For 40 years, Malvern’s Dennis Nackord has unassumingly forged his legacy as a martial arts master on par with the world’s best. In these uncertain times, his message of self-empowerment is as relevant as ever.
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An unwavering truth Nackord feels compelled to dispense is that traditional martial arts are not violent. Initially, the goal is the external control of an opponent. Then comes the physical and emotional well-being of one’s self.
Lewis’ biggest gripe with extreme fighting involves the behavior of a handful. “I resent it—it’s insulting,” he says. “I’ve been a black belt for 45 years, and it’s ruining the image I’ve worked to create. I’d like to kick someone’s butt over it, to be honest. I have one message to these thugs: Clean up your act. You’ve made a mess of our art. It’s an insulting interpretation of a sport I’ve spent a career trying to dignify.”
Under the Nackord system, internal Eastern philosophies flourish. One, “The Way of Three,” stresses health, harmony and haven. Exercises focus on breathing, stretching the body, strengthening the joints and spine (“where all energy comes from”), and calming the mind. His teaching describes the evolution of movement through another three-part system he calls MotionScience. The first level describes form; the second gives the form movement and effectiveness; the third level teaches strategies.
“The weakest link is the footwork,” Nackord says. “With any of this, if it’s taught right, there’s a progression. What I teach is a system, not a style. Plus, it takes a coach who can look at each person and say, ‘This is where you are in your development.’”
His entire program is designed for self-development and enlightenment, for learning to protect oneself from stress and unhealthy habits, and not necessarily for guarding oneself against a physical attack. “If that happens once in a lifetime, it’s a lot,” he says. “In daily life, though, you have to deal with imbalances and learn how to better protect yourself against them.”
Of the two philosophies, Eastern stipulates that we’re from the earth, so there’s confidence in our ability to be healthy and to innately move in a positive direction. The body wants to be healthy, so how do we promote that? “Western says we were put on earth, so we’re alien to the earth, and so we have to constantly defend what could happen,” Nackord says. “Medicine tries to control all that.”
Nackord is a follower of Taoism, particularly with regard to the concept of duality. “You can’t have good without the bad,” he says. “Even when something horrible happens, there’s something good in it—even if you just don’t see it.”
All Nackord Karate System classes are taught by high-ranking adult black belts. With 250 students, Nackord has a 20-year manager in John Von Cleve, and 10 instructors teach as part of their own training. Sixty percent of his clients are adults, some in their 70s. A quarter are women. He offers a corporate training program in which participants learn centuries-old wellness routines proven to fortify the body, plus fundamental martial arts techniques to build character and hone self-defense skills.
“If I teach you not to keep your head down a center line, but to always keep it moving, that’s going to apply in a courtroom, too,” Nackord says. “When we teach principles, they can be applied in other arenas. I love to hear from former students who, decades later, took the skills to the boardroom.”
Most karate schools enroll about 90 percent children. And while NKS does offer classes for kids, Nackord has always attracted a more mature audience. At one time, when parents signed up their children, he offered free lessons for the adults. Now, like a well-run law firm, Nackord’s instructors bring in their own business year after year.
“Many of my guys could run their own school,” says Nackord. “We have a deep bench, and I like that we’ve created a community of martial arts.”
To learn more about the Nackord Karate System, visit nackordkarate.com.