In addition to firefighter and stuntman, two careers most young boys fantasize about include being a musician or a karate master.
Steve Godfriaux, also known as “Mr. G,” has accomplished both.
A 1972 graduate of Monona Grove High School, Godfriaux (pronounced “God-free-oh”) has become a recognized name on both the arts and martial arts scenes.
Musically, he learned much from his parents—two jazz musicians who got him started at an early age. In the summer of 1969, his band—London Fog—won Madison’s Battle of the Bands competition.
In the world of martial arts, Godfriaux has trained with a number of great teachers and has since taught “thousands” of students. Career highlights include a competition team (Team Extreme) winning Godfriaux’s first national championship, and a feature in The Gazette about his studio in the ‘90s.
For 12 years, Godfriaux has been in a committed relationship with Shawne Cass, and he has a son, Justin, who is 40. Godfriaux and Cass also share a furry family that includes a rescued beagle (Det. Benson) and two rescued cats (Boshi and Gabriel). A pitbull, Zildjian, holds a special place in Godfriaux’s heart (“I still feel him with me.”)
To learn more about Godfriaux’s martial arts studio, call 608-322-9080 or stop by Karate America, 977 Norwood Road, Janesville (first month free). For more about his music, check out his weekly open jam session on Sundays at The Table bar, 4910 Afton Road, Afton. He also is a member of both the Blue Olives and the G-Force band, which both will restart performances once COVID-19 dissipates.
1. What initiated your interest in martial arts? Did you ever expect to reach the level you have? “Billy Jack,” when it first came out, I was hooked. I started in 1986 because my young son couldn’t stop talking about it. We earned our black belts and degrees together. We have trained with a number of different masters in a number of different styles including Krav Maga, Tae Kwon Do, Jujitsu and Kenpo Goju.
2. When did you start playing guitar, and what initially sparked your interest? My parents were deep-rooted jazz musicians. When I was 9, my dad started me with piano and music theory. I heard the Beatles and Paul Revere and the Raiders on AM radio and decided to start guitar lessons.
3. Are there any advantages to being either a martial artist who plays guitar or a guitarist who studies martial arts? Absolutely. In my 20s, I played for a living all over the country. I even shared stages with the likes of Van Halen, the Allman Brothers and more. I was not quite good enough to get rich and famous, and that always bothered me. Decades later, I applied the lessons I give to my karate students to my guitar playing, and it has made me easily twice the player and musician. As to guitar affecting my martial arts, my musical experiences have always inspired me to be fascinated with anything worth doing, including my martial arts training and teaching.
4. What is your preferred genre of music and, if given the chance, which professional act would you most like to perform with? A mix of blues and jazz. Jimi Hendrix or Cream would be who I would choose to share the stage with.
5. What is your favorite food, and where is your favorite place to get it? It’s a tie between Jimmy John’s and Sam’s Pizza.
6. As a martial arts instructor, what is your goal as it pertains to teaching students? Throughout my life, I have had unique opportunities to learn from quite a number of gifted teachers. From that I have what I call a “collection of lessons” that truly applies to any area of life. My primary goal is to combine those lessons with martial arts to give kids focus, power and balance in body, mind and spirit for life.
7. Which of the five senses would you say is your strongest? That’s tough. I guess I would say touch because I seem to feel what I see or hear.
8. Do TV shows or movies about martial arts help or hurt their image? They mostly help, but like any tool, the effect depends on the user’s application.
9. Do you find it easier to teach martial arts to children or adults? Adults are easier. However, sparking personal growth with kids is why I teach.
10. Do you play any instruments besides guitar? If not, name one you wish you could play. Keyboards, especially Hammond organ or percussion. I took some drum lessons from a great teacher when I was younger and learned a lot about their endless rhythmic possibilities and how they interact. Drums are a blast to play, but I never pursued the skill set.
11. Are you afraid of anything? Unrest in the country, and the fact I feel I can’t do much about it.
12. Most karate instructors stress that martial arts are for defense rather than offense. Have you ever been in a position where you needed to use your skills to protect yourself? Yes. It went well.
13. If you were not teaching martial arts and performing music, what do you think you would most likely be doing as a profession? Psychology or politics. I don’t know enough about either area to say how I would be involved in them, but they seem like a couple of areas that could serve as important vehicles to help me do my part to leave the world a little better than I found it.
14. What is your worst habit? Procrastination. I usually focus on what is most stimulating, and that might not be what is top priority.
15. What is the most dangerous thing you’ve ever done? It involved two trampolines, a roof and a ladder. Lucky, I still have both of my arms. But that’s a story for another day.
16. What was your first job? Worst job? In fourth grade, I ran a Milwaukee Sentinel paper route. I thought about a lemonade stand, but instead I turned the basement into a bar with a stage for air guitar and filled empty booze bottles with different colored Kool-Aid to sell “beverages.” My worst job was as an outside assistant window washer at an eight-story bank. I quit after the first day.
17. What is the one item that always goes into your grocery cart whether you need it or not? Johnsonville brats.
18. Share your proudest moment as a martial artist and as a musician. My proudest moment in martial arts is ongoing. It is to be the kind of leader my son has become within the martial arts community, and the feature article The Gazette did on my school, “Karate America builds self-esteem.” My proudest moments in music are when Ruby Starr asked to join my band, Lucy Grey. We became The Grey Star Band.
19. What is your most prized possession? My early ’60s Gibson Melodymaker. It’s what I used my paper route money for.
20. There is an ever-growing list of satirical “facts” surrounding martial artist/actor Chuck Norris. Share your personal favorite. When doing push-ups, Chuck Norris doesn’t push himself up. He pushes the earth down.