It’s no laughing matter when Ron Honeycutt says that he may owe karate his life, but ironically, he has invested most of his life in the ancient art form.
That commitment paid off this month, when Honeycutt, a local Isshinryu Karate instructor earned his Ku-Dan (9th degree) rank and a Lifetime Achievement Award — as he finished his 50th year in Isshinryu karate.
The red belt is the highest rank in the karate system, and it is a Grandmaster rank, according to Honeycitt. He said that it wasn’t as much of the skills that he has acquired during his five decades of practice, but the time that he has invested that helped him earn the honor.
“A lot of people that take karate only last one day and decide that isn’t what they want,” Honeycutt said. “But there is only 1 to every 100,000 that gets a red belt. So it’s not that it’s hard to do, but it’s like everything else, you have to stay with it.”
Honeycutt also mentioned that he is in three different Isshinryu Hall of Fames, but some of his most memorable experiences came as a law enforcement officer — both with the Johnson City Police Department and the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. During his over 35 years of service, he also taught defense tactics during the police academies.
“Being a policeman and being on the SWAT team and different things like that, and teaching these skills to other officers, it has helped me a lot in my work,” he said.
He said that the karate gets in your blood and the tournaments turn into family reunions. And his family is often referred to as the first family of Isshunryu as his son has a seventh-degree belt and his daughter is a fifth-degree, along with his grandson that is a fifth-degree belt. Two other grandchildren also hold high rankings.
When he first started, Isshinryu was a new form of karate that was started in 1954. The art form stresses “close-in” techniques that are more practical on the street vs. high flashy kicks for example.
Those skills came in handy during his police work.
“In police work, you have to be able to control people, without hurting them,” he said. “I think that is where my expertise came in, because I was able to take karate and turn it into a defensive tactic and we would mix in Jiu Jitsu and disarmament.”
Honeycutt, has owned a school in Johnson City for 48 years and his school is currently a ministry of Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church.