We spoke with Sensei Eric Banks after the 2017 Shuhari Cup and asked him a few questions about his experiences. Eric is the owner and instructor at South KC Shotokan, located in Grandview, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City, where he has taught traditional karate since 1996.
What is the history of your dojo?
I began teaching the way many instructors do, offering a few classes a week in my church’s basement. I spent the next 10 years developing my karate and expanding the program, and in 2007 I formally incorporated the organization as an LLC. Just this past February, a little more than 20 years after I first started, I made the leap to quit my day job and focus on teaching and writing full-time.
What makes your program unique?
Like many dojos, our kids program is foundational. I have several assistants who help me with the kids’ program, and I recently developed and offered a training program for the assistants.
What makes South KC Shotokan stand out in our region is our focus on building solid basics through breath energy integration. There are many karate schools that are sports based, but our main focus is traditional kata, kihon, and kumite as well as various sensitivity and engagement drills. These are key to building a solid foundation. To become proficient in any art you must learn to create healthy movement and healthy body structure, and continue to go deeper and deeper to find and free the essence of the art and of the individual practitioner. That is what we emphasize.
I am also expanding our offerings for adults. Our Restorative Energetic Movement classes help adults who want to regain physical fitness. We work on balance, strength, range of motion, and movement for our participants who range in age from 50 to 70. At the moment we are working with a Chinese exercise that helps tendons become stronger and more supple.
Who is your Sensei?
My first sensei was Robert delMas when I was a student at Northeast Missouri State. In those early years, as I moved for school and work, I trained with others teachers and in other styles. Eventually I was introduced to AAKF and attended Nishiyama Sensei’s seminars in Chicago. I trained with Smaby Sensei in the AAKF region for several years. I met Shimoji Sensei in 2004 at a national tournament, and a few years later I made it a point to attend one of his seminars in St. Louis. His teaching has profoundly affected my perspective on karate, how I move, and how I teach. Shimoji Sensei’s emphasis on proper movement makes perfect sense to me: an art should make you better, not tear your body down.
Learn more about Sensei Banks’ dojo here: http://www.southkcshotokan.com