Read below for the complete history of Mr. Souto’s martial arts career to date.
Ersaid B. Souto-
Mr. Souto was born in Venezuela 1956, coincidentally, this was the same year Isshinryu Karate was officially announced to the world from Okinawa, a half a world away. While he was still a baby his family moved back to his parent’s homeland in Spain. He immigrated to the USA from Spain with his family to the USA in 1960 and grew up in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Interested in martial arts from an early age, Mr. Souto got his first training with his father who taught him a Galician form of Vale Todo wrestling that he called “Raku” and also some boxing. His father was a research physician. His mother was a novelist. They taught their son to avoid violence and value human life but also to defend himself when necessary. He was a small, skinny kid with eyeglasses and most of the Tennessee kids were bigger than him. In those days many kid matters were settled by fighting, usually ending with a handshake and friendship. The young Souto soon earned a reputation for fighting like an animal. Even so, he did not win all of his fights. He brought home a lot of broken glasses.
In 1967 Mr. Souto met John Keehan, AKA Count Dante, founder of the Black Dragon Fighting Society.
He got one lesson from Mr. Keehan. He was taught mostly hand techniques that could be practiced like shadowboxing in front of a mirror. He was encouraged to practice everyday. He joined the Black Dragon Fighting Society and he purchased Count Dante’s book “The World’s Deadliest Fighting Secrets”. He was encouraged by Mr. Keehan to go to Knoxville and train under Master Harold Long, whom Mr. Keehan knew from the original United States Karate Association (USKA).
Another influence in Mr. Souto’s martial life was a man named Mr. Stoddard who taught him the art of archery. This was the first person to introduce him to the concept of Zen.
In 1970 Mr. Souto’s family moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. He located the Harold Long School of Karate from the telephone directory and introduced himself and mentioned John Keehan. In 1971 Mr. Souto was accepted as a student of Isshinryu by the late great Grandmaster Harold Long.
Mr. Souto’s parents paid for the first six months of lessons. After that the teenaged Souto mowed lawns, raked leaves, chopped wood, planted trees on strip mines and did other odd jobs to pay for lessons. Later on, Mr. Long also allowed him to clean up the dojo and teach beginners in exchange for training. He went directly after school, bumming rides and often riding a bicycle or even running the several miles to the dojo. He trained nearly every day and was often the first one in the dojo, often being sent downstairs to bring back a cup of coffee for Mr. Long. Although Mr. Long was known for training great fighters, he trained Mr. Souto to be a teacher more than to be a fighter.
In the 1970’s, the Harold Long School of Karate was located on the second floor of the bus station in Knoxville. Mr. Long had an office in the back with a small television screen wired to two cameras in the dojo. He could see what was going on in the dojo at all times. He also had an intercom and could speak from his office. In the main room of the dojo there was a desk with a black belt instructor in charge of the floor at all times. Students were to bow in to the dojo, then go to the desk and sign in and receive their workout assignment for the day. There was usually no group class. People would come in and do their own assigned workout and then were checked out by Mr. Long, then often were told to repeat what they did again until they got it right. This meant self discipline. The first thing was to go through the Isshinryu Karate upper and lower body exercises 25 times each. These were on large charts that hung above the several mirrors in the dojo. Then there was stretching, lots of pushups and sit ups and kata training and a lot of sparring, which Mr. Long called “matching” or Kumite. There were some incredibly talented people at Mr. Long’s dojo at this time and many of his black belts that went on to form their own schools would come back to visit and work out often. During this time period Mr. Souto was influenced by such people as Allen Wheeler, Maurice Msarsa, Clayton Thurston, Cas Cox, Phil Little, Butch Chilton, Robert Porterfield, Glen Webb, Steve Trotter, and Tom Greer. Mr. Souto was not Harold Long’s best or favorite student but he never ever quit. Mr. Long was like a second father to him.
Mr. Souto received his first degree black belt (Sho Dan) personally from Master Harold Long in June 1976.
Mr. Souto also led classes for the University of Tennessee Karate club during1975-
He has competed and trained internationally but has never stressed competition. He has won some and he has lost some. He competed in the original full contact Professional Karate Association in 1977. His greatest point of pride in competition was first place in the brown belt kata division of the first International Isshinryu Karate Association (IIKA) tournament in 1975. He also won the Lions Club sportsmanship cup at the IIKA tournament in 1976.
After 1976 Mr. Long was often absent and the dojo was run by Glen Webb, Tom Greer and Steve Trotter. Mr. Souto was promoted to second degree Black Belt (Ni Dan) in December, 1977 by Glen Webb. Shortly thereafter, Mr. Souto moved to California. Mr. Souto was sent an IIKA Instructor’s Ni Dan Certificate on September 1, 1982 by Harold Long and Allen Wheeler. He remained a Ni Dan for over 17 years. Out of loyalty to Harold Long, he did not accept a higher rank until he visited the retired Grandmaster Long in 1992 and obtained permission to open his own dojo and accept rank from someone else.
Soon after moving to California, Mr. Souto found Bob Ozman’s “Ozman-
After leaving Bob Ozman’s dojo, Mr. Souto moved to Northern California to continue his education. At first he lived in Santa Cruz, where he studied Aikido (Ueshiba style) with Greg Brodsky. He also began surfing and he still surfs to this day.
In Northern California at the time, Mr. Souto could find no Isshinryu schools, so he tried to start his own class at the San Francisco Chinatown YMCA. He was frowned upon by the local Chinese for teaching an Okinawa style in their neighborhood. In San Francisco he trained in other martial arts as well, including Hung Gar and Hsing Yi Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan and Shorinji Kempo. He then studied Yoshinkan Aikido with the great Masatoshi Morita, and Shotokan Karate with Professor Meyer Parry. He received his Ni Dan in Shotokan and taught Karate and archery at San Francisco State University as well. He also worked for a short time with the Guardian Angels in San Francisco. In his years in California Mr. Souto was unfortunately exposed to some very real street violence and was fortunate enough to survive attacks on several occasions. He owes his life to his training. He has survived club, knife and gun attacks as well as being outnumbered and outsized. He knows what he is talking about when he tells his students that there is no winning in street violence, only surviving. He moved back to Los Angeles in 1982 and began a career in computers and information technology that was to last over 20 years.
In 1984 Mr. Souto moved to San Diego County and visited Sensei A.J Advincula’s dojo in Oceanside. He was very impressed with Mr. Advincula but could not become his student because of his loyalty to Harold Long. Mr. Advincula was very understanding and gave him good advice. He had formed some stiff “hard style” habits from Shotokan and Mr. Advincula advised him to soften up and learn to flow. He recommended Mr. Souto to study Shorin Ryu Karate (Matsumura style) with the great Karate Sensei Toshiaki Gillespie in Encinitas. In 1986 he earned his Sho Dan in Shorin Ryu from Mr. Gillespie and Master Yuichi Kuda who had been flown over from Okinawa to preside over the black belt testing.
In 1990 Mr. Souto moved to Tallahassee, Florida in order to help care for his father who was suffering from severe dementia. He trained for a short time at Roy Bedard’s Uechi Ryu dojo before he found Isshinryu Sensei “Chip” Vason and began training with him. In 1992 he went to Knoxville TN to visit Grandmaster Harold Long and obtain his permission to seek higher rank and open his own dojo. He founded the Dragonfly Karate Club and taught mostly “at risk youths” from the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice where he was working in information technology. Classes were conducted outdoors at the Lake Jackson Indian Mounds Park where there were many dragonflies. He also continued to train with Mr. Vason.
On May 1, 1994 Mr. Souto was awarded his third degree black belt San Dan certificate by Eight Dan Sensei “Chip” Vason and the Martial Arts Associates International multi style “High Dan Board”. Shortly thereafter he moved to Brevard County, Florida where he continued the Dragonfly Karate Club in various parks and recreation centers around Melbourne.
On May 1, 1998 he was awarded his fourth degree Yon-
In October of 1998 he received the sad news that his dear Grandmaster Harold Long had passed on.
After Mr. Long’s passing, Mr. Souto contacted Judge Peter Haddad who taught Isshinryu in Titusville.
They met for lunch and Mr. Souto was very impressed. One evening the next week, Mr. Haddad appeared at the community center where Mr. Souto was conducting class. He was accompanied by a giant of a man named Mike Best. They put Mr. Souto through his “paces” and apparently they approved of him and welcomed him into their fold.
It has been said that “when the student is ready the teacher will appear”. This was certainly one of those times. Mr. Souto had found his new Sensei, Master Peter Haddad. Through Mr. Haddad, Mr. Souto was introduced to a unique group of Isshinryu Karateka that did not necessarily belong to any association. This group is now known as the “Isshinryu Network”. There was no official membership or hierarchy, only the practice and sharing of knowledge and good honest hard workouts. He was invited to the Massachusetts dojo of Chester Holubecki for a seminar by a man named Sherman Harrill. Mr. Harrill embodied the essence of what Mr. Souto had always expected a master of Karate to be, however Mr. Harrill never allowed anyone to call him or refer to him as “master”. This experience changed the way Mr. Souto was to practice and teach Isshinryu Karate for good.
In 2002 Mr. Souto opened the Dragonfly Dojo at its current location in Melbourne FL.
In May of 2004 Mr. Souto underwent total hip replacement surgery for his right hip. Two weeks later he was back in the dojo, teaching class leaning on an assistive device. A year later he competed in the 2005 Isshinryu Hall of Fame tournament in Gatlinburg Tennessee and won the third place trophy in the men’s executive kata division. Mr. Souto had his left hip surgically replaced on November 18, 2009. It is his firm belief to keep training, no matter what happens, no excuses. He has never quit training and never intends to quit.
Mr. Souto was tested and promoted to Go Dan Renshi Go (5th degree black belt) in January 2006, On January 15. 2011, the 55th anniversary of Isshinryu by some records, Mr. Souto, along with Mr. John Crowther from Orange City Florida and Dr. Ross Hinkle from Titusville Florida, were tested for rank by Kyoshi Peter Haddad and Hanshi Chester Holubecki at the beautiful Orange City Dojo. Mr. John Crowther and Mr. Souto were subsequently promoted to Roku Dan (6th degree black belt) and Dr. Ross Hinkle was promoted to Go Dan (5th degree black belt). 2011 also marks Souto's 40th year of Isshinryu Karate Do training. He continues to train every day.
About the Teacher (Sensei)
At the Dragonfly Dojo you will not find someone who calls themselves “Master”. This is not a title to be taken lightly or used indiscriminately. It is not a term conducive to the martial way “Budo”. We feel that the term can lead to an over inflated ego (not to be confused with self esteem). Likewise it is considered improper and impolite to refer to oneself as “Sensei”. This is a term to be used with respect as an affectionate title for their teacher by students in the dojo and only in the dojo. There are many martial arts schools where you can find black belt instructors (some rather young) who call themselves “Master”. You are more than welcome to go train with them if you wish.
In the Japanese language, the word “Sensei” literally means “born before”. It can also be translated as “the preceding generation”. In the United States nowadays “Sensei” is generally accepted as a title for a teacher of the martial arts of Japanese origin such as Karate, Judo and Ju Jitsu.
The Sensei is not a coach. Nor is he or she a guru or a priest. He or she is neither all knowing nor invincible. He or she is simply one who has survived and advanced along the way far enough and is willing and able to go back on the same path once again, this time as a leader. The Sensei functions as a standard for the art he or she teaches. The Sensei is responsible for the direct imparting of skills.
Dragonfly Dojo founder Mr. Ers Souto is called “Sensei” by his students. Outside of the dojo he is simply “Ers”. He is currently ranked as Go Dan Renshi Go (fifth degree black belt instructor) in Isshinryu Karate Do and Kobudo. He has followed Budo for over 41 years. His qualifications are undisputable.