In March 1998, what would soon be called "The Shotokan Karate Club of Pawnee" held its first planning and registration meeting at the Pawnee School Cafeteria. Phil Thompson, a first degree black belt and Alex Thompson, a brown belt, made the commitment to open and operate a karate club in Pawnee. This club would teach traditional Japanese martial arts to children age 8 through adult and would be supported by Sensei Bob Allen of Monroe, LA and the Traditional Karate Do Federation. The club logo would be a black and gold shotokan tiger in a setting sun.
Eight would-be students; John Dozier, Troy Grant, Cody Grant, Sean Sosman, Ryan Barnes, Mitchell Louderman, Tim Brewer and Kevin Brewer, were the first to sign up. The first class would be held in the Pawnee Grade School "Little Gym". This would be the home of the club for only the first 3 months. Class times were Wednesday 5:30 p.m. - 6:45 p.m. and Sundays 4:30p.m. - 5:45 p.m.
After the first belt test, the club moved to the K.C. Hall in Pawnee. This would be the home of the club for the next 5 years. Part of the rental agreement with the K.C. Hall was that the club would set up and tear down as needed for hall rentals on other days. Utilities were included, and the club was allowed to store its supplies in the back room when it was torn down.
Sensei Carl Clarizio Jr., a third degree black belt in Tang Soo Do, became a member and close friend of Sensei Thompson. He assisted with class if needed and helped to develop students’ skills in fighting from a perspective outside of the traditional Shotokan Karate realm. In July 1999, a pre-karate for children ages 6-7(under 8) was begun. The Tiny Tigers Program signed its first six students. These students were Drew Thompson, Dylan Grant, Nolan Peterson, Dylan Horton, C.J. Clarizio and Michael Barnes. Class times for the Tiny Tigers were added to the schedule 30 minutes before regular class on both days. The club continued to grow and flourish. The students began to attend tournaments. Eleven students competed at a USA-NKF National Qualifier in Chicago, Illinois. There were over 1000 competitors.
All eleven qualified for the USA-NKF National.
In November 1999, sensei Thompson received his 2nd degree black belt, and Alex Thompson, age 11, received his first degree black belt, from Sensei Bob Allen (7th degree) in Monroe, LA. Sensei Thompson would also gain recognition as a State Kumite Judge for the USA-NKF.
Class times were adjusted to help students who play sports.
The club was on its way. With a membership of more than 20, the club was growing. Several students were getting high honors (1st, 2nd and 3rd) during competitions at the Local, State, Prairie State Game, and Junior Olympic levels.
Class times were added to the existing schedule to allow intermediate students a time to train.
In March 2001, Steve Harvey, Troy Grant, Sensei Thompson, and their families, made the trip to Monroe, LA. Sensei Bob Allen tested Troy and Steve for first degree black belt. Even in an odd environment, with little or no familiar surroundings or amenities, both passed without question. Sensei Thompson was appointed to Illinois Chairman of the Traditional Karate-Do Federation.
In the fall of 2002, another trip was made to Monroe, LA. Alex Thompson, age 14 was tested and received the rank of 2nd degree black belt from Sensei Allen. Alex had to spar with older black belts and show his ability to have good control and blocking skills by not wearing any fighting gear.
Sensei Allen was pleased with the accomplishments of such a young student.
The club continued to grow. It was becoming more difficult to set up and tear down the club working around the other rentals at the K.C. Hall. Sensei Thompson was appointed to the position of Secretary / Treasurer of the Traditional Karate-Do Federation and received his Sandan. After more than 5 years at the K.C. Hall, they would find a new home. Sensei Thompson had been searching for a more suitable location that would be utilized for karate 100% of the time. The old flower shop, tanning salon, nail salon and jewelry store on the square in Pawnee would be the club's new home. Multiple renovations would be needed to get the building ready. Club members and friends of the club, made donations of time, materials and money to do the renovations and buy additional equipment. After renovations, the club has approximately 1330 square feet of matted work out space, as well as changing rooms, bathroom facilities and viewing areas. Additionally, the club is continuing to renovate an area that will be utilized for cardiovascular and weight training. This renovation was completed in the fall of 2003.
At this time, the club roster was around 30 students and one third of that was adults. The club name has been shortened to Pawnee Shotokan.
In 2005, the decision to join with Sensei Brian Evans and Mackinaw Valley Karate and Fitness. The Illinois Traditional Karate Organization (ITKO) was formed and Sensei Thompson was asked to be one of the founding board members. In 2006, Sensei Thompson tested and received his Yondan (4th Degree Black Belt) from Sensei Evans. Sensei Steve Harvey left Pawnee Shotokan but remained with the ITKO and formed Kaizen Shotokan in Springfield Illinois. The ITKO made many connections within the Shotokan community, and Pawnee Shotokan had the opportunity to grow through this activity.
In November of 2013, Sensei Thompson tested and received his Godan (5th Degree Black Belt) from Sensei Evans and the ITKO.
In May of 2014, Sensei Evans decided that it was time to grow the outreach of the organization. The Independent Traditional Karate Organization was formed (still known as the ITKO), allowing Shotokan practitioners from all over the world to become a member of an organization that is non-political and promotes freedom to train, network and share knowledge with other like-minded Shotokan practitioners, regardless of their affiliations. On its inaugural day, the Independent Traditional Karate Organization had 12 member schools. Early is 2015, Sensei Evans was promoted to 7th Dan (Schichi dan). Later that year he was recognized for his 7th dan from the ITKO and inducted as a member of the prestigious International Shotokan-ryu Karate-do Shihankai. As of January 2016, the ITKO has 37 member dojos from around the world.
As for the future, the club hopes to continue its growth pattern, This growth, is not just reflected in the sheer number of students, but also in the physical, mental, spiritual and emotional growth of its participants.