Shihan Gavin Armstrong, 7th Dan, invites you to join us in our Tenafly dojo where you can learn the art of Karate-do as perfected by Shihan Shigeru Kimura, 10th Dan.
meet chief instructor
Chief Instructor, Shihan Gavin Armstrong, 7th Dan, began his training in 1974 in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), where he was born. His first instructor, Des Botes (5th Dan), was one of Shihan Kimura’s top students. Shihan Gavin was awarded Shodan in 1977, winning the Rhodesian Shukokai Championships in 1977 as well as in 1978. Although still a junior, he won these tournaments in the adult divisions. He was awarded Nidan in 1978, and competed throughout southern Africa until 1981, when he joined Shihan Kimura at his Hackensack, New Jersey dojo.
At this time, Shihan Kimura had developed a new, more powerful method, moving away from his double hip technique which was still being taught in Rhodesia: Shihan Gavin, who lived and worked at the dojo as an Uchi Deshi, began learning this new technique and was awarded Nidan again by Kimura himself, who subsequently selected him to be part of the team representing the USA at the first ever Shukokai World Championships, which were held in New Jersey.
Shihan Gavin lived at Kimura’s dojo for more than 3½ years, managing the school, teaching classes, and training full time, as well as managing a satellite school in Fort Lee. During this period, he won 1st Place in Kimura’s All Styles Invitational Tournament, twice placed 1st in Kumite at the ASKU National Tournaments, and represented the USA at the World Tournament in Portugal as well as the second World Tournament held in the USA, where he took 3rd place in both Kata and Kumite and fought as part of the Men’s Team that took 2nd place: he earned 3rd Dan in 1984.
In 1986, Shihan Gavin joined his family’s business in California, returning periodically to train with Shihan Kimura until 1992, when he was invited by Mr. Kimura to run the new World Headquarters in Tenafly, New Jersey as manager and Chief Instructor. After Shihan Kimura’s untimely death in 1995, he continued to run the dojo until Mrs. Kimura’s decision to close the school and return to Japan. He took this opportunity to start his own dojo in Tenafly. Shihan Gavin strictly adheres to the technique and method taught by Shihan Kimura, and continues in the tradition of constantly looking for ways to improve the techniques. He continually trains with other Kimura Shukokai instructors from around the USA as well as around the World.
Since opening his dojo, Shihan Gavin has earned 4th Dan (1998), 5th Dan (2001) and 6th Dan (2009), 7th Dan (2017), competed in Shukokai World Tournaments in Germany and South Africa, and has coached his top students to compete successfully in national and international tournaments.
Shihan Gavin is accompanied by his family Linda and Steele teaching full time at the dojo.
“Finally, A dojo atmosphere Where Everyone feels at home. all of the instructors are very patient and skilled in delivering teaching methods in ways that can be adapted to all levels of understanding.”
Shihan Gavin taught classes under Shihan Kimura for many years and developed a mastery of his style to a degree that few in this country had attained before Kimura’s untimely death in 1995.
Shihan Armstrong continues the tradition of this strong and effective martial arts style that has been recognized around the world and is practiced in over twenty countries.
Please join us in our beautiful dojo and become part of the Kimura Shukokai Family!
The Meaning Of Shukokai
Over the years I have heard many different meanings for the name Shukokai. The most common translation you hear is, “Loosely translated it means Way for all”. This would have to be a very loose translation.
Many years ago I had a Japanese gentleman come up to me at a demonstration and look at the patch on my Gi, he said, ” Ah – Training, Friends, Place”, as he read the three Kanji symbols under the fist. This made me think, so I decided to ask Sensei Kimura what Shukokai really meant.
Usually when someone asked him what a name meant he would get aggravated at the redundancy of the question and say ”a name is a name, what does Joe mean or Bob”.
To him the name wasn’t important. Asking the meaning, meant that you didn’t get what he was all about. He would have preferred that you ask him a question about technique, than the meaning of the name. This time I was in luck, he started to break down the word into three parts.
Depending on the context, each symbol had a different meaning. In a martial arts context, it is as follows:
SHU – The study of the martial arts.
KO – People with a common cause, coming together.
KAI – Association.
Basically it means:
AN ASSOCIATION WHERE PEOPLE COME TOGETHER TO STUDY THE MARTIAL ARTS
He went on to explain that in the 1950’s his teacher, Sensei Tani, had wanted to create an association where the heads of all styles of Karate could come together to pool their ideas and create a standard of technique so that everyone was on the same page, instead of the variation which we see today (this could be where the “Way for all” translation may have come from).
However his plan didn’t work, probably due to the fact that everyone thought as they do today, that they had all the answers and they weren’t going to share. So, Sensei Tani who was teaching Shito Ryu kept the name Shukokai as the name of his association.
When Sensei Kimura began traveling overseas to teach he called the style Shukokai, before that it was not a style name. As time passed Sensei Kimura had developed his technique to a point where it was technically different to Tani Ha Shito Ryu although he never forgot his connections to Mr Tani and still supported him in any way he could. ~ Gavin Armstrong
The Dojo Creed
RESPECT – In order to learn the art of Karate, you need to show respect for those around you as well as for yourself: you need respect for the mat as well as for your instructor. As you learn the importance of that respect, you will gain it from others. As you earn respect inside the dojo, others will begin to show you that respect outside the dojo. Respect is necessarily the first element of the creed — it opens the door to the following:
EFFORT – The more you put into Karate, the more you will get from it. There is no such thing as a “natural” in this practice: those who come here with more ability require more diligence to reach their personal goals. When you begin to see results, you’ll learn that working hard is the only way to succeed.
PATIENCE – You won’t become a master overnight, but the skills and techniques taught at Tenafly Shukokai Karate are second to none. If something is worth learning, it is worth learning the right way. It will take time and at times seem frustrating, but as you see yourself improve you’ll understand that patience is its own reward.
CREATIVITY – You will be encouraged to explore your own ideas and solve problems through creative thinking. You’ll be given the opportunity and valuable guidance to help you overcome obstacles in a way that feels natural and right to you. Resolving difficult situations with creativity is an asset on the mat as well as in all aspects of your life.
TEMPERENCE –Karate is not just about fighting, but if self-defense is ever necessary, you’ll have the training to be confident when it matter most, and the wisdom to know when to walk away. You will understand how not to fight and still win.
The Kimura Philosophy
The Kimura Philosophy of teaching the art of Shukokai is based on a series of stages which plan for and follow a student’s physical and spiritual progress during their development.
FRUSTRATION sends people searching for a new way to deal with the challenges of their lives. Whether it is a child who needs discipline and motivation or an adult who lacks focus, they come to Shukokai seeking a new perspective: a different way of looking at the world. Training here not only offers an entirely new way to make your body work for you, it presents a unique way to change your outlook as well, to overcome the frustration that might be keeping you stagnant in other areas of your life.
GOALS must be set to help end frustration. Setting goals recognizes a desire to improve oneself. They should be high enough to challenge, but at the same time be within reach. Shukokai provides the perfect balance of physical and mental challenge, as well as a series of goals that are attainable through hard work and discipline.
The proper PLAN toward these Goals is essential. A proven, well-rounded system of training is the foundation of all instruction at Tenafly Shukokai Karate.
Through WORK, ACTION and PROGRESS one truly begins to see and feel the benefits of Shukokai training, and those around you will notice a difference as well. The results of the sweat and effort become clear: the child will begin to show respect, exhibit discipline and display an increase in motivation. The adult will begin to gain control and focus energy responsibly.
At this stage, the most important benefit of Shukokai is achieved: SELF CONFIDENCE. Not just in Karate…but in all areas of your life as well. You’ll possess the skills to be confident, the power to be effective and the wisdom to do what is right.
This is what the student has worked for: SUCCESS. But the journey is far from over. New goals will be set, new plans will be made, and continued work, action and progress will lead to greater success.Start your training today, and learn how Shukokai will make a positive difference in your life: it will never be the same.
meet the legend
Those who were privileged to know and train with Shihan Shigeru Kimura knew they were in the presence of a great man.
Through his spirit, intelligence, guidance and ability he galvanized his students to work harder and learn more than they ever thought possible. His leadership helped create a worldwide association that to this day remains a cogent organization dedicated to training in the spirit of a man regarded as both a warrior and a philosopher.
Memories of Kimura
The following memories by those who knew Shihan Kimura personally will help keep his spirit alive in all who knew him and all who are touched by him through the study of Kimura Shukokai Karate. (If you have memories you would like to share on this website please send them to us via the contact form at the bottom of the page.
“He was the kindest, most generous man you’d ever meet”
Anyone who knew Shihan Kimura, would tell you that he was the kindest, most generous man you’d ever meet but he could also be very tough. He had a way of getting inside your head and seeing what you were thinking. The tougher the person, the harder he would be on them. If they were more timid he would be softer and gradually toughen them up. He would always push you as hard as you needed, in order to get the most out of you. But with those closest to him he didn’t pull any punches (verbally), if you weren’t living up to your full potential he’d let you know. You’d better hope that you never had to fight him, his control was impeccable but there was no doubt that you got a beating, you usually ended up on your back looking up at him.
There was a time back in 1981, I was living in the dojo and training full time. We had all been sparring one night and I didn’t do so well. I felt bad but cheered myself up by thinking that I just had an off night and would do better next time. Well, later that night I was over at Sensei Kimura’s apartment, he was cooking and I was cleaning. He turned to me and said, “you fight like $@#& tonight, you think you just had a bad night. Never have a bad night in my dojo!. You better always do your best, what if you fight for real? You’d be dead now! I think I have to fight you!” You can imagine how much worse I felt after that, it’s as if he read my mind. This was his way of saying that you always try your hardest and if things aren’t going your way, you’d better reach deep down inside yourself and find what is needed to turn the tables. A valuable lesson, one that would serve me well later in life. – Gavin Armstrong
“It is all in the way we look at things” he would say to me”
Looking back at all the times spent with Mr. Kimura leaves me with some great memories. “It is all in the way we look at things” he would say to me. “Patients and persistence will always lead the way to achieving ones goal”. One memory that puts a smile on my face was when I first started training at Hackensack. I was into my second month training and Sensei Kimura asked me to join him after class to discuss plans to build a new Dojo. Looking towards my brother Gerry I asked what I was to do. He of course said go. That in its self was fine except I had only my Gi so Gerry lent me his clothes that of course were too big.
So there I am sitting next to Sensei Kimura with a table full of Black Belts feeling totally out of place trying to figure out what I was actually doing there. Sensei toppled a beer bottle off the table and I caught it [lucky catch] and poured the beer into his glass before it over flowed, He said nothing. Then the food that Sensei ordered for me came. Not knowing what I was eating I managed to grab hold of some pink stuff with these two sticks and wrap it around some green stuff. The chore of finding it into my mouth was a bit difficult but my aim was good. So there I sat, nose running, eyes watering and mouth burning trying not to spit it all out on the plate. When I lost all hope of fighting the urge to scream Sensei passed me his glass of beer. This was followed by every one else at the table passing me there beer. When the fire was finally out Sensei pointed his finger in the air and said across the table to the others. “ he will be a good karate man, just need to eat right”. Bless You Sensei. – Mark Wollner
“The first time I was introduced to Sensei Kimura I immediately knew I was granted a “gift”
As you mature through life you realize that certain people have had an influence on your development. This realization may take years for these people to be defined as “gifts”. The first time I was introduced to Sensei Kimura I immediately knew I was granted a “gift”.
I began my training with Sensei Kimura in 1986. I was determined to become a black belt, something I had dreamed of for years. Sensei Kimura always preached that if you really want to pursue anything in life you must have the courage of total commitment. I still can remember him telling me “Carl you have to want it”. That day came to me in 1989. We had a training session for an upcoming weekend. That prior Thursday I was talking to Orlando in front of the office in the Hackensack Dojo. Orlando asked me if I was going for the promotion test for black belt. Without having the time to answer Sensei Kimura looked at me and said, “yes go for it”. Those four words gave me all the confidence I would need. I received the black belt on the Sunday training session. I still have a vivid image of Sensei Kimura looking at me with his grading tablet in his hands telling me “you pass – you black belt”. – Carl Gulino
“He displayed a truly awesome technique, and I knew almost immediately I was hooked.”
I started training with Sensei Kimura around 1973 or 74. Even at that time he displayed a truly awesome technique, and I knew almost immediately I was hooked. Over the next twenty years I was in and out of the dojo as I was busy dealing with one’s usual life obstacles (school, work, marriage, kids…). I always remember Sensei saying “Gerry’s back”, and was always welcomed back into the fold. As such, it took me many years to earn my Shodan, but as they say, “it’s not the destination, but the journey that counts”. Thursday nights were always spent with additional focus on advanced technique, or a full night of sparring, followed of course by an evening at Miyoshi’s with Sensei and his advanced students. I remember one particular Thursday shortly before I got my Shodan. My technique was off and I was doing terrible. I think I even low-kicked a future world instructor. After class I went right home feeling like “you know what”. Around 10:00, already in bed, I get a phone call from Sensei. He wanted me to come to Miyoshi’s. When I got there he sat me next to him and gave me a short but effective lecture, sort of a pep talk. Well that little talk is something I will never forget. It’s the sum of little things like that which forever keep Sensei’s spirit alive, and Shukokai in your blood. – Gerry Wollner
“He said that for him, he always looked at it like mountain climbing”
I once had a conversation with Sensei – we were discussing how hard it is to be a leader. At that time, I was CEO of my fledgling company and was lamenting how the future of the company depends on vision and commitment. He said that for him, he always looked at it like mountain climbing. Ordinary climbers struggle all their lives to try to get to the top of the mountain. His job, as he saw it, was to make sure that there never was a top. He had to invent a new one. This explains his reticence to have himself captured on tape doing the katas and techniques because he felt that it would freeze the style. He thought Karate should be a work in progress – always adapting and changing. We still all follow this philosophy today and it’s probably the main reason why such strong personalities gravitate to our style. – Ernie DeSalvo
“Sensei, do you want to come out dancing with us?”
One thing that really stuck with me is hearing Sensei Kimura refer to Gavin as his “skin”. He had told this to people on a number of occasions some that I witnessed and some that others told me about. Sensei and Gavin would be together in the office in between classes and Sensei would have Gavin duplicate the technique that he was working on, Gavin would be able to take what Sensei said and show it, as if Gavin was in his skin moving as he would, this made Sensei happy. It choked me up every time I heard it. He also referred to Gavin as the son he never had, and he referred to my son Steele as his grandson. This meant a lot. Everyone of the guys who spent so much time with Sensei Kimura thought of him as a second father, and I’m sure he thought of each one of them as his son. Oh, and I’ll add, that on the second class I ever took, along with my friend Tara O’Leary, not knowing any better, and having no clue about etiquette, we asked Sensei to come out dancing with us. He told us, with a big smile on his face, “maybe next time”. – Linda Armstrong
“Sensei Kimura invited me to join the black belts after class and join him and them for a beer the traditional Thursday”
I remember one Thursday night after class he asked Sensei Gavin to invite me to join the black belts after class and join him and them for a beer the traditional Thursday which we still try to carry on. But I had another engagement to attend so I didn’t go. Sensei Kimura passed away that July. I just think back about that from time to time. – Paul Manchess
“I knew that I was in the presence of a great man”
I was young between the ages of 4 and 15 training with Kimura. Even as a child, I knew that I was in the presence of a great man. He had an all encompassing passion for his art and a supreme love for those that struggled with him to recapture the essence of Budo. Some say the samurai era came and went in the 1800’s but being with Kimura you knew it was still very much alive. To me, he was the true last samurai. He lives on at our world tournaments and gashuku’s and will be forever an inspiration to all of us as we pursue his fine art. – Justin DeSalvo
“Karate really is useful for more than fighting”
In the first Tenafly dojo, my only chance to learn directly from Sensei Kimura was at training sessions. (Later I’ve learned that he had fun teaching kids once a month, but couldn’t handle more than that.) Anyway, in trying to come up with a good story, I’ve found it somewhat difficult to separate my actual childhood memories from the countless stories others have passed on about him. One of the few things I do clearly remember, which unfortunately doesn’t seem particularly significant, is something he told us when working on front kick in a training session. Driving home after a night out, he said, a cop pulled him over and, to prove he was okay to drive, asked him to stand on one leg for a few seconds. Obviously he passed his test. He laughed to us about it- “I can do this all day,” he said. Now while the real purpose of the story was probably to teach some technique that went over my head, what I took away from it at the time is that karate really is useful for more than fighting. And of course, I was impressed by how cool he was. – Sean Grundy
“Sensei was so happy to sit down to such a great meal”
I took Sensei trap shooting back in the early 90’s. His nephew was here from Japan and so desperately wanted to shoot a firearm. We went shooting and Sensei’s nephew shot very well considering he never shot a firearm before. However, Sensei did not hit one single target!
Afterwards, we went to my house for dinner. My wife Donna cooked a big meal complete with lasagna and fried chicken. Sensei was so happy to sit down to such a great meal. However, in commenting on the chicken, he mistakenly asked Donna how she made the chicken to come out so “dry”. Without question, Sensei’s translation from Japanese to English caused him to use the wrong term. Immediately, Sensei realized he should have said “crispy” instead of dry. Sensei’s face was that of horror when he realized his unintended slip. He must have said “crispy” ten times in a row after the slip. We all got a good laugh out of that one. Sensei asked if he could take some fried chicken home to his wife. – Jeff Grabowski
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