Portrait of Grand Master Harold Long
Grand Master Harold Long has recently passed away and we are left with the legacy of a man so unique, that describing him accurately is impossible. Those who loved him will honour him, and those who hated him will respect him. Harold G. Long faced his death with the same spirit, courage, and resolve that filled his life.
He was in ill health for the last fifteen years of his life. His health problems began with a stroke that occurred while he was mowing the lawn. He lost his speech and suffered some paralysis after the stroke, but in what seemed like no time at all, his movement returned and his speech was only slightly slurred. A second stroke, a heart attack, and a third stroke followed in the next few years, but he battled back from each. He discovered that he was diabetic at some point during all his medical treatment . All of these things he dealt with positively; he refused to stay down. He stopped smoking and drinking; he changed his diet and his rest habits, and he understood that his medication was prolonging his life, so he followed his medication schedule exactly. Master Long did every possible thing he could do to keep himself going.
He never complained or felt sorry for himself or allowed himself to feel bad; he just got up and went on anyway. One who did not know him would never have guessed that a man so strong and still teaching karate could be in ill health. All of his health related problems he faced exactly the way he trained in his karate. It was Gokui that allowed him to be the man and the master that he was. He gave Master Shimabuku total credit for the successes.
His ability to place mind over matter and his mastery of self-hypnosis were evident to anyone who saw him bounce back from physical disasters during the last years of his life. He trained new brain cells to take the place of those whose function he had lost. His self control allowed him to follow without waiver instructions from his doctors, and his ability to see the future through his goals took him through crises time after time.
Not one of us who were close to him was ready for the shock of his final medical situation. We had known for years that his death was imminent, we all expected that a call would come at some point and we would hear that he had died. But this time, while making another astonishing recovery from multiple brain surgeries and his last stroke, he became sluggish. He lost his appetite, and he began to swell. He got no answers from the medical staff at the Naval Home in Gulfport, so he arranged to fly back to Knoxville so that his former doctor, a black belt student, could look after him. When I saw him at the brink of death two days later, I could not imagine how he was able to make the trip to Knoxville. I am sure now that he knew the time to die was at hand, and he wanted to go home. Making that final trip was the kind of thing he did all of his life, and it is the example that we must all remember in our own training.
When Master Long learned of his impending death and when he was imparting that to us was the first time in thirty-three years that I ever saw tears in his eyes. He cried not for himself; he was in perfect control as always; but he cried for us, because he knew how hard it would be for us to see him in his weakened state and for first time without hope for recovery.
Harold G. Long knew who he was; he had the confidence to say what was on his mind; he planned his future with the utmost assurance; he would never accept the word "no"; and he starred death in the face with the same resolve as he did life. Maybe the most important thing that he leaves to students of lsshinryu Karate, is the example of harnessing the spirit of one heart, the spirit that drove him.