Sensing the sensei

Dan Savickas

For the past 13 years, Sensei Wil Durham has taught the people of Truckee Shito-Ryu karate, and now his students are giving back.

With the help of his students and their families, Durham started the Matsuyama Martial Arts Academy in May.

“This entire dojo was built with donations,” Durham said. “The paint, the floors, the computer and phones, all of it was donated. The booster club even donated the money for the down payment. It’s pretty incredible.”

The booster club is composed of parents in the community. Besides donating money to get the dojo started, they also raise money to send kids to competitions regardless of their financial situation.

“I’ve dedicated this dojo to the kids of Truckee,” Durham said. “I want to give kids a chance to change their lives. That’s all I’ve ever been concerned with.”

Currently the Matsuyama Academy has nearly 100 students ranging in age from five to 60.

“We have kids of all nationalities, and levels,” Durham said.

On June 1, the Matsuyama Academy took home 14 gold, 17 silver, and 11 bronze medals from the Wold Tournament in Grant’s Pass Oregon.

“It was quite an honor,” Durham said.

In another tournament in Reno, three of Durham’s students won eight trophies.

Later this summer three students are heading to the AAU National Karate Championships in South Carolina.

Durham’s students compete in the three different areas taught at the Matsuyama Academy: kata, kumite, and kabudo. Kata is the form of Shito-Ryu, which is described as half-hard and half-soft moves. Shito-Ryu combines the hard movements of karate with the soft circular motions of Kung fu. Kumite is sparring, and kabudo is weapons training. Durham also teaches Bunkai, which is the explanation of form.

On top of teaching Shito-Ryu, Durham also teaches a circuit-cardio kickboxing class. Durham went from teaching two of these classes, to 14 classes a week.

“A lot of dojos found out about this and they are sending people for me to certify as instructors,” Durham said.

Durham and his students will be competing in Hawaii in November.

“It’s one of the toughest competitions in the world. Students from Korea and Japan come to compete.”

Durham will be competing for the first time since 1998 in Hawaii. He has been involved in Shito-Ryu for 40 years, and has officiated for the past 14. This summer many of Durham’s officiating friends and masters of the sport will be headed to the Matsuyama Academy to visit and celebrate its opening.

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