COLUMBIA, S.C. – Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Tom Mullikin was inducted into the South Carolina Black Belt Hall of Fame (SCBBHOF) during ceremonies at Indigo Jones in Camden, S.C., Sat., May 4. The induction followed a lengthy nomination process in which Mullikin – along with karate national-tournament champion Tommy Genova – were both unanimously selected for inclusion in the SCBBHOF.
“Tom Mullikin was unanimously chosen by all the voting black belt members to be inducted in our coveted hall of fame,” says former SCBBHOF president and former #1-ranked karate world champion Keith Vitali. “The SCBBHOF is honored to include someone of his incredible stature into our brotherhood.”
Vitali’s younger brother Col. (Ret.) Steve Vitali, U.S. Marine Corps, agrees.
“Tom was selected for both his exceptional mastery of martial arts and his significant contributions and notable service to the State of South Carolina and to the United States,” says the younger Vitali, who is also a member of the SCBBHOF. “He possesses and displays an unvarnished warrior code and virtuous ethics so infectious that other martial artists embrace as a standard bearer to emulate.”
Vitali adds, “Being a great fighter is not enough.”
A Camden-based attorney, global expedition leader, university professor, former U.S. Army JAG officer, retired commander of the S.C. State Guard, and recently appointed chairman of the S.C. Floodwater Commission, Mullikin has been a student of martial arts for nearly 40 years; having studied and practiced under martial arts masters throughout Asia and across North America. As a certified U.S. Army Master Fitness Trainer, Mullikin taught martial arts – self-defense combatives – to soldiers. He later founded the Mullikin Martial Arts Studio in Camden, and he was the subject of a 2017 profile feature in BLACK BELT magazine, the world’s leading martial arts publication.
According to BLACK BELT, Mullikin is “a fighter indeed” and “an accomplished martial artist of several disciplines who holds a black belt in traditional karate,” adding, “His [Mullikin’s] smile, his fortitude, and yes, his sheer grit, all came from the discipline he learned as a young man – and has embraced his entire life – as a martial artist.”
Mullikin has not only applied his martial arts training and skills into traditional sport karate and instructing others in martial arts, but the techniques he has learned and fine-tuned through the discipline of martial arts conditioning have carried over into his mountain climbing and SCUBA training wherein he certifies SCUBA-diving students as “Ninja Divers” with a creative focus on traditional martial arts breathing practices.
“To now be included in this esteemed body by several of the world’s greatest martial artists – including my fellow inductee, the great Tommy Genova – is an honor of a lifetime,” said Mullikin.
The May 4 induction ceremony and luncheon included presentations of proclamations made to the Vitali Karate Dynasty – specifically Keith, Steve, and younger brother Ricky, owner of Vitali Family Karate in Lexington – by Kershaw County Councilmen Jimmy Jones (an also-accomplished Black Belt) and Ben Connell (former captain of the University of North Carolina wrestling team and a member of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame). Other awards were presented during the luncheon.
Since its inception in the 1980’s (officially founded in 2012), the SCBBHOF has become one of the most-respected karate halls of fame in the nation. In addition to the two Vitalis and the SCBBHOF president Mike Genova (brother of new inductee Tommy Genova), the Hall of Fame includes the likes of Sam Chapman, Bobby Tucker, Bruce Brutschy, Marty Knight. Michael Goldman and John Orck, all national tournament fighters.
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