Robert Trias bigraphy, stories - American karateka

Robert Trias : biography

March 18, 1923 - July 11, 1989

Robert A. Trias (1923–1989) was a U.S. karate pioneer, founding the first karate school in the mainland United States.Bruce A. Haines. Karate's History and Traditions: Revised Edition (Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1995), pg.154 He also developed Shuri-ryū karate, an eclectic style with roots in the Okinawan Shuri-te tradition.

Career accomplishments

Robert Trias was responsible for the following accomplishments in developing karate in United States:

  • 1955 - Wrote the first rules for karate competition.
  • 1955 - Conducted the first karate tournament.
  • 1958 - Wrote the first textbook.
  • 1959 - Made the first instructional film.
  • 1963 - Conducted the first world karate championships.
  • 1968 - Conducted the first professional karate tournament.

Karate in the U.S.

In late 1945, shortly before Trias left the Navy in January of the following year, he began teaching martial arts in his backyard. He later opened the first karate school in the United States mainland in Phoenix, Arizona in 1946. Trias served as an officer of the Arizona State Highway Patrol from 1946-1961 utilizing his self-defense knowledge on duty and teaching his fellow officers. In 1948 he founded the United States Karate Association (USKA), the first karate organization on the US mainland. Corcoran, John and Farkas, Emil. Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People. Gallery Books, New York (1983) p. 230Wallace, Bill. "Robert Trias and his USKA. Black Belt Magazine. March 1990, p. 12. Through his pioneering efforts in Karate, he became the United States' liaison with Korea, Japan, China, and Okinawa for many years. Jointly with John Keehan, Trias hosted the first actual national karate tournament, called the 1st World Karate Tournament, at the University of Chicago Fieldhouse in 1963 in Chicago, IL. This event was retitled the USKA Nationals in 1966 and the USKA Grand Nationals in 1968. Corcoran, John and Farkas, Emil. Martial Arts: Traditions, History, People. Gallery Books, New York (1983) p. 251 His rules for tournament competition are still used today with only slight variation.

Trias' style was known as Shorei-Goju ryu, Shorei-ryu and Shuri-ryu. Many US organizations claim to trace their roots to him and the USKA, including the United States Karate-Do Kai, Professional Karate Commission, United States Karate Alliance, International Shuri-Ryu Association, and Kondo No Shokai.

Published works

Trias authored Karate is my Life, The Hand is my Sword, The Pinnacle of Karate, The Supreme Way, and Render Yourself Empty.

Introduction to karate

While serving in the United States Naval Reserve as a Metalsmith First Class (M1c) during World War II, Robert Trias was stationed on or around Tulagi in the Solomon Islands from June 1944 to November 1945, and was a Navy champion middleweight boxer. There he met Tung Gee Hsing, a Chinese missionary of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. Hsing often watched Trias work out and imitated his boxing footwork, and he asked to practice with Trias. Trias refused because Hsing was "just a tiny little guy," but Hsing was persistent and at last Trias agreed to spar with him. Hsing gave Trias "the biggest thrashing of his life" and Trias then asked Hsing to instruct him in the martial arts.Ortiz, Sergio. "Robert Trias: pioneer of U.S. karate." Black Belt Magazine. April 1976, pages 36-39.

Hsing taught Trias some xingyiquan as well as some Okinawan Shuri-Te karate, which Hsing had learned from Choki Motobu in Okinawa. Later, Trias studied with Hoy Yuan Ping whose lineage was from the Teshin Shinjo School of Kempo Jujutsu in Japan. Trias also held a 6th dan black belt in Kodokan Judo, and studied under Yaju Yamada. Trias was also mentored by Yasuhiro Konishi and Makoto Gima.

Life before karate

Trias was employed by Southern Pacific Company as a boilermaker apprentice from 1937–39 and a boilermaker from 1939-42.


Trias was the recipient of the 1989 Black Belt Hall of Fame Honorary Award.

Death and legacy

Trias died on July 11, 1989 of cancer leaving the Shuri-ryu system to his daughter Roberta Trias-Kelley, inheritor of Shuri-Ryu and Menkyo Kaiden, and precipitating a struggle for succession within the USKA.Vandehey, Tim. "Power Struggle in the USKA: Who Will Succeed Robert Trias?" Black Belt Magazine. December 1989, p. 34. Trias is buried in Section 35, Site 112 of the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona in Phoenix.

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Living octopus

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