Edmond Otis

The challenge to anyone who is dealing with any type of true emergency is universal. Our best chance for success or survival depends on our ability to be our best – when we really need to do our best. Done well, that is exactly what Karate prepares us to do, and asks us to do, each and every time you walk onto the floor of your dojo. That’s why Karate is so challenging, often difficult, and ultimately so satisfying.

Edmond Otis

Edmond Otis was one of the youngest people to start practising Shotokan Karate, in the United States. For over 50 years he has trained and amassed a wealth of knowledge. Known as a very technical exponent of Karate, he has passed on that knowledge to countless the students around the world.

Edmond Otis was born around 1955 in California. He attended Santa Barbara High School.

When Otis was 12 years old he started training at Hidetaka Nishiyama‘s Santa Barbara Shotokan Karate club. At the time he was one of the few children training in Karate. He also trained under Nishiyama‘s assistant, Yutaka Yaguchi.

In the beginning, Karate did not come naturally to Otis. In fact, he struggled. It took him four attempts to pass his brown belt grading. It also took him four attempts to pass his grade for 1st Dan.

In 1973 Otis moved from Santa Barbara to Riverside, California. He became a full-time direct student of Ray Dalke, a pioneer of Shotokan Karate in the United States, and a student of Nishiyama. Otis also had the opportunity to train with another of Nishiyama’s students, the formidable Frank Smith.

Otis flourished in his new training environment. In 1976 he was promoted to 1st Dan by Nishiyama. Three months later, he attempted the grading for 2nd Dan and was promoted again by Nishiyama.

In 1978 Otis enrolled at the University of California, Riverside (UCR) to study psychology. That year he was also promoted to 3rd Dan by Nishiyama.

1981 saw Otis graduate from UCR with a BA in Psychology and Liberal Studies. He also became a lecturer at the University, teaching Humanities.

In 1979, Otis’ mentor, Dalke broke away from Nishiyama’s American Amateur Karate Federation (AAKF), to join Teruyuki Okazaki‘s International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF). Otis had previously received all his grades from Nishiyama.

On 21 November 1984, Dalke and a group of senior American instructors including Leslie Safar left the ISKF to form the American JKA Karate Association (AJKA).

Otis had become Dalke’s top student. Otis also started training with Leslie Safar in 1984, remaining his personal student until 2019.

In 1988 Otis enrolled at Loma Linda University, California. He graduated in 1991 with a masters degree in Counselling Psychology and Systems Theory.

On 31 October 1993, Otis’ mentor Dalke, took early retirement from his position as Director of Martial Arts at UCR. He also stepped down from his position at the AJKA. Otis took over both positions from Dalke.

By 1993 Otis had established his own dojo at Carlsbad, California. He had also become a licensed psychotherapist.

In 1999 Otis was appointed Chairman and Chief Instructor at the American JKA Karate Association International ( AJKA-I). He held the position until 2019.

In 2000 Otis co-authored “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Karate“, with Randall G Hassell.

Otis was honoured in 2001 by the University of California, Riverside, in recognition for his devotion to his students.

In 2008 Otis and his family moved to New Zealand. He was appointed as a senior lecturer at the Eastern Institute of Technology, Hawke’s Bay, where he taught Health & Sport Science. He also established the Shotokan Karate Hawke’s Bay dojo. In 2015 he became a New Zealand citizen.

Together with a group of like-minded instructors, Otis established the Shotokan International Alliance, in 2019, becoming its chairman. The aim of the alliance is to provide access to a group, free of politics and where open discussions can be had about the development of Shotokan Karate.

Otis has made it his mission to teach Karate in a way that gels with the struggles that we all face in today’s world.

Author: Patrick Donkor

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