Training with a Legend

If you’ve had the unique experience of attending a seminar with Sensei Steve Ubl, you will know his skill and experience are legendary.  His stellar pedigree and training experiences are only equalled by his own overwhelming knowledge and technical abilities.  Join us as we take a peek inside his own dojo in La Jolla with an interview with Margaret Glime, a regular student there.

What is the class schedule at the dojo?
We meet three times a week, Tuesday and Thursday night and a daytime Sunday class.

How are the classes, what is the level of intensity?
The classes differ day to day. Generally Sundays are a greater level of intensity than Tuesdays and Thursdays. As for structure, we focus A LOT on Kihon. Often times it’s the basic drills that cause you to sweat and tire the most. 

What is the training facility/dojo like?
We meet at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla, CA, in a small studio room. Simple, but practical and enough space for everyone to train comfortably.

What are the main points that Sensei Ubl focuses on in class?
Kihon, Kihon, Kihon… and more Kihon. Sensei Ubl stresses the basics and the importance of them in every class and in everything we do. You can’t successful perform any kata, simple or advanced, without a strong foundation in the basics.

Do you ever free spar?
Very rarely, if ever. We usually only partner up for application and 1 or 3-step sparring.

Do you work on a lot of kata or is it usually the same ones?
We tend to mix it up with kata week-to-week. We will usually warm up with the basic kata, and then pick them apart for application (sometimes performing them in reverse). If we have a guest in class, we usually focus on that individual’s kata.

How often do you have guests train?
Every other week or so we have guests that visit to train with Sensei Ubl, our most recent visitors being from a college karate club on the east coast.

How many people are usually in class?
The usual class consists of five or six people, including Sensei Ubl. Sundays are generally larger, sometimes having up to ten people or so. Even when it gets a bit crowded in class, Sensei Ubl still manages to see every mistake from across the room.

What is your favorite piece of advice from Sensei Ubl?
Slow down. Whenever I am struggling with any sort of move (which is more often than I’d like to admit), he has me break it down into slow, deliberate movements. After repeating it about a hundred-thousand times, THEN begin to put power and speed behind the move. It’s unbelievably easy to try and move fast, but you have to fully understand what you’re doing (and why) in order to execute a movement with the greatest possible impact.

What’s with the weight vest? (he wears a 30lb weight vest while teaching & training)
Sensei Ubl is hardcore. Hardcore people wear weight vests, obviously.

Editors note: Despite his astounding talent, Sensei Ubl (he insists on “Steve” outside the dojo) has maintained a decidedly private life dedicated to the art of karate. I want to personally thank him for the opportunity to interview Margaret and for re-lighting the desire to train within me and so many other people who he has helped over the years.

Also – Sensei Ubl’s dojo is old school – no website, no Facebook, no kids, no frills. Visitors are welcome, but should make arrangements in advance and should be prepared for fair, but accurate, scrutiny while training.

Interview by Ashley Ross |  Ashley is a student at Kitsune Karate in Minneapolis. She is a regular social media contributor for the Shuhari Institute and is a founding member and Chair of the Shuhari Youth Fellowship.