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Rochester, NY - September 23-25, 2010

Sensei Joseph Jennings' Visit
Chau H Nguyen

For a while, I have not written or posted any martial arts news, but I could not help writing about the recent Rochester visit of Sensei Joseph Jennings ...

A few words about Sensei Joseph Jennings

In 1972 Jennings went to Okinawa, Japan, to train with Grandmaster Tatsuo Shimabuku, founder of Isshin Ryu Karate, then he opened several schools named Jennings Karate Academy in the Rochester area in the '70s and '80s. He sold the dojos in the mid '80s and moved to California where he founded Panther Productions, a marital arts video production company.

In the early '90s Michael Nguyen, at the age of 5 years old, started attending Sensei Angi Uezu's seminar and watching his instructional Isshin Ryu video series produced by Panther Productions, and was greatly influenced by this remarkable instructor.

The Destiny

On Thursday, September 23, 2010, at the Karate Training Seminar in Rochester, Jennings immediately made eye contact with Michael. Once the seminar started Michael was asked to warm up the class for 10 minutes! Michael was honored and totally stunned that Jennings knew exactly who Michael was in person even though the two have not met before.

They started off with basics and almost after every upper and lower body basic, Jennings called Michael up to demonstrate on Michael in front of the class. They then moved onto kata, and eventually Sanchin where Jennings gave almost everyone a "check" in the gut.

At the end of the seminar Jennings made a speech about how he loved it when a karate-ka was truly dedicated to martial arts, stood out above the rest, and performed with awesome ability. He then called Michael up to the front of the class and said that he was truly proud of Michael and that with over 50,000 views on Michael's YouTube Karate Training Video, it showed that Michael and his brother Richard were the real deal. Jennings said that he would give Michael something that he held precious to him, and then presented Michael with his blue Chuck Norris shirt. He said that he loved wearing it but he wanted to give it to the person in the room that stood out above the rest. Everyone was watching at that point, and he then started calling Michael "Master Michael!"

Saturday, September 25, was the Black Belt Training Seminar. They basically did the same thing as that of Thursday, but there were more participants. Before the seminar, Sensei Tim Fox and several old timers asked how Michael and Richard Nguyen were doing. Once the Seminar started, Jennings immediately asked Richard to come up so that he could demonstrate on Richard the same way he did with Michael on Thursday. Shortly afterward, Jennings called both Michael and Richard to the front of the class, and he then said that Michael and Richard had over 52,000 views on their YouTube Karate Training Video and he was extremely proud of the brothers. Everyone in the dojo was speechless when he called Michael and Richard up. Later in the training he was pulling up junior black belts to the front of the class to perform a solo act kata for everyone. When one of the students finished, Jennings asked Michael across the room, "Michael, how long have you been training?" Michael replied, "17 years, sensei." And he told the juniors, "See! You have much to learn!" At the end of the seminar, participants enjoyed sparring each other ...

Final words

After all these years, Jennings finally returned to Rochester to visit and reunite with his students. From the first meeting, Michael realized, "Sensei Jennings is really a down-to-earth person, and sounds exactly like the way he does on the instructional videos with Sensei Uezu."

It has been a long time that I have enjoyed writing about such wonderful martial artists. It reminds me of the times when I took Michael and Richard to compete in numerous karate tournaments across the US and Canada. At the tournaments I met many dedicated martial artists who spoke highly of Michael and Richard. It’s interesting to know that Jennings does not live in Rochester, but he is well aware of what’s going on here. I am amazed that Jennings took the time to recognize Michael and Richard. He told them: 
“I am truly proud of you. You are carrying the torch of Isshin Ryu karate, and are a huge part of its lineage.”


All these recognitions were made possible thanks to Sensei Brian West for supporting Michael and Richard, and thanks to the following dedicated martial artists Tom Lewis (Wyoming), Ralph Passero (New Jersey), Ed McGrath (New Jersey), Wayne Wayland (Virginia), JC Burris (Alabama), Mitch Kobylanski (North Carolina), Clyde Stanley (Louisiana), Asaka Holloway (Michigan), Bob Harris (Alabama), Robert Crosby (Illinois), HP Henry (North Carolina), and many more ... for their insightful comments and encouragements of Michael and Richard’s instructional video project.

We appreciate those who took the below pictures. Last but not least, special thanks to Sensei Matt Dorsey for inviting Michael to the Thursday seminar.

Karate is a life time learning process which correlates with Confucius's saying:
"If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people."

Sensei Joe Jennings presents Michael Nguyen his precious blue Chuck Norris shirt on which he wrote:
"To Mike Nguyen, A true Isshin Ryu warrior."

Joe Jennings and Michael Nguyen

Seminar on September 25, 2010

Joe Jennings and Richard Nguyen demonstrate techniques

Joe Jennings and Richard Nguyen

Joe Jennings demonstrates a hand technique on Richard Nguyen

How high can you jump?

Richard Nguyen, Joe Jennings and Michael Nguyen

Brian West, Richard Nguyen, Joe Jennings, Michael Nguyen, and Sam DeLucia

Jeff Massett, Richard Nguyen, Tim Fox, Michael Nguyen, Brian West and Mike Markham

Seminar participants

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