When I think of Karate, I think of Fumio Demura Sensei. I know there are many great Karate teachers and probably even more practitioners, but to me Demura Sensei epitomizes Karate. We have all seen him but may not have recognized him. He was Mr. Miyagi's stunt double in the Karate Kid movies. I met Demura Sensei around 25 years ago when his dojo used to participate in martial arts demonstrations organized by Furuya Sensei. Sensei wanted to show the public "real" martial artists so he would always use Demura Sensei to represent Karate. He and Sensei enjoyed a wonderful friendship that I think began when Sensei worked at Inside Kung-fu Magazine, but I am not sure. Many people might not know this but Sensei was a copy editor who helped to edit many books written by famous and influential martial arts teachers in the 70s and 80s. Demura Sensei was someone I knew I could trust and I called several times after Sensei passed away for advice.
My favorite Demura Sensei story happened backstage at the Aratani Japan America Theater in the early 1990s. Sensei organized this huge event with famous martial artists from all over the world. We represented Aikido and Iaido while Demura Sensei's group represented Karate. We were all backstage waiting with Demura Sensei's group as they were about to go on. Demura Sensei and Sensei chit-chatted for what seemed like a few seconds. We stood behind Sensei and his students stood behind him like some sort of cliched scene from a campy martial arts movie. Very discreetly Demura Sensei looked at one of his students and with a hushed toned he nodded, "chairs" and his students immediately ran off to get chairs. Sensei noticed this and motioned the same for us. It must have looked like a bunch of ants running around searching for chairs. We all brought back chairs as fast as we could like it was some kind of budo race. We all set them down and arranged them and motioned for the other students to sit down but nobody did except the senseis. Sensei and Demura Sensei sat down for just a few seconds as we all stood trying to be humble and not wanting to break protocol trying to get the other students to sit. A few seconds later they shook hands and parted ways. Sensei commented after they went to the dressing room, "Man, his students are well trained" which is the greatest compliment anyone can give to another martial arts teacher.
We refer to Morihei Ueshiba as O Sensei not because he created Aikido or because he was good at Aikido. Morihei Ueshiba has the the title of O Sensei because of all the great teachers he created. Demura Sensei is a true teacher and is someone who fits that criteria too.
Youtube is filled with Demura Sensei's videos. His students recently made a documentary about his life (something I wish we have done) that is coming out soon. Here is the trailer and another video about his life.