!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Transitional//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-transitional.dtd"> SKKAA Instructors

Christopher M. Clarke, Ph.D. 

James A. True 
Jayne Butram 
Michael Pepe 
Steven Tulimieri 
Jo McCulty 
Edward A. Kearney 
Kristen Pepe 
Terrence Tuy 
Sue Theise 
Richard McCulty 
Thomas A. Wirtanen 
Stephen Iannetti 
Tad Pawlowski 

Christopher M. Clarke, Ph.D. was born in New York in 1949 and grew up in New Jersey. He began training in karate in 1965, studying the Goshin-do Karate-Do system under Gerald Thomson and Hakkoryu Jujitsu under Robert Gannon. He received his first degree black belt in 1968, and his second degree a year later. During this time, he trained on several occasions with Master Frank Van Lenten, 8th degree and founder of the Goshin-do system.

In 1969, Dr. Clarke began also studying Kobayashi Shorin-ryu under Robert Herten, a student of Master Nakazato Shugoro, who had recently returned from a tour with the US Air Force on Okinawa. He received his first degree black belt in Shorin-ryu in 1970 and was awarded an instructor's certificate by the Beikoku Karate Renmei in 1971. He graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University in 1971 with a degree in international studies.

In September 1971, Dr. Clarke entered active duty in the US Air Force. He was stationed in Ohio and on Guam. In 1972, he visited Okinawa, where he trained with Master Nakazato and visited a number of other top karate schools. Upon his return, he joined the American Shorin-ryu Karate Association and the Okinawan Karate Federation. He was promoted to third degree black belt in karate in 1974 and third degree in weaponry by Master Glenn Premru later the same year. In 1975, Dr. Clarke was awarded a fourth degree in karate. He was discharged from the Air Force in 1975 and began attending graduate school at the Ohio State University, where he received an M.A. in 1979, and a Ph.D. in 1980, both in political science

From 1973 to 1977, Dr. Clarke trained under Dr. Kotaka Sadao, fifth degree black belt in Nihon Kendo (Japanese fencing) and Kogen Ittoryu Iaido (the art of drawing and cutting with the Japanese sword). He was awarded black belt ranking in both arts by the American Kendo Federation in 1976.

On January 1, 1980, Dr. Clarke was awarded promotion to fifth degree black belt in karate and fourth degree in weaponry. He received his sixth degree in 1983, seventh degree in 1990, eighth degree in February 2000 and ninth degree in July 2009. Dr. Clarke was also promoted to fifth degree in weaponry in 1985 and sixth degree in 1990. From 1980-2004, he was vice president, member of the executive board, and chief instructor of the American Shorin-ryu Karate Association. In early 2005, Dr. Clarke helped found the Shorin-ryu Karatedo and Kobudo Association of America (SKKAA) and served as its Chairman of the Board, President, and Chief Instructor until retiring in 2013. He remains honorary director, continuing to offer important insight, suggestions and mentoring as needed.

From 1980-1984, Dr. Clarke worked at the US-China Business Council. From 1984-2009, he was a senior China analyst and head of the China Division of the US State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He has visited China eight times, where he pursued research into T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan) and other Chinese martial arts. He retired in 2009 and is now an independent China consultant. He and his wife, Meredith, have two children: Jennifer Mohler, a sandan, and Colin.

In addition to a number of books and articles on China, Dr. Clarke has written or edited nearly two dozen books on the martial arts. Among his publications are Samurai, Scoundrels, and Saints: Stories from the Martial Arts (1997), Warriors and Wisemen: More Stories from the Martial Arts (1998), Monks, Madmen, and Martial Masters (2004), Honorary Samurai (2003), I Remember When (2004), I Remember II (2004), Nyumonsha: A Handbook for SKKAA Students from Beginner to Purple Belt (2000), Seito: A Handbook for SKKAA Students from Gokyu to Ikkyu (2001), Sensei: A Handbook for SKKAA Instructors and Their Students (2001), Yudansha: A Handbook for SKKAA Black Belts (2002), Kobudo: A Handbook for SKKAA Weaponry Students (2002), Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for SKKAA Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents (2001), Fledgling Sparrows: An Activity Book for Young SKKAA Students (2004), and Chasing Dragonflies: An Activity Book for Young SKKAA Students (2004), Dr. Clarke has also written a biography of his mother, including several collections of her poetry, called Smoke and Mirrors: Echoes From an Iron Lung (2011).

Dr. Clarke is a past member of the Calvert County Heritage Committee and the steering committee for the Patuxent River Institute of Teaching. He has serves as a judge at various local, state and national History Day competitions.

Shihan Jim True was born in Boston, Ma. in 1958, and raised in Waltham, Ma. He attended Bentley College and received his B.A. in Education and Behavioral Sciences in 1980. Currently he holds a eigth degree black belt in Shorin-ryu karate, a sixth degree Black Belt in Okinawan kobudo, and certification as an SKKAA Senior Instructor. He also holds Beisho proficiency certificates as an instructor in Taiji and Joden in Kengei (the arts of Japanese swordsmanship), He began his training in 1975 at the Waltham YMCA under the instruction of Thomas A. Wirtanen, a student of Paul Keller. Shihan True is also a Nidan in Small Circle Jujitsu having trained with nationally known instructor, Dave Castoldi, 7th degree black belt, and has trained since the mid-1990s in Shorinji-ryu karate and weaponry with Sensei Brian Ricci, a senior student of Master Richard Kim. Mr. True has also trained with Hanshi Kim. Mr. True has also studied Iaido (the Japanese art of drawing and cutting with the sword).

Shihan True began teaching martial arts part-time for the Waltham YMCA in 1979. In the spring of 1980 he opened the True Martial Arts Academy in a small garage, teaching on a part-time basis with about twenty students. Today the Academy has grown to over three hundred active students, with off-site programs at numerous public and private schools. Among these are the Waltham YMCA, Bentley College and the New Jewish High School of Waltham.

Shihan True has helped to develop youth programs such as the "Bully Buster," "Stranger Danger," and "Women Aware" an adult women's self-defense program. In 2000, Shihan True formed Safety Skills Development Group, a company that teaches safety awareness and character development programs for youths, adults, schools, and businesses in the greater Boston area. Thirty years of training and teaching have built his commitment to providing educational martial arts and safety-awareness programs for the SKKAA and community to continue to grow in a positive direction.`

Mr. True is President and Chairman of the Board of the SKKAA, and the SKKAA's Chief Instructor.

Mr. True is a contributor to Sensei: A Handbook for SKKAA Instructors and Their Students (2001) and I Remember When (2004) and is co-author of Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for SKKAA Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents (2002).

Shihan Jayne Butram was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1954 and graduated from Maple Heights High School in 1972. She studied German in Salzburg, Austria from 1972-1973 in an exchange program sponsored by Slippery Rock College in Pennsylvania. From 1974-1994, Ms Butram worked as an accountant. Aside from the martial arts, her interests include calligraphy, gardening, Celtic music, crocheting, target shooting, reading and travel. She has studied Japanese since 1997.

Shihan Butram began training in Isshin-ryu karate in August 1974 and received her first degree black belt under Sensei Harry Acklin in 1976. She began training in Shorin- ryu in 1975, receiving a seventh degree black belt in karate in 2012 and a fifth degree black belt in Okinawan weaponry in 2011. She was named as one of two dai sempai (or "senior elders" and assistants to the directors) in 1999 and is now a member of the Executive Board. She is certified by the SKKAA as a Senior Instructor. She has also trained extensively in T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan) and holds Beisho proficiency certification as a Taiji instructor.

Ms Butram, a member of the Chesterland, Ohio Chamber of Commerce, has taught karate at Fairmont Fine Arts since 1976 and opened her own school, the Okinawan Karate Center, in Chesterland, Ohio in 1993. She gives frequent seminars in women's self-defense and teaches on-site corporate safety and personal protection programs.

Ms Butram has a special interest in children's programs and teaches courses at local elementary schools on dealing with bullies, strangers, peer pressure and anger management. The children in her classes are strongly encouraged to perform at least one community service project each year, and her school usually adopts a needy family at Christmas. Ms Butram several times has chaperoned trips to Japan for the Hawken School, as part of and exchange program with Haibara Middle School in Haibara, Japan.

Ms Butram received the rank of Rokudan, 6th degree black belt, in February 2005. She is Vice President of the SKKAA and its Assistant Chief Instructor. In October 2012, Sensei Jayne was promoted to Shichidan.

Ms Butram is a student of Japanese language and both Western and Japanese calligraphy. She is a contributor to Sensei: A Handbook for SKKAA Instructors and Their Students (2001), Little Dragons and Tigers: A Handbook for SKKAA Youth Students, Their Instructors, and Parents (2002), and I Remember When (2004).

Shihan Michael Pepe was born in 1956 and grew up in Watertown, Massachusetts. He began his karate training in American Shorin-Ryu karate under the direction of Thomas A. Wirtanen in 1976 and received his black belt 5 years later in 1981

Mr. Pepe went on to open the Sessa Kai Dojo in Watertown MA. With the philosophy "Cultivate your character through constant hard work."

Mr. Pepe has trained in the Royce Gracie system of Jiu-Jitsu under Sensei Jim Hughes and was personally promoted by Royce Gracie. He continues to research techniques and teaches Jiu-jitsu ground fighting, giving clinics and demonstrations to Beisho members around the country. In January 2002, Mr. Pepe accomplished an incredible feat of endurance by completing 101 consecutive Jiu-jitsu style matches, over three hours of continuous grappling at the age of 46.

In 2004, Mr. Pepe had the opportunity to spend several weeks in Brazil training with members of the famous Gracie Jiu-jitsu family under the direction of Rilion Gracie and currently holds the rank of Blue Belt (four stripe) in Gracie Jiu-jitsu.

In 2005 Mr. Pepe competed in the North American Grappling Association tournament (NAGA) placing third. He has practiced Judo placing third in the Foxboro Judo Club Tournament hosted by Jimmy Pedro then while practicing Kendo (way of the sword) Mr. Pepe won 1st place in the 1st Choi Sool Memorial Hapkido Kendo Championships in 1996. He has also studied the formal art of Kyudo (Japanese archery). He holds Beisho proficiency certificates in Taiji at the senior level and in Kengei (the art of Japanese swordsmanship) at the Joden level.

In July of 2009 Mr. Pepe was awarded the title of "Senior Instructor". Mr. Pepe was promoted to fifth degree black belt in American Shorin-Ryu karate in 1998, sixth degree in 2007 and seventh degree black belt in 2013 Mr. Pepe also holds the rank of fourth degree black belt in Okinawan Kobudo. He holds the title of Shihan and is Vice President, and Assistant Chief instructor of the SKKAA. His wife, Kristen, holds the rank of fourth degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu Karate, and has studied Naginata (the Japanese art of the halberd) and Judo.

Mr. Pepe retired from the Watertown Fire department after 31 years of service and still resides in Watertown with his wife, daughter Morgan and their son, Nicholas. He is a contributor to Sensei: A Handbook for SKKAA Instructors and Their Students (2001) and I Remember When (2004), and is a frequent on-line commentator in his column "Warrior Ramblings."

Shihan Dai Steven Tulimieri was born and raised in Waltham, MA. He attended Bentley College and received a B.S. in Accountancy in 1991, and an MBA from Bentley Graduate School in 1998.

He began training in Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu in 1984 under Sensei James True. After receiving his shodan in 1988, he taught karate for the Martial Arts Club at Bentley College. He was the Dai Ni Sempai of the association at that time and the Dai Sempai of the True Martial Arts Academy, where he teaches, under Sensei James True. In February 2005, he was named Dai Sempai of the SKKAA and Shihan Dai (assistant to the directors) in July 2011. Sensei Steven was elected to the Beisho Board of Directors and appointed assistant secretary/treasurer in July 2011.

Sensei Steven has experience in wrestling, submission ground fighting, kendo, and iaido. He is currently a Sandan in Self Defense Jujitsu under Professor Dave Castoldi. In 2011 he was promoted to the rank of Rokudan in Shorin-Ryu Karate and Godan in Kobudo. He also holds Beisho proficiency certification at the senior level in Taiji and Joden in Kengei (the arts of Japanese swordsmanship). In July of 2009 he was awarded the title of "Senior Instructor". He is a contributor to I Remember II (2004).

Dai Sempai Edward A. Kearney

Born April 3 1960 in Cleveland Ohio he was the eldest of five children. He was introduced to the martial arts as a youngster by his father who was a fighter himself. His father taught and competed in Judo, Jui-jutsu and boxing for over 30 years.

Sensei Ed began training in Shorin-Ryu karate in 1977. He recieved Shodan rank in 1985 and was awarded the rank of godan and kobudo yodan in 2000. In 2005 he was awarded the title Dai Ni Sempai of the SKKAA and was elevated to Beisho's Dai Sempai in July 2011. In July 2009, Sensei Kearney was awarded the rank of Rokudan and the title of "Senior Instructor." He received godan in kobudo in July 2011 and at the same time was certified by Beisho at the Chuden level in Kengei (the arts of Japanese swordsmanship). He currently trains several people in traditional karate and modern fighting concepts in his home dojo. He has been developing and teaching a combat knife program since 2002.

He and Sensei Jayne Butram also developed and conduct the S.M.A.R.T. Defense Personal Protection System for Women, Teens, Children, and Corporations. Sensei Ed was elected to Beisho's Board of Directors in July 2011 and is Dai Sempai of the SKKAA.

Sue Theise was born in 1963 and raised in Chicago, Illinois. In 1985, she earned a B.A. degree in Cinema and Photography from Southern Illinois University (SIU). After graduation she worked as a Sound Editor and Assistant Film Editor in Bristol, England, for the BBC, and continued this work after moving to Jackson, Wyoming, working on shows for National Geographic, Nature, Nova, Audubon, ABC, and CBS.

Theise Sensei began her martial art training briefly in 1980 in Chicago studying Taekwondo, and then did a semester of Shotokan Karate in 1982 at SIU. Upon moving to Wyoming in 1988 she joined the American Taekwondo Association and trained formally until 1994 while running an affiliated club for 3 years. In 1992 she also began training extensively in Aikido. In 1993 she met Paul Keller and began training with him in Iaido and Kobudo, and then in 1994 also started Shorin-ryu Karate. In 1997 she became the principal instructor of the Wyoming Karate Club.

She holds the title of Head Instructor in the SKKAA, and is ranked 5th Degree Black Belt in Shorin-ryu karate, 2nd Degree in Kobudo, 3rd Degree in Taekwondo, and 1st Degree in Aikido. She is also certified by Beisho at the advanced proficiency level in Taiji. Theise Sensei is a Member of the SKKAA Board of Directors.

Kristen Pepe was born in Tewksbury Massachusetts in 1969. She graduated from Tewksbury High School and attended the University of Massachusetts graduating with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting.

She received her first degree black belt in Shorin-ryu karate in 1995 and attained her second degree black belt in 1997, her third degree black belt in 2005, and her fourth degree in August 2010. She is a third degree Black Belt in Kobudo. She also holds the rank of instructor with the SKKAA and is certified by Beisho at the advanced level in Taiji and the Chuden level in Kengei (the arts of Japanese swordsmanship).

Under the instruction of Sensei Fran Vall, Mrs. Pepe trains in Naginata, a halberd type weapon used almost exclusively by samurai women. She is a member of both the United States Naginata Federation and the East Coast Naginata Federation. She currently holds the rank of Ikkyu.

Kristen is married to Sensei Michael Pepe of the SKKAA and together they have two children, Morgan and Nicholas. Ms. Pepe holds the title of Secretary/Treasurer and is a member of the Board of Directors and Dai Ni Sempai of the SKKAA.

Terrence Tuy was born in 1982 and grew up in Chesterland, Ohio. Along with his two brothers, he started training at the Okinawan Karate Center in 1993 under Sensei Jayne Butram, getting his first-degree black belt there in 1999.

In 2000, Terrence moved to Columbus to study at the Ohio State University. He graduated from OSU with a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering in 2005. While studying there, he continued his training under Sensei Richard and Sensei Jo McCulty at the Seishin Karate Club. In 2009, Terrence took over the day-to-day teaching duties of the Seishin Karate Club and he is now the Head Instructor.

Terrence holds a fourth-degree black belt in karate and a third-degree black belt in kobudo. He is also a member of the Board of Directors and Dai Ni Semapai of the SKKAA.

Members of the Board of Advisors and Former Board Members

Sensei Thomas A. Wirtanen - Sadly, Sensei Tom passed away on July 27, 2019, he was promoted posthumously to the rank of Hachidan. Please visit his memorial page here.

Originally from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, he began training in Shorin-ryu at Ohio State University on September 30, 1970. He was assistant instructor at Ohio Weslyan University and President of the OSU Karate Club from 1973-1974, and studied kendo under Master Shigeharu Yoshii during that time period. He was promoted to shodan on May 30, 1974. During his first year at Boston College Law School, he wrote a book on Shorin-ryu kata so he would remember our forms. On April 1, 1975, Sensei Wirtanen founded the Waltham School, with Sensei James A. True and Jeanne MacDonald as charter students. Sensei Michael Pepe soon joined them.

Sensei Wirtanen was promoted to Yodan on April 7, 1995, Godan on May 15, 2005 and Rokudan on June 12, 2010. He created kumite kata yondan and demonstration kata Tomoyose. Sensei Wirtanen was a trial lawyer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, a songwriter, television producer and Chairman of the Election Commission of the City of Lowell. He taught at the Northeast Shorin-ryu Karate Academy.

Sensei Wirtanen's academic credentials included B.A. Political Science, summa cum laude, The Ohio State University, 1974. J.D. Juris Doctor, Boston College law School, 1977.

Born in 1951, Sensei Richard McCulty first began training in 1966 in Troy, Ohio under Greg Helms, a second degree black belt who had studied Matsubayashi-ryu under Jim Wax in New York. After moving to Columbus, Ohio and being away from karate for several years, Mr. McCulty found his way to the Ohio State University Karate Club in 1972. He trained there under Paul Keller while pursuing a B.A. in Sociology, and continued with the club after graduation as an assistant instructor.

During his time in graduate school, Sensei McCulty had many opportunities to expand his knowledge of the martial arts through association with students in the program who were highly qualified in other arts. In particular, Dr. Daniel Weng, with whom he studied T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan), broadened his understanding of the culture of martial arts as well as refinement of technique. As part of his studies, Sensei McCulty also trained with boxers at several local gyms, and taught boxing as well as yoga, self-defense, and karate classes for Ohio State University.

Sensei McCulty became head instructor of the Ohio State University club in 1980 and held that position until the club disbanded in 1997. During the 1980s, Sensei McCulty also instructed at the American Karate Academy in Columbus. With his wife, Sensei Jo McCulty , Richard founded the Seishin Karate Club in Columbus in 1992, and teaches there presently.

Richard McCulty received the rank of seventh degree black belt in karate in July 2017 and holds the rank of second degree black belt in Okinawan weaponry. He is certified by the SKKAA as a Head Instructor and is a member of its Board of Advisors.

Sensei Jo McCulty began karate training with the Ohio State University Karate Club in 1980. She continued to train and fill Club officer roles at Ohio State while also training at the American Karate Academy, a dojo owned and operated by Paul Keller from 1983-1991. She married Richard McCulty in 1991 and helped him start the Seishin Karate Club, in addition to teaching at the OSU Club. From 1990-1994, Sensei McCulty taught karate and self-defense for the OSU physical education department.

In 1995, Sensei McCulty won the title of women's Grand Champion at a regional Four Seasons Open tournament. The following year, she was recognized with the "spirit award" at the Summer Budo Camp. She holds a sixth degree black belt in karate and a third degree black belt in Okinawan weaponry. She is certified as an SKKAA Head Instructor. In February 2002 was named one of two Dai Ni Sempai (or "elder" and assistant to the Directors. Sensei McCulty is currently a member of the SKKAA Board of Advisors.

She has been practicing T'ai Chi Ch'uan (Taijiquan) since 1983, and is certified as a Beisho T'ai Chi instructor. She is a certified R.A.D. (Rape Aggression Defense) instructor, and has taught women's self-defense courses with the OSU police department. She contributed an article on Tai Chi to Sensei: A Handbook for SKKAA Instructors and Their Students (2001) and a chapter to I Remember When (2004).

Mrs. McCulty received a B.A. in journalism, with a minor in photography, and an M.A. in movement arts and somatic studies. She has been a staff photographer for OSU since 1985 and has been nationally recognized with seven awards for her work, including two silver awards in the University Photographer of the Year category (1992 and 1996). In 2000, Mrs. McCulty received Individual Artist Fellowships totaling $10,000 from the Ohio Arts Council and the Greater Columbus Arts Council. She attributes her success in photography to the diligence and discipline she learned through karate.

Stephen Iannetti was born in 1959 in Boston, Massachusetts. He attended Northeastern University and received a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1982.

Stephen began training in Matsubayashi Shorin-Ryu in 1993 under Shihan James True. He received his first degree black belt in 1996. In 1999 Stephen was awarded his second degree black belt in Okinawan Weaponry. In 2001 he was awarded his third degree in karate. In February of 2006, Stephen was promoted to Yodan, 4th degree Black Belt and recieved his third degree in Okinawan Weaponry. Stephen has studied Wally Jay's Small Circle Jujitsu under Sensei Rick Alford. In April of 2006 Stephen was awarded the rank of Shodan by Sensei Ed Melaugh and Sensei Rick Alford in Small Circle Jujitsu.

Stephen is a member of the SKKAA Board of Advisers. He is a contributor to I Remember II (2004).

Tad Pawlowski was born in Szczecin, Poland, in 1961, where he grew up and studied. In 1985, he received a Master's degree in Fishery and Seafood Processing Technology from the Department of Sea Fishery and Seafood Technology at the Agricultural University of Szczecin.

Tad had begun training karate in 1974, studying Shotokan Karate-Do. In 1980 Tad began simultaneously studying Wado-Ryu Karate-Do and Aikido under sensei Toshikazu Ichimura (Aikikai, 6th Dan) and sensei Jacek Wysocki (8th Dan).

In 1990, Tad immigrated to the US, where in 1999 he began training Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do in the Andover dojo under sensei Stephen Iannetti. On May 5th, 2007 Tad was awarded a promotion to the 1st degree black belt, and received the 2nd degree black belt on February 26th, 2009. Tad was promoted to Sandan and received the rank of an Instructor in July 2016. He has served as the Head Instructor of North-East Shorin Ryu Academy of Andover since 2009 and is a member of Beisho's board of advisors.

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