Joe Schmitt writes a weekly blog called The Good Life, featuring information about the region’s history, culture, climate and economy. The blog also showcases new residents, clubs and organizations, outdoor recreational opportunities and local events.
Three decades ago, when Rob Lynch was only 13, he rode his bike every Saturday morning, weather permitting, from his home on 53rd Avenue in Yakima to Gleed and back, to train and study karate with Sensei Morris Mack, owner of Yakima School of Karate (YSK). “Back then, he didn’t teach any kids until they were 13 and even so, they had to join an adult class, but it was an honor to train with him and all these adults,” says Lynch who wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for anything, despite the long trek. Lynch was first inspired by Mack when he watched his father train as one of the renowned local sensei’s first five students in the early 1960s, when he still taught in his back yard. At the time, like so many others since, Lynch saw Mack as a mythical figure. “Growing up, he was a legend to kids,” says Lynch. “We saw him as all powerful, but when you walked into his dojo, you felt nothing but love. He still has nothing but love in his heart and he’s primarily concerned with producing good citizens with strong character. He just happens to do so through teaching karate skills.”
Learning Life’s Lessons through Karate Today, as we celebrate YSK’s 50th anniversary, a third generation trains with Mack. He and the school’s 15 certified black belt instructors teach classes for nearly 400 students as young as four, continuing to place a priority on teaching life skills in addition to the art of karate. Having earned the honorific Japanese title, Shihan, for achieving certification as a master level instructor, Mack teaches in the style of Shudokan Karate-do. “Do,” pronounced doe, signifies how to “think, live and do in all aspects of life,” says his wife, Kara Mack. “We’re preparing kids for life on many levels.” Through a form of storytelling based on “koans,” or Japanese parables, Mack enthralls students while sharing messages about values such as loyalty, respect and perseverance. He also teaches about the importance of community, something he values deeply himself, as evidenced by ways in which YSK contributes to life in the Valley. In addition to specialized karate classes for children with special needs, offered in partnership with Children’s Village, the dojo operates a scholarship program. “It’s so easy for kids to get sidetracked, but we’ve always told them how important it is to go on to college,” says Kara Mack. The YSK scholarship program, funded by the dojo’s annual Shudokan Karate Tournament for Higher Education, has awarded $1,000 scholarships to 198 local graduating seniors in 14 years. This year’s tournament, drawing competitors of all ages and ranks from throughout the Northwest, will be held on October 15 at Yakima Valley Community College.
Martial Arts in The Valley At other dojos and clubs throughout the Valley, students can study everything from Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Tai-Kwon-Do to Shorinji Kempo and mixed martial arts. For example, at ProACTION Family Martial Arts, students train in the traditional, Okinawan-style, Goju-Ryu Karate. The dojo also hosts a “No Spoof Bully Proof” program to increase children’s self confidence and empower them to “fight fire with water” when encountering a bullying situation. In 2004, Andy Franz reopened a dojo originally operated by another respected local sensei, Kyle Sonnabend. Now Goju-Ryu Karate of Selah, the dojo’s instructors teach traditional karate with a focus on values such as cooperation, respect and patience. Even with several additions to the Valley’s martial arts community, YSK continues to be a cornerstone, something Lynch attributes to Sensei Mack’s leadership and what he describes as a sense of family and camaraderie at the dojo. “For me, it was a kind of brotherhood and training with him is as much an honor for him as it is for us. Teaching for him is a huge honor.”
Other martial arts programs in the Yakima Valley: Yakima Mixed Martial Arts - 509.307.8989 or 509.930.4680 Northwest Tae Kwan Do Association of Sunnyside - 509.833.8020 Shorinji Kempo Yakima Branch - 509.453.1249