John Wood, Nidan, Senior Instructor

John Wood began practicing karate in 1999, when he was a student at Northern Illinois University. During his senior year, he needed an additional credit to maintain status as a full time student, as most of his requirements for graduation had been met. At the suggestion of his good friend Jeff Salkas, they both signed up for the karate class offered by the university. He immediately took to practice, and karate has been a large part of his life ever since.

John graduated from Northern Illinois University in May of 2000 with a Bachelor's degree in computer science. He continued to live in the area and practice karate with the NIU club while is fiancee (now wife) finished up her degree. In 2002, John and his wife relocated to the western suburbs of Chicago, and John started practicing with and eventually took over leadership of another Shotokan Karate of America club in Palatine, IL.

In 2006, the club in Palatine relocated to a facility near Chicago, which hosts the group once a week on Sunday morning for practice. From January 2006 until November 2007, a small but loyal group held practices at John's house during the week. In November of 2007, John, Steve Binette, and Jeff Salkas started Southwest Chicago Shotokan.

John was awarded the rank of Nidan (second degree black belt) in June of 2007. He is a regular at regional special trainings (rigorous training sessions lasting 3-4 days), which are held 3 times a year across the Midwest. John was also selected to represent the Midwest region of Shotokan Karate of America at 2007 Nisei Week karate tournament in Los Angeles, which is the oldest karate tournament in the country. He has been leading karate practices since 2003, while he was still a brown belt. John was selected as SKA's Midwest Member of the Year for 2007 for his commitment to SKA and his students, for representing the Midwest region in the Nisei Week national tournament, and for organizing several exchange practices with other clubs and seniors in the area.

John is a lead software engineer at Interactive Mediums. He is married to his very supportive wife, Beth. He lives with Beth, son Dylan, and daughter Chloe, in the southwest suburbs of Chicago.

Steve Binette, Nidan

Steve Binette started practicing karate at the University of Chicago in 1981, working his way to ikkyu (the rank immediately below black belt). After finishing school, starting his professional career became the main focus of Steve's life. To do so, Steve took a break from practice. 20 years later, when Steve's son started taking martial arts lessons, Steve's passion for practice was re-ignited. Steve looked up John Wood on the web, and started training with John in early 2005. Steve picked up right where he left off, and after only a year and a half, he earned the rank of Shodan (first degree black belt) in June of 2006. In June of 2008, Steve was awarded the rank of Nidan (second degree black belt).

Steve is a physician who lives and works in the western suburbs. He is married and has one son.

Jeff Salkas, Nidan

Jeff Salkas started training in karate in 1999 along with John at Northern Illinois University, and quickly found himself attending as many practices as were held, and cross training on the side. After graduating with his Bachelor's degree in Computer Science, Jeff relocated to the Northwest suburbs and trained with the Shotokan Karate of America club in Deerfield/Palatine; he also kickboxed for two years. Jeff has been leading practices since 2001, and earned the rank of Shodan (first degree black belt) in 2006. In June of 2012, Jeff was awarded the rank of Nidan (second degree black belt).

He has been employed with Hewitt Associates as a systems analyst since July of 2000, married his wife in 2003, and moved to Joliet where he currently resides with his wife and three children.