5 Questions with Sensei Michael DeGiso

1. When and where did you start training in martial arts?

I think I was 7 or 8 at the time and that would have been around 1965. The first classes that I attended were in Braintree, MA with my 4 brothers. The instructors at the time were Carmine DiRamio and Forrest Sanborn in the Uechi Ryu System. Then when I was around 11 or 12 we found out that Mattson Academy had started a school in my home town of Brockton and my family (all 5 boys and my father) joined that dojo. The original instructor at that school was Arthur Rebesa but we did not join until Sada and Taka from Japan took over the school. They were very dynamic instructors and were the first to make me fall in love with karate. When they decided to go home to Japan in the early 70’s, Jack Summers took over the school and has had a huge influence on my life.

2. What was an influential experience that helped shape you as an instructor?

Jack Summers was one of the greatest influences of my life in karate and in my other life’s endeavors as well. He allowed me to draw from my own life’s experiences to express myself freely with the art. He always told me to keep the good and throw away the bad. He would remind me that I could learn from anyone including white belts. I have learned to think in concepts and that I can apply my karate training to all aspects of my life. As an instructor, I have learned not to try to make duplicates of myself but to cultivate the strengths of each student and allow them to grow in their own direction. I also believe that you can draw from the other martial arts to help shape your karate style.

3. How has Karate impacted your life?

Karate has had a huge impact on my life. Karate was the first martial art that I focused on and then wrestling came along which was a great compliment to karate. I have been cross training for several years now in BJJ, Maui Thai, wrestling and boxing, but my roots will always be karate. Karate helped me to focus academically, professionally and also as a father and husband. It instilled discipline in my life. The first adversary every day that I have to face is myself and complacency. Karate helps me stay grounded and calm under adverse conditions that I have to face on a daily basis in life.

4. What aspect of Karate are you currently focusing on?

I tend to lean towards the sparring and self-defense side of karate but I know you are not going to believe this but I truly love kata. I am also trying to focus more on breathing. If you learn how to master breathing correctly it will help you remain calm during conflicts. As I get older I am also more interested in the lineage of our system from Pangai-noon and earlier.

5. What advice would you give a new student?

Be patient!!! From the outside Uechi Ryu seems very basic but it is truly a very deep system and takes years to master. It is a life time endeavor but it can truly transform your life.