Isshinryu Karate-do at MIT

IAP 2020 Practice Schedule

Spring 2020 Practice Schedule

Note: Mondays will be open mat days. Feel free to come practice what you know! Sensei is not there on Mondays, but we still have the room reserved sometimes.

Directions to Practice Rooms

Check back before practices, if you're not on our mailing list. We will try to remove days from this page if we cancel them.

If you want to join the emailing list, send an email to

Misu-Gami: The Symbol
	    Isshinryu Karate
The Symbol
of Isshinryu Karate
Dove and Fist: Our Club's
Dove and Fist:
The Symbol
of Our Club

What is Isshinryu?

Isshinryu is a style of karate that originated in Okinawa. Literally translated, the word Isshinryu means "The One-Heart Way." Karate-do signifies the practice of traditional Okinawan karate and the study of empty hand fighting focused on the development of one's character.

Who can participate?

All members of the MIT community---students, faculty, staff, alumni, pre-frosh---are welcome to work out in our club.

There is no charge for attending, whether you try it out once or become a regular member.

Interested beginners may come to any workout. Come watch a class for as long as you like, or if you prefer, wear comfortable clothes and jump right in!

Why study Isshinryu?

You will learn to do things you never thought you could.

On the surface it seems like you're learning to defend yourself in case you ever need to---and you are. But there's so much more to it. You will not learn indiscriminate violence. You will learn how to control your body's movements, and how to avoid or control violent situations. Your strength, flexibility, balance, and endurance will all improve. A lot. Your awareness of yourself and of your environment will increase.

The mental/spiritual benefits of karate are perhaps even more important than the physical benefits. Every workout is as much an intellectual exercise as a physical exercise. At the same time, it's relaxing and refreshing, because a karate workout is so different from a lecture or a meeting. During the workouts, your self-confidence will grow from success at things that were once absurdly difficult or even impossible for you. Outside of the workouts, you will be better able to concentrate and focus on what is important to you. Maybe this is because karate is a great way to deal with stress.

After a while, you will find that there is a very deep connection between your mind and your body. They are not two separate entities, as many people seem to think. What affects one can easily affect the other. When they work together as a whole, it is a profoundly rewarding experience.

What is the club like?

We are serious about karate, but not to an extreme. There are a lot of traditional aspects to the workouts, and these will seem strange at first. We make great efforts to help everyone understand the meaning behind the traditions and the etiquette. Beyond that, there is a relaxed atmosphere of mutual respect and friendship.

In fact, there is a strong emphasis on doing things for a good reason. You will be mentally and physically challenged during the workouts, but you will always be told why it is important and how it will benefit you. You will never be asked to blindly follow instructions or do something unsafe. We often examine what makes a movement effective or not, useful or wasteful. We analyze what we are doing, but at the same time emphasize the artistry and the beauty of movement.

The workouts are usually done in small groups. This gives a good balance of direct instruction by the Sensei, working with fellow students, and working alone. You will be able to get help when you need it and you will have many opportunities to try things out by yourself without worrying about immediate proficiency.

We don't do things like full-contact sparring or breaking cinder blocks with our foreheads. We're not out to prove anything or to show that we are better than anyone else. Our club is almost never competitive. Karate is primarily an individual sport, even when participating in a group. The only adversaries you will fight are your own limitations.

When do I get my black belt?

If all you want out of karate is a black belt, you will find Isshinryu very frustrating. It takes many years and a great deal of hard work to get to the black belt level.

If you are interested in learning and working at something that will benefit you for the rest of your life, you can make great strides in Isshinryu. You will experience this as you progress up the ranks:

10th kyu: White Belt
9th kyu: Yellow Belt
8th kyu: Blue Belt
7th kyu: Blue Belt (2nd-degree)
6th kyu: Green Belt
5th kyu: Green Belt (2nd-degree)
4th kyu: Purple Belt
3rd kyu: Brown Belt
2nd kyu: Brown Belt (2nd-degree)
1st kyu: Brown Belt (3rd-degree)
1st dan: Black Belt (1st-degree)

You will test for rank promotions a few times a year, depending on how often and how seriously you work out. This may not seem like very often, but when you earn each rank, you will truly appreciate how meaningful it is! There is no set time frame for tests, and no deadlines for promotions. It depends only on what you want to put into it.

Reaching shodan, or first-degree black belt, is not merely about checking off a list of requirements. Rather, it is a long thoughtful process of achievement.

Whom can I contact about joining?

Our History and Lineage

Isshinryu Karate-do at MIT was founded by Sensei Matthew Borthwick on Sunday, February 22, 1998, on or near 2pm, who founded and now teaches at Isshinryu Karate-do of Hillsboro, Oregon. Borthwick-sensei's home dojo is Pittak's Isshinryu Karate, which is located in Akron, Ohio.

Part of our "sensei family tree" includes Sensei Daniel Heath, who founded and continues to teach at Berkeley Isshinryu.

2017 IWKA Tournament

The 2017 IWKA Tournament will be June 23-24, 2017, in Augusta, ME. More information will be posted as the date approaches.

Useful Links