In my adolescence, I was navigating through the peer pressures of life and I found myself being challenged by the usual 'bullies' at school. I never liked getting in trouble and always considered myself to be a ‘good boy’. Something about the way I held myself and not saying much about karate seemed to worry the bullies. Just having a few karate books with me seemed to do the trick by themselves. It took only one fight that I was forced into after school in the gym to get my reputation. I don't remember much, as I was somewhat scared. Actually, I was scared of getting caught. So, it happened that I did some type of punch that resulted in the other boy getting his jaw hurt. Other kids who witnessed it were better able to describe what happened. The fight was so quick, that I was still able to run out and catch my bus before it left the school. Surprisingly, the next day, that boy was going around telling everyone that I ‘busted’ his jaw. Seriously, he really wasn't that injured, but with what he said, he established my 'reputation' and from then on everyone in school thought not to mess with Karl, because he knows that ‘ju-jitsu karate stuff’.
By the time I was 15 years old, most of our homestead and was built and I was able to participate in afterschool sports. In the ninth grade I was able to play on the JV soccer team. ...actually, I was warming the bench for the JV soccer team. Occasionally, I was sent in to play fullback at the goal end of the field. Our team did have a good offense so I did not get to see much action at our end of the field. Nonetheless, I really liked kicking things and soccer at the time was the sport for me. Most of our practice would end at 6:00 PM and my mom would pick me up after practice. One day, she was late… more than a half hour late! When I ask her why she was late she told me that she was at karate class. What!? KARATE CLASS!? Where!? I was full of my usual questions and wondering why I was not let in on this earlier. She thought I was so dedicated to my soccer that it wasn't something I wanted to do. She was really wrong about that! Needless to say, I was no longer with the JV soccer team. I had my soccer experience and was ready to take on my dream… Karate!
Fifteen years old and full of wonderment, I entered my first REAL karate classes at the West Asheville Community Center. The club was called Shuri-de Karate of West Asheville. The style of karate was Goju-Shorei-ryu. The teacher's name was Sensei Lorraine Lewis. I cornered her with my questions and ‘all wound-up exuberance’ and was certain she was going to kick me out the door. I found myself being so over-excited about being in karate for real and learned the hard way not to ask too many questions. Sensei was quick to straighten me out. After a while I was ceertainly no stranger to doing push-ups or standing in Kiba-dachi for my untimely questions and out-breaks. Soon, I was learning the true discipline of the martial arts. Mom and I both tested for our yellow belt together and past! We also received our ‘white pine tree’ patch, a designation patch indicating our knowledge of standards in the techniques of our karate. I was eager to learn all that I can and realized that my sensei really appreciated that. She started me on a regiment of kata. As I was learning the kata she would tell me what the kata was about, where it was from, how it was designed, what it teaches and for what rank each kata would be for. I also learned of the history of our karate and of my sensei. I realized how significant my lineage was when I learned that Sensei Lorraine Lewis was promoted to her Sho-dan (first degree black belt) by Grandmaster O'sensei Robert A.Trias. And at the time I began classes at the community center, she had just been promoted to her ni-dan (second degree black belt). She was a fierce competitor in her time, finishing number one and placing in the top ten in kata during her more than ten years of competition in the USKA Grand Nationals. My appetite for kata and karate had me in my sensei's basement for private lessons at least once a week on Friday nights. I can still remember hearing the roar of the nearby NASCAR short-track raceway while concentrating on the kata and technique that sensei was teaching me.
My mom eventually found something else of interest (a construction / carpentry class at AB Technical College) and moved on. Since I was not 16 and driving yet, she would drop me off at karate class and later pick me up. Classes at the West Asheville Community Center were two hour sessions twice weekly. When I became a 16 year old licensed driver I was able to attend all the classes I wanted. ...Or, so I thought. I was working in the family business of landscaping and lawn care. Having my license made me all the more busy. Dad gave me the locations of places that I was to complete each day and I was responsible for finishing it. He knew that I would put my karate-gi (uniform) and gym bag behind the seat and still go to karate class. I remember taking baths in the boys restroom sink to wash the dirt off my neck and arms. Thank goodness our style of karate wore black uniforms, hahaha. ...And somehow, I still got all my work done.
Years of training and enjoying the spirit of the martial arts fueled me through many tough times in life. Getting married, having three children and still pursuing my martial arts was a real challenge. My children were also growing up with karate. To them it was just an ordinary thing. I let them be apart of our different classes through the years and was proud of their own accomplishments. Between work and family, I managed to keep up with training. I entered many local and regional tournaments and was able to establish a strong reputation in kata and kumite. First or second place finishes were numerous. I dived into kickboxing when kickboxing was cool and still managed to excel regardless of my restricted training schedules. All the while, I was committed to 'growing old' in the martial arts.
I participated in many seminars and training sessions to learn karate styles, techniques and other martial arts. I was able to expand my knowledge, understandings and perceptions of other techniques and methods by participating with other martial artists. Some to mention are the seminars with Taika Seiyu Oyata and his Ryukyu Kempo / Kyushu Jitsu discipline; work-outs with Benny ‘the jet’ Urquidez, welter-weight kickboxing champion; classes with middle-weight kickboxing champion Bill ‘superfoot’ Wallace; Filipino arts of Kali and Arnis with Dicky Harrel; Filipino boxing and Balintawak Escrima/Arnis with Master Bobby Taboada; Wing Chun and Jeet Kune Do with sifu Larry Rice; Kata Bunkai seminars with Shihan Fumio Demura; Kobudo seminars with Randy Patterson; Technique and WUKO introductions with George Anderson; helping in the training of students for the hopes of getting karate accepted into the Olympic with Shihan Carl Wilcox; the occasional Tai Chi Chuan; the many dojo visits to cross-train and not to mention the many times distinguished guests would drop by the dojo to spend time working with us on exciting things.
Many classes, training sessions and seminars later and 45 plus years on this budo path I am now hachi-dan (eigth degree black belt) and addressed kyoshi. Yes, it is true, time does fly by. I have taught at community centers, partnered in dojos and taught in fitness centers over the years. I now have realized my dream come true with the finish building of my own dojo on our original family homestead here in Arden, North Carolina. Watching students grow and gain from their learning of karate is second to none. In pursuit of furthering my knowledge in karate and the martial arts, I continue to attend seminars in both sharing and training. When I first started in the fall of 1976, my sensei was a Ni-dan (second degree black belt). Now she holds the distinguished rank of Ku-dan (ninth degree black belt) and the title of Hanshi in our style of Trias Karate (Shuri-ryu / Shorei-ryu / Goju-Shorei-ryu). The internet has made miles turn into inches with communication and sharing of ideas. Having taken advantage of this science, I am honored to reach out to you, the reader, in my website. In my links page, you will find members of my ‘karate’ family. I encourage you to visit their respective pages.
Today, my wife and I continue to operate our lawn and landscape company. More of my time is being focused into building a strong class of dedicated students in our newly constructed 3000 square foot dojo. It would be a pleasure to have you visit our dojo whenever you are in the area. You can find directions to the Koreikan Dojo by clicking on the "contact us" link.
Be strong and live well!
Kyoshi Karl Wagner instructs classes at The Koreikan Dojo in Arden, NC
TRADITIONAL KARATE, TOURNAMENT COMPETITION, SELF-DEFENSE, SELF-DEVELOPMENT AND GUIDANCE TO HEALTHY LIVING IN BODY, MIND AND SPIRIT ARE AMONGST THE TOPICS COVERED IN OUR CLASSES.
I was born in Miami, Florida in 1962. When I was 7 going on 8 years old, I had my first 'karate/kempo' experience. It was through a friend of mine who gave me a program invite to a local Kempo school. I was amazed to say the least. I guess with the mystery surrounding the art at that time, it was intriguing to me. The TV action series "The Green Hornet" co-starring Bruce Lee was certainly of interest to me and I can remember desperately earning TV time so I can watch the dynamic Bruce Lee and his amazing martial arts feats. I was not able to have any 'formal' lessons during that time, because my father wasn't interested in spending money for that kind of 'nonsense'....and that was just way he saw it. So, hanging out with my friend was as close to learning as I would get. I was still able to visit the studio from time to time as a visitor and I wondered if they just felt sorry for me, knowing that I could not enroll. But though my dear friend and his family I was able to see into the world of kempo and the martial arts.
At the age of 11 my family moved from Miami to settle in Western North Carolina. I found a whole new and interesting world. Trying to fit in with the 'locals' was difficult. Having a good sense of confidence and being not too shy, I was able to keep my chin up and eventually adjusted well. My interest in wanting to learn karate was still intense, but I never bothered my parents about it. Seemed like my Dad was more interested in us to just work constantly on our new homestead. And believe me, there was always a lot to do in clearing and building our new piece of land. The TV action series "Kung-Fu", starring David Carradine, was another ‘push’ in my martial arts direction. I made sure to watch all the episodes that I can. I was even all the more determined to learn karate, kung-fu or something. I got lucky one day when I found a paperback instruction book on Shotokan Karate at the used book store. This book became my 'secret' treasure. In a way, the book became my instructor. Coupled with memories of what I was able to experience in Miami and reading this book had me going. I was working kicks, punches, blocks, stances, you name it! I was getting motivated with my karate experience! To this day, I still have that 'treasured' book in my library.
Kyoshi Karl K. Wagner