Andy Fossett – Taido History

I didn’t include this information here for a long time, because I didn’t feel it was relevant. However, we each make Taido our own, and some people have asked me for more details about my background and experience. Perhaps this will clarify some things.

Below, I’ve listed a year-by-year account of some noteworthy events in my Taido career and some other major life events. In some cases, I’ve stuck to the facts, and in others, I’ve added additional commentary.

The Timeline

1977

  • I was born on 24 June in Atlanta. Every patient in the hospital was miraculously cured.

1984

  • My father and I began practicing Taido on 4 October.

1986

  • I competed in the US Taido international championships.

1987

  • I was chosen as a founding member of the first Top Gun class and was elected as an officer in that class.
    • Top Gun was originally included not only advanced application practice, but Taido theory as well.

1990

  • I became the first student under 18 years of age to be admitted to the Kishi Kai.
    • Kishi Kai, at that time, was a class for adult brown and black belt students. Training included theory, application, and detailed practice of hokei.

1992

  • Along with Carlos Martinez Jr. and Eddie Perez, I became the third person under 18 years to be awarded a Taido black belt in America.

1993

  • I competed in the first Taido world championships and international friendship tournament in Japan.
    • This was my first trip abroad.
    • Training for the tournament was administered by John Okochi who had become my mentor in Taido.
    • All of us who went to Japan on this trip (about 25 people, including children and parents) got a clear picture of how different Taido was in the rest of the world compared to what we had been taught.

1994

  • I was voted to be the intermediate (teen) class president.
    • Along with Negishi Sensei, I was also responsible for running the trainings for these classes.

1995

  • I accepted a scholarship to study physics at Georgia Tech.

1996

  • I assisted in operations of the international Taido friendship games.
  • Mitsuaki Uchida and I became the first people under 20 to be awarded 2dan in America.
  • Bryan Sparks and I founded the Georgia Tech Taido club.

1998

  • I traveled solo to Japan, visiting dojo in Yokohama, Fuji, and Hirosaki over a period of two months.
  • I began studying Literature and Sociology at Georgia State University.

1999

  • I traveled again to Japan, this time for three months.

2000

  • I judged the US Taido 25th anniversary championships.
  • I was awarded 3dan.
  • I began practicing basic T’ai Chi.

2002

  • I began studying yoga.
  • I helped organize and was a main judge at the US national championships.
  • I was awarded 4dan.

2003

  • I graduated from college and relocated to Japan to teach English.
  • I joined Negishi Sensei at the Yokohama Taido dojo.

2005

  • I competed in several tournaments around the Tokyo area.
  • I visited Atlanta to assist operations of the US Taido 30th anniversary tournament.
    • 100% of my students from Georgia Tech won medals in at  least one tournament event.
  • Taido/Blog was born.
  • I began practicing CST (Circular Strength Training) training methods.

2006

  • I traveled to Australia for the second Asia Pacific Games.
    • I placed second in “Taido no Hokei” (creative hokei) and third in team jissen.
  • I visited US Taido summer camp to see my first students test for black belt (Shelley Matthews, Bolot Kerimbaev, and Laura Sparks).
  • I competed in several tournaments in Tokyo and Kanagawa.
    • I placed in a couple of team jissen events and won a nengi award.
  • I returned to the US.

2007

  • I began training in Kaikudo Karate and Gracie Barra Jiu Jutsu.
  • I traveled to Holland for the European Taido championships and international friendship games.
  • I began writing occasional articles for the Finnish Taido Kamae magazine.

2008

  • I moved back to Japan and joined both Taido dojo in Osaka.
  • I began training in Judo.
  • I attended various training camps and seminars.
  • I competed in the 18th all-Japan workers’ championships.
    • Placed third in -mei hokei division – the youngest person to do so.
  • I competed in the 42nd all-Japan championships.

2009

  • I got married and started a new business, doing freelance web design.
  • I was awarded 5dan Renshi.
  • I lead the training at a seminar for students at Kobe Gakuin University, who went on to give their best performance in several years at the all-Japan university championships.
  • I assisted with a training camp for the Finnish National Team in Tottori.
  • I assisted with preparations and execution of the World Taido Championships.
  • I broke my arm in the International Friendship Games.
  • I received certification as a Circular Strength Training (CST) Instructor.

2010

  • I judged the first Australian Taido national championships in Sydney.
    • Kaneko and I taught a series of Taido seminars over the two days.
  • I founded GMB Fitness to teach athletic movement and agility for adult physical education.
  • I relocated to Honolulu, Hawaii.

2011

  • GMB raised over $15,000 for the relief efforts after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake a tsunami devastated northern Japan, affecting hundreds of Taido students.
  • I began training in Parkour.

2013

  • I visited Sweden for the first time, training in Gothenburg with the Swedish and Australian teams.
  • I attended the Taido seminars in Helsinki prior to the world championships.

2015

  • I taught and assisted with the European championships in Sweden.

2017

The Taido Times – Issue One

A little before the end of 2008, the World Taido Federation published the first issue of The Taido Times. The Taido Times is set to be a twice-yearly magazine full of interesting news, history, and training ideas from Taido dojo all around the world.

If you’re part of an organization that is in the World Taido Federation (which essentially means ,“if you don’t practice in America”), you’ve probably already received your copy. In the meantime, I wanted to give a brief synopsis of the contents.

First Impression

My first impression when I took the magazine out of the envelope was that of quality; this is not some cheap pamphlet that someone printed up on their home computer. The version sent out in Japan (publishing in Japan and Europe were handled separately) is printed on on nice, glossy stock, and (aside from an insert with some translations) full-color.

It took a really long time for WTF to finally get this thing out, but I’m glad they didn’t cut corners and make a cheap newsletter that people end up tossing in the trash after a quick look-over. The Taido Times is worthy of holding on to. People take high-quality publications more seriously, so it’s nice that this important forum is given the benefit of a polished appearance.

Taido Times Issue One

The front cover features a badass looking photo of Shukumine from his first public performance of enmei no hokei in 1986. I love these old pictures of Taido’s creator doing what he did best.

On the back, Taido’s gojojun is written in Japanese kanji. It would have been nice to have an English version alongside, but I guess English just doesn’t look cool enough.

The Articles

There were a variety of articles in this issue written by Taido Soke (Shukumine’s family) and instructors and students from most countries where Taido is practiced. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Taido Balance by Taido soke. Notes on balancing Taido and life. Taido was designed to be valuable to members of modern society, so it’s important that we consider how to make the most of it. Taido has a lot to teach us about being effective in life, and it goes way beyond just getting stronger and more confident. Taido includes processes that can be applied to any situation. Finding the balance between training and life should be a priority for all Taido students.
  • An outline of the history of Taido in the UK. Though they’ve been around for a while now, English Taido has had a hard time getting off the ground. Being a small group with little access to high-level instruction, they’ve had to rely on the efforts of a passionate few to keep going. But they aren’t giving up.
  • The story of how Taido came to Denmark. Essentially, the first Taido teacher in Denmark never actually learned Taido. They had a rough first few years, but things have smoothed out considerably.
  • A review of a Finnish Taido training camp. There isn’t a lot to say about it here, but I do enjoy reading about how others practice Taido. Camps are a lot of fun, and I wish we had them more often in Western Japan.
  • A few paragraphs about the Taido demonstrations at Bercy Martial Arts Festival in France. This is a major event that resulted in a lot of publicity for Taido in France. The French Taido Association has had a lot of support from Japanese Taidoka in putting on these demos, and they were really successful. If you haven’t seen the videos on YouTube, you should check them out.
  • Two articles about nutrition and injury prevention from 2002. Though I disagree with some of the the points made, I’m glad to see an attempt at applying science to Taido training. Since Taido is a “scientific martial art,” it only makes sense that we would want to study new developments in sport science and athletics. Though we’re only recreational athletes, we can learn a lot from pro coaches and trainers. These articles are a step in the right direction.

Taido News

The articles were pretty interesting. I learned a few things I didn’t know about Taido’s history and how it’s practiced elsewhere. There was also a fair amount of information about recent and upcoming events in Taido.

There was also an invitation the attend the World Taido Championships this August in Hiroshima. I can’t repeat often or emphatically enough my recommendation that everyone with the time and money to spare attend this event. Even if you don’t plan to compete, you will learn a lot and make a ton of new friends. Even if you’re new to Taido, visiting Japan needs to be on your list of things to experience. The WTC is the best time for Taidoka to visit Japan.

The last couple of pages lay out the plans for the next issue and make a call for contributions from Taido students. If you have an article idea or some interesting photos to share, definitely get in touch with Alvar. If you have questions you’d like to see answered, send those in too. There are plans to release a new issue twice a year, but this can’t happen if people don’t write to share their experiences.

Toyonaka Dojo

Toyonaka Taido is my dojo. Well, not my dojo, but the dojo I primarily train at.

Toyonaka is one of the northern suburbs of Osaka; I live in neighboring Suita, so the commute is fairly painless. We practice at Budokan Hibiki, which is a large public training hall, and we usually have plenty of space to work out.

Though quite small, Toyonaka Taido is the main group in Osaka. All together, we have about fifteen members, most of us black belts between 25 and 45 years old. We have one 5dan, a few 4dan, some other black belts, a handful of rainbow belts, and sporadic small numbers of children. Sadly, there are only four women.

Our official leader is Akitoshi Nakata. Though he has a pretty laid back management style, Nakata is really consistent in making sure that Taido stays active in Osaka. No matter what, he never misses a practice. Nakata tends to lead by telling jokes that make you want go along with him, and his influence can be very subtle.

Since Nakata is typically standing by and guiding things from the background, a lot of the teaching duties are handled by about three of us: a Buddhist priest, manjigeri, and me. Training is held most Tuesday and Saturday evenings for one and a half to two hours. Since most of our members are adults with jobs and real-life commitments, attendance fluctuates, and it’s often impossible to predict who will show up on a given night. As a result, the training program varies to reflect the needs of those present.

I joined the dojo in April of 2008, just a couple of weeks after moving to Osaka. Around the same time, we also had two other transplants from the Tokyo area: former national jissen champ Masahito Sato, and Kitasato and Korenkan alum Takeo Suzuki. Before we arrived, most of the members (with a couple of exceptions) had practiced together since beginning Taido in university.

As a result of this influx of new blood, we’ve had an interesting mix of training styles and ideas getting tossed around for the past few months. Mr. Manji’s style is based on kihon. Yoshimoto (the priest) tends to focus on using unsoku and connecting it with techniques. Sato has been working on getting everyone to take the opponent’s back in jissen. Takeo brings us a lot of drill ideas he learned from Nakano. I’ve been trying to build everyone’s physical foundations so they can do all the other stuff better.

Lately, we’ve begun to settle into some patterns that incorporate everyone’s best ideas. The challenge is to give everyone the chance to develop their own Taido in the most effective manner. Practice has to improve our skills (techniques, movement, and hokei), attributes (physical ability, strength, stamina), and strategies (application in jissen and defense), time is really short. Since most of our members aren’t able to devote more than two or three hours a week to training, efficiency is a big concern for us.

Every dojo has its own style and traditions, and ours is no exception. We don’t do a a lot of tournament training, because most tournaments are too far away to attend often. We also have a stronger connection to Okinawan karate than most Taido dojo, and a few of us even practice some Genseiryu kata. Everyone in our dojo has the chance to think for themselves and “choose their own adventure,” so to speak. Still, perhaps the strongest of Taido traditions enjoys a place in almost every dojo: beer.

We like to hang out outside of training. After practice on most Saturdays, we hang out and have a few beers at a Chinese place by the train station. Nakata and I often talk about martial arts movies – he’s the only Japanese person I’ve ever met who knows about the “Shogun of Harlem.” His brother has a (probably unhealthy) obsession with the Star Wars movies. One of our members looks uncannily like Bruce Lee. Yoshimoto is friends with Taido “comedian,” TAIGA, so we try to laugh when he’s on TV (easier said than done).

Osaka is a whole different Japan from places I’ve lived before. People in Osaka speak different Japanese and eat different foods. There’s been a lot of adjustment for my girlfriend and I to live here, but the crew in Toyonaka has helped make it fairly painless. For our birthdays last June, they threw us a small party and gave us (among other things) a takoyaki maker. The first time we made takoyaki at our apartment, we felt, briefly, like we could be at home here.

Toyonaka Taido is good stuff and good people. I also train with other dojo as often as possible, but I really enjoy working out with this group. We have a lot of fun, and I think we’re all getting better.

If you can read Japanese, be sure to check out our training blog. For the English version, here’s my personal training log.

What Makes US Taido Karate Unique?

This is an article that I originally wrote at the request of the Finnish Taido Kamae Magazine. While by no means exhaustive, I believe it’s a good background on what sets American Taido apart from that practiced elsewhere. Since only a Finnish translation will actually be published, I’m posting it here for the benefit of Taidoka in English-speaking countries.

Taido in America is very different from Taido anywhere else in the world.

Though based on the same original principles as those taught in other countries, American Taido has developed under a unique set of circumstances which has led it to become its own entity. In many ways it even looks different from the Taido practiced elsewhere.

In order to understand what makes American Taido what it is, it’s necessary to know a little of its history.

We in America owe our knowledge of Taido to a man named Uchida Mitsunobu. Having practiced karate in high school, Uchida studied Taido for two years in university before coming to America as an exchange student in 1972. After graduation, he returned to Japan to earn 4dan renshi and Shukumine Sensei’s permission to spread Taido in America.

By 1975, he decided to build his school in Atlanta, Georgia. Since there were few municipal gyms like those in Japan and Europe, Uchida had no choice but to open and promote his school as a commercial venture. It has been his full-time job ever since.

Since Uchida originally incorporated Taido as a business, expansion to multiple locations has always seemed like a financial risk to him. Instead, he’s focussed on building one large dojo, and with well over three hundred students, it’s probably the largest Taido dojo in the world. There are great advantages to this. American Taido students have a dedicated facility with a full-time instruction staff consisting of Uchida, his son Mitsuaki, and one more instructor. Children and Adults have beginning and advanced classes available six days a week. Plus, the large number of students provides a huge community of support that feels much like family.

On the negative side, Taido has to turn a profit to continue operating. Students pay a tuition that covers not only the rent and upkeep on the facility, but also the livelihoods of the instruction staff and their families. In order to accommodate over three hundred students in a weekly schedule, classes run only about forty-five minutes and include up to forty students on a floor only slightly larger than a standard jissen court. This makes hokei training difficult, and jissen practice is only available once or twice each week.

Still, the school has attracted a dedicated following and continues to grow.

In some respects, American Taido looks like Taido’s past. When Taido was young, most of the instructors had backgrounds in karate or another martial art and taught their classes in a similar fashion. However, as younger generations began teaching, hokei and jissen came to occupy a larger proportion of the training. Owing to Uchida’s karate background and the limited space available to each student, the daily training in America is very focused on kihon. Students typically warm up with some calisthenics before proceeding to spend the rest of the allotted time period working on a technique or combination such as sentai-shajogeri.

Uchida’s long absence from training in Japan is also evident in the curriculum. In America, students still learn untai first. In fact, the untai no hokei practiced in America is the old version which was later adapted to created unin no hokei. Untai’s direct movement is simpler and made more sense to those with prior training in karate. When Uchida left Japan, there were no -in hokei yet. Also no katsumei, enmei, or -sei hokei. Taii no hokei was the only “advanced” hokei and necessary for promotion to 3dan. As a result, most Americans in the past learned only five or six hokei. Recently, the -in hokei are being introduced to more young women and black belts.

All of this isn’t to imply that Taido has stagnated for thirty years in America. On the contrary, it has been evolving in its own way. On the whole, I believe American Taido teaches a more combat-specific style of Taido than anywhere else in the world. Americans equate the martial arts with fighting, so any successful dojo is going to have to address topics such as self-defense and (since the UFC became popular) Mixed Martial Arts competition. As a result, students also practice techniques derived from Jiu Jutsu, wrestling, and Muay Thai. In recent years, grappling has become an important part of the curriculum for serious students.

Despite the emphasis on fighting in some segments of the student body, most students will never compete in a tournament or even learn to be at all proficient in jissen. The vast majority of students are under the age of eighteen, and many are in the four to eleven range. On the other end of the spectrum, there are a number of parents and older adults ranging in age from forty to over sixty years. Unfortunately, there are relatively few students in between those ages. While many high school students enroll in classes, very few reach shodan unless they began as children. Even then, most of them never return to practice after beginning university.

Still, as long as new students continue to become interested in Taido, the school will probably keep growing. Of course, this article has only addressed the headquarters location in Atlanta. There are also one other small dojo in Florida and the university club I started at Georgia Tech ten years ago. However, both of these locations consist of only between twenty to thirty students each, and this article is already too long.

At any rate, American Taido is certainly an interesting phenomenon – a very unique piece of the Taido universe, small as it is. I feel that, just as every other dojo could, we Americans could stand to improve our Taido in a number of ways. But on the other hand, there are few things that we get very, very right.

Most importantly, American Taido is still a work in progress, and its students continue to experiment with ways to make Taido best suit their unique situation.

Yudansha: 1984 – 2007

What follows is a list of black belts who are or were members of the United States Taido Association between 1984 and 2007. While I have some knowledge of affairs outside this time frame, I feel it best not to comment on those I don’t know personally. This list is not up-to-date.

The names under each dan-level heading are alphabetized by first name. Where possible, I have included the years of starting Taido and each promotion from shodan in parentheses.

I’ve included it primarily as a reminder to current US Taido students that, whatever stories you may have heard, US Taido was built by a lot of very dedicated teachers who, for various reasons, are no longer around.

Some of them built the floor you train on, but you’ve probably never heard their names.

7dan

5dan

  • Andy Fossett [Japan] (84/92/96/00/02/09)
  • Mitsuaki Uchida, honbu dojo head instructor (80/94/96/98/00/05)
  • Tom DeVenny [Florida] Fort Lauderdale dojo head instructor (85/91/na/96/98/05)

[5dan total 2]

4dan

  • Brendan Dumont, honbu dojo instructor (?/98/00/02/05)
  • Buddy Fossett (84/91/94/96/00)
  • John Clerici (84/94/96/98/00)
  • John Okochi (?/85/?/?/94)
  • Masayuki Hiyoshi [Japan] (92/93/?/?/96)
  • Mike Cowan (86/94/96/99/00)
  • Robert Pope Jr. (85/91/94/96/00)
  • Tatsuyuki Negishi [Japan] Yokohama Taido president (87/?/?/90/94)
  • Tony Antinazi (?/?/?/?/94)
  • Yosuke Inoko
  • Yutaka Yamauchi

[4dan total 12]

3dan

  • Bryan Sparks, Georgia Tech Taido head instructor (85/93/99/04)
  • Clinton Hammond (94/00/02/07)
  • David Magnuson (?/98/02/05)
  • Gerardo Diaz-granados (?/94/96/00)
  • Jerry Johnson, Uchida Sensei’s first student (75/?/?/00)
  • John Roberts
  • Tom Lapenna (93/00/02/07)

[3dan total 7]

2dan

  • Amy Davis
  • Ben Isokawa (?/00/02)
  • Carlos Martinez (84/91/94)
  • Chad Gilmartin (90/00/02)
  • Corey Myers (?/02/05)
  • Daniel Morris (?/02/05)
  • Elizabeth Hammond (91/00/02)
  • Gary Averil (?/91/94)
  • Heather Gilmartin (90/00/02)
  • James Tonguet (95/00/02)
  • Jim Garrard
  • Katie Ingraham (92/00/02)
  • Lou Smith (?/94/96)
  • Mahendra Srivastava (?/05/07)
  • Mike Goodroe (?/02/05/07)
  • Minna Ekholm [Finland]
  • Mio Sano Garrard
  • Musashi Uchida (?/02/05)
  • Norman Bash
  • Rodney Mahaffey
  • Roger Grant (90/02/05)
  • Romik Srivastava (?/05/07)
  • Sara Burden (?/94/96)
  • Sue Gilmartin (91/00/02)
  • Ted Harris (85/91/94)
  • Tyler Hiedegger (?/02/05)

[2dan total 26]

shodan

  • Abhinav Bardwaj (?/07)
  • Alon Hod (?/05)
  • Amber Pesantes(00/05)
  • Amir Alighambari (85/99)
  • Andrea Gertz [Germany] (02/06)
  • Angela Stadnick (?/05)
  • Arnold Rubin (?/07)
  • Assaf Hod (?/06)
  • Bolot Kerimbaev (00/06)
  • Brad Averil (?/92)
  • Brandon Lueder (00/06)
  • Brenda Morales (?/06)
  • Brian Hinckley (99/05)
  • Camron Wiltshire
  • Carlos Martinez Jr. (84/92)
  • Carter Brunell (?/03)
  • Cheryl Ervin (?/07)
  • Chris Healy (90/00)
  • Danielle Tonguet (97/05)
  • Darrel Salton (?/05)
  • David Issa (?/97)
  • Douglas Lapoint (?/94)
  • Ed Galloway
  • Eddy Perez (84/92)
  • Gabriel Tonguet (95/05)
  • Guy Perry (?/94)
  • Irene Bietsch (?/02)
  • Jared Isenstein (?/06)
  • Jeff Lapenna (93/00)
  • Jim Ware Sr. (?/07)
  • Jim Montgomery (00/06)
  • John Hinckley (00/05)
  • John Edgar Boyes (00/06)
  • Jonathan Odom (?/83)
  • Jeff Hill (?/95)
  • Jordan Battel (?/06)
  • Keith Benator (90/00)
  • Keith Chung
  • Kenji Otakawa (?/04)
  • Larry Lyles
  • Laura Bardey Sparks (99/06)
  • Lex Williams (?/94)
  • Marty Cason
  • Mary Gezo (00/04)
  • Mary Lou Delucia
  • Masayuki Nanamori (?/02)
  • Michael Issa (?/97)
  • Michelle Razmov (?/02)
  • MichaelGoodroe (?/05)
  • Mike Uchida (?/00)
  • Nathan Goodroe (?/06)
  • Nick Miller (?/06)
  • Paul Marshall (?/07)
  • Russel Bietsch (?/02)
  • Rahul Ghosh (?/06)
  • Rohan Lall (?/06)
  • Ryan Benator (89/00)
  • Sam Hoover (?/05)
  • Sayuj Srivastava (?/06)
  • Seiji Uchida (?/00)
  • Shelley Matthews (99/06)
  • Steve Sykes
  • Taferra Muche (?/00)
  • Terry White
  • Travis Wiggins (?/95)
  • Tre Neese
  • Trini Beaty (?/05)
  • Turner Abels (?/06)
  • Vance Fite (?/02)
  • Vance Fite Jr. (?/02)
  • Varada Divigi (90/00)
  • Veenal Mulji (?/06)
  • Vic Armendiaz
  • Vic Gonzales
  • Vineet Diwadkar (90/00)
  • Yakov Korenfeld

[1dan total 76]

[all levels total 124]

Note: A whole mess of people have been promoted to black belt since 2007 who are not on this list.

Someone recently called my attention to this video of a short Taido demonstration in honor of Russell Bietsch.

In his introduction, Brendan makes two interesting statements:

  1. That in 35 years, US Taido has had up to 25,000 members.
  2. That only 60 of those reached black belt.

Both are inaccurate.

In the case of the first statement, the dojo would have to register at least two new students every single day of business for 35 years (assuming two weeks off a year and 6 business days each week) to get 25,000 students.

As for the second statement, the record above clearly shows that at least twice that number had been awarded black belts by 2007. The total is likely over 200 by now.