By Erik Hofmeister
At the end of May, Dr. Elrod and I visited Sensei Ben Dawkins, the Head Instructor at Upstate Yoshukai Karate. Sensei Dawkins is one of my old students, and held several teaching positions at Athens Yoshukai, including Senior Instructor. He pioneered the classes at the Tate center and one of the students he brought in, Hali Serrian, is still heavily involved with the dojo. Another, Megan Lyn Powell, left Athens, but still keeps up with her training, attends events, and visits Athens for training. When Sensei Dawkins left Athens to live in Spartanburg with his new wife, Blair, it was an absence felt by all. Since moving to Spartanburg in August, Sensei Dawkins has been interested in teaching Yoshukai. This January, I was able to scout an arrangement for him with the Timken Community Center in Cowpens, SC.
Cowpens is a small town northeast of Spartanburg. Even though Cowpens is a somewhat economically depressed area, they were able to build a new community center recently. The center is still expanding its offerings and was quite enthusiastic to add karate to the program. The classes right now are solely for kids, ages 6 and up, although Sensei Dawkins is recruiting adults and hopes to add an adult class as soon as possible. Classes are held Tuesday and Thursday at 6pm in the large central room of the center.
On the Saturday of our visit, Sensei Dawkins arranged a special class with his students at Barnet Park in downtown Spartanburg. Four of his white belts- Samantha, Kyron, Tyler, and Dalin- joined us under a sprawling tree to train in preparation for their yellow stripe test. Each of the high ranks worked with the students in small settings, and we polished Ni Ju Shichi No Kata, blocks, punches, and kicks. The students were quiet, respectful, enthusiastic, and very interested in learning and doing a good job. We capped the session off with a quick game emphasizing good blocking technique.
After the white belts had their time, Sensei Dawkins and I worked through the kata required for Nidan. It can be difficult learning and training and progressing when you aren’t attached to a dojo with someone of higher rank. I grappled with this for years in Washington and then in Athens. I would get as much training with Sensei Blanck as possible when I went home, but then it was up to me to keep on training. Now that Sensei Dawkins has his own dojo, training can be much more regular, which is what I experienced when I started Athens Yoshukai Karate.
Starting your own WYKKO dojo can be daunting, but it IS a manageable task! It requires a Shodan rank or higher, proper space, time, dedication, a recommendation from your instructor, an OK by Kaicho, in addition to other administrative steps. Fortunately, Sensei Dawkins is a remarkable individual, excellent teacher, and had the opportunity to learn the administrative tasks as Senior Instructor at Athens Yoshukai. We all hope that his dojo will continue to excel, that he will be able to add adult students soon, and that he will be able to introduce all of those students to the rest of the WYKKO family! Osu!