Thursday, May 23, 2024

Wendi Barker


I began my study of Uechi Ryu karate in 1998 with Mike Rozumek at his school in Pepperell Massachusetts. 

I received my shodan with him on 6/2001 (Uechiryu Karatedo Association)

Nidan – 12/02 – through Mike Rozumek (uechiryu karatedo association)

Mike Rozumek closed his dojo and I did not have a sensei for my 3rd dan.

Sandan – 8/05 summerfest – IUKF , George Mattson, Paul Haydu & Vincent Christiano signing

Fedele Cacia agree to be my sensei in 2006.

Yondan – 4/08 IUKF – Fedele Cacia/ George Mattson signing

Godan – 3/13 IUKF – Fedele Cacia/ George Mattson signing

Rokudan – 3/20 IUKF – George Mattson, Darin Yee

I began teaching as a green belt at Mike Rozumek’s school in 1999, working up to head instructor of the kids program until he closed his school in 2004.

I moved to Whidbey Island Washington State in 2004 and opened my own dojo, ‘Tiger Martial Arts’ , in 2005, which is still thriving today.  Our website is:  .

I teach 20-24 classes per week.  50 weeks a year.  My students ages range from age 4 – 74.

At the moment we have 118 active students and we have been open 19 years as of March 1, 2024


 ‘Hometown Hero’ award from the south Whidbey record (newspaper) in 2007 for my school and it’s work in the community.

“Ruby award’ from the soroptimist group for a series of women’s/ girls self defense program and seminars I did through their group.

I began my Uechi Ryu journey in 1998.  I began my karate life like many people I’ve met who have turned it into their life’s passion – at the end of my rope.  Married to an abusive husband with two young children.  One born with spina bifida and requiring lots of hospital stays and care.   I had lost myself somewhere along the way.  In a quest to find myself I decided try something that I had never done.  Something that could be just mine. I lived a few miles from Mike Rozumek’s Karate Center and so I signed up for a month.  It just happened to be during a time when they were doing a parent appreciation month.  I found myself among other parents my age all trying something new.  It was an easy going camaraderie that changed my life.

By the time I reached green belt I was assisting in kids classes and by the time I reached shodan I was one of their instructors.  I had found my place in the universe!

After 6 ½ years at Mike Rozumek’s, he sold his school, I had divorced my husband and was raising my two kids by myself without child support or help.  My mom lived on Whidbey Island off the coast of Washington state.  We flew out to see her and I fell in love with it.  The South end of the island is an artsy community and having been a student of the Massachusetts College of Art in my youth, it felt like home.

I left that trip with a new purpose, I would sell everything that I had, move to Whidbey Island and open a dojo.  My mom encouraged the move, though at first, thought I was nuts to try to open a dojo.  In December of 2004 I arrived.

I began that winter with an after school program at the Whidbey Island Intermediate School.  I offered the class for free as a way for people to get to know me and what I was doing.  By March 2005, I had secured a dojo location and opened doors for a full time dojo.    One of my biggest challenges was that I was a 5’ 3” woman, in an area that had never heard of Uechi Ryu. 

When I first moved here I looked for other Uechi Ryu dojos and could only find two.  One in Kent Washington, but I was never able to get a hold of anyone there and one actually on the island in Oak Harbor run by Brant  Christiansen.  Whidbey Island is 40 miles long and the North end is a Naval Base.   I worked out with Brant and his students when he was here on leave, and was devastated when he was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2006.  After that I believed that mine was the only operating full time Uechi Dojo in Washington state.

Having no business background, but full of enthusiasm I set to work.  I have never wanted to get rich off the martial arts – I have always wanted to give back and help people become their best.   I went to the MAIA convention in Las Vegas, I joined NAPMA, I read and watched everything I could on running a successful dojo.  I knew I was good with kids and woman and decided that would be my focus.  I took things that worked from Mike Rozumek’s and ideas that I had gotten from Tom Callos and Dave Kovar and grew my children’s program.

My plan – to have over 100 students by 2006.  I worked tirelessly and achieved that goal.  My daughter helped in classes as an assistant and my son helped in the office.

I made giving back a big part of my program.  Kids had to do a set number of Random Acts of Kindness before they would be eligible to test, along with the curriculum.  I took Tom Callos’ Ultimate Black Belt test and morphed it into a ‘Shodan Journal’ that every student has to do before they can test for Shodan at our school.  It is not an extra charge, but what is expected on their journey.  What I was trying to do was show students that they could achieve anything that they put their mind to, as long as they didn’t quit. 

For Adults the Shodan Journal takes 9 months. 

It requires students to :

  • Do 50 push ups and sit ups everyday.  (total will be over 13,000)
  • walk/run 3.7 miles every day.  (total will be at least 1,000)
  • Perform all their katas every day. 
  • Read 6 books on self improvement or are inspirational
  • Write down one thing that they did that day that helped someone else.
  • Fulfill  a personal Victory
  • Spearhead a community project

For Junior students (under 16) the journal takes 3 months.

It requires:

  • 10 push ups/ 10 sit ups per day – (total will be over 900)
  • Perform all katas every day
  • Read one book on leadership or philosophy
  • Have earned their 1,000 Random Acts of Kindness patch
  • Write down one thing they did to that day to help someone else.
  • Spearhead an environmental clean up or community betterment project

Though students sometimes feel overwhelmed at the beginning of this, I have found it is their favorite part of the shodan process by the end. 

Besides the journal project they have a written test – adults is 100 questions where they must pass with 90% or better and juniors have a 50 question test that they must get 80% or better on.  After 18 years with this in place I have only had 2 students not pass the written test, in which case they wait 6 months and try again.

Once they pass all that they do their physical test.

I think a lot of the success I have found in the dojo actually goes back to being a 5’ 3” woman!  I am animated and kids love me.  Woman who come to me looking for help from abusive situations find someone who knows exactly what they’re going through, who doesn’t look down on them as weak, but stands next to them as they learn to be stronger. 

Two years after living here, in 2007, I was named a ‘Hometown Hero’ from the Whidbey Island Record for the way the dojo gave back to the community and how our teaching was helping kids.

The Whidbey Island Soroptimist awarded me the ‘Ruby Award’ in 2009 for teaching self defense in the highschool gym classes, donating my time for safety seminars at their ‘Island Girls’ camps and putting together a ‘Kicking and screaming’ seminar series for teenage girls.

In 2013 I was asked to speak at “WOW” (Woman on Whidbey) on woman empowerment.  (It was like a TED talk)  You can find it here:

One of the challenges of living on an island is that kids grow up and leave – as they should!  It is a transient area for many people.  I make sure my kids all know their Uechi history and background and tell them one of the great things about Uechi is that you can go into any Uechi Ryu dojo and be welcomed.  As we have welcomed visiting karateka.  That they will know the same things that are done there.  That there will be slight variations, but nothing that will be too far off from what we do.  I had to smile, last year one of my adult male students went to winterfest with George Mattson and when he came back he told me that I taught the same stuff that they did at winterfest.  Thank goodness!

Our dojo teaches classes for in self defense for the schools for free, we do beach clean ups, raise money for the local food bank and community center.  We’ve done demos for local assisted living homes with parents knitting/crocheting lap Afghans and our little tigers presenting them! With every black belt having to do a community project – we are constantly giving back to our community!

For me – teaching Uechi Ryu is my life.  I love the challenge of a new student.  Especially when they have challenges, be it a kid with autism, a deaf adult, medical challenges, whatever.. how can I help them be what they want to be?  My passion.  My play.  I imagine I will continue to teach it until they push my cold, dead body off the mats.

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Cecilia Salbuchi is a web developer and Karate-Ka. Check my projects at

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