Welcome to WestWind Schools!
Founded September 15th, 1969 in Berkeley, California and expanding to our Alameda location in 1975, we are the oldest and largest Karate dojo in our cities. WestWind Schools offers three different types of instruction; Martial Arts, Boxing, and a State-Registered Private School teaching grades 1-12.
Our website is designed as an additional resource for those exceptional students who wish to delve deeper into WestWind’s history, philosophy, and teachings. Enjoy, and I’ll see you soon at the dojo!
WestWind Schools teaches a style of Kenpo Karate our founder named Bok-Fu (Literally, “White Tiger”) which combines the quick, lethal animal styles of Chinese Kung Fu with the vigorous, straight-line powerful strikes and stances of Japanese Karate. Our style was forged during a time when devastatingly effective personal defense was the overriding principle, and you can see our combative roots in every strike, technique and kata we teach. For the student interested in handling themselves in any emergency, WestWind Schools is simply the most complete self-defense course available.
WestWind Schools: The Bok-Fu System From White Belt to Black Belt
The earning of different colored belts is a relatively new phenomenon in the long history of martial arts. The trend started in Japanese dojo, as traditional Kung-Fu Schools have no belt ranking system whatsoever. We are told that in the early part of the 20th Century, Judo dojo in Japan had all students practice in the exact same uniform: Short white cotton canvas pants with a heavily quilted cotton jacket all wrapped up in a padded white belt. Now, the pants and jacket would be washed and kept clean, but the belt was never washed. There was no formality involved in this decision not to wash the belt, it truly just never occurred to anyone that a belt was something that needed to be cleaned. Think about it: when was the last time you thought to take your dress belt to the cleaners, or throw it in the washing machine? In most cultures, accessories like belts are simply not articles that are considered laundry! And thus, after many years, the cotton belt would start to show honest signs of wear and tear: sweat would turn it yellow, the oils and dust from being grabbed and thrown would turn it brown, and after many, many years, the belt would appear black with the raw buildup of dust and sweat! This, we are told, is the legend of how the White Belt used to become Black. Now of course, this was not a very scientific method for determining how long a student had been training, so a color system was devised in order to formally reflect the student’s progress through their training. The colors vary from school to school, based upon no set criteria or standardized formula. Some systems have very few belts, typically White, Yellow, Green, Brown and Black, reflecting the original colors a belt would turn with daily wear. Others schools have, without exaggeration, as many colors as you’d find in the rainbow. With my own eyes I’ve seen schools award pink belts (an attempt to promote “women’s self-defense”), belts that are half & half (half white/half yellow, etc.) and I even saw a school back in the 1980s giving out “camouflage belts”! In WestWind Schools, the Belt Colors are as follows:
White, Orange, Purple, Blue, Green, Brown, Black, Red
Here’s a brief overview of the requirements for earning each belt.
Getting Started: Hachikyu The White Belt
The beginning student is invited to take a tour of the school, and try a week of private lessons for free, to find out if WestWind is right for them. After being accepted into the school, the beginner is formally presented their white belt and white keikogi (practice uniform) and is assigned their own personal instructor. The beginning student immediately starts training with simple one-step basic strikes; punches, chops and claws to primary targets on the head and throat and crushing elbows and knees for close-range defense are balanced with powerful kicks to the lower body targets. After the student becomes comfortable with the basics, they move onto specialized self-defense techniques to deal with a variety of scenarios. The beginning student starts with learning how to break free of numerous submission holds such as headlocks, arm-locks, bear-hugs and full-nelson attacks, practicing with their own private instructor. Next, the student learns simple ground-fighting tactics, and is introduced to a demanding formal exercise known as Kata, which combines low, sturdy stances with powerful blocks and strikes. After mastering 20 self-defense techniques, one kata and 6 basic kicks and blocks, the student is ready for their Orange Belt exam. With each belt, the student’s moral character is the overwhelming factor ensuring their advancement. Any student who misuses their training, or exhibits signs of poor respect for their fellow students, teachers, or school, will be asked to leave WestWind Schools.
Sichikyu The Orange Belt In the Orange Belt, the student begins working on more difficult material, adding difficult combination kicks to their arsenal. The self-defense techniques are far longer, in many cases combining 10-15 strikes to stop a determined opponent. The Intermediate student is now learning to defend against far more sophisticated attacks such as punches, kicks and weapons attacks such as clubs and knives. An extremely demanding Kata is introduced, combining 70 different blocks, strikes and stances into one exacting feat of endurance. After mastering 20 of the complex self-defense techniques, ten new kicks, and the lengthy new kata, the student advances to the Purple Belt. In addition to mastering the material, the student must now show explosive power in their kicks and hand strikes, and have developed the ability to “lock” their strike, tensing their muscles on each strike and focusing the blow in one frozen position, thus exhibiting effective striking power and control.
Rokkyu The Purple Belt
The journey through the Purple Belt can be summed up in one word: Combat. The new kicks teach the student how to effectively throw their entire body into each blow, literally tripling and quadrupling their power. The new self-defense techniques, surprisingly, are shorter than the previous belt, yet are immediately effective, emphasizing debilitating blinding claws, lethal strikes to the throat and temple, and crippling arm and leg breaking techniques. The advanced student expands their repertoire of gun and knife defensive tactics, and two new kata are introduced which conceal dozens of practical self-defense strategies. One of the greatest challenges in the Purple Belt is the introduction to boxing, which tests the student’s ability to give and take full-powered strikes. Of course, protective gear is worn and the matches are closely monitored for safety, but the student still gets a feel of what it’s like to put their martial arts skills to the test.
Throughout the Purple Belt the student develops “Kenpo” style, which is a combination of circular, flowing Chinese Kung Fu with hard, straight-lined powerful Japanese Karatedo. One tool the student develops is the ability to keep their muscles relaxed when fighting, and only tense up at the exact moment of impact, making the strikes much faster, and the fighter far more efficient in their use of energy.
After mastering the basics of boxing, ten powerful new kicks, 20 new self-defense techniques, and two new advanced kata, the student takes their Bok-Fu Blue Belt Exam. All exams from Bok-Fu Blue Belt and beyond are required to be performed in front of WestWind School’s Bok-Fu Black Belt Board, which is made up of Black Belts of Head Instructor Rank and above. The Blue Belt Exam is designed to test the student’s ability to survive a violent encounter on the street. If at any time during the exam, from the first kick to the final full-contact bout, the student exhibits any signs of doubt in their ability, they shall not pass the exam. Should the student grow confused, and forget the next sequence in their kata, they must not put their feet together, and ponder their mistake, for this type of behavior will get them killed in a street confrontation! Should the student grow fatigued, and grimace with pain over a stomach cramp or bend over to catch their breath, they will not pass their Blue Belt exam, since the ability to fight through pain is tantamount to surviving a surprise attack! Should the student give up in their boxing match, and at the very least not summon the willingness to keep getting up and coming at their opponent, we cannot award them the Bok-Fu Blue Belt. There is usually a “surprise” at some point during the exam, to test the student’s ability to adapt to their environment or respond to an unexpected crisis. The student’s attitude and eagerness to embrace all challenges thrown at them is the overwhelming factor in passing the Blue Belt Exam. It can all be summed up in one word: COMBAT!
Upon earning the Blue Belt, the student is awarded a black keikogi, symbolizing they have shown they have the ability, should their life or the lives of their loved ones be threatened with sudden violence, to do whatever they can to fight their opponent off, even if it means killing their opponent. Make no mistake, WestWind School’s students and teachers are the NICEST, most friendly people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. With every strike we teach, we firmly impress upon each student the desire to avoid conflicts, how to be aware of their environment and potential risks of attack, and how to use the BARE MINIMUM of force needed to stop a would-be assailant. Sometimes, a show of confidence and a loud yell are all it takes to make a would-be mugger think twice. But the study of any true martial art will sooner or later come to this question: If you are forced to use your martial arts in self-defense, are you willing to hurt another human being to save your own life? Even in the so-called purely “defensive” arts such as Aikido or Judo, obviously the opponent is harmed when they are flung head first onto a concrete sidewalk! The notion that a student can truly immerse themselves in a martial art without confronting this reality is pure nonsense, and any system that proclaims their martial art is free of this reality should be completely disregarded. A parent who does not want their child to learn to defend their lives should an abductor try to lead them away in a crowded mall should not invest their time in any martial art, much less the truly practical, no-nonsense fighting style we practice at WestWind Schools. Why anyone would want to “protect” themselves or their children from the fact that violence exists, and should be guarded against, is beyond all comprehension. WestWind Schools allows the student a safe, supportive, highly positive environment to learn the survival skills necessary to overcome every challenge life throws at them.
Gokyu The Bok-Fu Blue Belt The student has now proven their ability to handle themselves in a fight, and they have developed a strong foundation of self-confidence and toughness that will carry them all the way to the Black Belt. We’ve established the “martial” of martial arts, and now it’s time to start working on the other half of martial arts, the “arts” ! The Blue Belt is the “Expert’s Belt” where the student must show artistry and style, pinpoint precision and focus, and a high level of agility and speed. In the Blue Belt, the student is introduced to kicks which are purely for “show”: flashy spinning, flying and jumping kicks designed to showcase the student’s kicking proficiency. The self-defense techniques are now entirely “soft-style”, emphasizing wide circular movements, smooth stance transitions, and blinding speed. Three new Kata are introduced in this belt, clearly showing strong Chinese origins, as they are by far the most soft, flowing and artistic of any kata seen yet. In addition, the student is formally introduced to weapons in the Blue Belt, and learns the quarterstaff, a simple weapon designed to increase the student’s reach and impact, while providing a practical tool for self-defense should the student need to use a bat, broom or tree limb in an emergency to protect themselves.
Ambidextrous skill is required in the Blue Belt, and the student must demonstrate every single kick and technique they have learned since the White Belt on the right and left side. Endurance is also a major hurdle in the Blue Belt, as just surviving the formal Green Belt Exam is an endurance test, demonstrating forty kicks, 80 self-defense techniques and seven kata ALL ON THE RIGHT AND LEFT SIDE in under one hour!
Board breaking is another requirement for earning the Green Belt, as it demonstrates the student’s focus and confidence in their martial art’s strikes. The student aspiring for Green Belt must be able to confidently break a 1” thick pine board with a hammer-fist, chop, punch, side-fist, back-knuckle, slashing elbow, elbow-drop, front, side and back kick. In addition, the student must demonstrate a mass break, shattering a minimum of 3 boards with a hand strike of choice, traditionally either a hammer-fist or powerful elbow strike.
Yonkyu The Bok-Fu Green Belt
In order to graduate from a Green Belt to Brown Belt, everything doubles. The ten new kicks introduced are the most difficult in the system, with extraordinarily complex spinning and flying kicks being strung together in rapid sequence. The self-defense techniques involve the most difficult hand-and-foot coordination seen yet, and there are 40 new techniques introduced, twice the number of any previous belt!. To finish the belt off, there are no less than 5 new kata introduced, including demanding weapon’s kata, and energy-draining hard-style exercises. Each new element introduced in the Brown Belt is equally demanding, and the student who wears a brown belt in your school is worthy of much respect. Again, the exam is a solid hour of non-stop movement, and the student must have a high degree of endurance, flexibility and drive just to survive the rigors of the test.
The Bok-Fu Brown Belt:
The Brown Belt is the final belt the student wears before earning their Black Belt, and as such it is an extremely demanding journey. When one counts the belt colors (White, Orange, Purple, Blue, Green, Brown, Black) it is tempting to think that at the Brown Belt the student is 6/7th of the way to their final goal. In fact, when the student first straps the Bok-Fu Brown Belt around their waist, they are only 1/2 way through the system, both in terms of material left to master, and degree of strength, skill and style needed for graduating to the final belt.
For this reason, the Brown Belt is divided into three degrees, to allow the student and teacher the opportunity to check their progress a few times before their final exam, and also to break the daunting load of new material into manageable short-term goals.
The Brown Belt Degrees are backwards-the student earns their 3rd Degree Brown Belt first, then their 2nd Degree Brown Belt, and finally their 1st Degree Brown Belt, before testing for Bok-Fu Black Belt.
The reason for this is that the traditional Japanese system of counting belts asks the student to imagine getting closer and closer to their goal of Black Belt with every new belt they earn, and thus, the farther away one is from the Black Belt, the higher the number your belt is assigned. It’s like counting how many steps you have to walk in order to get from White to Black! At the White Belt, you’re 8 steps away from your goal (If you look at your White Belt Diploma, you’ll see it says “Hachikyu”, which roughly translates to “Eighth Level”). At the Orange Belt “Sichikyu”, Seven steps remain. Purple Belt “Rokkyu” brings you to six steps, Blue Belt, “Gokyu” brings you one step closer to 5, and Green “Yonkyu” shows you still have 4 steps left before earning Black. Hopefully, you can now see why when you earn your Brown Belt, “Sankyu” you are called “3rd Degree”, to remind you that you’re now only 3 steps from your final goal! Next, you earn your 2nd Degree Brown Belt “Nikyu”, and upon earning your final Brown Belt degree, you are called a 1st Degree Brown Belt “Ikkyu” since you now are only one step away from the Black Belt! This counting system follows the Japanese system of counting from 1-10 (Ichi, Ni, San, Yon, Go, Rokku, Shichi, Hachi Ku, Ju), with phonetic contractions changing some of the pronunciation and spelling on the diplomas. Thus, memorizing the name of your current rank will also help you remember how to count in Japanese!
Sankyu The Third Degree Brown Belt
After earning the Brown Belt, the student begins work on earning their next degree. To move up from a 3rd Degree Brown Belt to a 2nd Degree Brown Belt, there are no new kicks or techniques. Instead, the student begins a heavy workload of traditional Kung-Fu Forms, learning an amazing 11 new kata in order to advance to the next level! The kata seen are pure Kung-Fu; lethal animal forms, smooth efficient punching sets, pinpoint precision finger sets, and a demanding Kenpo form and complex mass attack kata are seen at this level.
The student who can perform all 11 new kata, along with every single kick they learned from white belt through brown belt in under a 1/2 hour time limit will advance to the 2nd Degree Brown Belt. Upon earning the new degree, the student is awarded a special belt, a brown belt with a black stripe running down the center, symbolizing that the student is considered to be 1/3rd of the way to their Black Belt.
Nikyu The 2nd Degree Brown Belt
The student is nearing the end of their journey. To move from the 2nd Degree to 1st Degree Brown Belt, the student masters six new kata: The crane style is mastered at this point, combining wide, circular wing-like hand strikes with difficult hopping and balancing feats of grace. The student now exhibits 2-man kata, where an opponent joins them as they perform the kata, throwing full-power strikes and blocks with precision timing and choreography. There is both an unarmed 2-man kata, and WestWind’s world-famous weapon’s fighting form, the Spear Vs the 3-Sectional Staff, the most difficult (and dangerous!) feat of timing and quick reflexes a student can demonstrate. After mastery of the highly difficult 6 new Kata, the student graduates to the First Degree Brown Belt, and is ready to embark upon the demanding final stages of preparation for the ultimate goal, The Bok-Fu Black Belt! The new belt awarded is a black belt with a brown stripe running down the center, symbolizing that the student is now 2/3rds of the way to the black belt.
Ikkyu The 1st Degree Brown Belt
When the student puts on their final Brown Belt, there is no new material taught in the Bok-Fu system. The teacher and student now direct all their energy towards preparing for the student’s final exam, The Bok-Fu Black Belt. There can be no doubt in anyone’s mind that the single final step from 1st Degree Brown Belt to Black Belt is, by far, the most difficult of the entire journey. And this is as it should be. The Black Belt should not be awarded lightly, and the student should be in no rush to finish their journey. The material required on the formal Bok-Fu Black Belt exam is daunting: the student must show every single kick, every single technique, and every single kata they ever learned from their very first lesson, all on the right and left sides, in under 2 hours of non-stop movement.
Consider the sheer volume of material involved:
46 Kicks, 2 Reps, Right & Left
If these numbers seem small, it’s simply because you can’t grasp how many actual steps of memorized material each technique and kata contain. It has been carefully calculated that the student testing for Bok-Fu Black Belt performs no less than 14,000 carefully orchestrated steps in the 2 hour time limit! That means the student is throwing an average of 2 strikes every second for 2 solid hours. It’s like running a marathon in 2 hours, but with the added pressure of performing with the grace and athleticism of an Olympic gymnast, while maintaining the ferocious, adrenaline-fueled intensity of a prizefighter. Very, very few students are able to achieve this level of skill, and the statistical fact remains that for every 1,000 students who join WestWind Schools as a White Belt, only ONE makes it all the way to the Black Belt. I truly hope you will be the one!
In addition to showing the standardized system, the Bok-Fu Black Belt aspirant must be prepared to demonstrate the fighting and board-breaking requirements from their earlier belts, and many a Bok-Fu Black Belt exam has ended with the student, exhausted after finishing their demanding 2 hour endurance feat, entering the ring against a fresh and seasoned opponent, and fighting for their life in a vicious full-contact match!
The final requirement for earning the Black Belt is that the student creates original material, showing they now are independent, and can branch off from the systemized material, and think and fight for themselves. The student creates four original self-defense techniques, and demonstrates them on an opponent. The student also creates their own original kata, usually reflecting a theme the teacher and student feel capture the essence of the student’s long journey from White to Black Belt. For example, a student who overcame major obstacles in flexibility and agility may showcase a kata overwhelmingly made of kicks, or a student who has developed a love for weapons may invent an intricate new weapons form.
The last original submission the student makes in order to graduate to Bok-Fu Black Belt is the creation of their Black Belt Thesis, where the student writes about a particular point of instruction or theory of their training they wish to impart to future generations. Before testing for the Bok-Fu Black Belt, the student must complete a minimum of ten “practice tests”, where there is no question the student would have passed if their practice run had been their actual black belt exam. Traditionally, the student’s final ten practice tests are given by each individual member of the Bok-Fu Black Belt Board. The second-to-last practice test is always seen by the Chief Instructor. The final practice run is held the day before the exam, and is the final lesson between the student and their own personal teacher. Should any member of the testing board feel the aspirant is not ready for their exam, the student shall not be nominated for their black belt test!
After completing the complete 2-hour format in front of the Bok-Fu Black Belt Board, showing their original techniques and kata, and turning in their final draft of the Black Belt Thesis, the student is presented their Bok-Fu Black Belt. This will undoubtedly be one of the highlights of your entire life.
The student’s black belt has their name phonetically rendered in Chinese characters on one end of the belt, and the characters for “White Tiger” on the other. In addition, the Black Belt Student receives an engraved plaque, our school’s graduation ring, and they are invited to the annual Order of the Cobra dinner, where they are formally inducted into the Black Belt inner circle in a secret ceremony.
The Red Belt
In the Bok-Fu system, the Red Belt is worn only by those students qualified to teach. There is a great variety of personalities, ages, levels of experience and talent in our Red Belt group, just like in any group of individuals. It is not correct to think “All Red Belts are the same” for of course, that would be impossible. Of course, most American Karate students are very concerned with their teacher’s credentials, and they usually want to know just a few facts before considering their teacher “qualified”: 1. Is my teacher a black belt? 2. How old are they? 3. How long have they been teaching? The answer most Americans want to hear is: 1. Yes 2. Old as the hills 3. 40 years or longer. And yet, interestingly enough, I have found in my experience that the teachers who really reach their students, and excite their students, and develop a true rapport and lasting bond are not the seasoned veterans of WestWind. Instead, it is typically the “new blood” who are the most in-demand, beloved and effective teachers in our system. And yet, I understand the beginner’s curiosity to know what credentials their teacher can produce, so I’ll list a brief summary of the teachers, including some highpoints and dates to help the student compile a list of “who’s who” in WestWind. But I stress, the credentials truly don’t matter in the long run: It is what the teacher does for YOU that is important, not what they’ve done for THEMSELVES that will guarantee your ultimate happiness and success on the journey to your black belt.
FULL TIME TEACHING STAFF WestWind Schools is the only full-time dojo, open 7 days a week twelve hours a day in the Bay Area. It is very rare to find a martial arts system in the United States that is self-sufficient, and able to support a seasoned team of career instructors. WestWind has more full time teaching staff (5 Full-time instructors in each school) than any other martial arts school in the United States, and this high ratio of experienced instructors has enabled us to maintain the exacting standards of instruction our students have come to expect over the last four decades.
Ron Lee Founder Feb 16th, 1949-September 15th, 2007 Master Lee recently passed away peacefully after a short battle with throat cancer. Ron Lee was born in Pennsylvania and moved to California at the age of 13, where he started training in martial arts In Castro Valley. In 1969, at the young age of 20 he opened the newest branch of East-West Schools on San Pablo Avenue in Berkeley, under the brilliant leadership of East-West’s founder, Richard Lee. In 1974, Ron Lee branched off from the East-West system to found his own school, which he named “WestWind”. Under our founder Mr. Lee’s uncompromising and powerful leadership, WestWind Schools have remained the largest and longest-running Karate dojo in Berkeley and Alameda for decades. Although very ill, Master Lee held on to the day of WestWind’s 38-year anniversary before passing on.
Through his hard work and devotion to the arts, Master Lee earned the title Grandmaster as was awarded the highest degree (7th Degree) of any member of the World-Kung Fu Association outside of China. Master Lee is the only American student of Grand Master Sian-teh Huang, President of the World Chinese Martial Arts Federation. Master Lee’s demonstration team was the first non-Asian team to win First Place in the World Kung-Fu Championships in 1987, winning against competitors from over 30 countries.
Master Lee was passionate about defending his community, and devoted every moment of his spare time to patrolling the Bay Area as a reserve police officer. A master of self-defense combat pistol training, Master Lee personally led the Richmond PD’s SWAT team in defensive pistol tactics.
His Martial Arts legacy will live on in the thousands of students who have studied his martial arts system, and all students, like yourself, who keep WestWind alive today. Master Lee was a great man who achieved countless triumphs in his life. He will surely be missed.
Scott Flint Senior Chief Instructor Mr. Flint began training at the Berkeley dojo in August of 1977. He earned his Red Belt in 1978, and was promoted to Head Instructor of the Alameda Dojo in 1984. When Mr. Flint arrived at Alameda, the school had only 65 students, but under Mr. Flint’s leadership the school grew to 200 students, and went on to win a record breaking 7 TOURNAMENTS IN A ROW! Mr. Flint earned his Bok-Fu Black Belt in 1985, and has created many fine black belt students in his 30 years of teaching, including his first and most loyal black belt, Jack E Morris, and WestWind’s own Chief Instructor, Mr. Thompson! Mr. Flint is undoubtedly the very best at teaching the emotional and conceptual skills needed to survive a violent attack, and he is the author of a published self-defense book, “Waking the Tiger Within.” (turtlepress.com)
Mr. Flint was a star of Master Lee’s World Kung Fu Championship Demonstration Team, and helped WestWind capture the first place trophy in 1987, the first time any team outside of China has ever won the World Kung Fu Championships! Due to his many contributions to the arts, Mr. Flint is a certified 5th Degree Master at the World Kung Fu Headquarter in China.
Mr. Flint has been married 23 years, and is the father of the famous Katrina Flint who, following her father’s example, earned her Bok-Fu Black Belt in 2005, WestWind’s first “Second Generation Black Belt” and Jared, one of the Berkeley dojo’s best young students.
Favorite Quote, “That was great! Now, do it again...”
Chris Thompson Chief Instructor
Mr. Thompson enrolled in WestWind School’s Alameda dojo on August 31st, 1986. His dedicated teacher, Mr. Flint, immediately recognized Mr. Thompson’s potential for leadership, and put him in an accelerated Instructor’s Training Program only 2 weeks after Mr. Thompson earned his White Belt. 3 1/2 months after enrolling in WestWind Schools, Mr. Thompson was formally presented his Red Belt, an all-time record for moving from White Belt to Instructor! A mere 6 months later, Mr. Thompson was promoted to Assistant Head Instructor of the legendary Alameda dojo, another all-time record. A short two years after beginning his martial art’s training, Mr. Thompson received his promotion to Head Instructor of the Berkeley dojo.
When Mr. Thompson took over the Berkeley dojo, it was in a state of decline. The Berkeley School had less than 60 students, had not won a tournament in 15 years, and had no instructing staff. Following his teacher Mr. Flint’s example, in less than two year’s time, Mr. Thompson tripled the student body numbers, bringing the Berkeley dojo to an all-time high of 220 students (a record which has remained unbroken for the past twenty years!) and the Berkeley dojo under Mr. Thompson’s leadership went on to win 4 consecutive tournaments in a row, and was the leader in creating quality instructors and students. Mr. Thompson has created many fine Black Belt students, and holds the honor of teaching WestWind’s first female Black Belt, and WestWind’s youngest and oldest Black Belts (12 years old and 63 years old). The truly incredible part of Mr. Thompson’s build of the Berkeley dojo is that he accomplished this success while still very, very young in the arts. When Mr. Thompson was promoted to Head Instructor, he was only a Purple Belt in rank, and he brought his school to legendary status before earning his Bok-Fu Green Belt! Mr. Thompson earned his Bok-Fu Black Belt on July 28th, 1993, and after many years of creating loyal and dedicated Head Instructors, Mr. Thompson took over WestWind Schools as our Chief Instructor on August 17th, 1998.
As WestWind School’s Chief Instructor, Mr. Thompson is currently the highest ranked member of the World Kung-Fu Headquarters (6th Degree) outside of China, and is second in rank only to WestWind’s beloved founder Master Lee.
Mr. Thompson is married to WestWind’s own Mrs. Thompson, WestWind’s first female Head Instructor, and is the father of 4; Evan, Athena, Dartagnan and Aramis.
Favorite Quote: “The day you stop learning is the day you die.”
Angelo Reyes Asst Chief Instructor
Mr. Reyes started training at the Alameda dojo as Mr. Thompson’s personal student in April of 1988. Mr. Thompson nominated Mr. Reyes for instructor’s training, and following his teacher’s example, Mr. Reyes quickly earned his Red Belt by the end of the same year! Mr. Reyes’ charm and charisma instantly made him a favorite teacher of the Alameda dojo, even though he was still a young High School student when he began teaching. When Mr. Reyes was only 13 years old, his family announced they would be moving to Nevada, and Mr. Reyes’ career as a WestWind instructor would have to end. Mr. Reyes, even at a young age, knew that WestWind Schools was where he belonged, and he refused to move. As the family made plans to depart, Mr. Reyes ran away from home at the age of 13, and slept for 2 nights on the Alameda Beach until his family realized how serious he was about staying with WestWind, and agreed to let him stay as an instructor! Mr. Reyes’ family moved to Nevada, and Mr. Reyes, still a High School student, lived alone, pursuing his dream as a WestWind instructor. After graduating a year early from High School at the top of his class, Mr. Reyes immediately took over the Alameda dojo, and built his school up to new records in tournament victories, student count, and fanatically devoted instructors.
Mr. Reyes tested for his Bok-Fu Black Belt at the World Kung-Fu Headquarters in China, performing in front of 50 Master Instructors and the Grand-Master Sian Teh-Huang. After his passionate display of Kung-Fu, Grand-Master Huang awarded Mr. Reyes the coveted “Model of the Martial Arts” medal for unparalleled excellence in Kung-Fu.
Mr. Reyes has created numerous amazing Black Belt students, and is known for having the fastest, most intense students in the Bok-Fu System (He holds the record for fastest Male Black Belt exam-One hour, 34 minutes, and fastest Female Black Belt exam, One hour, 33 minutes). Mr. Reyes is the founder and Head Coach of WestWind Boxing, and is currently involved in the day-to-day training and management of his top fighter, Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton.
Mr. Reyes has been married 9 years, and has one son, Joseph.
Favorite Quote: “You might be surprised.”
Keith Sheppard Asst Chief Instructor Mr. Sheppard was awarded his White Belt by Mr. Thompson on December 17th, 1992. He started teaching at the Berkeley dojo in July of 1993, and was the first student to break the 5 year barrier for earning the Black Belt, testing on October 11th, 1997!
Mr. Sheppard’s steadfast and exacting instruction has earned him the honor of creating more Bok-Fu Black Belt students than any instructor in WestWind history, with 15 Black Belts currently awarded, and many more preparing for exams this year!
Mr. Sheppard is married to Berkeley’s dynamic Red Belt Mrs. Sheppard, and they carry on the legacy with Taj, a talented 13 year-old Green Belt, and Mya, WestWind’s youngest White Belt student! Famous Quote: “Time enough for sleep in the grave.”
Aman Gellon Senior Head Instructor
Mr. Gellon started training in September of 1990, and began his career as a WestWind Instructor on December 7th, 1993. Mr. Gellon is simply the best martial arts performer WestWind has ever created, period. He holds the record for most tournament medals ever won by a single competitor (25 Gold Medals, 14 Silver and 8 Bronze Medals) and was awarded the World Kung-Fu Headquarters Model of the Martial Arts Medal in 1998.
Mr. Gellon is the Bay Area’s most eligible bachelor.
Favorite Quote: “If you don’t have it yet, you don’t want it bad enough.”
Aimal Kohgadai Senior Head Instructor
Mr. Kohgadai began his training at the Alameda dojo on June 17th, 1993. Less than a year later, he earned his Red Belt in April of 1994, and at the incredibly young age of 17 he took over the Alameda dojo as Head Instructor, WestWind’s youngest Head Instructor ever!
Mr. Kohgadai tested for his Bok-Fu Black Belt on September 1st, 1999, and smashed the two-hour average time limit for the exam, completing the test in a lightning-fast one hour and 34 minutes!
Mr. Kohgadai was a dynamic and intense leader of the Alameda dojo, and his legacy still lives on today in the many fine advanced students he created.
Despite many attempts by his family to arrange a suitable match, Mr. Kohgadai has remained single…
Favorite Quote: “Death is not the greatest loss in life; the greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
Krizten Delossantos Head Instructor
Ms. Delossantos earned her White Belt on March 24th, 1994 at the Alameda dojo. She began teaching on October 15th, 2000, while preparing for her Bok-Fu Black Belt exam. Ms. Delossantos tested for Black Belt on December 29th, 2000, and raced to the finish line one minute ahead of the record holder, Mr. Kohgadai, to capture the honor of “Fastest Black Belt Test”, completing the demanding exam in an amazing one hour 33 minutes!
Ms. Delossantos also holds the title of youngest female student ever to earn Black Belt (16 years old) and she was the first Female Head Instructor of Alameda! She is a beautiful and highly stylized performer, and has earned the nickname, “The Iron Butterfly” for her amazing blend of grace and power.
Ms. Delossantos is single, and tells anyone who asks that she’s “married to the dojo”.
Favorite Quote: “Plan carefully, but act decisively.”
Sean Shah Head Instructor
Mr. Shah began his training on January 20th, 1990 at the Berkeley dojo at the young age of 6! He started teaching on November 1st, 1998, and earned his Bok-Fu Black Belt on December 14th, 2003.
Mr. Shah is one of the best martial arts performers WestWind has ever seen, and is second only to Mr. Gellon in speed, timing and style. Mr. Shah is an extremely dedicated teacher, and many of the advanced students on his schedule have been with him since he first started teaching in 1998!
Mr. Shah is single.
Favorite Quote: “Seek not to follow in the footsteps of the great; seek what they sought.”
Pedro Rios Assistant Head Instructor
Mr. Rios earned his White Belt in October of 1992, and earned his Bok-Fu Black Belt on March 17th, 2001. A few months later, he earned his Red Belt in June of 2001, and has remained one of the most popular and hardest-working Red Belts ever since. Mr. Rios was awarded the Kirk Gillin Award for Outstanding Instructor of the Year in 2004, and is currently kept very busy as a teacher at WestWind Academy in the daytime, followed by a demanding nighttime teaching schedule, and weekends coaching for WestWind Boxing.
Mr. Rios is currently one of the top three martial artists in our entire system, ranked second only to Mr. Gellon and Mr. Shah in empty handed technique, and arguably ranked first in weapon’s proficiency!
Mr. Rios is single.
Favorite Quote: “When everything goes wrong, how will you react?”
Ana Julaton Assistant Head Instructor
Ms. Julaton started training on February 8th, 2000, and began teaching that same year in October. Ms. Julaton is a high-ranked 1st Degree Brown Belt whose Black Belt Exam has been put off numerous times due to her demanding boxing schedule!
Ms. Julaton is Bok-Fu Boxing’s first Pro Boxer, is Northern California & The Philippine’s most decorate female boxer ever, and the only female fighter personally coached by the legendary Freddie Roach. Ms. Julaton is currently undefeated in the Pros, and is ranked #11 in the world by the World Boxing Council.
Despite many proposals by sports and entertainment celebrities, Ms. Julaton has literally fought to remain single despite her renowned fame and beauty.
Favorite Quote: “There is only one way to greatness; greatness is the way.”
In addition to our full-time teaching staff, WestWind Schools has an elite group of Assistant Instructors. All WestWind Instructors must graduate from WestWind’s demanding Instructor’s Training Program. Our time-tested Red Belt program picks the “cream of the crop” of WestWind students, and puts them on an advanced training track. The Red Belt aspirant has their dedication, toughness and depth of knowledge tested far beyond normal student parameters. The Instructor’s Training Program reveals the secrets of WestWind’s positive, high-energy teaching style, and tests the student’s leadership and motivational skills. After passing a demanding written test, memorizing and demonstrating several dozen Assistant Instructor manual points, and being accepted by every other teacher in the school, the student is awarded their Red Belt, signifying they are authorized to teach for WestWind Schools. The first level of teaching is “Assistant Instructor”. If you glance at your instructor’s left shoulder, you’ll see the correct patch proudly displaying their current instructor’s ranking.
An Assistant Instructor can be any belt rank at all (I earned my Assistant Instructor rank when I was a White Belt!) but usually one finds that by the time the student has graduated Instructor’s Training, they are at least a Purple Belt student. Currently, we have only awarded 7 Assistant Instructor Red Belts throughout the entire system, as our standards and expectations for promotion to instructor are astronomically high, and involve a year to three year’s training before graduation. One should not think that just because their personal instructor is not yet a black belt, or has only been teaching for a year or two (instead of a decade or two like our full-time staff) that they are considered inferior to our full-time teaching staff. In fact, the newer instructors are often the most enthusiastic, motivational and exciting teachers in our system, and we are very, very proud to include the Assistant Instructing group of WestWind as a vital part of our teaching family.
Here are the list of our fine Assistant Instructing Staff, in order of seniority:
Berkeley Dojo Assistant Instructors
Mr. Randy Ortiz, a hard-working Blue Belt testing for Bok-Fu Green later this year, is the most personable and enthusiastic of the Berkeley Assistant Instructors. Every student thrives under his high-energy leadership. Favorite Quote, “Whether you think you can or cannot, you’re right.”
Mr. Barca is a seasoned First Degree Brown Belt, shooting for his Bok-Fu Black Belt exam later this year! Teaching at both the Alameda and Berkeley dojo, Mr. Barca is the “drill sergeant” of the instructing crew, and is one of the best at teaching demanding group classes. Favorite Quote, “Cry on the mat, laugh on the battlefield.”
Mr. Ho is the youngest Assistant Instructor in the 38-year history of WestWind Schools. Only 13 years old at the time of earning his Red Belt, Mr. Ho is a talented Blue Belt testing for his Green this August. Mr. Ho is an unusually mature and charismatic young man, and is quickly “learning the ropes” to become a star teacher later this year. Favorite Quote, “Expecting the unexpected is unexpecting what was expected.”
The Ortiz Team (Eddie and his beautiful sister Lurline, no relation to Randy) are the Berkeley Dojo’s newest Red Belts. Seasoned 2nd Degree Brown Belts, the Ortiz siblings have grown up in WestWind, and truly have Bok-Fu in their blood! Mr. Ortiz’s Favorite Quote, “The grand tapestry of truth cannot be understood by looking at one thread.” Ms. Ortiz’s Favorite Quote, “There is nothing you can see that is not a flower; there is nothing you can think that is not the moon.”
It is interesting to note that the seniority of the Assistant Instructing Staff does not correspond to belt rank. Hence, the most in-demand and productive Assistant Instructor in Berkeley (Randy Ortiz) is a blue belt, yet is considered a “higher-ranked” instructor than the several brown belts teaching side-by-side with him! So again, we must ask ourselves: Is it belt ranking, or each individual teacher’s assets that make them an effective teacher?
Alameda Dojo Assistant Instructors
Mr. Lyle is a 3rd Degree Brown Belt, and puts a tremendous amount of energy and fun into every lesson he teaches! Mr. Lyle is extremely creative, and never gives up on a student.
Favorite Quote, “It is written: Shape clay into a vessel…it is the space within that gives it value. Place doors and windows in a house…it is the opening that brings light within. Set spokes within a wheel…it is the emptiness of the hub that makes them useful. Therefore…Be the space at the center be nothing and you will have everything to give to others.”
Mr. Ballagh is an experienced Purple Belt preparing for one of WestWind’s best Blue Belt tests ever! Mr. Ballagh learned his teaching skills under his demanding teacher Mr. Gellon’s guidance at the Berkeley dojo, and followed his teacher to Alameda to help our busiest school grow even stronger. Mr. Ballagh has a great eye for detail, a great sense of humor, and is a welcome addition to the A-Team’s teaching crew.
Favorite Quote, “Do the thing that you fear, and the death of fear is certain.”
Ms. Walls, a Purple Belt testing for Blue in 2008, is Alameda’s newest instructor. She is the “sole survivor” of an extremely demanding instructor’s training program, and has a great deal of enthusiasm and eagerness as our newest member of the Red Belt family!
Favorite Quote, “The only impossibility in life is perfection.”
The level above Assistant Instructor is called “WestWind Instructor”. At this level, we feel the instructor is no longer “learning the ropes” and should be considered equal to any other instructor in WestWind. To earn WestWind Instructor level, the teacher must have been teaching for a minimum of one year, and be at least a Green Belt. Currently, we have only ONE full-fledged WestWind Instructor in all the West Wind system, teaching at our Alameda dojo, Mr. Baker.
Mr. Baker is a phenomenally gifted and hard-working Green Belt shooting for the coveted Brown Belt in 2008! Mr. Baker has been voted one of the “Top Ten” martial artists in the entire Bok-Fu system, ranked above several of our full-time Black Belt instructors even at his young age and rank! Mr. Baker is a proud recipient of the 2007 “Kirk Gillin Award.” Named after one of our most dedicated teachers who passed away in the1989, this award is given to the very top instructor each year. Mr. Baker is by far the most in-demand part-time instructor in Alameda, and one of our top martial artists ever! Favorite Quote, “Insanity can be a hassle; don’t let mistakes drive you there.”
After WestWind Instructor, the final Part-Time teacher’s rank is “Senior WestWind Instructor.” To qualify for this high-ranked position, the instructor must have taught for a minimum of 2 solid years, and be a Brown Belt or above. Currently, WestWind is blessed with 3 Senior WestWind Instructors: Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Kusel and Mrs. Sheppard.
Mrs. Thompson (Chief Instructor Mr. Thompson’s wife!) started training at the Berkeley dojo in 1994. She started teaching that same year, and a mere year later in 1995 she was promoted as WestWind School’s first female Head Instructor ever. She was the first woman to break the 5 year barrier for earning the Bok-Fu Black Belt, and earned a second promotion to Senior Head Instructor in 1999, again the first female ever to achieve that rank. Mrs. Thompson is now Head of the Language Department at WestWind Academy. Favorite Quote, “You’re only as good as your basics.”
Mrs. Kusel earned her Bok-Fu Black Belt in 1997, and has been teaching for a solid 11 years! Getting a space on Mrs. Kusel’s schedule is very rare; she has kept the same devoted students for years and years, and her students simply never quit. Mrs. Kusel is a GREAT contributor to the Alameda dojo’s success, and is simply irreplaceable. Favorite Quote, “Those who excel as warriors are not martial. Those who excel in combat do not get angry.”
Mrs. Sheppard (Assistant Chief Instructor Mr. Sheppard’s wife) is a talented 3rd Degree Brown Belt, and earned her Red Belt in 2001. Mrs. Sheppard teaches in our English & Social Studies Department at WestWind Academy, and is the amazingly creative and gifted Head of the Art Department. Favorite Quote, “Be like water…”
WestWind School’s “Instructor, Sensei & Sifu” Levels
A few years ago, my student Mr. Reyes asked me to create three distinct levels of teachers in WestWind Schools to correspond with the three tiers of pricing we charge for private instruction. It seemed there was some nebulousness surrounding the exact point where a student should pay: 1. regular price, 2. a discounted price for newer teachers, or 3. when the student should pay extra for the most experienced teachers. Mr. Reyes wanted a one-word solution to sum up the convoluted hierarchy of WestWind Schools, particularly for the newest students, who understandably got very confused with the nuances of multiple titles a large, long-standing system seems to inevitably breed!
When a student first enrolls in WestWind Schools, they are quoted a price for lessons, and are told if they can’t afford it, they can pay half price for a newer teacher, or pay more for a senior teacher. Please look under “Programs” for the current numbers! The question remained: Who are the new, regular, and advanced teachers, and what simple term can sum up these three levels? Going by the instructor’s title listed above would clear up the matter, but would admittedly be far too much information for the new students enrolling in WestWind. The “regular” teachers would be any instructor of Head Instructor, Assistant Head Instructor or Senior WestWind Instructor Rank. The “newer” teachers would be those of WestWind Instructor and Assistant Instructor rank, and the “senior” level would be Senior Chief, Chief, Asst. Chief and Senior Head Instructor. Confusing, isn’t it? A beginning student would understandably ask in great bewilderment, “Why isn’t a Senior WestWind Instructor higher ranked than an Assistant Chief Instructor?” And so, Mr. Reyes wisely asked me to create three simple, easy-to-digest terms that would clear up the matter in the minds of beginning students.
I suggested to Mr. Reyes that the titles “Instructor” “Sensei” and “Sifu” might solve the problem, as they would be three distinct terms which would help the students understand the different levels. They also happen to correspond with the progression of our particular system’s martial art’s history, with the English term “Instructor” being the newest, “Sensei” being the Japanese link, and “Sifu” being the Chinese source. And finally, there was a philosophical undercurrent to these terms which I felt would resonate with students who were interested in what the more advanced instructors can offer them on the journey to Black Belt.
“Instructor” would evoke an image of a professional educator who was qualified to teach, and could impart the necessary skill and knowledge to progress through the system. “Sensei”, however, seems to be a much more evocative term. Ask even the most ignorant of westerners what this word means, and images of Master Miyagi, mixed with a little bit of Yoda, and maybe even a cross-cultural mix of “that blind guy” from the Shaolin Temple will instantly spring to mind. A mysterious, inscrutable, wise, all-knowing, all-seeing guru, priest, father figure, sage and samurai warrior all rolled into one compact package. Now, of course, this isn’t what makes a “Sensei” a good teacher! The problem with images is that they are, as the word implies, imaginary, and only once we see past these preconceived notions can we truly begin to learn from each other, not as titles or absurd racial caricatures, but as human beings carrying on a noble and incredibly demanding craft; preserving the unbroken millennium-and-a-half of oral teaching in the unarmed combative arts.
Let’s talk about the word Sensei. It’s a useful word to know, and perhaps understanding its meaning will help you determine, in your own mind, those who are “deserving” of the title. Sensei is composed of two characters; the first, Sen, is vital for success in the martial arts, teaching, and life. It means to take initiative, to pioneer, to lead the way. We use it in bujutsu in terms such as go-no-sen, wherein you initiate an attack only after your opponent makes the first move, as opposed to sen-no-sen, wherein you attack your opponent’s initiative, or impulse, to strike you. These concepts are quite deep, and it is wrong to say that one type of Sen is better than the other. They are both equally valuable.
The second character Sei, if you look it up in a Japanese dictionary would state “Born”. Second and third generation Japanese Americans refer to themselves as “Nisei” or “Sansei” Literally “Second-Born” and “Third-Born”. Thus, Sensei literally translates as “Born before” signifying someone who came before you, and learned everything you want to learn, and walked the path you’re now walking, and knows all the pitfalls and obstacles (and great views and rewards!) that lie ahead.
All Japanese teachers, from University professors to music teachers to coaches or tutors are all called, Sensei. It is certainly not an exclusive martial arts term, although most Westerners have heard Sensei only in its martial arts usage.
But to return to the point: What separates a WestWind “Sensei” from a WestWind “Instructor”? Clearly, it is experience. If a student is working with an instructor we call “Sensei”, that signifies that their teacher is at least a Brown Belt (although the vast majority are Bok-Fu Black Belts) and has been teaching at least five years (although most have been teaching an average of ten years!) But one thing’s for certain, you won’t be working with a Blue Belt who has been teaching for a few months. Again, let me firmly state that there’s nothing wrong with your teacher if he’s “just” a blue belt who’s “only” been teaching for a half-a-year. As I’ve said before and I’ll say again, that “new” teacher is probably a lot more energetic and dynamic than the seasoned black belt veteran, and is often best at teaching beginners, especially high-energy children! But the point is, that blue belt “Instructor” in truth hasn’t completed the WestWind system, and probably hasn’t worked with enough different types of students to be a tested guide to the black belt, and thus we must honestly say that they are on a beginning plane of teaching ability. Thus, we call the beginning instructors, “Mr.”, not “Sensei”, and we openly admit to the beginning student that they are not as experienced.
When a student is working with the level we call “Sensei”, they should expect an experienced, high ranked guide who can bring them all the way to their Bok-Fu Black Belt, and be a reliable source of wisdom in every aspect of our system. The student is encouraged to call their teacher “Sensei”, showing respect for their teacher having completed the path the student is now following. It’s a very small distinction, but one which seems important for many beginning students. Incidentally, there seems to be a western habit of putting the term “Sensei” before the teacher’s name, such as “Sensei Rios.” I wish to make clear that in Japanese, the honorific ALWAYS follows the person’s name, so “Rios-Sensei” would be correct Japanese grammar. This, apparently, takes a lot of getting used to!
Now we turn our eyes upon the word Sifu. Sensei is a uniquely Japanese word, which you will never hear spoken of in any Chinese school. However, every historian agrees that the Japanese language and system of writing borrows heavily from Chinese culture, and thus it should come as no surprise that the Mandarin term for a martial arts master, Si is one which, even to the untrained ear and eye is obviously the exact same spoken word and written kanji character used in such Japanese terms as Bushi or Hanshi. So now we come to the source of our martial arts roots and we see two separate yet closely interwoven culture’s terms for master are one and the same. Now, in both languages it is clear that there is a distinction between a master (Si /Shi) and a teacher (Lao/ Sensei), just as in our culture there seems to be some distinguishing factor which separates a “master” of a particular art or field from a “teacher”. But explaining this difference is difficult to do, and in particular American culture has steered away from the term “master” to define interpersonal relationships between people because of the horrible legacy of slavery and subjugation such a term still conjures.
So at the least perhaps we can agree that in order to call your teacher Sifu, you certainly must be at peace with the first part of this word. Is your teacher a master of Bok-Fu? What makes them a master? How do you know this? These are difficult questions to answer. Good luck. At the very least, you should know that at the “Sifu” level here in WestWind, the teacher must be a Bok-Fu Black Belt, period, and have taught a bare minimum of 5 solid full-time years. So clearly, they’re more experienced than the minimum “Sensei” requirements, and far beyond the initiatory “Instructor” level. And of course, most “Sifu” at WestWind have three to five times the experience over the minimum. But still, Sifu has more to do with what your teacher means to you than how high ranked they are, or how long they’ve been around. Let’s continue.
The second character of Sifu is a very common word in Chinese. It means “father”. Master-father, then is the literal translation of Sifu. No other martial arts other than the Chinese disciplines use this title. What is the significance behind this integral addition of the term “father” in the Mandarin word for a martial arts teacher? There are many answers to this question, ranging from the monastic to the Confucian to the familial. All are equally valid. It should be noted that the formal rankings of a traditional Kung Fu school are unique in that they are overtly family oriented.
Only when one enters the senior ranks and begins formally teaching, as noted by Si (Master/Teacher) in the title, will the Kung-Fu practitioner be referred to as “brother” “sister” “father” and “mother”. So, in the end it all comes down to Tong, family. Bear in mind, it is one thing to have the duties of a big brother or a big sister. But being a father of mother is an entirely different plane of responsibility. What are the trademarks of a good parent? What is the bare minimum you should expect of a decent father? Do you have this sort of relationship with your own teacher? It is only when you can answer these questions without hesitation or doubt that you will have found the true meaning of Sifu. Until then, it’s just another word.
So now, we have come to the conclusion of the what the terms Instructor, Sensei and Sifu mean to me, and why I’ve chosen them to condense the ten confusing instructor’s titles down to three simple words. But never, ever forget my advice: in the end, your teacher’s credentials are ultimately worthless. What does your instructor do for YOU?
HISTORY: (Author’s Note: The following is a transcript of a speech I gave to the Sensei of WestWind Schools in 2004. For the reader’s convenience, Japanese terms are printed in italics, and are translated in alphabetical order at the end of this long speech. I must firmly state that everything which follows is simply my personal interpretation of history, and is no doubt rife with errors, misspellings of names, misunderstanding of facts, and inevitably, personal bias. I do not in any way claim to be a final authority, nor even an accurate source of this information. I’m no historian. I’m simply a Karate teacher attempting to tell our story. Enjoy!)
Keizu: “My interpretation of WestWind history by Chris Thompson, Chief Instructor of WestWind Schools” September 1st, 2004
INTRODUCTION My Iaido Sensei is, like all true guides, enigmatic at times. He will often ask a question that has no concrete answer, or many times the answer will change based upon the context in which it is being asked. “What is the true foundation of Iai?” has been answered with “Reishiki”, “Hayashizaki” or “Nukitsuke” baaed upon the lesson being taught at that particular time. This makes it very difficult to give the correct reply, but that is as it should be. The important thing is the journey, not the destination . For this reason, you can imagine my surprise when I once actually got it right, one of the very rare times out of hundreds and hundreds of questions asked where I struck to the heart of the matter and found the desired response. Before testing for Shodan in front of Judan Hanshi Esaka Sensei, my Sensei asked me to list the Keizu, the genealogy and Den of Iai, from the founder to the present Soke. Having studied well, I listed the 22 difficult foreign names in perfect succession. Sensei was visibly pleased, but this was not enough to satisfy him. “Chris-San”, he asked, “It is good you took the time to memorize this list, but I wonder if you truly understand why it is important to know Keizu?” This was the real question, the one which has a hundred different answers, all of them useful, but only one which is exactly right. Without thinking or hesitating, I responded, “Well, it seems to me that if you don’t know where you came from, you don’t really appreciate who you are.” “That’s exactly right,” said Sensei.
Like most Americans, I can name my parents, I can struggle to give all four of my grandparent’s birth names, and I have a dim understanding of who my Great grandparents were. After that, things get a bit cloudy. So it is with most American Karateka. In a very, very poor Ryu, the student struggles to name their teacher, their teacher’s teacher, and maybe they have a dim impression of who the founder is. Can you see why this might create students who don’t’ really appreciate who they are? For they don’t know where they came from. Let us discuss the Keizu of Nishi Kaze Karate Dojo.
First, we must acknowledge that historical analysis of the martial arts is very problematic, as bugeisha pride themselves on pure kuden from master to disciple. Large portions of the Asian martial arts tradition have been handed down to us via legends, anecdotal evidence or outright myths and lies. However, certain facts have emerged, and have achieved universal acceptance among hard-core bugeisha and impartial historians alike. It is these facts, not people’s opinions, or wants, or personal favorite names or mystical origins, that I shall attempt to describe as we discuss the Keizu of Nishi Kaze Karatedo Ryu.
No individual martial arts Ryu is inherently superior to any other. Petty arguments concerning which style is “best” or “most authentic” or “most traditional” or “most effective” are worthless. I have seen classically trained bushi from noble samurai hereditary households who were some of the worst and laziest bugeisha ever to disgrace the name of budo. I have also seen teenage boxers training in a filthy ghetto gymnasium who exemplify the purest spirit of bushido, and are among the best warriors and most noble gentlemen you could ever hope to meet. What matters is the faith and dedication each individual shows to their chosen Way; it is people who make a Ryu worthwhile, not ancient history or a long list of foreign names.
For this reason, most American Karateka have little or no regard for their Keizu. This is the land of the “self-made man” the country where one is not tied to one’s ancestry or roots. There is much that is correct in this viewpoint, yet whether or not you choose to disregard your Keizu, at the very least you should know of it. What you do with this knowledge, is, just like your bujutsu, entirely up to each individual. If you find it of use, use it. If not, ignore it. For me personally, as Soke of Nishi Kaze Karate Dojo, I feel very proud of our Keizu, and I hope you will feel the same way.
In 525 AD the Indian priest Boddhidharma (pronounced Daruma in Japanese) traveled from India to China to teach Buddhism. There was something unusual about this priest, however. Far from exemplifying the serene, soft-spoken and subdued model of the prototypical monk he was fierce, aggressive, intense, uncompromising and highly focused and disciplined. This character trait of his had little to do with his Buddhist training. He was born, bred and raised to be a warrior, a noble-born prince of the Brahmin Caste of India. What is known is that the elite Brahmin class were well-trained in an unarmed form of personal combat known as Vajramushti. What is less well-known is that this legendary grappling, striking and kicking art is considered to be largely based upon the profound influence made by the invading armies of Alexander the Great in 326 AD, when Greek warriors introduced the ancient art of Pankration to the Indian warrior caste. And so we see the West influencing the East and the East influencing the West in a never ending cycle of martial lore and heritage. We will speak much of Boddhidharma’s famous journey to China later; for now it is enough to know that after a very memorable visit to the Imperial Court in China, Boddhidharma traveled to Hunan province in Northern Central China and arrived at the Shaolin Temple.
Ah, the Shaolin Temple! There is so much to say about this mystical wellspring of our Keizu. That will have to wait for another day. For today’s rudimentary history, it is enough to know that there can be no doubt that Daruma taught Vajramushti exercises to the Shaolin Monks in an effort to make them more focused, alert and physically fit. This was the start of the art which we in the West refer to in awed and hushed terms as “Kung Fu” a term which is completely, totally and utterly without any martial arts or fighting meaning. Kung Fu, as it is pronounced in Mandarin, simply means ability, skill, or mastery. The character Kung Fu shows the character for “heaven” underneath the character for “effort”, hence a person attempting to attain perfection through hard work. For those of us who have traveled the long and winding road of our chosen Do, this seems fitting, yet it is important to remember that Kung Fu refers just as well to one who has mastered pottery, painting, music, or any other human endeavor. It is not a martial arts term in any way, shape or form. Boddhidharma taught the Shaolin monks to achieve the state of Kung Fu through martial arts exercises, true. Yet the actual martial arts of Kung Fu are not called Kung Fu. They are roughly divided into three separate categories: Kung Fu which develops internal energy (Tai Chi Chuan, or Chinese Internal Energy) Kung Fu which uses weapons (Wu Shu, literally War Arts, although in modern-day communist China they are supposedly designed to be purely acrobatic and athletic) and Kung Fu which is used for hand-to-hand combat (Chuan Fa, or The Way of Chinese Fists). Can you guess which form of Shaolin Kung Fu your WestWind Schools Keizu roots spring from? That’s right, Chuan Fa.
Which leads us to the next chapter in our Nishi Kaze Karate Dojo Ryu Keizu. If you were Japanese, and you were presented with the sibilant Chinese pronunciation of Chuan Fa, you might be tempted to harden the pronunciation to a term which suits the sharp consonants and clean vowels of the Japanese palate. The Japanese mouth would change the term Chuan Fa to Ken po. Next, we will discuss how our particular strain of Kenpo traveled from China to Japan, These are not opinions, or myths, or legends. These are facts. This is your Keizu.
A NOTE ON KEMPO & SHOTOKAN KARATE
First, we must honor the distinction between Kempo Karate and Kenpo. Both are translations for Chuan Fa, or Chinese Fists, yet the two Ryu have divergent evolutionary roots. Simply put, Kempo is the Okinawan translation, Kenpo is the Japanese translation, yet how these two separate countries discovered Kung Fu is integral to understanding your Keizu.
Next, I will list an embarrassingly pared down Keizu for Kempo Karate, which again, is not our lineage. In 1674, the first Shaolin Temple was destroyed by order of the Chin dynasty when 3,000 Imperial troops stormed the temple and burned it to the ground. Of the several hundred Shaolin Monks trained in the various Kung-Fu of Shaolin, only 18 escaped, and 13 were later captured and executed. Thus, we are told that “5 Ancestors” survived the destruction of The Shaolin Temple, and these five monks bravely continued the legacy of Shaolin. The famous Buddhist Nun Ng Mui founded the Wing Chun style, Chi Shin preserved the Taoist teachings, Fung Totak preserved the internal energy secrets, Pat Mei taught the weapons lore, and Miu Hin preserved the empty-handed training, the Chinese boxing techniques which have since spread throughout every country in the world. A student of the Miu Hin Keizu, a Chinese military official named Kusanku was assigned to the Ryukyu islands in the 17th century, where he taught an Okinawan named “Tode” Sakugawa, who taught the famous Matsumura Sensei, who taught Itsu, who taught a young Okinawan named Gichin Funakoshi. Thus Funakoshi Sensei learned the original Chuan Fa, Chinese Hands, yet instead of pronouncing the characters for Chuan Fa as “Kempo” his teacher used Japanese terms which were pronounced “Kara Te” meaning “Hands of the Tang Dynasty” referring to the period of time in which the Shaolin Temple thrived in China. The meaning was the same, yet the pronunciation was very different, for several reasons, not the least of which was that “Kempo” was already a forbidden term on the Ryukkyu islands when occupying Japanese forces learned that it was synonymous with the mystical empty-handed Chinese boxing of the Shaolin temple.
When Funakoshi Sensei began popularizing Karate, he changed the first character “kara” to a homonym which meant “empty”, thus changing the original Chuan Fa direct translation from “Chinese Fists” to “Empty Hands”. It is significant to note that Funakoshi Sama’s karate was strongly influenced by the original Tode arts of Okinawa, as evidenced by his original Ryu,. Shotokan Karate, which is at a glance far removed from the graceful, flowing animal styles of Shaolin. Tode is known for linear, strong, hard and simple movements, and Shotokan Karate is a direct offshoot of the blending of Tode with Kempo. Nishi Kaze Karate Dojo does not teach Shotokan Karate. As to the end of the Kempo Keizu, several other offshoots of the original Tode Sakugawa Keizu continued to insist on the direct translation of Kempo, and many, such as Goju Ryu and Shorin Ryu, are noticeably closer in appearance and style to our Kenpo Ryu. There is still an Okinawan Kempo Karate Ryu which is fiercely protective of the term “Kempo” who were famous for a legal battle in the early 1970s wherein they copyrighted the term “Kempo” and the original Buddhist manji of the Shaolin Temple, forbidding competing Karate Ryu from using the term or symbol.
The point in listing this brief summation of Kempo Karate Ryu’s Keizu is twofold; first, it is to let you know that it is not our Keizu. Many Karateka have attempted to attach themselves to Funakoshi Sensei’s Keizu in an attempt to look more authentic, or traditional, or worthwhile. Karateka of the Shotokan Keizu take great pride in pointing to their 400 year old Keizu of the Ryukkyu islands, and rightfully so. This marks Karatedo as a true Koryu, one of the original styles of fighting arts, as valid and time honored as many of the Budo. Kenpo has roots that predate Karate by several hundred years, however. Whether or not our lineage is better, or more valid, or makes your system more legitimate or authentic is completely irrelevant. These are simply different branches from the same source. It is up to you to decide how your history will affect you, and whether or not it is of any use to you as a WestWind Karateka. This history of Funakoshi-Sensei’s Karatedo history has been written in many different ways, and has many different versions. Again, I must firmly stress that I am no authority on martial art history. I wasn’t there, so I can’t tell you with any certainty what happened! This is the version of Karatedo history I’ve been told, and I simply wish to share my knowledge with you.
Your Keizu does not begin with the legendary destruction of Shaolin in 1674. Your Keizu starts in 1235 AD, 439 years before the venerable lineage of Funakoshi Sama’s Karatedo. Han records of the Kosho Samurai family tell us that in this year, when the Mongol hordes were completing their conquest of Northern China, the Head Monk of the Shaolin temple, Shin Tzu, was sent in greatest secrecy on a perilous sea voyage to the virtually unknown “Island Nation” off the Chinese coast, Japan, in a desperate effort to protect the lineage and teachings of Shaolin. Written documents assert that Shin Tzu sought refuge with a prominent Shinto priest named Kosho no Kumamoto at the Shakain temple on the southern island of Kyushu in Japan. Kosho, who was by birth a high-ranked samurai, was highly trained in traditional Japanese Budo, including Kendo, Kyudo and Jujitsu. It is clear that Shin Tzu taught Kohso Chuan Fa, for shortly after the Head Monk departed for China following the end of the Mongol invasion in 1240, the Kosho Han began teaching their samurai warriors a new and previously unseen art they named Koshoryu Kenpo, literally “Kosho (A Japanese surname meaning Old Pine Tree) Style Chinese boxing”. For over 650 years the Koshoryu Kenpo system was passed from generation to generation of the Kosho Han. Due to intermarriages and political changes, the Kosho clan subdivided into many different Han, with the two prevalent family names, the Yoshida Han and the Mitose Han, still surviving to this day. Yet no matter which family name was predominant, the secret teachings of Koshoryu Kenpo were faithfully carried on as part of the military heritage of the Kosho ancestry.
In 1868, the Meiji Restoration disbanded the ancient Samurai caste, and a few of the previously closely guarded secrets of the various military Han were for the first time ever opened to the public. In 1882, Jigaro Kano systemized the secret Samurai wrestling art of Jujitsu, and established Judo, the gentle way, opening his dojo to former samurai and commoners alike. In 1920, Morihei Ueshiba established his Aikido dojo near Kyoto, and began teaching the “Way of Harmonious Energy”. Despite the popularity of these wrestling arts, the more lethal Koryu still maintained a close grip on their teachings, refusing to let any outsiders learn their Bugei for fear of swift reprisal from the modern government if they should be discovered teaching their clearly deadly and warlike Do. Many of the true Koryu; Kendo, Iaido, Kyudo, and our own Kenpo, have only emerged from their secret Samurai Han status to be taught to the general public following the creation of a democratic Japan following World War II.
In 1923, the 21st lineal descendant of the Kosho Han was born in Hawaii and christened James Masayoshi Mitose. At the young age of 5 he was repatriated back to Japan to receive traditional religious and martial arts training from his stern uncle, a master of the ancient Kohsoryu Kenpo fighting art. For 10 years he studied daily with his uncle in the family’s private Buddhist Temple on Mount Akenkai in southern Japan. During this period, Karatedo was being widely popularized by its founder Gichin Funakoshi in Okinawa, and the overlap between the ancestry of Kenpo and Karate was clearly evident. However, while Karate was widely accepted as an invigorating contact sport by the Japanese government, Kenpo, with its emphasis on lethal blows to the throat, raking claws to the eyes, unsportsmanlike kicks to the groin and crippling breaking techniques, remained a clearly separate and distinctly combative style, still closely guarded by the Mitose Han as one of the secret warlike Koryu which the general public were not allowed to know of, much less learn in an open dojo setting.
KENPO COMES TO AMERICA
In 1936, Japan was poised for war against the mighty armies of China and The United States of America, and James Mitose, in a clear statement of rebellion against his Samurai heritage, denounced the warlike policies of his ancestral country, and chose to return to his land of birth, Hawaii. In an unprecedented break from almost 700 years of tradition, Mitose Sensei’s first act upon arriving back on US soil was to create the Honolulu Official Self Defense Club, and for the next 20 years he taught the legendary Koshoryu Kenpo, first solely to Nisei and Sansei Hawaiians, then to US Army Cadets, and later to students from all backgrounds and nationalities. If one were to believe the number of American Karateka who claim to have a connection with Mitose Sensei’s original dojo, you would think he had awarded thousands of black belts in his 20 years of teaching. The fact is, Mitose Sensei was very strict with his teachings, and in two decades of running his dojo, he awarded only 6 black belts in Kohsoryu Kenpo. It may interest you to know that one of those original Kohoryu Kenpo Black Belts is a direct link in your Keizu. Read on.
Finally, we come to the end of this journey. Mitose Sensei was, like all Koshoryu Sensei, extremely demanding and exact with his instruction, and he did not award rank easily. There are only 6 true Koshoryu Black Belts personally awarded by James Mitose. One was to a Chinese American named William Chow who had learned traditional Shaolin Kung-Fu forms from his father and was supposedly part of a secret Chinese Triad which continued to teach Shaolin Kung Fu as part of their fighting arts. William Chow was an extremely intelligent and gifted student at Honolulu University, working on his PHD when he began training with Mitose Sensei. This union between a Chinese national and a Japanese of ancient Samurai heritage was considered very unusual and revolutionary in the early 1940s, considering World War II was still raging across the Pacific, but the two men shared a mutual interest in the clearly similar Chuan Fa origins of their individual fighting styles.
In 1949, Professor Chow opened his own dojo, and carried on the Kenpo legacy, although Sifu Chow changed the name of his school to Kenpo Kung-Fu instead of Koshoryu Kenpo, in deference to his Sensei’s ongoing Koshoryu dojo. In 1954, Professor Chow awarded the Black Belt to a native Hawaiian named Edmund Parker, a powerful and solid martial artist. Ed Parker emigrated to Pasadena, California in 1957 and opened Parker’s Kenpo Karate School, changing the name of Kenpo Kung Fu yet again to avoid conflict with his Kenpo Sifu Chow. There is not enough space in this simple Keizu to properly reflect the major impact the brilliant and visionary Parker Sensei had on the systemization of Kenpo; he was the one who originally broke the mystical and confusing kata of Mitose Sensei’s Koshoryu Kenpo and Sifu Chow’s Shaolin Kung-Fu into practical, short and effective techniques, and he also broke tradition by teaching Kenpo in English, whereas Mitose Sensei insisted on purely Japanese teaching and terminology. Without these, and many other significant innovations, it is very unlikely that Kenpo Karate would ever have achieved such widespread success in America and there is no doubt in my mind that the popularity of Karatedo would have been set back several decades, to the point where none of us would be sitting here discussing our Kareteka Keizu today.
KENPO IN CALIFORNIA
The rest of your Keizu is no longer ancient history. Most of the people remaining are still alive at the time I write this point, many are even still teaching Kenpo Karate, and just like your parents or grandparents, are names you should readily call to mind. Ed Parker taught Will and Al Tracy who established Tracy Karate Studios, which are still in existence today. Al Tracy taught Richard Couvellier, who later changed his name to Richard Lee and opened East-West Karate School, which is currently in operation in Alamo. Richard Lee taught Ronald Leskoshek, who following his teacher’s example changed his name to Ron Lee, and founded our beloved WestWind Schools on September 15th, 1969. This all happened in the span of 40 years, a virtual blink of the eye when compared to the 1,450 years-old Keizu which predates the spread of Kenpo Karate to the Continental United States. Take a moment to consider the journey you have just undergone in learning your Nishi Kaze Karate Dojo Keizu. The names are as follows;
Boddhidharma, Shin Tzu, Kosho no Kumamoto, James Masayoshi Mitose, William Chow, Edmund Parker, Al Tracy, Richard Lee, Ron Lee. I am saddened to report Ron Lee recently passed away on September 15th, 2007 after a short battle with throat cancer. The date of his passing is not coincidence; he purposefully held on to life until his school’s anniversary. He will be greatly missed, and we will discuss his many important contributions to the world of Karatedo, and his impact on my life, another day.
So finally, we see WestWind School’s Keizu, or at least my own personal interpretation. Now you know what I know. In less than 10 names you can trace your lineage to the founding father of all forms of eastern fighting arts. Do you start to get a sense of why you should be proud of your Keizu? Do you start to see how it can tell you who you are, and what it is you are doing, and what you stand for, and what you are protecting, and what you are preserving for future generations, and how your Ryu is unique, and irreplaceable, and part of a rapidly disappearing way of life and living? You are an important participant in something larger than yourself, larger than your Sensei, larger than your dojo, larger than your Ryu. You are a living part of history. This is who you are.
(Author’s Note: When asked to create a “philosophy” category for our Website, I was skeptical. There is simply no way to sum up an individual’s philosophy in an easy-to-digest format, far less an entire martial arts system! And so, I will not even attempt the impossible. Instead, every month I will tell a story. This is my contribution to the “philosophy” section. I must stress that these stories are not my own, and are borrowed from many written and verbal sources over several decades of martial arts study. As always, all inaccuracies, wrong information or blatant plagiarism are entirely my fault. Here’s the story for February 2008:
Sensei and the newest student of his dojo were walking through the Imperial Orchard in early spring during the Cherry Blossom Festival of Kyoto. After a long period of silence, the master raised his finger and pointed out a solitary blossom clinging precariously from the tip of a branch 9 feet above the ground. “Kick that,” he quietly commanded. The student hesitated. The target was clearly far too high, especially for one so new to The Way. But, after the initial moment of doubt, the student gathered his energy, visualized his target, launched himself into the air…and missed the blossom entirely, falling flat on his back in a muddy spring puddle. “Hmmm….” commented Sensei, “this will take time.”
Many, many years later, when Sensei and deshi returned to view the cherry blossoms, Sensei again raised his finger and pointed to a lone blossom fluttering from a tall branch in the Spring breeze. “Kick that,” Sensei ordered. Without hesitation, the student effortlessly sprang from the ground, hovered in the air for an imperceptible moment, and with pinpoint precision whipped his foot at the branch, perfectly tapping the cherry petal. The student landed gracefully as the cherry blossom lazily floated to the ground. “I remember long ago, when you were considering accepting me as your personal student, you asked me to perform that exact same kick,” reminisced the student. “Iye, deshi,” responded Sensei, “I didn’t ask you to kick the blossom. That would have been impossible for you back then!” “Gomen nasai, Sensei,” apologized the student, “but I remember as if it were yesterday! You pointed to this very tree, and that same branch, and you showed me a similar petal far overhead, and you spoke the exact same words!”
“The tree, the branch, the blossom and the words may have been the same,” replied Sensei, “but the test was completely different. I didn’t ask to see if you could kick the flower. I asked to see if you would try.”
Students who apply for acceptance into a classical system of martial arts stand at the threshold of a tradition that extends back many millennia, and reaches to the farthest corners of the earth. They are not merely seeking admission into a dojo but into a ryu; a martial tradition, a way of life, a priceless heritage. In choosing to accept an individual into the Ryu, the teacher is welcoming the student on behalf of all those who have gone before. This decision is an important one. It is not based on strength, ability or pre-existing skill. These things can be taught. It is based on spirit, attitude and character. These things can only be cultivated. For this reason, it is said that the white belt is the most important belt of all, and in the classic budo, is the only true obi the student has. All the other colors are merely surface stains and honest wear and tear on the original fabric. Underneath the blood, sweat and tears, the white belt is still there, holding it all together.
Thus, above all else the follower of true budo must always possess Shoshin, the beginner’s mind. This is as important for your black belt deshi as it is for your white belts. Perhaps even more so. We have spoken of this before, and it will come up again and again. As to truly internalizing Shoshin….this will take time.
WestWind Boxing Program
WestWind School’s boxing program was created by our Head Coach Angelo Reyes in 2000 to prove that WestWind is simply the best fighting system in world, period. Mr. Reyes felt that western boxing was the only contact sport with the tradition, stability and exacting standards to be seriously incorporated into the WestWind system, as the newer mixed-fighting “fads” have not stood the test of time that boxing has maintained, unchanged, since 1865. WestWind School’s style (called Bok-Fu Boxing) is a one-of-a-kind, revolutionary blend of the mental and spiritual foundation of Eastern fighting arts with the physical skills of Western boxing. Bok-Fu Boxing is noted for its relentless style of precision punching, effective aggressive tactics and seamless defensive countering techniques.
Classes and one-on-one coaching are offered for any range of interests, from the seasoned athlete who has amateur or pro boxing aspirations, to the casual fight fan who would like an introduction to the “sweet science” of boxing.
WestWind’s boxing gym is one of the largest in the Bay Area providing over 7000 square feet of training space with a variety of punching bags, weights, cardio vascular and plyometric equipment and an Olympic competition ring (25 X 25). With expert instruction available 12 hours a day 7 days a week, it is the most accessible boxing facility in the Bay Area.
Bok-Fu Boxing has produced some of the best fighters from the Bay Area with its most prized pupil being our very own Ana “The Hurricane” Julaton. The most decorated female Filipina in the history of USA Amateur Boxing, Ms. Julaton has won several regional, state and national awards such as the California State Champion, SF Golden Gloves, USA Boxing Northern California Champion, and rose to # 2 in the USA before turning Pro. Ms. Julaton immediately caught the attention of legendary coach Freddie Roach, and is currently his only female boxer. Ms. Julaton is undefeated in the Pros, and ranked #11 in the entire world by the World Boxing Council.
While we offer the most demanding and complete boxing regiment anywhere, WestWind Boxing goes far beyond just teaching physical skills. The Bok-Fu Boxer will learn a great deal of the traditions, history and true sportsmanship of boxing, and all students who box at WestWind develop deep confidence, unshakeable perseverance, and a true winner’s attitude for every challenge they face.
WestWind Academy started as a family affair. After sending our own children to Bay Area public and private schools, we came to a startling revelation: Education in California is in a state of crisis! We can teach our children better! We started with a plan to teach a half dozen of our own children, and established a state-registered private school in our spacious Berkeley dojo to let our dynamic full-time teaching staff take care of our family’s education.
The word quickly spread that we were starting our own school and a few other families joined in, and thus, literally almost overnight, WestWind Academy was born. When I saw our original tiny group of students doubling and tripling, I called up the very best teacher I know, the Head of Orinda Academy’s English and Social Studies Department, Mrs. Kathe Weitzer to recruit her as Dean of our quickly growing school. Mrs. Weitzer agreed to leave her safe and secure post with Orinda Academy to come teach for us, knowing she could make a bigger impact teaching in the intimate, personal setting WestWind Academy provides our students. After enlisting the expertise of one other seasoned teacher to handle the “hands-on” Chemistry and Biology lab-work, Mr. David Seigel (who has taught science for over two decades, including at Berkeley Montessori), we officially started the Bay Area’s newest private school, WestWind Academy, on September 4th, 2007.
Teacher-to Student Ratio
The Academy has proven to be a huge success, for several reasons. First, we maintain a strict 1 teacher-to-5 student ratio in every English, Math, Social Studies, Computer and Science class we teach. The only time we allow our children to experience a 1-10 or rarely 1-20 ratio (which, sadly enough, would be considered an excellent ratio at every other school in the world) is during our Art or Sports activities, at which time a large, energized team of students becomes a plus, not a minus. For our PE Curriculum, WestWind Academy children enjoy Football in the First Quarter, Basketball in the 2nd Quarter, Martial Arts competition in the 3rd Quarter, and Baseball in the 4th Quarter of each school year. In addition, we teach private, one-on-one lessons in Language (Spanish & Japanese), music (Piano & Guitar) and of course the student’s own private martial art’s classes. The amount of individual care we give our children is simply unmatched in any other private school, anywhere, and I am convinced it is the primary reason we have had such great success, and our students are truly happy to be here. I hereby challenge any other private school to match our student-to-teacher ratio!
Self-Discipline & Mutual Respect
Another reason for our success is that every student in WestWind Academy must be a WestWind martial arts student, learning the self-discipline, respect and heightened focus all WestWind students traditionally receive. In fact, the students of WestWind Academy, being exposed to the martial art’s culture five days a week, six hours a day, advance far beyond the high standards we have for all children studying our system. For example, in our 2008 annual tournament, of the 15 WestWind Academy students who competed, 11 won medals in their divisions, capturing 6 Gold Medals, 2 Silver and 3 Bronze. Considering that fact that on average less than one in twelve WestWind Students are eligible for a medal (8%) the fact that 11 out of 15 Academy students captured a medal (73%) says something about how deeply WestWind Academy students are immersed in the traditional martial arts culture. There is no doubt that the built-in tradition of mutual respect and strong emphasis on self-control inherent in our martial art’s dojo setting are the second reason why WestWind Academy has been a success.
And finally, of course, WestWind Academy is different from all other private schools because it is run by our high-energy, highly experienced motivational group of seasoned instructors. We are the only martial arts dojo in the history of the United States to pioneer a state-registered private school. The staff of WestWind Academy is as follows:
Mr. Thompson: Principal 21 years teaching experience at WestWind Schools
Mrs. Weitzer: Dean Head of English & Social Studies Department California State Credentials for all grades Preschool-12th 14 Years teaching at Orinda Academy Registered Nurse with over 40 year’s experience Published Author Beloved mother of 3 and Grandmother of 11 children
Mr. Flint: Head of Science Department 30 years teaching experience at WestWind Schools
Mr. Sheppard: Head of Music Department 15 years teaching experience at WestWind Schools
Mr. Kohgadai: Head of PE Department 14 years teaching experience at WestWind Schools
Mr. Shah: Head of Math Department 10 years teaching experience at WestWind Schools
Mrs. Thompson: Head of Language Department 14 years teaching experience at WestWind Schools
Mrs. Sheppard: Head of Art Department 7 years teaching experience at WestWind Schools
Mr. Siegel: Head of Science Lab California State Credentials for all grades 1-12 22 years teaching experience Currently teaching with Berkeley Unified School District
I’d like to close this introduction to WestWind Academy by stating firmly that I am not interested in increasing enrollment or recruiting outsiders into my close-knit family group of students. For this reason, we stopped enrollment at a mere 20 students last year. WestWind Academy is a small family affair, period. And that, I cannot stress enough, is the secret to our happy student’s success. Look at the roster of instructors again. We have nine professional adults all contributing to this select group’s education. WestWind Academy always has a minimum of 4 full-time instructors teaching these 20 children, guaranteeing our 5-to-1 ratio, and on days when we add our private language, music and martial arts classes, that ratio jumps to 3-to-1, a simply never-before-seen level of personal attention and care. For the 2008 school year (Starting in September) we may increase to 30 students, adding extra staff and classes to maintain our strict student-to-teacher ratio. If you’re interested in scheduling an interview with your child for our upcoming school year, please contact the Principal Mr. Thompson at the Berkeley Dojo.