For decades, I resisted any and all attempts to define the Northern Karate system in simplistic terms.

What martial art do you teach? Karate? Certainly.
What style? We practice Shurite forms….and Nahate kata…and Hakutsuru and Nipai.
Kobudo? Yes. What type? Matayoshi…and Ryukyu…and Yamani…and Mura.
Some BJJ/MMA? Absolutely.
What about Indonesian and Filipino combat systems? Affirmative.
Are you a traditional, classical or modern ryuha? Well……

It was apparent that we were all and none of the above.

As Northern Karate’s senior team morphed from competitors to educators, the lines continued to blur. Our syllabus raced to keep pace and we struggled to define the NKS system.

I searched for a designation that reflected who we were, are and might become, and the result was Seishinkan 聖心館 (House of Spiritual Development), NKS’ classically-based, progressive budo methodology that blends traditional principles with modern, practical pedagogy.

This revelation coincided with an awareness that the age-range of our students was expanding – from preschoolers to seniors. As they had varied needs and interests, the challenge shifted from defining who we are, to how we would bring students of all ages to new heights of physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.  It is an undertaking that requires us to continually evolve as we share the Seishinkan system in a manner that educates, engages and benefits participants at every stage of life.

LEVEL 1 (Emphasis: Body + Behavior)
Children 3-7 years – directional understanding; balance; coordination, gross motor skills; cognitive development;  following instructions and cooperative behavior; self and mutual respect; and of course, fun!

LEVEL 2 (Emphasis: Body + Behavior + Mind)
Youth  8-14 years – good habits; increased stamina and improved energy levels; positive body imaging; cultivating life skills like time management, self-discipline and confidence; understanding the responsibility and privilege of becoming a role-model;  and differentiating between virtual and real worlds.

LEVEL 3 (Emphasis: Body + Mind + Spirit)
Adults 15-49 years – integrated fitness and a healthy lifestyle; real world self-defense tactics; time and stress management; goal setting and self-discipline; overcoming obstacles; appreciation for sporting behavior; and social engagement.

LEVEL 4 (Emphasis: Spirit + Mind + Body)
Older adults 50+ years – deepened connection to our martial community; challenging the mind to embrace new material; maintaining and improving range of motion, strength, balance, agility and awareness; and injury prevention, as well as modifying if required.

When adapted to the needs and interests of each student, Seishinkan can be a vehicle for self-improvement and self-discovery at every age and every stage of life, if we remain passionate, purpose-driven and innovative.

If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.

John Dewey, American Education Reformer


  1. Thank-you for sharing this, although at first, I did not expect the age ranges you had highlighted.
    After pondering this, I can now see the ranges that reflect the students development…Very interesting!
    There are even elements of shu-ha-ri particularly as the focus changes as our practice matures.

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