Quite a few of my Twitter followers ask me questions from time to time about the style of karate that I teach. Shotokan is the style I trained in for 20+ years and taught in Florida for several years and now teach in North Carolina.
Karate has been a part of my life for most of my life. My first lessons were in Hapkido when I was 10 or 11 years old. And from the time I was 25 on, I rigorously trained in martial arts; starting in American Free-Style and winding up in Shotokan.
Gichin Funakoshi was the founder of Shotokan karate. He was known as the father of modern karate. He taught karate in Japanese University and became the honorary head of the Japanese Karate Association.
He is quoted as saying that the ultimate aim of karate lies not in victory or defeat, but in perfection of character. So Shotokan is better understood as a way of living, than just a fighting style. Shotokan is the way of the empty hand. This means both being empty of wrong motives and fighting without weapons. Training Ideas go beyond technique and can be applied to ordinary life. But karate is not philosophy class. The life lessons that Shotokan teaches are learned through the course of vigorous training.
Shotokan teaches the student to treat every technique as if their lives depended upon its successful execution. To kill with one blow is a scary sounding principle but life often demands that our next shot be our best shot. To give less than our best can cost us. In combat, it can cost one their very life. And in daily duty, giving less than our best can literally cost us the good life that we might live.
As mentioned, I took my first karate classes when a teenager. I went on to wrestle during high school and could not find a satisfactory way to continue this athletic activity in adulthood. This lead me back to karate. In my early 20’s I studied American Freestyle Karate in North Carolina. When I moved to Florida in the mid 80’s, I decided to continue my karate training but decided to change directions.
I decided that a more traditional style of the martial arts was needed to make sure that I could learn the ancient strengths of the technology. The following were my search criteria to find a class to train in.
The teacher must possess the real art; not some watered down American version.
The teacher must be someone who could not be bought or coerced into giving unearned belts & rank.
The teacher must be a person of high Christian character.
This lead me to start my Shotokan training under Sensei Nick Bruno. Sensei Nick had been a NY city policeman for many years. All classes were no nonsense classes, where the only words spoken were commands, instructions & corrections. Nick ceased his class after 2 years.
So, I was forced to find another karate school. I was blessed enough to find another Shotokan school under a dynamite instructor. I began to train under Sensei Sam Jaquinta. Sudden Sam, as he was known in martial arts circles had lightning speed and insisted on extraordinary discipline. I trained under Sensei Sam for 8 years.
I actively fought in tournaments in Florida and schools in my own style, in the 90’s. When Sam moved, I was able to continue my training under Sensei Joe Harper. Joe was an undercover officer and highly trained special services military man. Joe’s fighting style was extremely hard and it was under Joe’s training that I obtained my Shodan (1st degree black belt).
After Sensei Sam & Sensei Joe moved, I continued the Shotokan Karate Academy in Ocala, which was their school originally. During this time, I became affiliated with the SKJF (Shotokan Karatedo of Japan Federation); as a registered black belt, under Sensei Brian Fey. I taught at the Shotokan Karate Academy of Ocala, for several years & operated the school. There were approximately 40 members of the club.
During this period of time, I made the acquaintance of Sensei Glenn Kaizer. Sensei Glenn and I became training partners and ran the school together. We pushed each other to advance our skills. It was during this time that I completed my Nidan (2nd degree black belt), under Sensei Glenn.
In Tennessee, I continued my training; while teaching students in the basement of the church parsonage, where I preached.
For several years thereafter, my karate activities were limited. Consisting mainly of private training and lessons to his stepsons. During 2011, I resumed more vigorous training and secured my own training gym, to build a new karate school around.
This school is where he I teach now: The Shotokan Karate Academy of Thomasville.
Here is a brief thumbnail sketch of what you would find if you trained in my Shotokan school. Shotokan is characterized by linear techniques driven from deep stances and powerful hip twisting.. It is more known for direct hard driving techniques, than many of the other styles known for aerial and spinning techniques.
Exact execution to improve performance on demand is rigorously trained. A Shotokan karateka will practice one move a thousand times, as opposed to a thousand moves one time. Muscle memory and the development of instinctive reflex are thereby enhanced and improved.
A Shotokan practitioner will spend as much time working on stances, as punches and kicks. – – – – – – As mentioned, Shotokan is taught in Japanese Universities. It can be accurately said that it is based on the most scientifically efficient ways to move the body.
Shotokan is not as popular in the United States as Europe, because advancement is generally slower in Shotokan, than most of the “Americanized” martial art’s styles. Also, Shotokan’s “hard style” training is very arduous, difficult, painful and painstaking.
The benefits of increased health and peace of mind are tremendous. But the path to get there is challenging and time consuming.
The usage of pads and protective gear is not generally utilized in Shotokan. As accuracy and technique control are essential in the learning of the art. The usage of pads and gear can tend to make the student “sloppy” with techniques that must be exact, to work. This is true because Shotokan trains the student in “one-strike” techniques, with devastating power being the result of effective training.
Dynamic explosive, focus executed with relaxed speed generates maximum impact force to the target. Defensive techniques are learned but the emphasis in Shotokan is attacking. Thus adding to its reputation as “hard style” karate.
My teaching style is direct, focused and deliberate. I am animated but serious. I commit myself to my students, as they demonstrate their commitment to train. I am known by students to possess terrifying punching power and a diaphragm of steel (though you wouldn’t realize it, unless you hit me and hurt your hand.) I make no apologies for my Christian approach to the martial arts and am very dedicated to my students. I intend to continue teaching as long as I can.
I think my Christian approach is generally supported by the ethics of Shotokan. As briefly mentioned above, Shotokan’s power is born from the development and practice of good character and noble principles of attitude and outlook. Because the mind can not be separated from the body; the mind must be trained also, to achieve maximum good from the body. Each student is therefore taught at the beginning and end of every class to:
1- Seek perfection of character.
2- Be faithful.
4- Respect others. and
5- Refrain from violent behavior.
Three of the four Sensei’s that I trained under are pictured together: Sam Jaquinta, Glenn Kaizer and Joe Harper. I will always owe them a great debt of gratitude.