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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. 

Self Training: Staying Sharp While Away from the Dojo

Self Training

Staying Sharp While Away from the Dojo

By the age of nine, I knew karate was something I would practice for the rest of my life.  I was so certain of this, that in middle school, I told my mom that I would go to college if she wanted me to, but it didn’t really matter because I was just going to be a professional competitor and Sensei. In high school, I rarely looked into colleges outside of a 15-mile radius from a good dojo. But here I am sitting on Alumni Lawn of Vanderbilt University, 4 hours and 238 miles away from my home dojo.

Leaving my karate family was one of the hardest parts about coming to college and, frankly, I still regret it from time-to-time. Yet, I refuse to let distance keep me from training and I use these moments of doubt and regret to push me forward. Even so – self-training is a lot easier said, than done. There’s no way to know if you’re actually improving, there is no one there to hold you accountable, and if you’ve ever tried to do kumite solo, you know it’s not the easiest thing in the world. Despite all these things, I found a way to make self-training do-able for me.

One of the most important things I found while trying to figure out how to train on my own was maintaining contact with my home dojo.  This also helped to keep my self-training goal-oriented.  At first, I didn’t really know what to practice. Sure, I could repeat all the kata and kihon I knew and shadow box here-and-there, but I had to constantly ask myself, is that really training?  Am I really improving?  I found that when I reached out to my dojo back home, it re-oriented my training and gave me something concrete to work on.  Even if it’s only once every couple of weeks, Skyping into class, or even just sending a kata video every once in a while helps keep me and my karate accountable and helps me to still feel connected to my home dojo.

Another problem I faced was finding people to train with. Going from being constantly surrounded by karateka who were just as (if not more) passionate about karate as I am, to swimming in a sea of people that had little-to-nothing in common with me proved to be hard. Nonetheless, I found karate to be a great conversation starter and managed to find out that I was amongst other martial artists that were facing the same troubles. Granted, I didn’t find anybody that did Shotokan, but I did find some MMA practitioners whose movement styles were similar enough to mine, and we were able to share knowledge and spar. Even though it wasn’t what I was used to, it was still refreshing to get a new perspective and to just move again.

Even after a year and a half, training on my own isn’t easy, but it definitely has become easier. I still struggle to get myself to the gym regularly, I still get frustrated when something doesn’t feel right and I can’t fix it, and I still miss my karate family like hell, but being separated from my dojo has allowed me to grow in ways that I couldn’t fathom before. I’ve learned that it’s not always easy to stay motivated (but man is it worth it), and that even though it’s great to have other people around, I am more than capable of effectively training on my own.  Most importantly, I’ve learned that karate will always be a part of my life, no matter how far away I find myself from my karate family, and reuniting with everyone on trips back home has to be one of the best feelings on the planet.  

Maggie Garrett was born and raised in Atlanta, GA where she studied and taught karate at Toru Shimoji’s dojo – Jinsendo Karate.  Age 20, she is now an undergrad at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee where she is studying Neuroscience.

Member Profile: Kensho Shotokan

An interview with Kevin Downard and Jane Curry, owners and instructors at Kensho Traditional Shotokan Karate located in both Fairfield Township and Monroe, Ohio (formerly Indian Springs Family Karate.)  Kevin and Jane are full-time instructors teaching both children and adults.  Kevin began his training in 2005 and Jane started more recently in 2015. They are avid seminar-goers and maintain a robust online social media presence, often showcasing Jane’s exemplary photography skills, documenting their many travels and insights in addition to the training at their own dojo. 

How many kids do you have training at your dojo?
We have about 45 students who attend our two dojo on a regular basis, we also have two after school clubs that average 15-20 students each.  Five, out of fourteen, of our own children train karate with us.

How do you balance karate and family?
As far as balancing karate and family, we may not be so good at it, as we are in the dojo seven days a week. Karate is our everyday life. Outside of karate we do take the kids hiking, movies, and the local amusement park almost every other weekend.

Tell us about your recent dojo name change?
We had been thinking of a name change for quite a while, but it never seemed the right time and we were at a loss for ideas. So, as we were in the middle of a Steve Ubl Sensei seminar, he made mention of the concept of Kensho, the initial spark or enlightenment that initiates the process of deeper study. At that moment, even from across the room, we knew that it would be our new dojo name. That completely described where our karate training and our dojo was at that point in time…we had recently been introduced to karateka outside of our small Midwest circle and it was exciting….we wanted to learn more!

Who has influenced your training the most?
Steve Ubl Sensei and Scott Langley Sensei have been most pivitol and influential to us both. We met Scott Langley Sensei and Steve Ubl Sensei in the same year…it was mind blowing to say the least. Not only were these two Sensei some of the most talented present day karateka, they were such genuine and sincere teachers. They always made a point to answer even the most tedious questions. (we all know how endless that can be when it comes to Jane’s technical inquisitions.) It didn’t matter that she was “only a kyu rank”, they would patiently respond to each and every question.  In fact, months later, Steve Sensei agreed to come teach at our dojo summer of 2017 and Scott Sensei is teaching at our dojo that year.

How has karate changed you?
It hasn’t really changed us, if anything it’s made us more confident and comfortable in who we already are.

What do you enjoy most about karate?
There are so many things we enjoy about karate. The endless studying and training, yet never reaching perfection.  We both love the opportunity it has given us to travel to new places and meet new people.

What’s the best advice you have for improvement in karate?
Take your time. Focus on the fundamentals and enjoy each aspect of the journey. Also, be patient with yourself, all good things take time. Always remember that karate is a lifelong journey.

Any upcoming events at your dojo?
This April we will be hosting a seminar with Scott Langley (HDKI & author of Karate Stupid & Karate Clever), Guy Brodeur (Shotokan Canada), and Wayne Cottle (from Steve Ubl’s dojo).  In July we will host Simon Bligh (HDKI) and JD Swanson (author of Karate Science). Like our Facebook Page for a complete rundown of our many upcoming events.

Learn more about Kevin & Jane’s dojo here: Kensho Shotokan


Interview by Margaret Glime |  Margaret is a student at Steve Ubl’s dojo in San Diego. She is a regular social media contributor for the Shuhari Institute and is a founding member of the Shuhari Youth Fellowship.  Instagram @MergeTheBarge

Member Profile: Missouri Karate Association

Dojo history…

In 2004, brothers Darrell, Brian, and Barry Power started the Missouri Karate Association (MKA) in Chesterfield, Missouri. For the first two years, they operated out of a health club, and then in 2006 they opened their own facility where they’ve been located since.

The Power brothers knew they were ready for a dedicated dojo space once they were scheduling youth classes six days a week. According to Barry, this level of commitment was only possible because they had four instructors.

Advice for other instructors…

MKA cultivates their young students for leadership positions in the dojo. About 70% of their students are 6 to 12 years old. MKA begins instructor training in their youth curriculum beginning at age 12. By the time these students are 15-16 years old, they are teaching the beginner youth classes.

Barry says, “It is really important to constantly cultivate new, young and positive instructors for your beginner children’s classes. Otherwise you will burn out. Or you will burn out the one or two black belts that you always rely on. You have to get over the idea that you are the only one who can teach the beginners. Having positive and vibrant instructors for your children’s classes is most important.”

Advice they wish they’d been given…

Study your local real estate market before committing to a long-term lease. In hind sight Barry says he wished he had negotiated a two-year rather than five-year lease. Of course, it is hard to predict the future, but it is worth thinking about what might become available in your target area over the next couple of years.

On operating like a business…

MKA has used the MindBody app for about seven years and recommends it. The system, which is well-known in the fitness and health industry, allows MKA to easily offer both a per class pricing option, for students who only attend once a week, as well as monthly pricing options for unlimited classes. Young brown and black belts are assigned the job of checking people in, which is easy to do with the app. The system also provides integrated billing, marketing, and communications functions to support your business.

Learn more about MKA here:

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