Uechi Ryu Karate Do
1. Who is the dojo’s founder and what prompted him/her to build the school? Is there any rich history behind its making?
I founded the Northern River Karate School and I remain the school’s head instructor. I began teaching in 1989 after receiving my Shodan (1st degree black belt). I make frequent trips to Toronto, Ontario, Canada to study with my teacher David Mott in his Cold Mountain Dojo of Martial and Healing Arts. I am ranked as a Godan now (5th degree black belt) and I am preparing to test again this summer (09).
2. What forms of martial arts do you teach in your school? Can you please share with us the history behind them?
We train in a Chinese/Okinawan system called Uechi Ryu Karate Do. It is a combination and distillation of three Kung Fu systems: Crane, Tiger, and Dragon. Some researchers believe a fourth animal system, Cobra, is hidden in the curriculum of Uechi Ryu. The style’s roots are Chinese and it came to Okinawa and became a part of that culture’s rich martial arts heritage in around 1900.
Two of my senior students have expanded their work to include Kobudo (traditional Okinawan weapons) and Yoga. They are both certified instructors and they teach regular weekly classes as part of our program. I am a student in these classes. I also practice Qi gong and sitting meditation. I am not a certified teacher in these practices but a few of us meet as part of the weekly schedule to work together.
3. What are the principles and concepts that you uphold and try to instill in your students?
The basic principles we work with in the movement curriculum are grounding, centering, flow, power, precision, and speed. The principles of my personal practice are gratitude, trust, and awareness. In martial training we have the opportunity to work directly with fear. Typically, martial artists bluster their way through fear with aggression. This can be successful in a sport environment, but there’s no long-term growth available in that approach. The principle tool in my work is awareness.
4. Why do you think it is important for people to learn martial arts?
Not everyone is attracted to this kind of work. Those that are get involved for a variety of reasons. Some people are looking for power, some are attracted to the beauty and efficiency of the movement curriculum, some people just enjoy engaging with others in this way. If we stick around long enough though, our reasons for practicing will change. As Peter Ralston put it, anyone engaged in a long-term martial arts practice is either going deeper, or they are indulging in an extended juvenile period!
5. What difficulties and obstacles have you encountered so far with regards to teaching martial arts and how did you overcome them?
Teaching is a natural expression of practice. One of the unique aspects of martial arts practice is that it deals directly with relationship. We must include our training partners in our awareness. You can plow through your partners in a spirit of aggression and competition, and that may work well for you in the world of sport, but that’s probably the only place it will work for you.
The challenges of teaching are ongoing: to include the other in open-hearted compassionate awareness.
6. What advice and/or insights can you share with our readers who want to pursue their interest in martial arts?
Trust your instincts. Find a school that feels good to you with an instructor that you can love and respect.
7. Can you give a short biography of your instructor(s)?
My teacher is David Mott Sensei. You can find lots of good information on David and his school at http://coldmountain.ca/ .