April marks a special month in Philadelphian martial arts history, especially for the American Kenpo Karate practitioners in the area. This month would be the ninetieth birthday of the late Sifu J. Donald Burrier. Many of the older, more seasoned Kenpo practitioners would remember a Navy man who knew his art through and through, who knew how to pack a punch during sparring and demonstrations, who was a kind-hearted and caring man, and who, by one former student remarks, talked about “life, Kenpo, and theology. Not always in that order.”
I can say for certain that I met this great teacher (while visiting him at his own home), however, I was too young to remember anything from that event. Nonetheless, he was and still is a great influence on my current aikido instructor – using many of the teaching methodologies and analogies during training sessions – and my sporadic Kenpo instructor and martial philosopher. In one sense, this is my way of honoring these two instructors, while honoring their instructor, the man, the myth, and the legacy of J. Donald Burrier and the impact he had on the surrounding Philadelphia martial arts community o and his respective students.
For the week surrounding his birthday on April 13th, Martial Arts of Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow will be releasing remembrance pieces from several of his students – both long and short term. I hope you all will enjoy and see the individual impact Burrier had on his students and the sphere of influence he had on American Kenpo Karate within the Philadelphia region.