David Arundel said he has never sought out recognition for his work as a karate instructor and competitor, which is part of what makes him proud to have received sixth-degree black belt certification from the International Council of Kenpo Grandmasters in June.
Although moving from fifth to sixth degree is an honorific title for contributions to the field of karate that requires a nomination to the council, Arundel also asked to perform for the Burlington, Massachusetts-based council to prove his prowess.
“It was wonderful and invigorating,” he said. “It felt like I was earning it, just like the old days. I’ll be 63 in September, and it was invigorating and a lot of fun to perform. All these people were looking at this old man and going, ‘Wow!’”
After his presentation, Arundel said one of the viewers said he seemed so much younger.
“He said you move with the power and speed of a 30-year-old,” Arundel said. “It’s because I never stopped. If you keep moving and working on it, you can’t help but get better.”
Arundel said he insisted on the demonstration because it tied into the core philosophies of his dojo, which he is making full-time after retiring in November, after 28 years of performing safety inspections for the state Department of Transportation. Arundel Karate Academy is in the Peace Dale Office Building, 1058 Kingstown Road.
“At Arundel’s Academy, you have to learn; you have to earn your belt,” he said, adding that some groups handed out belts essentially as participation awards. “We’re old-fashioned in that regard. It might take a year to earn a belt or to gain a rank.”
Arundel said he first learned Taekwondo from Dan Zarbo in Jamestown and North Kingstown in 1974.
“He is a great motivator,” Arundel said of Zarbo. “He brought Chuck Norris here in 1975, and he ran the first full-contact karate matches at the old Civic Center.”
Arundel learned the Kenpo style from Nick Cerio, training with him from 1976 to 1982. It was Cerio’s widow, Nancy, who nominated Arundel for his sixth degree black belt in Kenpo.
“Once you make your fifth degree, the next rank you get is honorary,” Arundel said. “It’s about what you’ve done to promote the arts.”
When asked about the difference between his teaching style and others, Arundel said he stresses personal accountability and a focus on self-defense.
“The only time you should use [martial arts] is self-defense for yourself, for a loved one, for a weak person, or to preserve peace and justice,” he said. “With a true martial artist, nobody should know you’re a martial artist … People think it’s violent, but it’s actually non-violent. It’s about teaching people self-respect.”
Arundel moved to Narragansett in 1978 to begin teaching, moving to Main Street in Wakefield in 1982, to Kersey Road in Peace Dale from 1986 to 2003, where he ran the dojo part-time, and now to the Peace Dale Office Building. His instructors include Angela Arundel, Ann Hannigan and John Toro in Taekwondo, Steve Ursillo in Kenpo and Tom Holmes in all-around disciplines. Among Arundel’s past students are four black belts who have started their own schools – Steve Babcock of Narragansett, Don Culp of North Kingstown, Murray Jewett of Montana and Pete Timpson of Florida. John Cafferty and Michael “Tunes” Antunes of the Beaver Brown Band are also pupils, he said.
“I feel as though I’ve done a good job in relating to them the proper attitude to have when you teach martial arts, as well as the proper techniques,” he said. “The main thing in our school has always been humbleness and the proper attitude.”
Arundel said his daughter, Kim, 31, earned her brown belt, and his son, David Jr., was a standout for the Rebels’ track team and still holds the school’s indoor track high jump record.
“I know that their martial arts training was a factor in them being able to focus on their other endeavors,” Arundel said. “The mind and the body together give strength to the spirit.”
Arundel will hold a free hour-long self-defense workshop Saturday from 9 to 10 a.m. For more information, call 339-1553.