Karateteacher praised for service

Published on Thu, Apr 6, 2006 by ada Conner

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Karate teacher praised for service

By Nada Conner

Although Blaine resident Thomas Drake has been a karate instructor for many years, it seems his enthusiasm for the job never ebbs.

Drake, who teaches free-style Goju Kai karate in Blaine and Lynden, teaches today with much of the same fervor and devotion he did his first day. Over the years, Drake has trained more than 300 students, many of whom, in turn, earned their share of medals, tournament recognitions and black belts.

Indeed, from 1995 to 2002, students from Drake’s classes were among the top five in the National Black Belt League (NBL), an international organization that ranks students based on their karate performance. One of which was Victor Crosetti from Lynden. Crosetti won third place in the NBL men’s 18 and over super heavy weight division in 2002 and the world championship award at the International Martial Arts Council (IMAC) in Las Vegas for both the 2000-2001 and 2001-2002 seasons. Drake was also rated number two nationally by the NBL in 1993, and number five in 2000.

Drake says his interest in martial arts started when he was 14 when the older brother of his friend talked him into joining a class at the YMCA in Bellingham. Although Drake studied intensely for several years, he would have to wait more than 10 years to get his black belt.
“Back then, in order to get promoted to get rank, you had to go to Seattle and my parents wouldn’t let me so I pretty much stayed a white belt for several years,” he said.

In 1973, he joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed in Alameda, California, near Oakland. Two years later, he moved back to Bellingham and joined the Washington Karate Association. He earned a black belt after six years and, in 1989, he began teaching Goju Kai in Lynden at the YMCA.

In 1995, he moved to Blaine Northwest Christian Martial Arts Alliance (NCMAA) at 483 Peace Portal Drive in the basement of the Blaine Floral building and left the Lynden class to one of his black belt students.

At first, Drake said he had a little difficulty attracting a solid clientele that would sustain his business so he closed the shop and practiced only in Lynden until the former Harborside Fitness center asked him to return to Blaine.

“I thought I would never come back to Blaine,” he said. “But things have changed. Right now, we have more than 80 students.”

Drake’s classes have grown so quickly, he enlisted the help of his wife, Theresa, who also holds a black belt.

Together, they have been teaching Goju Kai karate, a style of karate that originated in Japan during the 1950s, for more than 15 years.
Goju Kai’s distinct style of free sparring and drills, sets it apart from the pre-defined set of attack and defense techniques of more traditional styles of karate.

“Freestyle we incorporate some boxing and kicks from tae kwon do and our stances for fighting are a little bit different, but we keep the traditional part; we keep the substance, the solid goju base.
“You might say, though, we’re more headhunters than traditional karate.”

Drake’s main focus in the class, however, is to teach his students the philosophy that includes self-discipline, physical fitness, endurance, determination and self-empowerment.

“Seeing kids succeed and gain more self confidence is what makes this job so appealing,” Drake said. “Karate is a positive and healthy activity, and it keeps the kids away from bad things.”

Classes are divided into ages 4 to 7, which meets on Thursdays at 4:30, and eight to adult, which meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5:30 at the Blaine Community Theater next to Rite Aid.

Drake also began the karate performance team Drake’s Dragons that performs karate demonstrations on a regular basis.

For more information on Drake’s classes, call 332-6241, or visit www.freestylegojukai.org.

Editor’s note: Reporter Tara Nelson contributed to this story.