Master-Level Martial Arts Instructors Lisa Kozak and David Willard received 8th Degree (Pahl Dan) Black Belts at a special promotion ceremony in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Nov. 6, 2022. The occasion was led by Grandmaster H.C. Hwang, head of World Moo Duk Kwan and president of the United States Soo Bahk Do Moo Duk Kwan Federation.
The lifetime achievements come after Kozak’s 43 years and Willard’s nearly 40 years of martial arts training and instruction. Both Kozak and Willard, who teach therapeutic martial arts respectively at Summit Academy School – Lorain and Summit Academy Community School for Alternative Learners – Lorain, have trained under the same instructor and have been training partners for the past four decades. This 1985 television program featuring Kozak and Willard as teenagers help define their lifetime commitments to martial arts and the dedication they deliver to their Summit Academy students.
“Both bring years of expertise and genuine caring for their students,” says Therapeutic Martial Arts Program Coordinator Sensei Chuck Rickard. “There are very few people at that level teaching in the United States. That level of expert teaching is hard to find. It’s being provided to our students on a daily basis.”
Willard puts the achievement into perspective explaining that earning a 4th degree black belt within the martial art Soo Bahk Do (Tang Soo Do) Moo Duk Kwan requires passing an eight-day, 15-hour-a-day exam under observation and critique through its entirety.
“We have gone through that process four times,” Willard says, noting that he and Kozak underwent the rigorous exam for each of their 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th degree black belts. In addition, recommendations from an instructor and regional examiners and approval from a technical advisory committee are required to earn a higher degree level black belt, Willard points out.
“An 8th degree is very much a lifelong achievement. It will now be a 10-plus year journey to our next level,” Willard says.
Kozak describes her and Willard’s commitment to martial arts as one with consistency that has sustained over nearly a half-century. “There has never been a break in our training,” says Kozak, who has been interviewed for her expertise in martial arts for feature stories in Black Belt Magazine, Marie Claire and Cosmopolitan.
Kozak says the therapeutic martial arts classes she leads for Summit Academy closely pattern those she offers to students privately in her Akron studio.
“It’s about the philosophy and consistency and expectations we set for students,” Kozak says, explaining how traditions such as bowing into the dojo and speaking respectfully have far-reaching influences that transcend in life. “We see growth in our students from the inside out. The physical aspect is just the tool.”
Kozak and Willard will be recognized for their dedication and expertise in martial arts with commemorative awards presented by Summit Academy Management CEO John Guyer and Therapeutic Martial Arts Program Coordinator Chuck Rickard at the Summit Academy – Lorain school board meeting on December 14.