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.


Anonymous said...

It is not really two mile course. Check again. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Way to go , I tested for my Black Belt in Kyukido shortly before I turned 50 .I started for exactly the same reasons

Good Luck

joel12 said...

Hi, Amazing I started for the same reasons at 50. Just got my yellow belt, I,m still scared of Kumite and trying to get over it mentally. Strange cos i,m not a small bloke! Will my confidence grow?

BBat50 said...

Hi joel. Size has not that much to do with it. The people with fear over kumite tend to be those that haven't had experience with lots of high contact sports and those who didn't have brothers and sisters that they wrestled and faught with. It takes awhile to get comfortable with people hitting you. Soon, you'll learn, that it doesn't hurt and people are very restrained. But initially it is somewhat unnatural to be comfortable standing face to face with someone who is hitting and kicking you.


Mark Schueler said...


Started @ 51 myself. Same deal though, my 9-year-old son wanted to do Tae Kwon Do, so we did it together. Wasn't easy, but here we are four years later with our black belts and ready to continue!

Mark S.
Vashon, WA, USA
and Southampton, UK

BBat50 said...

Mark - Great, isn't it? I feel so lucky that I get to do this stuff. Heh, I was near Southhampton this summer...Hillhead. A village nearby. Small world.

Anonymous said...

Great story! I am taking a similar course in my life. My 18 yr old got interested in Shotokan, and started taking lessons. I had taken Tang Soo Do about 20 years ago, but was forced to stop due to a serious injury. His interest sparked mine again, and I just passed my test for 8th Kyu. My goal is to attain my black belt by the time I am 50 (I'm 44 now).

Anonymous said...

Hi , I am 48 and same situation with the ex-wife and my son . I go with my son to Jujitsu and hope to get my black belt at 52. ( 50 is now the new 30 )



Anonymous said...

BBat50 - your story which you are so matter of fact inspirational. You make time for find time for the work on developing shared interests....apparently and your kids are very lucky.

I do all of this to but not at your level. Reading your blog shows me how much more I can do and how rewarding it will be.

ronsan60 said...

Great Job earning your Black Belt. I am 49 and have been training since 1983. If you would like a little history about Lavallee's take a look at My Myspace blog. ronsan60. I documented my journey in the "arts" as I remember it I trained in the "old days" and also knew people who trained at the old Tracy's school run by Lee Thompson (the school Steve Lavallee trained at and bought). In fact one of my best friends had Steve Lavallee as an instructor when Steve Lavallee was just a Blue belt under Lee Thompson. Good luck with your journey.

ronsan60 said...

John: here is link to a face book page that has a lot of photo's from Lavallee's in the "old days". I never took any so I don't have any of my own but some of my friends do. This face book page as some great pictures. They don't indentify everyone. I can Identify almost all in every photo, even found myself in one standing in the background with the other instructors during what looks like a test night. If you want me to identify people not identified in the photo's copy the photo and email it to me.

Everyday above ground is a good day! (My Grandfather)

BBat50 said...

Ronsan60 - I love the history stuff. If someone sent me good old pics, I'd put them up on the blog. Thanks.

Unknown said...

Hello BBAt50

Great Kata videos very helpful. 1 problem the Kama Set is not downloadable or playable > ?

Can you help me out . Thanks

BBat50 said...

Rick, Thanks for pointing out the problem with kama set. I've added a new version which always works. john

Anonymous said...


I'm 46 and just started on the same path. However, I'm a brown I belt TKD from approx 25 years ago so I'm actually starting from scratch.
Kyu9 in April 2010 :-)


Anonymous said...

I really enjoy your website and the great videos. Stumbled across it purely by accident, but am glad I did so. Similar story....watched my kid for 5 years and finally decided I was tired of watching. Started at 43, obtained my black belt and now instruct with my daughter as my assistant.

Good luck with your future training!


kenpoleo said...

Greetings BB@50
I have trained off and on for many years. Seems an injury, family emergency or other setback has kept me from my black belt goal. I am 46 and want to get back into the dojo (Shotokan). Thanks for the inspiration. I can still do it at 46.

Unknown said...

I have a somewhat similar story. My son started Kenpo at the age of 8, and after spending several classes watching I was drawn in. It had been 20 years since studying Tae Kwondo, with a smattering of Cuong Nhu and Goju Ryu in there for good measure. I'm currently at orange-belt level at the age of 47. My goal is also to become a black belt at (or possibly before) 50. Great to read the story of your journey.

BBat50 said...

hi Jack. You keep at it. The belt is a nice goal but more importantly, it keeps us young and learning. Without it, I'd turn middle aged, real quick.

Here's the update. Spring 2010, I earned a second stripe on my black belt. I continue to be amazed by it all.

Rich Holmes said...

Tomorrow I will (I expect!) become a high red belt at 55. Black belt cycle begins in October...

But never mind that, how about black belt -- tenth degree black belt! -- at 98? Link:

ray said...

I too was very scared, but what surprised me at tournaments was how my opponents were just as scared. By the way I was always the oldest fighter, being in my late 40's while my opponents were always at least 15 years younger.

Anonymous said...

i enjoy your site. found it accidentally while trying to find bunkai for kata. i too started at a late stage in life .39. after a23 year break im now brown belt again, bad knees and all .good luck ,best wishes derek. in ireland

Pink Gis said...

Congratulations to you! I earned my black belt in Okinawan Kenpo earlier this year, at the age of 50. I'm now working towards my Nidan rank, as well as learning weapons and more jujitsu. What I thought would be a nice workout turned into a passion / obsession. I love it!

Thanks for your blog - I enjoy reading thoughts of students who are close to me in age. Banzai!

Anonymous said...

John - Very inspirational. I started at age 53 (2 years ago) and just recently earned blue belt. Competing in my first regional tournament in a couple of weeks. Best of luck in your future endeavors. Ted

wong long wing chun said...

Awesome story, really inspirational. I'm glad I stumbled upon your blog. Happy training!

Anonymous said...

Very interesting story. Keep up the good work!
I'm 68 and started Kenpo classes 8 months ago and presently a yellow belt.
I have a back injury from when I was in the service and experience severe back spasms. Over time the spasms are more severe and takes longer to get back to norm. But after explaining to my instructor my condition he has adapted a program to what I can do, no spinning back kicks etc. When sparring...all the young bucks have orders to take it easy on the old guy and much appreciated.
I have to admit...I think about tweaking my back before every class but so far so good.
Hopefully I can last long enough to earn my black belt.