WEDNESDAY, MAR. 28: You will never see Calvin Shabazz thumping his chest, proclaiming “I am the greatest.”

Such is the modesty of a man who has been elected to three Hall of Fames in his lifetime.

The last one was in November of 2011 – five months ago.

Many others would be quick to make sure they got their due in the press right away, but not professor Shabazz.

Contentment is a word that suits him well.

Last November he was awarded by the American Federation of Martial Arts Hall of Fame, Hall of Honour as a Platinum Warrior, which means he has been a master for over 35 years. 

Professor Shabazz had previously been awarded into the World Professional Martial Arts Hall of Fame and in the American Martial Arts Hall of Fame for mixed martial arts 2005 Martial artists of the year.

He spoke with Don Burgess about his career.


How did you get your start in the martial arts?

When I was at the Berkeley Institute I was in the Young Life programme and we used to have Friday activities and one Friday I stumbled upon Barbara Ball teaching judo. I said: ‘I like this.’ I continued to go and became a black belt in judo by the time I was 19. I used to box as well but I started karate, but I didn’t have the discipline to stay in it.

Finally, I stumbled upon Dr. Moses Powell who had a jiu-jitsu system which was based upon his observation of the grappling martial arts. He had a student in Bermuda, brother Burnell Williams. I joined him and became a third degree black belt.

How did you come to work with Grandmaster Crosson?

When I met him he was the world champion. He liked my style and I liked his style and we hooked up with the sugar ryu system and I’ve been in it for 37 years ever since.

What forms of martial arts do you do?

I do sugar ryu, bringing along jiu-jitsu and karate. I also do tai chi, bondo and my base is judo.

How did you feel getting your third Hall of Fame nod?

I was surprised. I knew I was being inducted in the Hall of Fame Hall of Honour, but I thought I was getting in as a Golden Warrior indicating that I was considered a Master for more than 30 years. But I later found out I had this other lifetime achievement award, which turned out to be platinum. That says a lot because they recognize my credentials more than I do.

The whole exercise is not to blow one’s own trumpet, but for people to know there is a world standard and we have to aspire to that – not to what the standard is for your neighbourhood or your club. It’s not easy to get there. In order to be the best, you have to work harder than the rest.

I took licks for 30 years because I am a small person — just 175 pounds. I struggled and battled through cancer and I am still here today.