During a recent class at Issinryu Karate School, a group of students counted out in Japanese — ichi, ni, san, shi, go, roku — as they followed longtime instructor Georg Iberl's lead, performing a series of punches and kicks.
It was one the one first sessions held at the 1100 Columbia Ave. location in North York since the German-born Iberl opened the dojo about a month ago.
The opening of the martial arts studio at the former Central York School District administration building marked Iberl's return to the York area after a 14-year hiatus.
At 78, Iberl said he considered retirement, giving up teaching karate for good.
"But I couldn't give it up," he said.
Getting started: Iberl said he was 9 years old when he was taught jiu jitsu in 1944 in a compulsory program through the German Army and quickly developed a fondness for the martial arts.
He continued practicing the technique after he moved to the United States in 1958 and, in 1965, became a teacher himself.
During his early years as a competitor and an instructor, Iberl said he came to know such greats as Bill Wallace and Joe Lewis, not to be confused with the boxing great of the same name, as well as Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris, both of whom became known for their acting abilities and their karate techniques.
Iberl, who is a 10 degree blackbelt and a grand master, credits karate with keeping him young and agile and his mind sharp.
"I just work out every day. I still run my classes," he said. "For example, I still do all the stuff I did 30 years ago, 40 years ago."
Iberl's school, which teaches the Okinawan style of karate called Isshin-Ryu, also gained fame in the York area when he ran it from locations in York City. He opted to move it to Dillsburg 14 years ago.
Following: Some of his students from the Dillsburg school followed Iberl to North York and continue their instruction under his tutelage.
William "Chilly" Wright made the trek from Biglerville in Adams County to take part in the recent class. He said he's been training under Iberl for 19 years.
"It takes five minutes to learn and 20 years to get it right," he said as he warmed up.
Kyle Herman, 16, and his father, Troy Herman, both of New Salem, have also been students of Iberl for years now.
Kyle said his dad started teaching him at age 4 or 5, and he has been under Iberl's instruction the last four years.
"It's just kind of part of my family," he said.
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.