William King III is a fourth generation Westonian by his own admission, well known as a longtime public school teacher in the area.
“I just retired in May from 35 years of teaching public education in Lewis County,” he said, noting that he spent 20 of those years at Lewis County High School and 15 at Robert L. Bland Middle School.
“It’s been a pretty cool trip,” he said. “Now that I’m retired, I’m going to teach martial arts. That’s what I do.”
Indeed, that’s what King has done for even longer than he has taught.
“For over 40 years, I’ve been teaching the martial arts in Central West Virginia,” he said. “I’m considered to be one of the pioneers of martial arts in the state.”
King has had a dojo in Weston for multiple decades. It all began, oddly enough, while attending a basketball game at the age of 15.
“My father took me to a game at the (then) new Coliseum in Morgantown,” he said. “I watched a Judo demonstration where this guy threw six of his students four times a piece in two minutes. I was fascinated by it.”
Inspired to train, King looked around, but said there weren’t many options in the state. He finally settled on the Clarksburg School of Self-Defense, where he studied under the tutelage of Earl Smith.
“When I first started, I really thought I would just get my yellow belt, my first rank,” he said. “In college I transferred to Morgantown from Clarksburg and became the student of the guy who did the demonstration (at the Coliseum), and he trained me in Judo and Karate.”
It was there that King earned the first of many black belts. After a few years of schooling at West Virginia University, he decided to transfer to Glenville State College and begin teaching karate to help pay for college.
“I was asked to give a demonstration at the Rotary where I met the president of the college,” he said. “I’d already gone to the athletic director, and he had turned me down, but when I gave the demonstration the president asked me to stop by his office the next day so that we could talk to the head of the physical education department.
“And I was privileged to, while attending Glenville State, teach a three hour physical education credit in karate which put me through college.”
Eventually, King would begin to teach in Lewis County, a move that would be a fateful one for him for multiple reasons.
“My first class that I taught here was through adult basic education,” he said. “My first class, I had 40 or 50 people, probably 90 percent of them were teachers, and one of them was my wife-to-be. That’s where I met my wife, and we’ve been married for 38 years.”
That was a major milestone for King, who spent a fair amount of time praising his wife for her support.
“She’s supported me in every aspect of it,” he said. “I’ve always said she’s a karate widow, because I was always doing tournaments, competing, doing seminars.
“I give my wife credit for everything that I am, and she’s supported me through everything along with my father and family.”
Around the time King met his wife and began teaching in the area, he also met Roger Jarrett of St. Albans, who King said is “probably one of the highest and most respected martial artists in the world.”
Under Jarrett, King expanded his field of expertise, earning black belt certification in six different arts including Aikido, Iaido (“quick draw of the sword”), Judo, and Kabudo (weaponry).
Now, he seeks to impart that knowledge to locals rather than competing himself. He said he’s built up a program that allows for students to choose their own level of involvement.
“I’ve had quite a few national champions,” King said of those he’s trained. “Men, women and children. I’ve probably had more women than men champions. It’s not mandatory to compete nationally here, but I can take you from here to any level of competition you would like.”
King has made a space, though, where those less interested in competition can also thrive.
“I have students that don’t compete at all,” he said. “My students come from all ranges, from children to adults. At my program, we have a very family-oriented karate program. You’ll see adults and kids in the same class sometimes.”
King’s diverse training allows him to offer a bevy of classes to the community at his dojo, including karate on Mondays and Wednesdays (split into two sessions each day for different levels of skill) and Iaido and Aikido along with the philosophy of martial arts on Tuesdays.
Mike Masterman has frequented King’s dojo for the past several years with his sons Adler and Boe. He said King has been a great teacher, particularly noting his appreciation for the family-friendly atmosphere.
“He’s very enthusiastic,” he said. “He’s very patient with the kids, and he’s very good at teaching the values behind it. Being able to do it with my kids, that makes all the difference in the world.”
Boe said that King’s personality stands out, and noted that he likes the atmosphere King has created.
“I like training here,” he said. “It’s a good building, and the people here are good to train with because they are around the same age as me.”
His brother Adler said it feels like a community at the dojo, and said King has taught him a good deal about the martial arts.
“He’s different than everybody else,” he said. “Whenever I first started here, I thought it was all dragons and stuff (the martial arts), but it’s not, really. I enjoy it.”
Even before he retired, King was focused heavily on the martial arts. He said that in addition to running his dojo while teaching in the schools, he also taught what he said was the most popular elective class for most of his 20 years at LCHS — a karate course.
Throughout teaching in high schools, colleges, and in his own dojo, King said that to instruct students in his passion in the town in which he grew up brings him immense satisfaction.
“It means the world,” he said. “We’re in Central West Virginia, and we’re limited on activities for children and adults. I hope that I was able to give people something unique, something different from here — a different kind of sport.”