Sun Dragon’s black belt instructors have been training in martial arts and self defense for a combined total of over 60 years.
Sensei Joy Williamson, Head Instructor
Joy Williamson began her martial arts training in 1995, after taking a self-defense class. She studied with Sensei Suzanne Pinette at Sun Dragon, earning her black belt in Kyokushin Karate in 2000. Joy soon began teaching at Sun Dragon, then was requested to take over leadership of the school when Sensei Suzanne retired. She has been the Executive Director and Head Instructor of Sun Dragon since 2004.
Sensei Joy is now a direct student of Jun Shihan Nancy Lanoue and Jun Shihan Sarah Ludden of Thousand Waves Martial Arts and Self Defense Center in Chicago, Illinois. She also trains with Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura at the Seido World Headquarters in New York. She was promoted to Sandan (third degree black belt) in Seido Karate in 2012. She is also a certified self-defense instructor with the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation.
Senpai Graham M. Smith, Instructor
Senpai Graham started training in the martial arts in 1993 in Chapel Hill, NC, studying Tang Soo Do under Master Perry Hansley. He shared head instructor duties with Tim Rath in the Chapel Hill branch of Carolina Karate Clubs for two years before starting and maintaining a school in Durham, NC for one year; when Mr. Rath had to step down Graham returned to run the Chapel Hill school for a year-and-a-half until he moved to Austin in 2000. A year later he left Tang Soo Do as a third degree black belt in order to train with Sensei Suzanne and later Sensei Joy at Sun Dragon Martial Arts. Senpai Graham has been teaching in the Junior and Youth Programs at Sun Dragon since 2007 and has been on the Sun Dragon board of directors since 2005. Senpai Graham received his Nidan in 2011.
Senpai KJ Scheib, Instructor
Senpai KJ began studying Kyokushin karate in 1999 under Sun Dragon founder Sensei Suzanne Pinette. In 2001, KJ reduced her karate training schedule in order to join the Women’s Profession Football League (WPFL) and later in 2004 the National Women’s Football Association. She was still able to earn her Kyokushin black belt in November 2004. In October 2007, after training with Sensei Joy Williamson at Sun Dragon, she earned her Shodan black belt in Seido Karate from Jun Shihan Nancy Lanoue of Thousand Waves Martial Arts, and her Nidan black belt in July of 2010 at Honbu in New York. Senpai KJ has also studied Judo, Kajukenbo, and Tai Chi.
Senpai Susan “George” Schorn, Instructor
Senpai George received her Kyokushin black belt from Sensei Suzanne Pinette in November 2002, her Seido black belt from Jun Shihan Nancy Lanoue in October 2007, and her Nidan in Seido from Kaicho Nakamura in July 2011. She teaches in Sun Dragon’s adult karate and self defense programs. Her daughter Lilly trains in Sun Dragon’s Youth class. Senpai George also writes about self defense and martial arts regularly for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.
Senpai Barbara Jones, Instructor
Senpai Barbara began training in 1989 and received her Shodan in 1994 and Nidan in 1998 in Budokai Karate from Shihan William Reid, who trained in Seido Karate with Kaicho Nakamura until 1988. Barbara has been committed to women’s and children’s safety and empowerment for over 20 years. In 1989, she founded and directed The Empowerment Project, Inc: Safety and Self Defense for Women and Children and in 2002, she created Flying Dragons: Martial Arts and Meditation for Children Facing Illness. Barbara moved from New York to Austin in 2004 and is a clinical social worker and Associate Professor of Social Work at UT Austin. Barbara first met Sei Shihan Nancy, Jun Shihan Sarah, and Sensei Suzanne at Special Training in 1993 and feels so fortunate to have come full circle and found Sensei Joy and Sun Dragon. Senpai Barbara is thrilled to train at Sun Dragon and is particularly proud of training in Seido Karate with her daughter, Rosalinda, a Junior Shodan. Senpai Barbara received her Seido Shodan in 2010 and Nidan in 2013.
Senpai Doris Ann (D.A.) Newton, Instructor
Senpai D.A. began training at Sun Dragon in 2002 under Sensei Suzanne Pinette at the former Riverside Drive location. She earned her Shodan in 2010 and her Nidan in 2013, and assists in teaching the youth girls classes.
Senpai Carmel Drewes, Anti-Violence Programs Coordinator
Senpai Carmel Drewes started training at Sun Dragon in September 2000, earning her Kyokushin black belt from Sensei Suzanne Pinette in 2004 and her Seido Shodan from Sensei Joy Williamson in 2013. She is the Anti-Violence Programs Coordinator at Sun Dragon, teaching and coordinating self defense, anti-bullying, and community outreach initiatives. She has been a trainer at National Women’s Martial Arts Federation camps, presenting on self-defense topics and trauma activation/regulation. Outside the dojo, she is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, specializing in healing from trauma and societal discrimination, with a focus on immigrant and LGBTQ communities. Senpai Carmel can often be seen with kids in tow at the dojo since her son Garin trains in Youth class, niece Julianne in Juniors, and son Nyle in Little Dragons.
(Photo credit Alice Keeney, Skirt Magazine: http://charleston.skirt.com/shes_so_skirt/carmel-drewes-feminist-ass-kicker)
Senpai Katie Mahoney
Senpai Katie began training at Sun Dragon in 2007 and received her black belt in December of 2012. She recently graduated with her MSSW from UT Austin and assists as needed with the Little Dragons, Juniors, and Youth classes. She is also the chair of the Sun Dragon board of directors.
Senpai Summer Cacciotti
After trying out Filipino knife and stick fighting and kendo, Summer Cacciotti tried out a UT-Austin informal class at Sun Dragon in 2007. Training continually since then, she credits Sun Dragon and Seido with making an enormous positive impact on her life. She enjoys assisting instructors during white belt classes and contributing written work for Sun Dragon’s website. She’s also the secretary for the Sun Dragon board of directors. Summer received her Shodan in December 2012.
Senpai Laura Hayden
Senpai Laura started training at Sun Dragon the summer of 2008 and received her black belt in April of 2013. She teaches and assists the Little Dragons and some youth karate classes, as well as the occasional self-defense class.
“I have always enjoyed watching action movies and martial arts films. But I never really considered doing it myself until I started seeing female action stars. Martial arts always seemed like a male dominated sport that perhaps had no place for females. But, I still wanted to try it for myself. I did some research and found Sun Dragon, a dojo that had years of experience in teaching self defense to women. Sun Dragon is an amazing and unique dojo, where the women actually outnumber the men. I like that we have men and women, but it is a nice perk to sometimes have a class that consists of only females. And I have really enjoyed assisting with the kids classes for the past year. Teaching has shown me how much I know, how much I don’t know and how much I still need to learn. In my experience some of the best teachers are the ones who are perpetual students and never stop learning.”
Sensei Suzanne Pinette, Sun Dragon Founder
Sensei Suzanne Pinette opened Sun Dragon Martial Arts in 1989. Since then, thousands of women have benefited from training with her, including her students who currently run the school.
Sensei Pinette has been training in various martial arts styles since 1971. She received her black belt in Kyokushin from Sensei Peg Strain in 1987 in Bloomington, Indiana. She is an active member of the National Women’s Martial Arts Federation and the Association of Women Martial Arts Instructors.