Chief Dojo Cho - Robert Stevens
I started training in 1984. It was a small school on the edge of town with a mixed system of Japanese and Chinese arts (China Kung Fu, Wing Chun Kung Fu, Kenpo Karate). I was in high school living in Baltimore City and I had some tough times with kids and men in my neighborhood. I had always had an interest in Martial Arts but never really considered it. One day after school I went to play basketball and found myself in a fight with a guy 10 years older then me (who had studied Martial Arts). Needless to say I went home bloody with my shoes stolen and pride broken. It was all my parents needed to see. They took me to the closest Martial Arts school and signed me up. It was nothing like I thought it would be. It was hard work, not only for my body but also for my mind. It was a new world and something that was intimidating yet fascinating all at the same time. I trained there for about a year and got a few belts and attended a few seminars and knew enough to make me want more. I began to read books and ask questions in class. I asked questions about the root of Martial Arts and it's vast history. I soon found out that my teachers have never trained under true Grandmasters and are just students of students who learned from books and seminars. I had grown very close to my instructors and thought they had incredible skill. So I was very disappointed to find out there was no history and culture with a connection to a real tradition and history. Sure many of these arts like Wing Chun had a history and had a Grandmaster, but there was no connection from my school. I felt without the connection to tradition and history and the opportunity to train directly under a true grandmaster I would never be able to reach the highest goals and skill level for myself. I just felt something very special was missing. So my search beganů..
All my studies pointed towards China and the ancient art of Kung Fu. It had many systems and was very diverse from animal forms to very old systems passed down from India . Only problem was the closest teacher to me in any real Chinese art was hours away. It seemed after Chinese arts there was the Samurai of Japan. These guys were very different, from the armor and the military codes of Bushido to the isolated history of hundreds of years of war. With the Samurai I felt a real connection inside me. They had it all, spiritual training, a dedication to live a life of service to something beyond themselves. They were great warriors with honor and tradition. But again to find instructors in these arts was very difficult. For a while I thought I was going to have to move to Japan .
On the way to participate in a martial arts tournament and visit Chinatown in Philadelphia , PA I came a crossed a small group training on the side of the road about 45minutes from my house. Dressed in black and obviously doing Martial Arts we decided to turn around and check it out. The training was hard and looked very effective. People training outside on the dirt throwing and hitting each other, yelling out sounds run by a very organized instructor. It was almost like watching a military group. I found out that this art was called Ninpo. I had never heard of Ninpo. It was in none of the books I read and I read dozens. We watched the entire class and even went out and got thrown around some. After the class was over we went indoors to a small dojo and talked to the instructor. It was there we found out that Ninpo was a combination of spiritual training and the Arts of the Samurai and Ninja. I had heard of the Ninja but gave it no credit. After a small demonstration and a quick history lesson I soon changed my mind. And we never did make it to Philadelphia that day.
I joined that afternoon. Saturday June 8th 1985. The art was called Ninpo and the organization that taught this art was called the Genbukan. And it's Grandmaster was a man named Shoto Tanemura, Soke.
From that summer day until now I have been around the world and trained with many great men and have seen so much. In 1986 I joined the United States Marine Corps and served four years with the 6th Marines 2nd division Infantry. In 1990 I followed my old Genbukan instructor on a path that took us all over the country and world training with many different masters. It was a journey I do not regret but it took me away from the Genbukan and my only true teacher Grandmaster Tanemura. Even while I studied under different teachers my heart was never happy, and I continued to fall back on my foundations and early teachings with the Genbukan. In 2000 I knew I had to regain my connections with Grandmaster Tanemura and began to prepare a small group of loyal students. In 2003 I was able to officially open a Genbukan Dojo with the help of my teacher in America Kyoshi Gary Gamboi who has been a critical mentor helping me re-establish my relationship with the Grandmaster and my position in the organization. There has been some sacrifices and a few bumpy roads but it has all been worth it and the future looks very good.
"The grass is never greener on the other side, it's just cold and lonely and without the ones you love."
His current rank is:
Dojo Cho Genbukan Kageshin Dojo
Shoden Menkyo Asayama Ichiden Ryu
Shoden Menkyo Gyokko Ryu Kosshi Jutsu
Shoden Menkyo Koto Ryu Koppo Jutsu
Yon Dan Genbukan Ninpo Taijutsu
San Dan Kokusai Jujutsu Remei
Chu Ku Bo Jutsu
4th Kyu Kenjutsu