Karate, anyone? Mr. Miyagi (played by Pat Morita) is best known for teaching Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) the art of self defense in the popular “Karate Kid” movie series.
In the ﬁrst Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi told Daniel, “Aha . . . here are the two rules of Miyagi-Ryu Karate. Rule number one: Karate for defense only. Rule number two: First learn rule number one.”
For many, Rodney Grantham is “Mr. Miyagi.” Rodney is a black belt in Okinawa Seidokan Karate, teacher (sensei) and owner of the Colorado Seidokan Karate Dojo (Cedaredge Karate Club), located at 18096 Hanson Road northeast of Cedaredge.
The youngest of four (two sisters and a brother) children born to J.B and Letha Grantham, Rodney moved with his family to Cedaredge in 1970. He graduated from Cedaredge High School in 1973. He later earned an associate degree in aerospace technology from the Community College of the Air Force.
For the past 15 years, Rodney has worked for his long time high school friend Geoff Kunkel (Andersen’s Garage in Cedaredge) as a mechanic. Rodney noted that he and Geoff played football together while in high school.
Rodney was ﬁrst introduced to the martial arts in 1985 by a friend while serving in the U.S. Air Force. “We were just messing around,” laughed Rodney
That same year, now with his interest peaked, Rodney began training in the martial arts while stationed at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. (Okinawa is the birthplace of karate).
His training took place outside the military installation in the Seidokan Honbu Dojo under the direction of Ronnie Nix, Sensei and founder of Ryukoku Seidokan Karate Kobudo Renmei (a federation, alliance, group of persons with a similar like purpose). Nix is an 8th degree black belt in Seidokan Karate with more than 35 years experience in the martial arts. Both Rodney and Ronnie achieved their Sensei status under the tutelage of Toma Shian, Sensei and founder of Zen Okinawa Seidokan Karate Kobudo Renmei.
In 1996, after retiring from the Air Force, Rodney returned to Cedaredge and began teaching karate (literally translated, “empty hand”) classes. And in 2009 the Cedaredge Karate Club played host to an elite group of “Seidokan” karate senseis and students of “Okinawan Karate,” taking part in the ﬁrst ever Ryukoku (International) Seidokan Conference, with 25 of the world’s best karate “senseis” and 25 elite students (42 black belts of varying degrees and 8 brown belts) taking part. Rodney said the goal of the conference was to continue the legacy of Grand Master Shian Toma by promoting the traditional form of Toma Seidokan Karate in the United States and throughout the world.
Participants in the conference came from as far away as Japan, Okinawa and Puerto Rico. Sensei for the conference was none other than his sensei and friend, Ron Nix, who came to the conference from his home in Okinawa.
Among those participating in the conference were 19-year-old Sarah Stroup, a petite young woman with a gentle soul, who has the ability to throw a grown man more than twice her size, and her brother, 16-year-old Adam Anderson, who bears an uncanny resemblance to the “Karate Kid.” Sarah and Adam are the children of Mike (also a black belt) and Annette Anderson of Cedaredge. Both Sarah and Adam were trained by Rodney and both are now ﬁrst-degree black belts in the ancient form of Seidokan karate.
Sarah has since achieved Sensei status under Rodney’s tutelage and has taught with Grantham on occasion. Sarah said she took up karate as a means of self defense, and in the process has learned self discipline, self control and respect for others and the environment. “Everything we do is out of respect,” said Sarah.
In fact, along with Sarah and Adam, an impressive group of area locals have come out of the Cedaredge Karate Club including John Breitnauer, Leroy Black, Tom Resz and son Ben Resz, Michael Farren, Kaitlyn Farren, T.J. Gill, Julianne Johnson, J.B. Phillips, Veka Capps, Carrie Fulmer, Anna Fullmer and Andrew Farren — all black belts of varying degrees.
Of those, Heather Wagner, Elijah Fulmer and Veka Capps went on to become United States Karate Alliance (USKA) Colorado state champions; Veka Capps and J. B. Philips went on to become USKA national champions; and Carrie Hope Fulmer and Veka Capps both earned the title of USKA World Champions. Some have even gone on to start up their own dojo’s.
Breitnauer (Cedaredge Pharmacy) was teaching karate classes at CHS when he ﬁrst met Rodney, who had just signed up for his class. At the time, Breitnauer was a brown belt. “It didn’t take long for me to realize it was Rodney, not me, who should be teaching,” laughed Breitnauer.
For his part, Rodney has been nominated for induction into the 2010 United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame. He is currently the southwest regional director of the United States Ryukoku Seidokan Karate Kobudo Renmei and head of Colorado Seidokan.
“Once you reach the higher levels of karate,” laughed Rodney, “it is amazing how easy it is for the students to hit you in the face.” Rodney explained that it was due to the fact that the students move at a much slower pace and, because they do, blocks by those of higher degrees are often too fast, miss the mark and are therefore ineffective.
In addition to karate, the Cedaredge Karate Club does on occasion become transformed into a dance/ﬁtness studio, offering various ﬁtness, dance (ballet, jazz, hip-hop, tap and Zumba), mat pilates, body sculpting and creative movement classes, all taught by Gena Rose D’Orazio, artistic director of Dance West. Both Rodney and Adam can be counted among her ballet and Zumba students.
According to Mr. Miyagi, “The secret to karate lies in the mind and heart. Not in the hands.”
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