Taking a class in martial arts was a long time desire but I never invested time to seek a place to train.
My long time dream came true when I was introduced to Shihan Ken Keith. I started training with Shihan Keith in 2003. During my martial arts training I have attained the rank of yonkyu (purple belt) in Shito-Ryu Karate awarded me by Shihan Keith.
I am a retired principal and educator and I am currently working as a consultant in mathematics with teachers in various cities throughout the United States. Being a consultant, I sometimes have to miss class due to my travel itinerary. However Shihan Keith gives me plenty of "homework" and encourages me to read and study. Along with my Karate ranking, Shihan Keith is also training me in Takeo-Ryu Goshin Jitsu. My goal is to be certified as a Shodan in both Karate and Jujitsu.
Shihan Keith is very patient and centered on teaching. He encourages all students to research, read and learn the history of the arts they are studying.
He also allows higher ranking belts to teach a few techniques to lower belts. One learns more, when one teaches. So often, Shihan Keith will use mathematical examples or math logic to explain various moves within our techniques and katas.
Through practicing and studying, I have developed a higher level of confidence in my everyday activities.
Kwame Anthony Scott Sempai
This was the day that my years with Shihan Kenneth Keith since the early 2000's have led to. I got involved with Self Defense to learn some moves to be able to better protect my family and myself. We met on Saturdays. As the days moved on then the weeks, the months and the years, we also developed in our skills.
Shihan believed in developing the mind along with the physical skills. We had to be proficient with our stances, blocks, kicks, strikes, and punches. We had to demonstrate that we can perform and speak the techniques in Japanese and English.
These skilled techniques led us to learn Shito-Ryu. Our skills had led us to begin to be ranked. We had to not only learn the techniques; we had to learn the history of the Originators behind the style. Shihan wanted us to be intelligent in learning this art. Shihan had taught us so much that when we went to spar with another Martial Arts dojo, that Sensei thought we were black belts. We were only green or blue belts.
As we moved through the years, we started to learn about Jiu Jutsu. We had to learn the terminology and the techniques beginning at the 10th Kyu—ten ranks from becoming a Black Belt. With the background in Shito-Ryu, my learning curve was not very high; I invested in learning the Japanese behind the techniques. We are now adding joint locks, throws and ground fighting.
Being the Sempai, the senior student (been around the longest) I was ahead of the class. We have the motto of each one teach one, so we learn as we help others. So this helped me to move through my kyus. But as I got closer to preparing for the Black Belt test, things began to change in my attitude, behavior, and perseverance. If I was to prepare for the Black Belt test, I had to show others that I am proficient in my art, skills and knowledge. I had to be able to understand the Japanese language as I demonstrated my ability to perform the techniques.
With the motto of each one teach one; my classmates were very supportive in helping me to prepare for the Black Belt test. I began looking deeper into each technique. I asked myself, if I want to execute this technique, what do I need to do to my opponent to set it up? I would bring this question to class and discuss it with the class and with Shihan.
So that day of the test, I had to calm myself, and listen to the questions from the judges, and answer in short understandable terms. I had to listen to the commands from Shihan, relax and perform the techniques with quickness and making sure that my Uke (attacker) was not injured. I had to stay focused because; I had an audience watching and judges who were evaluating me.
I am proud of the process that Shihan used as he taught us and I am proud of the accomplishment of reaching the level of Black Belt. I believe it was more for Shihan than for me. I am his first Black Belt in Jiu Jitsu. Shihan stated that getting a Black Belt means you just graduated from kindergarten and as Sensei Donny stated, a Black Belt is a White Belt that stayed the course. Which means, now the learning and teaching begins.
My experiences of teaching in Chicago Public Schools has shown me some of the salient reasons and evidence why African American students are regulated to the bottom tier of academia. I have also observed this in teachers’ classrooms in many schools and cities. The low academic performance of these children has become a fundamental of American education system. Because of this, our children of African ancestry are suffering at an alarming rate. It is commonly known that Black children are located regularly on the bottom of practically all data that are narrated about students’ academic performances.
Our colleges and universities where teachers go to study have not adequately dealt with teaching our children. Our school leadership have not made any definitive move that address the concerns of children of African ancestry in particular. So being an adjunct professor who teaches mathematics methods classes, and a consultant for K-12 educators have provided me more experiences to take up this challenge.
Studies show that when students of color are provided learning opportunities that integrate their interests, learning styles, and cultural values, their academic motivation increases, they become engaged academically, and their learning is enhanced. DR. Williams (2015) An RTI Guide to Improving the Performance of African American Students.