Hi, This is a guest post by Jeff Fasoldt
who has a long history with Lavallees, enjoy....BBat50.com
Back in 1984, LaVallee's USA Black Belt Champions was known as LaVallee's Sport Karate. There was only one studio, a modest 2nd story storefront in the Village of Liverpool, NY. Kyoshi was simply called Steve. There were only a handful of black belts at the studio when I joined. Rick and Jeff Ianuzzo along with Rob Vanelli taught most of the classes with Rick also running most of the day to day operations. Karate was definitely not a mainstream sport yet. Out of my Liverpool High class of almost 800, only Sensei Marc Emmi and I trained at LaVallee’s at that time. Then, Karate Kid hit the big screen and suddenly everyone wanted to be the next Ralph Machio. Enrollment took off and it was just about two years later that LaVallee’s moved to a much larger modern studio just downstairs from the original.
One of my fondest memories of the old studio was the entry door. It was a heavy steel door with a dragon molded into it. To an outsider, I am sure it could be somewhat intimidating but it definitely got your attention when you walked by! The studio itself was small, dingy, and it usually smelled like a locker room. Not the most pleasant environment but to me it was perfect.
The classes were different too. I remember a lot more conditioning drills – lots of pushups and stomach crunches. Now we do most of that outside of class. Belt tests, at least below brown belt, weren’t scheduled. The instructor would just tell a few students at the start of the class that they were being “evaluated”. At the end of the class those students who had passed would receive their belts. Those who had not, didn’t. I remember being passed over once for my blue belt and being absolutely crushed but the next day I was back at the studio more motivated than ever. Classes were also focused around point sparring. I can still throw a pretty mean back fist – ridge hand combo!
I earned my green belt in 1985 and immediately set about training hard for my brown belt (no red belts back then) with the goal of achieving it before I left for college in August. Unfortunately that was one goal I didn’t reach. I did come back that winter and again the next summer to train but wasn’t able to get enough time in to qualify for testing. It was hard at that time to see so many people who had started after me pass me by. Eventually I stopped training although my younger brother went on to earn his 2nd degree black belt and join the LaVallee’s staff as a full-time instructor. This kept up my connection to LaVallee’s all this time.
Fast Forward to 2009
My how things have changed in 25 years. Now at age 42, I am starting all over as a white belt again at LaVallee’s Rochester, NY studio led by Sensei Ty Hafner. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how quickly many things have started to come back to me after all this time but I still have a long way to go to get back to where I left off so many years ago. My two children have joined with me and now we are on this journey together. Maybe we can even talk Mom into giving it a try!