Karen Davis was a 2nd degree black belt at Bob White’s Karate Studio. Here on this site we want to honor those women who have made an impact on other’s lives. I had met Karen several times over the years at the studio but unfortunately I did not know her personally. From what I understand, she touched many peoples lives and her death was a tragic loss for all who knew her. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing her daughter Kaitlen and have watched her come up the ranks over these last few years. The loss of her mom made a lasting impression on her life and this has encouraged her to keep her mom’s memory alive by following in her footsteps but also carving her own path. She is now a 3rd degree Brown Belt and will be testing for her Black Belt next year. With much pride Kenpo women honors her mother and also honors Katie who has become a strong Kenpo Women in her own right. I’m extremely proud of her and can’t wait to see what comes next.
Karen died of breast cancer in Feburary 2010. We posted her Black Belt thesis on the website a few weeks ago and we received an overwhelmingly positive response to her with women relating to her paper. Here’s a copy of it for your reference: Karen Davis Black Belt Thesis – Women in Karate
Karen Davis – Written by Kaitlen Davis
I don’t have many memories when it comes to my mom and karate. I grew up going to Bob White’s Karate Studio, mainly getting scolded by Mr. White himself for monkeying around, but I was only 5 years old when Mom got her Black Belt. So when I was asked to write something on her and her Kenpo journey, I could only think of the frozen Gatorade bottles in our freezer in preparation for Mr. White’s Wednesday night advanced classes. Or my brother playfully grabbing her while she made dinner only for her to pull some crazy technique out of nowhere, leaving us all cracking up laughing.
I think one of my favorite memories was just how unexpected it was. Not that Kenpo Karate has a female “type”, but my mom was a beautiful, elegant woman and I loved that it was as if it were a secret weapon of hers. When I was in first grade, Mom and another BWKS Black Belt, Jerry Nuzzo, stood in front of my PE class and he admitted that MY mom could beat him up. Jerry was a big, muscular guy so of course every kid’s jaw dropped to the floor…but mine didn’t. I held my head up with pride, I knew she was special.
But this couldn’t possibly be all I can say about her Kenpo journey, right? I knew how much it meant to her and I wanted to honor it well. I found myself wishing and wishing I could remember more, but it wasn’t until this last weekend during a Black Belt reunion where I realized I did have the words… through others, and my own journey.
Not long after Mom passed in 2010 (I was 19), I walked back into Bob White’s Karate Studio feeling a bit lost; searching for some sort of connection to her. I thought I could find her somehow through karate and the studio itself. Days later I was walking to my car after class one night and I hear, what I came to learn as Jim McClure’s voice, yell from across the parking lot, “ARE YOU KAREN DAVIS’ DAUGHTER?!” Little did I know at the time what kind of legacy my mother left behind or the impact of having ‘DAVIS’ on the back of my gi would have on my life moving forward.
In the nine years following, I met countless people whose lives my mom touched in one way or another. Some their own legends, some even World Champion fighters, but all of whom amazing human beings telling me their own memories of my mom, how they came to know her, and how she left her mark in their lives. One of these people, Dan Abrams, bought enough raffle tickets for me to win a trip to Ireland and attend Eddie Downey’s camp to train with people from all over the world, “In honor of my mom.”
I cannot even begin to describe the pride and joy I feel meeting these amazing people and hearing their stories about her. I get to learn so much about her life, and here they are thrilled to meet me, “Karen Davis’ Daughter.” It’s truly an indescribable experience and extremely humbling. All I feel I can do is hold my head up with pride, just like I did so many years before.
Kenpo karate was a HUGE part of my mom’s life. I couldn’t even begin to tap into that but everyone around her knew it and the support we received when she got sick, and afterwards, showed it. I will never forget the day I stepped back through the studio’s doors in a search to remember her. Vishal Shukla walked right up to me and said, “I got you.” It was those three words that granted me more memories of my mom than I could have ever hoped for.
In 1998 I walked into Bob White’s Karate Studio for the first time. I was a 3rd degree black belt from another school, and wasn’t sure how I would fit in. One of the first people to greet me and invite me to train with her was a 2nd degree black belt named Karen Davis. As we began to train I immediately saw how talented a Kenpoist she was. Her techniques were clean and sharp, her forms so beautiful they made me want to take my belt off and put on a white belt. As I got to know Karen, I realized her talent in Kenpo was far exceeded by her character. Karen was smart, funny, kind, classy and charming (I’ll admit that I also noticed she was stunningly gorgeous). Karen and I became good friends and frequent training partners.
A few years later Karen had to take some time away from the studio as she battled cancer. It was no surprise to anyone who knew her that she returned soon after beating cancer. Unfortunately, cancer returned a few years later, and this time the prognosis was not good. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, Karen faced this adversity the same way she lived her life, with courage, class and dignity. Our school has produced many great champion fighters, but nobody ever fought as hard as Karen. In 2010 Karen passed away and all of her BWKS friends felt the loss.
However, we are thrilled that the Davis legacy lives on. Karen’s daughter Kaitlen began training after her mother’s passing and will test for Black in 2020. Having Kaitlen in the studio reminds us all of Karen as she shares many of he wonderful qualities her mother possessed. Kaitlen often wears her mother’s old black uniform and that never fails to bring a smile from Karen’s friends.
Karen Davis was a wonderful black belt and a very special lady. I am very glad I had the opportunity to know her and be her friend. It is a pleasure to write this message and see her honored on the Women in Kenpo website.