Byram ex-mayor honored for martial arts expertise

Submitted Photo Richard Bowe, former Byram mayor, was inducted into the International Association of Martial Arts Hall of Fame in November at the age of 73.

Staff Writer New Jersey Herald

Published 1:00 a.m. ET Dec. 29, 2011 | Updated 12:00 a.m. ET Feb. 10, 2012


BYRAM — As part of Richard Bowe’s extensive training in the martial arts, humility was always emphasized and practiced. For that reason, not many Byram residents know that one of their own is a world-renowned Aikido expert who was recently inducted into the International Association of Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

Bowe, former mayor and township municipal court judge, was inducted into the prestigious hall of fame in November at the age of 73.

“You accept an award like that with a certain amount of pride and hopefully a certain amount of humility,” Bowe said. “It’s not something you set out to try to attain, but when it comes your way, it’s certainly welcomed. … I’m proud of it.”

Bowe specializes in the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido.

“Nihon means ‘Japanese,’ Goshin means ‘self-defense,’ and Aikido means ‘the way of life in harmony with nature,'” he said.

Bowe said his interest in martial arts began when he was a curious child, shortly after World War II. Bowe said the most popular forms of hand-to-hand combat sports were boxing and wrestling at the time; but when veterans, who had faced real hand-to-hand combat, returned home, the 9-year-old annoyed them until the men showed him what they learned overseas.

By 19, Bowe was certified as a Ju-Jitsu instructor by the Sigward Academy in New York City. He then enlisted in the U.S. Army, becoming a member of the 101st Airborne Division — the Screaming Eagles — and the Army Security Agency.

Bowe was then stationed on the Japanese island of Hokkaido for two years, where he studied Nihon Goshin Aikido and earned his black belt. Bowe studied directly with the founder of the Nihon Goshin Aikido art, Master Shodo Morita, and became the first American to be awarded the rank of black belt in the art in 1962.

“This system combines the best elements of the other systems — the striking techniques of Karate, the throwing techniques of Judo and Ju-Jitsu,” Bowe said. “It focuses on self-defense, unlike many of the systems — although very effective for self-defense — that focus on tournament competition.”

Bowe went on to establish the first dojo in the United States dedicated exclusively to teaching the art of Nihon Goshin Aikido in 1963. The dojo is located in Guttenberg, and will celebrate 50 years of practice in 2013. Bowe has also received countless accolades for his knowledge and expertise, and has given demonstrations in North and South America, packing venues suchy as Madison Square Garden with 20,000 spectators.

Bowe is a 10th-degree black belt, the highest level one can attain in Nihon Goshin Aikido, and has also earned the rank of Shihan. Bowe said Shihan means “teacher of teachers,” a professor in the art — a title he attained more than 40 years ago. He has been instructing ever since.

Bowe is also one of very few Americans to be enrolled in the registry of advanced ranks maintained by the Japanese martial arts authorities, and is considered among the top 10 martial arts instructors in the United States.

The Shihan currently instructs at the Aikido School of Self-Defense in Nutley. He teaches only black belt level instructors, a class generally between six and 12 students. Those instructors then go on to teach their classes.

“Only by teaching can they advance themselves,” he said.

Through his studies of Nihon Goshin Aikido, Bowe said his teachers have taught him the physical elements of the art as well as the philosophy behind it.

He was taught to “harmonize with people,” to deal with upsetting circumstances calmly and methodically — and that, he said, is the “real effect” of his martial art applied to everyday life.

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