Former Kokomo karate master Bob Earlywine passed away April 1 from COVID-19. A former student, Jeremy Burnette, reminisced on his time spent with his former instructor.
Burnette was 5 years old when he first met Earlywine at American Blackbelt Karate in the 1980s. Later that same year, Burnette was promoted to yellow belt. After taking a long time off from the art, he returned to it in the late-1990s and attended Five-Star Martial Arts, where Earlywine was the owner/operator at the time.
“I started training there under him about that time and finally, after a couple of years, I made it to black belt under him … Most of my time was spent with him under that roof,” Burnette said.
Besides learning skills and techniques for the art, Burnette said he learned other valuable lessons from Earlywine during his time at the school.
“One of the most important [lessons] was just be nice to everybody. He was just a really friendly person, full of love. That was the main thing I learned from him: be nice. Yes, we practiced things for fighting, but be nice,” Burnette said.
Burnette remembered one particular memory from his classes with Earlywine when he was called up to do a striking and blocking demonstration in front of the other students with the instructor. Burnette was told to do a “flurry” of punches at Earlywine with just enough space where neither would get hit or hurt in the process.
The entire time, Burnette noticed Earlywine had a smile on his face as he was blocking every one of Burnette’s strikes.
“No matter how fast I threw these punches, he blocked every one of them and just smiled the entire time he was doing it. It just showed the love he had, not only for the art but for the students, just the dedication he had to the practice and training and developing himself,” Burnette said.
Around the early-2000s, Burnette and Earlywine worked together doing security work at Kokomo Academy. The two would sit and watch over the boys in the academy on midnight shift and talk about karate training and how much they both loved the sport and watching individuals train and compete.
Besides owning Five-Star Martial Arts, Earlywine was a director of the Grand Masters of the Round Table and was promoted to 10th “dan” status in 2017, the highest rank bestowed in Japanese martial arts.
Additionally, Earlywine was a graduate of Kokomo High School, a supply specialist in the army for three years, and a machine operator at Kokomo Transmission Plant for 31 years.
Burnette commented further on Earlywine’s persona.
“I don’t think anybody who ever met the man wasn’t touched by him in some way. I really feel like everybody had a fondness for his character, fondness for him. He would make you smile when you ran into him … He was just an all-around great guy,” Burnette said.