Interview with Kyoshi Terrell D. Lambert of Ji Kai Martial Arts
Property Type: Multiple Styles
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 started Ji Kai Martial Arts in 1992. I have taught in the Mobile area at several locations. I started teaching because of a promise to Soke Shogo Kuniba. I along with others promised a dying man that we would keep his art alive. Soke Shogo Kuniba taught the most complete art that I have been exposed to. I had been asked to teach on several occasions before then, but wouldn’t commit to a set schedule.
2. What forms of Japanese martial arts do you teach in your school? Can you please share with us the history behind them?
I teach what has been loosely called Kuniba Ryu. But because of respect for Kuniba Kai and Soke Shogo Kuniba’s heirs, I call what I teach Ji Kai Karate’, Kobu Do, and Iai Do. I have changed most of the Karate’ kata a little bit, so as to avoid teaching the same style or ryu as anyone else. The Karate’ is Shito Ryu from many influences. Kuniba Soke trained with all the top masters of the day. Okinawan Sensei visited his home, were friends with his father, and so taught young Kuniba. This from of Shito ryu has many kata, some from Goju Ryu, Shorin Ryu and Shorei Ryu, etc. Shito Ryu is a blend of Naha Te and Shuri Te, with some influence from Tomari Te. There are thirty five or more. I teach about thirty. I also teach Bunkai, or application of kata moves.
The Kobu Do is some of the best that I have seen in thirty five years of training. It should be though, Soke Shogo Kuniba was the first person to demonstrate Okinawan Kobu Do to the Japanese Sensei and Soke. Let me say to all the Kuniba Kai and Chikabu Kai that I hope not to offend anyone. I have been lucky enough to train with the best martial artists in the world. I have trained with many people and Soke Shogo Kuniba was the best.
I only know and teach a few Kobu Do kata. Five Sai kata, three Tonfa kata, and two Bo kata. The only other kata that I have learned is Kama Shodan from O’Soke Dave Shelton. I had always wanted to add that weapon to my curriculum. The Kobu Do kata was the main reason I wanted to meet Soke Shogo Kuniba. I had heard stories about this man since I started Karate’ classes in 1975. Before that, I learned Ju Jitsu.
The last five students that have joined my dojo are there for the Iai Do (Japanese swords drawing art). I have taken what was taught to me by Soke Shogo Kuniba’s students and expounded on it. When I met Soke Shogo Kuniba in 1990, he ordered me to take Iai class with Darren Myers Sensei. I couldn’t tell them no, you just don’t tell someone with that much experience that you don’t care for it. I figured I would try it, and I laugh because Bill Price, Soke Nidai told me in no uncertain terms that I had better be at that class!
So, now for 2009, I belong to a wonderful organization called the IMSS, or International Matsumura Seito Society. Under the guidance of O’Soke Dave Shelton I started teaching anyone in the IMSS who wants to learn Iai Do. Before 2008, I only taught Iai Do to my top students, now I have many students in many states learning my version of Iai Do. Now, I did keep Soke Shogo Kuniba’s original kata. I don’t know if there are more Kuniba Iai kata out there, because Soke Shogo Kuniba had many, many students! I and my highest ranking students have added kata until the total count is thirty five, with three two sword kata, using the wakazashi and Katana.
3. What are the principles and concepts that you uphold and try to instill in your students?
Ji Kai means Temple organization, your body is a temple and should be taken great care of. I try to promote a no drinking, smoking and over eating life style. I train in physical fitness classes with my student Kenya Dennis. I also train for sprint triathlons, swimming, biking and running. But the street is the final test of your skills in Martial Arts. I want my students to be mentally and physically prepared to meet violence calmly and coolly. Hopefully it will never come! The human brain is the most powerful weapon we possess. If you can’t talk your way out of a situation, then be ready to fight. It is most difficult to stop someone from hurting you without seriously hurting them! I also want them to learn the philosophy behind the Martial Arts, self control, self discipline, self motivation, etc. The code of conduct for us is rigid. The code of the Samurai applies to us, the code of Bushi Do too. The eight phrases of Karate’ Do. And I say “us” because I will always be a student too. Whatever my students see me do, they will also do. Soke Shogo Kuniba had, and O’Soke Dave Shelton has a no worry attitude that I hope to have one day. They both are the finest examples of human beings. I think the Phrase Soc Shin, applies. They take whatever comes with composure.
The really great Martial Artists that you meet are humble guys and just plain nice too. They realize how fragile human life is, it can be taken away with the slightest touch. These guys are nice to everyone, whether equals or inferiors! And if you ask a real Martial Artist to sweep the floor, he will give that floor the best sweeping it’s ever had! They will try to be the best at whatever!
4. Why do you think it is important for people to learn martial arts?
I think that Martial Arts aren’t for everyone. If the person who will find the cure to cancer is an unwilling participant in my class, then the whole world will suffer! Only certain people or types of people really love Martial Arts. I have witnessed lambs become like lions and lions become lambs. I learned to fight to get my way early in life, it was my way or the knuckles of my punch!
If you won, we did things your way. That has went on since Cain and Abel. There are certain types of people who need to let the warrior out, or they self destruct. I learned from my first Sensei, Wesley Lambert, how to say please, thank you, no sir and yes sir all over again. And the old ‘my way or else’ don’t work on everyone. I learned to be nice to people and very respectful…..until they go too far. Some people take this attitude as one of fear, when it couldn’t be farther from that. There are some rude people in this world, and the next time you cut line in front of a kindly old man, he might be a highly skilled Martial Artist who could cripple you with one blow! If people gave other people a little respect this would be a better world. But I always tell my students that “if you have no self respect, you cannot give others any”.
So, enough of the philosophical side of Martial Arts. If you go to any physical fitness class, you are studying Martial Arts! The arts came from Egypt to India to China. They were expanded to include exercises for out of shape monks. If every person who spends a lifetime training adds some small technique over a thousand years, well, here we are today! Being in better shape than most people separates Martial Artists from ordinary people. That is one of the things I love about Martial Arts. It ain’t easy!!! It’s a cross trainers dream come true!! Hand- eye coordination, flexibility and physical prowess are by products of training. Bruce Lee was a great example, that guy was in shape!
5. What difficulties and obstacles have you encountered so far with regards to teaching martial arts and how did you overcome them?
Wow! What a question! I’ve been teaching since 1992 and have taught autistic, wheel chair bound, bullies, pacifists, rape victims, house wives who were getting beaten up by their husbands, kids with ADD, etc.! I have had to get parents to stop trying to make their kids into killers because they got picked on. I’ve made students quit because they wanted only to be “bad assed”. I’ve turned away people who wanted to “learn how to hurt” people! Wow! The really good students are still there. But, some people wanted to get in great shape, learn to defend themselves, get hand-eye coordination for sports, get some self confidence, self control. They learned what they wanted and left. I love to run into them now and see what kind of people they’ve become. Some kids learned great concentration skills. Athlete’s stayed sharp in the off season. Most didn’t stay long, some got bored because, to them, it was too easy! Some struggled to keep up, but some learned that it’s a personal journey that will take a lifetime to complete! The challenge is picking out the gems that come my way. I don’t have riches in money or valuable possessions, but I want to share my Martial Arts with everybody! If my students don’t learn anything from me but that good old don’t ever give up attitude! Or, as my Japanese Sensei would say ” Shita Nana, Ue Hachi”, seven times down, eight times up! When I don’t feel like getting out of bed, I remember the students who are watching me! The little kids will even emulate me sometimes, and that’s scary! All I have to do is come to class with a bad attitude and guess what? My students will adopt my attitude!
So, if I have learned anything in the Martial Arts, practice what you preach! Don’t be lazy and expect to have go getters for students! If you are physically able, sweat with the students, work out with them, be nice, and be pleasant, treat them with respect and you’ll get it back. You only get friends by being one!
6. What advice and/or insights can you share with our readers who want to pursue their interest in the Japanese form of martial arts?
If I have found one way to describe Martial Arts, it goes like this, ” Chicken with stars, chicken with rice, chicken with pasta, chicken with plain broth, etc, etc. All Martial Arts are supposed to teach you self discipline, self defense, self confidence, and self control. If you don’t get self control, the others aren’t important. You should find an instructor that will meet your expectations and needs. If you don’t have great flexibility, don’t go for a Tae Kwon Do class. High kicks aren’t for you. Find an instructor that really cares about his or her students. The good ones aren’t interested in getting rich in money, just good students.
If you show the high ranking black belt kata from most styles to new people, they won’t be able to tell the difference from Karate’ and Kung Fu! Then there are the hundreds of off shooting styles. My style isn’t mine, and I cannot show you one “new” technique. I can only try to show you what I have been taught and hope you take it and make it better! And never give up! I always wanted to learn “real” Japanese from a “real” Japanese person. It took me thirty years, but finally the opportunity came!
7. Can you please give a short biography of your dojo’s instructor(s)?
Kyoshi Terrell D. Lambert, 7th Dan black belt. Ji Kai Ryu Ha Master. Born 1956 in Mobile, Al. Trained in Ju Jitsu under Dr. Loper, 1973. Started Karate’ Do training under Wesley C. Lambert in 1974, first Menjo dated 1975. First Black Belt 1982. Started training in Kuniba Ryu 1990. Kuniba Ryu Iai Do 1991. Started Ji Kai Martial Arts 1992.Joined IMSS 2005. Promoted to 7th Dan and awarded Kyoshi title by O’Soke Dave Shelton 2008.
Renshi Jake Lambert, Kyoshi Lambert’s son. Born 1978, Mobile, Al. Earned a brown belt rank under Hanshi Bob Kucera. Started assisting with Ji Kai classes 1992. Earned rank under Kyoshi Lambert, awarded a 4th Dan black belt from O’Soke Dave Shelton 2008 and the title of Renshi. Renshi Jake Lambert has a Menkyo Kaiden in Ji Kai Iai Do. He is also Kaicho of Ji Kai Martial Arts.
Kenya L. Dennis. Born in Mobile, Al. Started training privately with Kyoshi Lambert in 2005. Sensei Kenya received her 1st Dan in Karate’ in 2008, her 3rd Dan in Iai Do in 2009. She holds a Menkyo Kaiden in Ji Kai I ai Do. Sensei Kenya is my personal trainer and friend.
Randy W. McGee, born Mobile Al. Received his 3rd Dan black belt in Karate’ 2009. Has been training since forever, is Sempai, number one older student! Sensei Randy is my best friend.
Doug Drake, 2nd Dan Karate’, 1st Dan Iai Do.
Robert Hutchins, 2nd Dan Karate’, 2nd Dan Iai Do.
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