Sensei Al Panazzola
In 1972 Al Panazzola began training at the Isshinryu Okinawan Karate School of Windsor, under the tutelage of Master Instructor Lloyd Russett. He continued training, honing his skills and progressing in the tournament circuit, until July 12,1977 when he was awarded his Shodan, (first degree Black Belt) by Sensei Lamon Kersey, Master Lloyd Russett, Sensei Bob Markovic.
He moved through the Dan ranks, being awarded with his Nidan in 1979, and Sandan in 1983. On July 18,1987 he was tested at the American Okinanwan Karate Association Grand Nationals by a panel consisting of 1st generation Isshinryu practitioners Master Steve Armstrong and Master Lewis Lizotte. Also on the board were Masters Willie Adams, Ron Boucher, Steve Young and Sam Santilli.
In 1993, Sensei Panazzola became the first person in Canada to be promoted to Godan (5th degree black belt) by Master Shimabuku’s Son in law, and right hand man, Angi Uezu. Also on the board were Master Pete Carbone and Master Lamon Kersey. From his promotion to Shodan in 1977 until 2004 Sensei Panazzola was an instructor at Mr. Kersey’s Karate School in Windsor.
At the AOKA World Tournament, in 2006, the first time a major Isshinryu event was held in Canada, Sensei Panazzola tested for and was awarded his Roku Dan.
Sensei Panazzola has had a very successful tournament career, collecting over 600 trophies in all categories, Kata, Weapons, Kumite and Grand Champion. He has won multiple Competitor of the year honours, and was the first ever to win a tournament, Triple Crown and Grand Champion Trophy at MKKS. He once brought home 7 trophies from a single tournament, and was inducted into the MKKS Hall of Fame.
Together with Master Kersey, they ruled over the tournament circuit, where Sensei Panazzola was considered the most intense competitor on the circuit. They competed in Detroit, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and Gatlingurg TN, to name a few. He competed against such greats as Billy Blanks, Mike Bernardo, Chris Casamassa, Terry Creamer, Troy Soles, Clyde Dennis, Steve Young, Team Plowden and the John Paul Mitchell Team.
He has trained with Bill “Superfoot” Wallace, Joe Lewis, Angi Uezu, Nick Adler and Seiyu Oyata.
After all these achievements, his greatest accomplishment occurred on September 18, 2005 when he opened Karate Rocks Family Martial Arts. Sensei Panazzola has sat on the AOKA Promotions Board since 2008.
On Sept 21, 2012, Sensei Panazzola was tested by the full AOKA board and awarded the rank of NanaDan, 7th degree Black Belt.
Sensei Panazzola has a Top Ten Finish in his age group in the Detroit Free Press Marathon, has qualified for the Boston Marathon, and competed in both Duathlons and Triathlons. He has always found the time to coach and mentor many sports, such as Track and Field, Travel Hockey and Travel Volleyball.
In January of 2021, Sensei Panazzola and Karate Rocks Family Martial Arts were Accepted as the only Canadian Dojo in the Order Of Isshinryu, and Sensei Panazzola was awarded the Rank of Roku Kyu (6th Dan). This is quite an distinction for our Dojo, and we will strive to honour the legacy of Grandmaster Cooling.
Sensei Bill Gibbs:
Sensei Gibbs began training at the age of 39. At that time he was a B ranked Squash player looking for a good cross training activity. His son, Jay, was just beginning Isshinryu Karate, and he realized what a rounded set of skills it employed. In October of 1996 he walked onto the deck at a local Isshinryu school for the first time, and has never looked back.
His training took the same route through the belts that any younger student would take, with a fairly successful tournament record on the way. On December 6th 1999, he tested for, and earned his Shodan.
His training continued, and the tournament circuit got tougher, but still Sensei Gibbs always had time to assist in the instruction of other students. In fact, many of these students have gone on to achieve great things in Martial Arts, competition and education. After several years of more advanced studies, Sensei Gibbs was promoted to Sandan on Sept. 28, 2003.
When Master Al Panazzola opened his dojo in September of 2005, Sensei Gibbs realized what an opportunity this was, and contacted him to request to be accepted as a student. After a few months of observation and instruction, he was accepted as a student at Karate Rocks Family Martial Arts where he continues to advance his knowledge of Isshinryu. After several years of refining his skills, Sensei Gibbs was promoted to YonDan or 4th degree Black Belt.
Recently, Sensei Gibbs was tested by the AOKA testing Board, consisting of Grand Master Steve Young, Master Panazzola and Master Dan Harrison. It was a grueling test, but after two and a half hours, Sesnei Gibbs was awarded the rank of GoDan, or 5th degee Black Belt. He was also awarded his Instructor’s certificate. It was an honour to be recognized by such a prestigious panel.
Sensei Gibbs is very involved in Auto Racing having held a Sports Car Club of America National Flagging License, and an IndyCar World Series Observer’s License. He travelled internationally with Indycar assisting in the safe execution of their events in Detroit, Toronto, Vancouver, Mid Ohio, Michigan Int’l Speedway, Monterrey Mexico as well as others. From 1986 to 1988 he served as Chief of Flagging and Communications at Waterford Hills Road Racing in Waterford, Michigan, where he still attends races a few times every year.
Sensei Gibbs continues to enjoy instructing other students, and particularly enjoys bringing Isshinryu to older students. Come on out, and discover what he learned…
It’s never too late to start a life-changing activity.
Sensei Gibbs was the recipient of the Karate Rocks Hall of Fame Award in 2011.