Sensei | Chuck Kebert

Of the many self-defense instructors I’ve met over the years, HTC Charles Kebert (aka, “Chief,” or “Dad”) was one of the most honorable and virtuous men I have met in my lifetime.

I don’t exactly remember how I started working out with Chief, but I do remember his lessons quite well. Chief had earned his 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon do from a Korean man while serving in the Vietnam war, and he continued my education in the art.The Chief and I worked in the lagging shop, designated 57A, on board the U.S.S. Shenandoah.

I had met and worked with the Chief many months before we began self-defense training, while I was welding at the SIMA facility in Norfolk, VA. In fact, I had no idea the Chief was involved in the martial arts when we first met. Most people referred to the Chief as the “Rodeo Man.”

He carried his saddle and tack with him everywhere he went. I also remember the Chief being a very fun-loving man; he was not stern or rigid unless he had to be. This truly set him apart from the other Chiefs and provided him with a very loyal crew. Whether he knew it or not, his demeanor rubbed off on the rest of us in a positive way.

Training with the Chief…
The lagging shop was situated beside an elevator, which had a quite roomy compartment attached. Chief told me to build a canvas punching bag and hang it in the elevator compartment, which I did. He then proceeded to test my skills with punches, kicks and blocks. We also snuck in some weapons training (without getting caught).

There are several things that I remember about the Chief’s lessons, but a few of them really stick out in my mind. One of these lessons involved kicking. The chief had me practice all of my kicks, over and over again, tweaking my stance, my balance, my foot positioning, etc. I practiced my kicks for so long it felt as though my legs would fall off. And then the time came for my test, and after attempting each kick, the Chief would somehow manage to sweep or block my kicks and I ended up on the deck each time.

I remember getting very frustrated with myself and he knew it. I remember him laughing and saying, “Wussow, what’s the problem?” … or something to that affect.

And I said, “you keep knocking me down!”

And he followed with, “what happens when you kick?”

I just stared at him. And he said, “Your foot is off the ground. What happens to your balance when your foot is off the ground? You’re off balance and you’ll fall down.”

I was still confused. And then he said, “Don’t kick anymore; you telegraph!”

And this led to the lessons of “Don’t use weapons against anyone,” and eventually, “don’t fight; period.”

We won’t talk about the advice he gave me on preventing venereal disease <grin>.

Onagaeshimasu Chief, mo domo arigato gozaimasu.

If you have experiences of HTC Charles “Chuck” Kebert and wish to share them, please send an email to