Pat Reilly is the Sensei at the Downtown Dojo Karate Academy in Wilkes-Barre. Reilly, 44, graduated from Wyoming Area High School. He attended East Carolina University and received an Electrical Construction Certificate from Luzerne County Community College. Pat and his wife, Kim, live in Plains Township and have three children; Jessica, Stephen and Joshua.
What was your first experience with karate? When I was a kid I would take classes in karate at the Catholic Youth Center on Saturdays. It was a great introduction, but it got repetitive after a while.
So how did you take that next step or kick? When I entered the service I learned hand to hand combat as a Marine. After a stint in Beirut I wanted to feel safer. I took karate to protect myself better in combat. In 2004 my sons were taking karate at two different schools and I decided to participate with them. My younger son, Joshua, was on the National Team and his coach asked me to help coach the team. I was also a student during that time from 2004 to 2007.
After 2007 what did you do next? I was training harder and harder and that led to me getting my black belt in 2009. During that time I was also working as a general contractor. The economy was doing poorly and jobs were getting scarce. I decided to take a gamble and turn my passion into a full-time job. I was driving by the 84 South Main Street location and saw that it was available. I decided to inquire about it and went for it. Fifteen days after I received the keys to the new place I was ready to open the school to the public.
You mentioned you were a contractor. Did that factor into the speed in which you were able to get the school up and running? Absolutely, I am adept in woodworking and painting among other constructive abilities. I fashioned the weapon racks and did nearly all of the work on the dojo on my own. I've been knocking down walls and expanding the space ever since, to accommodate more and more students
How did your family feel about the endeavor? My wife thought I was crazy at first. She quickly warmed up to the idea as the number of students grew and she witnessed my passion for it. She now comes in and watches kids perform and could not be happier for me. Both of my sons are actively involved in teaching at the school. My friend, Sensei Paul Fazio, is also instrumental in the teachings at the dojo.
You seem to be a very inspirational and motivational person. Was there someone in your life that had a great impact on you? There were two people I have to mention. I was in foster homes for a good part of my youth. Leroy Fettig was my foster dad who showed me how to be a father and a man. He had an incredible work ethic that I felt was instilled into me. He works 20 hour days. Al Kircher was a First Sergeant in the Marine Corp at the Wyoming, Pa. Reserves. He is my go to guy. Al carried himself so well and he basically led me into the Marines. We are great and dear friends.
You seemed to have learned a great deal through personal and professional relationships. How does what you learned translate into your teachings with students? The kids and young adults that take lessons here are so well mannered and have developed the utmost respect for others through their parents and hopefully from what they have learned at the dojo from us. It is an honor to witness the courtesy and respect.
What type of music plays when you are trying to pump up the students during exercises or drills? We play everything from rap to country depending on the mood or tone of what we are doing. We play all kinds of music during the workouts.
It sounds like you have quite an assembly of warriors in your midst. Do you get a wide variety of ages participating? We have had kids as young as 4 years old. We once had the grandmother of a student join. She was 72. Sensei Fazio had taught special education and he helps the special needs students with their lessons here. That is a great asset.
Speaking of warriors, you mentioned that you could feel the energy of warriors during one of your excursions outside of the states. Where did you travel to? I was in Mexico and witnessed the ruins that were about two miles deep into the jungle. The pyramid of Talum was stacked about 140 feet high and required thick ropes to cascade up and down the structure. It was amazing.
What amazing things are you most proud of in your life? Nothing can top getting married and having kids. Becoming a Marine and getting my black belt were certainly high points as well as receiving my master instructors license in 2012. It has been great to be part of this establishment and seeing the athletes winning over 10 grand championships the last few years. We have also won the award for being the most supportive school for the World Karate Union two years in a row.
Do you have a favorite quote or motto, perhaps one that pertains to both you and your teachings? Never give up!
John Gordon writes about area people for the Meet feature. Reach him at 970-7229.