Read the Spivey Karate Journey to learn about my journey into Martial Arts and how it lead to establishing Spivey Karate in Dade City.
I have earned the Self Defense Instructor of the Year, the Soke (founder of a martial arts style) of the Year and recently was awarded the Platinum Lifetime Achievement Award for dedication to the martial arts. I have also been given the rare honor of being inducted into the Society of Black Belts of America. In 2019, I came out of tournament retirement, at the age of 71, to win the national championship for the 65 & over Black Belt division in the Alliance of Martial Arts. Seven (7) of my Black Belt students won national championships that year in their age categories.
I have a passion to teach karate and see how it transforms my students physically, mentally, and socially. Although the school must be operated as a business, each student is an extension of Spivey Karate; they are family. We want them to be their best and to do their best. We are proud of our students and the roots we have established in Dade City and the surrounding areas.
Hall Of Fame Soke Grand Master William F. Spivey Sr.
Certified 10th Degree Black Belt
Martial Arts Instructor since 1966
Tai Chi Instructor, Ms. Linda Spivey
22 Years of Instruction
Ms. Linda (as her Tai Chi students call her) is my wife. I met her through her son, Joe Solomon, a well known and liked math instructor at Hernando High School. Joe was one of my karate students at that time. She is a very special person because of her grace, dignity & honesty. I know that I am the luckiest person on the planet to have her love.
In 1992, she would ride with me to work over in the Tampa area where she would visit friends, shop, work out at gyms & take Tai Chi lessons. When I finished work, she would pick me up and we would go back home. In those five years, she excelled in the Tai Chi classes and was asked to become an instructor close to the time that I retired from the grocery industry to open my full-time Karate School. Not wanting to the long distance travel to teach Tai Chi, I suggested that she teach Tai Chi in our newly opened Karate School.
In 2007, she was honored as the Tai Chi Instructor of the Year by the World Martial Arts League in her native Germany, at their Hall of Fame Banquet.
Club of America
The Black Belt Club of America is the original and foremost organization in the United States designed to enhance the character development of martial artist. It is a Boy Scout like program in which the best performing Spivey Karate members work to achieve the American Eagle Award, similar to the Eagle Scout. Participates submit monthly assignments for subjects such as Family Helping Hand, School Helping Hand, Parent Appreciation, Academic Achievement, martial arts improvement & essays on subjects such as courtesy, attitude & determination.
The Spivey Karate Journey
Some paths in life are temporary. For me, martial arts have been almost a life-long journey. This path began as a 12 year old, looking at pages in Black Belt magazine and imitating the moves. As a 19 year old in 1966 working for Winn Dixie, I often helped customers carried their groceries to their car. One day, I noticed a karate flyer on the dashboard. This customer’s name was Linda Kelley, the wife of the karate instructor who was my Sensei (teacher) and Mentor (Frederick “Fred” Wilford Kelley Jr., 1934–2004). Mr. Kelley was a brown belt in Judo and a green belt in Chito-Ryu Karate at the time. He began teaching me Judo at the local martial arts club in Sanford, Florida. Shortly after I enrolled, the club folded. Mr. Kelley drove a group of us to train at an All Japan Karate-do Federation (“AJKF”) school in Orlando under Mike Foster to continue training in Chito-Ryu karate. Chito-Ryu karate was created by Dr. Tsuyoshi Chitose in Okinawa, Japan. Sensei Chitose’s student and protégé, Mamoru Yamamoto, later broke ties with his master and created Yoshukai Karate. Eventually, all Yoshukai branches came from the instructors shown in the picture below (left to right: Mamoru Yamamoto, Mike Foster, Rayburn Nichols and Yuki Koda). Over the next 18 months, the AJKF school under Mike Foster became a Yoshukai School and Mr. Kelley became a Sho Dan (1st degree) Black Belt.
Mr. Kelley opened a dojo (place of training) in Sanford, located on 1st Street, over the old Touchton’s Drug Store. He asked me to be his assistant instructor, even though I held no rank (white belt) for an extended period of time due to testing anxiety I experienced after witnessing a particularly brutal Black Belt test held at St. Leo College, outside of Dade City, Florida (my future Karate home). His words to me were, “You have 18 months of knowledge and experience, which is more than any of the other new students would have.” My job was to teach new students, assist current students needing help and to take over when he could not be there because of his job as a Seminole County Sheriff’s deputy. On the day Mr. Kelley first tested his students, he asked me to come in my “gi” (uniform) to help him with the testing. When I arrived, he moved his desk in front of the doorway and told me not to try to leave because I was going to be tested. I passed my test for green belt, which gave me a new sense of confidence and formed the basis for who and where I am today in my martial arts journey.
Mr. Kelley eventually broke ties with the Yoshukai Karate School of Japan and later would create his own brand called the Kelley’s Martial Arts Academy of Florida. As his dojo became too small to handle all his students, he had a metal building constructed on a lot at 2nd Street and Poplar Avenue, next to his home where he continued to teach the traditional style of Chito-Ryu Karate. His Seminole Karate Dojo expanded to a Volusia Karate Dojo in Deland & Debary. In 1972, after six years of training, I was given an “on the spot promotion” to Sho Dan (1st degree) Black Belt during a demo at the Sanford Civic Center. I was Mr. Kelley’s first student to earn a Black Belt and I wear that honor proudly.
The photo above was taken about 6 months after my promotion. Mr. Kelley waited until he promoted other Black Belts as part of a more formal ceremony with the newspaper present to document the event and promote his school. Tim Register is having his belt tied and Pete Janssen is standing in the middle. When Mr. Kelley had to relocate out of town, he sold the school to another of his Black Belts, Bruce Nelson. Bruce had a good “business” knowledge to run a school, so I stayed to helped keep the school going, but eventually left when Bruce decided to rejoin the Yoshukai School under Mike Foster. Mike Foster was a great Karate instructor and a trainer of numerous world champions, but I felt a loyalty to Mr. Kelley that I could not transfer, no matter how advantageous to my martial arts journey. Wanting to branch out in a different direction, like Sensei Kelley, I began to develop my own martial arts style by grafting in techniques and ideas from other martial arts, along with boxing to form an “American Open-Style” karate.
Shortly thereafter, I began to instruct on my own, teaching out of my own house or in my backyard. I eventually opened my own school in Sanford, but lacked the business understanding required to make it successful. In December 1977, I transferred to the Hernando / Pasco County area within Winn-Dixie, moving into the roles of various management positions, mostly as a Produce Manager. My desire to teach karate continued as I opened my first class in Brooksville. While working a 40-hour week schedule, I would teach karate at night. In 1980, I opened another class in Dade City and would eventually create the Florida American Karate Federation (“FAKF”) in 1985, which would grow to include schools in Zephyrhills, Inverness, Spring Hill and Ridge Manor. We would have different schools host quarterly inter-school tournaments where students would compete against each other in kata (series of movements), weapons, sparring and team sparring. Competition between schools was immense with a high level of technique and proficiency, allowing the tournaments to provide practical application to what is taught in the classes and good comradery among competitors.
My students and I would also train and test our skills outside of our schools at various open tournaments across the state. Every competitor learns to overcome their anxieties and face the unknown through competition. I eventually competed with enough success within the Florida Black Belt Association (F.B.B.A) that I became the No. 1 black belt fighter in the Over-35 category in 1984. My son came to live with me for his junior year of high school in 1986. He had been training in a variety of martial arts styles and had earning a green belt in Tae Kwon Do (Korean Martial Arts) but wanted to earn his black belt through me. He trained at every FAKF school on an accelerated basis, testing for his 1st Degree Black Belt in March 1987 while also competing in the Florida Affiliation of Martial Arts Events (F.A.M.E) circuit, eventually becoming the state champion black-belt fighter in the 16-17 year old category in December 1987. He was one of 8 other state champions that I trained up to that point.
Eventually, many of my highly-ranked Black Belts would become instructors of the area schools. In 1997, I retired from the grocery industry to become a full-time instructor. This gave me time to learn a variety of other martial arts styles, including Judo and Kobudo (Okinawan weapons). In 1998, I consolidated the Dade City, Ridge Manor and Zephyrhills schools into a facility on the North side of Dade City. It only had about 600 sq. ft. of training area and was quickly packed out. On Memorial Day 2002, Spivey Karate and Tai Chi was permanently established at its current location with about 2,500 sq. ft. of training area.
Over the ensuing years, I have earned the Self Defense Instructor of the Year, the Soke (founder of a martial arts style) of the Year and recently was awarded the Platinum Lifetime Achievement Award for dedication to the martial arts. I have also been given the rare honor of being inducted into the Society of Black Belts of America. In 2019, I came out of tournament retirement, at the age of 71, to win the national championship for the 65 & over Black Belt division in the Alliance of Martial Arts. Seven (7) of my Black Belt students won national championships that year in their age categories.
Only those who start their martial arts journey can walk this path; only those who persevere can achieve a black belt, but all who take the journey will be transformed.