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Paul Herbert 5th Dan
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Hitting the Jackpot in Atlantic City
Blackjack, Roulette… Karate?

By Jon Chalmers

Attendees of the 1st Annual USA-SKF Karate Camp won big in Atlantic City, and they want to share the wealth.

Organizers of the fledgling USA Shotokan Karate Federation’s first training camp overcame the odds in Atlantic City to pull off the seemingly impossible, and everyone there walked away richer for their efforts. Richer in knowledge, experience, and a new-found sense of purpose, that is. Now they want to spread the wealth, and what they’re proposing could be the most significant development in decades for traditional karate.

Karate training camps are nothing new. Look in any publication that lists such events and you’ll see plenty camps on the schedule. With few exceptions, though, these camps are organized and conducted by one or the other of the many traditional karate organizations that emerged after the break-up of the Japan Karate Association in the 1980’s.

What made this camp unique was that the camp drew instructors and participants from several organizations. Political lines weren’t just blurred; they were obliterated,

as senior instructors from seven different organizations united with a common purpose: to share their love and knowledge of traditional karate.

USA-SKF Camp Instructors:     
Richard Gould 8th dan American Shotokan Karate Federation
Salvatore Lopresti 7th dan Shotokan Karatejutsu
Ron Romano 7th dan Shotokan Karetejutsu
Tom Froebel 7th dan Advanced Shotokan Institute
Tom Casale 6th dan Japan Shotokan Karate Association USA
Georges Aschkar Jr 6th dan Kyodai Karate
Dr. Robert Myles, MD 5th dan American Japan Karate Association
Paul Lopresti 4th dan Shotokan Karatejutsu
Ricardo Galina 4th dan
Japan Shotokan Karate Association Mexico
Prof. Milorad V. Stricevic, MD   Dean, School of Health Professions,
Long Island University
Toyotaro Miyazaki 8th dan Miyazaki Karate

 The camp, sponsored and organized by Shotokan Karate-Jutsu chief instructor
Sal Lopresti, his son Paul Lopresti, Ron Romano and JSKA-USA chief instructor,
Thomas Casale, was the first event held by the newly formed USA-SKF. For two and a half days some of North America’s most senior instructors presented classes and lectures over a twelve-hour period each day.

Equally impressive was the amount of experience among the camp attendees: the average rank among the yudansha students was sandan (3rd degree black), the majority of whom are instructors themselves. There were plenty of beginners at this function as well adding to the diversity and making it a great experience for all participants. The presenters included college professors, world champions, authors, doctors, and senior leaders from many organizations.

The camp covered a variety of subjects; topics ranged from basic skills to advanced concepts. Some of the instructors focused on specific techniques or applications; others presented a broader spectrum of skills:

Ron Romano focused on the basics of stance and movement, as a prelude to kata training. Dr. Robert Myles gave new perspectives on round-kicks. Paul Lopresti gave a lecture on methods of recognizing application of technique in kata, as taught by his sensei Patrick McCarthy, and later gave a class on applications found in the tekki series of kata.

Dr. Milorad Stricevic, founder of the Long Island University’s karate instructor program, gave a lecture on the health benefits of karate and training techniques for conditioning and strength. Richard Gould held a class on body shifting and feints, which became a theme that was followed throughout the day.

He also gave a lecture on his new book, Red Sun on the Journey, a story about four karate students who find themselves transported through time to medieval Japan. The book was inspired by his experience training as a young man in Japan, and was loosely based on students he has known. His lecture was followed by a lengthy Q&A on what it was like to train in Japan in the 1960’s.

Georges Aschkar Jr. held a seminar on sparring strategy, and world champion Ricardo Galina held two classes on sparring techniques. Tom Froebel taught a class on the bo staff, and had another interesting class on the use of neural pattern interrupts that can be used in sparring.

In addition to giving in depth classes on basic karate skills, camp coordinators Sal Lopresti and Thomas Casale put together a successful youth tournament, which was held on Saturday. By the end of the camp it was obvious that no matter whom they had trained under, or what organization they came from, everyone was teaching the same karate. This became most obvious during the Saturday classes, where a series of instructors followed each other throughout the day.

Although what each of them would be presenting had not been previously discussed, if you didn’t know otherwise you would have thought the entire day had been planned, as through chance each instructor taught a class that built upon the previous one. A clearer demonstration of the unity of karate could not have been shown.

Sal Lopresti explains, “Our vision for this camp was to allow each instructor, no matter his background or experience, teach what he felt most comfortable with. We asked the instructors to submit a list of topics they felt represented themselves the best and we (USA-SKF) chose the final topics so we could have a diverse training schedule. Nobody was asked or directed to teach a particular subject matter of our (USA-SKF’s) choosing. It turns out that everyone enjoyed the freedom to teach to their individual strengths and the students came away with more than they ever could have hoped for.”

Unity was also a topic of discussion at the camp, as the senior black belts from organizations across the country sat down to discuss how to better cooperate and support each other. The importance of this was evident even in the camp itself:

While the camp was a huge success, organizers admit some disappointment that the old political barriers continue to be an obstacle. One of the objectives of the camp, according to Mr. Lopresti, was to give senior karate-ka a chance to “show their teaching expertise”, and students the opportunity to train with the best in the country.

Among the instructors invited to the camp were many of the western world’s most senior karate-ka; individuals whose experience, knowledge, and teaching abilities rank them among the best in the world. Sadly, some of them did not accept. Without naming any specific individuals, Mr. Lopresti admitted that there were some senior Shotokan instructors who apparently declined due to the political barriers that they have built around themselves.

He went on to say that there were many world-class instructors who simply could not be invited the first year owing to the smaller size of the first camp. Camp organizers feel that this opens the door for next year’s camp and they hope to have even more guest instructors and some other top quality instructors from the USA and around the world.

For the senior karate-ka who did attend it was truly a non-political event. There was even some international representation. The hope was to have more international participation, but injuries held back some instructors from other foreign countries that had been scheduled to present. Next year, camp organizers say, they plan on having a larger Canadian group and perhaps a visit from some of their friends in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

It is perhaps fitting then that the result of their discussions was a new alliance similar in many ways to another international organization, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Much as NATO unites countries with common interests, the U.S.A. Shotokan Karate Federation provides the framework for independent karate organizations to cooperate together for a common purpose. Like NATO, the USA-SKF is an alliance of independent entities united in a common purpose.

As part of the USA-SKF, organizations agreed to coordinate event schedules to reduce scheduling conflicts, to promote and support each other’s organizations, and to develop various national events, such as the training camp.

This was the real payoff in Atlantic City, and the wealth that the new USA-SKF wants to share with the rest of the world. In overcoming the petty politics and bickering that has divided Shotokan for the last twenty years everyone wins. It is a win that could not come at a better time:

While the guardians of the old traditions have been busy bickering and arguing over who has “real” karate, the charlatans and fakes have been turning the martial arts into a money making joke.
Every day a new “karate” school opens its doors at some strip mall and the unsuspecting line up to pay ridiculous sums for dubious training. Your kids don’t even have to go to some strip-mall school for their black belt; $29.99 at Target will buy you a gi complete with black belt and train-at-home video lessons.

Now then, more than ever, it is important that the practitioners of traditional karate keep faithfully to the path, endeavor to make karate better, and respect and welcome everyone who is seeking perfection of spirit through karate. That is the goal of the USA-SKF.

USA-SKF Training Camp 2007

Plans are already under way for the next USA-SKF training camp, scheduled for April 12th through the 15th, 2007 in Atlantic City. The camp will once again be sponsoring instructors from the same organizations as this year and hopefully some new friends.

If you are interested in being a presenter or attendee at the next camp, or would like more information about the USA-SKF, you can contact either Salvatore or Paul Lopresti via their website www.shotokankaratejutsu.com. They are both very willing to give generous amounts of time and information for the benefit of anyone interested in karate.