“To say that karate changed my life is an understatement. Everyone has something that has truly impacted their life, but the effect that karate has had on me is beyond any other significant experience in my life. Karate became a permanent fixture in my life that pours out into all facets of my life. I started karate when I was 7 with the support of my dad who was looking to ‘toughen’ me up. Allegheny Shotokan was the first dojo that I tried. Although faint in my memory, my dad remembers and enjoys recounting the tale of my first days in the dojo. He remembers Sensei Bill Jr. holding a target for me to punch and how wimpy and embarrassed I looked just punching a target. Despite my lack of memory of specific moments in my early years, I do remember my overall sentiments of that time period. A total lack of confidence imbued my day-to-day life. I was very insecure but going to the dojo a few times a week, week-in and week-out became part of my routine. I was unsure of my level of interest in karate in the beginning but was encouraged by my family and Senseis at the dojo. My mom told me stories of my Japanese grandpa who was a black belt in judo. Practicing karate began to feel like an obligation to his legacy. In addition, Shihan was a constant for me. I could always rely on him to deliver a tough workout that pushed my limits. This wasn’t a typical workout though because I could feel that he really believed in every one of his students including me. Sometimes I felt that it was especially me. Shihan has always rooted for the underdogs, and I met that description. My support system was strong, and that was essential for me excelling in karate. One of my first memories was winning first place in both kata and sparring at my first tournament, Bill Viola Sr.’s tournament. A huge boost of confidence for me, those victories gave me the boost I needed to stick with karate. I was in it for the long haul.
The discipline and tenacity I learned in the dojo affected all areas of my life. I became more determined and never backed down from a challenge. At the time I played a lot of soccer, and I remember my coaches praising me for never backing down to an opponent despite me being the smallest kid on the field. I did well in school and excelled in extra-curricular activities such as piano and Boy Scouts. I never accept mediocre, and I attribute much of my attitude to my training in the dojo. My senseis never expected anything less than excellence and I, in turn, demand that same level of performance from myself. I received my Shodan black belt in March of 2010. Upon earning this belt, I realized that there are no limits. If you work hard for something, Lord-willing, you will accomplish it. Karate created a mentality of pure will-power. The principles I learned from this art are something that I can never unlearn. They are ingrained in my psyche, and I am a better man for it. Whenever I am confronted with something with which I have no experience, I do not shy away which is the natural human reaction, to reject what is foreign. I take on the challenge and strive to be the best at whatever it may be. This attitude has driven me to success in all areas of my life from finishing my undergraduate degree at Grove City College to continuing to work on a start-up business I founded, The Piano Sensei. No matter what obstacles lay in my way, I have total confidence not only that I will overcome them, but that I will dominate them. Allegheny Shotokan is truly in the business of making “Champions in Life.” The quality instruction and training I received prepared me to command my destiny, and the success I experience in my endeavors is a testament to the dedication they have to each of their students.”
-Sensei Connor Burns