Shuseki Shihan Frank Woon-A-Tai, MS, FGMS, 9th Dan
Frank Woon-A-Tai, 9th Dan, was born in Guyana in 1950, and began training in 1964. He holds a B.A degree in Japanese Studies from the University of Toronto. In January 2011, he resigned from the ISKF as Chairman and Technical Director of ISKF Canada, and co-vice Chairman of the ISKF Technical Committee to establish the International Karate Daigaku (IKD).
Master Woon-A-Tai is Kancho (Founder) and Shuseki Shihan (Chief Master) of the IKD. Throughout his distinguished career, he served as first president of the Caribbean Karate College and as chief instructor of Jamaica from 1976 to 1980. He is founder and chief instructor of JKA/ISKF Guyana, and the Guyana Karate College. He founded the Toronto JKA in 1981, and is presently Chairman and Chief Instructor of the Toronto Karate Daigaku, Ontario Karate College, and IKD Ontario.
After training in Japan in the early 1970s, he continued his training, until recently, under the legendary Master Teruyuki Okazaki, 10th Dan for 40 years. He also trained under Masters: Yutaka Yaguchi, 9th Dan, Hidetaka Nishiyama, 10th Dan, the great Masatoshi Nakayama, 10th Dan, and Hirokazu Kanazawa, 10th Dan – all JKA legends, as well as almost every famous Japanese Karate Masters of the 1950s to 1970s.
He was the first Canadian Guyanese graduate of the JKA/ISKF Instructor Training Institute, and a 1978 Pan American kata champion. Master Woon-A-Tai is a recipient of the French Guiana National Medal of Service for over 25 years of karate service in that country. In 2005, he was inducted in the ISKF Canada Hall of Honour. In 2009, he received the Mayor of Georgetown’s Award for his lifetime of service to the youth of Guyana. He produced two DVDs; Eclipse of Life (1997), and Soul of Kata (2000).
A dedicated teacher, he has produced regional, national, and Pan American champions, as well as world karate champions, all of whom have outstanding tournament records. He hosted the prestigious 2008 ISKF World Shoto Cup in Toronto, and in 2010, the 11th ISKF Pan American Karate Championships in Guyana. This event was attended by His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo and was co-sponsored by the Guyana Government. At the same event, His Honour, the Mayor of Georgetown, Hamilton Green presented Master Okazaki with the ‘Key to the City’.
Master Woon-A-Tai received his first degree black belt in 1971 from the JKA in Tokyo, and his eighth degree black belt from Masters Okazaki and Yaguchi. He also received his A class Instructor, A class Examiner, and A class Judge licences at the same time. In turn, he has produced thousands of black belt students ranging from first to seventh dan as well as several international instructors, examiners and judges.
In 2011, he received his greatest honour from the government of Guyana. He was appointed a Member of the Order of Service of Guyana and awarded the Medal of Service for long and outstanding service as an exponent and trainer in martial arts at the national, regional and international levels by His Excellency, President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana.
His main goal continues to be of service to young people throughout the world by helping them find direction in life, helping to keep them off the drugs, and to break the cycle of crime and violence through the discipline of karate training. In October 2011, IKD received accreditation from the Guyana Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport.
The Shotokan Way
Medal of Service
Our chief instructor has yet another honour bestowed on him. He is among those receiving the prestigious Order of Guyana this year.
A native of Georgetown, Guyana, Master Woon-A-Tai, left Guyana over thirty-five years ago. Even though he now makes his home in Toronto, he has never forgotten his Guyanese roots.
He will be honoured with the Medal of Service in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the community and for his many achievements as a karate pioneer who worked tirelessly propagating the traditional Japanese martial art in the Caribbean, Canada, and elsewhere.
Mr. Waynewright Orderson, Public Relations/Communications Officer of Guyana Karate College was ecstatic over the news.
In an e-mail correspondence, he said to Mr. Woon-A-Tai, “Your work in karate internationally has been outstanding, and your contributions to the Guyana Karate College and Guyana have been equally impressive. …This Medal of Service has been justly awarded to you, as you are truly a teacher at the highest level of achievement.”
This year’s Medal of Service recipients include Mrs. Yvonne Hinds, the prime minister’s wife, President of National Relief Council; sports personalities Nicolette Fernandes (squash), Hugh Ross (Mr. Universe; body building), and Ramnaresh Sarwan (cricket). Other recipients are UG lecturer, poet, and playwright, Dr. Paloma Mohamed, Dr. Faye Clarke, and Dr. Holly Alexander.
In congratulating Master Woon-A-Tai, Mr. Orderson noted the award was in recognition of the karate instructor’s “long-standing dedication to improving the lives of young people.”
“It is your relentless devotion to breaking down barriers and lifting up your fellow citizens, set standards to which we all should strive! We are delighted that you have been honored for your tremendous tireless work with the youths of this country and beyond.
“Your humble leadership has changed lives and motivated people at all levels of society to envision and work towards helping young people find direction in life and to break the cycle of crime and violence.”
The medal will be presented by the President of Guyana himself in a ceremony at the end of July.