Congratulations Sensei Steve, MTK students and much more!

Congratulations Sensei Steve Apsega Rokudan and Sempai Tommy Lyons Sandan

Hanshi John Shipes Visit October 2021

First off, we have a big announcement, Hanshi John Shipes has confirmed he will be coming to visit the first weekend of October! He will be flying in on Thursday, September 30th. We expect that there will be time set aside for certified instructors, black belts, our little samurai, and our kyu rank students. Details to come soon, but everyone should block out time on Saturday, October 2nd for a full day of karate camp with Hanshi!


June 2021 has been a very busy month for the Orrington Maine Traditional Karate dojo! Lot’s of great news to share with everyone:

    • We all want to congratulate Sensei Steve Apsega for successfully testing for his Rokudan (6th degree) during his Tyler, TX trip! Well deserved and we are honored to have such an esteemed teacher passing on his knowledge to us.
        • Congratulations to Sempai Tommy Lyons for achieving his Sandan (3rd degree) during the same trip alongside Sensei! Sempai Tommy always works hard to maintain strong karate and deliver the best teaching experience he can to our students.
        • And congratulations to everyone at the Tyler, TX camp that successfully promoted, including Sensei Stan Leach (Rokudan) and Sensei Peter Bernier (Yondan)
    • On June 19th we held a test for karateka at the Orrington dojo. We would like to congratulate all the students that participated!
        • 11 Kyu – White Belt 1 Stripe
          • Jacob Rowley
          • Max Arcaro
          • Olive Shirland
          • CJ Braley
          • Alyssa Urquhart
          • Cason Peterson
        • 10 Kyu – White Belt 2 Stripe
          • Frankie Veneziano
          • Lydia Marsh
          • Eli Prescott
          • Carissa Cotterly
        • 9 Kyu – Blue Belt
          • Benjamin Jurdak
          • Grayson Bailey
          • Brandon McKinney
          • Sam Roy
          • Nicholas Paquette
        • 8 Kyu – Blue Belt 1 Stripe
          • Kristen Cornelio
        • 7 Kyu – Blue Belt 2 Stripe
          • Brennon Apsega
        • 6 Kyu – Green Belt
          • Jordan Endre
          • Kelly Cole

Dojo Testing June 2021

COVID-19 Protocol Changes

As of June 1st, Maine Traditional Karate has stopped requiring students and guests to wear masks within the dojo. We advise each person to take any necessary precautions based on their own judgment and discretion. Please remain respectful of each other. We will continue to regularly disinfect equipment at the dojo along with our regular cleaning routine.

We ask if anyone is feeling sick to please refrain from entering the dojo in order to prevent spreading any form of illness to others. We are still offering remote Zoom video links to students who cannot come in person due to circumstances.

Everyone’s efforts and understanding over this last year are greatly appreciated.

One Month Update: White Belt Testimonial

Recently one of our newest students sent Sensei Steve a kind note with his thoughts on our dojo and his experience thus far. We are humbled to have this wonderful feedback and with the author Mike Hegarty’s permission, Sensei would like to share it with everyone:

First and foremost, I can’t believe my luck in having fallen into this style and this Dojo. I love this style, I love the history of it, I love that it contains Tuite and Kobudo, and the culture, dignity, and respect that goes with it. The demeanor of our Dojo (and you) reflects that.

I am also very aware that I am chasing performance and knowledge, not belts. I really want to get the fundamentals right. It truly is a marathon, and not a race, and I am taking the long view. Daily practice is the order of the day.

Hand in hand with learning I have to improve/increase my flexibility, core strength, speed and power. Especially flexibility. I have laid out a stretching plan and will work on it daily, as well as basic strengthening.

So anyways, It’s been a great month from my viewpoint. I am going to make Monday and Wednesday my main training days, with occasional fridays. There is a balance with trying to do too much too fast, as against not pushing to get better. I do know my body so will make adjustments accordingly, especially at the beginning.

So thanks for a great first month. I love the attitude, drive, and demeanor of the Dojo and all the students and Sempai’s. Believe you me, I know how much work goes into making a superb team! (smile).

– Mike Hegarty

The Musings of a Humble Sempai

Man standing on rocks reflecting in thought

Each passing day leads me towards new understandings. The world revolves in a constantly changing ebb and flow. Nature demands us to adapt. New challenges test not only our abilities but our creativity. Two of the strongest motivators can exist in a fraction of a second. One is the pull of knowledge, in this state one can choose the path in which they take. The other is that of helplessness, in this state we are choosing to become victims to the forces around us. In learning karate, we are choosing to move away from helplessness. Skills learned give us the understanding and tools to adapt to aggression while remaining calm. Our bodies are tempered, our spirits tested and hope is forged within the confines of chaos. I learn karate to avoid the feeling of helplessness, I practice karate to keep my body healthy and ready, and I teach others so they can feel safe. As an educator I can think of no more honorable endeavor than to pass on the ability to protect oneself.

Josh Curtis
High School Teacher

Dojo Promotions for September and October 2020

Black Belts October 17 2020

Great job to all of the karateka that tested and promoted in the last month! On Saturday October 17th we had seven 1 Kyu students test for and receive their black belts! As well, we saw the ascension of two 1 Dan students to their 2nd Dan rank:

1 Dan

    • David Stephens
    • Victor Alexander
    • Mikel Leighton
    • Emmett Mahoney
    • Sophia Santiago
    • Edgar Leclerc
    • Gabe Curtis

2 Dan

    • Kyle Sullivan
    • Josh Curtis

MTK Kyu Rank Testing 09262020As well, we had several students test for their Kyu ranks in Orrington on September 26th and in Corinna on October 1st:

    • 2 Kyu – Hazel Leclerc
    • 2 Kyu – Nikolas Long
    • 4 Kyu – Andy Kempton
    • 4 Kyu – Jessica Fortier Leighton
    • 4 Kyu – Josh Bone
    • 5 Kyu – Zen Taylor
    • 5 Kyu – Logan Stephens
    • 7 Kyu – Max Raponi
    • 7 Kyu – Greg Bird
    • 7 Kyu – Logan Leighton
    • 8 Kyu – Jordan Endre
    • 9 Kyu – Travis Kelly
    • 9 Kyu – Tristan Sanders
    • 9 Kyu – Quinn Szarowski
    • 9 Kyu – Elliott Szarowski
    • 10 Kyu – Kristen Cornelio
    • 10 Kyu – Sam Roy
    • 10 Kyu – Finn McKinney
    • 10 Kyu – Nicholas Kondax
    • 10 Kyu – Caden Cloutier
    • 10 Kyu – Dylan Angel
    • 10 Kyu – Derek Young
    • 10 Kyu – Tucker Bennett
    • 11 Kyu – Lucas Thompson

Keep up the energy and commitment to your training everyone! See you in the dojo! Visit our Facebook Page to view all the photos of our tests. Feel free to download and share them with your friends and family.

Dojo Update: Karateka Perseverance, Shodan Candidates and more!

The year 2020 has certainly been fraught with challenges! COVID-19 disrupted many people’s lives and our humble dojo was definitely affected by it, as well. Yet we all have worked hard to get through this crazy time together as a dojo family!

Like many businesses during this pandemic, we had to find creative solutions to continue serving our students. Working with our students remotely via Zoom may not have been ideal but it most definitely kept us on our feet, connected, and working through our materials. When we were able to open our dojo doors again it was refreshing to see the faces that came in while still staying connected remotely with our other students that could not be present. Kudos to the students and instructors that have worked so hard to keep up with their martial arts training!

On Saturday, September 19th the Orrington dojo had it’s first Kyu rank testing since the pandemic began. This coming Thursday, October 1st will see our Corinna karateka testing alongside some of the Orrington karateka. We will post our promoted Kyu ranks in the coming days!

Lastly, we have a large group of Shodan candidates this year testing in just a few weeks! Unfortunately, we are unable to have the honor of having Hanshi Shipes this year due to travel restrictions. However, Sensei Steve and his team of black belts are prepared to rigorously test our 1 Kyu students on the weekend of October 17th.

When students test for Shodan they are asked to do extensive research on our style, history, and Okinawan culture. This culminates in an essay that is submitted to Sensei Steve and then forwarded to Hanshi Shipes for review. As well, we have a few Shodans that are testing for Nidan rank and have submitted essays. Sensei Steve would like to make all of these essays available to everyone to share as a resource:

Keep training hard and great job to all of our students who have persevered!

Tournament Time – Hajimemashite はじめまして

Warriors For Life Group Photo 2019

Hajimemashite. In Japanese, this means “it is a beginning” and would be used similar to “nice to meet you” when greeting someone for the first time in English. One of the things that amazes me every time I go to a martial arts tournament is how many new people I meet that share this unique interest with me. Since joining Maine Traditional Karate in 2016 I have had several opportunities to participate in various events. Most recently my family and I attended the Battle of Maine in Waterville and the Warriors for Life Tournament in Dover-Foxcroft. Every time we go we see familiar faces and we also get to meet new people from Maine, Canada, and several New England states.

As martial artists that train regularly with the same dojo members every week, it can sometimes feel like we exist in a silo. In a rural area like Maine it can feel even more so like our community is a small splinter apart from everyday society. Within the OSMKKF, we have our nearby fellows in the Orland Karate Dojo under Sensei Stan Leach to connect with, but we are many many miles from a lot of our other sister dojos in the US, Okinawa and South America. Our fantastic leaders such as Hanshi Shipes, Kyoshi Engelby and Kaicho Isao Kise visit us annually, and our dojo black belts travel afar to connect with the federation on a regular basis. We have access to a rich culture with a modern organized martial art deeply rooted in ancient traditions. This experience travels thousands of miles directly to us!

It is important to regularly step back and see the larger picture. We exist, not in a silo, but in a community that spiderwebs across the area connecting in more ways than one. Our style of Okinawan Shorin Ryu shares roots with many other martial arts going all the way back to ancient China. When I participate in these tournaments, I see so many connections between our styles by observing the other participants. Yes, each art is distinct in how it operates and where it places emphasis in its materials. But there are so many basic principles tied together throughout our styles and it feels like we are apart of something so much bigger when I notice these elements.

Much like our common roots in martial arts, the people involved are everyday citizens like you and I. I’m not the most social person, but I have met so many people by regularly going to these tournaments that we recognize each other in the other communities we are a part of. There’s an undeniable sense of fellowship you find by connecting with others, regardless of rank, style or dojo. I would highly recommend everyone take a chance and find their own “Hajimemashite” moments. Take a chance on meeting new people and doing new things. Karate is a journey with many beginnings, and most of those are well after you are fitted into a gi with a fresh white belt around your waist.

For the Battle of Maine, dojo members Sempai Josh Curtis, Gabe Curtis, Zen Taylor, Nikolas Long and Mikel Leighton stepped on the floor to represent MTK. At the Warriors for Life Tournament we had Sophia Santiago, Jessica Fortier Leighton, Logan Leighton and Mikel Leighton on the floor. Everyone performed and represented both dojo and Sensei Steve admirably. Thank you to the participants and the dojo family that came to support everyone!

Results for individuals can be seen by clicking on their profile photo in the MTK Dojo Members page.

Spring is in the air

March 9 testing students

The last 2 weeks have been busy ones for the dojo! We’ve had student testing, a tournament, new students, Orrington Recreation visiting the Little Samurai classes and so much more.

The 39th Battle of Maine Championship in Waterville, ME this past weekend was a great experience for everyone. It is always amazing to see the diversity of martial arts styles in action competing together. Sensei was proud of our students that represented the dojo in kumite (sparring), kobudo (weapons) and kata (forms).

    • Sempai Josh Curtis
    • Gabe Curtis
    • Mikel Leighton
    • Nikolas Long
    • Zen Taylor

As well, a special thanks to everyone that came to support the participants from the sidelines!

Testing is a proving grounds for students to put forth the product of their training before Sensei and dojo black belts. Congratulations to the following students that were promoted this month:

New Rank Member
01 Kyu (Brown 2 stripe) Edgar Leclerc
01 Kyu (Brown 2 stripe) Emmett Mahoney
01 Kyu (Brown 2 stripe) Sophia Santiago
04 Kyu (Green 2 stripe) Mikel Leighton
04 Kyu (Green 2 stripe) Nikolas Long
05 Kyu (Green 1 stripe) Hazel Leclerc
05 Kyu (Green 1 stripe) Jacob Endre
05 Kyu (Green 1 stripe) Kelly Sanders
06 Kyu (Green 0 stripe) Andy Kempton
06 Kyu (Green 0 stripe) Jessica Fortier Leighton
06 Kyu (Green 0 stripe) Joshua Bone
07 Kyu (Blue 2 stripe) Nicholas Huff
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Alden Bartlett
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Annika Fehn
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Carter Donahue
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Collin Huff
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Logan Leighton
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Logan Stephens
08 Kyu (Blue 1 stripe) Marco Fehn
09 Kyu (Blue 0 stripe) Crystal Leighton
09 Kyu (Blue 0 stripe) Zen Taylor
10 Kyu (White 2 stripe) John Vallely
11 Kyu (White 1 stripe) Clive Haverkamp
11 Kyu (White 1 stripe) Loxley Haverkamp
11 Kyu (White 1 stripe) Sefia Haverkamp

We look forward to training hard and enjoying the Spring weather as it thaws away months of snow and ice. In just two weeks there is the 14th Annual Warriors for Life Tournament in Dover-Foxcroft, ME. It is a smaller tournament and great for students to get a first-time experience! Please let Sensei Steve know if you want to participate.

Congratulations to our new black belts!

MTK New Black Belt Members October 2018

On October 28, 2018 we had the honor of testing three 1 kyu karateka under the guidance of Kyoshi Loren Engleby. After a long day of rigorous training  alongside their peers in Orrington Maine Traditional Karate and the Orland Karate Dojo, these outstanding members performed exceptionally well and to the satisfaction of the reviewing black belts.

We welcome the following members into the rank of Shodan:

    • Josh Curtis
    • Kyle Sullivan
    • Gavin Worcester


Welcome to our new site! We appreciate your patience as we develop the content. If you have any questions at all, feel free to reach us at:

136 River Rd
Orrington, ME 04474



shuhari in kanji

The kanji depicted above reads “Shu ha ri.”  The term references the journey of the karateka as he or she moves from beginner to black belt to advanced student and how the relationship with one’s Sensei may change along the way.  This blog post is not about that.  There are many fine articles on the web ( is a concise explanation and from where I borrowed the kanji).  We recently had two exceptionally skilled youth black belts leave our dojo – they, and their family, are just wonderful people as well and will be profoundly missed.  This blog post isn’t about them either. (Okay, I started this post last year, but it still applies).

This blog post is about the equally skilled and wonderful Sempai Kailee (she’s the beautiful young lady in the middle).  Sempai Kailee currently serves our dojo as the only youth Shodan. (I don’t really think of her as a youth anymore, but it’s important to the story).  As the head youth Shodan, Sempai Kailee’s responsibilities include co-instructing youth classes with our Sensei.  What she probably doesn’t know is that she is one of two big reasons I go to the youth class on Monday and Wednesday nights.

You see, her bad influence is corrupting my otherwise stellar class protocol (i.e., behavior).  Okay, well not really, but whatever.  You see, unless another higher rank is present, I am supposed to take the “first position” as students line up to train.  Even though Sempai Kailee surpasses me in skill and curriculum knowledge, an adult Shodan lines up to the right of a youth Shodan regardless of time in grade or skill. The ranking student assumes the first position and has responsibility for leading the traditional opening and closing ceremonies of the class, enforcing protocol and dojo rules, and generally helping in any way the Sensei or lead instructor of the night needs.   The uninformed or even new student might think, “oh, you mean they get to be bossy.”  Uh … no …. but after long wait and much anticipation brings us to the topic of today’s blog … sort of.

I have had the pleasure to watch Sempai Kailee move from youth into adolescence with the grace of a woman and not the antics of a child.  At a time when her peers resolved conflicts with opposing statements of “nah uh,” and the undefendable counterattack of “yes sah,” Sempai Kailee’s training involved crucial lessons in group dynamics and how to give and receive feedback in a constructive manner.   And now, as an adolescent, it is her dojo role that deprives her the opportunity for developmentally appropriate attempts at control and “bossiness” that teens exhibit as they navigate lessons of independence and its associated responsibilities.

Sempai Kailee assumes the first position role as a leader and not “bossy Betty” because of her karate training.   Karate-do helps one develop an inherent or internally-based sense of self-worth that exists independently of how those in the external world respond to or treat you.  As you grow as a karate student, personal achievement becomes just that – “personal.”  The standards by which you come to judge and accept yourself is whether self-improvement relative to the day before has occurred or, at least, been attempted.  Additionally, one actively strives to apply consistently the morals and values that have become part of one’s being.  Freed from the destructive forces of other’s acceptance or rejection, the karateka meets the world with head up and shoulders back with the full knowledge that failure will occur as part of the process and is not a terminating event.

In short, there is no reason, need, or desire to be “bossy.” “Bossy” people often define self-worth in terms of the extent to which they can manipulate and control others to do as the “bossy” person wishes.  Control of others is equated with being powerful and must be constantly sought in order to maintain arbitrary standards of self-importance.

Leadership, on the other hand, involves structuring one’s presentation and interaction with others with the aim of helping others grow while achieving a common group goal.

So don’t come to class with hopes of getting to be bossy some day … Come to class and learn to lead … like Sempai Kailee.