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Sensei Pat Morita

The most famous "sensei" to visit Hawaii was undoubtedly Pat Morita. I met Pat because his hanai son's daughter was in my class. Eventually, I worked on a few writing projects for him. See Noriyuki Pat Morita: In the Footsteps of a Sensei.

Pat took his role as a sensei very seriously. People would always come up to him and say "Mr Miyagi!" "Wax on, wax off." Many would relate how his portrayal of the character influenced their lives. Pat would always take time to pose for photographs, sign autographs, and "talk story" with them.

I also saw elder martial arts sensei from Japan come up and pay their respects. Pat would always treat them with courtesy and respect.

Pat did not study Karate, except for this film roles perhaps. He did learn some Judo while interned during world War II. I believe that Fumio Demura was his stunt double for the Karate Kid films.

Pat had the nicest bow. His back was always perfectly straight. One day he told me that it was because the vertebrae of his back were fused because of the spinal turburculosis he suffered in childhood.

Here are two little known facts. Karate Kid 2 was filmed here in Hawaii. Sensei Zenko Heshiki was a consultant for the project.

In Karate Kid 1, there is a scene in which Miyagi shows a picture of himself when he was a boy. The photo was of Cy Shimabukuro, the son of my first Sensei, Rodney Shimabukuro. Shimabukuro Sensei learned from Sensei Tommy Morita.

I will remember many things about Pat Morita. He was a great writer and writing coach. He was a great actor. He was a proud and hard working American of Japanese ancestry. He volunteered his name and time to many worthy projects.

But perhaps more than anything, I will remember the way his whole face lit up when he smiled. It was infectious. You had to smile and laugh when you were around him. He could delight children by his expressions, or even by folding dollar bills into animals.

Many of the sensei I have learned from have passed on. I will always think of Pat Morita with great respect and admiration among them.

Here's to you Uncle Pat!


Charles C. Goodin