The martial arts today
mourns the loss of a
A giant of American Karate has passed into legend. Tom LaPuppet
Carroll died after a lingering illness the morning of March 20, 1999.
He is gone, and we shall greatly miss him. His strength of
character, the correct manner, the essential goodness of the man are
now but memories.
Tom drove his car to the 1998 National Championships in Canton.
Ohio and on the way home after the event, he was forcefully run off the
road and into a ditch. After arriving home in Brooklyn, he became
aware that he had injured his back, already weakened from a long bout
with cancer. He was hospitalized for a surgical remedy and never really
recovered from that operation.
Thomas Carroll was born in South Carolina and raised in
Brooklyn. A graduate of Franklin K. Lane High School, Tom attended the State University of NewYork at
Westbury. He later decided that the "University of the Street" provided a more dynamic education.
Having earned his black belt in 1965, La Puppet entered the All-American Tournament in New York and
won the championship and successfully defended his title the following year. In 1966, he won the Boston
Invitational, the Greater New York Metropolitan Championships, and the Fifth Canadian International
Tournament in Toronto. La Puppet's real name is Thomas Carroll, but because he often trained by imitating
the styles of players in other dojos, his sensei gave him the nickname of "The Puppet."
He put New York karate on the map as a sensei and partner in the Tong Dojo with his mentor George
Cofield, whom he met in 1961. He taught pure technique as well as teaching high principles of the arts. He
was the Shihan of the karate Brooklyn based Ronin Karate Club which mirrored the heart of New York. In
1969 he was named "Karate Player of the Year" by Black belt Magazine and entered into their Hall of Fame.
Throughout his lifetime, Tom Carroll provided distinguished service to a number of organizations and
associations. He was one of "New York's Braves," a NewYork City Fireman, serving in Brooklyn's renown
"Tin House" He retired from the Fire Department after twenty years of dedicated service. Tom Carroll was
also a proud member of the United States Marine Corps, retiring as a First Sergeant after twenty years of
active and reserve service. He was also a Past Master of Prince Hall Royal Arch Masons, where he remained
an active and devoted member.
Shihan LaPuppet's career in the martial arts is legendary. He was a member of the Tong Dojo in
Brooklyn and a member of their phenomenal demonstration team that performed at many events throughout
the New York regions during the early days of karate competition. His style was Shotokan and later evolved
to the broader Kwanmukan system of the Toyama Kanken family. As a fighter, he was exceptional, winning
countless championship titles here and abroad. His full-contact fighting team, the New York Puppets, was
formidable. Shihan LaPuppet was named as one of the Top Ten Martial Artists in the United States, on of the
Top Fifty in the World, and in 1969 he was the second person to be voted into the Black Belt Hall of Fame as
"Karate Player of the Year". He was the third person inducted into the USA Karate Hall of Fame. His
punches and front kicks were models of excellence for a generation of karate players.
After his stellar career as a fighter, in the late 70's Tom became involved with AAU Karate. At first he
had a really hard time being accepted and actually had to sit in the stands at the World Championship in
Spain. Anderson still remembers meeting him in an elevator at hotel and being asked: "What do you have to
do to be involved?" He was answered: "Just come to meetings." He did just that, but his firmly stated views
were not well received in those years. His strong and insistent voice could be heard calling for the rule of
reason, balance, and minority rights. He carried those same principles into the battle to achieve Olympic
recognition for karate.
His abilities finally came to light during a period of unusual stress when the leadership of the AAU
changed and George Anderson ran for President and Pat Hickey for Secretary. Our candidate for Treasurer
was defeated by Tom and he was gained that executive office in the reformed group.
Tom became interested in event operations because the treasurer of a federation is basically idle during
a championship and soon was named the chief of Tournament Operations. His abilities expanded this
national position into a membership on the Pan-American and the World Karate Union Organizing
But Tom was also a fighter and loved to coach. He was certified as a coach by the federation and acted
as such at the World Championship in Taiwan. He also took the International referees test there, passed the
kata section by doing Dai-Sai-Bas (Bassai Dai) in reverse, but did not get the referee license because it was
against regulations to coach and referee at the same event. He went on to become a Head Coach for the
Federation, working as such in the Pan American Championships and international world championships,
including the World Championship in Australia.
Tom really wanted to see his beloved karate become available to all youths of the United States, not just
those that could afford it. He saw Olympic recognition and participation as a solution to this problem and
worked tirelessly to gain karate's acceptance by the International Olympic Committee. When at last karate
was admitted to membership, LaPuppet was a delegate at the recognition assembly, and real tears were in
his eyes when we received our credentials. He even wrote a poem about it.
LaPuppet then fought to get Karate into the Pan American games, traveling all over the world with
George Anderson to overcome this last grand obstacle to providing karate for anyone who wants it. When
karate finally participated in the Pan American Games, Tom was noticeable saddened because he was not
permitted to attend the games in an official capacity. Realizing that politics were now the order of the day,
he became determined to rise above it and was determined to create a USAKF "Order of the Eagle," which
has now been accepted by the Federation.
Tom was a 8th degree black belt in karate, jujitsu, and kenpo. Besides being an executive officer of the
USA Karate Federation, US Jujitsu Federation, and the US Karate Foundation, he was a board member and
Shihan of the Kwanmukan International and a board member of the Central Taekwondo Association. Tom
LaPuppet was a member of the USAKF Hall Of Fame and won the Distinguished Service Award in 1982.
Tom was born on February 7, 1938. He leaves his beloved his wife, Marie, his son Thomas Marice
Carroll, his mother Fannie Carroll, his sister, Lorraine Worth, his brother Willie Kinard, two aunts, a niece, a
nephew several cousins and his special childhood friend, Carl Theobald, as well as his many devoted karate
sons and daughters who include Cedric Barksdale, Dee Villalona, Ian Straker, and Alex Sternberg.
As and instructor, Shihan LaPuppet established training for many groups such as the Hunter College
Elementary School. He privately trained Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the President of the
World bank, movie directors, Ralph Macchio, star of the "Karate Kid" movies, the late Steve McQueen, and
many other media personalities. He founded LaPuppet's Ronin Shotokan Karate Dojo, as school that has
produced numerous national champions and internationals competitors, as well as a number of exceptional
For the Federation, President Anderson considers Tom a brother, who always stood tall at his side,
prepared for any battled, and he exemplified loyalty and and honor. Tom never wavered. One could say that
"Tom was the epitome of the gentleman warrior who fought for the right of the American Karate."
Thomas LaPuppet Carroll symbolized and exemplified an entire era. By any standards he was one of the
giants of our times. The passing of this great man is respectfully noted by all who had the privilege to
associate with him and we offer our condolences to his family and students. here to add text.