Assistant Instructors (SEMPAI)

Edwin Alonzo                     Chris Becker David Michelson           Irene Nunez                        Juan Miguel Nunez 
Robert Nunez              Laura St. Martin           Christie Vella Kramer          David Voiles


Edwin A. Alonzo

SANDAN (3rd Degree Black Belt)

Sensei Edwin Alonzo was born on July 4, 1954 in Cavite City, Philippines. At age 8, he was admitted to take free lessons in a Philippine Chinese Kung Fu School (now Kuntaw ng Pilipinas).  In 1986 he left the Philippines to work in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as a mechanical piping designer in Ras Tanura Oil Refinery and in 1989 he pursued his love of Martial Arts and joined RTKF (Ras Tanura Karate Federation), the largest and most respected karatedo organization in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia at that time.

Sensei Edwin was trained by the best karate instructors like the RTKF founder Master Aguinaldo V. Ignacio (6th Degree, Shotokan and Arnis), a close associate of the late Sensei Kunio Sasaki who was a student of Sensei Masatoshi Nakayama and the one JKA, Japan directed to establish JKA in the Philippines, Sensei Pete M. Llagas (5th Degree Shotokan, RTKF Chief Instructor) and Sensei Sammy P. Perez (4th Degree Shotokan, RTKF President). 

During his 10 years stay in the kingdom, he founded and formed the Thuqbah Martial Arts Center in Dharan (Eastern Province) whose chief instructor was Master Aguinaldo V. Ignacio and the Yanbu (Western Province) Combat Shotokan Karate Dojo. Both of these dojos offered free karate lessons to less fortunate overseas workers and their children.

In 1996, he came to the United States to work in Chevron Oil Refinery in the City of El Segundo where he met Masayaji Michael Mai (8th Degree, Bando Master) and his wife Cathy Mai (5th Degree, Bando) of World Karate. He became the school’s Shotokan Instructor for 18 years until he retired in July 2017.

Sensei Edwin's dedication, loyalty, unselfish support, and hard work to spread karatedo to the communities has brought honor to his federation and his achievements in karate competition have earned him many awards and promotions.   

After retiring from Chevron Oil, at the age of 63, he formed a karate program in his church in Chino.  He joined the Defense Arts Center in September, 2017 and assists Sensei Ty Aponte with his youth classes.

Aside from Shotokan, he was also trained in escrima (arnis) under Master Aguinaldo V. Ignacio and Aikido under Sensei Billy Chan.

Sensei Edwin is a certified scuba dive master and a current member of PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors). He loves diving, traveling, cooking, reading, MA, and gardening.  

1962 – Age 8 started training Chinese Kung Fu (Kuntaw ng Pilipinas)
Started 1989 – Ras Tanura Karate Federation, Saudi Arabia (Shotokan Karatedo)
Shodan 1991 – Master Aguinaldo V. Ignacio, Sensei Pete Llagas, Sensei Sammy P. Perez (Shotokan Karatedo)
Nidan    2000 – Master A. Ignacio, Sensei P. Llagas (Shotokan Karatedo)
Sandan 2011 – Sensei P. Llagas, Sensei S. Perez (Shotokan Karatedo)
2017  - Joined Defense Arts Center


Chris Becker

NIDAN (2nd Degree Black Belt)

Chris started training as a youth with the International Karate Association (IKA) dojo in Pasadena under Shihan Tom Serrano, attaining a first kyu brown belt rank in Gosoku-ryu.  Gosuku-ryu (the style of strength with speed) incorporates elements of Goju-ryu and Shotokan.

Chris took a break from martial arts training to pursue college, career, and family obligations.  During these years he was a serious distance runner, competing in 5K to ultramarathon races, including a 2:40 marathon PR.

Insistent on training in the Shotokan style, Chris resumed his martial arts training with the Upland DAC dojo in 2011 with Shihan Ty Aponte.  For many years, the DAC dojo shared a close relationship with the Pasadena IKA dojo Chris trained with in his youth. Chris was promoted to the rank of Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in December 2013 and to Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt) in December 2015.

In his "free" time, Chris is a high school chemistry teacher.


Started  1984
1st Kyu brown belt 1986

Started 2011
Nidan   2015




Dr. David Michelson

NIDAN (2nd Degree Black Belt)

(Sunday morning intermediate/advanced class, 10-11:30 AM )

David started training in the martial arts as a youth and reached the rank of fourth degree black belt under the guidance of the founder of the Shorin Ryu based Doshinkan Karatedo, Hanshi Isao Ichikawa.

Following a long hiatus to  complete medical school and residencies in pediatrics and child neurology, he took up karate training again with Sensei Ty Aponte at the DAC in 2011.  He received his Shodan (1st Degree Black Belt) in Shotokan in December 2013 and his Nidan (2nd Degree Black Belt) in December 2015.

David has also been studying Matayoshi Kobudo with Sensei Robert Johnson at the DAC and under Sensei Franco Sanguinetti at the Kodokan in San Marcos, CA, reaching the rank of Shodan in December 2018.

David is currently serving as our "webmaster" and welcomes being contacted at any time with your ideas, additions, concerns, and questions: or 909-286-0316.


Started   1978
Shodan 1985 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa
Nidan     1989 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa
Sandan  1993 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa
Yondan 1995 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa

Started   2011
Shodan 2013 - Shihan Ty Aponte
Nidan    2015 - Shihan Ty Aponte

Started 2013
Shodan 2018 - Sensei Franco Sanguinetti



My father (Shihan Arthur Michelson, 8 dan) demonstrating the flexibility I was learning in Doshinkan Karatedo

My father (Shihan Arthur Michelson, 8 dan) demonstrating the flexibility I was learning in Doshinkan Karatedo

Just like the end of Rocky II

Just like the end of Rocky II

Learning Matayoshi Kobudo from Sensei Robert Johnson

Learning Matayoshi Kobudo from Sensei Robert Johnson

Learning Shotokan Karatedo from Sensei Ty Aponte

Learning Shotokan Karatedo from Sensei Ty Aponte

Irene Aguayo Nunez

NIDAN (2nd Degree Black Belt)

 In 2003, when my adult son was six years old, he was being bullied by an older and bigger boy in school.  His father and I decided to put him in karate classes.  He started training under Shihan Ty Aponte.  I would take him to his classes and a couple of the other students' moms and I decided that it looked like fun.  We felt that we could probably memorize the kata better than our children did.  So we joined together.

Eventually the moms found other interest I, however, enjoyed the stress release that I felt when training and continued on.  This was my time.  As I continued to train, I felt as though I was gaining more confidence and improving my self-esteem, after each session I felt more empowered.  To me karate isn’t just a martial art; it is also a philosophy in which the training in the dojo mirrors life’s challenges and inspires ways of coping with those challenges outside the dojo

I have been teaching public elementary school in a local school district for over 20 years and was director of a local Catholic church's Vacation Bible School for several years.  I am able to apply my knowledge and experience of teaching to assisting and teaching children at the dojo.

In a nutshell, my karate training helps me deal with the stresses that life throws at me.  Along with assisting and teaching the karate classes it also gives me a sense of purpose and escape from the day-to-day grind, as well as an opportunity to do something for myself.   To me karate training is not just martial art - it’s a way of life.

2003 - Started karate training
2013 - 1st Degree Black Belt
2017 - 2nd Degree BB

Irene and her team (Christie Vela Kramer and Sensei Lynn Aponte) place in a local team kata competition

Irene and her team (Christie Vela Kramer and Sensei Lynn Aponte) place in a local team kata competition

Juan Miguel Nunez

SHODAN (1st Degree Black Belt)

My karate story began when I was an infant in 2003. My mom, would take my older brother and I to the dojo. My older brother began training and my mom and I would watch the class from the spectators' deck.

Over time when I was able to crawl and eventually walk I found myself being drawn by an invisible magnet. The training mat was calling my name.  My mom had to keep a close eye on me to keep me from interrupting the karate class.

By the time I turned 6, both my parents were already training. Our family revolved around karate. It seemed a natural progression for me to train; eventually I entered my first class with sensei Ty, I felt at home. I had seen my brother and parents practice their routines: basic blocks, strikes and kicks so it was natural for me to practice these skills, as well.

My parents continued to train throughout our childhood (my father Robert Nunez, a 2nd deg. BB, my mom, a first deg. BB). They both encouraged my brother and I to live and stand by the dojo kun (dojo oath). Karate’s philosophy has guided my character. I quickly moved up the ranks. I am currently a junior black belt at 14 years of age. I am in 7th grade and hold a 3.95 grade point average. I play the saxophone in the El Roble Intermediate School band. I feel that karate has helped shape me to be the person that I am today. I continue to hold the dojo oath close to my heart as I strive to make positive choices in my everyday life.

I sempai (assist) in the children's classes. I hope that other youths in my karate classes will possibly see me as a role model and maybe, they too, will create a path of positive choices in their journey through life.

2009 - Started karate training
2016   - Received junior black belt
2019 - Shodan

Robert Nunez

SANDAN (3rd Degree Black Belt)

(Beginning adult classes)

Robert’s dream to train in martial arts was instilled as a child watching the famous “Kung Fu” series starring David Carradine -- this inspired him to begin training under Sensei James Wilson at the age of 9.   This training only lasted 1 year, but lit a fire into Robert’s heart that was never quite quenched. 

Robert restarted his training in 2005, after watching his oldest son train.  Not wanting to live life as a spectator, he started training under Senseis Aponte, Whiteside and Turney.  Robert received his Shodan in 2011 and his Nidan in 2014.  Robert has also trained with Sensei Johnson, exploring applications and close-in fighting along with traditional conditioning.

Both Robert’s sons, Jose Luis, age 18, and Juan Miguel, age 13, continue to train under Sensei Aponte.  Robert is a Rehabilitation Counselor specializing in working with individuals with disabilities, and is an Adjunct Professor at California State University San Bernardino helping prepare future Rehabilitation Counselors.  Robert also is a disabilities advocate while pursuing his PhD studies at Claremont Graduate University.

"In between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our
freedom."  - Viktor E. Frankl

2005 - Began training at USKL
2011 - 1st Degree Black Belt
2014 - 2nd Degree BB
2017 - 3rd Degree BB


Laura St.Martin.jpg

Laura St. Martin

SHODAN (1st Degree Black Belt)

Laura St. Martin: Shodan

Laura began training at the Defense Arts Center in 1994. While watching her young daughter, she thought, "That looks fun! I gotta try it!" Although her training has progressed in fits and starts over the years, she finally earned her black belt in 2017. She has worked for the State of California for over thirty years, retiring in 2012. She still works part time, devoting most of her energy to training, making jewelry, raising march butterflies, and writing a mystery series set in the San Gabriel foothills. She lives with her daughter (Gwyneth St. Martin - Brown Belt) and grandson (Ivan La Rache  - Green Belt) both of whom train at the DAC.

1994 - began training with USKL
2017 - received her Shodan (First Degree Black Belt)


Christie Vella Kramer

NIDAN (2nd Degree Black Belt)

(Saturday morning adult beginner/intermediate class, 9-10 AM)
Also leads the Wednesday night 7-8:30 pm intermediate/advanced open workout class
(green, brown, and black belts welcome)

Christie began her training with USKL in 2005 under Shihan Ty Aponte, Sensei Lynn Aponte and Sensei Leo Shortle.  She continues training with Senseis Mike Whiteside and James Augur.  She believes the attainment of physical accomplishment begins with discipline from within and that the refinement of physical movement through repetition of basic techniques is achieved with a positive mental attitude and a "can do" spirit.

Christie enjoys teaching beginners of all ages in addition to assisting individualized training methods in the Adaptive Karate Program.  Her own motivational words can often be heard throughout the dojo encouraging students with phrases like, "show me power per move","do it like you mean it", and "treat this move like it's the only one you will ever do in your life!"  She always tells the kids "a little bit of practice makes a lot of BIG karate!"

When not on the training floor, Christie manages the dojo office.  She enjoys spending time with her family, being on the beach, and DIY projects in the house and outdoors in the garden.  In addition to those activities she enjoys an occasional action/adventure movie. She is employed by the Los Angeles Superior Court.

Christie believes there is no time like the present with regard to learning and karate training and she believes Adelaide Anne Procter said it best when she wrote: “We always may be what we might have been."

2005 - Started USKL
2011 - 1st Degree Black Belt
2014 - 2nd Degree BB

Christie and her partners (Sensei Lynn Aponte and Irene Nunez) place in a local team kata competition

Christie and her partners (Sensei Lynn Aponte and Irene Nunez) place in a local team kata competition


David Voiles

SHODAN (1st Degree Black Belt)

David began training with USKL in 2009 under Sensei Ty Aponte, Sensei Mike Whiteside, and other talented instructors.  He found the DAC dojo to be a great place with positive and amazing people to surround him and his son (Devin, also a brown belt).  David feels that the dojo environment is uplifting and that it gives him a sense of confidence and joy to be involved in the martial arts at the DAC.

Since the beginning of joining USKL, and because of his diverse background and handyman experience, David jumped at an opportunity to be lead in maintenance and upkeep of the dojo.  He does a fantastic job of this.

David expresses:

“I wanted to add a new chapter in my life and martial arts sounded like a very amazing way to spend my time.  I work very hard in creating ways of making my time special here at the DAC, leaning towards mentors that I feel help create balance in my life and ways for me to grow as a person and as a martial artist. Among others, Sensei Aponte encourages me to always strive for higher learning, to push myself, and to never stop believing in myself.  Although progress towards perfection may be incremental, it is still progress.  As a senpai (assistant instructor) I always want to help others in their training so I work hard to learn the most I can by training hard, asking a lot of questions, and working with the higher ranks. I feel the basics are the foundation to everything that needs to be learned and are the building blocks to more advanced level techniques.   If you break it down correctly, you will learn it correctly.  Lastly, as I am currently working hard towards earning my black belt (June ’17) I hope to be a good example of having applied all of my efforts.”

Senpai Dave enjoys participating in the annual Beach trips and day hikes that USKL provides as an outside training environment and encourages everybody to take part.  Davealso enjoys all sports with wheels, i.e. dirt biking, ATC, skateboarding, and rollerblading.  Prior to training in karate, Dave enjoyed bowling competitions (in which he had 3 consecutive winning seasons) and dart throwing competitions.  

2009 - Started USKL Training
2017 - 1st Degree Black Belt