My Karate History

I began training at the age of six (1980) in Chidokan (Shotokan offshoot) in Rotorua New Zealand.  I continued in Chidokan until I was 15 when I began learning Tae Kwon Do (ITF, then Lim’s TKD) at St Peter’s School due to me relocating to Hamilton, New Zealand.

For my Senior year of high school I moved back to Rotorua and continued to train in both Chidokan and a local Tae Kwon Do school. I also had the opportunity to train in Akibujitsu, Akido and Shin Kendo.  This afforded me with the opportunity to attend seminars with T. Obata.

At the conclusion of high school in December of 1991 I went to pursue a Bachelors degree at the University of Waikato.  At this time I trained briefly in Goju Ryu and continued in Tae Kwon Do.  In March of 1993 I was offered the position of Instructor for the St Peter’s Tae Kwon Do club.  I accepted and taught there until I moved at the end of 1996.  During that time I was given an internship in Whakatane which, allowed me to train for nine months at a local Chidokan Karate club, however I was able to commute the two hours each week to instruct my Tae Kwon do club.

At the beginning of 1996 I began a Masters Degree and due to a company internship I moved permanently to Whakatane, NZ. It was there that I both trained and taught at a club that was regularly visited by Goran Glucina (7th Dan) of the Shotokan Karate International Federation SKIF (Kanazawa).  Over the years I trained with Glucina Sensei I was given the opportunity to travel overseas to train with Kanazawa Sensei and compete.

JD Swanson and Okazaki Sensei, June 2012

I moved to the Pennsylvania State University, USA in June of 1998 initially for a technician position that eventually evolved into a Ph.D. degree. I realized that Penn State had no Shotokan Karate and so founded the Penn State Shotokan Karate Club.  It officially began in the Spring semester of 1999.  The club is officiated under the International Shotokan Karate Federation (Okazaki).  I was the official instructor of the club from 1999 until I completed my Ph.D. in December of 2004 when Kim Barron assumed the role of instructor.  The club at Penn State was very successful and at its height boasted approximately 250 members.  We fielded teams to the 2000-2004 ISKF US Nationals competitions.  Over that period we had 12 national individual champions and 5 team championships  (in 2004 we successfully defended our title of National Team Kata Champions).  We were also fortunate to have many amazing instructors come and visit the club, including Okazaki Sensei, Rielly Sensei, Field Sensei, Cline Sensei, Shaw Sensei, Hoffman Sensei, Hooper Sensei (JKA), Schmeisser Sensei (ISOK), and Vance Sensei.  Finally,  we also hosted the East Coast Championships in 2004.

A large part of the success of this club was that I wrote the courses Kines 059: Introduction to Karate that was approved by the university academic affairs as an official Penn State course.  This acted as a major feeder for the club and educated anywhere from 60-120 students per semester in Karate.

Once I graduated from Penn State I trained for one semester at Lock Haven University introducing students to karate and then for one year at Bryn Mawr College.  The Bryn Mawr club was founded in 2005 and was successfully run for several years after I left in 2006 by Ms. Joanna Baker.

Upon moving to a permanent faculty position at the University of Central Arkansas in 2006, I founded the UCA Shotokan Karate Club.  This club although much smaller was able to attend US Nationals from 2007-2010 and during that time produced two ISKF collegiate champions.

In 2006 the ISKF split from the JKA and I was asked by Okazaki Sensei to look after the Southern Region.  To this end, I enlisted the help of Mr. Leon Sill (7th dan) and together we became the co-directors of the Southern Region of the ISKF.  By the time I left the South in 2011, through our combined efforts, we had tripped the number of ISKF clubs in the region.

I was recruited to Salve Regina University, Newport, RI in the fall of 2011.  I was fortunate to be asked to instruct the Brown University Shotokan Karate club in Providence RI. I have also founded a second club at Salve, which was recognized as an official Sports club by the university in Fall 2012.

I tested and was passed for the rank of Godan (5th dan) in 2013 by Okazaki and Yaguchi Sensei.  In 2014 I graduated from the ISKF instructor training program, licensing me as an official Instructor, Examiner, and Judge.