Michael A. Sullenger
Mike is a native Hoosier, having been born in Indianapolis and raised in Vincennes, Indiana. Mike is the Chief Instructor of the American Karate System, and a member of the AKS Board of Advisors.
He started his martial arts training at the age of twelve in 1960. Over the years Mike has studied Judo, Jujitsu, Hapkido, Shotokan, Issinhryu, Chung Do Kwan Tae Soo Do, and Tang Soo Do Mu Da Kwan. He joined Mr. Lieb's organization in 1972 and was one of the 13 orginial schools/instructors who assisted in founding the AKS. Mike continues to be a steadfast supporter of the AKS and its goals to this day.
Mike competed in his first tournament, as an under black belt competitor, in May of 1966 in Jhoon Rhee's championships in Washington DC winning his first three matches before a one point loss. He participated in his last competion in Germany in April of 1987 walking away with a black belt senior forms trophy.
Over those 21 years, he managed to win more in black belt forms than in fighting, though he managed to hold his own in that event. During his first competition as a black belt, having just returned from Spain where he'd earned his 2nd Dan in Tang Soo Do Mu Duk Kwan, Mike competed in Kang Rhee's Memphis Tennessee Karate Tournament in November of 1970. He won first place in heavy weight sparring and third place in the black belt grand championships, having risen to the top over such top competitors as Fred Wren, Steve Smith and Parker Shelton.
During the 1973-74 time frame, while living in South Bend, Indiana, his winning streak in forms was such that he was the top forms competitor for the AKS and the number two forms competitor for the AKA. It wasn't unsual for him to depart from a weekend competition having won first place in forms and somewhere between first and third in fighting.
The picture on the left was taken at the University of Texas - Pan American field house in November of 1975 during the first of two tournaments Mike ran on behalf of the Air Force ROTC detachment. In this picture Mike is executing a step across side kick through 5 one inch boards. Look closely, you won't find any spacers between those boards. In the picture on the right, Mike is caught in mid execution of a a hook kick to one of his students, Candelario (Candy) Arteaga, in the park at Edinburg Texas where Mike conducted classes from 1974 through 1976.
Mike was an airman during the Vietnam time frame (10/66 to 10/70). During his first assignment at Sheppard AFB in Whicita Falls, Texas, he met and married the former Maria Juanita Lara. He and Janie (as she likes to be called) were stationed in southern Spain in the city of Sevilla. It was here that Mike began teaching classes in karate (Chung Do Kwan) at a local Judo school. Mike's karate classes were the first to be taught in Sevilla in the middle 60s, and possibly the whole of southern Spain. After being discharged from the Air Force, Mike and Janie went back to the states and stayed at her parents home in south Texas where he began attending Pan American University and working fulltime as a police officer. He also started the first karate club at the university.
In the above picture, Mike is seen executing a spinning back kick through several boards during the half time of one of Pan American University's seasonal home games. This was in the spring of 1972, just a couple of months before Mike returned to Indiana to help a friend open a karate school in South Bend. It was later that same year Mike and Ernie met for the first time. In the picture on the right Mike is teaching one of the many classes that took place in Rohden and Hessisch-Oldendorf, Germany during his first assignment there. It was these first classes that set the stage for the eventual establishment and recognition of the AKS by the German Karate Union (known as the DKV).
After graduating from the university with a BS in Criminal Justice Administration, Mike received a commission in the Air Force as a 2nd lieutenant and returned to active duty as a Security Police officer. During the next 16+ years, Mike was stationed in Oklahoma, Germany (twice), Illinois (twice), England and Alabama. He continued to train and teach at each of these locations. His first assignment to Germany in 1979 sewed the seeds that resulted in today's AKS presence and recognition by the German Karate Union of the only non-oriental karate system, the AKS. During many of his assignments, Mike conducted classes for law enforcement officers (both civilian and military) in "come along" tactics and techniques, and the principles of "use of force" doctrine.
From 1971 to the present, Mike has been involved in law enforcement. During the 16 years he was a commissioned officer he was also involved in various levels of security, to include physical security, industrial security, counter-terrorism planning and preparations, personnel & VIP security/protection, and operations security. Mike and Janie lived in Europe during much of the period when anti-American sentiment and terrorist attacks were mounted against the U.S. presence there. Mike has been on three different major command staffs (2 Air Force & 1 Army) and has been a chief-of-police twice and an assistant chief three times.
Mike and Janie retired from the Air Force in June of 1993 and took up residence in the lower Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. This allowed Janie to be close to her parents for the first time in more than 16 years.
Since retiring to South Texas, Mike has continued to teach and work with martial artists striving to improve their knowledge and abilities. From 1994 until 1999, Mike was responsible for authoring and publishing the AKS newsletter "The Punchline." In April of 2000 Mike launched the AKS web site. The reaction to the site has been promising and rewarding. Both old and new students have found their way into membership with the AKS. Mike also continues to author articles of opinion and insight for the The Punchline. In addition to these areas he also runs a counsulting firm for small businesses in a variety of areas of management, supervision and security.
Above are the two black belts Mike has promoted over the years who've remained loyal to both the AKS and their friend and instructor.
Pictured above left, Mike and J. D. "John" Hunt stand after JD was presented his 2nd Dan in Karate, which also included his membership in the AKS. This took place on the occassion of Virgil Perkin's (6th Dan AKS) final sparring blow-out in Carmel, Indiana, on a Saturday morning in September of 1991. JD thought he was going to meet Mr. Lieb and some of the other senior black belts in the AKS. He had no idea Mike had set up his review for black belt and assimulation into the AKS.
The picture above right is Mike with his senior student, Rob Debelak. Rob started with Mike in Germany in early 1980, eventually earning his black belt in the AKS and taking over the Hessisch-Oldendorf Karate Club. It was through Rob that contact was initially made with Andreas Modl, a black belt in Wado Ryu who became Rob's student and leads the AKS in Europe today as the System's director. JD has also played a key role by working with Mike to compile and publish the AKS' first official student handbook. Rob and Mike also worked on an updated newer version for the new millenium.
It's students like these two who make all the efforts and hard work that goes into teaching worthwhile. There are a lot of instructors who can boast having numbers of black belt students, but few can say they have students and friends as loyal and as good of friends as Mike has with Rob and JD. They have both been blessings to him.
The above newspaper clipping is from May of 1975. Pictured from left are David Aguilar, myself, Joe Gonzales, and Candelario Arteaga. David Aguilar served as the Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol. He had earned his brown belt with the A.K.S. and would have tested for his black belt had he not reported for training as a federal agent with the border patrol.
BS in Criminal Justice Administration, Pan American University, Edinburg, Texas 1976
MS in International Relations, (emphasis in Terrorism, extra hours in Criminal Justice) Troy State University, Wiesbaden, Germany 1987
(Additional studies in Criminal Justice and Police Administration took place while in residence at the University of Southern California in 1981, and at Northwestern University in 1983)
Martial Arts Historical Profile
1st Dan Chong Do Kwan Tae Soo Do, Sheppard AFB, TX - May 1968
2nd Dan Tang Soo Do Mu Duk Kwan, Madrid Spain - September 1970
3rd Dan American Karate System, Muskegon, MI - August 1973
4th Dan American Karate System, Chicago, IL - April 1978
5th Dan American Karate System, Indianapolis, IN - July 1984
6th Dan American Karate System, Master level, Toledo, OH - December 1991
7th Dan American Karate System, Assistant Chief Instructor Muskegon, MI - June 2000
7th Dan American Karate System, Assistant Chief Instructor, A.K.S. Advisory Board, A.K.S. World Council Member - 2004
8th Dan American Karate System, Assistant Chief Instructor, A.K.S. Advisory Board, A.K.S. World Council Member, Muskegon, MI -June 2005
8th Dan American Karate System, Chief Instructor, following death of Ernest H. Lieb - September 2006
9th Dan American Karate System, Chief Instructor A.K.S., Muskegon, MI - July, 2007
2008 Academy of Masters Masters Hall of Fame Inductee and Golden Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, and was named a "Founding Member of the Academy of Masters and Masters Hall of Fame," Riverside, CA - August 16, 2008
2017 Ernest H. Lieb Award
2017 - Chief Instructor Emeritus American Karate System
Pictured above are (from left to right) Ernie Lieb 10th Dan, Dr. Guesslar Normand 6th Dan, Virgil Perkins 6th Dan and Mike on the occassion of his 6th Dan test in Toledo Ohio, December of 1991. Ernie had kept it quiet that he intended to review both Guesslar and Virgil for their 5th Dans at that time. That morning, before going to the Toledo YMCA where Guesslar had been teaching classes for several years, the two unsuspecting gentlemen enjoyed a healthy breakfast, while Mike kept it light as he was anticipating several hours of rigorous review under Ernie's ever watchful and critical eye. Suffice it to say it was a long morning for a couple of well fed black belts.
In August, 2008, in recognition of his untiring commitment to the martial arts community and his superlative teaching effectiveness, Major (USAF ret) Michael A. Sullenger AKS Chief Instructor, 9th Dan was inducted into the Master's Hall of Fame at the Anaheim Hilton in Riverside, California.
He was also awarded the "Golden Lifetime Achievement Award" and was named a "Founding Member of the Academy of Masters and Masters Hall of Fame." Along with that award, the American Karate SystemSM is now a founding member as well.
The Awards event included mini seminars conducted by some of Martial Art's most notable artists. Among them were Soke David Dye. His style is Shuyokan-Ryu. He's known as the "Samurai Cop of Los Angeles."
Next was a grappling session conducted by Shihan Luis Salseda (Lethal Control, LLC and instructor at the Los Angeles Police Department's Police Academy).
And last but not least, a martial artist very well known to all, was none other than Bill "Superfoot" Wallace.
- USAF Basic E-1, Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas
October through November 1966.
- 3750 Base Supply E-2, Sheppard AFB, Whichita Falls, Texas - December 1966 to June 1968.
- Base Aerea de Morron De La Frontera AB E-3, Spain
July 1968 to October 1970.
- USAF Security Police Academy 2Lt
Lackland AFB, Texas - February 1977 through April 1977.
- OIC AWAC Security 2Lt
Tinker AFB, Midwest City, Oklahoma - May 1977 to June 1979.
- Chief of Security Police Capt
Hessisch-Oldendorf AS, Hessisch-Oldendorf, Germany - June 1979 to December 1981.
- Military Airlift Command
(staff officer for Air Base Ground Defense) Capt, Scott AFB, Illinois - December 1981 to December 1982.
- Assistant Chief of Security Police
(Operations Officer) Capt, Scott AFB, Illinois - January 1983 through May 1983.
- Air Force Communications Command
Security Police Operations Officer-Capt, Scott AFB, Illinois - May 1983 to July 1984.
- Assistant Chief of Police
(Operations Officer) Capt, 20th Security Police Squadron - RAF Upper Heyford, United Kingdom - August 1984 to October 1985.
- 7100 Combat Support Wing
(Director of Security Police Planning) Capt, Lindsey AB, Wiesbaden, Germany - October 1985 to June 1988.
- U.S. Army Military Police Command Headquarters and school
USAF Security Police Exchange Officer-Major, Fort McClellan, Alabama - June 1988 to June 1990.
- Chief of Security Police
and Commander SP Squadron-Major, Chanute AFB, Illinois - June 1990 to May 1993.
- Retired, June 1993, Major USAF
Willacy County Deputy Sheriff
South Padre Island Police
Chief of Police
Valley International Airport
Since retiring from the Air force in June of 1993, Mike has continued in law enforcement with the Willacy County Sheriff's Department, first as the chief jail administrator and later as a member of the reserve. He is currently the training Sergeant and Range Master for the Willacy County Sheriff's Department.
Mike also works for the South Padre Island Police Department. South Padre Island is a barrier island in the sate of Texas. Located in Cameron County, it is a popular vacation destination because the resort city of South Padre is located on the island. He has worked for them over the last several years during spring breaks and holidays. The island is a popular destination for college students from around the world.
Mike worked with South Texas Community College in McAllen from January of 1999 to December of 2000 as the director of a grant from the Department of Labor, while also teaching American and Texas government as an adjunct professor. When the grant ran out, he moved to the other side of the South Texas Rio Grande Valley to become a fulltime associate professor at Texas State Technical College, where he taught American and Texas Governement unitl May of 2013. He taught the aspects of the history and evolution of our country and the State of Texas, while also including examples and discussions about the differences of the early years with those of today. With the various arguments between the left and the right (liberal/socialists and conservatives) it makes for some challenging talks between those who claim beliefs on those respective ideals.
Mike had also begun teaching karate classes at the college during the Fall and Spring semesters. As interest wained on the part of the students, the classes were eventually cancelled. His deputy sheriff responsibilities also took on a broader area of responsibility when he became the departments training and range sergeant for both reserve and active personnel.
At the end of the 2013 Spring semester, Mike resigned his teaching position at Texas State Technical College after eleven years and became the Chief of Police for the Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas. After 17 years away from full time law enforcement, he returned as the chief administrator of an eight-man police force. In his 43 year career in police work, this makes his third time as a chief.
In 2017, Mike was presented with the Ernest H. Lieb award. Due to health issues, Mike has retired as Chief Instructor and is currently presiding as Chief Instructor Emeritus. He will continue to be involved in the AKS as a voice and counsel. Mike is one of only two remaining " Original 13 " who were part of the official formation of the AKS in August 1973 under founder Ernest H. Lieb. The other remaining member is John Folsom 8th Dan - Chief Instructor Salem Karate Club in Salem, West Virginia.
Pictured above are the members of my family:
From left to right: our oldest daughter, Erica, my wife, Janie, and our youngest daughter, Michelle.