By John Rodgers, leader
The first dojo I started was South Kansas City Shotokan. I started that in March of 1989. I had been teaching at Longview Community College in the division of continuing education, helping to get that dojo started. Donnie Duncan, Carl Johnson, and John Kaczynski continued to run the Longview dojo, and I wanted to form my own out in South Kansas City. I talked with Jon Beltram. Of course, Jon wants his nidans to open up schools, so I wrote a letter to Mr. Ohshima asking permission to open the dojo, and I think I even talked with him on the phone. At that time I was going to special trainings three times a year, spring, summer, and winter. So I had a lot of opportunity to talk with Mr. Ohshima and discuss it with him. I taught classes Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 8-lOpm, and Sundays from 8-lOam. I had children’s classes, and women’s self defense classes, and of course regular classes.
The highlight of the South Kansas City dojo for me was when I got .,.
my students actually to go to special trainings. I had two students attend winter special training up in Northern Illinois University in 1990. Then I had two attend the same winter special training in 1991. And two students attended the spring Midwest special training here in Kansas City in 1992, and then I had one go with me to the summer special training in Champaign/Urbana in 1992.
In 1991, I had an opportunity to start the Ford Claycomo dojo at the Ford auto plant in Claycomo, Missouri. This was through Penn Valley Community College, which had an education program up at the Ford plant. At one time we had ten students practicing, and they were all employees of the Ford Claycomo plant. Ford had a physical fitness center on the property, and instructors were provided by Penn Valley Community College in weight training, aerobics and karate for the employees of the Ford Claycomo Plant. I had a class 5-6:30am, and then another one 11:30am –1pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Andy Brown was a shodan then, and he was helping me lead the practices up there.
I remember that at the 1992 spring special training, I had two of my students from the Ford Claycomo dojo and two from the South Kansas City dojo. Of course, as usual, we threw mats on the floor and slept in the wrestling room. Well, my students had never had the rare opportunity of sleeping in the same room with me. My snoring is pretty loud, I guess. After that first night, they all decided they’d rather drive home, sleep, and drive back than get no sleep at all in the wrestling room with me.
I don’t have any pictures left. They were all lost when the water line broke and flooded everything on the lower level. All my pictures and all my special training pictures and everything were totally destroyed. For history, that was it! I continued to lead both dojos until late in 1992. By then, I was travelling to Hong Kong a lot on business, and I was having a lot of problems in my hip and lower spine from degenerative arthritis. I started weight training, which has helped. Although I had enjoyed karate for twenty years, I had to give it up.7