The book, written by Joe Lewis and Jerry Beasley, The Greatest Karate Fighter of All Time: Joe Lewis and his American Karate Systems, provides the most authentic account of the life, the times and the art of Joe Lewis. The most impressive thing about the book is that it’s straight out of the mouth of the legend himself. Joe writes about and illustrates his incredible martial arts system. He also talks about the people that had the most influence on him. One of those people is the person Joe personally selected to co-author his one and only book. His name is Dr. Jerry Beasley.
I remember first meeting Jerry in 1983. Joe and I had been dating and Joe convinced me to take an out of town trip to Virginia where he would conduct a series of seminars. He had often talked about a friend he had made who had been setting up his seminars. Joe was extremely excited about introducing me to Dr. Jerry Beasley, a martial arts professor at Radford University. The friendship between Joe and Jerry lasted over 30 years.
Joe and I considered Jerry and his wife Gina to be good friends. Whenever we were in the area for summer camp or a seminar we would stay at their house. Joe and I became parents of Cameron and Kristina around the same time Jerry and Gina had their two boys, Cody and Tyler. Every time we visited their home Gina and I would be upstairs talking about the kids and Joe and Jerry would be downstairs sparring and talking about martial arts. Joe sparred with Jerry a lot. I remember Joe commented to me that Jerry was “one tough fighter.” Joe said, “Jerry surprised me, he’s for real.”
For a long time I filled out the black belt certificates that Joe would award to his best fighters. Joe made a black belt test that consisted of sparring for three rounds. In 1990 Joe tested Jerry in the basement of his home for 7th Dan. Some years later, when Jerry was promoted to 8th Dan, Joe was so proud he had the certificate professionally inscribed and framed. He had Bill Wallace co-sign the certificate and Bill and Joe awarded Jerry the 8th dan at Karate College.
In 1988 Joe, Jerry, Bill Wallace and Jeff Smith had developed a summer camp for martial artist that is still just as successful today as it was over 25 years ago. The Karate College represented Joe’s biggest payday every summer. It really helped our family and Joe looked forward to it because Karate College was his favorite event of the year. I went with Joe every summer for about 15 years. It was like visiting your family because people would come back every year.
Jerry was instrumental in the development of Joe Lewis and his American Karate Systems. He researched the system and wrote the articles to keep Joe constantly in the news. After his retirement from the ring, Jerry helped Joe to develop a source of income by teaching seminars. And Jerry was instrumental in helping Joe make contacts in setting up the seminars through their AIKIA organization. The fact is that Jerry was responsible for getting Joe back into Black Belt magazine after some years of being passed over.
Two of the best days of Joe’s life were becoming a father for the first time at the age of 48 with the birth of his son, Joseph Cameron Lewis, and then two years later witnessing the birth of his daughter, Kristina Ruth Lewis. To Joe his kids were always the most important people in his life. At Joe’s funeral Jerry and Gina drove down. It was so good to see them. After the funeral was over, they were the only two to come to my home with my children and spend some time with us. We laughed and told stories while Kristina and Cameron were there. That was very important to me. It meant a lot.
Joe studied with Bruce Lee for 18 months and said that Bruce, philosophically speaking, was one of the smartest men that he’d ever met. It was such an honor for him to work with Bruce. Bruce would give Joe his theory and technique, and Joe would use it in the ring to see if it worked. A lot has been said about Joe Lewis that has been both positive and negative, but he put in the work of being in top shape and did the research in developing his system. Joe was an authentic martial arts master.
The last few years of Joe’s life were tragic. There was no way for Joe to know he had brain cancer but he was reacting to it. There was a complete change in Joe’s personality the last, probably, five years of his life, especially closer to the last two years of his life. I swear, he had a complete change in personality and became quite impatient toward some of his friends, and even his closest family members because I, having been married to him for 20 years, know that he would never have said and written a lot of things in the last few years of his life that he did.
It had been a wonderful life with Joe, a lot of travel; we met a lot of wonderful people. Joe loved being around friends. His favorite time of the year was Christmas, and to give you an example of the type of person that he was, Joe enjoyed giving and he wrapped every present himself. There was not one corner on a present that was not even with the other. He stayed up all night wrapping gifts for his children. But, when gifts were given to him, he would not open his gifts until everyone else had received theirs. He certainly was not a taker, but he was a giver.
Someone asked me to describe the most romantic day of my life. It would have to be with Joe, when he took me to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. As soon as we flew in to Paris, he had to go straight to the Eiffel Tower, and I was like, “Let’s go tomorrow.” He insisted we go now and couldn’t wait to get to the top. By the time we got to the top my nose was running because it was freezing cold and it was raining. Joe handed me a Kleenex at the top of the Eiffel Tower and inside the Kleenex was a ruby and diamond necklace which he had purchased in Greece and did not tell me about it.
We traveled to Greece, England, Australia, Thailand, France and Canada. Joe was often treated like a rock star with lines waiting to see him. We traveled to every state in the United States except for North and South Dakota. He introduced me to as many of the most famous landmarks. It was a goal of his. We visited Niagara Falls, the Grand Canyon, Seven Sacred Falls in Hawaii, Mount Rushmore and, of course, the Eiffel Tower. Life with Joe was an adventure I will never forget.
Above all, Joe was at his best when he was teaching. He was at the very best that he could be during that time, and a seminar—it could never be long enough. If someone was still standing, Joe was still teaching. He loved to teach. This book is a gift to those who knew him and those who will wish they had known him. He was the “Greatest Karate Fighter of All Time.”
Kimberly H. Lewis
February 12, 2013
© 2015 Joe Lewis