To the friends of Joyce Brown: It is with deep sadness that I write to you regarding the passing of Joyce Brown. She was a great mentor and dear friend. Her funeral will be held on Saturday April 7th, the viewing will be a 1 pm, the services following at 2 pm. The following is the address: Watkins Brothers Memorial Chapel 4000 Brush Creek Blvd. Kansas City, MO 816-861-3030 Because the funeral for Joyce Brown is this up coming Saturday we will be postponing the common sense self-defense seminar until the following weekend April 14th. Below is the reschedule notice. If you have any question please contact me at 620-669-9051 or 620-664-2936. In friendship, Jessica Price
JOYCE BROWN: THE GENTLE WARRIOR "Out of all the people I have met in my life, Joyce Brown stands out as one of the best human beings I have ever known. There’s nothing more I can say. Nothing more I have to say because Joyce’s actions, as far as Karate goes, spoke for themselves…She has always been fair and loved people and that’s what I have appreciated about her the most." Grandmaster Sam Price, 10th Degree Black Belt, Sam Price’s Go Ju Ryu System. The article below first ran in Action Martial Arts Magazine in 1996. We have lovingly posted it here in honor of our sister and dear friend, Joyce Brown whose untimely death on 4-1-2007 has left us grieving her passing and remembering her love: JOYCE BROWN IS "ALL RIGHT! " Kansas City, MO "When I came in [to Karate], I don’t think they really took women seriously. One of them [my instructors] said, ‘I did not’t think you’d last long.’" Twenty-two years later, Joyce Brown is still in the martial arts--17 of those years as Karate Illustrated Magazine’s (and NBL’s) number one rated female fighter in the Midwest region. This is her story: "I was always fascinated with Karate," says Joyce. "I watched a Bruce Lee movie, "Enter the Dragon," it really pushed me to go into Karate." The year was 1974. Joyce enrolled at Traco International Karate on 40th and Broadway in Kansas City, MO. She says, "I picked that school because it was on a bus line. Originally, I got into it just for the exercise. I was in Karate about four months when my 18 year old sister died. I became depressed and left Karate for a time. At that point, a friend called me and invited me back to class. I started working out harder and harder to try to forget things--then I got into fighting and I loved it!" Joyce continues, "I started really training with Gary McGee and Cecil Ford. What Gary McGee did...he really worked my form for about a year. Then, Cecil Ford watched me one day and said, ‘You know, you’ve got a lot of potential, I want to work with you.’" "I started on the competition circuit in about 1975," says Joyce. Commenting on women’s fighting divisions in the mid-seventies, she states, "Back then, they didn’t have good division breakdowns for the women. You might be an Orange Belt and have to fight a Brown or Black Belt. Later, or at larger tournaments, they broke the women up into novice and advanced divisions." Joyce’s outlook in Karate changed dramatically when, she says, "In 1977, Karate Illustrated came out with a new rating system and I saw that they had me rated as the number one female fighter in region five"--an eleven-state region. "When I started fighting on the circuit," comments Joyce, "I started beating everybody. I kept hearing about a man named Sam Price but I never saw him fight. Then I went to one of his tournaments [in Hutchinson, KS]. He was in good physical condition and he had an air about him. When he walked into the room, everybody knew who he was. To me, he was, and is, the epitome of a Black Belt." Joyce remembers, "I had been up most of the night with insomnia and I ended up losing my first fight by one point...I didn’t make an impression on anyone [except Mr. Price]." She continues, "Later, Sam started paying attention to me. I had never had an instructor travel with me to tournaments, or speak up for me. He asked me why I was still wearing a Brown Belt. I told Sam that the system I was in was real slow with promotions. Sam got me to thinking, ‘Why am I still a Brown Belt?’" By that time, 1980, Joyce had trained with her original school for seven years. Then, with Mr. Price’s poignant question still ringing in her ears, Joyce continues, "So I started to train with Dan Kennedy in Topeka, KS and got my Black Belt from him within a year. This was in Okinawan Kempo in 1981." But in order to train with Mr. Kennedy, Joyce had to drive from Kansas City, MO to Topeka, KS--a round trip of about three hours. She continues, "I was with Dan about three years. Dan really worked on my Katas. He made my basics and my foundation better and this greatly improved my fighting skills." Joyce continued to hold on to the number one female fighter rating from 1977 through approximately 1983. "Then," she says, "I stopped competing for about a year and dropped from the ratings. I was burned out real bad...you know, the politics. The higher you got in the ratings, the more political pressure was on you. Sometimes I just wanted to be some unknown fighter; not Joyce Brown, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with that pressure." Then, in about 1984, Joyce continued her training in Overland Park, KS with Mr. Steve Mackey of Jim Harrison’s Bushidokan system. By 1989, says Joyce, "I was the first female that Bushidokan Karate had ever granted a Black Belt to under Steve Mackey." But, in 1984, Joyce’s break from the pressure of being number one was to only last a year. "I got the number one rating back in about 1985," says Joyce, "and held it for a few more years...long enough to prove that I could get it back and hold on to it. After that, I stopped doing about twenty-five tournaments per year and cut it down to about ten. I would maybe go to competitions that I knew would have female fighters, like Denver. But then, something happened, in about the 90’s, where the women fighter population seemed to go down for some reason. I was looking for competition; not easy wins." Joyce, sounding like a person with a quest fulfilled, says, "I finally quit active competition last year, 1995. I wasn’t excited about it anymore. I’d done everything I ever wanted to do--I have been fighting for twenty years!" Joyce told this writer, "I am finally slowing down, Marc." In 1996, Joyce was invited by her old friend, Mr. Sam Price to his tournament in Hutchinson, KS. Mr. Price staged a surprise gathering of his higher ranking Black Belts at his school and awarded Joyce her Third Degree Black Belt. "I remember being surprised...I can’t even describe it," says Joyce. "I felt overwhelmed that someone of Sam Price’s stature would honor me in such a way." Mr. Price comments, "Of all the Black Belts that I have ever met, I have more respect for Joyce Brown. Because of Joyce’s honesty and respect for people--not only in Karate, but in everyday life. She truly loves people and she loves the martial arts more than anyone I know." While Joyce dearly loves the martial arts, she never aspired to open her own Karate school. "I never did get into that," says Joyce, "I liked the freedom... [of not having the responsibility of owning a Karate school]...I loved the freedom I had to travel and compete in tournaments." However, says she, "I taught under Mr. Mackey about 10 years." Still enjoying that freedom of travel, Joyce says, "I’m just wrapping up by doing self-defense seminars." Indeed, Joyce co-founded Life-Defense Seminars in May of 1995 to reach out to companies and educational institutions with a "common sense" curriculum consisting of crime awareness, attitude development, and self-defense. In addition, Joyce has hosted her annual Midwest Open Karate Tournament since 1981. Owing to Joyce’s sweet spirit and fair, non-political judging, her tournament is one of the most successful in her area. Considering the benefits she has derived from Karate, she says, "Being an inner city kid, we didn’t go very much into the outside world. We’d kind of segregated ourselves, so to speak. I lived in a small world. Karate helped me to grow up. I started meeting different people with different kinds of backgrounds, and traveling all over the country." During her career as a Karate fighter, Joyce held down a full-time job with AT&T Plant for 20 years. Currently, she works as a Customer Service Supervisor with Skillpath Seminar Company in Mission, KS. Joyce’s advice to girls and women coming into the martial arts is to, "Know what you want and go straight to it...Karate has strengthened me mentally, any other problem in life I have, I just go head first into it." She says, "Dang, if I could do it; you can do it." Looking toward her future, Joyce is, "Open, looking for a new horizon." But, with a backward glance she says, "Whatever I’m going to do, I’ll always remember where I came from because I have great memories of my career in Karate." Indeed, when asked to recount some of the highlights of her long career, Joyce remembered: "The first highlight of my career was at the Nationals in Oklahoma City in about 1982. I had just got over the flu and had to struggle through the eliminations. I was a little Brown Belt and I figured, ‘What have I got to loose?’ And here I was, going up on the stage in the evening finals to fight the number one rated female fighter in the country, Linda Denley. I ended up loosing, but I gave her such a good fight that when I left the stage, people were asking, ‘Who was that?’" The people of Kansas City, and indeed the State of Missouri found out who Joyce Brown was, "In February of 1994," says Joyce. "They were doing a Black History Month series on the television in the Kansas City area. I came from the inner city and, at that time, most all the publicity on inner city people was negative. The television news anchor woman did an in-depth interview with me. The idea was to showcase how Blacks coming out of the inner city could really make a difference...I’m just living my life the way I want--and if it’s a role model, then let it be...I never stopped to think how I was making a difference in other people’s lives." Joyce continues, "The newswoman won an award for that interview. And that one short piece got me more recognition outside of the Karate world than I had ever had. That led to the seminars that I started doing." "Another highlight of my career," says Joyce, "was at Dan Kennedy’s regional tournament in about 1985, I got to fight with all the hard, top rated female fighters in the region. I beat them all that day and I said to myself, ‘Brown, you’re all right.’" And maybe that’s what Karate is all about. Earlier in this article, Joyce reflected on her first years in Karate, "I didn’t think I deserved it...I didn’t think I had proved myself...I set out on a mission to prove that I deserved it....I had to prove it to myself." Now, years later and with the confidence of a true champion, Joyce can say to herself--for the rest of her life--"Brown, you’re all right!"
Pastor Marc Unger is a Seventh Degree Black Belt in Sam Price’s Go Ju Ryu System. He has been in the martial arts over 31 years, and owns Marc Unger Karate in Exeter, CA where he teaches Karate from a Christian perspective. Marc has five children and all are advanced Black Belts. This article first appeared in Action Martial Arts Magazine in 1996.
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