Caliguri receives 9th-degree black belt
Once a certain level of black belt is reached, being promoted to the highest levels of martial arts isn't based on fighting in tournaments, but on a person's contribution to the sport.
For Frank Caliguri, 60, getting promoted to a ninth-degree black belt in Shorin-Ryu, an Okinawa style of karate, took 10 years.
Caliguri was elevated to ninth degree because of his overall contribution to karate.
In addition to teaching classes four days a week, he promotes mixed martial fights — including the Kumite Classic that was held last June — in the area and has years of experience.
The promotion was awarded to Caliguri after a yearlong review process. He is one of a few hundred people in the United States who hold a ninth-degree black belt.
Caliguri's dedication to his craft helped him earn the promotion.
"It's something you hope to achieve, but you're not sure if you'll ever get there," Caliguri said. "They look at your overall karate involvement. I've always had a karate dojo and instructors and also attended training to help get the higher ranking."
Having a ninth-degree black belt is the second-highest rating, with tenth degree or grandmaster being the highest. Caliguri said he is going to try to reach that level, but said it may take 10-15 more years to reach grandmaster status.
He feels the reason so few people reach this level of expertise is the time required.
"You have to keep a dedicated, tight schedule and that's where a lot of people fail," Caliguri said. "I keep training in my schedule and it helps that four days a week I teach in my dojo. Having a dojo is also key, because if someone doesn't have a dojo they would be viewed differently."
Caliguri was always interested in martial arts and started training in 1962. Since the start of his training, Caliguri has been a national champion in fighting, kata and with weapons. At one point, Caliguri was ranked in the top 10 by the Professional Karate Magazine.
In the 1970s, Caliguri brought karate to Lower Burrell at Caliguri's Academy of Martial Arts . Caliguri also was named the Godfather of Mixed Martials Arts for helping host the first sanctioned mixed martial arts tournament in the United States in 1979.
With the time Caliguri has dedicated to karate, he credits his wife, Nancy, for supporting him over the years. Nancy is a seventh-degree black belt and the Caliguris have been training together since the 1970s.
Nancy came out of a 20-year retirement three years ago and won the women's international Kata tournament three years in a row before retiring again.
"We push and drive each other," Frank said. "Nancy played a key role in my training and development."