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Meet Richard Shoffit of Denton Academy of Martial Arts

Today we’d like to introduce you to Richard Shoffit.

Richard, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Fifty years ago, I started martial arts training under a young man named, Mickey N Fisher. Mickey and another named Robert L Jones were in the process of developing what became America’s first martial arts system, which they named Shin-Toshi, circa 1968. This style was a combination of Korean Tae Kwon Do and Chinese Kenpo. Hybrid styles were not uncommon in the Asian countries from which they came. Bruce Lee in fact did the same thing with his style, Jeet Kune Do. However, Shin-Toshi pre-dates JKD by six months.

Mr. Fisher was the 4th Tae Kwon Do Black Belt in Texas, and the twelfth in the United States, receiving his black belt under Tae Kwon Do legend, Jhoon Rhee, who became known as the father of US Tae Kwon Do. At the time of Fisher’s promotion, he was America’s first true “karate kid” at fourteen years of age.

The early stages of Shin-Toshi began in North Dallas with Mr. Jones’s partnership and began to take root in the Texas karate tournament scene of the 70’s. Some early visitors the original North Dallas studio included World Champion, Joe Lewis, and Korean Master, David Moon (currently of Mexico City). As the tournament scene grew throughout the seventies, so did the system of Shin-Toshi.

As it happens, my first lesson was on the first day that Mr. Jones showed up to partner with Mr. Fisher, I was concentrating on my undergraduate degree in Denton at the University of North Texas (North Texas State University at the time), and dually on my martial arts training, creating a tremendous sense of balance in my life at the time. My promotion to the coveted rank of Black Belt, and my graduation from North Texas State University with my undergraduate degree came within a year of one another, making me Shin-Toshi’s first Black Belt, circa 1973.

Having married and settled in Denton, I opened Shin-Toshi’s first true dojo (Japanese) / dojang (Korean) in 1976. I went straight to work further developing the Shin-Toshi system to include Kobudo (Japanese and Okinawan weaponry), swordsmanship (Kendo), and sword arts (Iai-do). In 1979 I quickly moved to training at a state level in Kuk Sool Won (Korean Hapkido) under Grandmaster In Hyuk Suh, out of Houston. In 1982, moving to a national level I traveled to California to study Filipino martial arts under Dan Inosanto (Bruce Lee’s protégé). I continued training in all these systems simultaneously for the next decade. This brought a well-rounded maturity to the Shin-Toshi system, building it from its original inception as largely a sports style to the true martial arts system that it is today.

In 1986, I built what is still today Denton’s only stand-alone, custom-built martial arts training hall just a couple blocks from the original store-front dojo where I first started my business, in 1993 I copyrighted the Shin-Toshi system with the Library of Congress, documenting it with an unpublished manuscript. By 2007 I had taken my training to an international level by traveling with lifelong friend and kung-Fu grandmaster, Eric Lee to China and the Shaolin Temple, the birthplace of Chinese martial arts, fulfilling a long-time dream.

Today, still after forty years, we continue to progress with our recent addition of ground-fighting (Goshin Budo Jujiutsu) to Shin-Toshi curriculum. I continue to stay active with a weekly workout routine that includes weight training, stretching, running, and Kendo, I continue to personally instruct all classes here at Denton Academy of Martial Arts.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It has definitely not been a smooth road. I trained six days a week for eighteen years until I built my custom studio. The responsibility of the mortgage for the studio was a tremendous burden, while I still continued to train at a state and national level, which included lots of travel, in an effort to develop Shin-Toshi, and stay current in my training.

The nation’s economy through the years played a large role in the success, the progress, and development of the studio, waxing and waning. The changes of society and the reality of training students for a living doesn’t necessarily track with the information published by martial arts magazines, and the advice they so readily offer.

So suffice it to say, I’m glad to still be in business after forty years!

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Denton Academy of Martial Arts – what should we know?
What I’m most proud of is that I’ve been able to maintain my training standards for my students, and survive in this city, starting at about 25K people and having grown to over 125K, and the corresponding changes this has brought.

I’m also proud of the fact that I’ve helped our system evolve to a higher state than what it was when it began.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Mickey Fisher, Bob Jones, for obvious reasons, Richard Nielsen (who got me started with karate in college), Dayna Nardoza (Shin-Toshi’s second female black belt), and all the masters and grandmasters I was fortunate enough to train under who gave me their inspiration, passion, and discipline demonstrating what a true martial arts system stands for.

Contact Info:

Mr.Shoffit serving as coordinator for instructor training for Keith Yates, Texas Black Belt Commission

Mr. Shoffit and Eric Lee (1983)

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Dayna Nardozza

    May 31, 2017 at 2:40 pm

    I am so proud of Richard and what he has accomplished. He is responsible for not only training countless practitioners, but also guiding young students to understand perseverance, discipline, and focus!! Congratulations, Richard!! This is well-deserved recognition for a lifetime of commitment to your art!

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