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A Traditional Karate School in Chicago

PHILOSOPHY - George Schlauder, Chief Instructor

My philosophy and the philosophy of our club is that the fundamental principles of karate that children learn are no different than those that are taught to adults. However, our method of instruction for children is slightly different than how we teach adults, due to the difference in maturity level and musculature development in young children. However, as the children approach the teen years these differences become less apparent. Our expectations are the same for all children and adults.

In addition to personal attributes such as concentration, focus, discipline and mutual and self-respect, we also stress certain physical aspects of karate expected for all age levels, such as synchronization of movement, ibuki (strong exhale), messen (eye vector), fumikomi (pressure). We have no classes specifically tailored to children with special needs. Although, we do take into consideration learning difficulties with which some individuals may be challenged, our expectation is that that all students must be able to take instruction and not be disruptive to others in class.

Attitude to teaching
If you expect to get a Black Belt within a year this is NOT the place to be. Students are not allowed to test for their first kyu rank (colored belt) until after being in attendance for two sessions. Although children tend to experience an adequate level of achievement through the first years of study. Belt exams occur at a less frequent interval as the child matures both age wise and in terms of karate experience. The frequency of testing approaches that of the adult program

The reasoning is that Traditional Karate is not about “getting a black belt”, although this is a noble goal. My philosophy is that the study of karate is learning about how to deal with the interaction of our ego and the world around us. The dojo (an area where an individual trains by themselves or with others) is the place where we experience and become more aware of how and what we are thinking, through our training and interaction with our instructors and fellow students. Although we nurture the spirit of the individual, we also challenge the spirit to express itself against adversity when appropriate. 

Consistent with our expectations of a high level of maturity associated with increased study in the martial arts, we do NOT develop 6-year-old black belts. In fact the level of Sho-dan, or first-degree black belt is not conferred upon any of our students until they have at least reached the age of 16. We have excellent students who have studied diligently for over 6 years and have all of the physical capabilities to perform the testing requirement to obtain a black belt in any “so-called” karate school. We feel the responsibility is similar to the maturity level expected for driving a car.

Teaching experience
I have had the good fortune to be able to teach karate to children and adults of all ages from 5 to 55 and older. I started teaching children at Peterson Park back in 1993. Prior to that I taught children in the Sugiyama dojo as well as at Portage Park. I began teaching formal classes for adults in the 1980’s in the Sugiyama dojo, where I continue to teach as the Senior Instructor or Shusheki Shihan.

Karate history
My relationship with Sensei Sugiyama began when I first began studying karate while I was in Graduate School at the University of Illinois, Chicago in the 1970’s. After a year or so of taking instructions in several styles of karate at the University, I heard about Sensei Sugiyama’s Dojo. I began studying with him in the late 70s and received my Sho-dan from him and Sensei Nishiyama in 1982. After receiving my doctorate the same year, I left for a post-doctoral fellowship at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. I returned to Chicago, where I took a job in a major Health Care Company. Although I had job offers in other areas of the country, one of the contributing factors in taking a job in the Chicago area was to continue my training with Sensei Sugiyama.

Over the last 3 decades I have continued to study under Sensei Sugiyama being the most senior student who regularly studies under Sensei Sugiyama. Over these years, I could not have helped but to assimilate many aspects of his innovative teaching style. As an instructor at his dojo as well as in my own, I utilize all of his innovative principles in the development of my teaching style.

I have also had the opportunity to teach students from many different countries that have visited the Sugiyama dojo as well as through my travels as an International Judge and giving clinics abroad. Through these experiences, I have found that karate can be a commonality which can bridge many cultural and chronological bridges.

In addition to my training under the late Sensei Nishiyama, over the years, I have had the opportunity to train with many of the top instructors in karate and I continue this interaction today.  I believe this continued interaction and discussion of the fundamental principles of karate and its methods of instruction should occur across all organizational entities.  It is a fundamental responsibility of all instructors to pursue these kind of interactions in order to truly continue the tradition and advance the art.