The History of Tracy's Karate in St. Louis

The Tracy's Karate Organization has its origins with a man named William Chow. Chow lived in Hawaii in the early to mid 1900's and began teaching Chinese Kenpo there. This system of Martial Arts caught the interest of a young American named Ed Parker, who is primarily credited with bringing Chinese Kenpo to the continental 48 states in the early to mid 1950's. Ed Parker introduced Al & Jim Tracy to Chinese Kenpo in the 1950's, and they were both promoted to Shodan (first degree black belt) in January of 1962.

The Tracy brothers founded their first school in the 1960's in San Jose, California and it quickly became a tremendous success. Al & Jim Tracy introduced several new aspects to traditional Martial Arts training. Before the 1960's, most karate instructors taught out of a gym or similar organization in their spare time and held a "real" job during the day. The Tracy brothers were among the first to promote the idea of Professional Martial Arts Instructors. Jim, Al and their other instructors worked full time at the school in San Jose and made their livings as karate instructors.

The Tracy’s are also credited with pioneering the Americanization of karate. Jim, Al and their students took karate to the suburbs and opened schools in malls and shopping centers across the country. Previously the Martial Arts had been taught in large group style classes. This was the traditional teaching method, with students packed into a studio wall to wall very few receiving personal attention from an instructor. Jim and Al changed this with advent of the private lesson style of instruction now used at all Tracy’s Karate studios. Innovations of this kind and a desire to de-mystify the Martial Arts are what has made the Tracy’s organization one of the largest and most respected in North America.

Joe Lewis joined the Tracy Organization during this era of innovation in Martial Arts instruction and brought with him the Lewis System of fighting. The Tracy's saw other Martial Artists and their styles not as competition, but as a source of additional knowledge that could be used to strengthen their own system. In keeping with this idea, the Tracy brothers hired Joe Lewis to work with them and their students on sport fighting. Mr. Lewis, who has been called "The Greatest Karate Fighter of All Time", brought with him a unique understanding of distance and fighting principles that he developed into a system now taught at all Tracy's Karate Studios.

Joe Lewis looked at sport fighting in ways that were at once both common sense and revolutionary. Few tournament fighters today realize that many of the lead hand techniques used in modern sport fighting were virtually unknown before Joe Lewis made them famous. The backfist, one of the most common lead hand jabs, was not even considered a valid strike before Mr. Lewis showed it’s effectiveness by knocking an opponent out with this technique.

Tim Golby joined the Tracy's organization in May of 1971. Tim grew up on a farm in a small town in Illinois, and attended Kenrick Seminary here in St. Louis in preparation for the Priesthood. It was during his studies at Kenrick Seminary that Tim began learning Chinese Kenpo. In spring of 1971, after much deliberation, Tim left the Seminary. His involvement with the Tracy's organization prior to this decision and the need for a new direction in his life brought him to ownership of a Tracy's Karate franchise and his new vocation. During his training and prior to opening his own school, Tim studied with men whose names have become legendary in the Tracy's Organization. Al Tracy, Joe Lewis, Rodney Hard and Ken Maguire are only a few of the people that Tim credits with his extensive knowledge of karate and the fighting arts.

Most Tracy's Karate black belts in the St. Louis area trace their lineage back to Tim Golby, and he is undoubtedly one of the most respected Martial Artists in the St. Louis area. One of Tim Golby's first students was David Hofer, who won every major tournament held in St. Louis in the early 1970's. Tim has had many students who became well known for their abilities on the tournament circuit. In 1974, a young man named Sid Gee began taking lessons from Tim. Sid went on to become the highest rated fighter in the St. Louis area, and was ranked among the best fighters in the country by Karate Illustrated.

The tradition of training champions has stayed with the St. Louis Tim, if asked, is hesitant to trace his lineage through any one individual to the Tracy's brothers. The reason for this is simple. Tim had numerous instructors prior to and after receiving his Shodan rank, and he feels it is incorrect to credit any one of these people with his knowledge and success. This method has become tradition in the St. Louis Tracy's Organization, and Tim encourages his students to learn from more than one instructor. In this manner, a student is exposed to instructors with different strengths. This philosophy provides students with a well-rounded training regime and allows them to focus on the particular area of karate that most interests them.

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