Sensei Steve Rooke obtains his sixth-degree black belt in Uechi-Ryu Karate 

Sensei Steve Rooke [above back row left] obtained his sixth-degree black belt over the weekend. Oct. 4 marks his 23rd year in Uechi-Ryu Karate. 

by Stephen Dafoe (photos courtesy of Steve Rooke)

Sensei Steve Rooke with his Sensei Manuel DesaSensei Steve Rooke has been a practitioner of Uechi-Ryu Karate since 1999 and now holds the rank of Rokudan (6th-degree black belt) and Shihan (Master Instructor).

The instructor’s last two tests have been out of the country. Rooke earned his fourth-degree black belt in Florida in 2009, and his fifth-degree belt in Connecticut in 2015. He was to test for his sixth-degree belt in 2021 in St. Albert. COVID postponed that event for another year. Rooke tested for his sixth-degree belt at Desa School of Karate in St. Albert over the weekend ahead of this week’s Spirit of the North tournament. 

The Shihan Master Instructor said his Sensai, Manuel Desa, held testing for students seeking third-degree and lower black belts in April but did testing on those seeking their fifth- or sixth-degree black belts this weekend.

Rooke said it had been almost eight years since he obtained his fifth-degree black belt in Connecticut, back in 2015.  There, he had to do all of the material during that testing, including Boon Kai and Kumite, but less material this outing.

“When you go for sixth-degree black belt, you only have to do three kata [patterns],” Rooke said, noting those katas were Sanchin, Seisan and Sanseiryu.

Rooke became a Shihan Master after completing his fifth-degree black belt some years back, but the sixth is that extra strip on the belt, both figuratively and literally.

“It’s a pretty cool thing to do, mostly just because of the gold stripe on the belt,” he said. “It does definitely give you the distinction of being a master in the style of karate that you are learning.”

And Rooke has been learning for a long time.

His journey in Uechi-Ryu Karate began almost 23 years ago at the age of 32. His children were young, and Rooke trained four or five days per week, quickly earning his first- and second-degree black belts within two years. These belts were followed by the third, fourth, and fifth, his more than two decades of constant improvement culminating in this weekend’s sixth degree. 

Three belts ago, when Rooke obtained his third-degree black belt, he and his wife Kim Rooke opened the Rooke School of Karate and began teaching students the discipline of Uechi-Ryu Karate.

Rooke is appreciative of Kim Rooke’s [right] support over the past nearly quarter-century. 

“My wife has spent the last 23 years supporting me in this,” he said. “She’s been amazing through this, helping with the business side of things plus just following my passion to be a martial artist. I couldn’t have really done it without her.”

With a sixth-degree belt around his waist, Rooke said he does not expect much to change at Rooke School of Karate, but he hopes having a new rank will open the door to new students. 

Sensei Steve Rooke has about 30 current students training and some competing at the Spirit of the North Tournament in St. Albert. 

“I think they’ll do pretty good,” Rooke said. “I don’t have the numbers I had before because I have so many new students. But I think they’ll do pretty good.”

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