. I can say only this; the man spent many years in the US military and so traveled the world. His knowledge of martial arts forms from Japan, Okinawa and China is comprehensive and his ability on the tatami is beyond question. His personality is strong and he is famous for challenging the status quo. I earned my 4th dan promotion in 1994 and my master’s authorization to teach at this time. It was also during this time period that I was able to take workshops with Shaolin Monks touring the U.S. My interest was Chi Kung classes with Shi Dequan. I was also honored by Mr. Robert Fuller Sifu in Houston Texas to be extended membership in the Order of the Tiger organization which he headed and I learned from him some very important details of my past tiger style and Chinese styles training. Also during my time in Houston Mr. Edward Brown Sensei walked into my school one evening and quietly watched me teach and then introduced himself after the students had gone. He returned the next day with his uniform and so began a period of my being able to teach beside this man day after day and his instruction to me personally has proven of great value. 

At this time I also was appointed  Roshi and given the orange uniform top and I came under the direct authority of the Head Abbot of Shinjimasu Mr. Adeogba Sensei. Mr. Adeogba was a Uruba tribal king who had become an American citizen during military service and who had retired from the service to Chaparral New Mexico where he built a Temple of stone in the dessert to be a training center where he taught martial arts and meditation. It is there still if you want to see it and can find it. I enjoyed it there and I have carried stones for the building process which is a strange but practical training exercise. 

To understand the position of Head Abbot picture a situation of two equals in authority at the heart of an association. The senior 10th dan holds the position of martial authority and is the senior dan ranking person this was Mr. Dixon. The Head Abbott holds the position of spiritual authority and is the senior ranking person relative to a second ranking system based on philosophy and spirituality. 

In 1999 Mr. Bahiy Muhammad Sensei nominated me to the Black Belt Hall of Fame and suggested to me that I join the Eastern USA International Martial Arts Association of which I am currently a member. It is here that I met Mr. John Kansler Sensei who along with Mr. Muhammad has mentored me. Through EUASIMAA I have met many more martial artists from around the world and it is devoid of the politics that wreak havoc in so many organizations. There are many martial arts organizations in the world and many of them have various Halls of Fame. EUSAIMAA has a membership representing more that fifty nations and recognizes many arts aside from those of Asia and It is the most professional martial arts association with which I have ever had contact and the only association which I recommend to my students, and the only one which I consider the ranking authority for myself, my students and our Ryu-ha. 

During this time I continued to study and eventually reached the rank of 7th dan in 2003 through Shinjimasu. It also unfortunately became necessary to appoint a successor to Mr. Adeogba who was stepping away from the position and I was chosen to succeed him. I was appointed Head Abbott and took charge of large aspects of teaching and I wrote a body of training essays and articles for use in the association and made numerous recommendations for changes in the by-laws.   

In the spring of 2009, I came to the conclusion that my students would be better served by a focus on teaching and by avoiding politics.  I also spoke with Mr. Kansler Sensei and Mr. Muhammad Sensei who have recognized me as 8thdan. It was decided that in order to avoid possible conflicts over names a new school of Goju should be named and recognized. I chose the name Shorin Goju which is really not much of a change except that it puts it all in the same language and was a name that I had been using for my local classes since around 2000. What does change is that we will be working with Goju kata only. We will be fully recognizing our Chinese roots.  Our ranking model will include the kyu & dan system learned by karateka originally from Judoka, and the monk system, just as the current Shaolin system in Hunan China does. 

I am still a member of EUSAIMAA association and now as my primary association though I am active with other organizations. I have been recognized as a Head of Style through EUSAIMAA and the style of Shorin Goju has also been recognized by that organization as a descendant and subsystem of the Goju schools of Okinawan martial arts and Southern Shaolin martial arts of China. Other organizations are giving their recognition as we progress. 

I welcome all people of all styles to contact me and to come and train with us, to teach and to learn. For those people who remember our time together in other organizations and to those students with whom I worked in other organizations, I’m still here and you are welcome to contact me. For those of you who wish to continue your Goju studies, we are here. 

I have also spent a lot of time researching and learning European martial arts including Highland broadsword, Irish stick fighting, catch as catch can wrestling, purring and clogging, collar and elbow wrestling, belt wrestling, jacket wrestling, back-hold wrestling, pugilism (old style bare knuckle boxing), bowie knife, quarterstaff and combat rapier fencing focusing on the Spanish school. I tend to be physically better suited by European weaponry being heavier in build. I am considered to be a traditional Master of Defense in European systems and Master at Arms in European weapons  by EUSAIMAA. I am also dedicated to the preservation of these European arts and I continue to research and support ethnic martial systems of Africa, India and Oceania and help those people get the recognition that they deserve and which will help to preserve their arts. 

In this, I listed my primary instructors but I have learned from many teachers and I would like to thank them all. If someone says that he or she ever taught me a lesson or a series of lessons it may very well be true, just ask me.

I would also state that I am proudly signatory to the Athlete Ally Pledge and I personally Insure that the Shorin Goju School of martial arts is no place for bigotry.

Here are some people that I would like to thank who were instrumental in my instruction though they were never my primary instructors: 

Mario Dunaway Sensei                                     Vidin Verbathrum Guru

Richard Dixon  Sensei                                      Lynne Dixon     Sensei             

Jess Ventura Sensei                                         Johnny Burns Sensei

Margaret Franklin Sensei                                  Robert Fuller Sifu

Clarence Beckman Sensei         


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