Monday, December 31, 2007

Warriors Collide - My World Shifts

Warriors Collide 2
I had never before been to see a fight. In fact, other than some friends taking me as a lark to see some "professional wrestling" in 1985, I had never even considered going to see a fight. I had a brother who, when travelling in Thailand (also in the early 80s), went to see some kickboxing for "local color". In short, seeing a live boxing match seemed something that I was destined to never do.

But two women that I train with (Heather & Laura) launched themselves in 2007 into organizing local amateur fights. So on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to go to "the fights". I got online to Ticketron, picked best seats available, and gave it my credit card. It was Sept 8th, 2007.

At 7pm, we (my honey and I) arrived at the War Memorial Auditorium in Ft Lauderdale for Left Hook Productions: Warriors Collide 2.

First thing, I knew some people. As I entered, there was Ed & Jennifer working a merchandise desk out front. As we found our seats, I greated another half dozen people that I knew from the dojo. Cool. I seemed to know more people here than I do anywhere else in Ft Lauderdale.

Second thing, our seats. We were ringside! I looked at my tickets and it turns out, I had paid $50/seat (or something) and we could see every detail. When they started to fight, we could see the sweat pouring off them and sometimes, we got sprinkled.

Third thing, it was really really cool to watch the fights. There were about 14 fights on the card that night. All amateur. Fighters from Miami, the West Coast of Florida, and Orlando. The matches were mostly "oriental rules" (which I can't find a copy of online and which were NOT explained n the Program) which seems to mean:
  • Hitting and kicking are OK including kicks to the legs
  • Knees to the body are OK but no knee strikes to the head or groin
  • The fighters wear headgear, gloves, and shinpads (and cups presumably)
  • They can grapple standing up
  • They get points for take-downs but the ref immediately stands them back up
  • Most fights were scheduled for three fights, three minute rounds. There was one championship match which was scheduled to go five rounds
The fights were mostly great matches with someone from Left Hook Productions (Larry Borden?) having done a great job of matching people not just by weight but so that the fights were pretty even matches. In some cases, the fighters got exhausted by the end but they both seemed to slow down evenly. Some of the matches were stopped (TKO - technical knock out) by the referree. None were boring.

Fourth thing - I knew really alot of people. My fiance's hairdresser had a friend who was fighting that night so there were ten people that she knew from the the salon crowd. There were alot of parents of friends of my kids. I probably knew about 30 people from where I train. To top if off, I took a look at the guy that they had for security and I knew him too (his name is Steve and he's a body builder with a day job in my building).

Last thing - I had a great time. For me, it was a bit of a world shift. For the first 49 years of my life , I had not liked watching fights, not even on TV. But this night was a shift for me. Maybe because it was amateur and not too violent. Maybe because I had trained in MMA and had a sense for the sport. Maybe it was just weird to show up and find that I knew dozens of people there.

For whatever reason, I'm now really into watching the fight. I left looking forward to the next Warriors Collide. Kyoshi (Steve Lavallee - the head of my school) had shown up apparently to assess whether this was something that he would encourage his students and staff to participate in. I think he will so I'm looking forward (with some trepidation) to seeing some people that I know in the ring.

The fighters were from the Bears Den, American TKA, Atemy Ru Jujitsu, Team Mumfort, US1 Fitness, Ameican Top Team, Freestyle Fighting Academy, Xtreme Marshall arts, FFA, Round 2 Kickboxing, Hammer Gym, ATT, Inferno, American Top Team, and Team Popovich. The Headline Fight was the ISKA Heavy Weight Championship fight (Chris Decaro vs Eric Rivera)

Fights found online from Warriors Collide 2

Joe Ray Part 1

Joe Ray Part 1

Warriors Collide 1 - Video Collage

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Karate goals for 2008

My goals in terms of what I'm to achieve/learn from karate in 2008:

  1. Better sparing. Specifically, I'd like better boxing skills.
  2. Self-defense. I'd like to learn the basics of street fighting / self-defense. I've learned some holds and grabs around and the dojo has moved from the old curriculum (12 baiscs) but is now adding some grappling skills. I'm not exactly sure what I'm looking for here but I would like to have more of a sense of self-defense.
  3. Martial Arts General Knowledge - I'd like to know the basics in terms of major movements, what's in style and what's being dropped. What are the big martial art bodies? The top ten martial artists that I should now? What are the striking vs non-striking martial arts? I'd like to recognize a bit about aikado, kung fu, kempo, judo. How different is Korean from Chinese from Japanese or are the national origins not really important? I'd like to get a working knowledge of the different schools and techniques.
  4. Flexibility. I'd like, with legs at shoulder width, be able to bend down and get both elbows on the ground.
  5. Endurance. If I'm going to spar better, I'll need more endurance. I'll target a fourteen minute two mile. And I'd like to get my waist from 34 to 33 (I had it at 32 about five years ago but that took an unsustainable discipline about eating plus lots of running and gym. The big problem: I love to eat. Especially deserts. Speaking of...gotta go...

Well, these are my ambitions. Check back in 12 months and I'll remember to fess up on how I did.

A black belt's first Christmas

I earned my black belt in early November and kept training pretty well (2x week plus some running) until the dojo shut for the holidays. Then, I took the family off on vacation for a week and immersed myself with the children.

The good news is that I had a great time with the family. More good news is that I did make it to the resort's gym three times (out of six days) where I did some weights, did my shoulder therapy, 150 crunches, some eliptical, stretching, and jump rope.

However, counting travel days and the days just before the vacation and since I got back, I'm averaging less than one workout every three days. Thats the bad news.

Everyday you work out is a great day. So why not work out every day? - says Kyoshi.

My goal is to have 5 workouts per week this year. A run (2 mile min), gym workout, or class is the definition. Swinging the chucks in my living room, stretching , or push ups don't count. If they did, since I tend to now practice my chucks when I'm on the phone and I stretch whenever I have a minute and some privacy, I would have to aim at a dozen workouts per week.

Next post: I'll put my goals for 2008 out there. Not just in terms of participation, but what my measures of success will be.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Black Belt - It's Only the Beginning - Article 2

In our last episode where I said that the Black Belt was only the Beginning, I hinted that there were changes afoot. That achieving the black belt and creating a library of the katas was only the beginning.

As I earned my blackbelt, there was a part of me that said it was time to take a bow and retire with dignity. I thought about posting my new black belt pictures and then embalming the blog. Instead, I'm trying to relaunch my blogging and my training with new vigor and focus.

So here's the deal. I'll try to tell an interesting story. You try and follow it. Yes, I tend to jump around and I spell unevenly and and I sometimes leave out words. OK, my sentences are sometimes too long and I poke fun at myself so much that the self-deprecation thing gets a little tiring... And yes, although I have a shiny new belt and gi to wear to class, there's still the same 50 year old body underneath and a guy with more curiosity than knowledge about the martial arts. The fact is that I'm trying to ask  questions that I think we all wonder about...
  • How to write about the questions that intrigue me while also telling a story that is readable and interesting to others? We've all at some point kept a journal or diary but then, in rereading it, realized that the writing was depressingly bad and boring. Can I both share some of my inner thoughts and tell a story worth listening to?
  • How to balance exercise, my career, my hobbies, and my relationships? I struggle as most parents must, to balance taking care of my kids, maintaining my relationship with my spouse, earning a living, and somewhere in all that, keeping track of me.
My plan is this.  I'll shift this from being a record of my black belt class, mostly of interest to my classmates, to something of broader interest. I'll post less often and with less detail about the training. I'll try to speak more broadly about my thoughts and conditions with the martial arts more as my launch pad than the focus. The martial arts creates a common theme for many people who are struggling with self improvement or at least preservation as they hit their fourth or fifth decade.

Can I create a voice enthralling to many people? I'm not sure but my goal will mostly to help capture my thoughts and hopefully, they'll be of some interest or use to others.

A Black Belt - It's Only the Beginning...

I have long heard what I always took to be a joke: "The Black Belt, it's only the beginning". And I use to laugh.

Well, excooooose me. Rembering that:

When a door closes, look for the window that opens. - anonymous

Life is about setting goals that are personally meaningful to you. And then achieving them. - Dad (mine)

S.M.A.R.T Goals - Goals we set are goals we Get - Kyoshi

There has to be a morning after... - Some Barbara Streisand Song

Yes, I got my black belt. I think I look good in my new red gi with my new belt. Don't you agree?

But now that a month has past and I've taken a lot of high fives and congrats and even a few hugs and I've hosted a party for all the new black belts and I've caught up on my personal and professional life (in short, I've been a busy bee), I'm turning to the questions of:

  • how does the martial arts fit into my life?

  • what are my goals going forward?

  • can I really balance a training schedule, increasingly demanding professional life, and rich personal life?

  • and most importantly, what am I going to do about this blog? It started as a way to keep track of the katas (as my memory in my very late 40s isn't what it used to be. Or at least, my memory isn't what I think my memory used to be). And now, this blog actually has some readers and some potential....
As it turns out, I have answers emerging for all these questions. And alot more. So stay tuned. (some hints on my direction. I'm writing this before going for a Sunday morning run. And last night, I went the local amateur fights - Warriors Collide 3 - and watched one of my teachers show everyone, including herself, just how good she is).

Lastly, notice that I'm ending my post with questions to be answered......

This is an effort to create a storyline and to end this episode with a cliff-hanger.... As I mentioned, stay tuned....

PS - In response to requests this week, I added a video of Long One, Short Three, and White Belt Appreciation Form. I corrected some glaring omissions in bookset and I'm actively looking for a good video of the bookset kata.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Kama Set Two

Kama set two starts with a new move known as the Osborne.
Here's a performance of it by Mr. Daniel.

There's a few variations allowed on the kicks. More on that later...

Kama set 2 is a form that was created by Roland Osborne and is a creative form (not from TKD). He was originally a student under Jason David Frank (both are lineage of Red Dragon Karate) and now runs his own schools.

Thanks Mr Dan Walsh.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Creative Kumite

What can I say? The show was great: very quick-paced and high energy. Unlike previous shows which were not as tightly timed, this one went from start to finish in 1 hr, 20 minutes so it flew!
I added some personal drama. In the dress rehearsal when it was time for my solo, I totally froze up. I remember thinking: I can't be freezing up. I'm not even nervous. It's just that I can't remember what I'm supposed to do or even think of anything to do. But during the show, it went well. Maybe great! I'm a happy camper.

The first video is me, Jay, and Coach. The second video is Scott, Edgar, Pat, Agnes, and Kathy. All of them spectactacular black belts.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Black Belt Spectacular - Nov 2007

BlackBeltSpectacularTeam The ceremony for receiving our black belts is held at the Parker Playhouse.

The show blends karate & self defense skits; demos of XMA, Muy Thai, weapons (some with glow routines); some boarding breaking by Shihan Moti Horenstein (8th degree) and group and individual displays of skills by those earning new black belt levels. We had 36 kohei earning new levels of black belt: one 4th dan, three 3rd dans, four 2nd dans, and 28 new first degree black belts.

Four schools contributed and it was probably half kids, half adults. The preparation is more like the rehearsal for a show than training for karate.

The show itself was a blast. Plenty of nerves. The drama for me was that at the rehearsal right before the show, when the time for my solo came, I froze. KC, Kyoshi, and a few other people yelled out: "Do something!". I had to agree with them, it would be good to do something. After awhile, I threw a pair of bunches and kneeled down again thinking: "Did I just freeze? I can't freeze. I'm not even nervous". Right.
john edelson kyoshi

The show itself went very very well. It was fast-paced. The performances were clean and dramatic. Us first degree black belts were competent, sometimes showy. The higher ranks were not just competent but had pizzaz and technique to burn. Great show.

And of course, after the show, there was some festivities!

Two groups of us ended up in the same restaurant (Buca de pepe).

And then on Sunday, more get-togethers. I'd like to make habbit of it.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Black Belt Spectacular

black belt spectacular
The Black Belt Spectacular!!!

This week: many many rehearsals to get all the details right. On Wednesday, there was regular testing and we ran thru the routines at full pace. It seemed to go well.

I just received the online invite and it got me psyched. Also, my name is on the Tshirt!!! This is a big thrill (according to Agnes, the biggest thrill and she says that she'll be giving them to everyone on her Christmas list this year)

The invite has great picture of Melissa and Jennifer.

This spectacular is a little different from previous ones in that we're a much larger group. So there's less individual creative kumites. There are 36 people getting their black belt or receiving an additional dan (stripe or level on their black belt). Leading the pack:
- Steve Lavallee - 4th Degree
- Mr. Mike, Jennifer, & Mr L getting their 3rd degreesothers because there are so so many of us.

To get tickets, go to ticketron.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Power Weekend 3

john edelson carmentottenhoff
John Edelson with his then-fiancee, Carmen
John Edelson It turns out everyone likes looking at pictures more than that like most commentary.

Here's some pictures. But, don't get too excited, they're mostly of me ....

If you send me pictures of you, I'll post them too.

Or, if you stand next to me (and don't upstage me too much), you can also be online....
john edelson

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Black Belt Testing - Power Weekend Part2

sparing stance

john jumping

This morning was the culmination of the black belt testing. We all made it. Not a surprise but a big relief. Aieesa!

It was great. At the finish, it was fun and exciting. It was hard but frankly, there were much harder days of training along the way. The hardest days (for me) were the days with 6 sparing matches plus the timed 2 mile run.

For me, the best parts were doing a series of kata with the team and the sparing. Both represented the culmination of years of effort and demonstrating technique, teamwork, agility, skills, and reactions. The board breaking, partner drills, and physical training outside were fun but didn't have the emotional impact to me of the core curriculum materials of kata and sparing.

The sparing video below (of Jay and me, I'm in the short sleeves) was my final match of the day....I can't decide if I'm proud or ashamed of it but, since it's my only video, it's going up.

It is a great learning tool. I am moving alot, my hands are mostly up where they should be, it's mostly combinations ("punches in bunches") and we're in a nice flow.

On the side of what to improve, I'm mostly circling the wrong way (towards his power side), my kicking is stuck in a pattern of low single roundhouses, I'm never staying inside, I'm relying way too much on my jab, I seem to have forgotten how to hook, and I'm backing out instead of angling. And sometimes my hands are down which Jay seems pretty good at picking up on. This is btw, the first time I've seen a video of me sparing. I'm fascinated (obsessed?) by it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Black Belt Testing - Power Weekend

John Edelson This is power weekend. Tonight was testing on kata, kicks, and board breaking.

Support team. First of all, thanks to Carmen who has been so great.

Carmen is very pleased about me getting thru the Black Belt cycle and having some control over my schedule again.

Kyoshi ran the class. Between that and having all the other sensei in attendence, this makes for a very exciting night!
We had all the schools from South Florida in to the National Training Center tonight.
Here is the team that I've been in cycle with....(minus Edgar and Mr L and Mr Mike Sweeny and Miss Tammy and Janine (sp?))

Kathy, Agnes, Jennifer, Pat, John (me), Coach, Jay, and Scott.
A few words about this team and what it shows. I think about half of the new black belts are kids (not pictured or counted here) and the other half are adults. I think that's typical of the Lavallee system. There are also an even number of men and women (As an aside, I just consulted the official Lavallee website and counted 11 schools, 3 led by female sensei!). Our team was noted for good cardio in that all of us qualified with some ease for the 16 minute 2 mile run and in fact, most of us finished in the 14-15 minute spot (with Kathy and; Agnes clocking in near 13 minutes for two miles). And we're not spring chickens. At 49, I'm the median age of this group.
Tonight was alot of kicking, partner drills, a few kata, and board breaking.
Did I mention that there was alot of kicking? It was intense. Really fun. The performance level was high.
And while I would like to write more about tonight, I think I'd better go soak in epson salts, eat alot of pasta, and get ready for some Bugo Kumite along with a few miles of running early Saturday (tomorrow) morning.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Steve Lavallee - Kyoshi

My school is run by Master KC Lavallee. She is a 5th Degree Black Belt. Update note, she is, as of 11/2012, Shihan KC Lavallee.

The school is part of a group run by Steve Lavallee - Kyoshi. Two notes: One, Master KC is married to Kyoshi Steve Lavallee. Second, Kyoshi's nephew (his brother's son) is named Joe Lavallee.  He also trains in our system and is reaching a high level (4th or 5th degree black belt), I've seen web posts where the two were confused. I have an updated post about Steve Lavallee.

Kyoshi is one of the more interesting and charismatic guys around. He's a 7th degree black belt, a successful business owner, has thousands of students through his system, and works with hundreds of industry leaders thru MAUI. I train in the Lavallee National Training Center (HQ - NTSC) so Kyoshi is frequently on the floor or teaching class. He runs many of our BB candidate classes himself. Which is great.

Here's some background:
An early article on him

I intend to get the whole story on Kyoshi's professional resume from him one of these days (degrees, ring record, training) but as best I can tell:

Kyoshi is interested in developing the blend of martial arts. While his base training is kenpo, he seems to have studied and blended a range of martial arts. On the wall in our dojo, there is a certificate awarding him a 7th degree in Blended Martial Arts from Degerberg Internationa. This certificate on the wall is signed byRobert Beal, Greg Tearney (10th Dan), John McSweeney, and Fred Degerberg.

John McSweeney was a student of Ed Parker, the father of American Kenpo.

There is another certificate signed only by Greg Tearney awarding Steve Lavallee a 7th degree in Karate-Do.

There is alot of Muy Thai in our system plus XMA . He trains sometimes with his friend Shihan Moti, a champion in five martial arts with base training in Israeli Krav Maga. In the last few years, Steve Lavallee has been training in BJJ at Gracie Academy. Kyoshi's base training is Kenpo. Our curriculum evolves with periodic additions and changes in the kata and defense techniques. For instance, when I was a white belt, we learned mostly kenpo self defense. Recently, we've learned new jitsu-type self-defense.

Another of Kyoshi's interests is the Maui Program and working with other sensei to improve the overall management of martial skills and foster exchange among different martial arts.

On October 19th, 2007, Kyoshi Steve LaVallee was the Keynote Speaker at the EFC Summit Keynote in Miami.

This post about Steve Lavallee was updated.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Short Three

Short Three is Back!

Here is the updated version of Short Three Kata, Elite Force Style. The change from the Lavallees one as performed by us 2004-12 is the added part at the end.

Kempo Kata - Show right fist in front of your chest
Short Three - Cover right fist with left hand in sign of "chambered weapon" (peace)
Aieesa - step out to the right into horse stance, hands in chamber

Staying in horse stance.....

Right punch forward, left punchforward, right punch forward - tu, tu, aieeesa
Left punch to the right into a hardbow - tu
Right hand punch to the left into a hardbow - tu

Cat stance on the left foot looking to the Right
Chinese elbow block with the right, punch with the left - aieeeesa

Cat stance on the left foot looking to the back (from where we started)

Right backfist high. Tia
Left hand fingers stab high into the eyes (pulling the right hand back into chamber) followed rapidly with Right elbow (slapping it with the left) Tu, Tia
Right backfist high again followed rapidly with Hammer fist low (groin)
(left hand has been in chamber since the elbow)

Turn to the right (this part is like the release from a cross-over wrist grab)Right hand re-grab and lift up slowly while you push down with the left
Left elbow to the left (temple) sideways, then elbow onto the back downwards, double punch down - Tia

Step back with the right leg so the legs are together and the hands held as if in cat stance and we're facing to the left of where we started.

Look to the right and right chop forward, sidekick with the right leg finishing in a horsestance and pulling hands back into chamber - keiaa
Step forward with the right foot with the hands close together as if pushing at the waist with a little exhale.
Pull your weight back for a half-beat and then dramatically step into a full hard bow (right foot forward) with a double punch. Aieeeesaaaa

Step forward with the left so that you are facing forward and up into an X block up with fists (legs are shoulder-width). Double kidney punch (fisted hands quickly pulling out of X block into inward hammerfists just above the waist). (is this a horsestance or legs at shoulder width?)
Reach up with the right hand to grab (pulling left hand into chamber) , open hand punch upwith the left hand.

Step back with the right into a horsestance doing a left downward block.
Jump front kick forward first throwing the right foot up then kicking with the left following it with a knee drop punch - Right hand is out, right knee is down, left hand is in chamber, left knee is up.

Circle set, fist/hand, bow, right - all going to the right!

Details to Remember - Important

Stances - When you turn to face the back of the room, you are in a cat stance.
At right backfist high, you go into a horsestance.
You go to a hardbow with the left hand fingers stab high into the eyes (pulling the right hand back into chamber).
Then return to horstance for right elbow, right backfist high, Hammer fist low (groin).
When you turn to your right for regrab, push, elbow, elbow, you are still in a horsetance.

Breathing - There is a a keia on the third punch in the beginning (apparently, this is a change from an earlier version of short three). There is no keia again until the left punch chinese elbow.

The jump kick and knee drop punch at the end - Remember to finish the jump front kick before starting the knee drop punch. And don't travel. If you can do the jump and kick without moving forward, it's better.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

BBat50 - About me

John Edelson
Becoming a Second Degree
John Edelson
Carmen and me when I earned my
second degree black belt.
A number of years ago (summer 2003), I (John Edelson) got divorced and was trying to sign my son up for soccer (I played competitively until my mid 40s).  Instead, my xwife put him in a dojo. So I was watching my son in his karate class and my reaction was that while I liked the dojo, I didn't much like being a spectator. Four years later, I had earned a black belt. Two and a half years after that, I earned a second stripe.

This blog chronicles my trip into the martial arts world and how the martial arts affects (and is affected) by the other parts of my life. For instance sometimes in my office, I find myself sounding like a karate instructor. I heard myself in a meeting last week talking in rhymes and expecting my colleagues to answer on cue: "Habbits we train are habbits we....".(Gain is the answer that I somehow expected them to respond with).
John and Carmen Edelson
My story includes what you would expect from a 50 year old active in karate (I have recommendations on ice packs). And some of those unexpected adventures that appear in my life. Since my kids read this, I'll be careful to watch my punctuation and grammar and to keep any innuendo buried in the boring parts. And my sweet wife sometimes has trouble appreciating how much time I spend in the dojo. And she certainly has trouble understanding why I would arrive home and then start blogging about the dojo.  So understand that I post time permitting.

Backyard Bugo
Sparring Practice at Home
(July 2014 update) In 2013, after several years of recurring back spasms, I sadly retired from the dojo and kickboxing.  The doctors told me that my right hip was the source of the problem. Since it has limited movement (no cartillage, an oval shape, and bone spurs), my side and round house kicks were contorting my back in ways that were creating both short-term and long-term problems.  So after 2-3 years of a repeating cycle of back spams, time off, and then restarts, I've put my gi away and have had a void in my life ever since.  I'm looking to find a sports outlet that includes all the sense of community and the social life that the dojo provided me for almost a decade. I've tried running tris, joining gyms, and I'm now getting interested in boxing for which I have high hopes.

My dojo (Lavallee's National Training Center) changed dramatically in 2012 which I touch on here.

What else should I tell you? I've lived for over  nearly a decade in South Florida (since 1998). Before here, I've lived on three continents and four countries (7 years in the UK, 2 years in France, 2 years in Cameroon, and the rest Stateside) and I recently got engaged (Thanksgiving 2007) got married in the end of 2008.  I feel that I'm very lucky.VERY lucky.

John Edelson aka a Black Belt at 50, getting ready for class
The Blog's Background: I started this blog initially to help me remember my katas. In the months before getting my black belt, the training got more intense and the blog became part of that effort: I wrote about each step in the process and posted a lot of pictures, a sort of yearbook for my black belt class.  This was back in the days when having a picture on the world wide web was pretty cool. It was before Facebook.

After I got my black belt, the intensity dissipated. I thought about phasing out karate (I'd like to play some tennis) and mothballing the blog. Instead, I decided that this would be a new beginning for both. The black belt was the beginning of my new phase in the martial arts. And my blogging also went into into a new gear.
My First Black Belt Cycle Team
Jennifer Melrose (2nd), Cathy, Agnes Gallo,
Pat Livnat, Coach Boland,
Scott, Jay, and Me

The Art of Blogging
I also read other people's blogs and have become interested in the "art of blogging". In fact, I've taken a course  on How to Write a Blog that other People will Want to Read - Earn a Black Belt in Blogging (disclosure. I am run the company that offers it.) If you want to learn to blog, it's a great course, sign up NOW . A few years ago, we renamed the course to Blog Writing Course. It turns out the martial arts language, which Black Belt Mama and I liked so much, was a little baffling to the public).  The course is still up but hasn't been updated really since 2010 so its free now.

Some Facts and Small Print. My name is John Edelson. You can contact me by commenting on the blog or emailing: BBat50 (at ) If you have something of interest to say, I accept guest-posts particularly about Lavallees, the martial arts, or being elderly and in the martial arts  I routinely ignore/reject all product or service promotions or other efforts to bring commerce into it.  I have accepted posts to help local friends, nutritionist, and such when I thought they might be of interest to my readers. So far, I've never accepted any money or in-kind to promote anything  (ie a free ringside seat at a UFC match would be nice).  But if I do accept any stuff, I'll disclose it. Hell, I'll brag about it!    Astute observers will note a little promotion of some of my websites on the sidebar of my blog. My day job is running,,, and (and some others).

And if anyone feels that I have misused any pictures or other IP or maligned anyone or thing or if they just don't like the picture of themself, please contact me and I'll try to resolve it.  At least one sensei has contacted me to take down a photo that they thought was less flattering than they would have liked.


Postscript - This blog started a community site helping us learn our kata and documenting our journey towards black belt.  I trained for a decade but around age 55, my hip movement and back deteriorated so much that I sadly retired from the martial arts.  Since then, I've blogged here infrequently but, hopefully my upcoming hip replacement, will have back in the dojo....

In my declining years, I still managed to spar with my "little boy". Check out the difference between the backyard bugo of above and this post from about a decade later: Father Son Sparring.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Candidate Class & Run

It's a crisp Friday night: it must be time for a candidate class and run.Ready to Run
Candidate Group Picture: Mr L, Jay, Agnes, Scott, Kathy, me (John), & Tammy (it's not all the candidates. I know. Thanks for pointing it out).

Time to Start: Master KC Lavallee giving us some motivation.


All Smiles: Agnes & Jennifer(who is leading the class as she earns her third degree) have alot to smile about. Morgan seems to have even more to smile about.

And they're off: At the head of the pack: Lorenzo, Kathy, and Agnes. Followed by Jennifer & me. This is at the start of the run before Kathy disappears way ahead.

Trucking along: Jennifer & John hanging in there.

Younger Talents: Candidate Le & Robbie, her 2nd degree black belt brother

Next Friday: Big black belt check on our bugo kumite! Bugo kum Ite!

And yes, I know that these pictures and captions aren't lining up. But I don't have time to fiddle, I need to go stretch......

Sunday, October 07, 2007


Red BeltWhen you take your first class at the dojo, you are dressed in a clean white gui. If you have learned your creed by heart, you are wearing your white belt.

Once a month, if you attend regularly and progress, you get a new stripe on your belt. In the third month, you will "spotlight" (ie perform) during the regular class. This means performing your kata in front of the class. For the white belts, this is the white belt appreciation form and the Kempo Kata Short One. Actually, the performance will also includes some partner drills, kicking and punching, some holds and grabs, and just for giggles, a surprising amount of pushups!

The next week on Wednesday night, there is Testing. This is a bit of a misnomer since it's really a demo night of your new skills and a test of whether you can perform well in front of your family and friends. It's not a test in the sense Testing Teamthat everybody who has been invited to the testing will get passed up to the next belt level.

The big jumps in class are from orange to purple. And then from green to brown. In both cases, this means a change in class. Once your are green or brown, it's time to start doing some distance running outside of class. One to two miles is the general target.

It takes about three months a belt until you get to green and red. Then it often takes four months since you have to spotlight twice. Of course, there are no rules and it's all subject to the sensei trying to do the best thing for everybody.

Going from high red to black is another kettle of fish.
Once you are high red and show some interest and commitment in becoming a black belt, you become a Candidate and are considered in cycle. As best I can tell, you need to be in two cycles to make it to black belt.

As I write this, I am late in my second cycle. Since nobody has sworn me to secrecy, I will reveal the highlights of being in cycle. I do so with with some fear of a faux pas and of course, the school constantly evolves so it's possible that what I'm going thru is different than what the others go thru.

1.Running four times a week with times required to be under 16 minutes for two miles.
2. Pushups, situps, kicks, squats four times a week
3. Three SWATs (assisting with classes) per week.
4. An indeterminate amount of demo team.
5. Lots of fun intensity in the regular class.
6. Especially vigorous Candidate classes, often with Keoshi leading them on Saturday morning or Friday night.
7. Kiss your personal/professional life goodbye for awhile. Just give up on balance, this is about intensity.

All in all, the trip of a lifetime. Come and join us. Part of the fun is that you are part of a team going thru it. And while I often have trouble seeing my own progress, I am awed by the visible progress of some of the others in my promotion. And presumably, I must be making similar strides although I am extremely aware of my challenges....

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Thanks Coach - Special Core Training

coach, jay, scott This weekend, while the Sensei were at their convention, Coach provided us with a special training session. I had planned to be away for the weekend and delayed my departure to attend.
It was basic core training to develop explosive power and explosive speed. It was fun and interesting to get broader exposure to training methods. The basic point is that the cutting edge agnes, eli
of performance is explosive speed and power which comes from core strength, training for quick reactions, and using the hips/body properly. And that core strength is easily increased.

Lots of medicine ball work and such. Definitely worthwhile. Thanks Coach Boland for organizing and leading it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Karate Videos Online

First, a YouTube playlist of Lavallee students & sensei performing. Edward Mercer performs in a number of them. My favorite part is the second half of the Mercer 3rd degree black belt YouTube video which is the sparring.

The YouTube playlist has on it:
3rd Degree Black Belt Test -10 minutes
Kids and Karate - Clay dojo - 4 minutes. At 1:20 (time code), there's the white belt appreciation form. At 1:38, six count kicking. At 1:45, long one. At 2:40, three count kicking. At 3:25, there's short two (with one additional flip at the end.)
FORM: DS 1 FORM DS 1 (created by Daniel Sterling), performed by Master Ron Sell. 2 minutes
Arby's Karate Demo
plus more.
A video of my sparing for my black belt test is on the bottom of that article.
Videos by kata

Virtually all the kata now have descriptions and videos!!! Enjoy.
Wow your friends in class...

White belt appreciation form
Short one - coming soon
Long One - Kids and Karate Timecode 1:45
Short Two - Kids and Karate Timecode 3:25 (admire but don't attempt the flip at the end)
Bookset - coming soon
Chuck form one has embedded video of Melissa. (thanks Agnes)
Kama set has embedded video of Melissa. (thanks Agnes)
Six count kicking - Kids and Karate Timecode 1:38
Eight Count Kicking - coming soon
Ten Count Kicking - The kicks are not so pretty but he does seem be enjoying himself. And he has gotten better since this was filmed (I hope).
Three Count Kicking - Kids and Karate Timecode 2:40
Two Count Basics

Other plans are to add some stills that illustrate some of the basics such as:
cat stance
knee drop punch
- anybody have good photos to contribute? Videos?
Here is a how to on chuck form one by miss stefanie...

Friday, September 28, 2007

Sparring - Bugo Kuma Ite

Once you get to purple belt, at Steve Lavallee's East Coast Karate, bugo kum ite or sparring becomes part of the program. When I'm feeling good, I love the B Days (sparring days). When I'm injured, tired, or not right...I won't even show up. It's a bad idea to be on the floor on the sparring days when I can't go 100%.

The sparring is super-controlled. We wear head gear, 16 oz gloves, chest guard, feet and shin pads, and a cup. We only hit above the waist, never the face and we "tap-tap but never rap". Still, it's a contact sport. And that's what makes it fun.

For a view of what really good sparring in our school looks like, check out the second half of this youtube video of Edward Mercer on this 3rd degree black belt test. I think I can make out Jonathan Weeks, Raul, & Gavin as his partners. For a less impressive sparing display (ie, it's by me), look at the video on the bottom of the Black Belt Testing 2 article.

What makes sparring so enthralling is that there are so many details and strategies that need to be done at the same time. It's about getting the basics right while being quick and creative and reactive. and having great endurance (Cardio is king!). And the feedback on mistakes is immediate and direct....

My Guidelines to Better Sparring - Only Four Things to Focus On (Sept 07)

1. Keep my hands up. Specifically, my left lead hand falls and my head is wide open. I've been sparring for 3 years and still, I can't seem to keep my guard up. I would feel stupid except I see other high reds (rarely blacks) who can't keep their left hand in guard. So I'm not too deliquent on this one. But it's my highest priority. This is so important.

2. Keep my hands up and do NOT take them down to parry kicks or body shots. My partners have commented that it's simple for them to kick, watch me drop my hand to parry, and leave my head wide open. Ideally, I should parry quickly and get them back up. I've been told that better yet is when a front kick is coming in, I should turn my body or hips slightly to deflect it and avoid routinely downblocking or parrying low. It was fine against lesser competitors but against the blackbelts, it's inviting them to practice combinations on my head. As Jonathan Weeks explained; "When I kick or body punch, you usually shouldn't parry. You need to learn to move not just your shoulders but the body and hips so that the front kicks slide by. When it's that easy to get you to drop your hands, you're just lucky that I'm not supposed to hit you".

3. Pace Myself. I need to be quick and on my toes with my hands up in guard the entire match. This means that I need to pace myself. Kicks are surprisingly exhausting. a Even though I'm in good shape, I need to pace myself to perform for a full 120 seconds. I find this amazing but it's true. My goal is to be t my most intense in the last 30 seconds and so far, that is rarely the case. Sometimes, especially on the candidate classes, I'm just out-of-steam before the end of the match.

4. Stay on my toes and circle to my right (or, if I'm playing with a leftie, towards their jab, away from their cross). I hear this week after week, match after match. Still, I tend to circle towards their power side.

Those are the most vital lessons for me. If I can keep my left hand 100% in guard, and circle right while on my toes while keeping an even or accelerating pace thru a match, I've moved up a level.

Of course there are many more lessons (many many many more lessons!) but I need to make sure that I stay focused on those top four. Hands up, hands up, dancing, and pacing.

5. Combinations, not single shots. I've learned this and in over-emphasizing it, I'm failing to go in and out. Still, my list of effective combinations is too short. So far:
- jab, cross, semijab while stepping right and front round house
- semijab then left hook as they parry
- front kick, jab jab
- jab low, jab high, cross
- several kicking combos with the left such as round, side, side or front, side, round

6. In and out. Angle out. Don't charge in against the taller guys (ie Gavin). There will be a place where I am within reach of them but can't counter. My approach to charging thru that vulnerable spot created more problems than it solved. Stay balanced and shuffle thru.

7. Get out. I used to be leery of staying inside and boxing, always relying on my reach, kicks, and wheels. Since the spring, I'm coming inside comfortably. This past week, too comfortably and I'm letting it become a slugfest. As KC put it: "Don't be staying inside with Jonathan. If you keep hitting him from inside, you're not going to like where that goes."

8. Learn to bob & weave. Before I can stay inside, I need to have much better defense including ducking and bobbing which so far, I ain't got. Angel is amazing at this. Despite my reach, he could hang inside with me and I mostly miss his head. I parried some of his punches effectively and I can back-out really fast, I haven't figured out how dodge, duck, and bob. So, tap, tap, tap.

9. Keep my elbows in. I seem to have been blocking some kicks with elbows. Oops. Big oops. I'm mortified. Sorry.

10. My blocking of front roundhouses is still not right. Jonathan was showing me that I've been leaning into them including with my head which is not right. I should just tuck my head forward (chin into the chest), protect with my hand, and step in while crossing. The good news is that I've stopped turning so I'm not taking the kick in the back anymore.

Have I made any progress? Sometimes, I need to remind myself that I have....
- I don't signal my kicks by first dropping my hands anymore.
- I don't signal my head jabs by glancing upward prior to punching anymore
- My hands are probably in guard close to 85% of a match now
- I'm not throwing punches without intent and into space
- I'm using my cross (not enough)
- I have a repertoire (small) of combinations
- Some of my kick combinations are good
- My front kick is a great defense
- My balance is much better. It's been six months since I fell overbackwards while connecting on a front kick (which I used to do regularly)
- I think I've been on my toes 100% of the time over the last month
- I sometimes angle out, I sometimes circle right. Mostly against lesser partners, I tent not to when it most matters.
- I'm usually aware of blatant openings from partner's dropped guards and I take advantage of it.
- I'm not popping my head way up so much anymore (but I still do).
- I've starting punching to the body although it still feels like it pulls my hands too far down.
- I've increased my hand speed so that feeling of not even being in the game is gone.
- I've learned to breath and not hold my breath although I sometimes relapse.
- I've finally learned to throw a hook (left hook headshot mostly)
- Sometimes, I remember to change rhythms and to show some explosive speed after a slower period.

Further reading:
- Any ideas?
- Sparring Strategy
- Sparring Hints
- Sparring Tips (my favorite)

PS - A note on the term bugo kum ite - Is it bugo kum ta? Bugokumite? bugokumtai?bugokumatai? bugokumathai? bu go ku matai? bugo kuma thai? Bugo kuma tae? Bugo kumatae? bugo kumatae? bugokumatae? boogo cuma tae? boogokumatai? boog go ku matai? boogo koom tae, bugo koom a tai? bugo koom tae, boog koom tai, buggo kum tae. boogo kuma tai, boog go kum tai. Why this long list? I've told people they could find this site by googling "bugo kuma tai" but sadly, no two people seem to have the same idea of how to spell it. So if I add enough permutations, I'll cover the possibilities. bugg okum atai? boogg ocuma tai? bugokumite bugo kumite? bugo khom ite?

"Bugo" seems to be used to refer to a type of martial art, generically for fighting, or to be used sometimes as a term for your "fighting name". While bugo shows up in google, bugo does not show up in American dictionaries. Kumite seems to have to do with "armor" so bugo kumit is "fighting with armor" or perhaps "with amour" which would translate as fighting with love. Go figure.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Two mile timed run

One of the conditions of earning a black belt is to run 2 miles in under 16 minutes. I thought this would be easy but when I did my first timed run on a brutally hot day after an hour of sparring and having received many body shots, I clocked in at 16:19. I was over by 19 seconds!!!

So I started running and training with some intensity. One week later, on a cool evening, I clocked in at 15:40 :-> Hurrah, no more worries. Let the games begin.

So, I started chasing better times using as my target, Agnes. She was only about 25 seconds ahead of me.....

To make a long story short, my progress has been steady and dramatic. Last night, Sept 21, I did my personal best (again!) on the timed two mile run at 14:09!!! Yes, this is more than two minutes faster than when I started getting timed. I partially got there by deciding to stay next to Jennifer Melrose and then, near the end, seeing a chance to catch and pass young Steve Lavallee (the nephew, great guy).

But Agnes is still nearly 30 seconds ahead of me and her progress remains inexorable. She is fixated on trying to catch up with Kathy. Meanwhile, we are becoming one of the fastest running candidates classes in recent history since ahead of Kathy is some kids (12 years old) who as far as I can tell, is running in untied sneakers and going very fast.

I know that I'm going to beat 14 minutes before I'm done. What else?

I should mention that I'm strong in this one area. For many, maybe most, the sixteen minute two mile run is a huge personal challenge. They struggle hard to get their time down to 16 minutes and for many, with leg and hip problems, it is their waterloo. For others, it's just too fast. I struggle with flexibility, recovery time from classes, pushups, kicks, and situps but all those years of soccer left me with real wheels. It's said that in a soccer game, we use to cover 8 miles and while I was never the quickest, I always built my endurance up to be a source of strength.

Sports Nutrition

You are never too young to pay attention to what you eat. Well, that's not entirely true since there is far too much worrying about nutrition and skinniness by the people I know who are mostly great eaters with great figures. If you eat proper family meals and are not a fast food family, then STOP Worrying.

Still, at 49, I've started to do some reading on nutrition. So far, I can't say that I've truly got a feel for it. I have started to eat after my hard workouts. Oddly enough, my reading has convinced me that a glass of low fat chocolate milk is a sensible nutritious choice.

I still feel like I'm carrying an extra 10 pounds and 2 inches around my waist since four years ago, thru a combination of alot of running and a soft atkins diet, I worked myself down to 180 and stayed there for a year (feeling good too). But the literature is generally against it....And I seem to have the lost discipline to not eat the toast that comes with the cheese omelette, to stay away from the bread, and to take my burgers with no bun.

What reading seems worthwhile?

Sports Nutrition Overview
Nutrition After Working Out (this is where the chocolate milk idea appeared)
How much protein?
Gatorade Sports Institute Articles on Nutrition and Performance.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Two count basics

While this is not a full kata, it is a common and important drill.

Horsestance (in chamber).
Inward block with the right, outward left, upward right, and downward with the left.

Punch with the right on the 45 left switching to a hard bow.
Punch with the left on the 45 right switching to a hard bow the other way.
Circle kick with the left (rear) leg from the right to the left finishing with a punch from the right and another hard bow.

One: (now we do the opposite)
Horsestance and inward left, outward right, upward left, and downward right.

Left punch, right punch, circle kick with the rear right leg finishing with a punch from the left and another hard bow.

Friday, August 17, 2007

XMA2 - Summary

Kata, XMA 2, bow, turn right
X block forward, double downward punch.
look left, chop left, triple punch left
look right, chop right, triple punch right
punch forward, reach back, double punch forward.

Turn left pushing down with the right, double side kick forward, spin 360, chop forward left, punch forward.

Front kick, skip front kick, sping 360 chop forward again, punch forward onto a knee.

Xblock up, spin 360, spread arms out like wings, fall to the kneee
standup back into facing right starting position.
face forward, double block down, softbow left, XMA, assaa

click for a more detailed XMA2 description.
XMA2 Details. Frustratingly, I'm not performing well on this kata. It's frustrating since it does not require high kicks, endurance, or agility: us executive performers should shine...It's all details.... So, lets review the details....

X Block forward: hands are open, fingers tight together
Double downward punch: It's actually a push down with the hands open and ending with them still open with the palms facing the ground and somewhat horizontal (as if you had pushed). During the next few seconds, the fist is slowly made, a finger at a time, while the look intensified and looks to the left....
Punch forward, reach back: In the reach back, the forward hardbow is momentarily reversed into a rear hardbow and for a second, you actually look back. The emphasis is on the double front page and return to the forward hard bow.
Double side kick forward, spin 360, chop forward left, punch forward: After the side kicks, plant your right foot and spin off it. When you finish, be sure to plant your left foot forward and to a little off to the left, this gives you a better base for the chop.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

"Mom on a Mission"

The Mylene D Story- a story about a mom on a mission to achieve her goals

It’s 1990 in Montreal and I suddenly develop an absolute passion for the Martial Arts. At 23 and single, I start training in Kyokushin Karate. I enter a tournament at Orange Belt and to my surprise I win 1st Place in Forms and 3rd Place in Sparring. I train on and off for about 4 years having moved around and made it all the way to Brown Belt.

In 1994, decide to move to South Florida and start a new life with my new American boyfriend and married him in 1995. Not being a very athletic man, I fell into a “couch potato” routine and even begin to smoke in contrast to the way I had always lived my life, being healthy and active. Four (4) years go by and the relationship takes a turn for the worst; fighting about everything and just not happy with the way life is going, I decide to leave him in January of 1999, get my own apartment in Pompano Beach and file for divorce. Luckily, there were no kids involved. One (1) month later I decide it was time to go back to Karate. I had missed it so much it didn’t take me long to sign up and realized that even after 9 years, getting my Black Belt was still a very important personal goal. Because this was a completely different style of Karate called Kenpo, I needed to start all over again at White Belt.

So now it’s February 1999, I’m single again, I have a great job working in my field as a Software Developer, new friends and NO MORE SMOKING. I’m traveling to Europe and doing all the things I love which includes of course Karate 4-5 times a week. Nothing to stop me now from getting my Black Belt right? Wrong! A year later in February of 2000, I meet the man of my dreams, Paul, my soul mate and where? On the Internet of all places…but that’s another story. Three months later, we’re engaged to be married in October. Still training hard and moving up in rank, it’s now November 2000 and I am finally a Brown Belt and VERY pregnant with Domenic. Time to stop training again and “still” no Black Belt. I have the baby in March 2001 and move to Plantation a year later. Two more years go by and I’m aching to go back to Karate. Being a Stay-At-Home-Mom, Domenic is now 2 years old; I figure it’s time to get back to my training. So in January of 2003 I start to make plans to go back to Karate at the same school I trained before I got pregnant. Well, the story doesn’t end here…in the midst of making plans I find out I am 5 weeks pregnant with Carina. Of course I am excited and figure my Karate (and Black Belt) will have to wait. Carina is born in September 2003.

Still a Stay-At-Home-Mom now with 2 kids, one being an infant, Karate is virtually impossible. So I take up Turbo Kickboxing at the local Gym. Throughout 2004, I continue doing classes at the gym and slowly get back into shape. During this time, I would literally have dreams at night of me back in Karate classes. Well one morning in July 2005 after one of these dreams, I decide, “that’s it”…I’m GOING BACK! I am determined to get my Black Belt, now a “Mom On A Mission”…I start training again and things are going very well. I manage to balance my home life, kids, a husband AND karate 3 times a week.

So here we are January 2007, I am a High Red Belt and finally in cycle for my intensive Black Belt training with a due date of August 4th. A “candidate” for Black Belt, I start training 4 times a week which includes an 8:15am Saturday class and 4 two mile runs a week. My personal goal of becoming a Black Belt is becoming a reality…finally!! But wait…I have a big challenge. One of the many prerequisites for Black Belt (Endurance) is running 2 miles under 16 minutes. It’s February and I am running 2 miles in 19:30…I’m never going to make it, right? Wrong! Even though I honestly believed that for a while, it’s been 17 years I’ve been trying to reach this goal and I was determined! I have 6 months to get my time down so I run…and run…and run…and run even in 90 degrees shaving about 45 seconds per month. It hurt and at times I would feel like I was going to be sick but finally in June, my best time…2 miles in 15:49 minutes. I also pass my Black Belt test in July…I MADE IT!! Saturday August 4th 2007, I am presented with my Black Belt at the “Black Belt Spectacular” Show and I am in tears. I managed to fracture my little pinky toe while performing but “who cares”…at 40, a mom with 2 kids I am in the best shape of my life and I finally achieved a personal goal that took me almost half my life time.

At 40 I thought I knew myself pretty well but I realize now that with DETERMINATION you can achieve ANYTHING. My passion for the Martial Arts and my willpower kept me going and will keep me going. As moms we sacrifice so much. I completely gave up my career as a Software Developer and took a 4 ½ year hiatus from something I loved to be a Stay-at-Home-Mom by choice. Not regretting and loving every minute I stayed home to raise my children, I have to say I am glad I am “making time for me”. It is so important for moms to stay healthy physically and mentally that I have embarked on a mission to get more moms into getting FIT through Martial Arts. Even if Physical Fitness is not on the top of your To-Do List, I hope my story inspires you to reach your personal goals no matter what they are because I truly believe Determination is KEY! So if there is anything that you’ve always wanted to do…get out there and JUST DO IT!

Have fun, enjoy your children and make the most of life. Don’t leave for tomorrow what you would like to do today.