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November 18 , 2007

Spirit of the Empty Hand


While the Japan Karate Association (JKA) was starting to send out pioneering instructors to teach karate around the world, Stan Schmidt became a pioneer of a slightly different kind. While the Japanese instructors wanted to show the world their wonderful martial art, Stan set about showing the Japanese that “Westerners” were capable of learning this same art and achieving a high level of proficiency.

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While the Japanese travelled to all over the world to spread the word about karate, Stan travelled to the source, at the JKA headquarters in Tokyo, for months at a time. He went there on many occasions, and became the first foreigner to be fully accepted by the Japanese instructors as one of their own. He proved that foreigners could study, learn and understand this art, so steeped in technical complexity, history and eastern culture. While his counterparts were working tirelessly in many different countries, Stan brought real karate to South Africa, and helped bring an understanding and acceptance of foreigners to Japan.

After establishing SA-JKA, Stan built the organisation into one of the largest and strongest international branches of the JKA, with more than 10,000 members. Under his leadership, SA-JKA produced many world-class instructors, competitors and champions. He also established the famous Early Birds training (referred to in this book), to which senior karate students have travelled from all over the world to attend.

After nearly 50 years as Chief Instructor of SA-JKA, Stan Schmidt retired from the position in 2009. He now lives with his family in Melbourne, Australia.

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