Established in 2013, the Carbondale Park District karate program creates a welcoming atmosphere where students routinely exceed realistic but rigorous standards for strength, endurance, and technical excellence through a balance of cooperation and competition.

What Our Karate Students Learn

Our karate classes teach self-defense, sports and physical fitness, technical excellence, and personal development. Combined, these qualities build complete martial artists and exceptional people.

Through repetition of martial arts techniques and calisthenics, our students develop speed, strength, balance, endurance, coordination, and flexibility, improving their overall health and fitness. These attributes alone can improve a person’s prospects when facing physical danger. They also make it easier for people to practice karate longer and harder, which allows them to improve their skills faster.

Good karate technique allows people to properly leverage their power. The efficient movement in proper martial arts techniques can increase speed and improve endurance by consuming less energy. Students who develop correct karate technique may find they can hit harder, faster, and outlast bigger, stronger people who use incorrect form.

Our karate students also learn to identify true threats, and study effective strategies to defuse tense situations before they turn violent. We demand our students employ peaceful solutions whenever possible, but provide them with the skills to confront danger, with force if necessary, to protect themselves or others. Our students don’t just learn how to defend themselves, but when.

The Karate Style Our Students Learn

Students learn Isshin Shorinji Ryu, a karate style created by the late Soke Robert Murphy that blends traditional martial arts with modern innovations.

Shihan James Chapman, a classmate of Soke Murphy’s under American karate pioneer Don Nagle, brought Isshin Shorinji Ryu to the Midwest. When Shihan Chapman died in a car accident in 1970, Tom Heriaud eventually took over instruction and led the Midwest branch of Isshin Shorinji Ryu until his death in 2022. Mr. Heriaud’s successor, Shihan Scott Francis, and his other students carry on his legacy.

Chris Wissmann teaches the Carbondale Park District karate program. He started training in 1984 under Mr. Heriaud. He earned his third degree black belt in Isshin Shorinji Ryu from Mr. Heriaud in 2019. While an SIU student, he learned aikido and Moo Duk Kwan under Guido Bernstein at the University Aikido and Martial Arts Clubs, and trained briefly with the SIU Boxing Club.

When Are Our Classes?

The Park District’s eight-week beginner karate session takes place Monday nights at 5:30 p.m. at the LIFE Community Center.

In the beginner karate class, students systematically learn a series of blocks, punches, kicks, and exercises designed to facilitate those techniques. They also start to learn the strategies needed to effectively apply their skills in real-life self-defense settings.

The beginner session thoroughly prepares students for the advanced class, which takes place Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 p.m. at the LIFE Community Center. There, students continue to build their skills and knowledge through perfection of formal exercises called kata and light-contact sparring called kumite.

Eight-class sessions cost cost $40 for residents and $50 for non-residents.

Other Learning Opportunities

We encourage, but never force, our students to broaden their experience by taking their training outside the classroom to regional tournaments. Students who compete have incentives to work harder, which can accelerate their improvement. They can also learn from and test their skills against people from other schools who may present different challenges than their classmates.

When our students enter tournaments, they always represent themselves and our program well, with outstanding performances that impress judges and competitors alike.

We also hold free self-defense seminars for community groups and encourage our students to cross-train in our other excellent martial arts programs: the Carbondale Park District aikido course, taught by Senseis Karen and Rob Gallegly, and the Carbondale Park District jujitsu class, taught by Sensei Mark Hurling.

Questions? Ask Us, or Come Join Us!

If you have further questions, the Carbondale Park District karate program’s website might answer them. If not, please feel free to call the LIFE Community Center or come watch one of our classes.

If you feel ready to join our next beginner session, you can sign up online at any time, or you can register by calling the LIFE Community Center during business hours at (618) 549-4222.