Assistant Instructors (SEMPAI)

Kieran Aponte                    Chris Becker                       Max Chao-Haft                                         
David Michelson                Irene Nunez                        Juan Miguel Nunez
Robert Nunez                    Christie Vella Kramer        David Voiles

Kieran Aponte

SHODAN (1st Degree Black Belt)

(Saturday children's beginner/intermediate class)

Kieran started his Shotokan training at USKL at the age of 5 under his father, Sensei Dad (Ty Aponte), and has been a sempai for many years. He enjoys teaching the beginner and intermediate youth students in the Saturday morning kids’ class. After many long years of training, he received his black belt in the summer of 2014.

In the fall of 2014, he also assisted in teaching the karate classes at Pomona college in Claremont.

He is currently a physics major at Cal Poly Pomona and plans to transfer to a German university in 2017. In his free time, he writes orchestral music, programs, learns languages, and does homework. 


Kieran (right) and his little brother Keelan winning Kata and Kumite at the Nishiyama Tournament in 2006

Kieran (right) and his little brother Keelan winning Kata and Kumite at the Nishiyama Tournament in 2006

Chris Becker

NIDAN (2nd Degree Black Belt)

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

Chris started training as a youth with the International Karate Association 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.

Insistent on training in the Shotokan style, Chris resumed his martial arts training with DAC in 2011 with Shihan Ty Aponte.  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


Max Chao-Haft

SHODAN (1st Degree Black Belt)


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 1st degree brown belt in December 2015.

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


Started   1978
Shodan1985 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa
Nidan     1989 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa
Sandan  1993 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa
Yondan1995 - Hanshi Isao Ichikawa

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

1st Kyu2015 - Sensei Franco Sanguinetti


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

JUNIOR 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

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



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