In 1960, Ron Helwig and Sherman Courtney opened the York Shotokan Karate Club. The first dojo was located in a rented barn just east of the school’s present site. In 1976, Sensei/Master Tony Abel became the Chief Instructor of the school. Under Sensei Abel’s leadership, the school curriculum evolved to incorporate a variety of techniques from various martial art styles. It is the philosophy of Sensei Abel that his students need to be “well-oiled machines” and have the ability to adapt to any environment. Sensei Abel, a former Emergency Medical Technician and Paramedic, also incorporated his medical background into the school curriculum. By understanding the anatomy and physiology of the human body, it was believed that the students would be better able to understand where and how to strike, as well as, the anatomical affect the attack would have on the human body.
Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s Sensei Abel enjoyed a successful and notable fighting career actively competing throughout the United States and Internationally. Noteworthy accomplishments include serving as a team captain and competitor in numerous championships worldwide; and, opportunities to train with a variety of instructors across many different styles and disciplines including instructors from the former KGB in Russia. Sensei Abel integrated his unique experiences and diverse knowledge into his teaching methods. The York Shotokan Karate Club continued to grow and in 1991 relocated to a 4,750 square foot first rate facility, its present location.
After years of teaching ground fighting, stand-up, pressure point tactics, joint manipulation, throws & sweeps, etc. of many other fighting styles including Judo, Kenpo, Kung Fu, Hapkido, Krav Maga, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, to name a few, the York Shotokan Karate Club transitioned to York Shotokan Karate and Mixed Martial Arts in 2010 to better reflect our varied approach. York Shotokan Karate & Mixed Martial Arts is a not-for-profit organization.
To provide the highest quality martial arts instruction to our students so that they can effectively defend themselves regardless of age, gender or physical ability. Our mission is to encourage and motivate our students to grow physically, mentally and spiritually. We inspire our students to live a life centered on the concepts of integrity, respect, humility, patience and discipline. We are committed to providing the finest instruction at the most affordable rates, in a first class facility.
The goal of our youth programs is to create a sound foundation for children’s physical growth and psychological development. Our goal is to equip our students with the knowledge and skills necessary to help safeguard their physical well-being. Students are motivated and encouraged to improve their focus, learn self-control, self-respect and develop an increased sense of responsibility and respect for others.
Why Choose Us?
The popularity of the martial arts has led to an explosion of martial arts schools. But how do you choose which school is right for you? There are many important things to consider when making your decision: 1) the quality of instruction; 2) qualifications of the instructors; 3) the location and facilities; 4) and, the philosophy and values of the school.
A head instructor (or Sensei) should have attained sufficient rank to thoroughly understand the martial arts system taught at the school. The instructor’s rank should also be qualified by their time in training. The York Shotokan Karate and Mixed Martial Arts School is under the leadership of Sensei Master Tony Abel, 7th Dan. Sensei Abel has dedicated more than 40+ years to the study of the martial arts. A successful fighting career exposed him to many fighting styles and self-defense techniques from across many disciplines. The school curriculum now incorporates grappling, throwing and ground fighting techniques indicative of the Judo style; the redirection of force and fluid movements found in Aikido and Kung Fu; as well as a variety of throws and submission techniques, joint locks and restraints, and vital point strikes.
Master Abel’s reputation for quality instruction led to his appointment as a defensive tactics instructor for law enforcement throughout Pennsylvania; an instructor for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Narcotics Investigation Special Operations Group; a Pennsylvania State Police Lethal Weapons and Defensive Tactics Instructor; and, Instructor at the Harrisburg Area Community College Department of Public Safety, Municipal Police Academy.
In 1991 York Shotokan built a 4,750 square foot facility, conveniently located approximately 5 miles from downtown York. The school provides a fully equipped and spacious training hall with a traditional wooden floor and professional grade mats for the practice of throwing and ground fighting techniques. Our facilities are maintained to ensure a comfortable and safe learning environment. Additional amenities include a men’s and ladies locker room and restroom, as well as, a spectator seating area.
At York Shotokan our school philosophy and values are simple. Our priority is to teach students how to effectively defend themselves in any situation. We incorporate a variety of styles and techniques that provide a vast array of self-defense skills. The psychology of fighting is analyzed and studied so students can recognize and employ verbal and physical skills to avoid unsafe situations. In addition, the instructors emphasize character development and the importance of seeking inner peace, humility and self-confidence.
There are martial arts franchises out there that will guarantee you a black belt in one year, we are not one. Anyone can learn how to punch and kick and the most basic self-defense skills can be performed with relative ease in a short amount of time. A true ‘black belt’ is not measured solely on one’s ability to defend themselves. A true ‘black belt’ is one who radiates an inner peace and self-confidence, who is humble but self-assured. To earn a black belt without encompassing the entire scope is nothing more than earning a piece of cloth to be worn around the waist. A York Shotokan black belt is only awarded to those who successfully complete a progression of advancement tests that require the practitioner to learn how to control emotion, manage fear, perform under pressure, and a variety of other skills which cannot be rushed or achieved without years of persistence and dedication. The growth is in the journey.
The Development Of Shotokan Karate
The origins of Karate can be traced back through the centuries from modern Japan via Okinawa to China, and possibly to India in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. About fourteen centuries ago, Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen Buddhism, left western India, penetrating mountain ranges including the Himalayas, and crossing un-bridged rivers through complete wilderness to travel to China to present lectures on Buddhism. Since even present roads between India and China would not be described as good, one can imagine the greatness of his spirit and physical strength – so great that he was able to conquer with such courage this difficult several thousand-mile journey alone. Bodhidharma traveled for many years from one temple to another, searching for the ideal place to teach his philosophy. Not only did he carry with him the ideals of Zen Buddhism, but also Indian fighting techniques combined with the breathing methods used in Zen and Yoga.
In later years, he traveled to the Shaolin Temple in the Hunan province of northern China. It was there that the monks, who accepted him and desired to hear him lecture on the ways of Zen Buddhism, took him in. After a time, a great many of his followers fell in exhaustion from the harshness of his training. Finding that his students lacked both the physical and mental stamina to withstand the rigors of Zen, Bodhidharma devised a system of physical training to develop these qualities.The system involved a combination of Yoga breathing techniques and native Chinese unarmed combat known as Kempo, a term designating all Chinese boxing. Many of the fighting techniques took their form from animals such as the tiger, the bear, the deer, the monkey and birds.
As a result of Bodhidharma’s training methods, the monks of Shaolin became as famous throughout China for their fighting skills as for their Buddhist knowledge.The Chinese were highly advanced in the field of medicine, their acupuncture procedures demonstrated knowledge of the various nerve centers of the body, and Kempo benefited from being able to apply its fighting techniques to these vulnerable points. As the techniques spread throughout the vast and varied country, they gradually assumed different forms according to the local conditions. The short, stocky paddy field workers of the south, with their strong upper bodies, naturally emphasized arm and hand techniques.In contrast, the nomadic horsemen of the northern areas of China, having developed strong legs, gave precedence to kicking and jumping. The origins of the different styles of Kung Fu and Karate were already apparent.The northern Chinese styles also strongly influenced the developing ideals of Korean Karate of Tae Kwon Do. These teachings eventually spread to the Ryukyu Islands, including Okinawa, the main island of the chain.Okinawa’s unique geographical position, as well as, the two periods in its history when the use or ownership of weapons was forbidden are major reasons for the high degree of development of Karate in this location. In Okinawa fighting was less class based than it was in Japan, and Buddhism was never particularly popular. There was also much less philosophizing associated with marital arts then was to become the case in Japan. In Okinawa, it was purely and simply of form of combat.
Many styles evolved in different parts of Okinawa. Following an Okinawan tour by the Japanese emperor in 1917, Gichin Funakoshi, the leader of one style, was invited to Japan by the Minister of Education to give demonstrations. If there is one man who could be credited with placing Karate into the position it enjoys in the Japanese mainland today, it is Gichin Funakoshi. Master Funakoshi taught only one method, a total discipline that represented a synthesis of Okinawan Karate and Chinese styles. He was born in Shuri, Okinawa in 1868, and didn’t even begin his second life as harbinger of official recognition for karate in Japan until he was fifty-three years old. All of his early presentations were to groups of intellectuals. They were so well received that in 1923, he returned to take up permanent residence in Japan. At first, Funakoshi rented Judo and Kendo halls for his clubs, but such was his popularity that in 1936 he opened a permanent dojo. This became known as the “Shotokan” or Shoto’s house or hall, Shoto being Funakoshi’s pen name. Shotokan was also to become the name of the style he practiced. In 1955, one of his most gifted students, Master Tsutmo Oshima, left Japan to teach karate in the United States. Master Gichin Funakoshi died on April 26th, 1957. As a result of his pioneering efforts and his greatness in Karate, he is today recognized as the father of modern karate.
The Dojo Kun
On the walls of virtually all karate training halls in Japan hangs a set of precepts known as the “Dojo Kun” or school’s code of conduct. The dojo kun is said to have originated with an Okinawan karate master known as Kanga Sakugawa (or Sakukawa) (1733-1815). They state the following maxims: (1) seek perfection of character, (2) be faithful, (3) endeavor, (4) respect others, and (5) refrain from violent behavior. According to karate tradition there are rules by which a karate-ka is supposed to live.
The first, “seek perfection of character”, indicates that the art is more than just physical. Through rigorous training, the spirit to fight and succeed will be developed. Along with this fierce competitive spirit should come the realization that one’s strength is great, and to use it and karate against the uninitiated is unfair. The practitioner should seek to subdue his mind as well as conquer the intricacies of body movement. For the spirit in the face of adversity will provide lifetime benefits. Even in old age when the body is no longer able to perform as well, the spirit can continue to grow.
To “be faithful” evidences a strong samurai tradition and, by extension, a Confucianist strain in the martial arts. In this sense, the faith to be shown is faith in one’s instructors and seniors. The students must always be faithful to them and follow in much the same way as a medieval samurai was bound to follow his feudal lord. While this may seem unusual in the present day, it is unreasonable to expect an instructor to extend himself fully and teach all he knows to one who was likely to leave for the slightest reason. The faith extended to the instructor will be rewarded in that a greater amount of knowledge will be transmitted to the student. This bond between teacher and student is extremely valuable and is the basis of the learning relationship.
The “endeavor” mentioned in the Dojo Kun refers to the complete dedication to the effort necessary to achieve mastery of the martial art. In no case is mastery possible without strenuous effort on the part of the practitioner. This endeavor must be a sincere nature and not just superficial. Serious endeavor on the part of the student will be recognized by the instructor, who will in turn spend more time with him.
Respect for others is common to the Japanese fighting system in particular. It is frequently said that the martial arts begin and end with etiquette. This is a reflection of the formal nature of the Japanese people and may be observed in the manner in which they conduct themselves in training sessions and generally in the presence of one another. Dojo etiquette is particularly well defined, requiring all who enter the training hall pause and bow to the memory of past masters, usually memorialized in photographs or paintings at the front of the practice area. Prior to the beginning of class, students and instructors line up before the photographs, kneel, and meditate. They bow to the memory of past masters and then to one another from the kneeling position. This courtesy continues throughout the training session. Whenever an exercise, drill, or kata that uses two people or more is performed, it always begins and ends with a bow. Additionally, the bowing ceremony is repeated at the end of training after closing period of meditation.
It is the responsibility of all trained practitioners to “refrain from violent behavior” since a trained fighter can inflict serious injury upon others. The goal of karate training is self-mastery, including mastery of one’s behavior. In situations where it is necessary to defend oneself, non-violent alternatives may not be possible. However, the tradition handed down down by great teachers indicates that after a life of training, they felt that they had failed if they were forced to resort to violent actions against a fellow man, no matter how justified such actions may have been.
In the present day, refraining from violence is hard to explain to Westerners. Many people take up the art of karate with the purpose of hurting others; and, they wish to learn how to do so as quickly as possible. It is therefore necessary for instructors to remember the Dojo Kun and to impress it upon their students. The Japan Karate Association has shortened the Dojo Kun and labeled it as their five guiding maxims. In abbreviated form they are Character, Sincerity, Effort, Etiquette, and Self-Control.
Genealogy of York Shotokan Karate and Mixed Martial Arts
Master Tony R. Abel
3195 E.Prospect Road
1976-Present : York Shotokan Mixed Martial Arts, York, PA
Owner and Chief Instructor
Master Blackbelt instructor (Sensei) of the oldest martial arts school in Central Pennsylvania. Seventh degree Blackbelt with more than 40+ years experience and training in the martial arts. Basic and advanced self defense seminar instructor.
- Defensive tactics instructor for law enforcement and security personnel throughout Pennsylvania.
- Former instructor for the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office, Bureau of Narcotics Investigation, Special Operations Group.
- Pennsylvania State Certified Lethal Weapons Instructor.
- Certified by Pennsylvania State Police, Defensive Tactics Instructor.
- Instructor at the Harrisburg Area Community College, Department of Public Safety, Municipal Police Academy.
- Provide executive protection and private security services for the following (including but not limited to): NASCAR personalities including Rusty Wallace and Sterling Marlin. The rock band Live
- Head of security for ten consecutive years for the Hawaiian Tropic Model Search.
1995-Present : International Martial Arts College, USA Division, York, PA.
Coordinated the selection of highly skilled martial artists from throughout the United States to represent America for International competition. Duties also included the training and management of the team(s). www.imacusa.net
1994 – Present : International Martial Arts College, St. Petersburg, Russia
Performed educational seminars, conducted Blackbelt promotion exams; and, coordinated countries from around the world for international competitions including:
- Co-organizer of Open Championship Tournament, Siberia, Russia
- Organizer of the United States team for Latin American Karate Championships in Caracas, Venezuela
- Founded International Martial Arts “Common Bond” tournament, York, PA
- Co-organized 2nd and 3rd International Martial Arts “Free Russia” tournaments, St. Petersburg, Russia
1977-1979 : St. Joseph’s Hospital, Lancaster, PA
Advanced Life Support Paramedic
Assigned to the Emergency Room, Intensive Care Unit and Mobile Intensive Care Unit. Recognized as one of the first eight individuals chartered by the State of Pennsylvania to perform Pre-Hospital Advanced Life Support. Served as a consultant to York Memorial Hospital and assisted in establishing the first Mobile Intensive Care Unit in York County.
This position afforded the advanced training necessary to deal confidently and effectively in crisis situations.
- Harrisburg Community College, 1999 – Education Methodology
- Olin Corporation, 1991 – Total Quality Management (TQM)
- Olin Corporation, 1991 – VAX Computer Training
- Millersville University, 1977-1978 – Cardiology, Pharmacology, Anatomy and Physiology
- St. Joseph’s Hospital, 1977 – Advanced Life Support Paramedic Training & PA Certification
- York Hospital, 1974 – Emergency Medical Technician
- Eastern York High School, 1972
- Certified Instructor – American Red Cross, 1999
- Pennsylvania HAZMAT Technician, 1995 – 2000
- Board of Directors, Make-A-Wish Foundation of South Central Pennsylvania, 1992-1999
- Vice President, Make-A-Wish of South Central Pennsylvania, 1991-1997
- United States Director, Martial Arts Olympics, 2007-present www.imacusa.net
- United States Team Captain and Coach for International Competition 1993-present
- Emergency Medical Technician Instructor – York Hospital, 1976
- Instructor, Instructor/Trainer and Affiliate Faculty – American Heart Association, 1974-1984
- Volunteer Fireman and EMT, 1966-1976
AWARDS and ACHIEVEMENTS:
- 2001, Action Martial Arts Magazine – Outstanding Achievements in the Martial Arts Spirit Awards
- 2000, World Karate Union Hall of Fame – Board of Directors
- 1999, Action Martial Arts Magazine Hall of Fame – Inductee
- 1998, Ranked as Professor with Eurasia Budo Academy, Europe 6th Dan. Germany.
- 1998, World Karate Union Hall of Fame – Inductee
- 1994, USA Team Captain and competitor at the first American-Siberian martial arts tournament; Omsk, Siberia. Gold Medal winning team.
- 1994, USA Team Captain and competitor at the IMAC tournament; Caracas, Venezuela. Silver Medal winning team.
- 1998, Competitor for the USA Karate Federation National Championships at Caesar’s Palace; Las Vegas, NV
- 1993, Competitor and Opening Ceremonies main performer at the 1st Russian-American International Martial Arts “Free Russia” tournament; St.Petersburg, Russia.
- 1988, Competitor for the Amateur Athletic Union, National Championships at Madison Square Garden; New York, NY.
- 1987, Competitor for the U.S. Karate Federation, International Championships; Columbus, OH.
- 1986, Captain and team member of the Pennsylvania Martial Arts Karate team competing at the East Cost Team Championships; Washington, D.C.
- 1983, Pennsylvania Karate Hall of Fame – Vice Chairman
- 1983, Pennsylvania Society of Blackbelts – Vice Chairman
- 1982-1992 Competitor for the York County Brotherhood of Martial Arts Championship. Maintained the Grand Championship title; and, remained undefeated for ten (10) consecutive years.