About 30 black-belt martial artists of all ages descended on the Pan American Goju Center in Hinesville this weekend for an annual training event. Goju is an ancient style of karate.
The Pan American Goju Center was founded by First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Sinclair Thorne, who holds a 10th-degree black belt in goju. Once a year, he invites black belts from around the nation to visit his Hinesville dojo to learn goju, which literally means “hard and soft.” It describes the style and motion associated with this form of karate.
On Friday morning, the visiting black belts were instructed by Ronald Frazier Sr., a 10th degree black belt who has a martial-arts doctorate. Frazier owns South Georgia Olympic Karate Academy in Savannah and has been involved in martial arts for 54 years.
Frazier teaches Korean sim-do, Japanese sho-to-kan, Korean taekwondo and Chinese goju.
He walked the group through a series of katas, which are detailed, choreographed patterns of movement used in martial arts.
“It is basically a martial-arts technique. Any kata, regardless of which style, has to be understood as a technique first … concentrating on every movement,” Frazier said.
He explained how each motion represents a defensive and an offensive movement, but true mastery of the art means to understand it is both things all at once.
“When you block a person, that block can also be a strike; and if you strike, that strike should also be a block. … You want to take all your martial-arts techniques and make them all one,” he said.
In goju, there are a series of katas practitioners learn, each level building upon the last. As the practitioner masters the levels, they progress in their techniques and belts.
Frazier said the beauty of the art is that it always varies from person to person, yet remains true to form.
“It varies because of the person’s body height, body weight, whether they are female or male … each one will move a certain different way,” he said.
According to Frazier, martial arts is a way of life for him, and while he spends a lot of time teaching, he thinks there is always room to learn.
“I learn from the people who are coming here. Martial art is a way of life,” he said.
Keith Teller, who came to Hinesville from Gainesville, has practiced martial arts for 42 years and also is a 10th degree black belt. He has known Thorne for years.
“We used to fight against each other in New York City,” Teller said.
He has operated Gainesville Dojo for the past 28 years but agrees with Frazier that each day brings new knowledge.
“We can learn from everybody,” he said. “There are different ways at looking at things you already know, breaking down forms and breaking down techniques. There is always a different point of view, so you can always learn. You can learn things from the person who just started day one to the person who been doing it for decades.”
Teller said martial arts means living a clean life, being respectful of others and passing on the knowledge and forms. He said it is one of the reasons he made the trek to Hinesville this weekend.
“I came here for the family atmosphere and for sharing,” he said. “This is my fourth year coming.”