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On Thursday, May 29th, Jillian (Banks) Vazquez, put her skills, strength and determination on the line as she tested for the rank of Fifth Degree Black Belt and was awarded the title of Renshi, Expert Instructor. This journey took this Vernon resident over 20 years of diligent training.


Jillian was required to demonstrate proficiency in all of the necessary aspects of this martial art. This included performing kata, prearranged forms that demonstrate karate technique, kumite, sparring against other black belt level students, application of her skills in self-defense situations, and competence in sharing her skills with her students as a karate instructor. 

Sensei Tom Shull, owner and 7th Degree Black Belt instructor at the Vernon school commented, “Jillian rose to the occasion and made me so very proud. After all these years of preparation, dedication, and commitment, she has proven herself worthy to be rewarded with the prestige that comes with this distinguished rank. I praise her commitment, devotion, spirit, and strength.”

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VVKA Training at the PAL
VVKA Winterfest Tournament

Braden Rosario and his fellow students perform an Okinawan Kobudo (Weapons) Kata during the
Winterfest Karate Tournament


Ranger level students show off the trophies they won for their Kata performances

The Vernon Valley Karate Academy hosted its annual Winterfest Karate Tournament on January 19th at the PAL facility before a large crowd of proud parents and spectators. Students from the academy performed in a karate competition that included both kata (detailed choreographed patterns of karate techniques), Kumite (sparring against an opponent), and Kobudo (demonstrating skill using ancient Okinawan weapons.

"These students, aged four through fifteen, exhibited both competence and great sportsmanship as they put forth their best skills and determination. Competition was tough and these students rose to the occasion displaying both pride and courage", expressed Sensei Tom Shull, owner and chief instructor at the Vernon Valley Karate Academy.

In the academy's on-going effort to help the PAL provide for our community's young people, a Kick-A-Thon was held that raised $1100 for the police organization. "Helping others is a value that we must instill in our children and their helping our community through these efforts provides such a lesson", acknowledged Sensei Shull. "Our academy has been donating to the PAL for over 25 years. Combining our efforts with those of the police another community groups has helped to provide our children with a safe and positive environment in which to grow."


Vernon Valley Karate Academy Leaders Train in Washington DC


The Vernon Valley Karate Academy send six

Black Belt members to train with students and

instructors from the Virginia Okinawan Karate Dojo

in Washington DC on August 2, 2019.

Sensei Tom Shull, chief instructor from

Vernon Valley Karate Academy, has maintained a

wonderful relationship with Sensei Roberto Curtis

from the Shidokan School since visiting and training

with him going back to 2001 in Vienna, Austria.

Now Sensei Curtis, 8thDegree Black Belt in

Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Shidokan Karate, operates

a very successful Dojo in our Capital.

Sensei Shull commented that the experience was priceless. Training during this weekend with such talented people and gaining new friends and skills was very worthwhile. Maintaining skills and exploring new techniques is important and the knowledge from Sensei Curtis always provides for much learning and development.

Traveling with Sensei Shull (6th degree Black Belt) were five of his students, Tim Duvelsdorf (5th degree Black Belt), Paul Doumanis (4th degree Black Belt), Timmy Duvelsdorf (3rd Degree Black Belt), Nick Vigiletti (2nd degree Black Belt), and Paul Doumanis Jr. (1st Degree Black Belt).

We Offer You...

Improvement of physical health


The obvious benefit from learning karate is the improvement of physical health. Beginning students start training at a pace that allows for gradual improvement of muscular and cardiac development. Karate training is based on the performance of kata (forms) and partner drills. These activities increase in difficulty and speed over time to allow each individual to evolve at an individual level.


Improvement of mental health


Another benefit from learning karate is the improvement of mental health. We say that the entrance to the training floor is very small… only large enough for the student to enter carrying no baggage. All thoughts and worries of life must be left outside. During the class concentration on training is constant; there is no room for internal conflict. It is much like meditation, becoming lost in one task, one goal. It is a cleansing experience that leaves you fulfilled and invigorated.


Building self-esteem and strengthening self-confidence


Building self-esteem and confidence is another result of karate training. Many people are fearful of conflict to the point that action that should be taken is instead avoided leaving one to feel exploited and weak. In karate we learn through training to be assertive, not aggressive and not passive. Knowing that you have the capability to stand up for yourself and command the respect you deserve lends itself to positive mental and physical health. We take seriously our motto: “There is a great difference between being gentle because you want to be and being gentle because you are not strong enough to be otherwise”.


Social Health


Karate friends are very special. Anyone who has ever trained in a karate school knows that the camaraderie developed between people who are working closely and physically toward a common goal is profound. We are a family at Vernon Valley Karate Academy and we all share in that feeling of belonging.

VVKA Clothing Drive a Huge Success!

The Vernon Valley Karate Academy teaches its members the art and techniques of the dynamic martial art Shorin-Ryu Karate. “Standing up for our safety and values by being assertive and formidable is certainly a primary goal.  Yet our main focus is to develop positive attitudes and social values… those that lead to developing friendships and recognizing the need to help others,” commented Sensei Tom Shull, owner and instructor at the academy. “Whenever an opportunity to provide aid and comfort to local organizations or citizens arises, our karate family has always stepped up to lend support. Whether this is reflected by our ongoing support of the Vernon PAL, the Little League and Soccer programs, the local VFW, the Vernon Animal Shelter, Cystic Fibrosis and Heart Association Funds, and clothing drives that help out local families in need, or through individual acts of kindness displaying our empathy for those having hard times, my students are ready to help.”

 This past week the students of Vernon Valley Karate have collected what amounts to well over a thousand items of new and good condition articles of clothing to donate to local families through the Alamo Farmworkers Community Center from Goshin, NY.  Retired Vernon Police Lieutenant Gary Gardner who has worked closely with the karate academy for the past 20 years as they have worked to support the Vernon PAL organized this clothing drive to support area families through his connection with Alamo.  “I am so very proud of all of my students and their families for continually displaying support and compassion toward our community,” commented Sensei Shull.

Sensei's visit VVKA

Front Left to right…Kakinohana Sensei, Kikukawa Sensei, Turnbull Sensei. Standing...Herten Sensei, Ercolano Sensei

Sensei Shull visits Roberto

Thank you Roberto my friend. I very much enjoyed participating 

in your karate class this past Saturday. I joined with a wonderful group of your students and was made to feel so welcome.
Whenever I
join with you to train I pick up new ideas and fine

tune my techniques.

I also find that being with you while you teach validates

what I am teaching and accomplishing with my own

students atVernon Valley Karate.

Robertoshidokan Shorinryu