Pan American Goju in Hinesville is hosting a summer camp providing campers a unique opportunity to learn the ancient art of goju karate.
Pan American Goju was founded by First Calvary Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Sinclair Thorne, who within the martial-arts community is better known as Hanshi Thorne. His title means he has attained 10th-degree black-belt status in the art form.
Thorne said the camp offers a variety of activities, but the main focus is training the next generation of goju martial artists.
Thorne said many campers are returning participants or current students, but anyone interested in learning goju can join. Those currently in training can expect to be ready to test for their next belt level by the end of summer.
“When parents come to me, I tell them, ‘If you are looking for the sport, then this is not the place. But if you are looking for the art, this is the place,’” Thorne said. “It is different. It is an art form and a way of life for us. We instill values, and the discipline is crucial.”
Thorne started training in the martial arts at the age of 6 in his native country of Panama. In 1968, Thorne came to the United States and served in the U.S. Army, but continued his training. He’s been teaching goju for 45 years, including about 25 years in Hinesville.
Thorne said the literal translation of the word goju means hard and soft, which describes the style and motion of the form he teaches. “What they did was combine the hard and soft movements together in their fighting techniques,” he explained. “I am a traditional martial artist … What I look for mainly are students that are committed and dedicated in the art itself.”
The facility is run primarily by Thorne’s wife, Deloise, and their son, James, who both are black belts.
“There are not many goju instructors around,” Thorne said. “You find many in New York, a few in California, a whole bunch in Japan and a few in Texas. But it is actually very hard to find a goju instructor. I am the only goju instructor in this area. The next closest one is in Atlanta and he is one of my students and the next one is in Gainesville, Fla.”
Thorne said goju helps young participants establish strong morals, including reacting to confrontation while avoiding getting involved in arguments and fights.
“A true martial artist will avoid a fight … and this builds self-confidence,” he said, adding that his best student was picked on in school because of his weight. “He had low self-esteem … I talked to my entire class and told them how we would encourage him, and today, he is one of my best students. He is a third-degree black-belt now and one of my best instructors.”
The camp runs from 7 a.m.-
5 p.m. Monday-Friday starting June 2 and continues until school starts.
In addition to the camp, Thorne said they are preparing for a black-belt training camp June 12-14.
“Once a year, I host a black-belt training, and martial artists from all over come right here to Hinesville,” he said. “They are black belts from all over, and for three days they come here and do nothing but rigorous training in goju.”
After summer break, the center goes back to normal training hours.
Thorne said the center is open at 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays for the kids’ class and at 8 p.m. for the adults. On Saturdays, the children train starting at 10 a.m. followed by adults at 11 a.m.
Thorne said students training in goju must keep up their grades.
“Their grades have to match up with their practice, and we require their progress reports,” he said. “As an incentive, we place stars on their uniform. All of them strive to get better.”
Thorne said during the school year, they offer an after-school program as well.
“We pick the kids up from school and bring them here, and we train them from the time they get here until the time their parents pick them up, and that is five days a week,” he said.
Pan American Goju is at 204 Gause St.