We regret to inform you of the sudden passing of martial arts master Bill Dempsey who was a friend to many of us here in John Perkins' school. He was a humble and gentle man that always had a kind word of advice or inspiration the many times he came to one of our seminars. He will be greatly missed.

The following is courtesy of Steven Permuy:


9/27/1949 – 9/21/2005

"Of all the properties which belong to honorable men, not one is so highly prized as that of character."

There's always a story…and my introduction to Bill was by way of one.  I was a lowly student at a North Jersey Jujitsu dojo (or school), and I was one evening practicing technique for an exam I was taking for my "green" belt.  Then I heard someone, like an old uncle, comment on an aspect of what I was practicing.  Rather than plainly tell me exactly what I was not doing optimally he went into a story where HE was the student practicing the same technique, but this time we hear the foreign sounding voice of his teacher's teacher (a diminutive Japanese man) who despite having his head turned away was able to hear what was not being done correctly.

You see, Bill was a great story teller.   And telling a story was his device for including you in one of his many diverse and exotic life experiences-whether it was the martial arts, photography, the Air force, secret service, his two girls, counterintelligence equipment, his travels to far-away places, fast cars, computers, people he knew, and those he loved and called his friends and wife. 

Talking about Bill [here today] reminds me of the movie "Big Fish" with Albert Finney.  It's a story about a son who is trying to learn more about his father by piecing together the stories he has gathered over the years.

You asked Bill a simple question and rather than provide you with a pithy statement, he would take you on a journey through one of his many anecdotes and life lessons, replete with a prologue, dossier on the protagonists and antagonists, climax, outcome, but most of all, he would lead you into a world laden with conspiracy and intrigue that would somehow tie back to your initial question.  By the time he was done, though, you may have forgotten the question you asked, but he left you with many mental snapshots, postcards, and restaurant match books for your collection.

Bill enjoyed sharing what he had, and apart from material things, he wanted you to experience the bliss and achievements he lived and sometimes, serving as a lesson, to be one step ahead of his regrets.

He always wanted to put you "there."

If it was about the Fire that occurred in the study of Nixon's San Clemente home in 1970 when he was on detail with the Secret Service, you were there;

If it was about the first Cuban MiG to defect to the United States and be clandestinely secured at Homestead Air Force Base, you were there;

If it was about how Bill saved Lloyd's of London millions of dollars in executive kidnapping claims in the 1980s through his technical security consulting services, you were there;

If it was about how in 1977 he founded a satellite Jujitsu club in Florida that became the largest membership base for the International Federation of Ju-Jitsuans; you were there;

When Bill brought one of his daughters to London and as a piece d' resistance had her taken by chauffeured-driven Rolls to a local fast food restaurant; you were there;

When Bill described how he serendipitously discovered, his dovetail and soul mate, his soon-to-be wife, Agnes, who was experiencing most of what he was going through in that moment of his life, he made sure you were there.

Bill was James Bond's doppelganger AND the shopper at Lowes Home Improvement that made the employees think twice about what they were recommending.  (He was quite fastidious and usually right.)

He was an ebullience of generosity for those who were lucky enough to be called his friend (yep, he was generous to a fault); and he was a champion of people's talents and a gadfly to mediocrity.

In the martial arts Bill was a liaison and impresario of many fellow teachers and systems, respectively, along the east coast.  And he didn't care what "style" you "played" so long as he felt you were good enough to back him up in a dark alley with two-by-four wielding maniacs. 

He had about ten patented phrases that he would use as conjunctions or connectors to his story-telling.  He would use them so colloquially and frequently in speech that I dubbed them "Bill-isms" and Agnes would help with their cataloguing.  However, at this moment in time, and as much as I'm trying to think of all of them, I can only think of one: "Back at the barn."

So, "back at the barn" I got my green belt and Bill became my mentor and friend all the way through my black belt and beyond. 

Bill's rank and designation in Jujutsu was Shihan, which to many martial artists is a revered title given for tenure and contribution to a particular martial art.

Now I'm going to give you a brief Japanese lesson, but there's a point to it, so please bear with me. 

The "han" in Shihan means "an example, model or pattern." The "shi" in Shihan means teacher or master.  So Shihan denotes a master teacher, a model for the art and student.  Shihan Bill, as he was called by his fellow martial artists, was a master teacher, not because of his gift of technique or his famous stories that were used to quench a question but because he was selfless with what he gave.  And to what end?  Well, like the CEO of a company that proudly encourages his or her salespeople to earn more than him or her as a barometer of the company's success, Bill wanted those around him to be better than him, and that's the true distinguishing character of a Shihan.

Bill gave me my first hakama (a Japanese pleated skirt) and my first black belt.  I will always think of him.  And when I'm called to instruct that technique that served as Bill's introduction to me, I invariably find myself repeating his anecdote with the same verve and vibrancy about his teacher's teacher to a student rather than just plainly pointing out that the back foot should be nailed to the floor when you pivot.

I sent Bill an e-mail Thursday night as a final good-bye.  I also thought that if there was chance of him replying, he'd have one heck of a story to share.


He was made Renshi Shihan (Shichidan-7th) by Mike DePasquale, Sr, in Yoshitsune Ju-Jitsu
(He started with Mike, Sr. in the late sixties when he was still in high school, and as far as I know, Mike, Sr. was his primary Jujutsu teacher, although he did interact with Saul Cohe-Mike Sr's, first black belt, and Soke Sensei of Tsugiashi Do Jujitsu-and Dennis Palumbo of Hakkoryu Jujutsu.).
Yudansha ranking in Kodokan Judo via the USJA
Yudansha ranking in Shorin-Ryu Karate
After Bill left high school he got a job as a photographer working for what is now the Earth Observatory of Columbia University, Palisades, NY.  Unbeknownst to him at that time, he was given "government" clearance to photograph field projects that were funded by the federal government.  As Vietnam reared its ugly head, he proactively enlisted in the Air Force, but rather than going on with his enlisted class he was sent to an Air Force base in Texas for two months where he waited for an assignment.  During that time, he was teaching Jujitsu to security services, which was part of his dossier and a factor in his new assignment.  Due to his prior clearance and martial arts background he was "loaned" to the Secret Service while being trained in various Air Force support roles.  (As he explained to me, he worked for the Secret Service but was on the Air Force's payroll.)  He was trained in Fire & Emergency services, electronics, as a support pilot-the guy behind the main pilot-on transcontinental flights (don't recall the jet type), and as a physician's assistant, to name a few.
If he was on detail in California, he would fly back via an Air Force jet to Florida where he was based (usually taking controls over the Midwest to give the primary pilot some rest time).  After being discharged, around 1975, he was able to parlay the contacts he made in the military and in Federal government service into an enterprising business based in Miami that offered Surveillance Counter Measures, Technical Security Consulting, and Personal Protection.  (He told me he did personal protection work for Hall & Oates.)
As a hobby, Bill liked to refurbish desktop and laptop computers, play with his home PBX system and the last thing he was toying with was voice recognition polygraphy equipment.

This tribute, along with some photos, is available at: