AN INTERVIEW WITH
GEORGE ASCHKAR, SHIHAN
DEC / 2013
Greetings Martialforce.com family: On my Journey in the Martial Arts, I have met many practitioners endowed with very strong wills and personalities; knowledgeable and gifted with great talent. Most Teachers I have met and befriended can be titled Gentleman and Scholars. Today I introduce a Person and a Teacher who is at the top of the list when speaking about Gentlemen and Scholars; a Teacher who prefers to ride the current and go unnoticed for he is not presumptuous or in a habit of boasting greatness. I introduce a Man who came from humble beginnings and through Education and the Martial Arts has become an even Greater man, husband, parent and friend. A Man with consciousness of Who he is and Where he is Going, while retaining his sense of humility and love for what he does while sharing his gifts with those around him and communities at large.
Interview by Franklin Puello
It is with great pleasure and Honor that I introduce to you a SENSEI- Teacher, a model not only in Karate-Do but in Life.
Domo Arigato, Sensei. I have been following and pursuing you for a long time for the purpose of this interview, and now I have the honor to have you grace us with information that will teach us more about you Sensei, The Martial Artist and The Person.
Martialforce.com: Please provide our readers your Name.
GEORGE ASCHKAR: My name is Georges Aschkar, Jr.
Martialforce.com: You having a polished and intriguing accent, Would you tell us where were you born?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: I was born in Haiti, which was once a French Colony and presently an Independent Republic located in the Western portion of the Caribbean Island known as Dominican Republic. I was born to Lebanese and Haitian Parents.
Martialforce.com: When did you migrate to the United States?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: I arrived to the United States (US) at age of 14 years, leaving many family members back. Arriving to this Country I felt lost and I describe it as Culture Shocked, I had no family in the US and with my developing interest and starting my training in The Martial Arts- Karate-Do I created a family within the Martial Arts extending outward. I am married, a strong bond that continues after 38 years, and have 2 children one 33 yr. old male Badyr- who is one of my students and Black Belt, who also has a Teaching Degree; and a 25 year old daughter- Ayumi)
I enrolled in school and subsequently attended City University of New York- CUNY- Brooklyn College graduating as a Computer Programmer; working for years in the profession.
George Aschkar on right vs William Oliver
Martialforce.com: What is your present profession?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: After working as a Computer Programmer, envisioning Teaching Karate-Do full time I made the commitment and in 1981 left the working as a Programmer and opened my own Dojo starting to teach Full time.
Martialforce.com: When did you start training in Karate-Do and who was your Teacher?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: I became interested in The Martial Arts in 1968, and began practicing Karate- Shotokan at the age of 14 under the legendary Karate Teacher Toyotaro Myazaki.
Martialforce.com: Sensei, Would you please describe Training during your Journey, through the ranks from White to Black Belt?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: In One word I would describe training with Miyazaki, Sensei: SURVIVAL. With this word in mind and expressed on every day training session, sparring in the Dojo, in competition versus many accomplished Martial Artists in Tournaments, I was taught to train to achieve and reach higher set goals. I remember training and sparring Donny Collins and others; the training, 2 and 3 times per week was brutal, but a learning experience never-the-less was greatly enhancing. We became individuals with strong bodies and even stronger minds. Mind over Matter- Even hurt one would be expected to return and engage with the same fearlessness and fire.
Martialforce.com: When did you reach the Honorable Rank of Black Belt, and how did you progress from there?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: In 1972, after dedicated and hard training I successfully attained the required proficiencies in History, Psychological and Sociological development, Philosophy, Knowledge, Skills and Abilities for advancement to the Rank of Shodan (First Degree Black Belt) from Sensei Toyotaro Myazaki.
1974 Was presented the Rank of Nidan for my development and accomplishments, from Sensei Myazaki.
1977 Accomplished to reach the Rank of Sandan with Sensei Myazaki.
Martialforce.com: With the life in New York being very competitive, which does not exclude The Martial Arts, Did you enter Karate Competition?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: In 1972, I began my karate competition and competed throughout the East Coast against some of the Fiercest Karate-Do competitors around in an Era of Ironmen with Iron Wills; and then across the Country.
Martialforce.com: Did you enjoy competition and what helped you excel in Karate Competition?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: The training in Karate-Do has never been about Competition, but an activity in which one can begin to develop the Mind and Spirit to merge all the lessons learned in life from teachers, parents, family and friends creating a pool of knowledge and experiences from where to draw and utilize to better one’s personal individuality, life and the lives of those around. Since the training in Karate requires the development of the body to maintain a strong spirit and healthy mind; and taking into account the innate competitive nature of humans, the creation of the element of competition came to exists. The training with Miyazaki, Sensei, was highly technical and exhaustive, developing sound basic techniques as building blocks to more advanced combination of techniques which are put together in sequences or Kata. These Kata are trained in repetition thousands of times to attempt to bring them as close to perfection as possible (Flawless execution including all the Elements contained as Focus, Strength, Flexibility, Evasion, Speed, Power, Balance and Control of the techniques as they apply to Self Defense or Fighting). I did enter many competitive events throughout the State of New York and the Continental U.S. In 1987, I was recognized within the top 10 Karate practitioners in the State of New York. For the following 7 years I competed in East Coast tournaments, The S. Henry Cho at Madison Square Garden International Competition. In 1997 I became the National Champion at the USA National Championship in Ohio.
Martialforce.com: Who were some of your opponents in competition during those years?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: During my generation, Tae Kwon Do Tournaments were the most frequent scheduled, and they did favor Tae Kwon Do participants, with their high kicks. I fought in many Tae Kwon Do tournaments, and fought many great Martial Artists like William Oliver. He was a special kind of man and Karate-Ka. I remember early in my journey fighting Shihan Oliver at his Hombu Dojo and outscoring him, he then later shook my hand and said “Thanks”. I also fought Dough Williams, Sheldon Wilkens, the re-known Richard Brown at Madison Square Garden, Joe Hess who was a very smart fighter, and more contemporary fighters, Mychal Sledge “Look Up” and Derrick Williams. From every fight I came out with plenty of learning and experience. Mychal Sledge was the toughest competition, for he was a refined tactician who had mastered the art of “counter attack”. I too had spent many years of training exploring and practicing the principle of “Mizu No Kokoro” A Mind Like Water which roughly translates into keeping your mind reflective of your surrounding so your opponent is reflected- so it becomes you- and since you are your opponent, you know his thoughts in battle and know what his next move is, then you attack (or counter) before he executes his movement or technique. This principle is most time equated with Anticipation.
Martialforce.com: As a Teacher, how do you compare yourself in teaching philosophy and methods of teaching, to others like, Abdul Musawir (Monroe Marrow), Thomas Lappupet, Errol Bennet, your teacher Toyotaro Miyazaki?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: I never compare myself to others. I learned to develop my own style of teaching and developed from the philosophy learned expanding the knowledge acquired. Teaching the proper basics to serve as the solid foundation upon which to build in the Martial Arts and aspects of life that makes for a better person than average.
Martialforce.com: On our private conversations about Kata in the development of a Karate Ka, you stated that you consider Kata training a very important element in Karate, and of utmost importance as it relates to Kumite or Fighting, do you have a favorite Kata?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: Yes. To simplify the explanation, I would say for one that in one of the many definitions of Kata, Kata is the Very Important Element (as in Any activity or sport) where the merging of all the techniques learned are put together to allow their practice in a flowing combination just as in fighting or with fighting in mind to facilitate the techniques going from the conscious effort to apply to their Reflexive execution; and to clarify the point I remind that in fighting one does not have to use or get the opportunity to use the whole combination from Kata, but extract combinations of techniques that are applicable at one particular moment as needed, and hence the two elements of Karate Do of Kata and Kumite can not and should not be thought as two separate and distinct elements. “Kata is Fighting, and Fighting is Kata”.
I always felt that I could not do Kumite without Kata, although I concentrated more towards Kumite than Kata, but I realized that to me and for me Kata was more for spiritual projection although still an integral part of Kumite.
I trained and still practice all my Kata, but never really developed a “favorite” since I love them all. I trained Kata differently, and according to where I was, who I was training with. Kata brings out different elements of the person, principles and elements of the Martial Arts. Each Kata when trained properly will train and enhance elements that are vital in the Martial Arts.
Martialforce.com: Having been trained by an outstanding karate teacher, with an even greater reputation as “ultimate” Teacher, did you ever want to teach and did you?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: Teachers, Teach students how to teach, and Miyazaki, Sensei, was no exception, he was a great Role Model and easy to follow and emulate. He made sure that you learned Karate, and learned how to teach. I started teaching in 1978, and from 1979 I established my Dojo and have been teaching at the present location of Kyodai Dojo. I opened its doors to the public, and under my supervision and teaching have produced over 250 Black Belts, many who are teaching in various states and countries like Haiti, Florida, California, New Jersey and Texas.
Understanding the importance of Education in life, and Karate, I continue to profess my believe on furthering education to all I encounter in the Martial Arts.
In 1997 I became the director of the Karate Instructors Program (KIP) at Long Island University under Doctor Milorad V. Stricevic.
Martialforce.com: Have you taught family members? How different is it and what adjustments if any have to be made?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: I started teaching my Son, Badyr Aschkar, and initially was no different than teaching all other children or adults in Class, but it came a time and age when the Son and Father relationship got on the way. One does not, at times, know how to act in a given situation does one act as a parent or a teacher? These mixed feelings can interrupt the training class, the family member’s progress, and can affect one’s teaching methods and philosophy as well. Adjustments, if ever so slight, have to be made and eventually, as with my Son things work themselves out. There was a time my son regretted being in my class, learning from me, and at times seemed to dislike me for it but as he grew then he became more accepting of the training and relationship developed in the Dojo carrying to family home and life. I taught him Karate and the fact that education was of Great importance in his life. He graduated from College, with a Master degree in Education and is presently one of my Black Belts and Senior taking over the classes. Eventually he will be taking over all teaching responsibilities as well as running the Dojo business. My daughter Ayumi, I taught the importance of learning business administration. She presently operates and runs our Children Care program.
Martialforce.com: As an element of your Karate Teaching, have you expanded in the area of teaching the masses in the Martial Arts?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: Yes indeed, and in 1997 I began to collaborate in writing a number of Karate Instruction books and organizing and presenting karate seminars, along side Doctor Milorad V. Stricevic. Some of which include the following:
Martialforce.com: You are a re-known humble and influential man in your community and Internationally, so our readers can learn about the Man/ Martial Artist can you provide some information on your contributions?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: As a Native Haitian, I dreamed to bring Karate-Do to Haiti, and in 1998 began to supervise the development of Karate in Haiti with Patrick Morin, Sensei, who is one of my original students and is currently residing in Haiti.
2001 – Successfully organized the Traditional Karate Tournament in Haiti integrating WUKO Present Rules.
2005 - Organized and hosted a successful karate competition at Long Island University, which Present was a co-venture with Kyodai Dojo with the added implementations of Tatami (Mats) and score boards.
2005 – Founded the New York Traditional Karate League (NYTKL) of which I am currently the Present President, to propagate the traditional teaching of Karate-Do incorporating/ emphasizing the element of competition, as well as to develop a closer camaraderie between Teachers and different Systems of The Martial Arts. We own all of our own tournament equipment including mats, crowd barriers, scoreboards etc. We help with identifying the nest N.Y karate athletes by ranking them in yearly seasonal competitions. We started with 5 Dojo (Halls of training) and are currently comprised of 32 that have joined us from various styles. We have instituted a Scholarship Program to assist karate students financially as they attend College or higher education institutions. The NYTKL also assist elite athletes financially to represent New York State Nationally and Internationally. Training is an important element of the Organization as we have a judge/referee corp., a coach’s corp., and a volunteer corp., for our competitions and they all receive training and refresher training to qualify.
2006 – Co-Founded the Haitian Sport Foundation (HSF) the non-profit 5013 organization Present dedicated to helping children from the ages of 7-17 in various recreational and academic areas such as Soccer, Volleyball, Basketball, English tutorials, Math tutorials, as well as assisting in an after school program. We also offer financial assistance throughout the year in our after school and karate initiatives. We organize and bring volunteers from other countries to Haiti that aid in our various programs.
2009 – Aided in the Haitian Sports Foundation (HSF) in the recovery after the 2009 earthquake. Present The efforts provided 3 months of food for over 200 children. Was able to provide this assistance through our persistent fundraising efforts and community partnership.
2009 – The New York Traditional Karate League (NYTKL) has established an annual karate Present camp to assist N.Y. athletes in their preparation for national and international competitions. We host 5-6 tournaments per year to rank the best elite athletes. We also have a yearly picnic at the park or at the beach to promote a family atmosphere for all the NYTKL clubs. We have also established an annual award celebration and scholarship dinner to honor competitors, thank our parents, volunteers, coaches and judges/referees their hard work and dedication during our karate season from January to November calendar year.
2011 – Started sanctioning the New York Traditional Karate League (NYTKL) to allow a State Present Qualifier in New York and therefore have the ability to send our athletes to the USA Karate Nationals.
2012 Six athletes from the NYTKL were finalist during the USA Karate Nationals held in Florida this past July. These elite athletes will have a chance to compete as USA team members for the Pan American Federation Tournament in August 2012 and will also have the opportunity to participate during the world competition in Paris, France this November.
Martialforce.com: Would you attribute any credit to your Success in Life to Education and specially Karate?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: Yes I do, education is a great key to success and advancement. Through the portals of education one can enter a life of success. I learned that studies and hard work pays off. My training in Karate helped me with basic life needs as well as teaching me to have the discipline to reach for my goals and achieve in whatever field I venture. I am a believer that to succeed one should Never loose track of Goals set (Family First) and not to allow oneself to be distracted from what One does best and follow through. “One must think outside the Box”, that is why in 1979 after I opened my own Karate school, I know that I wanted to liberate myself from the paying of Rent to a Landlord, I knew that I wanted to Buy and own the building and after several years I achieved that. I continued investments in the Real State business and with time I have been able to make several purchases of buildings and real state in the New York City area.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about the state of the Martial Arts in this Country?
GEORGE ASCHKAR: I believe that it has become a fractured state in need to return to Unity, Understanding and Camaraderie. For the Martial Arts to continue expanding and developing the family must become One, in sharing and support. We must continue teaching, not just our own students but others in that we gain by sharing knowledge and support.
Martialforce.com: What are your thoughts and opinions on high Rankings in the Martial Arts?
I never trained thinking about Rank or expecting it, not only because during the Era when I started training Rank was not one of the things in mind or concern, but because I never thought about the learning of Karate for the purpose to achieve Rank. I learned lessons in Karate-Do “The Way” to enhance myself and optimize my potential to reach all my dreams and aspirations. I never thought that I should or would reach High Rank, but have reached Respected Rank- Hachidan (8th Degree Black Belt) through dedication to training, teaching, fellowship, education, support for others- individually and the support of various Organizations.
Martialforce.com: Is there anything else of importance you want to transmit to those around you?
All through my Martial Arts Journey I thought about passing Martial Arts Skills, and with the passing of time and the application of all principles learned I set on the quest to pass on the Business Administration aspect of the Martial Arts. “We have to responsibly teach our students to think outside the box, and teach them skills on efficiently running a Dojo as a business, and expanding into other business ventures.”
Kyodai Karate-Do Inc.
SELF DEFENSE AND FITNESS CENTER
219-48 Jamaica Ave.
Queens Village, NY 11429