East Morris Karate Academy

The Staff

Our instructors are selected exclusively from among senior EMKA students who demonstrate the desire and aptitude for advanced studies as “students of teaching.” As such, their training program expands to include initiation into other aspects of dojo operations including administration, operation, and leadership.

 

Staff membership isn’t automatic, but by appointment offered only to candidates made eligible through successful completion of our formal three year internship program.  (See Instructorship below.) Other requirements include:

  • Minimum age of 18 years.
  • Minimum rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) awarded by an American Budo Kai association member school.
  • Adherence to strict professional standards for performance and conduct.
  • Maintenance of individual competence as a practitioner.
  • Participation in the EMKA continuing professional development program. (Instructors are expected to one day grow into teachers – which we consider separate concepts).
The Students

Enrollment and Divisions

We accept students at age 5 and all adults. Our basic enrollment is contractual and annual. Although we also offer certain special situation enrollments, we do not engage in long term "Black Belt Club" type obligations.

 

Our classes are co-educational and divided according to age into a Junior, Teenage, and Senior Division.  All students are considered to be on the Black Belt track, and so are taught the same curriculum, in full. However, intensity, depth, and expectations are adjusted for appropriateness.

 

Rank Structure

We follow the standard Japanese 7 Kyu (under Black) grading system, but use minor modifications to allow for the longer developmental curve of younger students.

 

Our minimum age for the rank of Shodan is the traditional 16 years. However, students who begin very young may, at age 13, qualify for the technical rank (borrowed from the Judo tradition) of Junior Black Belt. Conversion to Shodan isn't automatic, but requires attainment of maturity not expected from them as adolescents.

 

Of all questions about rank, the most telling is the criteria use for awarding Black Belt. First off, people should be very clear on this point: All rank is only valid within the organization that grants it. Every instructor can, and usually does, award rank as they see fit. Only the integrity of that instructor gives it value, or merit for outside recognition. As teaching standards become ever more diverse, universal rank recognition becomes ever less possible.

 

Secondly, there are two basic approaches to the central issue itself. To the extent an instructor subscribes to one or the other, ultimately determines everything (literally) about their school – from what and how they teach to the way they run the business. In absolute terms, one view holds that the Black Belt is symbolic of achievement through performance; the other, of what someone becomes as a person. The 6 year old Black Belt and the traditional Iaido Yudansha (Black Belt level swordsman) are each the product of differing conceptual allegiances.

 

We follow the second, traditional, view which equates Black Belt attainment akin to a rite of passage. This definition supports and is supported by our budo mission.

 

The Curriculum

Budo

Before discussing what we teach, it’s important to address why we teach in the first place. In fact, an instructor’s perceived purpose for teaching has a greater impact on what students come away with than does the particular art or style that’s offered.

 

Sport, recreation and exercise are the most common focuses found in today’s martial arts schools. (Actual self-defense comes in a distant fourth in popularity!) Yet, our Budo focus is the older, and actually more generally accepted approach, although it’s one who’s name is equally little known.

Simply put, Budo involves the use of intense an training experience coupled with philosophic principles to produce a third effect, perfection of character. However, to truly be Budo, both training and principles must specifically be martial in nature. (In other words, athletics mixed with New Age psycho-babble doesn’t count.)

 

Ever since The Karate Kid movies, character development has became so closely associated with the martial arts, it's now often mistakenly thought to be inherent to the training itself. It isn't. Budo is neither accidental nor a given side-effect. Budo requires unique teaching skills and student commitment beyond what's necessary for simple competence or even proficiency.

 

Why bother? The samurai, with rare exception, believed that, when evenly matched, spiritual superiority alone determined life for one opponent and death to the other. And defeat can take many forms. In today's world, how often are lives made or broken, not as matters of talent or resource, but of character? Equally, isn't character the single most cited element as essential to success?

 

In short, Budo training is never easy, rarely glorious, often uncomfortable, and always worth the effort. 

 

Isshin-ryu Karate (entry level)

This Okinawan style is the centerpiece of our training. Although perhaps not as renown as others, Isshin-ryu is actually one of the more commonly practiced styles in America.

 

Simple, practical and highly effective, it's as well suited for personal defense as it is for tactical application by professionals (law enforcement, security, military, etc.) Free of acrobatic technique, it’s also excellent for young and old; athletically gifted or otherwise.

 

Traditional Weaponry (advanced)

We offer Okinawan bo, sai, nunchaku, tuifa, and Philippine escrima as an extension of empty-hand training. Our course is authentic and combat oriented. We do not teach young children.

 

Traditional weapons, while themselves archaic, offer two advantages for modern students.

 

First, they are characteristically akin to common items (broom, rake, shovel, tire chain, hammer, pipe, etc.) that, if wielded in the same manner, can defend as effectively.

 

Secondly, even such rustic weapons as ours provide advanced, yet primarily "empty-hand", practitioners with an opportunity to touch upon the legendary lessons of classical weapons such as the sword.

 

Instructorship (by appointment)

"There are no better styles; only better men." (And, of course, women!) As that old saying also implies, it’s the teacher, not the art, who embodies either the best - or worst - in martial training.

 

Not very long ago most Americans considered every Black Belt capable of teaching. Times have changed, but not by much. Until they do, we’ve chosen to set high standards for ourselves; based not on convenience or advantage, but on the teaching mission as most people understand it. Toward that end, EMKA offers two formal programs: Intern training and continuing instructor development. Our certification isn't for everyone; neither is maintaining it: Only one in three have been successful over time.

 

The terms "diploma" and "certification" are very often confused - especially in our industry. (It should also be remembered that both are, by definition, only valid within the organization that grants them.) An individual’s rank diploma can attest only to what they once accomplished or were capable - not what they're currently doing. Certifications, to varying degree, serve that purpose. However, any certification without some mechanism for oversight is more than misleading – in some fields (medicine, engineering, etc.), it’s potentially dangerous.

 

We believe martial arts instruction is one of those special fields. Instructors should be taught how to teach; certified to operate; and accountable to someone, other than themselves, who is knowledgeable concerning competence and proper conduct. Regurgitated personal experience and specious diplomas don’t make a teacher any more than self-righteous assertions of "artistic sovereignty" assure professional responsibility from school owners.

 

We also understand the dangers that position poses for instructors themselves. For those readers who may be also be colleagues, please consider this:

 

What the public is incapable of doing for themselves in the marketplace… and industry is unwilling to do for the public at the conference table… government is known to inevitably do in the legislature.

 

Every industry is regulated in some way by some "one". The smart "ones" take the high ground – first. It seems obvious, ours hasn't.