About the Contributor
Founder and chief instructor of Shotokan Karate USA, is a 8th dan conferred upon him by leading senior senseis throughout the USA. He received his 7th Dan from the USA National Karate-do Federation (USA-NKF) member of the US Olympic Committee, as well as from the prestigious International Shotokan Research Society. He has also earned a 6th Dan from the Japan Karate Association (JKA) personally issued by Master Tetsuhiko Asai and from the World Karate Federation (WKF) member of the International Olympic Committee. He has been practicing Karate for 54 years.
DR. ALEX STERNBERG, the founder and chief instructor of Shotokan Karate USA, is a 8th dan conferred upon him by leading senior senseis throughout the USA. He received his 7th Dan from the USA National Karate-do Federation (USA-NKF) member of the US Olympic Committee, as well as from the prestigious International Shotokan Research Society. He has also earned a 6th Dan from the Japan Karate Association (JKA) personally issued by Master Tetsuhiko Asai and from the World Karate Federation (WKF) member of the International Olympic Committee. He has been practicing Karate for 54 years.
He began his karate training in 1962 at the age of 12, and attained the rank of Shodan in 1968, under Master George Cofield, one of America's early Karate pioneers. Dr. Sternberg was a prominent competitor from the 1960s through the early 1980s, winning close to 90 national and international events, including a bronze medal at the 1969 World Championships, organized by the International Convention of Martial Arts, the direct front-runner to WUKO later the World Karate Federation. Due to his outstanding tournament record, several US Karate magazines listed him in their “Top 10 Champions” category in 1974 and 1975. After retiring from active competition, he coached scores of United States National teams in junior and senior World Championships, Junior and Senior Pan American Championships, and World and Pan-American Maccabiah Games. As a coach, he has produced more medal winners for the USA than any other American coach!
Dr. Sternberg has been a leader of the USA karate development, spanning over 40 years, as a coach and referee in the AAU, USAKF and USANKF programs. He first earned his national referee license in 1976 in the AAU program in Joplin, Missouri.
Articles by this Contributor
During the past 60 years, we have seen lots of changes affecting our karate community. The technical skill of todays champions is on a higher level than the early fighters, although most old timers would argue that fighters were tougher ‘back in the day.’
In the early sixties when I started to train, very few people ever heard of or knew what karate was. When I wanted to explain to someone what I was doing I used to ask if they ever heard of Judo. Then I would explain, karate is ”very similar, with the white gi and all, but we kick and punch and not throw.” Today, with the tremendous growth in the martial arts industry, everyone is familiar with what karate is. The hundreds of movies with karate trained heroes and villains, with ninja turtles and other popular karate themed shows having created a generation of children kicking and punching and doing karate. Millions have trained in some dojo or other as there are tens of thousands of local schools teaching karate throughout the USA.
One thing, though, has not changed with all the evolution. We still have almost as many organizations as there are dojos. In fact, I defy anyone to come up with a new name for a karate association or group that hasn’t already been taken.
As karate training has flourished many students have become senseis, masters and grandmasters. Naturally, each grandmaster is entitled to start his or her federation and add to the already crowded field of “alphabet soup” groups.
And what’s wrong with this picture?...
Jews and blacks have many shared experiences of discrimination, suffering, and poverty that has made us natural allies for many years. During the civil rights movement, many Jews and prominent rabbis participated in demonstrations and marches with Dr King and were arrested. Some Jews like Schwerner and Goodman were killed by the Klan for leading voter registration drives among poor southern blacks in Mississippi. I, however, grew up in an all black Brooklyn ghetto and learned about black life from personal experience.
In 1965, four short years after emigrating to NY from Hungary, I found myself with a summer job in Brownsville Brooklyn. The year before, Brownsville erupted in one of the most destructive riots that made the community a household name across America. Buildings were set on fire, stores were looted and people were hurt. Many were arrested. A year later I was a 15 year old student attending one of the most respected and rigorous Rabbinical seminaries in Brooklyn when my father got me a summer job as a ‘gopher’ in his garment factory. Most of my friends from the seminary were off to camps and vacations while I was off working in a sweat shop because we needed the money.
Shortly after the summer began, I joined a local karate ‘dojo’ on Fulton street. Needles to say, I was the only rabbinical student and was training alongside some of the hard core denizens of one of America’s poorest black neighborhoods. I was an oddity but just as I was learning about black people, they were learning about me. The students were tough physically with hard-core attitudes. We didn’t have much interaction in the beginning, as I really didn’t understand the black lingo. I showed up and trained then went home...
Martial arts development goes back a long way. According to legend, Bodhidharma traveled from India to China to teach his brand of Buddhism. The monks at the Shaolin monastery where he stopped to teach did not possess the physical stamina required for hours of meditation, so Bodhidharma taught them physical endurance exercises in order to increase their stamina. As the story is told, these monks became very fierce fighters as a result of these exercises and thus the origins of martial arts were born.
Over the next many centuries, the development of jiu-jitsu and subsequently karate was done in secret, handed down from teacher to pupil and often from father to son. Knowledge of this secret and powerful art was a family business, to be perfected to the highest level. Lack of preparation often resulted in severe injury and even death. Everyone trained hard to survive. Later on, warriors such as the samurai, continued training in hand to hand combat and continued the tradition of perfection of all of the techniques that they learned. To best serve their lord, the highest level of skill mastery was expected...