BURBANK – Sensei William Ford, a 5th-degree black belt in Okinawan Shorin Ryu karate (Kobayashi Ryu), has been honored by the Martial Arts History Museum for his nearly 40 years of dedication to the study, practice and teaching of martial arts.
Ford, who is head instructor and co-owner of Kaizen Dojo in Torrance, studied under the late Sensei Richard Rabago and Sensei Rabago’s mentor, Hanshi Tadashi Yamashita.
“I have known Sensei Ford since he was a teenager,” said Michael Matsuda, founder and president of the Martial Arts History Museum. “He was a great martial arts competitor and has always displayed respect, humility and good sportsmanship. He has become an amazing instructor and leader in our community. It is with great pride and admiration that the museum bestows upon him this well-deserved honor.”
Ford’s mother, who was born in Japan, encouraged him to begin his martial arts training at age 7. He wanted to quit several times, but she urged him to continue, at least until he reached black belt.
“In other words, I was forced,” laughs Ford. “I had no choice. But by the time I made it to black belt, I had developed a great passion for the martial arts, and from then on I knew I was in it for life.”
That passion also translated into work in television, film and live theater. Among other credits, he appeared with Ralph Macchio and Pat Morita in “Karate Kid III,” playing Dennis, one of the Cobra Kai “bad boys.” Ford currently performs as Cut-Throat Jack at the Pirates Dinner Adventure Theatre in Buena Park.
Ford was among a group of top martial arts practitioners who were hand-picked by the museum’s board of directors. He was presented the award by Matsuda and board member and action film director Art Camacho. Other honorees included Guro Marc Lawrence, Sensei Carl Van Meter, Hanshi Dan Hect, Sifu Robert Deahl, Americus Abesamis, and Pete “Sugarfoot” Cunningham. The ceremony took place on Sept. 7 in Burbank.
“It’s truly an amazing honor to be recognized by the Martial Arts History Museum,” said Ford, who founded Kaizen Dojo, which serves Torrance, Gardena, and other areas of the South Bay. “I am deeply grateful to everyone who helped make this possible, and I dedicate this award to my students and their families.”