Master JC Burris, Judan, began karate training in 1965 under Grandmaster Harold Long while a student at the University of Tennessee. Master Burris studied at the Harold Long School of Karate in downtown Knoxville. The now famous dojo was located at the corner of Gay Street and 5th Avenue, and it was a breeding ground for some of the most talented and respected karate-ka in the southeast United States – all under the guidance and direction of Grandmaster Harold Long. The dojo itself was open from 12:00 noon to 9:00 pm daily, and from 9:00 am to 12:00 on Saturday mornings; it was located upstairs, and the main floor and kumite area had windows covered with bamboo sticks so that no one would fall out onto the street.
Master Burris opened his first dojo in Maryville, TN, in the summer of 1967. Later in January of 1968, he opened Burris Martial Arts Center in Athens, TN. For several years, Master Burris was teaching at both the Athens and Maryville dojos, while teaching classes at Cleveland State Community College, teaching football teams in two different neighboring counties, and teaching Isshin-ryu karate to the Athens City Police Department. In addition to these responsibilities, Mr. Burris continued to regularly travel to Knoxville to train with Mr. Long as well as traveling to compete in any available karate tournaments.
Tournament competition was the primary focus of Master Burris’s first ten to twelve years of karate training. He had an impressive list of wins at a time when karate tournaments were few and far between, and competing meant traveling long distances, but the competition was great. There was no safety gear (which Mr. Long later called “armor”), and all tournaments were “open” events. The rules were usually voted on by the competitors just prior to the competition.
A competitor in both kumite and kata, Mr. Burris was a regular on the tournament circuit from 1965 to 1975, with occasional tournament entries in later years after mainstream use of safety gear. Some of his most notable wins included: 1969 Tennessee State Championship, 1970 Tarheel USKA Championship – Mr. Burris placed 1st, 2nd, or 3rd in the Tarheel tournament for four consecutive years. During the 60s and early 70s, he competed in practically every tournament the Harold Long School of Karate attended. He also began to take his own students to competitions as representatives of the Harold Long School of Karate.
Master Burris was inducted into the Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame in 1984, and he has been recognized as IHOF Instructor of the Year, and he received the IHOF Spirit of Isshin-ryu Award. He has also received inductions into various other martial arts halls of fame.
In 2008, Mr. Burris published his first book, The Last Lesson (The Go-kui of Isshin-ryu). This book was written for his students. It is a practical guide to advanced training for black belts, a look at the future for beginners, and a master’s guide to the concepts of Go-kui. It also chronicled Mr. Burris’s early years, as well as dealing with his philosophy on teaching and practicing Isshin-ryu. For those who have had the honor of training with him, it is a valued treasure. He plans a follow-up book with greater detail of both Isshin-ryu technique delivery and Isshin-ryu philosophy.
From 1972 until 2012, Sensei Burris conducted the Athens Karate Games – initially known as the Southeast Isshin-ryu Karate Championships – an all Isshin-ryu event in March of each year. He serves as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Isshin-ryu Karate Association, a position he assumed upon the retirement of Master Harold Long. As Master Long’s senior student, he continues to carry on the legendary tradition that Master Harold Long worked so hard to establish and develop. He intends to continue training, to teach, and to pass on the art of Isshin-ryu as it has been passed on to him. His students have opened dojos in Tennessee cities as well as in Virginia, Texas, California, Georgia, and North Carolina.
Grandmaster Burris’s educational achievements include: University of Tennessee, BS, 1967; University of Tennessee, MS, 1972; Nova Southeastern University, EdD, 1992. The 2016-17 school year marks his 50th year in public education. He currently lives in Cartersville, GA, with his wife and fellow Isshin-ryu master, Carol Burris.