Isshinryu karate is one of the most popular forms of karate in the United States, but in many dojos, the practice of teaching by tradition has fallen by the wayside as academies favor the teaching of techniques. That allows them to take on more students. However, in Land O'Lakes, there is an alternative for those seeking a more traditional and hands-on approach.
Sensei and professor of Science Education at the University of South Florida Dana Zeidler began teaching the Isshinryu style at the Land O'Lakes Community Center after moving to Florida from Massachusetts, where he and his wife, Patricia, founded a school of their own. The two have been practicing the discipline for 27 years and have stuck to the traditional methods of both practice and teaching.
"Everybody starts at the bottom," Dana Zeidler said. "Every sensei has different expectations, but here we have the same as they would have in Okinawa, (Japan). There is no social promotion. It may take some people six months to move on to the next level, and the person next to them may take a year. Regardless, we don't push people through to keep their interest or for them to keep pace with others."
Many karate academies have gone to softer contact when it comes to sparring, but Zeidler feels it's important for students to feel the full effect of being hit in order to master the discipline.
"I think it's a misnomer to have play sparring and never really be hit when learning," Zeidler said. "I think for people to properly defend themselves, they have to know what it's like to really get hit. It's in a controlled atmosphere, obviously, but there is an increasing amount of contact as you grow within the practice."
Patricia Zeidler is a fifth degree black belt and helps conduct the classes with her husband. Having felt the benefit of years of practice, Patricia feels their work teaching karate by a strict set of standards has helped many students mature and become more motivated.
"We treat everybody like adults, and I feel that there is something to be said for the fact that everyone has to earn success in this class," Patricia said. "Kids respond well to not being babied. Maybe the way we do things isn't for everybody, but we've been told that we've touched people's lives, and I think our methods are the reason why."
Students appreciate the challenging way they are taught. Hector Hedriana, 40, participates in the classes with his 13-year old daughter and feels the Zeidlers' teaching style helps students grow at the proper rate, while also whipping them into shape.
"When I started here, I weighed 175 pounds," the 5-foot-4 Hedriana said. "I now weigh 127 pounds. Other dojos that I've been to aren't as traditional. Sensei Zeidler is good because being a teacher he knows how to communicate very well and is really good with kids. Best of all, he doesn't care about how many students he has, just how many dedicated students he has. I like that because he isn't after money."
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