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On Wednesday, April 16, 2008, Mr. Robert Halliburton, known as Sensei to many, passed away after a battle with cancer. His last moments were spent in his home, surrounded by loving students and friends, and holding the hands of his daughters, Donna and Alyson.

Robert Halliburton was born August 14, 1944, in Houston, Texas. He attended Sam Houston High School, where he excelled in football. After high school, Robert enlisted in the U.S. Army, serving in the Special Forces. Upon returning to Houston, Mr. Halliburton joined Japan Ways School of Self Defense. He began his martial arts training on May 14, 1964, as a student of Sensei Jim Arwood and Shihan Tomosoburo Okano.

Before he earned his black belt from Sensei Arwood, Mr. Halliburton began teaching classes for Mr. Arwood and quickly discovered his true calling as a martial arts instructor. Over the years, Mr. Halliburton trained with and befriended some of the greatest martial artists of our time. In 1993, he obtained the internationally recognized rank of 5th dan from Shihan Hirokazu Kanazawa. Sensei Halliburton was a member of Shotokan Karate International and served as its General Secretary in the United States for several years. By the time of his death, Mr. Halliburton had attained the rank of 7th dan in Shotokan Karate.

As a brown belt, Mr. Halliburton began entering karate tournaments, quickly becoming a rising star on the fiercely competitive Texas martial arts scene. Throughout his competitive career, Mr. Halliburton competed against some of the top martial artists of all time, and he earned many distinctions: he is a former regional, national, and international champion; he was rated among the top ten fighters in the United States in 1970, 1971, and 1972; he was a member of Ed Parkerís 1968 US vs. Korea and 1969 US vs. Hawaii and East Coast vs. West Coast Fighting Teams. In 1966, he was Grand Champion of the Texas State Karate Championships, and in 1971, Mr. Halliburton became the Heavyweight Champion of Ed Parkerís prestigious International Karate Championships. As a martial arts competitor, Mr. Halliburton was selected to serve on competitive teams with karate notables Joe Lewis, Chuck Norris, Ron Marchini, and Skipper Mullins, among others. In 1965, Mr. Halliburton came to Fresno, California, to teach at the newly opened Way of Japan Karate School on Belmont Avenue.

By 1967, he, and his wife, Faye Justice Halliburton, owned the school. Over the next 42 years, Way of Japan would expand, boasting locations in Fresno at Cedar and Fountain Way, at Marks and Bullard, at Shields and West, and at Marks and Herndon. Additionally, Way of Japan expanded the karate market in the Central Valley with locations in Merced and Bakersfield, and student run satellite clubs in San Luis Obispo, Auberry, and Los Osos. The dojo is currently located at Marks and Bullard in Fresno.

In addition to his many individual achievements in tournaments, Sensei Halliburton was honored as a competitor, referee, instructor, and karate pioneer. He graced the cover of Karate Illustrated, Inside Karate, Official Karate, and Black Belt Karate magazines, and has appeared in Karate World and Karate International magazines. He is listed in Bob Wallís Whoís Who in Martial Arts, and Martial Arts: Traditions, History, and People by Emil Farkas and John Corcoran. Robert Halliburton was a former California Instructor of the Year, and Martial Artist of the Year. As a tournament referee, his skill and integrity earned him a spot on the list of the Top Ten Referees in the United States. The 1973, United States Karate Championships listed Mr. Halliburton as one of the top karate coaches in the United States, and he was recognized by the United Martial Arts Federation for his contributions to the development of martial arts in the United States. He is currently a member of the USA Martial Artist Hall of Fame and, in 2000, he was named a Living Legend of the Texas Martial Arts Hall of Fame. Locally, Sensei Halliburton served as a self-defense consultant to the Fresno Police Department; he pioneered womenís self defense training seminars in Fresno, and he donated his time and expertise to many local schools and charities. In the 1970ís, he was a fixture on local television talk shows. Mr. Halliburton was recognized by former Chief of Police Max Downs for his support of Fresnoís Itís a Crime rallies, and former Fresno Mayor Dale Doig honored Mr. Halliburton for his distinguished service to the people of the City of Fresno. As owner and Chief Instructor of Way of Japan, Sensei Halliburton trained thousands of students over the years; many of whom went on to become champions themselves.

As a Sensei, Mr. Halliburton was a source of guidance, strength, and inspiration to the countless number of students who entered his dojo. Sensei Halliburton touched the lives of his students in many ways, inspiring them all to fulfill their potential, and, in the process, creating a large family. Students at Way of Japan understood the meaning and significance of diversity long before it was a buzz word in business and education circles. Senseiís students came from a wide variety of races, colors, creeds, and socio-economic backgrounds, but he treated them all with equal respect and taught them all to treat each other with reverence and esteem. Sensei welcomed all students to his dojo, regardless of their shortcomings, past experiences, or inability to pay for lessons. When told that he gave misfits a place to belong and to be accepted, Sensei replied, None of you were ever misfits to me. Sensei was always available to talk with his students about their lives, their problems, and their aspirations. He praised them for their achievements, and never judged them harshly when they made a misstep. Long before it was common for children to train in the martial arts, Sensei opened his dojo for kidsí karate classes. Many of his adult students brought their own children to train with Sensei. No child who ever trained with him can forget the silly, nonsensical jokes he made up, the tickle torture or the chicken fights. The great-grandchildren of his original students are training at Way of Japan today. Adults and children alike have often said that Sensei and his dojo provided a constant, a home and a haven; a home that has always been there, and that will remain here.

When not at the dojo, Sensei Halliburton was just plain Bob or, Da, and he led a life filled with family, fun, and love. He was an avid camper and fisherman, passing down both his skills and his enthusiasm to his daughters, and taking his family camping several times each year, just one of the many activities he planned and shared with his loved ones. Family was very important to Robert, and he took every opportunity to spend as much time as possible with those he loved. His care for his family was returned ten-fold by his daughters who adored him and chose to spend as much time with him as possible. Bob was an excellent cook, a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, and a history buff. He loved to share his knowledge, whether about karate, Japanese history, the American West, the Civil War, blues music, Westerns, literature, military tactics, or sports. He had an excellent sense of humor, and enjoyed entertaining family, friends, and students with funny tales and war stories about the early days of karate in the United States. He had a razor sharp wit, and an excellent poker face, skills he used to gleefully tease and pull pranks on his friends. Robert loved all holidays, especially Halloween and Christmas, and he worked hard (and successfully!) to make each and every special occasion a memorable one for his girls.

Shihan was more than a teacher to so many. He was also a mentor and a friend. He taught us karate, but he also taught us respect, responsibility and perseverance. Shihan was truly an example to the rest.

For pictures of Sensei please visit our picture gallery.

On a personal note we all loved Sensei.  He was more then our teacher he was like a father.  We had our ups and downs but the love was always there. 


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