William Collazo was born in New York City, New York, but only a year later moved to South Florida, where he grew up attending Broward County Public Schools. He began his martial arts training at age five and competed extensively in open competition from ages 8 through 16, winning numerous state and national titles in weapons, forms and fighting, even a world title in all three divisions in 1984. He was fortunate to study karate under the tutelage of Grand Master Frank Ruiz and Grand Master Bill Wendell in Nisei Goju Ryu, and even trained in ju-jitsu for a short time with Grand Master Moses Powell and Master Rex Lee. He earned a sho-dan (first degree black belt) rank at age 17, soon after his graduation from Ely High School in Pompano Beach. A year later, he competed in the AAU Junior Olympic Games of 1991, winning a gold, a silver, and a bronze medal.
His exposure to martial arts through the years sparked a profound interest in Asia and Japanese culture and language. Pursuing this interest led him to earn degrees from Cornell University (B.A. in Asian Studies and Religious Studies, ‘94) and Washington University (M.A. in East Asian Studies, ‘00). His academic studies have centered around Zen philosophy, religious studies, and Japanese language and education, focusing on their relevance to martial arts development and training.
Collazo lived on Osaki-kamijima, a small island in Hiroshima prefecture, Japan for two years (1995-1997) teaching English as a foreign language through the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program. While in Japan, he served one year as the prefectural representative for AJET Hiroshima and as AJET Spectrum co-representative. He also continued to practice karate and began his regular training in the art of kendo (Japanese fencing), although he began learning kendo basics with the Cornell Kendo Club three years earlier. He had the opportunity to travel throughout much of Japan while he lived there, and also took trips to South Korea and China. More importantly though, Collazo found his calling for teaching while in Japan.
William Collazo has taught Japanese language and culture in the Broward County school system for 23 years, the past 22 years of which have been at Deerfield Beach High School, the first school in the state to offer International Baccalaureate Japanese Language courses. He was honored as Deerfield Beach High School's Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020.
In past years, he has served as the Vice President, Secretary, and Director of the Association for Florida Teachers of Japanese (AFTJ), through which he has been able to actively involve his students in a number of different cultural activities, including the annual Japan Immersion Day (as featured on Broward School Beat in 2011) and the annual Japan Bowl™ Competition sponsored by the Japan America Society of Washington, DC. He is currently a member of the AFTJ, affiliated through the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ). Collazo previously served as President of the Florida JET Alumni Association, and has continued to encourage active cooperation between Japan-related organizations in the common goal of cross-cultural understanding and education about Japan in Florida.
From 2016-2020, he served as a member of the AP Japanese Language and Culture Development Committee, working with colleagues to create AP exam questions and further the curriculum design of the course. He has also been an AP Reader a number of times, grading free response questions on the AP Japanese Exam.
In addition to his professional pursuits, Collazo serves as the Chief Instructor of Mushin Ryu Martial Arts, established by Grand Master Bill Wendell in June 2005, and one year later was endorsed by the World Head of Family Sokeship Council. He continues to practice and teach kendo as a senior member of the Shidogakuin Miami Kendo Club. Collazo currently holds the rank of nana-dan (seventh degree black belt) in Mushin Goju Ryu karate and yon-dan (fourth degree advanced level) in kendo through the All-United States Kendo Federation.
In My Own Words - An Interview that was part of the Summer 2020 "Sensei! Why Japanese?" Project by the Japan Foundation Los Angeles
A PROUD TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE IN STUDIES RELATED TO JAPAN
Here are a few DBHS Alumni who work in Japan, or have either continued their studies or work in the field of Japanese studies. I would consider it a great honor to add to this list!
Clare Grady, Class of 2008 - Instructor at Kobe Foreign Language University (神戸市外国語大学大学院)
Check this out---- Japan Exchange & Teaching Alumni Association article on Clare and her participation in the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program.
Eric Jose Esteban, Class of 2011 - PhD Candidate in East Asian Studies at Yale University
CEAS website---- EJ is studying pre-modern Japanese language and literature through a fellowship as part of the Council on East Asian Studies at Yale University.