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Interview with Fighting Spirit Karate Founder Sean Schenker

Interview by Antonio Aloia / Martial Arts of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

At the age of five, Sean Schenker enrolled in Kyokushin Karate and eventually found the spirit that the training instilled in its practitioners. That spirit stayed with him when he changed career paths, jumping into music full-time and leading a band. In 2011, Schenker opened his Fighting Spirit Karate across the way from where he originally started karate training. Today, Schenker took some time to talk about that spirit found in Kyokushin Karate training, becoming Chairman of the Board for the United States Kyokushin Organization – IFKK in 2020, and the future of Kyokushin Karate.

Martial Arts of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow: Hello and welcome Schenker Sensei! Thank you for joining us to talk about Kyokushin Karate!

Sean Schenker: It is great to be here; thank you for having me.

MAYTT: After starting at the age of five, what continues to motivate you to train Kyokushin karate today?

SS: I think the main connection for me is spiritual, just spiritually. There was something about that system which I discovered very young that just stuck with me. It’s hard to even put a finger on it and to qualify it. I feel like I can’t fully articulate it, but there’s just something about the essence of the spirit in hard training, sweat, and putting it all out on the mat that felt right then and continues to feel right.

MAYTT: How would you describe that spirit to somebody else if you were trying to sell them on Kyokushin Karate?

SS: Over the years, several teachers have expressed to me certain ideas that resonate deeply. One of them revolves around the limitations we perceive as human beings, whether in our daily lives or on the mat. When we’re training intensely, I often hear the phrase “no ceiling,” emphasizing the rejection of self-imposed limits. The system itself encourages this forward momentum, evident in our kata performance, kumite, and overall training approach. For me, these aspects mirror life experiences; they reflect the challenge of overcoming obstacles and pushing past perceived boundaries.

In life, we encounter moments where we feel stuck, where progress seems elusive. It’s during these times that we must summon the determination to break through. Having a supportive community, including teachers, peers, or training partners, is invaluable in this process. They encourage and push us to reach new heights. The essence of my journey lies in delving deep into the realms of personal, physical, and spiritual growth.

When I reach what seems like a limit, whether physical or mental, there’s always someone or something that helps me breakthrough. Whether it’s a teacher offering guidance, comrades offering support, or simply the energy of a class pushing me forward, there’s always a pathway to the next level. And even when I reach a new plateau, I’ve come to understand that there’s always more beyond it. This continuous cycle of growth and support has defined my martial arts experience.

MAYTT: That spirit goes hand in hand with the training. When you were going through the ranks, how would you describe the training you experienced?

The full interview you can read HERE.


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