I was shocked to find out that Joe Lewis, voted by Karate Illustrated magazine the greatest Karate fighter of all time in 1983 (beating out Chuck Norris), suffered a brain tumor in July of this year. Joe is facing heavy rehab and is unable to work. If you’ve trained with Joe, or if you’re a fan, go to his website and make a donation.
If you don’t know Joe, here’s a virtual handshake.
A veteran of the Vietnam War, Joe earned his black belt in just 6 months while in the Marine Corps in Okinawa. In 1966 he entered his first Karate tournament after less than two years training. Literally shredding the uniforms from his opponents (read “victims”) by holding and hitting, he earned his first National Grand Champion title, which he held for 3 years. By the time he retired in 1983 he had held 11 national and international titles.
He trained with Bruce Lee and Sugar Ray Robinson. Lee taught him techniques that Lewis tested in full contact matches.
Joe was initially chosen to play the role of Colt in Way of the Dragon but was replaced by Chuck Norris at the last minute due to a disagreement with Bruce. The B-movie Joe starred in back in ’81 called Force Five was probably Tarentino’s inspiration for the fictional Fox Force Five TV pilot referenced in Pulp Fiction. In 1975 he was on the cover of Playgirl magazine.
I trained with Joe a number of times at Karate College, and even in his 60s he is a formidable force.
It’s hard to imagine better body mechanics, and his stony hands are tailor-made for hitting people in the face. Once after a workout we were discussing the reasons why people study martial arts. He said, “Mitch, if a guy has to study martial arts to learn how to kick someone’s ass, well that’s just sad. Martial arts should be about more than that, and besides, a guy should just naturally be able to kick ass if he needs to.”
Joe, I hope you’re back in top form fast.