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Dojo Doyen

Dojo Doyen

Member and karate instructor Tim Neely explains the appeal of the martial art.

Martial arts have been an integral part of Japanese culture for centuries. Combat training was essential to the samurai, who not only sought to improve their fighting skills but also their physical and mental strength.

As karate fifth-degree black belt Tim Neely explains, diligent training—with a focus on technique, etiquette and manners—fosters the development of spiritual self-edification.

The Member, who launches a karate class for children and adults at the Club this month, began practicing the martial art in the 1980s at the University of Nebraska, where a branch of Kenkojuku Shotokan karate was led by world-renowned sensei Richard Schmidt.

Ahead of welcoming his first students, Neely, who is also trained in kendo and Tenjin Shinyo-ryu jujutsu, shares what he has learned from four decades in the dojo.

Why did you take up karate?
Following a five-year run as a competing Golden Gloves boxer in the United States, I felt that karate offered a refined and comprehensive opportunity to develop agility, strength and flexibility, built on old-world training etiquette and manners.

What was the first class like?
It was surreal. I was one of 40-plus beginner students. It started, as all classes still do, with calisthenics, physical training and stretching that challenged us just a bit beyond our comfort levels. We then focused on the fundamentals, such as punches, kicks and blocks.

What has been karate’s enduring appeal?
Over time, you discover yourself to be stronger and faster, and it is wonderful to see people who are just ahead of you doing the same. They stay slightly ahead, and this is highly motivating. Also, new students look to you for guidance. Everyone, therefore, is both a teacher and a student and becomes filled with a sense of responsibility and reverence.

Why did you decide to start teaching?
I wanted to share the rich experience that I have been gifted through my interactions with Japan’s martial arts community over the past 40 years. I love teaching, and through teaching, my learning continues.

What can students expect from your class?
Each class begins with a warm-up and calisthenics, then we move on to activities which foster agility, stamina, footwork and strength. Karate training is divided into four major activities: fundamentals, forms, prearranged sparring and free sparring. We will also have the chance to interact with students outside the Club, primarily from our headquarters dojo in Hachioji. My registered students will have the chance to train at affiliate dojos throughout Japan and the United States at any time on request.

What have karate and martial arts brought to your life?
Martial arts have given me health, confidence and self-awareness. It is wonderful to train together with our teachers, seniors, peers and students, and to be a part of an ecosystem in which we all improve and grow in the art together.

Karate
September 7–December 14

Words: C Bryan Jones
Image: Yuuki Ide
September 2022