Melbert Lee Sr. started his Isshinryu training in 1971. He was the first African American to study under Master Harold Long. Shortly after receiving his Sho-Dan, Master Lee (along with four other Isshinryu black belts) started the Karate Five Dojo. The mission of the Dojo was to promote and teach Isshinryu to the inner city youth. The Dojo is alive and well. Through the years, the Dojo has played a major role in guiding many of the youth away from the bad influences of the streets.
Master Lee is very dedicated to the practice and teaching of Isshinryu. He continuously supports and participates in seminars, training activities, and Isshinryu tournaments.
Master Lee was awarded the rank of Hachi-Dan in 2001 by the IIKA. He also holds belts in Sanuces Ryu and VeeJitsu. He is also receiving training in Arnis. Then and now he has never achieved anything that he didn't work for.
Some of his Martial arts accomplishments include: Making black belt under Master Long in eighteen months, being the first AfricanAmerican on the I.I.K.A board, (he now serves on the board for the second time) the first AfricanAmerican in the southeast to be promoted to black belt, one of the Original "Karate Five", Hall of Fame nomination for "Sensei of Sensei's" two years in a row, and a "Lifetime Achievement" award from the Isshinryu Hall of Fame. Melberts Martial Arts background is as solid and versatile as he is. His first discipline is Isshinryu.
He credits his knowledge to instructors; Harold Long, Cass Cox, Glen Webb, Allen Wheeler, Jim Maples, and Maurice Msarsa. In 1977, he began additional training in Sansues-Rue under Moses Powell, as well as Vee Jutsu, under Master Florendo Vicetacion.
In 1977, Melbert, along the rest of the Karate Five group, held the first annual Sansus-ryu tournament . Way ahead of their time Melbert and the Karate Five blazed trails that would take twenty years before others would have the courage to follow. Now it is easy to work other disciplines in with Isshin-ryu (although there are still some people it offends or threatens) but then it took the real courage of your convictions. Conviction is what Melbert is all about. He knows what works.
He is man of true Christian faith, active in his church as a deacon and member of a singing group. He is a family man of long standing, having been married to wife, Susie, for thirty-three years, with four children and five grandchildren. His work in his community is second to none. When Melbert talks you should be listening. He has the history, the knowledge and the value system to back it up. A giant of a man, larger than life, who has really left his mark on his family, faith, martial arts, and his many friends.