Maine Traditional Karate: Active Black Belts
Training to the point where a karateka earns their black belt takes time, effort, dedication and strength of character. It is an honor to have black belts that have dedicated themselves with so much effort put into their karate training. They provide a wealth of knowledge and guidance to fellow students.
Sensei Steve Apsega
Steve Apsega, began formal training in the Shorin Ryu Matsumura Seito Karate in 1986. Establishing his first Maine Traditional Karate dojo in Whitneyville, Maine in 1990, Sensei Apsega later opened dojos in Hermon (2000), Orrington (2003), and Old Town (2010). The sole break in Sensei Apsega’s decades of teaching experience came in 1994 – 1998 when he honorably served our country as an Airborne Certified United States Marine.
Upon discharge from the Marine Corp, Sensei Apsega reengaged in training and teaching the Shorin Ryu Matsumura Seito system. His continuing efforts earned him promotion to Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt) on June 10, 2000, Sandan (3rd Degree Black Belt) on May 22, 2004, Yondan (4th Degree Black Belt) on May 16, 2009, and Godan (5th Degree Black Belt) on May 25th, 2013. Committed to accurately preserving the 300 year old karate system he practices, Sensei Apsega traveled to Okinawa Japan in 2004 and 2006 to personally train with Grandmaster Fusei Kise and Master Kise’s son, Kaicho Isao Kise.
On June 11, 2021 Sensei Steve traveled to Tyler, TX, and successfully tested for Rokudan (6th Degree Black Belt) with Hanshi John Shipes.
Sensei Apsega maintains his proficiency, in part, by regularly traveling to Athens, Texas to train with his teacher, Hanshi John Shipes. Hanshi Shipes, a Hachidan (8th Degree Black Belt), serves as Co-director of the United States Branch of Grandmaster Fusei Kise’s Okinawan Shorinryu Matsumura Seito Karate and Kobudo Federation (OSMKKF).
As a Senior Student of Hanshi Shipes, Sensei Apsega attends and assists his teacher in hosting Master Kise and Kaicho Isao Kise’s annual trainings in the United States. Through his ongoing professional development activities, Sensei Apsega maintains OSMKKF Full Instructor Certification in Karate, Kobudo, and Tuite. Sensei Steve has completed Kusanku and Sakagawa no Kon Sho, two of our system’s highest level katas.
Although you will never hear Sensei mention it, his Maine Traditional Karate students are proud of, and wholeheartedly support, the April 26, 2014 OSMKKF bestowal of the title Renshi (i.e., Polished Master) upon our Sensei.
Sensei Scott Daigle
Sensei Scott Daigle began training under Sensei Apsega in 2005. He achieved the rank of Shodan in 2009, Nidan in 2011, and was promoted to Sandan (3rd Degree Black Belt ) in 2013. In October 2018 he traveled to Yuma, AZ to test for his Yondan (4th Degree Black Belt) under the direction of Kaicho Isao Kise. With this latest promotion, his title changed from “Sempai” to “Sensei”.
He currently possesses full OSMKKF Certification in Karate, Kobudo, and Tuite. Sensei Scott possesses exceptional skill in all that he teaches, but is perhaps best known for his dry wit and soft-spoken nature.
His calm demeanor helps promote a healthy learning environment where success and failure are equally important and accepted parts of a student’s growth. Sensei Scott holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and an Associate’s Degree in Accounting.
Sensei Peter Bernier
Sempai Peter trained under Sensei Steve Apsega and is currently the Sensei at the Georgia Kenshin Kan Dojo in Flowery Branch, GA. Per his home dojo’s biography, Sempai Peter:
- Began training in Shorin-Ryu Karate-Do 1994 in Cherryfield Maine under various OSMKKF instructors
- Transferred to train with Sensei Steve Apsega in Nov. 2000
- Moved to Georgia in 2002
- Continued training with his teacher with annual visits in Maine
- Promoted to shodan in karate & kobudo in May 2004
- Trains annually with Hanshi-Sei Fusei Kise (10th Dan), Kiacho Isao Kise (9th Dan), and Hanshi John Shipes (8th Dan)
- Trains with Sensei Apsega (5th Dan) several times a year.
- Began Georgia Kenshin Kan Dojo in 2010
- Married my lovely wife Steaphine March 2012
- Promoted to Nidan Karate May 2012
- Promoted to Nidan Kobudo Oct 2013
- Certified Karate and Kobudo Instructor Oct 2013
- Promoted to Sandan (3rd Degree) in Karate Oct 2015
- Promoted to Yondan (4th Degree) in Karate June 11, 2021
Sempai Tommy Lyons
Sempai Tommy Lyons began training in this dojo under Sensei Steve Apsega in December of 2013.
He began his studies in August of 2012 in a little dojo in Bucksport, ME under a different Sempai (inactive now). The dojo was OSMKKF practiced but was not active in the federation. Sempai Tommy had pulled into the parking lot of Maine Traditional Karate several times because he was curious of the studies practiced there.
“Once I walked into the dojo and I met Sensei Steve Apsega I could feel the energies and I knew this is where I needed to train!”
Sempai Tommy has been clean from drugs since November 1, 2000. He has always lived by the ways of commitment, dedication, and hard work.
“If you want something in life, nobody is going to give it to you. You need to go earn it.”
Sempai Tommy has always felt like a Black Belt at heart but didn’t get the opportunity to earn it, until August 6, 2016 when he officially attained his Shodan.
“Karate doesn’t stop at Black Belt, it just begins.”
Sempai Tommy believes that Karate is a lifestyle and not something you just do. It is a way of life. Under the guidance of Sensei Steve Apsega, Sempai Tommy has continued his Karate and began to develop more as a teacher. He attained his Instructors certification for Karate on October 7, 2017 and enjoys teaching a great deal. Sempai Tommy developed the little Samurai program with the approval and assistance of Sensei Steve Apsega. The main goal of this program is to get 4-7 year old students ready and focused for regular youth classes held at the dojo. Sempai Josh Curtis is the current instructor of the little Samurai and looks forward to growing the program more.
Sempai Tommy holds rank in Kobudo (weapons) and Tuite (joint locks and body manipulation). He loves to practice and study the techniques of the Mook Jong, also known as the wooden man. This training tool is commonly found in the practices of ving tsun kung fu or Wing Chun also found to be used in JKD Jeet Kune Do, the way of the intercepting fist. Sempai Tommy continues his studies by attending regular black belt classes, teaching on Monday nights, attending and assisting in teaching at special seminars, and traveling to camps with Sensei Steve Apsega.
On August 31, 2018 Sempai Tommy earned the rank of Nidan. During his trip to Tyler, TX he achieved the rank of Sandan on June 11, 2021. He plans to continue his training to become a fully certified instructor in OSMKKF.
Sempai Kyle Sullivan
“I began training in the Okinawan Sieto Matsumura Karate and Kobudo Federation in 2013 as an activity I could do with my son. It turned out it wasn’t for him but I very quickly realize it was something I was going to stick with, at least for a little bit. Since 2013 I have trained under Sensei Apsega, at the Maine Traditional Karate Hermon Dojo, and then the Orrington Dojo. I have been fortunate to attend training camps with Kaicho Isao Kise, Hanshi Shipes, Hanshi Ader and numerous Kioshis over my time in the federation.
I was tested for promotion to Shodan (Karate) by Kioshi Engleby, Sensei Apsega, and Sensei Leach in October of 2018. I was promoted to Nidan (Karate) in October 2020 by Sensei Apsega.
Through my years of training, Maine Traditional Karate and the OSMKKF have become like a family to me. Like a family, we hold each other to high standards both in and outside the dojo. I consider myself fortunate to be part of a group that has high expectations for the individual but are held accountable as we work toward our goals, both personal and collective. Where I am on my martial arts path is in large part a testament to the friends that I have trained and tested with.” – Kyle Sullivan
Sempai Josh Curtis
“After studying various styles of martial arts including Thai Chi and receiving my Brown Belt in Aikido. I became overwhelmed with coaching, teaching and fatherhood. Following a short break, my eldest son had shown interest in learning Karate. In 2015 he joined the OSMKKF at the Old Town Rec. Center. A few weeks later I joined, partially to spend time with my son and partially because I missed martial arts training.
Without hesitation, I became not only a member of the federation but a part of the extended family. In my journey as a karateka, I had to learn to deal with the effects of diabetes. This challenge made it difficult but not impossible. As a piece of my health both mentally and physically, Karate has helped me maintain my sugar levels and weight. With hard work and dedication I earned my 1st degree black belt in October 2018 under the tutelage of Renshi Steve Apsega.
In 2019, I became the instructor for the Little Samurai Class and family class Friday Nights at the Dojo.
In 2020, despite the pandemic, earning my Nidan or second degree black belt and Shodan in Kobudo.
The journey of Karate is a singular one but, in this federation the journey and self discovery is supported by a worldwide network of amazing people willing to grow along with you.” – Josh Curtis
Sempai Seamus Mahoney
“Karate has been a steady rock in my life since I joined Maine Traditional Karate in 2008. I reached the rank of Jr Shodan in 2015, the rank of Nidan in 2017, and the rank of Shodan in kobudo in 2020.
Karate has taught me and many other students to be respectful, hard working, and persevering. The greatest part about karate is that there is little to no competitiveness and that you are only asked to do your best, which leads to a great feeling of camaraderie in the dojo.
I plan to continue karate for the rest of my life, because there is no better feeling than having your mind and body fully immersed in the art.”
Sempai Kailee Soucia
On October 5, 2019 Sempai Kailee received her Jr Nidan rank after a thorough examination under the supervision of Hanshi John Shipes and Kyoshi Loren Engelby.
“I began karate through Orrington Recreation Program. In January 2012, I joined Maine Traditional Karate as an official karateka (karate student). I received my Jr. Shodan (Jr. Black Belt) rank on October 8, 2016.
Karate has helped me become more confident with myself and helped me become a better public speaker. This has helped me a lot in school. Being a Jr. Shodan comes with a lot of responsibility. Not only am I responsible for knowing all material required as a Jr. Black Belt while still maintaining all previous rank material, but I need to ensure that I am a good role model for all youth students.
I am proud to be a female black belt within the OSMKKF. One event each year that I look forward to is when Hanshi John Shipes comes to Maine from Texas for our Maine Camp, and training with other dojos within our federation.” – Kailee Soucia
Sempai Mikel Leighton
“As a teenager I trained in Goju Ryu between 1996 – 1998. My passion for Okinawan Karate was ignited here and I was extremely saddened to have to move to a new area where I could not continue my training. After moving, I trained for a year in JuJitsu, but it did not resonate as well with me as Okinawan Karate had. I departed martial arts for a while to make time for other activities.
From 2003 – 2007 I served as an active duty service member in the United States Air Force. Most of my time in the USAF was spent overseas in Germany and after honorably discharging from my final station in Arkansas I stayed in the mid-west for a few years. I tried various martial arts over the next few years but didn’t settle on any one.
In October 2016 I discovered Maine Traditional Karate in Orrington and it has become my passion to train in OSMKKF’s Shorin Ryu. Almost 4 years to the day, in October 2020 I achieved my Shodan rank and look forward to humbly serving others and learning what I may as I move forward.” – Mikel Leighton
Sempai David Stephens
“I started my journey with Okinawan Shorin Ryu Matsumura Seito Karate with bringing my son Logan to a 4-week Orrington Recreation class. He liked it so much we enrolled him into the youth class that was being held in Hermon. I joined that following spring in 2015. Karate has been a constant in my life over the last number of years. It has given me and my son so much in the sense of family, community, discipline, and self-confidence. Throughout my karate journey it has never been about wanting my next rank. It has been about the work to get there. It’s the thrill of constantly learning and being challenged. Being able to study and understand all the techniques and bunkai (practical applications of those techniques). The physical and mental practice and always having room to improve is what drives me.
I love working with kids. The best karate classes I have are the ones where I can work with and help others get better or see their techniques in a different way. It is a great joy for me to be able to share the wisdom and knowledge that has been passed down to me from our Sensei’s and all the other amazing Sempai’s we have in our dojo.
I received my Shodon in October of 2020. It was a great honor and achievement but also only the beginning of my Karate Journey. I look forward to being able to teach and share and help the dojo grow.” – David Stephens
Sempai Victor Alexander
“I began training under Sensei Steve Apsega in September 2013 after meeting him at a demonstrating during Brewer Days. We hit it off right away and I was immediately impressed by his energy and enthusiasm. I decided to try out class. Best decision!
My karate journey was filled with outstanding instruction, not only from Sensei Steve, but also other instructors from our dojo, our friends in Orland, and various workshops that have included Sensei’s teacher, Hanshi John Shipes from Texas and Kaicho Isao Kise from Okinawa. I did have to take some time off due to back and leg injuries, but felt compelled to return and finish what I had begun. I earned my black belt October 18, 2020.” – Vic Alexander
Sempai Zaviera Hammack
Sempai Sophia Santiago
“I have been training under Sensei Steve Apsega since 2012. I started training at the dojo in Hermon. After a little less than a year into my training, I started at the dojo in Orrington. I have been training for years to earn the rank of Shodan. I have worked alongside my fellow karateka to get to where we are now.
I’ve learned what I know through years of persistence and frequent training. I had the privilege of going to the 2018 Texas Camp, where I was able to learn from those around me. I made new bonds and connections with others in our federation. The Texas Training Camp really taught me what having a karate family means to me. We stick
together and enjoy each other’s company. We’re more than just our gi and obis. We motivate and encourage each other to grow and continue. We push each other to strive. I know I wouldn’t be who I am today without them.
I am thankful for the bonds I have made with others, because they have pushed me to obtain my black belt. I’ve grown not only as a karateka, but as a person. I am honored to be a part of this Federation. I am excited to teach others what I know, in hopes to become a better version of myself. My goal is to give everyone a piece of knowledge or
wisdom that stays with them. And that they can use to become a better karateka.” – Sophia Santiago
Sempai Emmett Mahoney
Emmett joined the Orrington dojo in 2012 when he was 7 years old. He had no prior experience in any martial arts, except for his brother Seamus Mahoney, who joined karate in 2008. Seamus had great experiences in the years that he was practicing karate, so his parents signed Emmett up. At the time, Emmett was unsure what it was going to be like, but soon after, he really started to like practicing karate.
Since then, he always felt a sense of accomplishment practicing karate, and appreciated the relationships that he made through karate. Karate is something he will carry with him for the rest of his life.
Emmett has gone to many training camps, including Maine training camps led by Hanshi John Shipes between 2015 to 2018. Emmett received his black belt in October 2020.
“Even though there were challenging times, that’s what makes Karate so rewarding”.-Emmett Mahoney
Sempai Gabe Curtis
“I joined karate for very simple reasons, to get exercise and to learn how to protect myself. When I was younger I would get bullied a lot. People would make rude comments and tell me that I am not important, well I have always wanted to learn how to protect myself and do the cool flashy moves that you would see on TV. and well I still can not do a front flip and toss my bo up in the air, karate has taught me so much more than just punching and kicking. It has taught me how to control my temper and to be confident in the thing that I believe to be true.” – Gabe Curtis
Sempai Edgar LeClerc
“In 2013, when I was 6 years old, my parents enrolled me in karate
because I was very shy and they wanted to encourage me to be more outspoken and self-assured. Since then, karate has greatly improved my self-confidence and my ability to speak in front of other people.
Throughout the years, Karate has remained an important aspect of my life. Staying committed to one thing has always been important to me. I will do karate for as long as I can because karate is something that I enjoy doing and take pride in.
On October 17, 2020, I was promoted to the rank of Jr. Shodan. As a Jr. Shodan my goal is to educate current and future karateka and encourage them on their journey.” – Edgar LeClerc
Maine Traditional Karate: Inactive Black Belts
We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of all of our students. Life is ever changing, and sometimes even our most advanced students need to take a break from training for things such as relocation, going to college, changes in schedule or simply making time for other pursuits. They are dear to our hearts and their legacy is recognized here. It is our hope to someday see them training by our side again!
Sempai Lauren Grant
Sempai Isaac Roberts
Sempai Shawn Roberts
Sempai Beckett Parkin
Sempai Isabel Parkin
Sempai Braden Swett
Sempai Barbara Shorey
Sempai Gavin Worcester
“I began my training on 4/10/2012. I was taught under Sensei Steve Apsega in the Maine Traditional Karate Orrington Dojo and have attended many tuite camps over the years including Kaicho’s camp in 2016, Hanshi John Shipes camp in 2015, and tested for black belt in 2018 under Kyoshi Engleby.
Karate has not only helped me learn in the art but for many life aspects, as well, including how to be confident in my work in front of others. It also helped me get almost completely over my minor ADHD and has been a life changer since I started” – Gavin Worcester