Brianna Bodine

2nd Degree Brown Belt and Yellow Sash

As a young adult, I always had an aggressive streak. I was the epitome of a tom boy, and I participated in fighting styles such as Tae Kwan Do, Kempo and kickboxing. However, I drifted away from fighting systems and martial arts for years because it became repetitive and uninteresting. When I came to Lexington to attend graduate school at the University of Kentucky, the last thing I expected to encounter was Shaolin Kung Fu. I came to the Sin Thé Karate School by accident, on a whim, and I signed up that night, which would be the beginning of a way of life infinitely more fulfilling than anything I've known before.

Shaolin-Do is more than a fighting style or a martial arts system: It is a design for living. The art and science of kung fu has permeated every aspect of my life. I am healthier, happier, more disciplined, humble, patient, and a better listener. I am even physically stronger than I ever was, even after weightlifting for the last decade of my life. By taking both the hard style kung fu and the soft style Tai Chi courses offered at the school, I'm learning how to be in tune with my body, my mind and my spirit. Years of yoga never gave me the level of meditation and spiritual contentment that Tai Chi and Shaolin-Do give me today. The practice of this martial art has made me a more complete and synergistic human being, and offered me a means to stay in shape that is more fun, more challenging and more authentic than any style I have ever encountered. Even better, there is so much material to learn — with more than 900 katas and dozens of weapons and fighting styles — that I will never get bored or fall out of love with Shaolin-Do like I did with the other styles.

To anyone who thinks they don't have the time or the money to do this (it's only about the price of a regular gym membership), I have to ask, "What are true health, well being and inner peace worth to you?" To me, those things are priceless, and this newfound "hobby" of mine has become the most important piece of my life. Life is too short to not live to the fullest, and this martial art has been the most fulfilling of all my life pursuits. I can never repay the school and all the helpful masters for what they have given me — a gift which defies expression or explanation, but that I will carry with me forever.


Aprill Shepherd

1st Degree Black Belt

My martial arts studies began with karate classes in the student center at Georgia Tech. This style did not hold my attention, as I had hoped, so I began looking for another style to study. I found an instructor teaching Hung Gar kung-fu and studied with him for several years while I finished my Bachelor's degree and landed my first job. I let a job transfer to Detroit bring my martial arts studies to a halt. It was another 13 years, a career change, and a move to Lexington before my martial arts studies would begin again. It has been my honor to study Shaolin-Do as a student of Elder Master Bill Leonard.

In the past, a reasonable amount of hand-eye coordination and athletic ability have enabled me to catch on pretty quickly to new sports and activities. It did not take long to reach a level in Shaolin-Do where these abilities no longer provided an advantage. Although athletic, I'm not particularly flexible and this has demanded some extra attention. When I become flustered or overwhelmed, I tend to confuse my left side and right side.

Interestingly, the limitations I experience are more mental than physical. Shaolin-Do is an amazing full body workout that pushes your body to the limit and helps you to discover muscle groups previously unknown. If that is what you take out of your studies, you have gained something. Every time I set foot in class I discover that the physical side only begins to scratch the surface of this art. If you can get out of your own way, past the mental limitations, there is so much more you can take away from your studies — confidence, stamina, humility, patience, increased health, a sense of well-being, and resistance to negative influences.

My intention with each class is to leave everything at the door of the dojo and spend my class time free of the outside world. I must confess that this is difficult on several levels. I have trouble being patient with myself, giving myself enough time to learn new material. I struggle with the thought that my natural athletic ability will see me through and that perhaps I don't need to practice EVERY day (laziness). Each class and each practice session test my memory and mental focus. If I bring outside worries into class, my ability to perform and learn suffers. I am not aware of multi-tasking in Shaolin-Do; only focused mental attention. Much like life, when my attention is divided, my efforts suffer. Shaolin-Do classes, when done properly, are a moving meditation.

Being the stubborn person that I am, I have resisted letting Shaolin-do in outside of class and practice. Ironic that I wish to practice this art the rest of my life, yet I attempt to keep it compartmentalized and separated from my everyday life. I am learning that I get more out of class and life when I lighten up; take time to reflect on what I have learned and what I have yet to master; and practice focused mental attention. Upon second thought, I see that Shaolin-do HAS seeped into my everyday life, and that is a VERY good thing.


David Duncan

2nd Degree Black Belt

Elder Master Leonard accepted me as a white belt having already attained advanced rank belts in five Korean and Okinawa martial arts styles. Shaolin-Do training had been a lifelong dream for me. No style compares to the comprehensive, intensive, and diverse curriculum taught under the guidance of Grandmaster Sin Thé. The purity of the ancient art developed in the temples of China has been preserved for the benefit of the serious student of the martial arts. If you are a committed prospective student of Shaolin Kung Fu, you have arrived. Welcome and best wishes as you begin your journey!


Claude Meares

3rd Degree Black Belt

I began my studies in Shaolin-Do in June 1992 under the guidance of Grandmaster Sin Kwang Thé. At the time, I was merely looking for a better way to fight and stay in shape. I am no longer looking. To bluntly state that Shaolin-Do has changed my life is an understatement. Shaolin-Do is so rich and fulfilling that I have spent the last half of my life learning and using it, and I've just barely even scratched the surface.

Due largely to its sheer complexity and extensiveness, the lifestyle of Shaolin-Do can often feel somewhat difficult or overwhelming. All too often, I have literally left class dripping with sweat, and with more questions than when class began. This, however, has never been a discouragement because it should take years to learn and execute the most complete, comprehensive, and dangerous martial art on the planet. I can't even begin to imagine what my mind, body, and spirit would resemble without the practice of Shaolin-Do.

Since 1993, I have had the privilege of practicing Shaolin-Do under the guidance of Elder Master Bill Leonard who, in my opinion, is the most capable martial artist I have ever met. His classes have always stressed patience and practice, as well as discipline and the value of hard work; principles almost everyone truly needs (yet few actually have) to be successful in life, as well as in the martial arts. As a result, I have found Shaolin-Do to be an invaluable tool, useful in almost any situation.

As I mentioned above, it has taken me years to learn and practicably execute Shaolin-Do. In that amount of time, I have seen many Shaolin-Do students come and go, and some seem to have quit just after receiving the rank of black belt. In Shaolin-Do, unlike other martial arts, black belt is not an end to one's training; rather it is only the beginning. At first this was a difficult concept. After all, I had spent three years of my life coming to a class regularly and training hard. I was also in better shape than ever before and could definitely defend myself against an attacker. Later, I realized those same three years were merely the foundation for a much broader and challenging experience which would not come easy, but then again, nothing truly worth having ever does.

Thankfully, patience is also an attribute I have gained with the practice of this ancient Chinese fighting art. Patience is truly necessary when you consider the amount of time necessary to learn and develop Shaolin-Do in a meaningful and practical way. Perhaps my advice might seem over simplified, but I assure you it has worked for me: practice, practice, practice and patience, patience, patience; you can only get better.


Robert Newton

4th Degree Black Belt

I started studying Shaolin-Do in 1984 under George Burnette in Leitchfield, KY. I quit for a few years to serve my country and to find myself. I started back in 1992 and earned my black belt in 1994.

I started teaching as soon as I received my black belt, out of necessity. My instructor quit teaching to attend the Seminary. In 2010, I started attending classes in Lexington. It is nearly impossible to explain the motivation, camaraderie, and the respect I've seen there. I learned that I may be an only child, but I have a large family in Shaolin. People come from all walks of life — rich, poor, educated or not, but we all sweat the same. It's more than a work out. It is about being a part of something larger.

What I've learned there, I've brought home to my school. My classes are more intense, structured, disciplined, and of a higher quality. The change is in me and my students.

Shaolin-Do can be the foundation for the rest of your life. Embrace it, learn it, and live it. Although I am far from perfect and I struggle for every single skill I have, I am a better man than I would have been without it.


Associate Master Mark Bongard

5th Degree Black Belt

My journey to Shaolin started with my family in April 2002. To explain, though, I have to go a little further back in time. My two sons, Matt and Alex had taken Tae Kwan Do and had tried to get me to take it with them. I have jogged regularly since college, so I was in fairly good shape, but I did not think that I could jump, kick and remember kata. I was then in my early 40s and it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks. Therefore, I always resisted their invitations.

Alex earned a black belt and Matt was just one belt shy of black when they lost interest. They had always been disappointed that there were no weapons in Tae Kwan Do. Matt started looking for another martial arts school that included weapons. He found the Sin Thé Karate School and asked if he and Alex could join. I told him not now, because they just lost interest in one variety of martial arts and we would not spend more money on another martial arts school so soon after they quit the other school. Myresponse is probably understood by all of the parents reading this.

I do have to admit that my wife, Judy, and I were curious about the school that Matt found. We belonged to the Sin Thé Sports Center when I was in law school from 1979 to 1982. We assumed that this must be the same Sin Thé from the Sports Center, but we were not sure. (Of course, once we joined we learned that Grandmaster Sin Thé is the same person from the Sports Center.)

Well, Matt persisted and my parental stamina broke down. We stopped by the school one Sunday afternoon in late March 2002 and took a look around. Everyone was friendly and helpful. We asked questions and got answers. Before we left, my whole family signed up! I signed up for the karate with my two sons, while my wife and daughter, Rachel, signed up for Tai Chi. You might wonder what changed from when my boys took Tae Kwan Do. After all I knew that Shaolin was going to involve kicking, jumping and memorizing, which are the three reasons why I never accepted my boys' invitations to join them. Also, I was then 44 years old and had never played a contact sport in my life. Why would I sign up for Shaolin when I would never even try Tae Kwan Do?

Well the date had a lot to do with it. On September 11, 2001, I was scheduled to fly to Washington D.C. on business. My late morning flight was obviously cancelled. Washington DC is about the only place I travel to on business. When my children asked me to take Shaolin with them one of my thoughts was that no one would take over a plane I was on, once I studied Shaolin. So the combination of national events and the simple desire to participate in a sport with my children started my journey in Shaolin. I am still early in my journey, but I have achieved first black and will be eligible to test for second black in September 2006.

I must admit that it has not been easy. I had trouble learning kata. My sense of right and left is often reversed and I am not naturally athletic. While I played tennis in high school, my coach used to laugh and marvel at how someone so off balance could still on occasion hit the ball over the net. And I can tell you that my balance was not better at age 44 - it was worse! Even though I have no natural ability I loved the classes! I think I liked them even more than my children. I practiced a lot at home and I came to the gym on Saturdays when I could to have one of the black belts help me. Sometimes it is good to be stubborn. Through injuries (of which there were severalon my way to first black) and through confusion (which still plagues me), I was determined to stick with it.

I have stuck with it and I am glad that I did. I have fun and get a great work out of body and mind. The people at the gym are great and the black belts are always helpful. In fact I think it is the people at the gym as much as anything else that keeps me coming. The members come from a wide variety of backgrounds and that makes for an eclectic mix. Thankfully, my wife indulges my interest in Shaolin and is not too bothered by my frequent visits to the gym, even when I am not having my classes. She does, however, refer to Shaolin as my mistress.

I highly recommend Shaolin. It exercises the mind and body and challenges you to overcome inner fears (like of doing cartwheels). It is something you can do with your family and it allows you to meet interesting people and make new friends. Shaolin can even open up a world of travel through the periodic trips to China that the schools across the country take. In 2005, my wife and I went on the China trip and had wonderful time. Finally, Shaolin provides a sense of personal accomplishment balanced with a humble spirit. You learn much, but you also see that there is always much to learn. You can see your own improvement, but you are also aware there are many who are more skilled than yourself. I believe that these are lessons that transfer well to the other aspects of our lives.


Associate Master Lonnie McCoy

5th Degree Black Belt

In the early 1970s, martial arts movies were all the rage and most young men, including me, wanted to do the amazing feats portrayed on film. It was not uncommon for an ambitious martial arts teacher or actor to visit our high school and put on a demonstration in hopes of building a following or to increase ticket sales at the theater. I was hooked, and over the next few years tried several different arts including judo, shotokan, taekwondo and others.

In 1985, I moved to Richmond, KY were I was introduced to Senior Master Bob Green who became my teacher and a very dear friend. I am forever grateful for the introduction and the friendships that followed. Master Bob welcomed me into his class and I was amazed at the things I saw the upper ranks doing. I knew right away Shaolin-Do was what I had been searching for. In 1990, I was granted my black belt by Grandmaster Sin Thé and in 2000, with Master Bob's blessing, I asked elder master Bill Leonard for permission to continue my training under him. Thankfully, I was welcomed and my training has continued.

Let me say up front that I have never met a more hard-core, persistent individual in my life. Elder Master Leonard truly loves the art of Shaolin-Do and it is obvious when attending his classes that he cares about those wanting to follow the same path. He will get you in shape and help you discover new depths you never realized were possible. There is no substitute for a master and the knowledge that is available.

In years past, several of my family and friends have joined the Sin Thé Karate School and their lives have been enriched for their efforts. My son, Mason, began his training with Senior Master Bob Green, and like me, was welcomed by Elder Master Leonard and now he, too, is a black belt.

I cannot find the words to properly express the feeling you have when you look across the dojo and see someone you love learning to defend themselves, knowing that some day it very well may save their life, the life of a loved one, or even your own. The bond that grows between a father and son as we have fun discovering the multiple facets Shaolin-Do has to offer is undoubtedly one of the best feelings in the world. Suffice to say that I am very proud of Mason, and confident in the skills he has gained under the guidance of Master Leonard, as well as other masters and higher ranking black belts that are always willing to help. It is not uncommon to watch Mason spar with adults and successfully defend himself, even though he is just a teenager. The skills he has obtained will be with him for a lifetime. That means a lot to a parent since we will always worry about our children and it doesn't hurt to have him constantly motivating me to achieve more in order to keep up with him.

So if you, your family, or your friends have tried other martial arts and deep down inside you know something is a little lacking, or if you have never tried martial arts and you want to get in shape, relieve stress, live a longer, fuller life, or you are looking for a new hobby, Shaolin-Do very well may be what you've been looking for. But you'll never know unless you give it a try. Good luck in your training, I hope to see you in the dojo.


Associate Master Barbara Elzey

5th Degree Black Belt

I began Shaolin-Do Karate in 1982 while a junior at the University of Kentucky at the urging of my fiancé, who was a black belt in the style. I entered the study of karate with a certain amount of skepticism. I did not have a great desire to be punched and kicked and began, as most women begin, with a very tentative attitude. I had been an athlete all through high school and college so the physical exercise was something I was used to, but I soon found that Shaolin exercised muscles I never knew I had. During that first year, I went to a seminar at Sin Thé's dojo. There, a female green belt kicked me so hard in the stomach that I went down and couldn't get back up for what seemed an incredibly long time. It was then and there that I came to a strong realization. If a woman smaller than me could put me down to the ground, just about anyone could. It was time to learn how to prevent that from happening.

And so, my serious study of the martial arts began at that moment. I was no longer tentative. I, in fact, pursued the martial arts with a passionate desire to obtain expertise. In 1986, I achieved my black belt. That same year, I moved to what was then West Germany, together with my husband, the aforementioned black belt. There, I taught elementary school at a local Department of Defense school and began my own Shaolin Do karate class with the children who attended my school. It was a wonderful experience teaching all of my children about one of the things I loved most. They, too, took to it with a passion.

In 1988, I returned to the United States and tested for my 2nd Degree Black Belt. At that time, I helped Grandmaster Sin Thé in teaching his white through brown belt level classes. Several years later, I left Shaolin in order to have a child and then to deal with two successive bouts with cancer, but Shaolin never truly left me, and in fact, gave me much of the fortitude and mental discipline that it took to deal with my health issues. Now, although quite a bit older than I was when I began this endeavor, I can say that Shaolin brings me far more than it ever did. Mentally, Shaolin tests my memory to a far greater capacity than the college level mathematics I now teach. The mastery of its applications, both internal and external, requires a great deal of critical thinking. Its internal forms give me both relaxation and focus. And it provides better exercise than any sport I could possibly pursue. My self-discipline is strengthened by its practice. My confidence remains strong that I can protect myself. The friends I have made within Shaolin are becoming like another family. More importantly, without a doubt, I know that Shaolin is extending my life and improving my health.


Master Don Enzweiler

6th Degree Black Belt

Not being much in the way of athletic, a close encounter with a couple of less then scrupulous gentlemen at the ripe old age of 29 got me started in the art of Shaolin-Do. Despite being much older than many of my classmates, I began learning the art of punching and kicking. Little did I know then that Shaolin-Do would become a way of life.

As time passed and the material grew longer and more difficult, I kept asking myself, "Why do you keep doing all of this? Especially at your age!" The answer to this question was not completely known until after I survived two separate crises in my life — cancer and double knee replacement surgery. During the recovery and rehabilitation of both of these occurrences, I kept hearing the voices of my teachers. Grandmaster Sin Thé saying "One more time" and "Again" and Elder Master Leonard saying, "Don’t quit now. You can do this!"

If you asked me why I still keep doing all of this, I would probably reply, "Because I can. And I enjoy it."


Elder Master Herman Collins

8th Degree Black Belt

I got my black belt at the Sports Center in 1979, the same year my son Ben was born. In the 80's I took a few years off, but I returned to the club in 1989 along with Ben. He and I been working out together ever since and tested for our second degree black belts together. Since 1992, I've been lucky enough to continue my studies under Elder Master Bill Leonard. In 2009, Grandmaster Sin was gracious enough to promote Ben and I to sixth degree black belt.