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Karate instructor has a light touch

April E. ClarkGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. David Light remembers sitting at the dinner table as a kid, jumping into an eye-opening conversation about karate.”But you don’t want us to fight,” Light and his brother said to their dad.”There’s an etiquette and ethic in karate that’s not about fighting,” replied their father, who taught comparative religion at Adelphi University.This would be one of many lessons Light would learn about eastern culture throughout his life.Decades later, he would follow the guiding principles for the martial arts to earn a second degree black belt.

Throughout his life, Light has been intrigued by the martial arts.He was raised near New York City, graduating from high school in the Long Island area. In that era, karate was not as contemporary. “In high school and college, I was a track athlete. I ran the 400 and 800 meters and was a high jumper,” he said. “But I had friends who were martial arts students who would show me things.”Light’s father was well educated in the world’s diverse forms of spirituality, and shared his insights with his sons.”Growing up as the son of a Baptist minister and a man who taught religion and philosophy at a college, we were raised with a fairly pacifistic background,” Light said. “But we knew about the etiquette of the martial arts.”Light – a 49-year-old finish carpenter with fair, freckled skin and hair pulled tightly back in a ponytail – didn’t start karate training until after his physical at age 40.”The doctor was going to recommend exercise, diet changes,” he said. “But I stopped him right there.”Light gives his 15-year-old son, Kyle – who was 6 when he started karate training – the credit for inspiring the life change.”All I wanted was an excuse to join a (karate) class,” Light said. “It was an opportunity to get back into exercise.”

Light’s dedication to karate is sometimes referred to as an “obsession.”It all depends on who you ask.”My instructor knew, as my family puts it, of my ‘obsession,’ my dedication to it,” he said, with a quick laugh.He began training in 1998 at the YMCA in West Chester, Pa., where his young son was enrolled. Not long after his training began, Light started helping with classes.”There weren’t any other black belts there, except for the instructor (Todd Elliott),” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate with my instructors. Todd was such a good example and gave me such good criticism.”Light then gained permission to audit instructor training courses at the International Shotokan Karate Federation, of which he’s now a member. He started black belt classes at the federation headquarters in Philadelphia, acquiring karate’s coveted certification in two years and 10 months.”I made it to black belt in less time than normally recommended,” he said. “They say it’s usually a minimum of three years. I trained for five to six days a week. It’s unusual for folks to dedicate that much time to it.”



Today, Light is a member of the International Shotokan Karate Federation and the Japan Karate Association. He is qualified to judge tournaments, usually for kids.In true martial arts style, Light is consistently looking to perfect his character – and his craft.”I’ve had experience judging, but I want to become a ranked judge,” he said.Light and his family – including wife, Dory, a classical pianist – moved to Glenwood Springs in 2002. His son Kyle, a Glenwood Springs High School sophomore, received his black belt at age 13.”What’s impressive is that he’s stuck with it,” Light said. “They don’t hand out black belts. You really have to do well.”Light started the local Two Rivers Shotokan Karate Club in November. He teaches karate and trains with members at the Glenwood Dance Academy three days a week.”I really enjoy teaching. It’s a way to repay my teachers,” he said. “They have been very kind to me, especially my Japanese teachers who have given up their homes to teach here.”Light is happy to share his passion for karate – and the teachings passed down from some of the world’s greatest karate masters. That includes a respect for the culture and principles associated with the martial arts.”It’s important to me to emphasize that when you’re in a dojo, in a karate class, you’re in Japan. A lot of it revolves around showing respect,” he said. “You have to take it serious, like you’re learning how to defend yourself. You have to approach it like you’re protecting your own life.”And, like his dad taught him so many years ago, karate is not about the fight.”It’s all about training, it’s all about self-defense, and it’s all about being respectful. That’s probably one of the philosophies I learned growing up,” Light said. “It’s about making an effort in what you do, about being faithful to a principle.”And it’s real good therapy to get out all that aggression – in a reasonable way,” he said, with a slight grin.

Then soon after, to focus, he starts his class with a bow.Contact April Clark: 945-8515, ext. 16601aclark@postindependent.comPost Independent, Glenwood Springs Colorado CO


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