MSGT. H.G. Robby Robinson
For a more in depth look into Sensei Robinson's life, press the corresponding section.
As a young lad, Robinson’s interests were varied. Robinson was an acrobatic performer with the famous Jules Stone Dance Studios of New York. In the late 1940's, Robinson, known as "Buddy Lee", was a member of the WOR Radio's hit program "Juvenile Jury" and was featured in Life Magazine August 5, 1946 as well as other US national magazines. He was paid $30.00 a week in War Saving Stamps.
Robinson was strongly influenced by neighborhood Chinese Tai Chi Chuan practitioners and was introduced to Judo in 1949 through the teachings of Charles Yerkow. Coupled with a high school background in weight lifting, gymnastics, fencing, wrestling, and boxing with the New York City Police Athletic League, Robinson was well prepared for a future fulfilling career in the little-known field of martial arts, an adventure that would take him around the world and encompassing the majority of his adult life.
Life in the Bronx, a tough New York City borough, was often a volatile setting for a young boy, and not always a bowl of cherries. Spending money had to be earned and this was the beginning of self-determination for this energetic and street wise young man. Tagging along with his father, he attended the Highbridge University Rod and Gun Club meetings and field and stream activities. The young man self-taught himself, in his bedroom, the art of re-wrapping expensive bamboo fly rods for many of the R & G’s club members. He even managed to "sock" some money away for a rainy day and when there were no more fishing rods to repair, he ventured outside of the neighborhood. He built himself a shoeshine box, bought supplies and walked over the bridge connecting the boroughs of the Bronx and Manhattan to the corner of 181st Street and 5th Avenue and shined shoes on the weekends and holidays. This was really the beginning of his business acumen.
The University Rod and Gun Club also introduced Robinson to the club's indoor firing range where he became a crack shot with a police .38 caliber revolver. The club's hunting cabin in Westchester County became a welcome respite from city life and it was here where he excelled with fishing, and when his father bought him a Steven Savage Model 24 over and under 22/410 rifle/shotgun, Robinson became an avid small game hunter. His high school athletics, hunting and fishing experiences all became part of his keen survival skills, which were realized when he entered the military during the Korean War in 1952; eventually becoming one of the United States Air Force’s youngest escape and survival combative measures instructors.
1952-1976 - SERVICE
In a move to get off the streets of New York’s volatile 1950’s, at age of 17, Robinson attempted to enlist in the United States Navy’s Underwater Demolition Team (UDT) Program. Without a for certain guarantee by the Navy recruiter, he opted to follow in his older brother’s steps and enlisted in the United States Air Force and was selected for aircrew heavy bomber gunnery training in 1952.
While attending B-29 electronic turret systems gunnery school at Lowry AFB, Denver, Colorado, his background records were scanned by Headquarters USAF Special Project personnel officials and he soon found himself as a “volunteer” on his way to Fairchild AFB, Spokane, Washington, destined to become the youngest member of the USAF's Elite Strategic Air Command (SAC) Combative Armed and Unarmed Cadre of Escape and Evasion Instructors.
A quick learner from the streets of Fort Apache, the Bronx, Robinson trained under the mentorship of the late Sensei Emilio “Mel” Bruno, 8th Degree Black Belt, GS-15, Superintendent for USAF Aircrew and Air Police Combative Training and Physical Conditioning, Headquarters, SAC, Omaha, Nebraska, and a former student of Shihan Jigoro Kano; founder of the Kodokan International Judo Institute, Japan.
As the earlier USAF military martial arts programs of the 1950s and 1960s gained national popularity, the existing Armed Forces Judo Association (AFJA) Yudanshakai expanded, bringing in other sister services such as the US Marine Corps (USMC), US Navy (USN), US Army (USA) and US Coast Guard. Some of these athletes are listed below and would eventually take on several major roles as distinguished competitors, coaches and administrators, becoming a strong motivating force and a highly successful part of the history of the growth of Kodokan Judo in the United States and overall martial arts movement in general.
During 1953 at Fairchild AFB, Spokane, WA, one of the Strategic Air Command’s pilot program heavy bomber bases, Robinson trained with a team of the highest ranked Japanese martial arts masters ever to visit the United States. This prestigious grouping of Judo, Karate, Aikijutsu, Taiho Jitsu and Goshinjitsu ambassadors included Takahiko Ishikawa, Kenji Tomiki, Tadao Otaki, Hidetaka Nishiyama, Isao Obata, Toshio Kamada and Sumiyuki Kotani; the youngest of the great Kodokan 10th Degree Black Belts (Judan). This unique experience served to whet Robinson's appetite for even more knowledge and training, and thus began a serious self-study of the Japanese language, culture and customs. Prof. Robinson knew intuitively that he would eventually serve overseas and he would be as well prepared as possible.
Departing the United States in December 1955 by troop ship (USS General A. E. “Andy” Anderson) for his first Far East Asia overseas tour, upon arriving in the seaport of Yokohama Bay, Robinson was initially assigned to the USAF Chitose AFB on the island of Hokkaido. This was the central Japanese base that planned the Japanese invasion of Pearl Harbor. Upon arriving, he was subsequently relocated to the US Army's former First Cavalry Garrison at Camp Crawford, Sapporo, Japan, as the overall Director of Special Services. It was here that he began his formal Kodokan training with his Sensei and mentor Yasumasa Kanemoto, Kudan, a direct student of Jigoro Kano and a superb mat technician. In 1956, Robinson was awarded Kodokan Shodan in Judo while training alternately with Japanese Military Self-Defense Forces in Kendo and Shorinji Kenpo. Relocating to Tokyo in 1957, he studied Shotokan Karate under Hidetaka Nishiyama at Fuchu Air Station and Kodokan Judo at Minami Koen (Green Park Annex) with Kodokan Sensei, the late Sadaki Nakabayashi, Hachidan.
A myriad of assignments throughout the United States as a Senior Judo Coach and USAF Military and Combative Tactics Instructor included providing Law Enforcement Arrest and Control training to officers of the Vice and Narcotics Branch (VNB), Austin, Texas Police Department and Texas Public Safety Department. He also served as an undercover agent for the VNB teaming up with his student and friend, Austin LEO Tom Graham. The loss of his Judo student, Austin Texas Police Officer, Billy Speed, one of many victims of the infamous University of Texas Tower Massacre, only served to reinforce Robinson's concerns for these guardians of the law in both the military and civilian sectors. Standing alongside hundreds of mourners at Fort Sam Houston's National Cemetery clearly served to reveal the mutual respect shared by all in attendance and moreover the seriousness of this most dangerous, deadly and oftentimes unappreciated public service occupation.
In 1968, he would engage in combat hand-to-hand security police training during his first overseas assignment to Southeast Asia. Robinson designed the program criteria and trained over 500 US and Foreign national security force personnel.
During 1964, while attending a USAF Advanced Senior Instructors Martial Arts Training Course at the Kodokan Judo Institute, Tokyo, Japan, the Foreign Division's Senior Sensei Sumiyuki Kotani promoted Robinson to Nidan. Mr. Risei Kano, son of the originator of Judo, Jigoro Kano, presented Robinson's promotion certificate to him in ceremony at the former Kodokan Judo Institute. Robinson, a student of Kodokan Kata under Kotani Sensei, was his teacher’s uke during the late Judo Masters’ tour of the mid-west during the early 1960’s.
In 1966 after extensive training in advanced techniques, Kotani Sensei advanced Robinson to Sandan.
Since 1952, Professor Robinson has developed over 28 national and international martial arts clubs. To this day he supports 3 outreach martial arts activities.
Thailand - Humanitarian Projects
Departing Bergstrom AFB, Austin, Texas in 1968, Robinson arrived in Tan San Nhut airfield, Saigon, South Viet Nam, just after “Tet 68”. Robinson’s orders took him forward to Thailand’s Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base supporting the F-105 “Thud” fighter bomber mission and the CIA Det 3. Here at Takhli his martial arts reputation and the need to improve the base security program against possible insurgency and the ongoing “Sapper” concerns, Robinson appeared to be tapped towards continuing his former SAC military career, wearing several hats as an USAF Strategic Air Command Combative Measures and Security Police Tactics Escape and Evasion Armed and Unarmed Close Ground Combat Instructor, acting Civic Actions and Community Relations Liaison Officer and his primary duties as a Superintendent of USAF Recreation Services.
During his first Southeast Asia tour, Robinson created, designed and instructed the first close ground combative hand-to-hand fighting program for in excess of 500 U.S. military Security Police personnel, Royal Thai Air Force Security Force Personnel, and local law-enforcement agencies in central Thailand. Robinson was decorated by the Royal Thai Security Forces Supreme Regiment Command (Regimental Badge of Honor 2nd Class).
At Takhli RTAFB in 1968, Robinson also teamed up with the late Kajukenbo Grandmaster, Richard Peralta to introduce Kenpo Karate, Judo and Jujitsu, developing the largest martial arts program on any of the seven in-country Thailand US military bases and those in South Vietnam.
In view of his many selfless acts of Goodwill, Robinson earned the Thai nick name of “G. I. Jai Bun”, translated as G. I. Good Heart.
With the Vietnam War coming to a close, missions of the U.S. Forces in Thailand began to change in lieu of their projected departure. Robinson's duties were contingent on base closures. After assisting with the second closure of Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Robinson, was assigned north to Ko Kha Air Station, Lampang, Thailand, supporting the 17th Radar Squadron, 14th Air Force, USAF Air Defense Command (Radar Satellite Global Tracking System under SPACETRACK and Cobra Talon. Wearing several hats including that of the command regional civic action officer, Robinson was part of the team that closed Ko Kha AS in 31 May 1976. Robinson reported to U-Tapao, Royal Thai Navy Base with final assignment to Castle AFB, Atwater, California, as the Command Superintendent of Recreational Services.
During the period between 1974 –1976, MSGT William “Bill” Waterfield, was a field advisor for the late General Heine Aderholt, Commanding General, JUSMAGTHAI and the last General Officer to leave Southeast Asia.
MSGT’s Waterfield and Robinson were good friends since 1968, in Takhli, Thailand, where they were both assigned. In 1974, Waterfield introduced Robinson to General Aderholt and this was the beginning of a long and enduring friendship between Robinson and the General.
Even after retiring from the USAF in 1976, Robby and wife Renee, continued to volunteer and support civic action/humanitarian projects within Thailand which are aimed at improving the health and welfare of Thai children and those in need who are far removed thereby isolated from the major urban cities. A complete list of humanitarian projects is included in the Thailand section of this website.
Retiring from military active duty on December 31, 1976, Robinson returned to Hawaii to complete his formal academic education. Robinson became an instructor with the Health, Physical Education and Recreation Department, University of Hawaii, Manoa, Oahu, teaching credited martial arts courses on campus. A close friend of the late USMC Major Donn F. Draeger, Robinson worked alongside Sensei Draeger on the development of a new academic disciple named Hoplology, and over the years has written numerous articles on physical fitness and martial arts.
In 1981 after completing his Associates, Bachelors and 1.5 Master’s Degree programs, Robinson was selected out of a field of 128 candidates for Department of Defense civilian employment as the Director, Morale, Welfare and Recreation, UA-12, Barbers Point Naval Air Station, Hawaii (1981 - 1984). In 1985 Robinson relocated to Pensacola, Florida.
In December 1989, the call of the military soon came again and Robinson was recruited as a Department of the Army Civilian Employee leaving for Camp Howze, Munsan Ri, Paju, Republic of South Korea (ROK).
In 1996, while serving as the Acting Director of Personnel, Community Activities (DPCA), Camp Casey, Korea, Robinson was offered a position and promotion for assignment to Monterey, California with the Department of the Army Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Institute as the Garrison Director of Community Activities (DCA), GS-13. He subsequently served the garrison as the Garrison Operation’s Officer, and the first Department of the Army Family Fitness Officer.
In 1998, Robinson once again responded to the call of the military and was recruited for his first European tour of duty and assigned to Warner Kaserne (Barracks), Bamberg, Germany as the Base Support Battalion Community Recreation Officer.
In November 1999, Robinson was promoted and reassigned to the Headquarters, 98th Area Support Group, Faulenburg Kaserne, Wurzburg, Germany, home of the famous First Infantry Division - the Big Red One. As the Headquarters Senior Community Recreation and Business Operations Officer, Professor Robinson oversaw the overall United States military community morale, welfare, recreation, physical fitness and business needs of 4 major base support battalions (BSB).
On June 14, 2003, blessed after 13 years of marriage, the Robinson family celebrated the birth of their daughter, Jasmine (Mali) Sangwan (named after the late King of Thailand's Mother). With the birth of his youngest daughter, Robinson opted to retire early and on October 2, 2003, the Robinson family departed Germany returning to set up full time residence in the Kingdom of Thailand.
Appointed by USAF BGen Heine Aderholt, former Commanding General, Joint United States Military Advisory Group, Thailand (JUSMAGTHAI) and famed Commander, USAF Air Commando Group, Thailand, Robinson served as the volunteer Southeast Asia (SEA), Executive Director for Civil Welfare Projects, USAF Air Commando Association/Special Operations - McCoskrie/Threshold Foundation for a world-wide organization of former and active duty military members of the Air Commando Association (ACA)/Special Operations Command, whose record of World Medical Relief has surpassed $300,000,000 in aid throughout many countries including Thailand and South America.
In January 2005, after taking into consideration the present circumstances following the devastating Andaman Sea Tsunami of December 26, 2004, and the ongoing escalation of Muslim extremist terrorism in the Southern Providences of the Kingdom of Thailand, as well as the need to set down permanent and safe roots for their daughter, the Robinsons returned to Pensacola to reestablish their residency. Although they will spend the majority of their time in the USA, they hope to share time between Florida and Thailand, on occasion, continuing their roles, whenever possible, as volunteers with the Air Commando Association and the Royal Thai Air Force.
With a distinguished active duty and Department of Defense career spanning some 50 years, with numerous military decorations, both foreign and domestic, and passionately dedicated to the Kanonian principle of Jita Kyoei ~ Mutual Aid and Reciprocity, Robinson will continue to concentrate and dedicate his time and energy towards improving the Quality of Life for military personnel and their families through the positive elements of martial arts training.