Tom Booker

Tom BookerMartial Arts Studied and Rank earned:

  • Taekwondo, 4th Dan
  • Satori-Ryu Iaido, Sho-Dan

Background (general):

I was born in St. Louis, Mo. My father was a college professor, which is often a peripatetic way of living – meaning we moved around a lot when I was growing up. I’ve lived in Florida, Montreal, Indiana, Michigan, Devonshire, and Texas before finally settling in Knoxville in the late 1980s. At that time, I was working at Whittle Communications in Knoxville as Director of Secondary Research. When Whittle Communications over-extended itself and went bust in the mid-1990’s, I had already been training as a martial arts instructor for some years, and found myself well-positioned to explore a new field of endeavor – operating a martial arts school.

Martial Arts Experience

I began my study of Taekwondo in 1989 in Knoxville, as a student in the old USTA, under Mr. James Rich. I earned 1st degree black belt rank from him in 1993. In the years since, I have continued my study of Taekwondo, and currently hold 4th Dan rank through both the AAU and AKATO. In recent years, I have continued my study of Taekwondo under the guidance of Master Keith Yates (10th Dan) of Dallas, Texas. In addition to Taekwondo, Master Yates has also gotten me started on the study of Kobudo.

I began to study Satori-Ryu Iaido (Samurai Sword Arts) under the guidance of Lancing England, Sensei, of the University of Tennessee, and earned Sho-Dan rank (1st degree black belt) in 2005. I am currently continuing my study of Iaido and Jodo under the guidance of Jake Horton, Sensei.

I’ve also been involved over the years in martial arts tournament competition at both the regional and national levels. My most noteworthy accomplishments in the area of martial arts competition were being ranked #6 nationally among black belts in Free Design Forms in 1996, and winning the Bronze Medal for sparring in the Black Belt Heavyweight division at the AAU Taekwondo Nationals.

I’ve also had the opportunity of working with the following instructors at special workshops: Bill Wallace, Joe Lewis, Jeff Smith, Jerry Beasley, Michael Kanarek, Stephen Hayes, Danny Chapman, Katherine Wieczerza, Melody Shuman, Laurence Evans, Dale Kirby, Kimber Johnson, Rikk Perez, George Alexander, and Joe Hess.

Teaching Experience:

I began teaching Taekwondo in 1993, as an Instructor Trainee under the guidance of Mr. James Rich. I first earned Instructor Certification in Taekwondo in 1995. I taught at the Taekwondo Plus school in West Knoxville as an Instructor Trainee, and later led classes there as a Certified Instructor. I became Head Instructor and Program Director at the Maryville, TN Taekwondo Plus school in 1997.

In May of 2001, I opened Broadway Family Karate in the Fountain City area of Knoxville. Since that time, I have served as Master Instructor, leading classes and also training other instructors. I have continued my own training as an instructor at several summer sessions of Karate College at Radford University, conducted by Dr. Jerry Beasley – this is an annual gathering that brings together top-flight martial arts instructors from across the US, working together in an inter-disciplinary format.

In the summer of 2012, I was accepted as a member of the American Taekwondo and Karate Association, and began working with Master Keith Yates and his colleagues on an ongoing basis to continue to develop my skills as a martial arts instructor. Master Yates came to Knoxville in November of 2013 to share his knowledge and experience of the martial arts with both our instructors and students. I travel to Dallas to participate in the annual AKATO instructor seminars there every spring. Our relationship with AKATO has been one of the most exciting, and gratifying developments for me personally, and for our school as a whole, in recent years.

In the summer of 2013, I completed the Martial Arts Industry Association Instructor College course under the direction of Dave Kovar. During this time, I also participated in instructor training workshops on best teaching practices for optimal student outcomes led by Kelly Muir, and on communicating effectively with students and parents led by Frank Silverman.

In the fall of 2012, I helped to establish the Knoxville Martial Arts Instructors Round-table – a forum for martial arts instructors from different schools and martial arts styles in the Knoxville area. The aim of all of us at the round-table is to develop the highest possible standards of professional martial arts instruction in the Knoxville community. During our monthly round-table sessions, we exchange information, consult together on teaching challenges we face, and work together to improve our understanding and practice of teaching. We use the American Council on Martial Arts curriculum as the foundation for our work together, but also make use of many other teaching resources that we share with each other. I currently serve as Chair of the Knoxville Martial Arts Instructors Round-table.

I have found that, to be most effective as an instructor, it is important to seek out opportunities to work with other experienced instructors. I’ve also found that the best martial arts instructors – the leaders of our community – are willing to share their understanding of what teaching techniques have worked best over time, and what the most promising new developments are emerging.

Why do you teach?

Teaching martial arts gives me a way to meet and work together with people in our community – and allows me to make a meaningful contribution to the life of our community. As a martial artist, also, I find that when I first learn something, I learn it from the outside in – my understanding is superficial. When I undertake to teach it to someone else, then I have to learn it again from the inside out – I gain a greater understanding of the fundamental principles involved in it. On a personal level, I continue to grow as a martial artist by teaching our art to our students.

How do you use your martial arts training in your own life?

Studying martial arts has given me a way of understanding and realizing on my own potential, physical and mental, as a person. The martial arts have also shown me just how important it is to treat other people, and life itself, with courtesy and respect. It has also given me an insight into dealing constructively with conflict – limiting and managing it, so that it doesn’t grow into a senseless fight. The old samurai ideal of “saya no uchi de katsu” – victory while the sword remains in its sheath – captures the idea well. Studying the martial arts has also shown me the value of careful planning, and thorough preparation – a drop of sweat in training saves a drop of blood in action, as the Chinese say. Even if you’re not going to be asked to buckle on your armor and go forth into battle, this one applies to many parts of life.

What got you started studying the martial arts?

My wife and I were big fans of Bruce Lee’s classic movies. We decided that studying the martial arts would be even more fun, and much more personally satisfying, than just watching movies, so we went looking for a school that was interested in working with adult beginners.