Avi Wolfsthal, 1st Dan

Avi is, without question, a karate scholar. Whatever your query, you can bet he’s already done the research, and if you get a question from him, you know it’s going to be one that you probably don’t have a ready answer for, but you will be glad he asked.
As well as bringing a thoughtful and entirely non-dogmatic interpretation of shotokan to our instructor line-up, Avi is the creator and main driving force behind SHOTORAMA. He has done much of the hard work to bring it to life. Here he is in his own words.
When did you start karate, and how long have you been training?
I started karate when I was 42. I took my son to his first lesson and whilst watching it, I said to myself “I have to try this”. At the next lesson I lined up with everyone and that was it. My son quit at some point (temporarily, I hope), but I’m hooked forever.
What club are you at now, how did the club get started, how long has it been running?
I teach at Kanshin Karate in Guildford, which I set up with the help and guidance of Neil Jerome. The club struggled at first, but three years ago I finally managed to crack it and it’s been growing steadily ever since.
Have you tried/ do you have experience in other martial arts?
Oh yes, many, but only as an armchair participants. I wish I could try other martial arts because there is a lot of insight to be gained which can inform one’s karate. There is only one human body and all fighting styles are essentially guided by the same principles expressed differently. Not having the time to actively participate I do spend a lot of time watching and researching other styles, which sometimes gives me better context to understand what we do in Shotokan.
Who have been your major influences/instructors?
I’ve had the pleasure of training with many KUGB instructors, senior and junior, young and old, and have learnt from all without exception, but Neil Jerome has without doubt been the greatest influence by far. As my sensei Neil provided much more than just instruction – he created an environment where I could explore and express my karate. Naturally, I ended up adopting and using much of what Neil does, both as a karateka and as an instructor, but not because “that’s how my sensei does it”, but rather because it makes good sense, which is I think is the essence of Neil’s teachings.
How would you describe your philosophy/attitude to karate?
For me karate is ultimately about enhancing the well-being of those who practice it. Admittedly this notion can sometimes be at odds with the very purpose of karate as a self-defence system. However, as a karate instructor I’ve come to realise that if I teach karate for self-defence I will benefit very few people if at all owing to the fact that violence in our society is thankfully rare and that acquiring the proficiency required to adequately defend oneself requires a level of commitment and effort that exceeds what most students are able or willing to commit to. Instead, by focusing on well-being I can affect the lives of all my students. 
What experiences from outside the dojo do you bring to your training/teaching?
The biggest outside influence on my karate has been yoga. Over and above the immediate benefits of strength, flexibility and balance it improved my body awareness and taught me how to use my body better. I often use yoga in lessons for both warm-up and warm-down.
How does karate influence your life outside the dojo?
Life outside the dojo is just intervals between training. 
What is your favourite part/aspect of karate training?
I always leave the dojo feeling happier than when I entered it, whether after training or teaching. It is that feeling of elation that for me is the best part of karate and also the yardstick for measuring how good the session was.
Do you have a favourite exercise/drill/kata?
I love kata and I love all kata. They are somewhat like children: they are all different, and all have their unique personalities, but you end up enjoying all of them albeit each one a little bit differently.
How would your students describe you/your lessons/club?
I would love to know. They must like it, because they keep coming back. Our sessions take place relatively late (8-9:30pm) and often students come to me after the lesson and say: “I almost didn’t come because I was too tired from a long day, but I’m glad that I did and I feel better for it”, which to me is the greatest compliment.
What challenges/ambitions do you have?
Being a young club, we’ve not yet had a “homegrown” black belt, which is a milestone I’m looking forward to.
Do you have any particularly memorable highlights of your karate career (so far)?

Karate has been such a pervasive theme in my life ever since I started training that there are just too many moments to choose from. I hope and wish that Shotorama will top them all.

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