Thomas (Tom) Godfrey Lewis was born in Salisbury, Maryland on May 2, 1939. "My claim to fame in the Marines is that I was in the Bay of Pigs and went to Cuba during the October Missile Crisis," he states.
In July of 1959 Mr. Lewis began studying Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do under Master Tatsuo Shimabuku. Sensei Shimabuku promoted Mr. Lewis to Sho-Dan (1st degree) in October of 1960. During Mr. Lewis’ time in Okinawa he was fortunate to study with legends such as, Harold Mitchum, Don Bohan, Ed Johnson, Steve Armstrong, Sherman Harrill and others. Mr. Lewis was able to spend a year and a half with Master Shimabuku and later got to revisit him when he came to Don Nagle's dojo in 1966.
Mr. Lewis was discharged from the Marines in 1963. He was promoted to Go-Dan (5th degree) before he left Okinawa by Master Tatsuo Shimabuku, but claimed himself a Sho-Dan upon returning to the United States. Mr. Lewis traveled to study with Don and Jim Nagle in New Jersey.
In 1964 Mr. Lewis began teaching and preparing to open his own dojo. In the beginning there was a lot of moving from church halls to store fronts, but eventually they settled into a dojo that is still operating today under Mr. Dennis Lockwood.
Several of Sensei Lewis’ black belt students went on to open their own dojo’s from New Hampshire to Virginia: Reese and Judy Rigby in Delaware, Victor Smith in New Hampshire, Harvey Hastings in Florida and others. Some of these Sensei's have been recognized for their outstanding achievements: Toby Cooling, Reese Rigby and Barry Smith are inducted into the Isshin-Ryu Hall Of Fame.
Mr. Lewis has many accomplishments. In 1980, he wrote "Karate for Kids", which was one of the first books about karate for children and is still in circulation. In 1981 he received an award for outstanding weapons competitor in the mid-Atlantic region.
He was promoted to Ni-Dan on the first of December in 1965 by Master Don Nagle. On November 30, 1966, (in front of Master Tatsuo Shimabuku), Sensei Lewis was promoted to San-Dan . Although he was never a Yon-Dan, as the years passed Sensei Lewis finally accepted his Go-Dan (5th degree) that Master Shimabuku had presented some years earlier. On March 1, 1972, Master Kichiro Shimabuku presented Sensei Lewis with his Roku-Dan (6th degree), which was signed by Grand Master Tatsuo Shimabuku. January 27, 1979 Master Harold Mitchum promoted Master Lewis to Hachi-Dan (8th degree).
In 1989 Mr. Lewis moved from Maryland to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and found an Isshin-Ryu school, where he taught for about a year (Before leaving MD he turned the school over to Master Lockwood, who is currently the chief instructor.) Ten years later Master Lewis moved to Cody, Wyoming and befriended a Kempo School. He trained there until he started his own dojo on his ranch. Presently, Mr. Lewis teaches traditional Isshin-Ryu Karate-Do on the Heart to Heart Ranch and works at the airport as armed security.
In April of 2005 Mr. Lewis attended a seminar in New Orleans and was promoted to Ku-Dan (9th degree) by Grand Master Harold Mitchum. A couple months later in June, members of the U.I.K.A. in Bozeman, Montana presented Master Lewis, with a Life Time Achievement Award.