Sensei George Matthews


Sensei George Matthews was the Founder of the Harlem Dojo, at 110th Street and Park Avenue in East Harlem, New York City, in the 1960’s.

He was a student of Sensei Peter Urban, at the famous Chinatown Dojo. (See Photo of the Chinatown Dojo)

In 1964, Sensei Urban, promoted Sensei George Matthews from Purple belt to black belt.

Sensei Mathews was a skillful and patient Fighter and an excellent kata man.  He was quick to seize opportunity, kept the fighting spirit of Karate, Practiced and study daily and was loyal to himself, Karate, Sensei and his students.

As the founder and Sensei of the Harlem Dojo, Sensei Matthews raised up the following Black Belts;

Bernard “Billy” Rivers, Walter Johnson, Willie “Wildcat” Molina, Reggie "The Falcon" Simanca, Jose Santiago, Robert Rivera, Greg Perry, Wild Bill, Sammy Reveron, Derrick Smith, Gwen and Fidel. (If we left any name off this list please send us an email to update or make any corrections).

Sensei George Matthews is deceased.   Sensei George Matthews number one son is Bernard “Billy” Rivers, the founder and Sensei Of the Jefferson Park Boys Club Dojo at 111th Street, in East Harlem, New York, in 1963. On April 11, 2002, Sensei Bernard ”Billy” Rivers, Black belts petitioned Grand Master Peter Urban, to raise Sensei Rivers to the rank of Hanshi, to carry the banner of his Sensei, The Harlem Dojo, (see letter to Sensei Urban).



Sensei, Bernard “Billy” Rivers, was born on December 14, 1945.

In the early 1960’s he became a student at The Harlem Dojo under Sensei George Matthews.  Sensei Matthews asked him at Brown belt to teach at the Jefferson Park Boys Club of  New York, because it was the center of athletics in East Harlem.  It was from the Jefferson Park Boys Club Dojo that Sensei Rivers began his Karate legacy.  The Letter sent to Grand Master Urban lays out his accomplishments and contributions to the Martial Arts.




April 11, 2002

Dear Grandmaster Peter Urban:

Oss! The Black Belts of the Jefferson Park Boys Club of New York, dojo in East Harlem

are writing this letter of petition on behalf of our Sensei, Bernard "Billy" Rivers (Kyoshi,

8th dan), formally requesting that the rank of Hanshi, (10th dan) be conferred on him.

The reason for our petition is that Sensei River's Sensei, the late George Matthews has

passed (died). Sensei Matthews was your student. Had Sensei Matthews been alive

today, he would without a doubt, achieved the rank of Hanshi. And Sensei Rivers would have received his Hanshi.

However, because of this void in the karate lineage of Sensei Rivers, we most humbly approach the Sensei of Sensei George Matthews, Sensei Rivers' karate grandfather, you Grandmaster Urban, to most benevolently and honorably bring this long past over due merit on Sensei Rivers.

Our Sensei, Kyoshi Rivers has demonstrated and continues to demonstrate, the

knowledge, wisdom, understanding, the spiritual insight, the superempe mind, the skills and expertise of Goju Karate. Also, he has made major contributions and

accomplishments to the Martial Arts.

Allow us to document for you these accomplishments and contributions to the Martial Arts.

Sensei Rivers' accomplishments as a Sensei:

He received his black belt from Sensei George Matthews on December 21, 1968. The last rank he received from Sensei George Matthews was the rank of 6th dan.  On December 19,1998, he received the rank of Kyoshi (8th dan) from Grandmaster Robert Jones and Grandmaster Peter Urban.

During Sensei Rivers' growth and development and teaching in the Martial Arts. He opened his Goju Karate School at the Jefferson Park Boys Club of New York, in East Harlem. From this Dojo, Sensei Rivers raised up the following Black Belts:

Raymond Rodriquez, 6thDan, Grand Champion

Eddie Figueroa, 6thDan

Dennis Melendez, 5thDan, Grand Champion

Johnny Rodriguez, 4thDan, US Marine, retired (2002)

Fred "Cha Cha" Martinez, 4thDan, Grand Champion (adopted)

Ramon Suarez, 3rd Dan, NYPD, deceased September 11,2001, in the line of duty, WTC

Antonio Beltran, 3rd Dan, Grand Champion

Johnny Gonzalez, 3rd Dan,

Harvey Mathis, 3rd Dan, NYPD

Kevin Mathis, 3rd Dan, NYFD

Kenny Gould, 3rdDan,

Mira Gonzalez, 2nd Dan,

Boyce Landrum, Shodan-Ho, Reverend

Luis C. Diaz, Shodan-Ho, Minister/Teacher, NYC Bd. Of Ed.

Sensei Rivers' contributions to the Martial Arts:

Sensei Rivers' greatest contribution to the Martial arts has been his unwavering and Steadfast adherence to the principle and philosophy that the Martial Arts should be free.  This principle he has lived by since he began teaching. Every student that has trained at The Jefferson Park Boys Club Dojo in East Harlem has never ever paid one cent to learn Karate. Every Black Belt that he has raised up has never ever paid one cent for training orrank or kata.  Sensei Rivers' principle and philosophy is, "the hard work, sweat, time in Dojo, that the student puts into his karate training and his commitment to train, being at The Dojo (attendance and punctuality) is the pay for his teaching.

Another contribution to the Martial Arts is his maintaining and upholding the integrity of the traditional Goju karate he was taught and learned back in the 1960's. He has kept alive and maintained the integrity of the traditional Goju katas and systems of early American USA Goju. To this very day he continues to teach and practice every Goju traditional kata from teikyokujodan to the highest black belt kata Han (10th dan).

Another contribution to the Martial Arts is his Black belts have opened their own Goju Karate Schools.

Sensei Raymond Rodriguez, Connecticut Dojo, at the Meriden YMCA, Meriden,Connecticut

Sensei Eddie Figueroa, Harlem Dojo, at Beacon EL Faro, at JHS 45, 120th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues, East Harlem

Sensei Dennis Melendez, Lodi Boys and Girls Club, School of Martial Arts, at Lodi, New Jersey

Sensei Luis C. Diaz, JHS 45 Karate Club, at JHS 45, NYC Bd. Of Ed. , 120th street, between 1st and 2nd avenues, East Harlem

Sensei Rivers' Black belts are teaching traditional American USA Goju karate in the New York City Public Schools, in the Boys and Girls Club, in the YMCA, and in the Community Youth Service Program.

Another accomplishment of Sensei Rivers is he was inducted into the Ying Yee Hall of Fame (Senseis Archie Rullan and Anthony Lau) in 1986.

Another accomplishment of Sensei Rivers is having his student David Stringfellow (deceased), to appear on the cover of Black Belt Magazine. David Stringfellow was the first ever-Junior Karate student to grace the cover of a west coast magazine, (at the start of the Junior Division in karate tournaments 1967-68).

Today at the age of 56 yrs, Sensei Rivers teaches at the Harlem Dojo, Beacon lEI Faro, at JHS 45, 120th Street between 1st and 2nd avenues, Monday, Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays.

Because of Sensei Rivers' dedication and involvement in the Martial Arts he has earned and established a well-deserved positive reputation and the respect of many marital artist from various styles, because of the successes and quality of the students from his karate school.

Sensei Rivers has over 42 yrs of karate experience and he continues to teach and demonstrate the superempe mind to all his students from white belt to black belt.

Therefore we are appealing to your most noble and humble self to bring to pass what Sensei Matthews would have done, had he been alive and that is to confer the rank of Hanshi on Sensei Rivers. It is solely and purely based on unwavering overdue merit that Sensei Rivers achieve this goal and recognition. We petition you to place yourself in the stead ofhis Sensei, George Matthews, and grant and confer the rank of Hanshi, solely and purely on over due merit, and his accomplishment and contributions to the Martial Arts. We appeal to your noble side to waive any financial responsibility.

Any correspondence can be conducted via Sensei Raymond Rodriquez, telephone number 203-6434873. We thank you for your most humble cooperation, attention and positive response in this most important matter. Oss!


The Black Belts of The Jefferson Park Boys Club Dojo


Sensei Peter Urban assigned Hanshis Sekwii Sha and Archie Rulan to work with Sensei Rivers.  On  December 13, 2003, Hanshi Sekwii  Sha raised Sensei Bernard “Billy” Rivers to the rank of Hanshi, (see certificate of rank).   Today, Sensei Rivers continues to carry the Harlem Dojo Banner, the Dojo his Sensei, George Matthews founded.


After 2005, Sensei Bernard Billy Rivers left the EL fARO/BEACON COMMUNITY CENTER at 120TH Street between First and Second Avenue and took with him three of his black belt students, Sensei Fred Cha Cha Martinez, Sensei Boyce Landrum and Sensei Luis C. Diaz.   Sensei Rivers hand selected and appointed these three black belt students to the Harlem Dojo  Board to help him with the responsibilities of the oversight  and affairs of Harlem Dojo.

Sensei Rivers, moved his Humbu  to THE JHS 45 KARATE CLUB DOJO, at the John S Roberts JHS 45  School in  East Harlem, were he and the board held Harlem Dojo activities and functions i.e. graduations  promotions  and reunions. In September 2013, Sensei Billy Rivers moved the Humbu to PS/IS 171 Patrick Henry Prep Academy where it remains today.

In June 2011 Harlem Dojo held its first Reunion, (see Pictures)  this reunion was attended by several of the original Harlem Dojo Black Belts of George Matthews.  

Present were Hanshi Walter Johnson,  Sensei Leona Schuable, Sensei Sammy Reveron, Sensei Greg Perry, Sensei Reggie Simanca.  

In June 2012  Sensei Rivers appoints Sensei Reggie Simanca to the Baord of Harlem Dojo, joining Sensei Fred Cha Cha Martinez, Sensei Boyce Landrum  and Sensei Luis C Diaz.

Sensei Reggie Simanca (Renshi 4th degree) began to train and work  with Sensei Rivers  in 2011 to the present date

In October 2014,  Sensei Billy Rivers, confers the rank of Hanshi, (10th degree) to Sensei Reggie Simanca making Hanshi Simanca,  Sensei Billy Rivers  highest ranking student..  See attached Diploma.

In March 2015, Sensei Billy Rivers decided to put his dojo in order due to the fact  he was having health issues and concerns with it.

He decided to promote his black belt students.  Notifications were sent to those students.  Three students responded and were promoted, Sensei Fred Cha Cha Martinez, Sensei Dennis Melendez and Sensei Raymond Tato Rodriguez. All three students were  received  the rank of Kyoshi 8th degree.  Sensei Rivers arranged it for them to be able to start their own systems with the rank received.   The rest will receive their rank at a later date.


On September 19, 2017 at 7:45am  Sensei Bernard Billy Rivers, died.

He left his Harlem Dojo Board to carry on with the oversight and affairs  of Harlem Dojo.

On February 2018,  The Harlem Dojo Board Held a Recognition Service for Sensei Bernard Billy Rivers at the Boys Club of New York 321 East 111th Street.  The place Sensei Billy Rivers began his Martial Arts  career as a Sensei.

R.I.P Bernad Billy Rivers  December 14,194   to September 19 2017.   


Sensei George Matthews & His Black Belts

Hanshi Bernard "Billy" Rivers and His Black Belts

Hanshi Walter Johnson (Morton)

Hanshi Willie "wildcat" Molina

Hanshi Reggie "The Falcon" Simanca

Sensei Gregg Perry

Sensei Jose Santiago

Sensei Sammy Reveron

Sensei Leona Schouble

Harlem Dojo Reunion Dinner

Harlem Dojo Graduation jun/12/2015

Goju Karate Schools under the HARLEM DOJO

Sensei Bernard "Billy" Rivers and his Black Belts

Sensei Raymond Rodriguez

Sensei Johnny Rodriguez

Sensei Fred "ChaCha" Martinez

Sensei Dennis Melendez

Sensei Boyce Landrum

Sensei Luis C. Diaz

Sensei Raymond Rodriguez, Connecticut Dojo, at the Meriden YMCA, Meriden

Connecticut. http://ctdojo.com/

Sensei Juan Johnny Rodriguez, Goju Karate Dojo, Jacksonville, Florida.

                                                     PAL of Jacksonville.

                                                     1.3450 Monument Road Jacksonville, Florida 32225.

                                                     2.2165 West 33rd  Street Jacksonville, Florida 32209

Sensei Luis C. Diaz,

Please get in touch at dkarateka7@hotmail.com.