Dec 09 2008


John VanderLaar Dead at 48
Word of longtime Uechi-ryu practitioner John VandeLaar’s passing has saddened the martial-arts community in Michigan. A Battle Creek resident, VandeLaar, 47, began studying Uechi-ryu in June 1979 under Sensei Bill Keith, and shortly thereafter became a student of Sensei Jim Thompson’s during the transitional period in which Thompson bought the Okinawa Karate Academy in Kalamazoo from Keith. In later years, VandeLaar dabbled in Goju-ryu, Shotokan, Kobudo (under sensei’s Estrada and Nagazato), Kendo and aikido.
At his home in July 2005, John told Jim Gemmell in an interview for a future documentary on Uechi-ryu in Michigan that he was “one of the smaller guys in the (Kalamazoo) dojo” when he began. He said longtime student Doug Wunderly “took me under his wing a little bit and helped me along. I also did a lot of classes with Mark Stewart, a kickboxer, and Don Joyner.”

VandeLaar recalled the hard-core traditional training and testing regimen at Thompson’s school in the early 1980s. “For example, for the Sanchin test, you had one person in front of you and one person behind you, and you had a complete test, as far as the strikes, on every thrust.”

John was grateful for the great martial-arts heritage in Michigan, in terms of both the high-quality instructors and the competitors in various styles, as well as his students. He said Al Doorlag got him involved in the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) tournament competitions in the late 1980’s, which VandeLaar continued to be involved with up until the time of his death. John was also active in training students for the Junior Olympics, and Project Action, in which he helped raise funds to allow at-risk kids to pay for karate classes.

John ran a small dojo in the basement of his home for several years, and headed a karate program at a local gym.

Thanks to Al Bennett for the picture of John.

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Dec 09 2008

Eric Bishop

Eric Bishop

Eric Bishop

He died suddenly, on November 26, 2008, of an aortic dissection, following emergency surgery.

Eric was buried with military honors at Fort Custer Military Cemetery, Battle Creek Michigan on Dec. 5, 2008.

Sensei Eric Bishop began his Uechi-ryu training in Kalamazoo in 1973, and was the first person known to have introduced Uechi-ryu to Germany, in the late 1970’s. Eric died of a heart ailment in late November. In a video interview for a future documentary, Eric told me the following in Kalamazoo on Oct. 28, 2005:

(While Eric was teaching Uechi-ryu in Badkissigen, Germany), “The only Europeans that we could track down that had any Uechi experience were the guys in England, who were very helpful communicative-wise. There was supposedly a guy in Czechoslovakia. And, of course, the Iron Curtain was up, so we had no access to him. And there was supposed to be a gentleman in France, who I believe was actually an Okinawan, but we could never locate him.”

Bishop started in Uechi-ryu in the summer of 1973. “It was because my best friend at the time, Doug Wunderly, had just gotten his Shodan during one of the first visits of the Okinawans. In fact, I still have one of the boards that he chopped in half, and they autographed it for me. At the ‘Y’ (Kalamazoo YMCA), anyway, the policy was that once you got your Shodan, you helped teach. So, he (Doug) was teaching his first class

that summer. And the big Bruce Lee fad was going on, and I thought, “Well, I ought to go see what this chop suey stuff that he does is. And I went and took his first class; and, of course, it was surprisingly demanding and difficult. And I wasn’t sure I was going to pass my first belt test.

“Bill Arch was the main instructor. We always called him ‘Master Poe’ – that was our nickname for him. And I believe that Steve Fuller was teaching. A brown belt, Don Kinch, was very involved. Don Joyner didn’t come down to the Y often, but he was involved. Larry Mahar was involved.

“I was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in the Army, and headed off to Germany, where I was stationed for two back-to-back assignments. So I was there eight years. And I was an Ikkyu at the time I left for that.

“If there was any significance to my being in Uechi (ryu), it was that in ’81, when I was in (Badkissigen, two hours east of Frankurt) Germany, there was a thing called the Kontact Programme – find any way to get Germans and Americans doing things together. And there was a local sport club – they had aikido and judo – sort of like a mini-YMCA. They asked if someone would teach karate down there, and they said, ‘Yeah, we want you to teach.’ And I told them I can’t teach. And they said, ‘Sure, you can.’ And I said, ‘No, you don’t understand, I can’t teach it…I’m an Ikkyu, not a Shodan, I’m not allowed to teach…they couldn’t understand, it wasn’t there kind of authority thing. And I was talking to Doug about it, I believe, and he talked to Bill Arch and Jim Thompson, and got back ahold of me and said,  ‘Yeah, they said it’s okay. Go ahead and start teaching.’


And I didn’t really think it would go much anywhere. Showed up for the first class, and there was like 25 young Germans in gi’s, in seiza, ready to start training. It was really an interesting experience. About a year into that, I came back for a friend’s wedding, so by chance it was timed right, they were doing Dan testing, and so I tested for my Shodan at that time.


In ’84, just before I came back for my first return for a school, I had Doug and Stuart Eddy come over to run a training seminar, and hopefully to test my top two or three students, to see where they should be…we decided to make it an annual thing. In that second year, Kris and Steve (Fuller) came over. I don’t think that was a Thompson year yet, I don’t think he was there (Kalamazoo) until the third year. By the third year, they (students) had gotten Shodans….they were pretty much running it (German program) on their own. I believe they still actually train there.”


Anything you’d want to say to anybody, Eric? “I’d just thank Bill Arch, especially, the Master Poe, the efforts he put in. He was very patient with me. I’d be there for three months, out for three months…he was always just 100% there. And, of course, Doug and Stuart for being such good friends, even outside of the Uechi thing. And what they helped me do in Germany. And Master Thompson’s trust in me was really flattering. It’s a great thing and it’ll always be a part of my life, whether I ever teach again or not, doesn’t really matter to me.” 

Eric brought enthusiasm to everything he undertook, then magnified it through his willingness to share his interests with others. I knew him while he was stationed in Germany with the U.S. Army, where I saw this in three special ways.

Whatever his job, Eric strove to do it well. In Germany, he was an excellent officer, well trained, focused on his mission and blessed with a gift for leadership. His unit performed its missions well and Eric was involved in many extra activities that kept relations with their West German partners strong.

Eric was also keenly interested in the world around him. In Germany, that brought him a rich life outside the military community. He was thrilled to visit the cities and towns around him, with their history, culture and wonderful scenery. His outgoing nature led to friends in many places, from the house next door to the corner pub to the local motorcycle shop. He was deeply grateful to those people for the many ways they added to his experiences, and they gained from knowing him.

And finally, Eric’s ability to share opened a new world to a group of young people interested in the martial arts. Eric had trained in Okinawan karate before being commissioned, and when he got to Germany, he looked for an opportunity to continue training. Finding none, he volunteered to teach at a local recreation hall and led classes regularly for several years. His most dedicated students from those early days still practice and many now teach their own classes. All would tell you that Eric was a close friend and that they are deeply grateful to him for opening the door to an important part of their lives.

I, too, am grateful for Eric’s friendship. In small ways, the interests he shared enriched my life. In much bigger ways, his approach to life as a whole made him a valuable role model.

– Stuart Eddy

December 7, 2008

Eric was my first Troop Commander as a First Sergeant (Lima Leads was our motto). Captain Bishop was full of life and was a soldiers soldier. He truly kept the soldiers at the forefront of his charge and never waivered from that key responsibility. His trusty sword always traveled with him on all field exercises most notably on all Graf Gunnery deployments. As with your first teacher, your first drill instructor, your first mentor, I will remember “T” as my first Commander during a critical time during the “Cold War” in the Fulda Gap. I know your are reading this Captain Bishop….See you at Fiddlers Green. God Bless and keep you until then……Leadhorse 7 (Ernie Ford)
Ernie Ford (North Pole, AK)
December 7, 2008

The entire Blackhorse family offer our condolences. We will miss this wonderful soldier and member of the Blackhorse family. President, The Blackhorse Association 2008-2009
John Sherman Crow (Thibodaux, LA)
December 7, 2008

I will always remember a young Captain T. Eric Bishop, a fine young commander, who was an outstanding leader. His death comes as a major surprise; he died much too young. Our sincere best wishes to his family.
Ned Devereaux (Portland, OR)

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Dec 09 2008

Marine Corps Birthday Ball Speech

Marine Corps Birthday Ball Speech
My friend, Brigadier General David Heinz sent me this very moving speech, which was given by MajGen Dave Richwine, USMC (Ret) at the Marine Corps Ball in Kansas City. G. E. Mattson

The Commandant, in his message, reminds us that: Only a few Americans choose the dangerous, but necessary, work of fighting our Nation’s enemies. When our chapter of history is written, it will be a saga of a selfless generation of Marines who were willing to stand up and fight for our Nation; to defend those who could not defend themselves; to thrive on the hardship and sacrifice expected of an elite warrior class; to march to the sound of the guns; and to ably shoulder the legacy of those Marines who have gone before.
On our 233rd birthday, first remember those who have served and those ‘angels’ who have fallen – our reputation was built on their sacrifices.

Earlier this year, our Commandant gave us a recent example of how that legacy is observed, followed and embellished today.  Let me take you for a moment to Anbar Province in Iraq where two Marine Corps units were in the midst of “turn over” activities in which members of the outgoing and incoming units spend about a week together so that the “local knowledge” gained by the outgoing unit can be imparted to the incoming Marines.

As it happened, about 50 Marines were gathered in a small building.  Outside the buiding, Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter, 19, of Sag Harbor, N.Y., and Cpl. Jonathan Yale, 21, of Burkeville, Va., were standing guard on April 22 when a truck filled with 2,000 pounds of explosives barreled toward the outpost’s main gate. Suspecting an impending Beirut barracks-like bombing event and seizing the initiative they directed well-aimed rifle fire into the cab of the truck.
While this was happening, the nearby Iraqi soldiers ran for cover.  The truck did not slow appreciably, so well-aimed machine gun fire was directed into the cab of the truck.  The driver was apparently wired with a dead-man switch, and when he died, it ignited approximately 2000 pounds of high explosive material which exploded about 10 yards from where the two Marines had stood guard and blew a crater five feet deep and twenty feet across in the road. The two Marines – still firing their weapons — were killed instantly.
After the event, the Iraqi commander returned and questioned the Marine leader, asking why his men had not run to save themselves as his men had done, and indicating the Marines were crazy for standing their ground.
The Marine leader’s response was simple and principle-centered: The Marines knew if they did not do their job and hold their ground that 35-40 of their fellow Marines would die.  They made the ultimate sacrifice for their teammates. In the past weeks we have lost several Marines–three of whom I consider good friends and the fourth, whom I have met several times, is in a class all by himself.  All of these Marines were superb people and wonderful role models in all aspects of their lives.
They are: Major Lonnie Poling. . .F4 RIO, leader, motivator, expert in his field, and revered by those with whom he served;
Colonel Keith Sefton, a wonderful human being, fine Marine, and JAG officer who always looked for a way to help his commander to “get it done” and stay out of jail rather than telling him what he could not do;
John Ripley a genuine American hero whose exploits at the bridge at Dong Ha are chronicled in a book by John Miller, and . . .
General Bob Barrow, our 27th Commandant, a distinguished leader in combat during three wars.  He is also the architect of our current personnel policy-the one that ensures we attract quality young Americans and transform them into high quality Marines who, when their active service is complete, eventually return to our communities as responsible citizens.
As General Carl Mundy notes, from his earliest days in the Corps, he gained the firm, and oft articulated belief that it is people who make the difference.  Tanks, ships, airplanes and rifles are all important tools; but without the right people, they’re useless.  Even numbers didn’t count with him.  A favorite saying was, “In battle, it’s not how many show up . . . it’s who they are.”
John Ripley was one of those with General Barrow’s “right stuff”. He exemplified the unique culture of the Marine Corps in every assignment that he took on.  Maj. W. Thomas Smith, USMC (Ret.), vividly described what happened when young Ripley and his small band of about 20 ARVN were ordered to “hold and die” in the face of 200 tanks approaching the Ben Hai river during the North Vietnamese Army’s Easter Offensive in April 1972.  Wrote Smith:

“Dying would be easy.  But the only way to hold was to blow the bridge spanning the Dong Ha River”.
  And, as Ripley said, he was “the Marine there to do it.”
Then a 33-year-old captain, Ripley accomplished his task [over the course of a couple of hours] by dangling from the bridge’s I-beams, climbing along the length of the bridge hand-over-hand, his body weighted down with explosives [as he made repeated trips to emplace about 500 pounds of it], the enemy shooting at him, desperately trying to kill the lone Marine hanging beneath the bridge.
In a June 2008 interview for Marine Corps Times, Ripley said, “I had to swing like a trapeze artist in a circus and leap over the other I-beam. . . . I would work myself into the steel. I used my teeth to crimp the detonator and thus pinch it into place on the fuse. I crimped it with my teeth while the detonator was halfway down my throat.”
Ripley set the charges and moved back to the friendly side of the river, all the while under heavy fire.  When the timed-fuses detonated, Ripley – running for his life on the road leading away from the bridge – was literally blown through the air by the massive shockwave he had engineered.  The next thing he remembered, he was lying on his back as huge pieces of the bridge were hurtling and cartwheeling across the sky above him.  He had accomplished his mission. . .and had lived to tell about it.
These Marines, like the rest of us are part of an organization that retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Victor “Brute” Krulak treated in his book First to Fight.  In that book, he remarks that America doesn’t have a Marine Corps because it needs one, but because it wants one.  One might wonder why.
I believe America wants a Marine Corps because we embody the fundamental values all Americans hold dear. . . the kinds of things that help us make the right decisions and hopefully avoid some mistakes. I call them, First Principles. And I have found them in the writings of our forefathers who conceived, argued over and penned our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution.
There’s a reason we take an oath each time we are promoted.  It is to remind us that we do not swear to support and defend the Commander in Chief, or the Congress, or any operational commander, or any person at all.  Instead, we swear to support and defend the fundamental law of the land, our Constitution.
Taking the oath of office causes us to reflect on the values, ideals and principles upon which this great Nation was founded.  Those in turn should guide us in our daily living and decision making.  There is remarkable wisdom in those documents if we would but read and review them.  I charge you to do that from time to time.  Doing so helps keep us grounded and on the right path.
As stated in its Preamble, our Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution “. . .in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. . .”
Years before that, in the Declaration of Independence, they indicated the kinds of values and beliefs that drove them to declare themselves and the Colonies to be free and independent states. Everyone recalls the first line of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  We have morphed the definition of Happiness as it was understood by our forefathers. . .And it seems that we want to focus on the individual rights. . .often to the exclusion of the responsibilities that go with them.
Few today seem to recall the last paragraph of that same Declaration.  It follows the list of grievances held against the British Crown and it includes some very powerful concepts.
“We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by the Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Note particularly:
  • the reference to a higher power–a moral authority beyond mankind’s laws–that provides us a spiritual reference which both undergirds our religious beliefs and guides us in our temporal existence, guides us in determining right from wrong, and provides a frame of reference for our relationships with others.  Our character stems from our relationship with our Higher Power, our God as we understand Him;
  • the concept of honor, a portion of our character, which demands we do the proper thing when no one is looking, and that we give 110% when the going gets tough; and
  • the notion of self-sacrifice for the common good.
T R Fehrenbach has written a book entitled Greatness to Spare.  It details the history of our Founding Fathers and particularly their experiences during the formative stages of our fledgling Nation. Those who signed the Declaration of Independence were hounded mercilessly by their opponents-both foreign and domestic.
Many lost their homes, some were imprisoned, some saw family members imprisoned and killed, most lost fortunes, livelihood and property.  All were offered restitution if only they would but recant their allegiance to the United States of America and turn their allegiance to the Crown.  None did.
They persevered.  Their faith in a Higher Power, their trust in their fellow patriots, their sense of honor, their sense of duty their sense of responsibility and their dedication to the principles for which they stood guided them and sustained them in the worst of times.  Their example is timeless, and it engendered and sustains our core values of Courage, Honor and Commitment.
I believe it is reflected in the lives of exemplary Marines like John Ripley, Robert Barrow, Keith Sefton, Lonnie Poling and countless others.  The Marine Corps is what it is because of who you and I are. . .and we are who we are now, in no small part, because of the training and exposure the Marine Corps afforded us.  So, as we celebrate our history, let’s reflect on what it is that bonds us all together, completes that circle?

I believe it is love. . .of our God as we know Him, of our Country, of our Family, of our Corps and of each other.  When it gets down to brass tacks in a combat situation, we don’t fight for the flag or these higher principles that guide us, we fight for one another. . .the guys on our right and on our left. . .the guys with whom we face the imminent danger.

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Nov 06 2008

News from the “Hut”!

News Release:

The Northcentral Technical College and IUKF
Announces its first Ground Survival CourseLocation:
Rising Star East Martial Arts
9 Depot Square,
Ayer, MA 01432
Cost: $199.00 if registered BEFORE June 1, 2009
$250.00 if registered AFTER June 1, 2009
Dates: July 11-12, 2009  Times: 8AM – 5PM Daily

This is a physically demanding class!
Learn to survive today – when you need it!

Sponsored by Northcentral Technical College RedMan Training Division

To register NOW!
1000 W. Campus Drive
Wausau, WI 54401 USA
(888) 682-7144, ext. 1632

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Sep 28 2008


Congratulation to David Mott – Cold Mountain Dojo 25th Anniversary!

Hi David:
Just a note to congratulate you on your Cold mountain Dojo’s 25th anniversary.

You have been a trusted and valued friend over the years and a wonderful role-model to your students. I just wanted you to know how much I admire you and how much I value your friendship.

My only regret is that the distance prevents our working out together more often and perhaps even sharing a dram of whiskey now and then. I plan to go out with the guys tonight after class and will raise a glass in your honor, hoping my good wishes will bring even more happiness to you and Bobbie.

By the way. . . The next 25 years are a lot easier! 🙂

Love from Sue, Tia and me. . .

I received this very kind response from David last week:
Hi George and Susan (and Tia)

Thank you so much for this wonderful message!

I want to reiterate how tremendously significant you, my Uechi-ryu teacher, are to me. I would imagine that many students over the years have told you this, but I can say with absolute certainty that my life would not be what it is without what you have taught me in Uechi-ryu. I was quoting something you said to me back at the Hancock St. dojo in Monday’s class, “Make everything that you do a kata. If you are brushing your teeth, it’s a brushing your teeth kata. If you are walking upstairs, it’s a walking upstairs kata”. That was a great and valuable teaching to a young karate and music student. It has always stayed with me. Something else you said at the very beginning of my training was also a great encouragement. It was the first time I had ever sparred, it was in front of the whole class and it was with Al Ford. Al took me down with a foot sweep and while on the floor I yanked his leg out from under him so he ended up on the floor too where I was punching him. I overheard you say, “that kid’s got spirit!” That confirmation solidified something in me which has been at the core of my life long practice. I value our friendship too!

The dojo is taking Bobbi, Ken Brown and I out to dinner at a neighborhood restaurant to celebrate our 25 years of Cold Mountain Dojo. It’s nice because the students have organized everything –we just have to show up! The dojo is doing very well these days with waiting lists for the 6-8 yrs old, the 8 to 12 yrs and the teen classes. The adult intermediate/advanced classes are filled with mature karateka and the qigong and meditation classes are at capacity. I couldn’t ask for more.

Thank you so much for your well wishes and toast. I too wish that the distance wasn’t so great. I have a half sabbatical next year –which may be my last year at the University as I’ll be 65 and can take a full pension (in these wild financial days I’ll have to watch what happens to our pension plan!) and will take it in the winter (2010). I’m hoping that it works out to come down for your winter camp. I enjoyed meeting two of your students this last summer. Very fine people. I look forward to seeing them again.

So on Oct. 25 (the day we’ll celebrate), your ears may burn a little as I’ll have whole dojo raise a glass to you too!



10/24/2008 – Early Registration Discount!

Make plans to attend WinterFest in February. Register NOW to earn a big discount! Planning ahead is the best way to ensure best prices on airfare and lodging. . . Remember,  February is a very hot vacation month and Florida is where everyone wants to go!
If you stuck your head out of the door early this morning in the Northeast, you probably got a taste of the cold weather that is coming. Sure you can take it for a couple months, but by February I’m sure you will welcome a martial art vacation in picturesque (and warm) Mount Dora, Florida!
Click Here to reserve your spot at the 2009 WinterFest and to reward your foresight, Susan will discount your payment by a whopping $50.00! Discount ends January 15, 2009.

Don’t forget –  Christmas and Hannuka are approaching…What a great gift!

P.S. Make sure you bring your golf clubs and swim suit!

Register Today for the 2009 WinterFest in Mount Dora, Florida:

WinterFest is coming along nicely. Getting lots of inquiries regarding the schedule and questions about when the application will be posted.

Well, if you click the photograph, you will be taken to the WinterFest website. If you click here, you can sign-up for the event. (be sure to let me know if you will be playing in the Thursday’s “Warrior’s” golf tournament. This year we will be having multiple seminars being conducted each hour of the day. . . like SummerFest. I’ll be conducting a whole series focusing on various Uechi “components” and how they work to make your Uechi such a realistic fighting system.

Quite a few “presenters” will be helping make this year’s event a most interesting and valuable supplement to your ongoing training. Please contact me if you would like to be a “presenter” and be sure to include a summary of the seminar you would like to teach.

                                                          = = =

GEMI was honored to be invited (for the second year) to be a guest at Buzz Durkin’s organizational yearly promotion celebration. I’ve been trying to figure out how to post a photograph of the graduating class, but the picture was way to large to fit on my home page. There were way over 200 students in the class and when I reduced the photograph to fit this screen, everyone appeared as dots! 🙂 So. . . Click Here to view the pdf newsletter, which can be navigated in your Adobe Reader.

I also wish to thank one of the photographers who took the nice picture of me during my kata demonstration.

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Aug 29 2008

Official Tia Portrait

GEM vs Killer Squirrel

I’ve received quite a few requests for an old video I made about Seymour, the “killer” squirrel. (who kept raiding my bird feeder) Check it out!

Results of the 2008 SummerFest FireDragon Challenge posted:

Thanks to Bill Glasheen for heading up the testing and tabulation of the scores for this year’s Challenge. I just received the spreadsheet with the scores and posted them to the FireDragon’s site.
(link can be found in the left table of contents)  The next challenge will be conducted at WinterFest. I hope you will be able to join us. G.E.M.

Official Tia Portrait

With all the fanfare associated with my 50th Anniversary, Tia, who is dealing with Cushings Disease, and who is accustomed to constant attention and adoration from her many world-wide fans and friends, has been extremely depressed lately. Judy Durkin, a famous artist from New Hampshire, heard about Tia’s depression and volunteered to paint Tia’s official portrait, celebrating her nearly 15 years of service to the Uechi community and for providing so much love and devotion to Susan and me, as a sure fire way to perk her up.

The portrait done in pastels arrived today and everyone agrees is it absolutely beautiful. Tia checked it out carefully and also approves.
Tia's official portrait
Don’t I look “regal?”
Thank you, Judy!

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Aug 18 2008

Sanchin on the Beach

8/26/2008: New Gary Geddes photos from SummerFest!

8/24/2008:Someone just emailed me – The site made it to the 2nd page of the “karate” category on Google!

WinterFest 2009

Where: Mount Dora, FL
Thu, Feb 26 – “Warrior Golf Tournament” (sponsored by the Warrior Golf Company)
Fri, Feb 27 – WinterFest Seminars
Sat, Feb 28 – WinterFest Seminars
Sun, Mar 1 – Community FireDragon Challenge (Open to community and martial artists).

Sanchin on the Beach. . .Sanchin on the Beach

Everyone seemed to enjoy the morning workout I conducted. Each session provided me with an opportunity to provide students and teachers with a new and at least for me, an interesting look at Sanchin and how this fascinating kata provides insight and a training mechanism for everything in our Uechi-ryu system. This year we had nearly a hundred students attending each 6:30AM session.
Click on the photograph to view Gary Geddes SummerFest gallery of pictures.
I’m working on WinterFest now. If you have any suggestions for a theme or program session, please contact me. Also. . . what are the best dates for you?
Once again, I wish to thank everyone who attended SummerFest and made my 50th anniversary teaching Uechi-ryu so special.

George E. Mattson

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Aug 14 2008

Report from Max and Mia

Thanks. . . to

Jeremiah Johnson, 916.420.2264 of who designed the artwork for this year’s beautiful t-shirt. . .  and to "Rich" from The T-Shirt Master, in Quincy, MA who really is a master at silkscreening. Our t-shirts, printed by Rich, are of the very best quality and workmanship. You may reach him at 617.472.8658.

A day at the Summerfest:

Max and MiaSaturday 9, 2008

The POV of a young Uechi-Ryu Practitioner

    The weather couldn’t get much better. In the morning, fog drifted in from Buzzard Bay and swirled around the massive TS Enterprise. Through the cafeteria windows we watched the sun slowly breaking through the mist. From then on it was all glorious, a light breeze rippling the canvas of the gigantic tent, the grass deep green in the shadows. 

    We arrived at the Mass Maritime Academy for Sensei George Mattson’s 25th Summerfest camp late Friday afternoon, just in time to watch the last black belt being tested. Afterwards, Sensei Mattson took time off to give Max and I a lesson out on the grass. We have been his virtual students for a few months now, and it felt like a historic moment to be critiqued by him in person, during his famous Summerfest!  However, my nerves got the best of me, and I forgot to correct my kanchu opening as he had explained in detail during the last online lesson… He then showed us the importance of keeping the wrists straight and strong for ‘closed gate’ at the end of Sanchin. 


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Aug 12 2008

Finding a good Dojo/ teacher


The teacher is more important than the dojo!

[From G.E.Mattson’s new book, “The Way of Uechi-ryu Karate”]

When looking for a school, try to find one that teaches a style that is suited to your natural abilities. Make sure that you meet the person who will be teaching you. Watch him teach at least two classes. If possible, watch a new student class. Imagine you being in that class. Will you feel comfortable and confident with your teacher’s knowledge, ability and personality?

Although the style is important, the teacher is the key to your success. A good teacher will be able to adapt a marginal system to your individual needs and goals. A poor teacher, one who is egotistical or one dimensional, will take a great system and transmit it badly. Do not blindly accept rank or trophies as a judge of teaching ability. Often those who can do, cannot teach! Many teachers own schools for all the wrong reasons! Try to stay clear of these schools and teachers.

When searching for a teacher, find one who follows the philosophy of “not injuring a student while trying to help him”.

Often, people will ask me how to select a school, style or teacher. If you are contemplating studying karate, and have not yet selected a school, my discussion on this subject might help you understand a little more about the art and the people who teach it. You might also be a little better prepared to select your school.

There are quite a few teachers who consider themselves “tougher” and better fighters than the “professional” instructors who are so successful today. For obvious reasons, their schools seldom have very many students. The teacher might be an excellent athlete and a wonderful person, but his training methods may be better suited for Navy Seals than what you are capable of achieving.

Even though you might like to study at this dojo, your odds of staying with the pro gram won’t be any better than the school’s hundreds of other drop-outs. Regardless of how much you want to take the “hard” road, spend the first year in a traditional school that has a proven track record for holding their students. There are no bragging rights for having dropped out of the toughest martial art school in America.

Young teachers often will run schools where the training is geared to the very young and strong. People not able to keep up with the younger program quickly drop out, or do not join in the first place. Conversely, older teachers often gear their classes for a more mature audience and might turn off younger students and potential students.

Teachers do not consciously specialize in the caliber of instruction offered at their dojo. Often, the program is subtly focused on a specific category and without the instructor realizing it, his school takes on a one dimensional characteristic.

You are responsible for your own progress and destiny. Your teacher is a guide. He should be responsible and sensitive to your short and long term goals. If he is not, then you should check out another teacher.

There are many reputable organizations, schools and teachers. Many have direct ties with their teacher and respected organizations. These associations tend to be more “traditional”, in that the members value the link with the styles’ heritage and attempt, through the group’s standards, to maintain the system’s key/core elements. Member schools agree on standards for rank, which relates to the trademark forms, sets and drills that make up the heart of the system.

Students joining schools belonging to a reputable association, have the best chance of receiving excellent instruction while having confidence that the diploma received for rank has some value.

First check to see if a school and teacher has a direct tie to a national organization that in turn has a link with a well known International organization. If a tie exists, then you at least know the school you are interested in, is being supervised in some capacity by individuals who are knowledgeable about the art. Even with this basic assurance, you should still talk with new students in the school and watch a few classes, taught by the person who will be teaching you during your first course.

If the school does not have ties with a national or international organization, deter mine if the school specializes in a single system or style. Even if the dojo does not have ties with a well recognized group, it may have strong positive leadership, thoroughly versed in a traditional style of karate. In this situation, be especially careful in checking out the school’s credentials and those of the parent organization, if applicable.

Find out who will be teaching your classes. What are their credentials? How long have they been teaching and/or in business? Finally, watch a few classes and talk with people who have been attending classes.

Since you will, by extension, be part of the association, learn as much as you can about any parent organization. Be skeptical of those groups whose sole function is issuing rank certificates. Find out as much as possible about the people who are in charge of the organization. . . Their background and years in the art. Find out if the par ent group offer seminars and other methods for keeping member schools up to standards.

Even though an individual might be an excellent teacher and technician, he should have some way to keep up his own training and teaching methods. Good teachers learn from one another and need others to make sure subtle day by day changes don’t vary too much from the standards of the system or organization.

I often talk about a dojo having a life of its own, made up of students and teachers. By watching a few classes and talking to members, you should get a sense of whether you will fit in with the dojo and its members. The more schools you check out, the better sense of value and compatibility you will have.

Be aware and make sure you feel comfortable with the dojo you select. Few people would buy the first car they look at. Most of us will do research prior to ever visiting a showroom. Not surprisingly, karate schools have far more options/variables to offer than cars and interestingly enough, today the financial commitment involved, equal or surpass that of an automobile purchase!

Finally, there are hybrid groups, dedicated to specialized areas, such as Mixed Martial Arts, Point Tournament or Kick Boxing training. These organizations recognize the limitations of their sports and address issues that relate specifically to their interests. Schools that train students to participate in these activities should be up-front about what they offer.

Your comments and suggestions should be of value to your instructor during the course of your training. You are the best person to know your limits and capacity for learning. If you need more help, or if you need to progress more slowly, do not be afraid to discuss your concerns with your teacher. He may have his own reasons for pushing you beyond what you consider correct. But he may not be familiar with your concerns that are valid. If there are 250 students in your school, it is difficult for the teacher to know everything about you that relates to how you can best learn safely and effectively

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