5th Degree Black Belt, Co-Founder of American Karate Institute, Teacher, Inventor and Martial Arts Consultant. I have been involved with the Martial Arts for more than 43 years.
THIS IS MY STORY.
Hi my name is Regina Gonzalez, the program director of American Karate Institute. I was born in Tampa, FL in 1955. My story is completely different from my husband. I was not being bullied. As a matter of fact, I used to bully kids all the time. I lived in a neighborhood where you had to be tough. I had to protect my “shy” younger brother from the tough kids in the block.
I did not start Martial Arts until the age of 17. The reason why I started was because I was motivated after seeing the movie “Chinese Connection” starring Bruce Lee. At that time, I was attending the University of South Florida. When I was enrolling for some semester courses I noticed a karate class as an elective. It was a Japanese style called YoshiKai. The instructor came to me after class and asked if I had ever taken martial arts before. He was surprised when I told him that this was my first class ever. That was when I realized that I was a natural.
I met my husband in 1973 at Tampa Catholic High School and we married in 1975. We both started taking lessons together with Sensei Mike Hayashi. At that time, I was the only girl in class. I did not train as many hours as my husband but I was able to earn my Brown Belt. I was never able to test for Black Belt because the school closed down.
Because of the systematized curriculum and quality instructions, it was at the Jhoon Rhee Institute that my technique became refined. I started to compete in local tournaments as a Brown Belt winning 1st Place each and every time. I was rated #1 in the State of Florida.
When I became Black Belt, being #1 in the State of Florida was not enough. I had greater inspirations so I started competing at the National level. By the 80’s, I was rated #1 by the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) in forms and fighting. I became Forms Champion by winning 1st Place at the following big named tournaments: US Open, Battle of Atlanta, AKA Grand Nationals, Blue Grass Nationals, Diamond Nationals, Bermuda Grand Nationals and Jhoon Rhee Nationals.