Rob Pushard on Isshinryu Karate: A Lifetime of Dedication

By Kyoshi Rob Pushard


Humble Greetings to the martial arts community from the beautiful state of Maine. My name is Rob Pushard, I’m an 8th Dan in Isshinryu Karate, with 49 years of experience in this extraordinary discipline. Today, I wish to share some insights from my long-standing involvement in Isshinryu.

The Genesis of a Martial Artist

I started my Isshinryu journey in 1974, at the age of six. My Dad and I traveled to the dojo that was a 45-minute drive- one way 2-3 times per week. The distance was merely a number when it came to my passion for martial arts. My first instructor was Sensei Donald Thomas from Maine, a remarkable individual who laid the foundation for my future in Isshinryu.

A Unique Training Experience

Something unique about my training: I was, and still am, the only Isshinryu school in Maine. I started small, operating from a garage with just six students. Today, I am responsible for nine locations between Maine and Florida. Four of these locations are under my direct guidance, while the others are owned and operated by Glen Fitzmaurice and Craig Martel, both black belt students of mine. We have over 1,000 practitioners under the M.I.K.A (Maine Isshinryu Karate Academies) umbrella.

Founding a Dojo at a Young Age

With the permission of Sensei Thomas, I opened my own dojo at the age of 15. It was also during these formative years that my father and I trained rigorously, eventually both earning our black belts. The dojo was not just a training ground; it was a sanctuary for family bonding. 

A Series of Esteemed Instructors

Over the years, I have had the honor of training under three distinguished instructors:

  • Sensei Donald Thomas from Maine
  • Sensei Richard Judah BenAvram from New Hampshire
  • Hanshi John E Hughes from New Jersey 

With the recent passing of Hanshi Hughes, I am currently under the expert guidance of Kyoshi Kevin Kumpf of IKA in Pittsburgh.

Hosting a Milestone Event

In 2017, our dojo had the privilege of hosting the IWKA World Karate Championships. It was a significant milestone that highlighted our commitment and contribution to the Isshinryu community.

The Training Regimen

Our dojo emphasizes traditional Kata, Kumite, Self-defense, and conditioning. The philosophy behind Isshinryu is its inherent simplicity and ease of understanding—qualities I have always cherished.

The Essence of Isshinryu

Having been the only Isshinryu school in my State, I was fortunate to spend my life learning the discipline without the distractions of politics or diverging opinions. This allowed me to gain a pure and unfiltered understanding of Isshinryu.

The Path Forward

I have been fortunate to interact with many first-generation students of Master Tatsuo Shimabuku. The future of Isshinryu looks promising, and I am optimistic that the new generation will carry the torch of the “One Heart Way” forward.


Nearly five decades in Isshinryu have taught me that martial arts are not just a discipline but a way of life. I hope my experiences serve as both inspiration and a guidepost for those who are on their own martial arts journey.

Along with his wife Shihan Rebecca Pushard, Rob, Rebecca and their many students are the driving force of Isshinryu in the great state of Maine. Over the years Kyoshi Pushard has competed in 100+ Local Tournaments and 5 World IWKA World Championships. One of Kyoshi’s biggest accomplishments in Karate was hosting the IWKA World Championship in 2017. Our many thanks go to Kyoshi Rob Pushard of Manchester, Maine for this Guest Article. – IIKA