A debut memoir recounts a man’s ascent through the ranks of karate, from white belt to Hall of Fame black belt.
Born and raised in Miami, the author initially became interested in karate through the films of Bruce Lee. In the early 1980s, after being assaulted by some older boys, the 14-year-old Ferguson decided to learn self-defense and chose karate. Though initially shy and reserved, he grew more confident in his classes, and he began to rise in the ranks, earning his third belt—the green belt—within nine months. The author clearly describes the various tests he had to complete to gain his belts as well as the sense of community that was fostered by his teachers, Hanshi Moises and Sensei Benny Colon. They not only brought their students to compete in tournaments, but also regularly treated them to camping trips or cookouts. Besides acquiring considerable physical skills, Ferguson writes that he also gained another family. After four years of training, he received his black belt, becoming the first to ever reach that rank under Moises and Colon. Ferguson then left Miami after eight years of training, and no matter where he moved—first to Savannah, Georgia; then Jacksonville; and finally back to Miami—he remained involved in the karate community and even opened his own dojo in Savannah. In 2017, after nearly 40 years in the discipline, he was enshrined into the United States Black Belt Hall of Fame. In his book, which features black-and-white photographs of the author and other karate practitioners, Ferguson’s prose is very matter-of-fact and rarely reflective. While his achievements are impressive, readers are not always given much insight into what they meant to the author at the time, and what they signify to him now. The writing is most engaging when Ferguson discusses his mentors and the teachers who have helped him along the way; the compelling passages are filled with reverence and love for this circle. But the author occasionally gets bogged down in terminology and minutiae that will likely leave karate neophytes confused, and the sections about his teaching style lack specific examples.
A straightforward account of a life focused on karate.