Written by: Jentry Earwood-Bickley
Earwood’s Karate Dojo was founded in 1969 by Dewey Earwood, originally of Whitmire, SC. Mr. Earwood, often referred to as Sensei Earwood, started teaching Martial Arts in the Whitmire City Gym in 1969. He started teaching Isshinryu as a red belt under the direction of Sensei Barkoot of Columbia. Sensei Earwood found Martial Arts was a sport he enjoyed. In school, he was often bullied before he started martial arts, but he then gained discipline and confidence as well as enjoying weight loss as a result of his training. This training consisted of Isshinryu on Monday and Wednesday under Sensei Barkoot in Columbia and Zen Shotokai on Tuesday and Thursday under Sensei Kimmey in North Augusta.
Sensei Earwood met his beloved wife, Marie, on a blind date in 1972. Their first date was to Mayfest in Columbia for a Karate event with Sensei Barkoot. They later married in 1974. Sensei Earwood and his wife continued their training in Martial Arts traveling to North Augusta on the weekends and training outside in the yard late into the night at Sensei Kimmey and his wife’s home. After being married a few years, they wanted to grow their family and have children. Unfortunately, they experienced fertility issues and decided to apply for adoption. After eight long years of waiting, Mrs. Earwood received a phone call while Sensei Earwood was teaching at Batesburg-Leesville; A baby girl had been born, and they had been chosen to be the parents. Since there were no cell phones at that time, she had to wait until he came home from teaching to give him the big news. They were blessed to become a family, welcoming their daughter, Jentry, into their lives on April 23,1982.
In 1984, Mr. Earwood, who had been working his full-time job during the day and teaching at night, decided it was time to leave his full-time job with a Manufacturing plant in Prosperity, SC and pursue his dream of running his Dojo full time. He then opened his largest, most successful Dojo in Irmo, SC, offering Martial Arts classes and a Kamp Program. He often had as many as four locations operating at one time. Some of those locations were Irmo, Chapin, Lexington, Clinton, Whitmire, Batesburg-Leesville, Prosperity, and Newberry.
Mr. Earwood lives each day praying to help make a difference in someone’s life through his Martial Arts teachings. He enjoys lifting weights to music, spending time with his grandchildren, and traveling and looking at muscle cars in his spare time. Along with Jentry, Mr. and Mrs. Earwood helped raise several other children in their home over the years. Mr. Earwood would often be seen driving around town in his custom lowrider trucks and loud stereo systems. It made a connection with young adolescents and adults to mentor. He also taught Health and PE at Chapin Alternative School for several years.
Jentry started Martial Arts around the age of four and then was led to additional interests in gymnastics, dancing, and modeling through her childhood. She was often found not far behind her father’s steps in the Dojo. At a very young age, she could answer client’s questions regarding the Dojo’s programs. If she was out of school the next day, she was sure to want to stay late at the Dojo, helping her dad. She was blessed to be able to travel all over the country with her father for Martial Art events, then returning to school to share with her class where they had been. It gave her classmates a chance to experience other places through her eyes and photographs.
Sensei Earwood founded his competition team, “The God Squad.’’ His team has won many World titles throughout the years. He has produced hundreds of champions in the last 54 years. Mr. Earwood himself holds several World Titles winning rings and belts. A few places his team has won competitions include Port of Spain, Mexico City, National Blackbelt League, London, Cancun, Canada, and all over the United States. He has given most of his trophies to his students through the years. In 1991, Sensei Earwood was chosen to be one of three coaches for the United States Team for the World Games in London. In 1996, he was again chosen to be one of two coaches for the United States Team for the World Games in
Barcelona. He has been asked several times since, but due to ongoing health issues, he has had to decline the offer. He was honored in 2013 by becoming a part of The South Carolina Black Belt Hall of Fame. During his 50+ years of teaching, he has trained thousands of students.
In 2010, Sensei Earwood decided it was time to slow down after the start of some small health issues and teach only in his small Dojo in Prosperity as long as he could, physically. During this time, his daughter was on a successful career path with the State of South Carolina and helping him at night in the Dojo. As the years went by, he expressed a desire for his daughter to take over the dojo and bring back some of his programs to their hometown. In the beginning of 2017, he began the fight for his life after what should have been a simple hip operation. He ended up confined to a hospital bed and wheelchair for most of that year. His wife took care of him around the clock with the help of his daughter- and son-in-law. His legacy and faith in the Dojo tugged hard on the heart of his daughter and her husband. Her husband, Eric, had already been taking Martial Arts with his father-in-law for several years now. The third generation, Blake, a toddler at the time, also followed all his grandfather’s footsteps in the Dojo like his mother, Jentry. Jentry knew in order for the Dojo to move in the direction she wanted for her own child, she would have to give up her career with the State that she had worked hard for. Her love for helping people better themselves outweighed any other accomplishment in her career. Her husband supported her to follow her dream of taking over her father’s business that he worked for over 50 years.
2019, Jentry decided to carry on the Earwood legacy and started bringing back many of the Dojo’s programs to their Newberry location, including after school and Summer Kamp. Jentry decided to keep the dojo, now owned by the second generation, in the hometown community she loves. Sensei Earwood still plays an active role in the Dojo’s day-to-day operations alongside his daughter- and son-in-law. Jentry has witnessed firsthand the impact the Dojo has had on her life and the third generation, as her children, Blake and Savana, are also following in her footsteps in the Dojo life.
It is long hours and lots of work, but seeing the smiling faces of the Dojo children everyday makes it all worthwhile. Earwood’s Karate Dojo has children of all ages, and adult students that have been with the Dojo for years. The best part about karate is that students can learn at their own pace as it is an individual sport. Many students’ parents believe they need a little discipline and self-confidence, and others are there to learn self-defense for themselves and their family. The Dojo strives every day to make their children and adults better than they were the day before. When someone contacts them, sometimes thirty years after the fact, to say the Dojo made a difference in their life… that is what it is all about.