YOUNG LIONS: NEXT GENERATION OF SENSEIS

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photos by Pamela Feodoroff Wilbur and Red Rocket Photography

Bob Buchanan holds the rank of sandan in the Phoenix Karatedo Association, Kyokushinkai International and is the Head Instructor of the Association’s Gaithersburg Dojo, located in Gaithersburg, Maryland where he teaches traditional Kyokushin karate.

In the summer of 2009, Bob began an introductory karate camp for young children, which built interest in the area and a demand for continued instruction year round. The following April, the first students of what would become Phoenix Gaithersburg met in the basement of a friend’s home. Within one year, the group outgrew that basement training room and we moved to our current home. Since the very humble beginnings, to the humble present, Bob’s dojo has grown from those original 7 students to 100!

What was your motivation in opening your dojo?
My motivation was simple: I wanted others to experience the same kind growth and self-improvement that I had been walking through during the last decade. Training with the Phoenix Karatedo Association, Kyokushinkai International helped me to improve my overall health and well being from the first training session. My teachers looked at the very out of shape man that walked into the dojo and saw the potential and they’ve helped me ever since. When the opportunity came for me to help others in that same way, I had to take advantage.

When did you begin your training in the martial arts?
I began training in October 2005, one week after hearing about a local Kyokushin dojo from a good friend. At the time, I was more than one hundred pounds overweight and only getting worse. Very early on, I learned that a smaller, lighter, faster, and healthier version of myself would be much better off in our style! The training over the years have made me stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually.

What did you do prior to opening your dojo?
I have been a schoolteacher, working with all age levels and abilities, since 2001. Since I began, I’ve had the privilege to work in some top-notch schools including the Ivymount School and Covenant Life School; both located in the suburbs of Washington, DC. My professional experience has helped me so much as a sensei and I’m constantly relating karate training into the classroom and vice versa.

What was your goal in opening your dojo and what direction do you want it to take?
My goal in opening the Phoenix Gaithersburg Dojo was to provide an environment where people could come, train, and find the greatest version of themselves through training in Kyokushin karate. I believe that the proverbial fires of hard training will burn away blemishes in our character and that the greatest (strongest, most kind, most outward focused) version of ourselves will be left to shine.

From the very beginning, I knew that people in my area were craving our style of training, but I have never set out to have a certain number of students or to have a huge training space. My personal experience, seeing interested people come and go, I know that our training isn’t for everyone…in fact our training is really attractive to a relatively small, special group. So while I am always looking for ways to introduce to the dojo, I completely understand if one’s path to self-improvement looks different than mine; as long as they pick a path and walk it.

As we look to the future, as our numbers slowly grow, I want to remain committed to the way in which I have been brought up. Our space may change and new faces may come and go, but my commitment and the direction of Phoenix Gaithersburg will always be to provide traditional Kyokushin training combined with cutting edge exercise science to produce the greatest version of your friends, family members, and neighbors.

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