This article is a biography of the main author on OKI. It mentions:
1) Started Classes 1998
2) Black Belt 2004
3) 2nd Degree 2007
4) 3rd Degree 2009
5) USAFA Instructor 2010
In order to make this much more personal, I would like to give some background information on who I am.
I started Karate in August of 1998 at Okinawa Budo Institute in Elkhart, Indiana. There I trained under:
Sensei Teru Hendry, 3rd Dan (Now 5th Dan)
Sensei Brice Hosterman, 2nd Dan (Now 4th Dan)
Sensei Leslie Cunningham, 1st Dan (Now 3rd Dan)
Sensei Dee Wombaugh 1st Dan
Sensei Ron Bond 1st Dan
I was almost immediatly put into the adult class. I was at the time 8, and the minimum age for the adult class was supposed to be 13, I think this had the biggest impact on my early performance.
In 2000 our school was relocated to the Pier-Moran Mall in Elkhart. I was a purple belt (5th Kyu) at the time. One of the biggest additions to our school during the move was Sensei Richard Hooven, 2nd Dan (Now 4th Dan). The school did well but one of my long time friends from Karate, Maiko Heflick, had to take a leave of absence, which left me without any real partners my age. I moved up in the ranks to Brown Belt (3rd Kyu). Our head instructors had some differences at this time and decided to separate. At nearly the same time, the Pier-Moran Mall lost its Target store, which was the main reason most people came to the mall and without the business we began looking for a new location.
In 2003 we moved to “the barn” a former Uechi-Ryu school across from Holiday Roller Rink. As part of the move the new leadership of the school was:
Sensei Brice Hosterman, 3rd Dan
Sensei Richard Hooven, 2nd Dan
Sensei Leslie Cunningham, 2nd Dan
Sensei Lisa Kruczek, 1st Dan (My Mother)
On March 26, 2004 I was tested in front of Tadashi Yamashita at our school. After deciding that I was not ready based on our seminar prior to testing I was asked to go sit out while the other brown belts tested. Halfway through the test I was called back down to be a partner for Stephanie Bucher. After she completed her self defense moves, Sensei Yamashita told me to perform some self defense of my own. After the second consecutive take down he decided “Ok…I think she have enough.” and dismissed me back upstairs. After the two brown belts had finished the first half of their test, I was asked to come back down and finish the kata portion of the test with them and then test individually for an additional hour. I then received my 1st Dan and a nice kick in the stomach at 14.
In late 2005 the school moved yet again due to rent problems and a falling out between leadership. The school would relocate to the Veteran’s of Foreign Wars warehouse in Elkhart. The new leadership would be:
Sensei Hooven, 2nd Dan
Leslie Cunningham, 2nd Dan
Stephanie Bucher, 1st Dan
I took a break at this point from going to the dojo regularly, coming in monthly to see how the dojo was doing and to keep up-to-date. While my dojo attendance was not regular my tournament attendance was. In early 2007 I came back full time. I was there religiously every class and tested for my Nidan (2nd Dan) on April 21st, 2007. The Leadership was now:
Richard Hooven, 4th Dan
Stephanie Bucher, 3rd Dan
Myself, 2nd Dan
Charlie Jackson, Junior 2nd Dan
Carmella Perez, Junior 2nd Dan
Christian Marillo, Junior 2nd Dan
At this time I also began studying much more actively online. I began searching youtube daily to see what I could learn about the evolution of kata, the differences between Sensei Yamashita’s Karate and his teacher, Sensei Shugoro Nakazato. I also became a firm believer in Sensei Shinpo Matayoshi’s way of kobudo. I believe he had a deeper appreciation and commitment to kobudo and thus had a much more effective approach.
With the move to the VFW, we changed our name to United Martial Arts Academy and began hosting a Tae Kwon Do and a Uechi Ryu class, led by Mr. Curtis Turner and Sensei Moe respectively. I participated in both for a short time earning my green belt in Tae Kwon Do, but for a lack of interest and time stopped going to anything but Karate classes.
In February 2008 I took a brief hiatus over a disagreement on testing standards and began teaching on my own as well as continuing to open my mind to other martial arts and even other versions of shorin-ryu. I took a student of mine to the 1st Annual Napperville Open and took 2nd and 3rd in a very nontraditional tournament (miracle I didn’t get last doing traditional kata next to kids doing front flips to music). More humbling was the fact that my student took 1st place in both events she competed in.
I returned to the Dojo in April and began teaching my own weapons class on Sundays with two of the senior adult students. These two guys became good friends of mine as well as who I consider to be my own senior students.
In late August 2008 I left for Military Preparatory School in Philadelphia but never stopped practicing karate. I gave lessons to various cadets at the school on knife defense and basic defense if someone were to attack you in the hallways or your room. No one really took to traditional karate, and I refused to teach the “cool stuff” without them learning the fundamentals of budo.
On my various breaks from school I would return home and continue going to class at United Martial Arts Academy. In May 2009 when I returned home I began preparing for my 3rd Dan test. On May 29th, 2009 I tested for my 3rd Dan in front of a panel of black belts consisting of:
Sensei Richard Hooven, 4th Dan Shorinkan Shorin-Ryu
(Senior Instructor of the dojo)
Sensei Stephanie Bucher, 3rd Dan Shorinkan Shorin-Ryu
(Senior Student of the dojo)
Sensei Ted Willmer, 5th Dan Tae Kwon Do
(Instructor from an independant school)
Sensei Lisa Kruczek, 2nd Dan Suibukan Shorin-Ryu
(Friend of the Dojo)
Sensei Bill Spansail, 2nd Dan Okinawian Kempo
(My Senior Student)
Sensei Mike Oliver, 1st Dan Shorinkan Shorin-Ryu
(My Senior student)
I tried to make sure I got my instructors, my students, and independent input on my promotion to 3rd Dan. Without the oversight of a 10th Dan as in the past, I felt that a larger panel of blackbelts with different insight on my karate would have more merit. While I contend that certificates and rank are rather trivial, I believe that if I am going to be considered a full instructor then both my seniors and my juniors should input on my ability to teach.
I passed my test and was promoted to Sandan before leaving for the United States Air Force Academy. After finishing my freshman year at the Air Force Academy, I began going down to the Karate Club. Unfortunately it was only me and one other student. Without a teacher and having more than three times the experience of the other student, I began teaching him as my own student. This continued for four months before I was finally made the Cadet in Charge of the club and the permanent instructor. That spring I recruited three additional students to the club and continued teaching them in a very small class setting.
This recent fall the club started operations back up and managed to recruit nearly 22 members. Currently I instruct an average class size of 8 three days a week. I am happy that I continue to have rare occasions to teach on a one-to-one basis as I have in the past, but enjoy the additional students.
That is a look at where I have come over the last 13 years. Granted I can already see many missing stories and things that could have been included, but I hope it helps everyone understand more about my training and background.