Looking from the Outside In


In the previous chapters of this book, I have described events and people from my own point of view. For a change of pace, I decided to take a different approach in this chapter. Included in these pages are profiles written by people who have been kind enough to write down their reactions to my schools and my teaching style. Instead of looking at things from the inside out, in other words, now you will have a chance to see how things look from the outside in.

Written near the end of the twentieth century:

Our son has been involved in karate instruction since January of 1997. We attended an authentic Japanese karate school that was located in La Vista, Nebraska, but has since changed locations and now is off Harrison Street in Omaha.

We, like other parents, were under-educated in the different styles of karate and the belt advancement requirements that each school adopts.

We had to make the tough decision to withdraw our son from his former school after disagreeing with the owner regarding contract requirements The rules on the renewal contract changed several times in a time frame of just a few days. First the owner required payment for a full 12 months up front, then an 18% loan through a bank he contacted, then a 3-month installment payment or you could choose a high monthly rate. "NO CONTRACT REQUIRED" simply means that if you don't sign a contract, you pay A LOT per month.... check details carefully.

The school moved and changed names. The name reflects Shaolin Kempo Karate now, whereas before it reflected authentic Japanese karate. The name changed, but we did not notice a change in the style of teaching. At Christopher N. Geary's Shaolin Kempo Karate school, it's a whole new different style. It's a much more usable self-defense technique.

At Sensei Geary's, when you sign a contract you sign it only once and your fee NEVER goes up, not in 1 year or 15 years. There are no additional testing fees, no "stripes to earn." You go from belt to belt, with no in-between additional testing fees for earning stripes.

It is imperative to check the school's credentials with your better business bureau, and most importantly, talk with other students and their parents. Take time to visit the school and visit with the instructors. There are no regulations for karate schools in Nebraska, which means that anyone can make a copy of a black belt certificate and claim to be an instructor.

After just a few short weeks at Christopher N. Geary's school, I have seen a drastic improvement in my son's martial arts style and technique.

Sensei Geary not only maintains strict control of the classes but also shows compassion and flexibility towards each student as an individual.

If anyone has further questions, please feel free to contact us through the school.

Bob and Lisa Roth

December 3, 2004

To walk into Shihan (Master, Teacher’s Teacher) Christopher N. Geary’s dojo on the edge of Omaha is to walk into a contradiction, and contradiction in many senses is the best word I can think of to describe this enigmatic and compelling individual.

Forget your Mr. Miyagi fantasies of ‘paint the fence’ and ‘sand the floor.’ This is no wooden floor, cedar paneled dojo. In fact, the style is almost completely opposite of the Japanese style. Gone is the Zen minimalism and the focus on austerity. In its place is the sumptuous and luxurious trappings of the French Louis XIV style, complete with gilded statuary and ornately framed art by the masters. It is here that we catch a glimpse of the mind of Shihan Geary.

The dojo speaks of a person who is confident with being true to himself. Rather than take the external ‘signature’ of Japanese karate-do and use them as a ‘prop’ to build the illusion of prestige, Shihan Geary sees clearly through to the heart of things and takes this as a starting point. What matters is not decoration or architecture, but beauty. Beauty of form, beauty of technique, beauty in a job well done. Shihan Geary is not likely to talk about beauty but in himself and his students there is a drive for perfection which he sees as a beautiful thing and a turning away from the routine, the half-hearted and the sloppy—which he has described more than once as being like something he “saw in a nightmare!”

Shihan Geary carries this sense of contradiction through into his relationships with his students. To the casual observer, he may seem aloof and stern, but to the one who spends time with him, the subtle signs of a deeply caring person soon emerge: a half smile from a shared joke with a student; pushing when a student wants to slack off and taking the student to a new level of realization—not because he can force someone beyond their limits, but because he cares about the student seeing that they can excel; putting the needs of the student over and above his own needs. Shihan Christopher N. Geary is all these things and more.

This contradiction fuses to become a comprehensive whole. Walk into Shihan Christopher N. Geary’s dojo and you walk into a dojo steeped in tradition, founded on mutual respect between the student and the master, and rooted firmly in the desire for beauty through excellence. All these things lay at the heart of Kempo, and all these things are exemplified in Shihan Geary’s schools. Just don’t look too hard for any shoji or tatami!

David M. Wallace

April 12, 2005

This is an open letter that I hope will be helpful to individuals who are looking to enroll themselves or their children in a martial arts school.

When my wife and I started looking into martial arts instruction for our then 6-year-old son, we took a practical approach. To be honest, the first thing we looked for was a school that was fairly close to our home. We found two schools in our part of Omaha that taught the type of martial arts we were interested in having our son study.

After narrowing down our choices, we decided to see if either school had a website where we could do a little more research. We easily found the website for one of the martial arts schools, Christopher N. Geary’s Shaolin Kempo Karate. Both my wife and I were very impressed with the website and its content. The site provided historical information on the art of Shaolin Kempo Karate as well as an extensive biography of the Founder/Instructor. Reading about the accomplishments of Shihan Geary helped us understand his commitment to his art, his school, and his students.

We then turned our efforts to finding a website for the other school we were considering, but we were disappointed when we were unable to find any website whatsoever. One thing I found very interesting about these two karate schools was the fact that one instructor was very open about his bio and provided a detailed description of his accomplishments including his current ranks, his assistant instructors and their credentials, while the other did not make this information available. I also found it interesting that Christopher N. Geary's website included a pictorial history of his progress from his beginnings to his current rank. This made a very strong impression upon my wife and me. Anyone who is willing to spend a significant amount of time and money building and maintaining a website with such depth and breadth of information had to be proud of his accomplishments and not afraid to show it. Having this type of information available allowed us to verify that the founder’s martial arts credentials were authentic. I know that many people perceive a martial arts instructor as someone who is humble and reserved (like Mr. Miyagi from Karate Kid) but I've found that an instructor who is willing to share his journey through his martial arts career is more appealing to me because it gives me a way to validate his qualifications and credentials.

After doing our Internet research, we visited each school on a different night to get a feel for the school, the instructor, and the teaching environment. After visiting both schools, it was very easy for us to make our choice. We chose Christopher N. Geary’s school over the other for a couple of reasons. Both my wife and I were impressed with the school and its decor. The appearance and decor of the school reflect a commitment to the founder’s students and his art. We also found the instructor’s emphasis on discipline, respect, and tradition to be appealing, as both my wife and I feel these are very important qualities that are hard to find in today’s society.

When comparing Christopher N. Geary’s school to the other school, we noticed that the other school’s decor was uninviting. There was no personalization to the school, which made us question the instructor’s commitment to his school. It almost appeared as though this was his second job and he didn’t have much time to devote to it. Something else we noticed was that the instructor did not allow observers to be in the same room as the students. He had walled off a small section of the entryway and placed a glass window in the wall to allow observers to watch a class in session. As a parent and paying customer, I would not want to compete with others to view my son’s instruction. There didn’t seem to be much insistence on discipline in this school either, as there were no verbal or posted rules that we could see. Christopher N. Geary’s school had posted rules that all students and observers were expected to follow. Rules as simple as removing your shoes and placing them neatly outside, folding your coat and storing it neatly under a chair, or removing your hat are not hard to carry out. Just the same, they are rules that must be followed, and instilling a respect for rules in my child is a valuable lifelong lesson that will help him as he grows.

In choosing a martial arts school, we also asked for input from our son. What we found very interesting, and what speaks volumes, is the fact that our 6-year-old son was ready to leave after only 20 minutes of observation at the other school. While we were at Christopher N. Geary’s school our son expressed no desire to leave and we stayed for the entire session.

After visiting both schools, we knew which school we wanted to send him to, but we also wanted our son’s opinion. He chose Christopher N. Geary’s school.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this letter, I hope this information will be helpful to other Omaha parents in their quest to find a martial arts school for their child or themselves. I felt it important to share my experience, as this is a significant investment in your child and their well being. A good instructor is open and willing to share everything. I would much prefer to know who is teaching my child and to feel confident that he is committed to his work.

Jay Christiansen

June 30, 2005

When I was young, I used to watch those badly dubbed movies on kung-fu theater, wishing I could do just half of the things I saw the fighters doing. One thing about these movies stuck with me through the years: Shaolin. That was the name of the temple that the best fighters invariably came from. As I grew older, I never entirely lost interest in the movies, although they took a back seat to other priorities.

Several years ago, I finally reached a point in my life personally as well as financially that afforded me the opportunity to pursue my goal of studying the martial arts. A friend of mine was taking kick-boxing lessons at the time, so I picked his brain as to what he would recommend. He said that although there were a lot of different styles out there, it was his opinion that the most impressive of these was Kempo. What impressed him was the fluidity of motion of the seasoned practitioner as well as the destructive effect of the various techniques. He advised that if I wanted to see an example, I should watch the movie “The Perfect Weapon” starring Jeff Speakman.

I subsequently rented the movie, watched it, and became convinced that this was the style for me. It didn’t appear to be too flashy or extravagant, yet it seemed very effective. My next step was the local phone book where I found Christopher N. Geary’s Shaolin Kempo Karate. I called and was invited to come to the school and observe one of the classes. My first visit only served to solidify my belief that this was the style for me. I didn’t feel the need to check out any other martial arts schools around town, because I had found what I was looking for at Christopher N. Geary’s.

I signed up for a twelve-month membership, attending class twice a week. The instruction was tailored to my specific learning style, as it is for all students. I began to feel more confident, focused, and centered, not just in my martial arts studies but in all other aspects of my personal and professional life. The change took place gradually. As I put more effort into my studies, I realized more and more that what I was learning and doing in class carried over and touched all other aspects of my life.

It didn’t take long before I realized that I wanted my children in class as well. My daughter was the first one of my kids that I signed up with the admonition, “You can’t date until you get your black belt.” She is reaping the aforementioned benefits of martial arts instruction as well, experiencing gains in ability as well as the scholastic improvements realized from improved focus and concentration. My son was pretty jealous of his older sister, so we signed him up a year later when he turned six. He is also enjoying the benefits of his martial arts instruction.

It soon became apparent to me that our family would be in it for the long term. I decided to take advantage of a program called “The Black Belt Club.” To join this program, I paid a lump sum fee in exchange for no monthly payments until I reach the rank of Shodan, my first black belt. A short time later I upgraded my membership to “The Master’s Club.” For this program, like the Black Belt Club, I paid a lump sum fee. However, under the upgrade, I am now entitled to lifetime instruction at any location in Omaha. The only other costs I will incur are those associated with the purchase of uniforms, belts, and other personal supplies. No testing fees, no hidden costs, nothing. With my upgrade, I decided to enroll my daughter in the Black Belt Club as well, providing her the additional opportunity to achieve her goals.

I am very impressed with the quality of instruction I am receiving at Christopher N. Geary’s. I attend classes at both of Shihan Geary’s schools in Omaha, under the instruction of Shihan Geary and Sensei Steiner. Both of Shihan Geary’s schools teach the same technique but with different points of emphasis offering complementary instruction. Shihan Geary’s school is the “Dragon School” located at 180th and Pacific Street. The characteristics of the Dragon are wisdom and flexibility, two qualities that Shihan Geary emphasizes in his instruction. The techniques are broken down to their root movements, which allows the student to see how natural and adaptable they are. Sensei Steiner teaches at the “Tiger School” located at 138th and West Maple. The characteristics of the Tiger are strength and courage, points of emphasis with Sensei Steiner. The basics are also taught and broken down to their root elements but with more of a focus on power.

At some other schools you may see higher-ranked students leading or teaching class. This is not the case at Christopher N. Geary’s schools. The instruction at both schools is hands-on with Shihan Geary and Sensei Steiner taking an active role, leading the class and teaching the technique. When you consider that Shihan Geary has achieved the rank of Shichidan (7th-degree black belt) in his style and Rokudan (6th-degree black belt) in two other styles and Sensei Steiner has achieved the rank of Yondan (4th-degree black belt), the personal instruction is even more meaningful.

When someone first walks into Shihan Geary’s school, the corporate headquarters at 180th and Pacific, they may feel overwhelmed by the décor and maybe even a little intimidated by it. However, I’ve found that after a while one develops a sense of security, a feeling of belonging. The same may be said when meeting Shihan Geary for the first time. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that his intentions are honorable and his focus is on doing whatever it takes to succeed. He measures his success not only by his own achievements but also those of his students. When they succeed, so does he.

I can say with confidence that I have found the right martial arts style for me. More importantly, I have found the right school as well. I would recommend the art of Kempo to anyone interested in studying the martial arts. If I were asked which school is the best, without hesitation my answer would be Christopher N. Geary’s Shaolin Kempo Karate.

Jim O’Connell

Chapter 10Table of ContentsChapter 12