Member Profile: South KC Shotokan

An interview with Sensei Eric Banks

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:

Shuhari Cup Was a Yuge Success!

The 2017 Shuhari Cup on April 21-22 in Missouri was a terrific event for competitors, officials, and families. More than 70 adult and youth competitors from across the country participated in a full day of high caliber competition.

The Missouri Karate Association hosted the tournament and provided a well-run event with superb accommodations. There was plenty of time for conversation about karate, kids, and our common purpose: to improve our karate, share experiences, and to help each other.

Shimoji Sensei, of Jinsendo Karate Atlanta Georgia, led an innovative seminar for the competition officials on Friday. It was inspiring to see so many instructor level karateka performing for and competing against each other for the purpose of discussing criteria and calibrating their judging.

Shimoji Sensei’s goal, shared by the Shuhari Institute, is for competitions be a learning experience for everyone involved. Based on the enthusiastic participation of judges—in the seminar, during the tournament, and in discussions after the tournament—the 2017 Cup made good strides toward this goal.

The 2018 Shuhari Cup will be hosted in Atlanta, Georgia. Watch for more information in upcoming newsletters and updates.

The Sun Rises on Traditional Karate

The Sun Rises on Traditional Karate

By Vik Khanna and Laura Ocampo

The prospect of traditional karate’s inclusion in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games has North American karateka abuzz.  It would provide an unparalleled showcase for what is, on our landscape at least, a niche sport that is frequently under-appreciated and widely misunderstood.  The question for American karateka is this: How will our athletes fare on the world stage against karateka from other countries, including the sport’s homeland of Japan, where the sport is venerated?

This is potentially a once-in-a-generation opportunity to elevate our sport’s profile and entice a new generation of youth to embrace its beauty, tradition, and athleticism. To do this, American karateka will need to do the one and only thing that mesmerizes U.S. sports fans: win.

One essential way to do this is to elevate the conditioning portion of karate training across the country. Unfortunately, the fitness industry leaves much to be desired in terms of transmitting accurate and useful information about developing a foundation of strength and mobility than can help empower every karateka to deliver techniques with the desired power and control. For example, karate conditioning conversations are often dominated by a preoccupation with being powerful, which is often interpreted as being “fast.” Forgotten in this dialogue is the fact that power has two components: strength (force) and speed (rate of force development). How many of us have seen karateka trying to do explosive push-ups, because their senseis implore them to be more powerful, yet it is painfully obvious that this room of students has never been taught how (or why) to do a push-up correctly, meaning that they lack the foundation of strength necessary to become powerful?

How many dojos pro-actively teach their karateka the proper use of kettlebells, in particular the Russian hardstyle kettlebell swing? Arguably no other exercise does as much for posterior chain activation and development of explosive power and does so economically and efficiently. Even more important, hard-style training is itself derived from Okinawan Goju Ryu, and, thus, there is a mechanical breathing match with all ballistic movements; in other words, the breath drives the technique…sound familiar? It is also doable by virtually any karateka regardless of age, gender, or fitness status. And the hard-style swing is the just the beginning of what’s possible with kettlebells and bodyweight training that is well planned, taught clearly, and grounded in an understanding of energy systems and how to promote their optimization for kata and the kumite ring.

In this space over the coming months, we will explore strength and mobility as core elements of conditioning for powerful, effective, and winning karate. We’ll also write about rest, recovery, and appropriate self care. The athlete who trains constantly is the athlete who burns out quickly. We hope to dispel conditioning and nutrition, myths and introduce evidence from the exercise science literature into the conversation about how contemporary sensei and karateka can promote this beautiful and tradition-rich sport as tool for lifelong fitness and health as well as athletic excellence.

We also plan to have a Q&A column in which we answer questions about conditioning and nutrition from Shuhari senseis and their students. The sun is rising on traditional karate. It is our job to ensure that we teach our teachers and students how to separate fact from fiction in their training tools so that their time, energy, and money is spent well. 2020 will be here in the blink of an eye. Will American karateka be ready for the challenge of competing on the sport’s biggest stage ever?   We say “Hai!”

Vik Khanna is the conditioning coach at the Missouri Karate Association. He is a longtime healthcare consultant and exercise coach, with degrees in exercise science, internal medicine, and public health. A lifelong weight lifter, he is a convert to hard-style kettlebell training as primary tool for building fitness for karate. Find Vik online at

Laura Ocampo is a 4th Dan and co-owner of Midwest Karate & Yoga Association of St. Louis Park.  She competed both at the National and International level with the AAKF for many years.  After her competition years and many chronic injuries later that Laura turned to Yoga for healing.  She received her 200hr & 500hr yoga certification and started teaching yoga in her dojo in 2006.  Soon after that, she started training with kettlebells.  She created and trademark Yoga-Bells™ a fusion class that combines her knowledge of over thirty years of teaching into one unique class.  Find Laura online at

Jion Kata Bunkai

This is a summary of some of the practical and effective applications within the kata Jion. Kata is alway more interesting to practice when you actually know some realistic applications behind the techniques. We hope you can use these ideas in your own training and teaching and please subscribe to this channel for more exciting karate educational videos in the future.

When karate was introduced from Okinawa to mainland Japan, its curriculum was modified to be more suitable for teaching in large group settings. In the case of kata, explanation of the brutal self-defense applications behind the movements were mostly removed from the teaching. These applications have remained largely a secret to most karateka for nearly a century. To this day, most karateka have little or poor knowledge of the application of the kata they practice every week.

In the last few decades, many dedicated karateka have begun to search deeper to understand these techniques and reintroduce them to the teaching curriculum. We owe these diligent individuals our gratitude for their hard work and perseverance in making this exciting and valuable knowledge available to the public.

T-Shirts are Here!

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