Kumite with Sensei Jeff Burlingame Round 3

Welcome to the final round of Kumite with Sensei Jeff Burlingame. In the last two week Sensei Burlingame provided us with an insight to his personal and professional life. We learned that Burlingame’s experiences with ADHD and Asperger’s inspired him to work with other people who also have the same mental health challenges. Burlingame shares his views on using his martial arts training as a deputy sheriff. Burlingame also discusses the motivation behind opening his dojo. In this final round of the Kumite Burlingame will share with us his plans since he has retired from the dojo. I will attempt to find out what his strategy is for sparing a 3 foot tall dwarf. And lastly Burlingame will add a few more words about other challenges he has faced in life and how being a martial artist has helped him.


KKD: Now that you are retired from teaching do you still practice? What style have you always wanted to try?

JB: I still stop in the two locations that my students have and observe and teach from time to time and when I relocate, I may start up a small class working with a few serious students. If I could, I think I would like to study Aikido. Watching the classes that were being taught by the instructors fascinated me but with the back problems that I have, it would not let me do so.


KKD: Are there any new/old hobbies or new skills you want to attempt?

JB: Once I relocate I hope to get back into scuba diving and flying, both had been put on hold for various reasons.

 KKD: I have always wanted to learn how to fly. Do you mind if I join you? I don’t take up much space. I can fit in the overhead compartment.


KKD: What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened when practicing martial arts or at a competition?

JB: I think the most embarrassing thing that happened to me during class was passing out and waking up seeing my Sensei standing over me smiling. It was a hot day in Tampa (where my Sensei lived), I hadn’t eaten breakfast and I didn’t pace myself properly.

 KKD: At least you didn’t drink a bottle of Pepsi while walking through Lowry Park Zoo in 120 degree weather. Then subsequently vomit for the next 48 hours.


KKD: If you could meet anyone from the past who would it be? Why? What would you hope to gain from this encounter? 

JB: One person that I wish that I had met would be Shimabukuro Zenryo, the father of Seibukan Karate. He died in 1969, but I currently am a student of his son Zenpo of Okinawa. I had heard many many stories from Takae Sensei who trained under Zenryo Sensei and to be able to see how he moved and taught would be priceless. I haven’t even been able to locate any films of him teaching or training. Back then most Sensei did not allow films to be shot during class time.

KKD: I found old videos of Takae on YouTube demonstrating several of the Seibukan katas. A few years ago I was preparing for a trip to Florida and had planned to stop off and see Takae. By the time I got there he had passed away the week before.

KKD: Based on your martial arts experience; if you were to teach me one thing what would it be? 

JB: Every student is different, with different needs and abilities. If there is one thing that I tell people is to keep training, never give up and don’t let people tell you that you can’t do something.


KKD: Have you ever sparred a 3 foot tall dwarf? If you have, how did it turn out? What was your strategy? 

JB: I can truthfully say that I have never sparred a 3ft dwarf before but I know that I would rather spar someone my size or taller than myself. In my early days I had a friend in the dojo that was substantially shorter than me and he always aggravated me during sparring. He would always stay on the inside , staying close so he could reach me with his punches and kicks but with him staying so close I could not get many kicks off. I learned from this and when I teach student sparring I explain how to take advantage of partners taller and shorter than them.

KKD: If you haven’t, how would you proceed to spar against one?

JB: If I did spar a 3ft dwarf, I defiantly think I would wear a cup. Ha Ha.

KKD: That is the typical strategy of averaged height people.


KKD: What else would you like for the world to know about you that you haven’t mentioned?

JB: Over the years I have had my share of issues that I had to deal with; in1986 I was diagnosed with testicular cancer and lost my left nut. Then in 1987-88 I was diagnosed with Lymphoma. Luckily I was taken to the Cleveland Clinic and they had developed an experimental toxic waste that they tried on me that worked. Between 1991 2013 I had 10 back surgeries and two fusions due to herniated disks. I still and always will have issues with my back and have just needed to re-evaluate how I train. My back pain is moderate but I waited too long between two of my surgeries and the herniated disk pressed up against my spinal cord and damaged the serves that go to my feet. Now I have delayed touch sensations in my feet, balance is affected but other than that health is very good. I credit my training in Martial Arts for helping me through my cancers (positive attitude) and physical conditioning on my back recovery on my back surgeries. Looking to relocate to somewhere in Central America in the next year or two, maybe Costa Rica, Belize, or Panama, or maybe buy a bot and travel the Caribbean.   Only time will tell….

Awards and Accolades:

  • 2009 – Inducted in World Karate Union Hall of Fame: Master Instructor of the Year
  • 2009 – Received “Golden Life Achievement Award” 40 years of service
  • 2010 – United States Martial arts Hall of Fame – “Traditional Master Instructor of the Year”
  • 2011 – Appointed to Medina City Civil Service Commission
  • 2012 – Member of Medina Sunrise Rotary
  • 2013 – Received Shimabukuro Award – Seibukan USA
  • 2113 – Appointed to Board of Directors of Seibukan USA
  • 2014 – Inducted into the International Seibukan Shorin-Ryu Karate Hall of Fame


KKD: Thank you Sensei Burlingame for taking the time to be a part of the Karate Kickin Dwarf Kumite experience. I wish you a happy retirement.

Any readers have questions or comments please feel free to post them below. If you have a story about using martial arts to overcome challenges in life and want to share then send me an email. Be sure to sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss the next Kumite with the Karate Kickin Dwarf.

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