An Interview with
Kyoshi Joseph Craig
Interviewed by Eric Myles
Joseph Craig is a New York based Martial Artist and has been practicing the art and science of Karate since childhood. He has and continues to teach seminars throughout the United States. Master Craig is currently teaching in Hawaii where he resides. To see his performance of the art of Karate is to see his passion come to life before you. He moves with the grace and power of a seasoned professional that he is. His movements are the result of countless hours of dedication to basics and it is apparent that his knowledge is at a high level of understanding. When speaking to him you gain insight into many areas of his life experience, which seem to stem from his practice of Karate. Master Craig definitely personifies the phrase Karate is not what I do, Karate is who I am. We here at Martialforce.com are excited to bring you his interview and hope you enjoy it, thank you!
Martialforce: At what age did you begin training in Martial Arts and why and with whom did you study?
JOSEPH CRAIG: I began at the age of eight at the local Y.M.C.A. located in Park Slope Brooklyn on Ninth Street. My first instructor was a man named Sensei Paul Pleister in the art of Judo. I then studied with Sensei Prince Hill who was a student of Grand Master James Santiago. He taught a system called Tetsuko Karate. I earned my green belt in two years with Sensei Hill. I then started JidoKwan-TaeKwonDo with Master Nelson Howe who was a student of Grand Master S.Henry Cho. Within this time period I was also studying in USA and Japanese Goju with Master Eddie Morales. Master Morales encouraged me to do yoga and other martial arts with other instructors like Master Lou Ferrer in Vee-Jitsu Ryu, Master Shigeru Oyama in Kyokushin Karate, Chinese American Goju with Master William Louie and Kobudo with Master Anthony Marquez. I started teaching at 14 years of age at Bishop Laughlin High School. The original instructor teaching was Sensei Eddie Banks (Wu shin ryu) but he graduated.
Martialforce: Where are you originally from?
JOSEPH CRAIG: I am originally from Brooklyn New York and my family came from Cuba. I am Afro Cuban-American.
Martialforce: What style of Martial Arts do you practice?
JOSEPH CRAIG: Judo, USA & Japanese Goju, Tae Kwon Do, Kyokushin Karate and Okinawan Kobudo.
Martialforce: Do you cross train regarding weights, running or any other physical activity?
JOSEPH CRAIG: Yes I do, I enjoy doing compound exercises in regards to weight training to prevent injuries as well as correct certain postural deviations. I enjoy running every morning 2-4 miles. I swim three times a week for approximately one mile. Traditional Hatha Yoga is my secret to flexibility. Kata is my main and dedicated practice in regards to Karate. I live in Hawaii so I also surf; canoe and bike ride regularly as well as playing tennis. I am training in preparation for the Iron Man Contest in October of 2010. This is a competition where you swim 2.6miles,bike 116mi., and run a marathon.
Martialforce: How long have you been practicing Yoga and what got you started?
JOSEPH CRAIG: I have been practicing Yoga since 1984. What’s interesting is that back then my Teacher which I have trained with to this day (Hanshi Eddie Morales) and I were training early morning at the Dojo located at 47 Ann street in Manhattan New York at approximately 6am. At this time he told me that he thought yoga would interest me greatly and would be a natural progression in training for me. I listened to his advice and still practice yoga to this day. I recall after that day I walked into a Yoga studio and the teacher said I had to practice if I wanted to stay. I was in a tuxedo at the moment because I was at an event; needless to say, I practiced in my tuxedo that day.
Martialforce: Our research indicates that you were a tournament competitor. My question is, did you gain anything from tournaments or was it just a pass time?
JOSEPH CRAIG: I gained a lot of knowledge and experience from tournament competition. There were many divisions to compete in, such as breaking, weapons, self-defense; fighting and kata (Pre-arranged set of movements) .I met a lot of talented and gifted people in the tournament setting. The performances were intense because of the quality of competitors doing there absolute best.
I have won many championships in Kata and have also been in various magazines through tournament competitions. I was placed in the 1983 edition of inside Kung Fu for being the only Karate person to enter and win at Wai Hongs Fu Jow Pai tournament/Grand Champion in Kata.
Martialforce: What do you feel is the benefits if any for children training in Martial Arts?
JOSEPH CRAIG: Children can easily learn good habits in regards to courtesy, respect and sportsmanship. It gives them a foundation to build on throughout their lives. I see it as a tremendous empowering tool, which gives them a sense of leadership and responsibility. As a result of training, I have seen my students treat their homework as a great challenge that must be conquered to progress in life. They show me their report cards, as it is mandatory for continued practice. I have witnessed many improvements in all areas of their lives.
At a Seminar in Allentown P.A. 2002
Martialforce: Do you think that Martial Arts today is any different as oppose to practice twenty years ago and if so, Why?
JOSEPH CRAIG: Yes, it is different for a multitude of reasons, one being the level of respect that people had when they trained in a traditional dojo. Now it is related to fitness and it is condensed to MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), which does not have the depth and mental discipline that is found in maintaining a low stance without moving. It seems as if every one thinks it is all about fighting and there are more people admiring what they see on Television regarding the violent content. Children who do not understand that Martial Arts is a way of exploring the inner self. They see this on television and view it as ego and physical power equals win. They gain no concept of working and developing from within. It has been my experience that all the senses are heightened through sensitivity and not from how good you can take a shot to the head.
Martialforce: What is the main reason you continue to train?
JOSEPH CRAIG: I train for self-preservation as well as honoring the old masters that have entrusted us the Teachers to teach ultimately inner peace through allowing the natural aggression to be channeled. I enjoy hard training because it keeps me humble to realize we never arrive. There is always something to work on or refine.
Martialforce: Do you currently teach Martial Arts?
JOSEPH CRAIG: Yes I do, and I have a tendency to progressively push my students through what I view as real transformations both physical and mental, seeing each movement as a reflection in the mirror of the mind. I always say with belief, “strong roots-strong branches.”
Martialforce: Do you find that most people learn Martial Arts for defense or as a way to stay healthy?
JOSEPH CRAIG: It has been my experience that both have been the quest, depending on the student. Most people want to learn how to use this energy because they sense that the body could be developed in such a way to increase mental awareness and physical reflex. The majority of people want to feel the innocence and know it is a clean way of life with mastery over the unity of mind and body. Being respectful makes even adults feel like a child wondrously learning about there body all over again with a different awareness. Discovering their strengths and understanding and or embracing their weakness. Everyone in my opinion, want a sense of personal power!
Martialforce: What would you say to someone that is interested in learning in regards to what they will gain from its practice?
JOSEPH CRAIG: The most important thing that is learned first and foremost is self-respect, which leads naturally to respect for others. They will learn to honor themselves in an extraordinary way that will give them a greater sense of purpose. The newfound belief in their abilities both physically and mentally will take them to new levels to explore. A strength of character is gained through determination needed to face the difficult challenges. One example is conquering fear and realizing that it is False Evidence Appearing Real. It can be compared to being reborn like the Phoenix rising from the ashes of the old self!
Martialforce: What do you hope to see in the near future regarding martial arts and its practice?
JOSEPH CRAIG: I hope to see the ancient wisdom that still holds true to this day combined with the most modern scientific developments. To me that means understanding the anatomy of the body as well as physiology and being able to combine these things with a deep understanding. For example, the ancient ones knew about the pineal gland and it its spiritual functions but in modern science it’s only known that it secretes melatonin during the nocturnal hours. Giving it a more in-depth study can give an instructor the insight to understand that doing a certain exercise is contraindicated which in fact could create more problems medically than is best for service to the students. So my attitude is that we become masters of service to our students needs, not wants.
Martialforce: If you could relive your life from childhood, do you feel as if martial arts would be part of your life?
JOSEPH CRAIG: Absolutely! The Martial Arts have been a major influence in my life because I was one of those Children who had too much energy.
Martialforce: Where do you see yourself in ten years regarding life and or martial arts?
JOSEPH CRAIG: I definitely see myself going even deeper into the study of all facets that are complimentary in regards to harnessing the human beings hidden power through meditation and concentration. I see myself developing a unique form of Martial Arts that encompasses Traditional Chinese medicine, metaphysical aspects of yoga, Neuro-linguistic science as well as quantum physics with modern scientific methods of training the body. All the components that I have mentioned are within the arts but with less placed emphasis and understanding. My goal is to use Martial Arts as a medium for conflict resolution within someone who has non-verbal response. I guess it’s the same as fitness, which is living it and teaching others to live their truth through discipline and movement.
Martialforce: Do you have any words for our readers?
JOSEPH CRAIG: Yes I do, “live each day as if it was your last. Always remember to have an attitude, of gratitude.”
Let your mantra (Positive Affirmation) be “THANK YOU”!!!
I am thankful everyday I wake up and feel devoted to knowing and being. If you are a Martial Artist and practice one hour you should be able to meditate for an equal amount of time to balance the body and mind. If you are a Karateka, please read the Bubishi as it contains much information.
Martialforce: Thank you for this interview and we wish you the best in your future.