James Richard (Dick) Curwell inducted in 2008



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Sensei Curwell was one of Hanshi Grant’s first black belts. A commercial pilot who flew to Dayton in 1968, Sensei Curwell found his way to the 5th Street Dojo. After meeting and talking with Hanshi’s wife Marge and watching a class, Sensei Curwell returned three days later to sign up. Sensei Curwell spent every day in the dojo for two years. He thrived on hard training and was eager to learn everything he could about Matsubayashi-Ryu. In 1970, Sensei Curwell left Dayton bound for Martha’s Vineyard to open up a dojo. The North Atlantic Shorin-Ryu Karate Association began on Martha’s Vineyard and was the first satellite dojo under Hanshi Grant.

Hanshi Grant describes Sensei Curwell as “a talented, intelligent, fun-loving and determined individual who became a great karatist.” Sensei Curwell received the rank of Sho Dan in 1970, Ni Dan in 1974 and San Dan on November 16, 1977 from Hanshi Grant. Sensei Curwell produced many black belts on Martha’s Vineyard. Sensei Curwell was a man of adventure. He grew up with parents who were in the circus and he played as a drummer in the national band “Spanky and the Gang.” He was a magnanimous individual who attracted all kinds of people. Sensei Curwell never met a stranger and everyone wanted to be around him.


Flying was Sensei Curwell’s first love and in 1978 he went to Florida to learn to fly a multi-engine aircraft. Shortly after, he was lost during a flight over the ocean. This was a tremendous loss for Hanshi Grant, the Martha’s Vineyard students and everyone Sensei Curwell came in contact with. Sensei Curwell left behind a legacy for the Martha’s Vineyard students to carry on. His presence is still felt in the dojo as his students continue to keep his karate spirit alive.

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