Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing’s founding instructor has an impressive career in martial arts to look back on.
Sensei Geri Buttler has been practicing karate for nearly 30 years. She started training at the age of 37 when her sons and husband enrolled at Sensei Lyle Cheney’s karate school in Red Deer.
“My boys were in karate and they convinced me to join with them,” said Buttler.
For Buttler, karate started out solely as a form of exercise. She said she continued doing it because it was more interesting, more challenging and more complete than other methods of exercise she had tried and it also taught her the valuable skill of self-defense.
After she had been studying karate for a few years, some of Buttler’s friends wanted her to teach them what she had been learning over one summer. So, she got permission and started teaching karate herself.
“I was only going to teach for three months,” said Buttler. Obviously, plans changed and Buttler ended up teaching for years.
Buttler also taught at Cheney’s school in Red Deer. She even instructed Sensei Clint Robison, who now runs the Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing school, when he first started his karate training as a teenager.
While she got into the teaching aspect of martial arts in order to train adults, Buttler said it was actually teaching children that kept her doing it.
She said she enjoys seeing how students progress and that progression is amplified when the students are children.
“If you came to a beginner class of children, nobody knew how to do anything,” said Buttler. “You would come three months or even one month later and they are paying attention, listening and they learn so fast. You really see (the progression).”
One thing that Buttler said she found particularly interesting was meeting students years after training them.
She said she is always surprised to learn how students have progressed and what they have accomplished in martial arts and other aspects of their lives as well.
Today, Buttler is not as active in the hands-on aspects of teaching. However she is still active in many of the day-to-day operations of the Lacombe Karate and Kickboxing School.
In addition to teaching, Buttler also enjoyed the competition aspect of competing in karate. She said competitions drove her to improve even further in her karate training.
Buttler also said that she enjoyed meeting new people at tournaments and has made many friends through her years competing. She said she has developed a few friendly rivalries that she remembers fondly.
Because of her full-time job as a registered nurse (now retired), Buttler was unable to travel very far for competitions, competing at tournaments mostly in Alberta and Saskatchewan.
However, she tried to compete at as many tournaments as possible when they were in her area.
She has placed and received awards in upwards of 140 tournaments.
The only tournament she did not receive any award from was the last tournament she competed in and that was due to her having to withdraw from the competition because of an injury.
That injury, coupled with back surgery sometimes later, ended Buttler’s competition career in karate. However, she had still managed more than two decades of competition, all of them as an adult.
It is not unusual for students who begin studying martial arts as children to continue competing into their adult years.
However, it is less common to see those who enter the sport as adults to compete for so long.
Buttler was recognized for her accomplishments as a karate competitor when she was inducted into the Canadian Open Martial Arts Association Hall of Fame in 1997. This achievement is even more special considering that, when Buttler was competing, there were few female black belt competitors.
As a result, Buttler often competed in the men’s division or in both the men’s and the women’s. Her strong competitive spirit earned Buttler the nickname ‘The Warrior’ from one sensei.
While she enjoyed numerous successes from her time competing, Buttler said she is a natural introvert and was incredibly nervous at her first competition, but still went with the encouragement of her instructors.
Buttler went on to say while she was very successful in her competition career, she said she thinks it is important students lose competitions as well. She said how you place is less important than doing your best. Losing drives students to improve more and teaches them good sportsmanship, added Buttler.
“Winning isn’t the important part. Winning is like the frosting on your cake.”