On Nov. 8, Master Keith Smith, 8th Dan, became Grandmaster Keith Smith, 9th Dan, with a surprise promotion that took place at the Midwest School of Isshinryu Aurora. His sensei and head of the American Okinawan Karate Association, Grandmaster Steve Young, presented Smith with his new belt and promotion certificate during the break between youth and adult classes.
The promotion was in honor of Smith’s lifetime commitment to Isshinryu Karate.
Smith started Isshinryu Karate Isshinryu, in 1972. He had a brother and sister who weren’t doing as well as they could in school and Smith had read an article that said kids who took karate did better in school. So, knowing his sibs wouldn’t take the class unless he did, Smith started studying under Sensei Patrick Buckley. (Continued after gallery.)
Smith often refers to Karate as an addiction that started in those early years with Sensei Buckley. He spent every moment he could at the dojo and brags he was the only green belt that was given a key. Buckley’s school closed in 1974, while Smith was an ik-kyu. His training continued with Buckley and his black belt classmates Terry McDonald, Chuck Nadelhoffter, Vince Carter and John Vos, until his promotion to Sho-Dan in 1975.
Smith opened his dojo through a state grant that funded a variety of youth summer programs offered by the Aurora YWCA at the Aurora Housing Authorities Eastwood Center. When the summer ended and the state funds were gone, the YWCA asked Smith to continue the successful Eastwood Karate Club program and he stayed on as a volunteer instructor.
While he was running his own program, Smith continued his training. Reaching out first to the AOKA and Grandmaster Steve Armstrong. Smith and Armstrong shared a strong belief that the films of Shimabuku performing kata should be used as a standard to which Isshinryu kata should be taught and the two corresponded frequently regarding that topic.
Smith met Grandmaster Steve Young through a co-worker, who was also a student of Isshinryu. Smith was impressed that Young’s performance held closely to the Shimabuku films and, after meeting Young in person, immediately became a student. In addition to his formal studies with Young, Smith also took seminars taught by Isshinryu notables Steve Armstrong, Louis Lizotte, Ron Boucher, Sherman Harrell, Nick Adler, Angi Uezu, Kichiro Shimabuku, Willie Adams and A. J. Advincula.