by Stephen Dafoe
Sensei Steve Rooke was inspired to pursue martial arts by watching his childhood idols, Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. There is no question in his mind that Lee would win in a match between the two, but neither is there a question in his mind about making the decision to start a karate school in Morinville a decade ago. It was a good decision.
It was exactly 10 years ago last week that Rooke approached his sensei about the idea to stat a school in Morinville. The karate instructor says he started in the summer of 2006 in the United Church basement with about 30 students. Today his students number close to 130 and the school operates out of a 1000 square foot dojo floor on 100 Avenue above DC Transmissions. August marks eight years at that spot.
Rooke’s martial arts discipline is Uechi-Ryu Karate, based out of Okinawa, Japan. As a high school student, he looked into martial arts, but the closest thing available for him was the opportunity to take tae kwon-do in Edmonton. Instead, Rooke spent his teen years in hockey and baseball, returning to a look at martial after he was married to his wife Kim and raising their two sons, Jordan and Braden.
“We were looking for a discipline scenario for the boys, and we saw Sensei Desa and Sempai Janet do a demonstration in Cardiff in the park,” Rooke recalled, adding the family decided to sign their children up. “About a month later I signed up, and a month after that Kim signed up. We kind of made it a family thing, and from there it kind of just exploded.”
Rooke recalls sitting in his sensei’s office, a single green stripe on his belt, and telling him he wanted to be in his position one day. Seven years later, Rooke made it happen.
Steve Rooke is currently a fifth-degree black belt (Godan) and a Master Instructor. The Rooke school also does martial arts weapons training.
Throughout his journey from white belt to his current status, and from student to master, Rooke has enjoyed both his own journey of growth and watching that growth unfold in his students.
“A lot of it has been watching a lot of kids grow,” he recalls. “I’ve had some students that have lasted a short period. I’ve got some students that have lasted a long time. To see those kids grow is phenomenal. One student, in particular, is Karl Hartmann. He joined the dojo at seven years old, and been with me for over nine years now. He is now a 16-year-old black belt. To watch that young man grow from a clumsy, uncoordinated little seven-year-old to a mature, strong 16-year-old boy has been one of the fruits of the labour. That’s one little story out of many, and it’s watching and seeing the accomplishments of the kids, not only here in the dojo but in tournaments.”
Rooke regularly talks to parents about how things are going outside the dojo and often finds the discipline and dedication he is finding as they earn their stripes continues at school and at home.
“That’s the feedback I generally get from parents,” Rooke said. “When they [the parents] come here, they are looking for discipline most often, and a lot of times the side effects are respect, concentration, confidence in school, and stuff like that.”
What remains particularly attractive to Rooke about martial arts so many years later is what he calls a never-ending expansion of what can be learned. The discipline doesn’t just end with the moves that are learned or the belts that are earned.
“You are always challenging your mind to learn more and more,” he said. There is always more to learn.” Respect and hard work are the philosophy Rooke brings to karate and his school. “I’ve gotten into the habit of making sure the kids understand that you earn what you get, and if you want it – you are going to get it. Also, that in competition it is not always the win that makes the person better. It’s being confident in what you are doing and getting up there.”
Although the school has lots of adult students, they do focus on a family type environment. The school holds outside activities for students, including Karate Camp, occasional movie nights, bottle drives, and backyard workouts.
Kim Rooke said the entire family is involved with son Jordan instructing and son Braden running the school’s social media.
“It is nice to make it a family affair even for ourselves, which passes down the line,” she said. “Our clients see that we’re family, and we cater to family, which is nice for a small town.”
Visit rookekarate.com for more information on the school.