The colorful world of karate


— Studying under a sensei from Naha, Okinawa, who has practiced martial arts for more than 45 years, Goju-Ryu instructor Michael David said he is honored that Teruo Chinen is coming to Steamboat for a two-day seminar.

On April 20 and 21, this seventh-degree black belt sensei will give members of the Steamboat Springs Karate Academy a seminar to work with, meet and see the potential of David's students.

"I'm not No. 1. I've only been doing it so many years," David said, idolizing Chinen. "He's incredibly fast and still very agile. He's all about hard work."

Hard work at David's academy only may be the 1 1/2 hours of practice in the old junior high school, but he said Chinen's seminars are rigorous.

Having first-hand experience of these seminars, David said a 2 1/2 to 3-hour class is considered short. Typically, Chinen runs his seminars for about four hours with "75 percent (of the time) going full-out," David said.

Chinen, now of Spokane, Wash., is the chairman and chief instructor of Jundokan International a family of more than 10,000 practitioners spanning the United States, Canada, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.

The majority of his students, and the students who attend Chinen's seminars, are either white or green belts, two of the novice stages of martial arts, David said.

To receive a white belt, students learn the basics, how to punch, kick and block, and learn prearranged patterns that have been in existence for more than 100 years.

To receive a green belt, the next in the hierarchy of martial arts, students learn more intricate patterns.

Brown belts learn to explore their own intensity.

A black belt is the highest colored belt, but not the highest level. Stripes and degrees vary with each color.

"Black belt testing ...," David said, shaking his head, "it's rarely witnessed. People get discouraged. Basically, you're learning how to destroy another human being. But it's being able to control that ability."

David said in the beginning, there was just a white and black belt. The differences meant being a boy, or being a man.

"I have about 10 students. The majority of them are women, mostly in their 30s and 40s," David said. "This is completely unexpected to me."

David and Chinen met in New Jersey in 1987. David decided to take a karate hiatus when he moved to Colorado, but realized there was a need for Goju-Ryu-style martial arts in Steamboat.

David's academy is the only official school for Goju-Ryu in Colorado. He said this type of martial arts, which originates in Japan, contains the most rigorous training.

"You discover that your whole body becomes a weapon," David said.

David said Goju-Ryu training is good for children between 12 and 13 years old, before hormones and peer pressure take control.

"Starting to do physical work and control your body before hormones start pushing you around" is the best time, David said.

For a karate academy that recently celebrated its first year in existence, David said the only thing he would like to change is implementing a program for children.

"I would like to work out a good time for younger students who are interested," David said.

As of now, David's classes in the old junior high school, studio 2, are from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays. Sometimes, that just isn't good enough for younger students.

As a personal trainer at the Health and Recreation Center, David's attitude about the body is serious, but he can't ignore the impact of martial arts on the mind.

"Coordination is all about the mind," David said. "I've had kids with ADD, ADHD and Downs Syndrome, after a year or two, it's tremendous for their bodies and helping their personalities."


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