An End-of-Year Message from Our Executive Director

12.8.2017 by Ryan Libel

Ten percent of our members train with scholarship assistance. Your gift helps ensure karate training is available to all.

At this time of year, we like to take a moment to say thank you for all you do to keep Thousand Waves strong. Our organization thrives because of all the dedicated training, teaching, and volunteerism our community provides.

I also hope you will consider clicking through and making a final financial gift this year to support our important work. The funds you generously provide during this season of giving help us run important programs all year long.

Continue reading our executive director’s message…


I know that, like me, you have been at once heartened and saddened by the many revelations hitting the headlines of powerful men who have abused their positions. In a world where the struggles of most victims of harassment do not occur at the hands of public figures, it gives me great solace to know that the work we do on the karate training floor at Thousand Waves and in our broader Chicago community connects people with an innate strength – a strength that empowers us all to speak truth to power, both for ourselves and on behalf of others.

Currently, 17 black belt instructors, led by Sei Shihan Nancy and Jun Shihan Sarah, teach one or more classes weekly to keep our Seido karate program humming along. About 425 adult and child karate members, about ten percent of whom train with scholarship assistance, comprise our student body. One of the most common threads we find woven throughout the rank promotion essays of our adult students is the way in which doing challenging things on the karate training floor enables us to do challenging things outside the dojo’s walls.

Our ASK program provides kids with disabilities an empowering, physically demanding activity in which they can take pride.

This year, Senpai Sam Boyer has skillfully led the Adapted Seido Karate program with Sensei Tom West, Senpai Denise Coleman, and a great group of volunteers. Our ASK program is a partnership with the Shirley Ryan Ability Lab’s Caring for Kids program. Earlier this year, Sam and I met with the head of that program – it was a great joy for me to hear her effusive praise of our work providing kids with disabilities an empowering, physically demanding activity in which they can take pride. The same benefits of hard training that our adults write about make the kids in our ASK program more resilient, too.

Our Violence Prevention/Empowerment Self-Defense Program, under the leadership of Amy Jones, has never been busier. We’ve been training new instructors to meet the demand for our powerful programs, which we continue to deliver all over the city to constituencies as broad as hospital emergency department personnel, children with special needs in the public schools, and community organizations determined to resist the marginalization of vulnerable populations. Over the past year, we’ve also established a new quarterly bystander intervention workshop to help counter heightened fears associated with instances of identity-based violence.

As we head into 2018, we’re seeking to expand our violence prevention work even further, by offering pro-bono 12-hour trainings to community organizations serving populations at heightened risk of violence. This new, strategic-plan based initiative requires a greater commitment of financial resources. We’re counting on your contributions to help us start 2018 on solid financial ground.

Thank you, again, for making everything we do possible.

With gratitude,


Ryan Libel
Executive Director

TW Sends Team to Seido Karate Tournament

12.8.2017 by Tabitha Olson

Senpai Tabitha Olson competes in kata during the Seido Karate tournament in New York City.

The 41st Annual World Seido Karate Tournament was this past October 14, and sixteen members of Thousand Waves travelled to John Jay College in New York City to compete, volunteer, or provide moral support (and food!). It truly was a bonding experience, with each other, as well as with Seido members from all over the world. In fact, some of the new friends we made will hopefully be visiting Thousand Waves next year.

Every October, the World Seido Karate Organization celebrates its anniversary with a tournament in New York. The competition events are kata, sparring, and board breaking, and it’s open to members of any Seido dojo in the world. This means that, not only do we get to share our art in a competitive arena, we also get to meet a wide variety of people.

Read Senpai Tabitha’s account of the tournament.


I really wanted to come to a tournament before I became a black belt, but life was just too busy. This year, I finally managed to make it, along with fifteen other people from Thousand Waves. Nine of us competed – six black belts and three color belts, and the other seven were there in various roles – volunteering, judging, moral support, etc. Let me just say that the wonderful folks who went out to get us food and water were true heroes.

The day started early. Registration opened around 7:30 am, and the first event, Black Belt Kata, began at 8:35 am. The tournament took place in a large gymnasium, so it was loud and a bit chaotic, but quite captivating. There were about ten women in my group, which seemed to be the average in the black belt kata events.  All of us were nervous, some still a bit sleepy. There was space set aside for competitors to warm up and practice, so we utilized that to the best of our ability and then went to find our assigned competition rings. One by one, the judges called us up and we performed to the best of our abilities. I think I most enjoyed watching other people’s interpretations of each kata, and it was especially interesting to see the tiny differences in the ways they are taught at various Seido dojos.

After Black Belt Kata was done, the color belts were up. We had a brown belt and yellow and advanced yellow belts in our midst, so we cheered them on. The last group was Masters Kata (those ranked 4th degree black belt and up), and we gave our support to Sensei Alan.

The competitors were given a short break, and then it was time for sparring. There were a few green and brown belt competitors, divided into rings by rank. Black belts were divided by weight class: lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight. There were some pretty crazy and exciting rounds! There was some really great sparring going on, and it was fun to watch.

Board breaking was also divided by weight class, and the competitors were challenged to break all of their boards creatively. There were some very creative breaks, from jump-spinning kicks through boards, to an individual breaking concrete blocks with his head. It was a fascinating event, even the breaks that resulted in injury. Fortunately, the few injuries were minor and no one needed to be whisked off to the hospital.

The last event of the day was one last sparring round, and the winner would receive the coveted Grand Champion trophy. The four previous winners of each weight class (lightweight, middleweight, light heavyweight, and heavyweight) were put into a ring to spar, and the one who accumulated the most points would win the trophy. What an incredible thing to do at the end of a very long day!

Those who competed in all three events were eligible for a very special award: Sogo, which means best all around. Points are awarded to those who place in the top four of each event, and then those points are added up. The one with the highest score wins Sogo.

The Thousand Waves 2017 tournament team.

Our team had an amazing showing! Sensei Alan Miller won Men’s Sogo, and Senpai Mattie Greenblatt won the Women’s Grand Championship for sparring, and 1st place in nidan kata. The rest of us did well in our kata events, too, including our color belts. Cely Garcia (yellow belt) and Jackie Seijo (advanced yellow belt) won 1st place, Camille Rose (brown belt) won 2nd place, Senpai Gabby Afable won 3rd place, and I won 2nd place.

It is difficult to put yourself and your art out there, but it’s also very rewarding. Next year, we’ll have to go back and do this all again. I’m going back, and I’m going to participate in events that both scare and challenge me. Team sparring, anyone?

Senpai Tabitha Olson is a staff instructor at Thousand Waves, and a first degree black belt.

Karate Meditation in New York City

12.8.2017 by Katherine Nichols

Due to her immersion in the Honbu experience, no photos exist of Sensei Katherine’s recent trip to NY. This photo shows her in stance meditation during TW’s 2017 Kagami Biraki.

In September of this year, Thousand Waves sent me to Seido Karate Headquarters (Honbu) in New York City for a work week of professional development. The plan was for me to be at Honbu all day every day, taking as many karate classes as possible, plus helping in all the kids’ classes. Sounds exhausting, right? I thought so too. I wasn’t sure I had the energy for it. As it turned out though, my immersion in this week-long endurance experience gave me energy to spare, and I returned to TW feeling refreshed and inspired. My week in the bustling city of New York felt unexpectedly like a meditation retreat.

Read about Sensei Katherine’s visit to Honbu.


Meditation is certainly not the first thing that comes to mind in anticipation of a trip to New York City. However, meditation does not always need a quiet place, and in fact it is often easier if the mind has something on which to focus, such as movement. During my week in New York, I did nothing other than karate and preparing for karate. The karate classes in which I trained were vigorous and basic, with not much thinking. This extreme focus allowed me the experience of mindfulness and peacefulness which can be benefits of meditation. 

While at Honbu, I took eighteen classes – training more in five days than I usually do in a month. In addition, I assisted in two kids’ classes per day which involved even more karate. I considered the week of karate an endurance event, and in preparation for it, I packed anti-inflammatories and arnica, and prioritized healthy food and sufficient sleep (Thanks to Senpai Kathy for housing me). I had permission from myself and everyone to observe classes and not train in all of them. Yet after the first couple days, I no longer needed the arnica or naproxen. All my usual aches and pains vanished. The many repetitions of basic techniques encouraged my muscles and my mind to relax more, and I actually felt better than usual and was able to do all the classes with full vigor.

Because my visit to Honbu occurred a couple weeks before the October tournament, I was able to enjoy the pre-tournament excitement. As at Thousand Waves, there were many in-class announcements and requests for volunteers. Some of the classes included opportunities to perform our kata full-speed and receive feedback, and the sparring classes were focused on tournament-style point-sparring. The black belts of fourth degree and up were preparing a demonstration of our sai weapon kata Ganki-Dai, so together we practiced it seemingly endlessly, and appreciated receiving corrections directly from Kaicho.

I have been to Honbu before, for special events such as tournaments, black belt clinics and rank promotions, but I always wanted to train at Honbu on a regular training day. Training so much in regular classes allowed me to experience Seido Karate at its most basic. My daily encounters with Kaicho, Nidaime, and all the people who were at Honbu that week, especially those who I encountered multiple times, gave me a deeper connection with the people of Seido.

Thousand Waves likes to be able to support its teachers to train at Honbu when possible, to enrich our teaching skills and to connect with the Honbu teachers and students. Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura, the founder of Seido Karate, is still teaching at Honbu, as is his son and Seido Vice-Chairman Nidaime Akira Nakamura, who was personally trained by Kaicho. To take classes from Kaicho and Nidaime is to journey to the source of Seido Karate and to an important root of Thousand Waves culture. Sei Shihan Nancy and Jun Shihan Sarah believe that sending us to train with their teachers makes us better teachers. I feel fortunate that TW sent me to Honbu, and I feel inspired to bring Honbu’s culture of hard training and strong basics to the classes I teach at Thousand Waves.

Sensei Katherine Nichols is a staff instructor at Thousand Waves, and a fourth degree black belt.

Thousand Waves’ Staff Agreements

12.8.2017 by Ryan Libel


Recently, a Thousand Waves member who is away at college asked if we had a list of guidelines that governs our community’s behavior. He’s observed generally positive interactions at Thousand Waves over the years, and wanted to bring some of that goodness to a club he’s running at school. Our karateka code of ethics is one such list – we prioritize the code in our children’s program. But in considering his needs, my thoughts turned to a list of guidelines a friend had helped develop for her own not-for-profit organization.

As I shared her list with him and with Sei Shihan Nancy and Jun Shihan Sarah, they suggested we also share it with our staff. Knowing that such a list requires mutual commitment – my friend’s list is called “Things Upon Which We Agree” – I brought the idea to a staff meeting and we all hatched a plan to create our own list. Our process involved brainstorming, revision, and, finally, a vote to adopt the list unanimously. We’re proud of our efforts, and thought we’d share our “Thousand Waves Staff Agreements” with the broader Thousand Waves community:

1.  We cultivate trust.
We treat each other with as much respect and patience as we offer our students. We are mindful of the tone and timing of our feedback and express corrections and grievances in private.

2.  We are intentional in our gratitude.
We take the time to notice and appreciate out loud the work and accomplishments of others. We share what we are proud of on a regular basis. 

3.  We challenge ourselves to say what we need, and to cultivate openness towards the needs and concerns of others.

4.  We assume positive intent, and recognize that impact matters as much as intent.
Before we assume, we ask; when we make mistakes, we admit them willingly, and move on from them just as willingly.

5.  We are peacemakers.
We apply the teachings of TW about conflict resolution and peacemaking to our inter-staff relationships. We try not to gloss over grievances, but rather work with the person to improve the relationship.

6.  We are learners and problem solvers.
We are constantly seeking to improve our teaching skills, communication skills, and other job/life skills. We are warm, welcoming, and curious.

7.  We approach our shared workspace mindfully.
Aware that we share small amounts of space – and that privacy is a value we strive to promote – we ask permission to interrupt individuals or join work-related conversations. Likewise, we strive to address the collective needs of our shared space in the moment, pro-actively when possible.

8.  We prioritize the physical, emotional, and mental self-care of ourselves and others.
We recognize that a small workspace means that our own stress levels inevitably affect others. We support and encourage each other to rest when needed so that all can be maximally healthy.

9.  We take pride and ownership over our spheres of work.
We feel ownership over the spheres of work we care about and recognize that our job duties will overlap and may necessitate compromise. We are flexible and open to doing whatever it takes to get the job done even if it isn’t what we usually do. We practice step forward/step back as appropriate.

Senpai Ryan Libel is TW’s executive director, and a third degree black belt.

Kagami Biraki and Annual Meeting Set for First Weekend of 2018

12.8.2017 by Thousand Waves


The Japanese New Year’s tradition of Kagami Biraki will be observed at Thousand Waves the first weekend of 2018. Kagami Biraki means “opening the mirror”, and is celebrated in karate schools worldwide with self-reflection and a vigorous karate workout. Our kids’ Kagami Biraki celebration is Saturday, January 6 from 10:30 til 11:30 am. This special workout is for kids of all ages, and from all programs – from Little Kicks through Teens. We’ll hold our annual parents’ meeting in the basement concurrently. Our Adult member workout will be at 8:00 am on Sunday January 7, and will be followed by a potluck breakfast and our annual member meeting. We hope you can join us!

Ten Questions for David Doiron

12.8.2017 by Thousand Waves

David Doiron is an Advanced Yellow Belt training member.

Briefly, how did you come to train in Seido Karate at Thousand Waves?
I happened to move into a house near Belmont and Racine when I first got to Chicago after graduating college… I also wanted something in my life that was fun, both mentally and physically challenging, as well as a great way to meet people, which so far has held true.

What is one thing you’d like to change about the world?
Too many things… But most importantly, I wish everyone would spend more time listening rather than just waiting for their turn to talk. If we took the time to hear someone else’s side, maybe we wouldn’t be so divided?

What is one thing you do well?
Math. Not only do I think I am good at it, I love it! I was in some sort of math club and competing in math competitions from middle school all the way through college. Funny story, my calculus team won the state championship my senior year of high school, but we had gotten beat by some 7th graders the month before… They were too young to compete when it actually mattered, though.

What is one thing you do not do so well?
Time management. I love waiting until the last possible second to do anything and everything. It has only gotten me in real trouble a couple of times, though.

Who from history do you admire, and why?
Robin Williams. Some people live just to make others happy.

Other than Chicago, where have you most enjoyed spending time?
Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I spent my first 18 years there, and most of my family still lives there. It is actually a really cool city.

What quotation have you found inspiring or interesting?
“Naw, Jem. I think that there is just one kind of folks. Folks.” – Scout Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

What foods do you like best?
Can I just say my mom’s cooking? She and I got really good at modifying cajun and creole cuisine to be vegan. Really, anything spicy with vegetables is fine in my book.

What is a book that has been significant to you?
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. Growing up these days is anything but easy.

What are your musical favorites?
This is the hardest question ever. My brother and I pride ourselves on genuinely appreciating all kinds of music, even country. Anything with a slick bass line is sure to get me moving, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers will always be my first musical obsession.

“Thousand Waves Member Spotlight: Ten Questions for…” is a regular feature of Kiai!
In the next issue, Jet Sullivan will answer these same ten questions.

Congratulations to our Fall 2017 Promotees

12.8.2017 by Thousand Waves

Our students have been busy learning their material and testing for their next belt level – it’s been a busy couple of months. Congratulations to all of our dedicated students who achieved a new rank.

Junior Color Belts

September 23, 2017

See everyone who was promoted recently.

November 18, 2017

Youth & Teen Color Belts

September 23, 2017
November 18, 2017

Adult Color Belts

September 9, 2017

To 3nd Kyu
Advanced Green Belt

Chris Lamitie

To 4th Kyu
Green Belt

Liam Darrah
Cyrus Sethna

To 5th Kyu
Advanced Yellow Belt

David Doiron
Jenel Rose
Jet Sullivan

To 6th Kyu
Yellow Belt

Angie Forshee
Bo Sun
Xiaomeng Wang
Dustin Spence
Taylor Leisher
Reese Minshew
Cely Garcia

To 7th Kyu
Advanced Blue Belt

Kaori Lambert-Horike
Amy Janchenko
Shawn Sullivan
Emily Blair

To 8th Kyu
Blue Belt

Emily Baran
Oliver Merrill

To 7th Kyu
Advanced Blue Belt
on Sept 12, 2017

Ryan Koch

November 10, 2017

To 2nd Kyu
Brown Belt

Bill Smith

To 4th Kyu
Green Belt

Tom Cosgrove
Brian Matsko
Jackie Seijo
David Thill

To 5th Kyu
Advanced Yellow Belt

Audrey Cosgrove
Lisa Matznick
Marti Mendoza-Schommer

To 6th Kyu
Yellow Belt

Emily Blair
Amy Janchenko
Ryan Koch
Kaori Lambert-Horike
Davora Sides

To 7th Kyu
Advanced Blue Belt

Emily Baran
Kristen Castelloni
Leslie Henry
Hilary Meyer
Jonathan Meyer
Earnest Norman
Rae Yung

To 8th Kyu
Blue Belt

Wes Bondie
Christina Camp
Lorena Iglesias
Jill Jacobbi
Bobby Sutton
Sierra Wheeler

Junior Black Belts

October 21, 2017

To 2nd Degree
Junior Black Belt (Jr. Nidan)

Senpai Shael
Senpai Takato

To 1st Degree
Junior Black Belt (Jr. Shodan)

Senpai Amanda
Senpai Ezra
Senpai Massimo
Senpai Nicholas
Senpai Piper
Senpai Sydney

Adult Black Belts

October 21, 2017

To 1st Degree
Black Belt (Shodan)

Senpai Jane Kollmer
Senpai Johnny Hollowed
Senpai Payton Shearn
Senpai Ruben Whitaker