Tucked away in the suburbs of Dayton, Ohio in the small town of Centerville home to nearly 24,000 people and the home of The Gi Yu Dojo (The Martial Arts School of Courage and Justice). The Gi Yu Dojo’s roots go back to teachings of the fighting style of Japanese Samurai called Jissen Koryu Bujutsu or Natural Movement of Old Military Warrior Fighting methods . For over the last three decades Kancho (president of the Association of Gi Yu Dojos) Sukh Sandhu has been practicing, perfecting, and instructing. He has had the opportunity to inspire thousands of martial artist and people who want more from their life and want to do more for their communities that they live in. And this is his story how a simple piece of cloth (the coveted black belt), was his segue in making difference for his life and his community.
Recently, I was given the opportunity sit down with Sensei Sandhu at his beautiful home to discuss his dreams, desires and wants for the present and future of his school and community. A student of various martial arts since he was five years old, he is self disciplined and motivated on daily proportions that people half his age would we awe struck by.
Sensei Sandhu has trained in, accomplished and garnered experience in many forms of combat. Starting off from a young age by studying various forms of Kung Fu, Karate, Wrestling, Boxing, Punjabi Wrestling, and then moving in to Combat Shooting and also attaining Black Belts in The Bujinkan (2nd degree) organization after 8 years and then moving to his training in The Jinenkan (5th Degree) for 12 years and becoming the senior student of The Jinenkan Organization Head Master , Fumio Manaka. The Bujinkan is headed by Soke Maasaki Hatsumi. Hatsumi Sensei is considered by many as the last historically traceable Ninjutsu Grandmaster living today. Throughout Sensei Sandhu’s koryu martial art training he was supervised as a direct senior student of Shawn Havens and Manaka Sensei (currently of the Jinenkan) when they were both under the Bujinkan organization. Sensei Sandhu, during this time period, was also traveling and studying with many different types of martial arts instructors and exploring different art forms. He spent a fair amount of time with numerous established practitioners of Jujutsu/Jiujitsu in the early 90s. His desire to push himself and challenge what he thought he knew was trumped by more importantly finding out what he did not. Sitting with Mr. Sandhu you find out his passion for learning and exploring new things is paramount to him feeling he is growing as a martial artist and as a person. For example, in 2009 he decided to challenge himself and started training in Judo, and then after an intense seven month study period he earned his 1st degree black belt. He is also a USA Judo Regional Coach. Wow! So nearly after three decades of training, Mr. Sandhu pushed himself to try something new. He currently holds many Black Belt levels and he was awarded by The Gi Yu Kyo Kai Dojos association an 8th degree black belt several years ago.
At his main school, The Gi Yu Dojo offers training to students as young as 5 in their children’s C.O.R.D.S program going up to age 13. He stated he wants to help future generations become leaders with strong moral character along with physical prowess, therefore he would never give a child a Black Belt because it sends the wrong message to a child, it creates a false sense of security. However, after a C.O.R.D.S. children’s program student gets his/her brown belt they will be moved to the adult program as green belt. He wants quality over quantity. The adult program is offered to those individuals who are not only looking to learn how to fight, but also are looking to enrich their lives and the lives of those in their community. The adult program is very demanding… physically, mentally and spiritually…however through their program the dojo will show you how to find your own self-respect, self-discipline and confidence in yourself by respecting others. Before your first class you will need to visit The Gi Yu Dojo’s website (www.giyudojo.com) and fill out an application for training membership, you can click here for the review. (). In the adult program, prospective students must fill in an application to train and then set up time to come in for an interview to see if they would be good members of this elite group of individuals. There is no “special” experience or skills Sensei Sandhu is looking for, rather, he wants to know if you are you willing to put in effort to train, keep your word/commitments and most importantly better yourself. Once you are accepted into the school, be sure to remember to take your training seriously, these individuals are very serious in their training and what they foster throughout their communities outside of the dojo. For example, Sensei Sandhu also requires all students to have a notebook and keep notes on the different techniques and ideas of life they learn. He believes, you must see someone demonstrate a skill, you must try to mimic the skill, you need to write down your version of the skill, you must read what you wrote and then you try to mimic again…this teaches the mind-body connections. Most people do not want to do the things that breed success…the simple/ mundane things….so as with any success…. the things others will not work on and you will.. may just make you more proficient at the skill. You do things like this to not only push yourself physically but mentally…find introspective understanding, or like Sensei Sandhu says, self-discovery is the best teacher in life. While sitting with Mr. Sandhu I learned not only how important his family is to him but his love for his martial art and his school. His sincere ambition to help his community with his martial art to not only help build people physically but create productive members of society, leaders who know right from wrong and that will stand up for others (not just physically) when they cannot stand for themselves.
I learned of his great humility and respect that he has for all his teachers, students and fellow martial artists. He shared stories of some specific students that live the life that they were shown by The Gi Yu Dojo and the path of budo. Warriors that use the philosophies from there to enrich their communities. Individuals like:
1.) Aman Brar
2.) W. S. Bumgarner Atlanta Gi Yu Dojo
3.) Doug Sunnenburg
4.) Jaye Sandhu
5.) Chuck Van Dine
6.) Sam Foster
7.) John Chrisman
8.) James Sutton
9.) Don Baker Atlanta Gi Yu Dojo
10.) Todd Engelman
These ten individuals lead their lives in accordance of the examples they have learned in The Gi Yu Dojos. Their character is the same in the dojo as it is in their personal, professional, teaching and mentorship rolls of life. I personally learned at very early age, that the five people you spend the most time with are who you become most like. With that being said I would agree that if you or I spend any amount of time around these 11 men you would be off to pretty good start in life! As we continued on in our conversation Mr. Sandhu shared with me his dream of continually giving back to his community thru his school and martial art. For example in 2014 alone the school donated thousands of dollars to their hometown community for those in need and he is highly sought out to speak and demonstrate for different community, business, military, and charitable groups on building character and developing leadership skills through martial arts.. In addition to teaching Japanese martial arts, the school has something for everyone in the family. Offering, Combat Shooting (plus CCW classes), Japanese calligraphy instruction, Classical Indian Dancing, and Judo (in partnership with Buckeye Judo). I look forward to sitting with Mr. Sandhu and his team from The Gi Yu Dojo and watch a training session. A big Thank You to Mr. Sukh Sandhu for being one of the hidden Gems of the Gem City and leaving the world a better place with his kind, caring heart for humanity. For instilling strength and character to those around him and for being a positive role model for our youth. What is most impressive is his Desire to Dream to Want to be better, more importantly to have the same for his community and country.