John J. Womble, 78, who taught martial arts at D.C. recreation centers and the University of the District of Columbia, died Sept. 12 of sepsis and pneumonia at a hospital in Trenton, N.J. His death was confirmed by his companion, Deborah Frisby.

Mr. Womble began teaching a form of karate, which he considered both a martial art and a spiritual discipline, at D.C. recreation department centers in 1956. In the 1980s, he also taught at UDC. He retired in the late 1980s.

John Jasper Womble was born in Washington. He attended Armstrong High School and received a GED while serving in the Army. He served in paratrooper and Army Ranger units during the Korean War. He studied martial arts in Kyoto, Japan, in 1954 and 1955.

In the 1990s he was an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 7 in Northeast Washington. He later moved to Ewing, N.J., where he lived at the time of his death.

His wife, Joyce McNeil Womble, died in 1979. A daughter, Deirdre Evans, died earlier this year.

Survivors include his companion of 30 years, Deborah Frisby of Ewing; two children from his marriage, Tanya Sims Womble of Washington and Army Sgt. Major John J. Womble Jr. of Lansing, Kan.; a son from another relationship, Jamal Lake of Laurel; a sister, Alberta Thorne of Fort Washington; and 10 grandchildren.

— Bart Barnes