It is with great sadness that we add Roger to the list of IS3 Fallen and place the SudLud title over his name.

Roger C. Carpenter, world-renowned martial arts pioneer and founder of the Kansas Karate Institute, died Aug. 24, 2018, in Wichita. He was 77. A force of nature and a self-made man, Roger Creighton Carpenter achieved folk hero status as both a martial artist and a law enforcement officer. He was a resolute fighter whose vanguard training and competing methods defined his storied career. Though feared and revered in equal measures, he was also beloved and enjoyed a profound loyalty from those who sought his immense knowledge. Carpenter, who had earned a rare 10th degree Black Belt, was driven by an unyielding internal compass. He was, perhaps, a man for another time. Steadfast and confident, humble and generous, Carpenter hated bullies and loved to see the underdog win. He was born Dec. 21, 1940, in McPherson, Kan., to Helen (Kutina) and Howard Carpenter, a World War II veteran who died when Carpenter was 12. After graduating from WaKeeney High School in 1959, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy. While stationed in Rhode Island, he met Dale Alice, who would become his wife of 50 years. He also began training in Kenpo karate. Carpenter was a standout sailor, starting with his basic training, where he was recognized as an outstanding recruit by the commanding officer of the U.S. Naval Training Center in San Diego. He went on to serve three years as a water survival instructor at Naval Air Station Quonset Point. He also won the Navy’s first Physical Fitness Tournament, nicknamed the “Iron Man.” Thirty-five sailors competed for the title, which Carpenter handily won with nearly double the score of the next closest competitor. After leaving the Navy, Carpenter returned to Kansas to attend college. He graduated from Wichita State University with degrees in education and science and became a teacher for Wichita Public Schools. Soon after, he began a career in law enforcement, first working as a civilian training instructor for the Wichita Police Department then joining the Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Department, where he served more than 20 years as a deputy, training officer and finally Range Master. In 1963, Carpenter opened Wichita’s first martial arts school at 369 N. Meridian Ave. He would go on to earn instructor rankings in Judo, Tae Kwon Do, Aikido and Eskrima and was an original practitioner of mixed martial arts, or MMA. Throughout his career as a fighter and teacher, Carpenter emphasized self-defense, full-contact training and street-fighting capability over traditional training methods. During the 1960s and 70s, Carpenter competed globally in tournaments and full-contact matches. He was a member of the U.S. team at the first World Tae Kwon Do Championships in Seoul and became a three-time All-American heavyweight karate champion. Though he competed worldwide, Carpenter’s most notorious fight was in Wichita in 1973 against local rival John Bal’ee in front of a sold-out crowd at Century II. The grudge match, billed as the first “no rules, bare-knuckle, anything goes” fight, ended with Carpenter knocking Bal’ee out of the ring. Historical footage of the rout ended with Bal’ee being wheeled out of the arena on a gurney and into an ambulance. Carpenter has been featured in numerous martial arts magazines including Official Karate, Karate Illustrated and the first Who’s Who in Martial Arts. In 1992, he appeared on one of Black Belt magazine’s most famous covers as a member of the “Dirty Dozen.” Carpenter has trained thousands of students, and his death has been deeply felt by the legions of martial artists and law enforcement personnel he has taught over the last six decades. His training, especially at the advanced level, was notoriously difficult, and after 55 years he had promoted only 33 students to the rank of Black Belt, a stunningly low number by any measure. Former Sedgwick County Sheriff Robert Hinshaw, who was a training instructor with Carpenter before becoming sheriff, remembered him as a mentor and friend who had a voracious appetite for knowledge. “Roger was a lifetime learner,” he said. “It was never enough for him to be satisfied with what he knew; he wanted to pursue what he didn’t know and master that.” Hinshaw also remembered Carpenter’s integrity and unwavering code of conduct: “Many times I would see him hold his ground on a position because he knew it was right – refusing to yield to political expediency or because there was an easier path of less resistance.” After retiring from the sheriff’s department in 1997, Carpenter embarked on a career as a United Nations peacekeeper. He served as a police adviser, firearms instructor and bodyguard in NATO missions throughout Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Middle East and frequently worked in war zones including Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor and Iraq. Carpenter’s warrior life changed when at 70, having finished at the top of his class in his fitness recertification, he suffered a stroke on a plane over Germany while returning to work as a peacekeeper in Iraq. His U.N. career ended and he returned to Wichita, where he was surrounded by family and friends as his health deteriorated. While his prolific life afforded him many successes, Carpenter’s finest legacy was his children and grandchildren, many of whom trained with him in the martial arts. And while his solemn nature made him reticent to brag, those who knew him well understood that his children were his greatest loves and his crowning achievement. Along with his father, mother and wife, Carpenter was preceded in death by his stepfather, Herman Castillo. He is survived by his children, Sherry (Mitch) Minnick, Shea Carpenter, Sage (Dale Aldridge) Carpenter, and Shane Carpenter; and grandchildren Brandon, Creighton, Taylor, Chase, Colton, Bailey, Nicholas and Cade. He also has three great-grandchildren, Brooklyn, Jordan and Owen. Carpenter was interned at Lakeview Cemetery in Wichita in a private ceremony.

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