Sensei Carol Burris started Ladies of Isshin-ryu in 1994 with the first training session held at the Burris Martial Arts Center in Athens, Tennessee. Women from various dojos throughout Tennessee attended with different female instructors from Tennessee dojos leading segments throughout the day, much the same as the format now used during LOI sessions at the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame.
It quickly became clear that women felt empowered when they left the session. Once a year, just women teaching other women proved to be a necessity in a typically male-dominated activity. Kata execution, body positioning, self-defense, kumite drills, and balance enhancement drills were some of the topics covered. Many participants discovered the importance of body positioning and how body position could effectively enhance their ability if in a self-defense situation.
During the early events, women in most typical dojos were viewed as non-contributors to Isshin-ryu. The Burris dojo was fortunate to have a well-rounded mix of men and women, and the women worked hard to overcome the physical barriers of being generally smaller and weaker. Some great fighting occurred during those years, and most of the time the men who were fighting the women had to be at their best during the match. The men developed an appreciation and respect for the women who stayed focused and trained hard. Kata performances throughout the South also improved because women were beginning to understand how to work effectively in the dojo.
Around 2010, Ms. Burris asked the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame board to consider allocating one hour for all of the women who wanted the experience of training with other women from different parts of the country to work together. The sessions were well attended and now LOI seminars are an integral part of the Hall of Fame’s agenda – always on the Friday before the banquet. LOI seminars are geared toward all ages and all ranks. Masters learn from teaching just as students learn from Masters. No participant has ever been charged for attending. It remains today as it was in the 90’s, a venue to help other ladies understand they can become leaders in their dojos and in Isshin-ryu.
The goal of the LOI, now, much like it was in the 90’s, is for women representing various dojos/states to be able to teach each other something to take back to their respective dojos, furthering the growth of Isshin-ryu while demonstrating the importance of LOI to their dojos.
Anyone interested in learning more and/or participating in a LOI event can contact Ms. Burris by phone at (423) 506-1734, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by simply attending the LOI session at the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame in Gatlinburg, TN.