Sensei John Benedict was born on June 25, 1965 in Brooklyn, New York. He began his martial arts training in Florida, one of the many stops in a turbulent childhood. Upon returning to Brooklyn some time later, his father, eager to pass on to his son the discipline and strong work ethic he had acquired from his career in the military, brought him to the Ying Yee Kwoon Martial Arts studio on Roebling Street in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
This studio was a branch of the USA Goju system under the instruction of Tony Lau, head instructor, and Archie Rullan, instructor. Later, Master Urban, the head of USA Goju, pronounced Tony Lau the head of his own system, and the studio became Ying Yee Ryu Goju Ryu in 1983. The system went through many name changes since then, including Yingikan Goju Ryu, but was eventually changed to Yoshido Goju Ryu in the mid-nineties. When he first walked into that studio, he immediately took notice of karate students taking part in traditional training exercises, such as punching bricks, kicking wood, striking fellow students, and contact fighting without protective gear. Sensei Benedict loved the aggressive and effective techniques, as well as the hard-core training of the Goju style. His interest grew and so he began training in 1981 at the age of 16.
Sensei Benedict immediately undertook a grueling regimen of training seven days a week plus tournament fighting. His struggles brought him the unexpected benefits of increased focus and equanimity of mind. He realized early on that his training was an "antidote to anger," enabling him to cope with the emotional pain of a broken home environment as well as keeping him protected from the gang violence so prevalent in his neighborhood. Motivated by these benefits of physical and mental conditioning, Sensei Benedict began to excel in tournament competition. On March 7, 1986, he became the first tournament competitor to be awarded the title of International Ying Yee under Belt Grand Champion. Since then, he has become a well-known competitor and notoriously aggressive fighter in the New York tournament circuit, always striving to emulate his icon, Master Peter Urban, the man who first brought the Goju Ryu style to America.
Soon after, the school moved to a new location at 281 Broadway, Brooklyn, close to the Marcey Ave. Projects. A few years later, Sensei Archie Rullan, a prominent instructor of the Yoshido system, decided to part from the system and formed his own, the Rullan Goju Ryu system. This gave Sensei Benedict an opportunity to start teaching, after having earned his first degree black belt in 1987. Though reluctant at first, he soon came to greatly appreciate the opportunity to pass on to his students the wisdom of his early teachers and the great Goju masters. While teaching under the banner of Master Anthony Lau, he dedicated himself to keeping young people safe from the dangers and pressures of the streets, often sponsoring those who were financially unable to pay for classes.
In 1990, Hanshi Tony Lau opened a school in Glen Cove, his first on Long Island. At this time, Goju had become the focal point of Sensei Benedict's life and he had made the commitment to let nothing--that is, no excuses--come between him and his training. He fought through injuries, quit jobs that interfered with his classes, and rode his bike over 25 miles from Brooklyn to Glen Cove to train while still maintaining his classes in the Brooklyn dojo. He earned his second degree black belt in 1991.
Sensei Benedict opened another dojo in Medford, New York in 1994, and moved the school to a larger location in Patchogue, New York in 1995. The school and students grew and prospered through 1997. Around that time, Sensei Benedict's life took an unfortunate turn when he was involved in a chemical accident at a job site, exposing him to highly toxic, hazardous materials and leaving him seriously ill. His recovery was lengthy and difficult; battling cancer and upper respiratory distress and burdened by financial struggles from lost work, even teaching became impossible. Sensei Benedict used this time to heighten his focus and discover new opportunities to speed healing. The absence of teaching had left a tremendous void in his life, and so his return had become the primary incentive in his fight back to wellness.
After five long years, Sensei Benedict returned to teaching at Gold's Gym in Ronkonkoma, New York, and earned his fourth degree black belt in 2002. His classes grew quickly and he was soon able to open a new dojo in Bohemia, New York in June of 2004. In that same year, the legendary Goju master Peter Urban passed away in Plymouth, MA. Sensei Benedict, a great admirer of Urban, was deeply saddened by the loss and, along with Hanshi Lau, Orlando Cabrero, Archie Rullan, and Dayton Guinee, helped Master Urban's fiancée and daughter recover his possessions and get his professional and personal affairs in order. He intends to continue to keep Master Urban's legacy and fighting spirit alive by supporting and sponsoring tournaments in Master Urban's name. Four years later, Sensei Benedict moved his Bohemia school to its current location in Holbrook, NY.
Sensei Benedict's active participation in tournaments has spanned almost three decades. Part of an exclusive network of Goju competitors and supporters, he has competed in several tournaments in New York and in other states, as well as in Canada--for example, those sponsored by Hanshi Yogi Israel in Ontario in the late 1980's. Working the tournament circuit most fervently in the early to mid-1990s, Sensei Benedict achieved considerable success in various competitions six years before his accident and four years after. From 2002 to 2005, he competed in the 12th to 15th Al Gotay All Goju-Ryu Invitational tournaments in New York City and consistently earned first place in the heavyweight black belt division. Well known for breaking (two-by-fours, baseball bats, cinder blocks, bricks, rocks, etc.), Sensei Benedict's passion for tournament fighting is also evident in his students who, in large numbers, accompany him and compete as well. He has also sponsored and promoted his own tournaments, including one in 1996 in Patchogue, New York, and another in Holbrook, New York.
In an attempt to expand the competitive boundaries of Goju, Sensei Benedict helped to develop and fund the Shogun sword sport, a technique that simulates actual sword combat (involving the unique challenge of locking a combatant's arm or leg to imitate the loss of a limb), in the early 1990's. Under the direction of Hanshi Lau, he was assigned the task of developing and building mechanical equipment for the sport, such as helmets, shoulder pads, and weaponry. He and his collaborators introduced and demonstrated the sport to several martial arts practitioners across the United States.
Sensei Benedict's professional and personal activities and interests range widely within the martial arts realm and beyond. In addition to owning and teaching at his dojo in Holbrook, he holds women's self-defense classes, owns a successful commercial and residential painting business, and co-owns a music studio with his wife, Marianna, an accomplished classical singer, instrumentalist, and teacher. He is currently busy at work making and promoting a series of instructional DVD's. A Reiki practitioner, certified scuba diver, and father of two teenage children, John and Katelynn, Sensei Benedict finds the time to sponsor food drives for local churches and volunteers to repair homes of the elderly in his community.
At the present time, Sensei Benedict's Seigi Dai Dojo in Holbrook is a thriving community of students dedicated to their fighting art and to each other in an atmosphere of mutual respect, support, and honor. Sensei Benedict invests a great deal of time and energy in each student, working each one strenuously in an effort to prepare him or her to confront any danger or personal challenge with greater awareness, strength, and confidence. His students do not achieve promotions in rank easily; yet, he will never give up on them or compromise the high standards of Yoshido Goju to pacify them. Through his unwavering commitment to his students, Sensei Benedict is assured that not only will his students' perseverance be met with great rewards, but that he will also have the satisfaction of knowing that the legacy and traditions of the system will be passed down to a new generation of well-trained and prepared practitioners, strong individuals, and upstanding community members.
Sensei John Benedict dedicated 27 years to the Yoshido Goju Ryu System, an organization grounded in tradition as proved by its lineage to important historical Goju Ryu pioneers. Yoshido Goju Ryu was founded by Sensei Benedict’s teacher, Master Tony Lau, who is a direct student of the late Grandmaster Peter Urban, the first person to bring the Goju Ryu style from Japan to the United States. Grandmaster Urban was a direct student of Master Yamaguchi, who himself was a direct student of Master Miyagi, two prominent Japanese figures in the history of Goju Ryu and martial arts as a whole.
Through decades of hard work and dedication, Sensei John Benedict had become a high-ranking member and certified instructor of the Yoshido Goju Ryu system. In 2008, Sensei Benedict decided to leave the Yoshido system and embark on the development of his own system. He is currently establishing his own Goju Ryu system, in which he will incorporate the valuable traditional ideals and practices from his life-long education with his visions and aspirations for the future of the Goju Ryu style in America.