Saturday, February 28, 2009

Self Defense - Want to help blog about it?

I've always wanted to keep a record of all the self defense and holds and grabs that we learn. I'm now convinced that this is best done as videos with some descriptions and commentary.

Realistically, I just don't have the time to get it done. Would you like to help? Have some comments on training at Lavallees and how it affects your life? Want to learn about blogging? In short, I'm soliciting a co-author to work on the blog for awhile.

Here's the deal. If you train at Lavallees and want to help, I'll show you how. I guess the other minimum requirement is that you have a digital camera that can take videos. And a sense of humor coupled with good internet access would help.

Interested? If so, email me as bbat50 @

You might wonder why I put in all those spaces in my email address. It's because the spammers are less likely to harvest my email when it's written this way and I'm trying to not increase the number of solicitations for cheap medicines, opportunities to help move millions out of Africa, or invitations from friendly young ladies in Eastern Europe.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Whats new at Steve Lavallees?

The curriculum continues to evolve. There is a new emphasis on calisthenics and strength. Students must do "extras" after class. Specifically, the black belts are asked to do 175 pushups and situps after class. Most of consider this to be *A LOT*. In my case, given the iffy condition of my back, it's not possible. There is a hierarchy of expectations starting with 35 for the orange belts.

There is an increased emphasis on weapons. The chucks are now part of the orange belt curriculum, the brown belts are working on a Kama Set Two and the black belts on on the American Bo Form. They are introducing a sword too. Some people are grumbling about how the introduction of a fourth weapon increases the overall expenses at a time when the sensitive thing would be to be thinking about evolving the curriculum away from additional expenses.

In self defense,we seem to have ended the focus on krav maga type reference point defense by working last week on a traditional kempo defense. We protect against a downward strike with an Xblock, writst grab, then step under, elbow strike, then rotate back under again breaking the arm. Like all the kenpo defenses, it's a little complicated but deadly effective if you can get it right. On this one, if you cross your wrists wrong for the initial block or don't wrist-grab properly, you are SOL.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

Kids, karate, parents, and interests. Oh my!

I just read a post on BlackBeltMama's blog where she bemoans that you can't always get what you want. Specifically, she's frustrated that her young daughter is "just not that into karate".  Parenting can be full of frustrations.

Efi fogel

Frankly, I feel if we get any positive feedback as we go, we're way above par.

I've always felt that it's an impossible job to find a balance between how much "guidance" to provide the kids and how much to let them follow their own interests. How pleased to be about anything that makes them happy (don't ask me about video game playing and insect dissecting) and how much to pressure for "productive exercises".

My story about kids and sports has a funny twist on it all.

As background, I've been a lifelong soccer player. I lived in England from 2nd through 4th grade and when I got back to the States and tried the American sports, well,  I never caught up with those who had a few years of little league and football experience. But in 8th grade, my junior high launched a soccer team and I decided to try out for it.   There was no sports pressure from my folks or friends at all, I just tried out, made the team, and found my "thing".

I played competitively until my early 40s. These soccer team pictures are my high school team,  my town team from my years in the Peace Corps in West Africa, and the third picture is a team that I played on in my mid 30s in California.

Sangmelima Equippe de football 1981

As soon as my own kids were old enough, I enrolled them in soccer. I'd kicked with them from the time that they could stand and kick, watched world cup games with them on TV, and coached their teams.

Yet, only an occasional flicker of interest from them and no particular aptitude. My college teammates have kids playing at very competitive levels but mine put up with soccer for a few seasons but then, worked their way out of it.  I was a little disappointed.

My interest in karate started while watching my son. I got tired of watching and decided to enroll in the parent program.  I followed him into the martial arts.  I should consider myself very lucky he didn't enroll in gymnastics or diving or swimming. I didn't pressure either of my two daughters and today, all three kids and myself are taking and enjoying karate. It's a great time for us.

Bethesda Chevy Chase soccer team 1976

My point: parental impact is rarely what we expect. Until the two girls showed interest in karate (following me in), I had been thinking about getting some tattoos and piercings since I was pretty sure if Dad had them, the kids wouldn't get them. Or date people with tatoos.

What's my point? 
Sometimes exposure and slight pressure works, sometimes it doesn't. I tend towards flexibility and letting them emerge rather than pushing them into something. Of course, that's only my perception of what's going on.  They probably feel relentless pressure to be one thing or another...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Warriors Collide 6 - Dan Walsh

I was just looking around Youtube and I found that egoose2000 put up the videos of Dan Walsh's Warriors Collide 6 Fight. Here they are. Enjoy.

That was the same night that Melissa Haley faught. Both victorious!
Warriors Collide 6 - Mr Dan Walsh - Round 1

Mr Dan Walsh - Round 2

Mr Dan Walsh - Round 3
(Larger & with a border!)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Videos of our Kata

The most popular part of this blog is the videos of the kata. Great news. I've started upgrading the technology on them so that you can watch them full screen. And I'm adding captions. Very cool. Here is a list of what we have and who is doing them.

White Belt Appreciation Form - Features a horsestance still picture and video of our instructor, Mr Dan.
Kempo Kata Short One - The video is of Kathy, who got her black belt with me.
Example of the new improved video technology - cool, huh?

Six Count Kicking - Woops, still no video of this. I'll try to fix it this month. Can you help....?
Kempo Kata Long One (update July 07) - Mr Dan showing a hard bo stance and the kata.
Eight Count Kicking - Again, a description but no video....
Kempo Kata Short Two - A still of Jennifer (3rd degree) showing catstance and Kathy performing the kata.
Ten Count Kicking - A video from testing of the group and a poor and old video of yours truly.
Bookset - Three videos. You can watch Kathy, Jennifer, or me.
Kata Chuck Form One - A video from a candidate class with Melissa and Jennifer (different Jennifer) in the foreground.
Two Count Basics - A video of a candidate class performing the basics.
Kata XMA Form One - A video of a juniors class showing great enthusiasm. One of them is mine.
Kata XMA Form Two - The video is of Olivia who makes it appear effortless. It can be full screen and I've started to add captions.
XMA Chuck Form One - Mr Dan making it look easy too.
Three Count Combos - An older video of a class. A better one would be nice.
Kama Set - A candidate class with Jen & Melissa in the front of the class.
Kama Set Two - Mr Dan.
Three Set Kuma Tai - Missing video ?X?
Chuck Form One - Miss Stephanie
Short Three - Mr Dan looking sharp.
American Bo Form - Mr Mike Galindo looking very sharp. It has many captions and is full screen.
Logar Shin - One of the amazing twins showing a kung fu-derived kata from Hungar Karate which has appeared in our curriculum at the black belt level.

Thanks to all of you who have modelled for the blog.

I might be stalking around with the camera again soon trying to fill in the blanks so please spare me the false modesty and let me make a online star out of you.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The martial arts are supposed to be...martial

I'm going to quote another Steve Irwin's blog post at some length about Nice Karate since I thought it was great:

Most people get a buzz out of their training. The Dojo is a "nice" place to be. It is populated by "nice" people and karate's an easy way to spend an hour or two away from work, TV, exam revision, the kids(!), or anything else. That's how it should be, a positive environment without undue anxiety or hostility. But it can go too far the other way....

Do you do "nice" karate? The sort where you can dress up and do your stuff, sitting in the comfort zone of a few basics, lots of kata and a good laugh.

But karate should be a martial art, and that means we need to get uncomfortable. Discomfort grows us. Comfort makes us stale, and lazy. As Funakoshi wrote, "Karate is like a pan of boiling water. Take it off the heat and it soon cools".

Problem is, some people don't like the heat.

So we set about challenging ourselves through physical training and mental training too. The effort required to last that extra minute, or even get out of the house on a cold night decides whether we grow or not.

Anyone signing up for martial arts must be prepared to push themselves. Martial arts aren't a substitute for a social club. They're not a new age love-in, they are about hard work and effort......

It continues. Great post Steve. Sounds like a great dojo.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Blogging Video Technology - The American Bo Form

I've been asked by people to post kata so that the videos can be watched full screen. To be honest, I've never really thought about how I put up the videos. Now that I've looked at it, it seems that I post my videos in one of two ways. Here is a demo of the two versions and how they look. They feature Mr Galindo doing a very slowed-down demo of the American Bo Form.

I've been looking at Youtube and have discovered a new feature (at least new to me): ANNOTATIONS. I think, for my purposes, the annotations could be really really cool. Of course, who has the time to revisit all of the kata, move them to Youtube, and then painstakingy annotate them? (Again, interns welcome. You can come work in the Time4Learning office). There are a few annotations on this one but I'm struggling still to control the timing and placement of them.

Youtube version with some annotations:

Blogger video version:

I uploaded the first version of the video to Youtube and then pasted the Youtube video into the blog post. I uploaded the second version video using the blogger upload video tool. This does not allow for a full screen option.

It's pretty clear that Youtube is the better way to do it. I guess I should go back and update all the videos on my blog. Anybody want to do some work for an internship?

Sunday, February 08, 2009


I get a fair amount of comments at the dojo about the blog. Mostly, people like having a reference for the kata. That's actually why I first started it. But it's turned into something else for me, something that I miss almost as much as karate when I don't get to it regularly, something that is part of my regular routine of reflection and goal setting.

What I really like about the blog is how it provides me a structure to think things through. For instance, I was bursting with joy after running with my son today. I was probably a bit of a bore trying to tell others how I felt. The blog provided me a way to to take a few minutes to focus on why it was such a thrill by trying to write it down.

At karate, there is much talk of goal setting. And the importance of this being a formal process with goals written down and shared with others. Sounds to me like a case for blogging.

At karate, there is much talk "the importance of bookends". This means that it's important to pay attention to how you start and stop each activity and each days. It sounds to me like they were suggesting that you should finish each day with a short blog post reflecting on the reality of today and the goals for tomorrow.

I started bloggin by taking a course on it. Which was great. It's not necessary of course, you can start in a few minutes and discover you own path. But I enjoyed having a group of readers from the start and people who would give me feedback from the start. And answer questions.

The course runs infrequently but is scheduled to start again on February 16th. It is really fun, takes about 2 hours per week, and is ridicuously cheap. If you are ciurious, you should take the free Blogging PreCourse (which you can do online right now) to get a feel for what's involved before signing up for Blogging 101.

And in the spirit of full disclosure, the Blog Course is part of (kids online writing courses)
Student learning to write is part of Time4Learning (online basic skills education for kids from PreK to middle school) which is my day job.

Homeschol curriculum .

Note the "black belt blogging" theme was shifted to the less martial but more marketable last year but I still prefer the old name and graphics for several reasons including the fact that my daughter is the model on the banner.

Proud Father

Sunday mornings are the best. Not every Sunday mind you. It's only every other Sunday (at best) when the ducks line up for me the way I like.

That's when my two kids from my first marriage are with me. Faithful readers will know that my initial interest in the martial arts was sparked by watching my son at his karate class. Well, he is growing up and he's getting ready for the final run towards the black belt (ok, he's still a brown belt so it'll be a long run).

Running. Running is todays topic. Running is one of the big bagaboos for many people in our school. To get your black belt, you need to be running regularly from red belt onwards and you need to get your time for a two mile run to under 16 minutes. So my son and I have started running together on our Sunday mornings together.

We run early enough so he can still make it to Sunday school. Today, for the first time, we drove to the back of the dojo which is the official site for timed runs. I was hoping that we could break nine minutes for one mile. I'm out of shape and he is still getting started running.

So, how pumped was I when after the first mile, the watch showed 4 minutes 20 seconds?!?

Then, at the three quarters of a mile spot, my son says, "Time to kick."

And whoa! He goes shooting out in front. Better acceleration than I've got. Or had in a very long time.

I chased after him and we finished together at 8:02.

I particularly liked the discussion afterwards when he showed, for the first time, an understanding of what a nine, eight, and seven minute mile actually meant. And one versus two miles. No longer abstract to him, we talked about how to work our times down. And how to start targeting the two mile distance and time. We agreed that we need to do three distinct types of runs for the near future:
  • Long runs. Two mile runs at first to get use to the distance. He liked the idea of signing up for a 5K and frankly, I think we can probably jog through it now, albeit with a walk or two.
  • Timed one mile runs. Our next goal is to beat the 8 minute mark. Since my best time for the timed two miles was 14:08, he knows that 7 minutes is near my limit. I think he's planning to beat it. I'd bet on him beating it within a year.
  • One to two mile runs with intermittent short (25 yard) sprints.
I'm over the moon thinking of regularly running with my kids. I've rarely had such a pure dose of motivation.