Grand Master J. C. Burris Judan (10th Degree Black Belt) began karate in 1965 under Grandmaster Harold Long while a student at the University of Tennessee. Master Burris first studied at the Harold Long School of Karate in downtown Knoxville. The now famous dojo was located at the corner of Gay and 5th Avenue, and it was a breeding ground for some of the most talented and respected karate-ka in the southeast United States. Talented individuals such as Cas Cox, Maurice Msarsa, Allen Wheeler, Tommy True, Glen Webb, and so many others, were students there; all under the guidance and direction of Grand Master Harold Long. The dojo itself was located upstairs and had a main floor and kumite area where the windows were covered with bamboo sticks so that no one would fall out onto the street.
Master Burris's first dojo was in Maryville, Tennessee, which opened in the summer of 1967. Later in January of 1968 he opened the Burris Martial Arts Center in Athens, Tennessee. For several years Master Burris was teaching at both the Athens and Maryville dojos, while teaching classes at Cleveland State Community College, coaching the football teams in two different neighboring counties, and teaching Isshin-ryu Karate to the Athens City Police Department. In addition to all this, Mr. Burris would still regularly travel to Knoxville to train with Mr. Long, and compete in karate tournaments.
Tournament competition was the primary focus of Master Burris's first ten to twelve years of karate training. Known in the martial arts community as a tough competitor, Master Burris racked up an impressive list of wins at a time when karate tournaments were few and far between, and competing meant traveling long distances frequently, and the competition was tough.
An outstanding competitor in both kata and kumite, Master Burris was a regular on the tournament circuit from 1965 to 1975 and won numerous trophies in competition. Some of his most notable wins included:
- In 1969 the “Tennessee State Championships,”
- In 1970 the “Tarheel U.S.K.A Championship,” .
- Master Burris placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the Tarheel tournament for four consecutive years.
- During the middle and late 60's, he competed in practically every tournament the Harold Long School of Karate attended. Later in the late 60's and early 70's he took his own students to competitions under the auspices of the Harold Long School of Karate.
Master Burris was inducted into the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame in 1984 and has also been the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame Instructor of the Year, awarded the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame Spirit of Isshin-ryu Award, and has been inducted into the World Head of Family Sokeship Council.
In 2008, Mr. Burris published his first book, The Last Lesson (The Go-kui of Isshin-ryu). This book was written specifically for his students. It is a practical guide to advanced training for black belts, a look at the future for beginners, and a Master’s guide to the concepts of Go-kui. It also chronicled Mr. Burris’s early years, as well as dealt with his philosophy on teaching and practicing Isshin-ryu. For those who have had the honor of training with him, this book is a valued treasure and resource.
Master Burris conducted the Athens Karate Games, an all Isshin-ryu Karate Tournament, for 40 years from 1972 to 2012. He currently serves as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Isshin-ryu Karate Association, a position he assumed upon the retirement of Master Harold Long. As Master Long's senior student, he continues to carry on the legendary tradition that Master Harold Long had worked so hard to establish and develop. He intends to continue training, to teach, and to pass the art of Isshin-Ryu on as it has been passed on to him.
Grand Master Burris educational achievements include: University of Tennessee BS in 1967, University of Tennessee MS in 1972, and NOVA Southeastern University Ed.D. 1992.
Grand Master Burris currently lives in Cartersville, Georgia with his wife and fellow Isshin-ryu Master Carol Burris.