Meet our Instructors
Shihan Michelle Gay
Founder of Karate-Do Ken Wa Kan & Chief Instructor
Shihan Michelle, CMA, RSME is a 6th degree Black Belt, 6-time World Oyama Knockdown Champion and holds many North American Open Tournament Championship titles in Kata (Form) and Kumite (Fighting). She won the Canadian Kyokushin Knockdown Division in 2001 and took 2nd place, plus the Fighting Spirit Award at the Seidokaikan “Knockdown Kings” tournament at Hunter College in NYC 2002. On October 9, 2004 she completed 61 consecutive fights with multiple opponents in the historic, “A Woman’s Right To Fight” held at the Manhattan Ballroom in NYC. The event was created to showcase the fighting spirit of the extraordinary women who practice full-contact karate and the event drew participants from the United States, Japan and Canada.
As a Laban Certified Movement Analyst and Somatic Educator, she is a uniquely qualified instructor and leader devoted to people of all ages and backgrounds discovering and developing grace and power through consistent practice.
She studied Iaido (AUSKF) with Renshi Pam Parker at Ken Zen Dojo and was awarded the rank of Nidan (2004-2009), Yang Style Tai Chi with the late Grandmaster Cheng Hsiang Yu, Embodied Anatomy and Kinesiology with Amy Matthews, Anatomy and Kinesiology with Irene Dowd, 160 contact hours of Integral Anatomy (cadaver dissection) with Gil Headley, PHD, Experiential Anatomy, Embryology, with Bonnie Bainbridge-Cohen, and Infant Developmental Movement Education courses from the school of Body-Mind Centering.
Her book, Brain Breaks for the Classroom, was written for Scholastic Teaching Resources and published in 2009 and she is honored to have had her article, What’s Your Next Move; Consult Your Reflexes, included in Exploring Body-Mind Centering; An Anthology of Experience and Method published by North Atlantic Books.
Sensei David Adams
Chief Children’s Program Instructor, Adult Program Instructor
Sensei David is a 4th degree Black Belt at Karate-Do Ken Wa Kan. He began his study of Full Contact Karate in 1994 under Soshu Shigeru Oyama at World Oyama Karate Headquarters in New York City where he received his Shodan Rank (Black Belt.) He continued his training at World Oyama Headquarters until Soshu retired in 2004. Emboldened by the need to continue to learn and grow, he began his study with Shihan Michelle Gay. After a few years of study, she asked him to begin teaching, and with that, he truly began to learn.
Sensei David feels quite blessed on a daily basis to be part of the truly special environment that is Ken Wa Kan Karate. To say that it is a special place would be an understatement. To be a part of this community with our incredible instructors, all of the wonderful Senpai (senior students), Kohai (junior students), parents and friends is such a joy. It has been a life changing experience to be able to train in an environment where everyone works together, supports each other, pushes each other and helps each other overcome the obstacles on and off the mat. To be able to empower students in all that they face in their journey to Black belt and beyond has been a truly extraordinary experience. BIG OSU!!!!
Sensei Diane Bank
Adult Program Instructor
Sensei Diane is a 4th Degree Black Belt who began her training in Full Contact Karate at World Oyama Karate Headquarters in 2001. After Soshu Oyama retired, she continued to train with Shihan Michelle and develop herself as a teacher. She began assisting as an instructor in 2008 and in 2011 was awarded the title of Sensei. She maintains her own consistent, rigorous training schedule and teaches several classes a week. She has also completed The Society for Martial Arts Instruction’s Level One and Two Somatic Based Instructor Training. Sensei Diane continues to train and teach well into her 60s and is a stand that it is never too late to begin martial arts.
Becoming an instructor at Karate-Do Ken Wa Kan has been a wonderful experience to explore the precision and intention of our basic techniques, especially Kata and how they are ultimately utilized in sparring. I’m continually inspired by the progress and growth of our students in their martial arts practice and wowed by their commitment and determination.
Sensei Diane is also a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University in the Drama Department with a BFA in Acting. She studied Stage Movement with Jewel Walker and Stage Combat with B.H. Barry. While at CM-U, her class was the first to be certified in the U.S. as proficient in stage combat by The Society of British Fight Directors. Sensei Diane has two children, Max and Chloe.
Sensei Robert Gay
Vice President of Karate-Do Ken Wa Kan
Sensei Bob began training in Full Contact Karate at World Oyama Karate Headquarters in 1995 and earned his Black Belt in 1999. He has been closely involved with Karate-Do Ken Wa Kan since the inception of the school in 2011 and is the Chairmen of the Society for Martial Arts Instruction. Sensei Bob also trained Tai Chi ,Yang Style/Long Form with the late Grandmaster Cheng Hsiang Yu. The combinations of the precise and measured movements of Tai Chi and the strong, purposeful movement of Karate have given Sensei Bob and appreciation of the importance of correct form. The words of his teacher, Master Yu “Must be very correct” echo through Sensei Bob’s practice and represent the foundation of his training philosophy as well his approach to his role as Vice President. Sensei Bob is also a statistician, financial analyst and Registered Investment Advisor. He has managed an independent corporate accounting data service called GEARS since 1999.
Sensei Zelda Gay
President of Karate-Do Ken Wa Kan, Program Director, Children & Adult Program Instructor
Sensei Zelda is a 3rd Degree Black Belt at Karate-do Ken Wa Kan and began training in Full Contact Karate at World Oyama Karate Headquarters in 1997 at the age of five. She obtained her Black Belt in 2006 under the guidance and direction of her mother, Shihan Michelle Gay. Karate-Do Ken Wa Kan is a family owned and run business and Karate is a lifelong family love affair!
Though she took a hiatus during high school, she returned to training and teaching during her summers home from Emerson College where she studied Acting & Fight Choreography. After graduating, Sensei Zelda returned to rigorously developing herself as a Martial Artist. Since 2010, she has become a competitive Knockdown Fighter & International Karate competitor. She earned the title of Sensei when her first students became Black Belts in 2019. When not teaching at Ken Wa Kan, she works as the C.E.O of Self Offense, a company she owns with Shihan Michelle that is working to end sexual assault and harassment in the world.
Senpai Hugo Thomson
Children’s Program Instructor
Senpai Hugo is a 2nd Degree Black Belt that started training in Karate when he was seven years old with Shihan Michelle in City & Country School’s Afterschool Program. At the time, classes were small and held in a Church basement. As he advanced, Shihan Michelle then brought him to World Oyama Karate Headquarters to continue his training. He stopped training when he was thirteen years old and left as an Ikkyu (one belt before achieving his Black Belt). He returned to training as an adult in the Spring of 2016 and received his Shodan Rank (Black Belt) in December of 2017. Senpai Hugo has been teaching at Ken Wa Kan since the Fall of 2016 and now teaches in the Tiny Tiger & White Tiger Cub Programs. He loves sharing his passion for martial arts with working young children and nurturing their love of Karate. He has competed in Full Knockdown Karate Competitions and is committed to learning everything there is to know about Karate as a way of life as well as training to become a Full Knockdown Karate Champion.