Fusaro Sensei is one of the highest ranking non-Japanese black belts in the world at 9th Dan (Degree).
He began his study of Karate-do in 1955 while stationed in Japan during the Korean War. On his first visit to a Karate class at the Japan Karate Association honbu dojo (headquarters), he met Mr. Takagi and the understanding Mr. Ito, who personally sponsored Fusaro during his extended stay in Japan after being discharged. He joined the dojo and participated in the first Japan Karate Association (JKA) tournament held in 1957. While rising through the ranks, he received instruction from members of the famed JKA Instructors' School including Senseis Kanazawa, Mikami, Mori, Kisaka, and Enoeda, among others.
Fusaro returned to Minneapolis in 1958 when his father became seriously ill. However, Master Masatoshi Nakayama recommended that he continue his training for six months at home and send a progress report with a film back to Japan. He received his Sho-Dan (1st degree black belt) in 1959.
Within a month of returning to the United States, he began teaching Karate in the basement of his parents' home, naming it the Twin Cities School of Karate. Eventually in 1959, he rented space from a ballet school. In 1960 he opened the first dojo in downtown Minneapolis. By this time Karate had become a passion and he set himself the goal of becoming a master. He began teaching accredited Karate courses at the University of Minnesota in 1965.
Fusaro kept in close contact with the JKA and learned in 1961 that Sensei Hidetaka Nishiyama was moving to Los Angeles. Other Masters also began to arrive in the United States and Fusaro invited them all to Minneapolis to teach. Among them were Senseis Okazaki, Yaguchi, and Mori. Fusaro gravitated towards Master Nishiyama's teaching style, which combined a deep understanding of Karate-do and the willingness to share it with everyone. Nishiyama Sensei was able to explain the function of movement in terms of kinesiology.
Fusaro's 5th Dan examination took place under Sensei Nishiyama and Sensei Hiroshi Shirai. In 1982 Shirai Sensei said that Fusaro Sensei understood Nishiyama's concepts about Karate better than any other non-Japanese.
Fusaro has always felt that Karate should be open to all ages and sexes and his goal has been to teach the art to all those willing to learn. He was the first to propose that women be allowed to compete in Kumite (sparring) in tournaments. Up until the late 1960s women were only allowed to take classes. Fusaro now has the pleasure of having trained the first woman 5th Dan in the United States, Nina Chenault Sensei and the first male 5th Dan in the North Central Region (AAKF), Joel Ertl Sensei. Two of Fusaro's female students, Anita Bendickson (5th Dan) and Mary Brandl (4th Dan) have gone on to develop and teach self-defense courses at the University of Minnesota and to businesses and universities throughout the region.
Now, at age 79, Fusaro is the Senior Counsel to the North Central Region of the AAKF. He was appointed Chairman of the Technical Development Committee of the National AAKF in May 1999 by Nishiyama Sensei. He is also a regular guest instructor at the International Traditional Karate Federation (ITKF) Summer Training Camp in La Jolla, California at the University of San Diego.
Fusaro lives in Minneapolis with his wife Gloria who has helped him run the business since their marriage in 1961. His two sons Michael Fusaro Sensei, (5th Dan) and Darrell Fusaro Sensei (3rd Dan) continue to follow in their father's footsteps by teaching at the Dojo. Michael Sensei is a well known AAKF tournament competitor and Kata champion. He and Amy Sperling Sensei (4th Dan) have competed successfully in many ITKF tournaments worldwide. They are both Senior members of the AAKF North Central Region Technical Committee.
Fusaro has made a lot of friends through Karate-do over the years, including Gerald Marr Sensei (7th Dan) Head of Midwest Karate Manitoba, Canada and Chris Smaby Sensei, (7th Dan) Head of Japan Karate of Iowa. These two men come to the Twin Cities year after year like the certainty of the seasons.
Teaching, training, learning, and coaching are a continuous cycle for this Karateka. Karate has never been an occupation or career to Sensei Fusaro... it is a way of life that he enjoys.