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Even though Grand Master Karlo Fujiwara was not at the Dae Myung Invitational Tournament on Saturday, his spirit pervaded the event.

About 150 competitors of all ages showed off their best form in tae kwon do and judo in the Castle Rock Middle School gym. But rounds always began and ended with a bow.

The winner might smile, but there was no whooping and no boasting. And when a sparring match ended, one opponent reached down to pull the other off the floor.

They practiced the five tenets of tae kwon do that Fujiwara lived by — respect, etiquette, loyalty, modesty and patience. It was something the nationally known grand master taught all of his students in his 40-plus years of teaching martial arts.

Fujiwara, who died from a stroke last June at age 78, had planned the tournament to coincide with his daughter’s concert at the Alberta Bair Theater. Despite his absence, the tournament went on as planned, with his wife, Anne, and three children, Korine, Kyri and Rinney, at the event.

Later in the evening, Korine, who lives in Tacoma, Wash., was scheduled to play with her quartet, Carpe Diem, at the downtown Billings theater.

Partway through the tournament’s morning session, Fujiwara, an eighth-degree black belt, was honored at the traditional opening ceremony.

“Grand Master Fujiwara may not be here physically today,” said Dave Allen, one of the tournament’s organizers. “But I can guarantee you he’s watching over this and smiling. He always liked to see everyone’s smiling faces.”

And he loved to see people gather together, Allen said.

As part of the ceremony, all those who had earned black belts lined up on the gym floor.

“As you can see from the line of black belts, Grand Master Fujiwara had a great, long-lasting effect on a lot of people’s lives,” Allen said.

It’s difficult to go anywhere in the country and not find people who have not been impacted by Fujiwara’s teaching, he said, asking for a moment of silence to honor the grand master.

Fujiwara was the national head of the Dae Myung Moodo Federation, which has martial arts schools all over the globe. He oversaw about 3,200 active students in the Northwest.

Anne Fujiwara presented two awards during the ceremony. The renamed Grand Master Fujiwara Memorial Leadership Award went to Phil Spenser of Libby.

The Marge Martin Memorial Personal Challenge Award was given to Paul Befumo of Missoula.

Then Grand Master Jae Ho Park, a close friend who had been Fujiwara’s grand master since the late 1960s, told the crowd that the tournament will henceforth be known as the Grand Master Karlo Fujiwara Memorial Taekwondo Tournament.

“Grand Master Fujiwara’s whole life was dedicated to martial arts,” said Park, who traveled from his home in Glendale, Calif., for the ceremony.

Mac Schaffer, recreation activities coordinator from the Rimrock Foundation in Billings, also took a moment to honor Fujiwara. For 4-1/2 years, Fujiwara volunteered weekly teaching adolescent boys tae kwon do.

“I had the privilege of teaching with him every Tuesday afternoon,” Schaffer said. “This is a plaque commemorating his service to Rimrock Foundation. We loved this man, and I had the pleasure, too, of feeling his presence with me all the time.”

The plaque will be displayed at Rimrock Foundation, he said, and a separate plaque will be hung on the door of the tae kwon do practice room, renaming it the Fujiwara Dojo.

After the ceremony, Anne Fujiwara said she was honored that the award and the tournament would be renamed after her husband.

Korine Fujiwara said it meant so much to see so many people she had known over the years all come together in her father’s honor.

“They watched me growing up and I saw them get married and saw them having kids,” she said. “So this is one big family.”



General Assignment and Health Care Reporter

General assignment and healthcare reporter at The Billings Gazette.