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MASTER A. KEITH SMITH - Ku-Dan
Master Smith was born in Aurora, Illinois in October of 1954. He started his martial arts training in Isshinryu in 1972 under Sensei Patrick Buckley. Sensei Buckley, a student of the late James Chapman, promoted Master Smith to the ranks of Sho-Dan and Ni-Dan. After Buckley's School of Isshinryu closed, he made inquiries to several Isshinryu organizations and after reviewing his options followed Sensei Buckley's advice and chose to follow Grand Master Armstrong and the A.O.K.A. Master Smith opened his school in 1975 under the name Eastwood Karate Club; the school name was subsequently changed to the Midwest School of Isshinryu. Master Smith has been a volunteer instructor since his schools inception.
In the late 70's Master Smith's efforts to encourage area Isshinryu schools to use the tapes of Grand Master Shimabuku to help standardize the kata's met with great resistance. Master Smith regularly corresponded with Grandmaster Armstrong whose conversations helped keep his spirit alive.
Master Smith met his current instructor, Grandmaster Steve Young through a co-worker, also a student of Isshinryu, who, while at work, repeatedly returned requesting to be taught new segments of the kata he was learning at his school. The student continually returned for further instruction. This surprised Master Smith because at that time very few instructors in the area preformed Isshinryu kata so closely to the films. Finally, Master Smith went to meet the co-workers instructor and was introduced to Master Steve Young. Master Smith has been a student of Master Young's ever since.
Master Smith has continued his training over the years participating in seminars taught by Grand Master Steve Armstrong, Grand Master Louis Lizotte, Master Ron Boucher, Master Sherman Harrell, Master Nick Adler, Master Angi Uezu, Master Kichiro Shimabuku, Master Willie Adams, Master A. J. Advincula and Grandmaster Stephen Young.
Master Smith received his 9th Dan in Isshin-Ryu Karate in November of 2013. In November of 2011 he received his "Kyoshi" certificate from Grandmaster Steve Young. He has also served on the A.O.K.A. Awards Committee and is currently on the A.O.K.A. Promotion Board and Advisory Board.
Master Smith has received a number of local and national awards for his participation in and support of martial arts, and specifically, Isshin-Ryu Karate. In July of 2017 Grandmaster Smith was inducted into the Isshinryu Hall of Fame.
GRANDMASTER STEVE YOUNG
Master Young was born in Carthage, Illinois on January, 10, 1955. He started his martial arts training in both Isshinryu and Shotokan in 1971. Master Young progressed to the rank of Sho-Dan in both arts and gradually moved full training efforts into Isshinryu.
On July 12th, 2003 Grandmaster Lewis Lizotte promoted Steve Young to the rank of Grandmaster, 9th degree blackbelt.
Stacy Strunk - Yan-Dan
Mrs. Strunk started karate in 2007 under the instruction of Master Keith Smith. Severely overweight, she had spent three traumatic days in the hospital, where she had to use special extra-large blood pressure cuffs, special extra-large wheel chairs, and the special extra-large MRI machine. When she was released with a relatively clean bill of health (except a diagnosis of asthma), she vowed to change her lifestyle and started by joining her daughters in taking karate classes at MSOI-Aurora.
When not at the dojo, Mrs. Strunk practices mixed martial arts and is also an avid CrossFitter, paleo enthusiast, anime fan and cosplayer.
Mark Bettenhausen has been studying Isshinryu Karate since 2011, under the instruction of Master Keith Smith. After many years of being shy and timid, Mark decided to seek out a way to gain self-confidence. After just a few beginning classes, he knew this was the right path. He also has a strong interest in the self-defense aspect of karate.
Mark is an art director in the advertising/marketing industry. His ability to present his ideas and creations has blossomed since joining MSOI-Aurora. Outside of work and the dojo, he enjoys fishing, camping and family time. Mark earned his Blackbelt in August of 2017 and his Ni-dan in 2019.