Interview with Sensei Neeraj Dhawan of JKA WF Chicago karate Institute, Inc.
Property Type: Karate
1. Who is the dojo’s founder and what prompted him/her to build the school? Is there any rich history behind its making?
The JKA WF Chicago karate Institute, Inc., was founded in July 2008. Sensei Neeraj Dhawan is the Director and Chief Instructor of the Dojo. Born in New Delhi, India, Sensei Dhawan started travelling from the age of 3. His childhood was spent in North Africa, where he started Karatedo under Sensei Okamoto, the Chief Instructor for the Middle-East & Africa region for the Japan Karate Association, JKA, (www.jka.or.jp). He then travelled to England and trained with Sensei Enoeda, Ohta, and the KUGB British Instructors. In 1993, he moved to back to India to support his mother and enrolled with the JKA India to become a JKA Instructor.
In 1997, he was selected to be part of the Indian National Karate Team, and has since, been a senior member of the National Team, he has competed extensively in National, Asian and World Championships, including 4 JKA World Shoto Cups. He has been holding the title of the JKA All India Men’s Champion since 2003, and is a licensed Instructor, Examiner and Judge with the Japan Karate Association.
He has also been very successful as a Coach, producing numerous Indian National Champions from his Dojo in India, and since 2008, the Children’s National Champion in the USA. This year, at the JKA WF America (www.jkawfamerica.org) National Championships in Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2 of his students won the Childrens’ and the Men’s Individual Kumite Title respectively.
In 2006, he moved to Chicago, USA, to support his wife, and has since been a staunch supporter of the JKA WF America, for which he also holds the position of the Director of the Central (Midwest) Region.
He continues to go back to India every year to compete at the All India National. You can watch his tournament clips here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rroik0kn8RE
He is very passionate about his Karate and visits Japan twice every year to train at the JKA headquarters in Tokyo.
2. What forms of Japanese martial arts do you teach in your school? Can you please share with us the history behind them?
Our Dojo is dedicated to imparting instruction in the Shotokan Karate of JKA – Japan Karate Association. The JKA was formed by Master Gichin Funakoshi, (pen-named, ‘Shoto’), who brought Karate to the mainland Japan from Okinawa. The JKA is the oldest and largest single style Karate organization, with its corporate headquarters in Japan, and branches in over 126 countries world-wide.
The JKA emphasizes on practical and scientifically proven training methods, in line with safety and correct body-mechanics.
Also, JKA Karate is the only style or school of Martial Arts that emphasizes on training and developing a ‘one strike, one kill’ approach. Even in our tournaments, one wins through one deadly shot/technique, instead of accumulating points and playing tag. This keeps training very real, and obviously, very practical for combat and self-defense.
3. What are the principles and concepts that you uphold and try to instill in your students?
Students are always encouraged to listen to their bodies and identify their limitations, because at the end of the day, it is ‘with’ these limitations that one must try and overcome the obstacle/challenge that one faces.
We also strongly believe that the JKA Dojo Kun are the guiding principles for a Karateka’s life… And we all strive to live by these codes:
One. Seek perfection of character.
One. Be honest and faithful.
One. Respect others.
One. Refrain from violent behavior.
4. Why do you think it is important for people to learn martial arts?
Well, apart from the obvious physical, mental and spiritual benefits, Karatedo also helps you in all aspects of your life. You use the principles of the Dojo Kun in your day to day life, applying them in your personal and professional fronts. If you can have a better understanding of others around you, and be in harmony with them, then you will have lived your life without any regrets, and full gratification.
5. What difficulties and obstacles have you encountered so far with regards to teaching martial arts and how did you overcome them?
Students are the same everywhere in the world, but cultures and economies are different. In the east, when I used to teach in India, we would train outdoors, even in the monsoons… And the indoors dojo was floored with concrete tiles. The eastern students are definitely more respectful, and understand that it is a long journey.
In the west, now that I teach in the USA, we have 5-star facilities in our dojo… Wood-sprung floor, tatami & EVA mats, Air conditioning & Heat, but we lack the patience, diligence, and proper etiquette in the culture. Hopefully, through studying the art, the students, irrespective of where they are from, will adopt the Dojo Kun in their lives, and develop their personality as well…
That is the objective of Karatedo, and I have seen it work wonders.
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?
The journey is more important than the destination.
Never forget to maintain proper etiquette and attitude inside and outside the Dojo. Identify and accept your limitations and learn to work with them.
Remember, there are no excuses… only intentions.
7. Can you please give a short biography of your dojo’s instructor(s)?
The Core Group: L to R: N Dhawan, N Lawrence, W Zemlak, S Pinto.
(In the group picture)
Hon. Assistant Instructor
3rd Dan, JKA WF America
Director & Chief Instructor
5th Dan, Japan Karate Association
Licensed Instructor – Examiner – Judge, JKA
Hon. Assistant Instructor
1st Dan, JKA WF America
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