Frank Woon-A-Tai promoted to highest international rank in karate
…Guyana’s most decorated karate icon achieves 10th Dan rating after 57 years of trainin
Frank Woon-A-Tai, a Guyanese born-and-bred proponent of the martial art of karate, created national and international karate history on December 22, 2021 when he was promoted to the highest rank in karate, the Tenth Dan, bestowed on him by the International Karate Daigaku (University) and the Shihan-kai Senate of nine founding masters with eighth dan and higher, during the IKD 2021 Tenth Anniversary announcements.
Under the IKD Constitution, Section 2 – Powers: “the Shihan-Kai Senate is hereby vested with full power and authority to make, alter and repeal all laws, rules and regulations for the government, management, discipline and control of the International Karate Daigaku, or of any dojo or division thereof, and the members of the same in a state, district, territory or country where the International Karate Daigaku is now or may hereafter be established, and to enforce the laws, rules and regulations enacted by said Shihan-Kai Senate or any regulation or order made by the Shihan-Kai Senate.”
According to the long-established Japanese Martial Arts convention, ninth and tenth dan ratings are reserved for karate masters who are 60 and 70 years old and older. They must have over 50 years of karate training and teaching experience, and the following credentials: an A-class International Supreme Instructor Degree, an A-class International Supreme Examiner Degree, and an A-class Supreme International Judge Degree. More importantly, such a person must be the leader of a large international karate organisation (A-Class), like the International Karate Daigaku (IKD).
In its ten years of operation, the IKD has amassed a membership of 80 regions in 57 countries across the globe. This fantastic achievement under the leadership of Shuseki Shihan Frank Woon-A-Tai surpasses many Japanese-led independent karate organisations with direct lineage and tradition to karate founders Funakoshi and Nakayama. In 1974 and 1979, Frank Woon-A-Tai brought Master Nakayama, 10th Dan, to Guyana.
His teacher once told him that the higher you advance in rank, and the more successful you are in life, people will always try to pull you back down. He has already experienced this behaviour from critics and envious former colleagues, who were senior to him because some achieved their first Dan rank before him. He has especially experienced this from those who falsely created a rift between him and the elderly masters he served for 40 years.
However, they had unwittingly given him wings to soar above them like the Phoenix with his IKD organisation. By dedication, talent, and hard work, Frank has surpassed all of them in advancement and achievement.
Frank was the first JKA ISKF Instructor to be promoted to seventh Dan under the Japan Karate Association 20 years ago. Moreover, he was number one of the first four Instructors in the International Shotokan Karate Federation (ISKF) to be graded to Eighth Dan in 2008 by Masters Okazaki and Yaguchi. Further, he held the office of one of two ISKF Technical Committee Vice-Chairmen directly under Masters Yaguchi and Okazaki.
Frank graduated from the ISKF Instructor Training Institute in 1989, after willingly completing the course three times over. In 2004, he graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in Japanese Studies and a minor in History. In 2011, Frank became a Member of the Order of Service of Guyana, and was awarded the Medal of Service by former President Dr. Bharrat Jagdeo. In 1996, he was a recipient of the French Guiana Medal of Honour, bestowed on him by the Regional President for 20 years of service to that country.
Frank is the author of Shu-Ha-Ri: My Life in Japanese Karate, published in 2020. His book illustrates his early life in Guyana to his move to Jamaica and Canada, then to the rest of the world, only to return to Guyana, his roots.
Not to be outdone, his wife of 48 years, Maureen Woon-A-Tai, has been promoted to Ninth Dan. Both Frank and Maureen have over fifty years of training with world-renowned masters like Nakayama and Okazaki. After 30 years, Maureen retired as a Royal Bank of Canada officer and became the driving force behind Frank’s success. They are parents of Diandra, Michelle and Ken, 6th Dan, four-time World Champion.
Michelle has five children, among whom are twins who are actors. Today, Frank and Maureen are proud great-grandparents.
Dr. Dexter Shim of Trinidad and Tobago has also been promoted to Ninth Dan. He and Maureen are IKD Deputy Grandmasters. Dr. Shim met Frank while he was a medical student in Jamaica in 1976. Dr. Dexter Shim, M.B.B.S., DLO, FRCS, was born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1952. He was educated at the University of the West Indies, the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, and the Royal College of Surgeons in England. Dr. Shim is an Associate Lecturer at the UWI Medical School, and heads the Department of Otolaryngology and Ophthalmology at Port-of-Spain General Hospital.
Today, ninety-eight per cent of Frank’s legendary Instructors have passed away; namely, masters Nakayama, Sugiura, Nishiyama, Okazaki, Ito, Kanazawa, Shoji, Takahashi, Hayakawa, Tabata, Enoeda, Mori, Koyama, and Takashina, leaving him and his contemporaries to continue their Legacy.
Furthermore, of the two who are left, one is retired.