Martial arts master shares his knowledge
By MICHAEL DRAKULICH email@example.com February 16, 2011 11:36AM
To get the book
James Jones’ book is available for purchase at www.universalkaratesystem.com.
Jones said he’ll have book signings Saturday at the Joliet Park District, 3000 W. Jefferson St., from 10 a.m. to noon; and at Balagio Restaurant, 17501 Dixie Highway, Homewood, from 6 to 10 p.m.
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
To James Jones, the road to knowledge should be traveled slowly and methodically, giving students an opportunity to soak in experience as much as possible.
Jones, of Hazel Crest, took such a disciplined approach to his career over the course of 44 years, working his way up at a Chicago electric company from janitor to senior-level human resources manager.
Jones learned about patience and dedication through his passionate pursuit of martial arts. Now, at 70, he’s sharing his lifetime of experience in his first book, “A Path to Knowledge in the Martial Arts.”
While some kids start taking martial arts classes not long after the toddler stage, Jones didn’t begin until he was 23. He happened to catch the Karate World Championships in Chicago in 1963 and was hooked. He found a school at 79th Street and Ashland Avenue in the city and began taking classes.
Jones earned his black belt in karate in just over a year when it usually takes three to four years, he said. He has since continued his mastery and is a 10th-degree black belt.
Three years after he earned his first black belt, he began teaching classes at Chicago-area YMCAs. He organized tournaments in the 1960s and 1970s and traveled the world, visiting schools and taking and teaching classes wherever he could.
In his travels, he was fortunate enough to meet martial arts masters Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, he said, and he taught martial arts to people with many different backgrounds.
Jones developed his own system of learning called the Universal Karate System, specifically tailored for students in the United States. Many instructors here teach at too fast of a pace, he believes. Jones wanted to slow things down a bit.
“We (in the United States) have a tendency to want to do things quickly. Martial arts isn’t something you can learn quickly,” he said. “Everything is done in a particular way, and everything is done for a reason.”
Jones’ book is meant to recall some of the history and bring patience back to martial arts instruction. Some kids become black belts in their early teens, which he sees as a detriment to their development. Jones is adamant that nobody under age 18 should be eligible to earn a black belt. Any younger than that and it’s happened too soon, he argues, saying kids aren’t mature enough — mentally or physically — to handle being a black belt.
His book is as much about philosophy as it is an instruction manual, he said.
“We need to have a better understanding of life and life experiences. Experience shapes our thinking,” Jones said. “There is a lot of theory involved (in the book). There is a lot more to (martial arts) than just throwing a punch.”
In waiting until he was 70 to write a book, Jones followed his own principle of experience being a terrific teacher. Now he believes he has the experience to pass on knowledge.
He admits writing wasn’t his strength. Although he’d written numerous articles on karate, he knew he’d have to sharpen his writing to author a full-length book. So he spent the better part of three years writing his book, and he’s thrilled with the results.
Jones said he wants to give readers the insight he’s spent decades collecting. It will be a test of his teaching skills because he believes he is only as good as the information he delivers.