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Friday, June 28, 2013

Jacques S.

Jacques was a fellow student in the mid-to-late 1980s at Black Belt Academy, Hicksville.  I posted a message on his Facebook wall today, his birthday.  He left the following comment on the post:

"My dear friend, thank u for the b-dy wish..know that since our training, u have taught me confidence, courage, and strength throughout these many years. Throughout many times in my life I have drawn upon ur teachings to get me thru the hard times..Osu!!"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Mr. Ron Payne

In the year 2000, shortly after receiving the rank of SHO DAN-HO at the age of 37, I found it very difficult to continue training. Injuries came more frequently and maybe 4 months into my SHO DAN apprenticeship, I quit Shotokan completely.

At the age of 27, I was challenged by one of my co-workers to try ‘Karate’. There was a dojo in Baldwin and since both of us lived in the neighboring town of Freeport, I agreed to give it a try. Working construction had put me in relatively good shape, but Shotokan presented a much tougher workout. I remember to this day the pain in my feet. The instructor led the class through warm-ups, then “basics” and no one wanted to be singled out. Sensei always seemed to be having the most fun out of everyone in the dojo, always had a smile on his face, even while administering the necessary corrections liberally.

It was at the dojo that I learned the most powerful lesson ever, humility. I had worked my way through construction for years and had my own business. I had several employees and worked hard to keep us all busy. For a young man, I was relatively successful, I was in control. When I stepped onto the mat for the first time, I realized that none of that meant anything and that in this new environment I knew nothing!

If you need help, it helps to be humble. Here at the dojo were people of discipline, people who had achieved, through practice, amazing abilities. People younger and older than me were striving for their own personal milestones while inadvertently developing the ability to control aggression, to harness violence. Looking back, at 27, I was well on my way to losing my way; Shotokan saved me and helped make me who I am today.

Today at 47 I am now maybe 4 months back into my apprenticeship, I must first get back to where I left off at SHO DAN-HO. The miracle of medicine has my arthritis in check. Re-learning or remembering kata is fascinating now, muscle has memory and when it kicks in, it’s really cool. Interacting with old friends and new students is much more rewarding now. Still, Shihan seems to be having the most fun of all, always a smile while administering the necessary corrections liberally.

It is good to put on the Gi again; it is good to be in the company of Shotokan again.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Paul B.

First I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to test, and then receive, a Green Belt (6th kyu) in Shotokan Karate. Although I have many things to improve upon, and will continue to do so, I am excited to have reached the 6th kyu level. I truly appreciate all the extra time you gave me and all the times you worked with me after class to get me to the next kata or ippon in preparation for Green Belt test.

In addition to studying for my belt test, studying Shotokan Karate at your dojo has brought me the benefits I was looking in a traditional karate school (with a modern component). Your curriculum is rooted in traditional karate and yet, is flexible and modern in design. You begin by first demonstrating and explaining the traditional moves within the katas. Next, you explain then the hidden self-defense meanings of those moves. Then, each student is taught how to adapt these traditional techniques to suite their individual strengths and abilities for maximum effectiveness. Finally, we are given ample time to work with the other students and usually by the end of class, all of us have improved quite a bit. We also have a crystal-clear understanding of what we need to work on at home. Because of this approach, I always feel my home practicing has value because at the next class you review the techniques we've been practicing and then you make corrections and "raise the bar" just a little bit more for each of us. I see that this cycle of "learning in class - home practice- corrections at next class --raising the bar a little bit" is immensely valuable and is what keeps your students progressing while the students at some other karate schools I've tried (before joining yours) seem to stay at the same level and ability.

Although your classes are fast paced and provide a heart-healthy cardio workout, you allow ample time for questions and corrections. As result of training with your school, I've lost several inches around mid-section; started regaining my flexibility of 20 years ago and have a convenient way to exercise while reducing stress. I imagine other students who join your school (and who also train at home) will see similar results.

Thank you for providing such high-quality instruction and guidance.

Paul B.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Excerpts from Mr. Simon Nurse

. . . I graduated from Georgetown University last May with my BA in Psychology and Sociology and currently live in Arlington VA . . . I work at Georgetown in the Alumni Relations office as an assistant, helping promote Alumni events througout the country, along with Reunion, Homecoming and major community service award events throughout the year. Mom and dad are both doing very well and my brother Bobby passes along good blessings to everyone. I will be in New York for a day for my 5th Year High School reunion, which is probably the last time I've practiced my martial arts regularly. I would love to do so here, since there is a Shotokan Dojo around by my job, but I have arthritis in my right collarbone, which limits movement with my right arm (not that I couldn't just work the left side of my body, but I lack the free time right now really). Besides that everything else is going well for me and hopefully sometime soon I can visit the new dojo. Keep me informed with everything going on. . .

Simon (Mr. Nurse)
April 3, 2007 6:31 PM

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Mr. Jerry Saravia

I'm sure that even one year of martial arts training would be enough to change anybody that dared; I've done about 10 and I thank my parents for forcing me to go through with it those first few months. What happened after those first arduous months of training? I couldn't help myself, I had to have more, though at the time I'm sure I still blamed my parents for staying in training.

Of course now I'm proud of my training and though I don't tell many people about it I'm always happy to share stories with others who've trained. So to keep this entry short for now let us start with a short entry about how I got involved and why I still enjoy training.

I was about 10 years old when we got the first flyer advertising PAL martial arts and baseball programs at a gym establishment. My parents showed me the first flyer but I threw it away, at least that's what I remember, and my parents forgot about it until the second flyer came in reminding them about my pending decision. I had already played baseball during recess at school so I chose something new: martial arts. Classes were held in a basketball gym and we bared our feet to the floor during every class leaving them filthy with dirt at the end. The deal with my parents was that I would try it for the duration of the summer program and that'd be it. The first class wasn't at all bad. My grand teacher at the time was a funny man who for those first few days made me laugh more than anyone I had met. Everything he said was funny, even the insults. After those first few days I got my first asthma attack during class. That became the first obstacle in my training and we all know that at the first obstacle we all feel a bit deflected.

My natural response was no more training but no, no, no, no. There was the deal with my parents. They suggested that I take my inhaler to class as a safeguard against the attacks and so with no more excuse I headed back with my inhaler. I don't exactly remember when it is that I stopped using my inhaler and I'm glad I don't.

One day "more" another black belt came into class! I hadn't even thought about there being more than one! Mr. Simon Nurse. He had come from some mysterious place I didn't know about and he became the intrigue of that class. With him was another young man, Jermaine. I'd forgotten his last name but that makes him no less important. Jermaine, however, was a purple belt but you have to remember that up until then all I had seen was the instructor, who in my head by default had to be a black belt, and the other students who were white belts like me. Actually, we didn't even have uniforms so we were no-belts. Looking back at it now they did nothing special except do push-ups on bare floor with fists instead of flat hands and hold chairs with arms outstretched for minutes in a stance, kiba dachi, that I had never seen before. They were amazing and I needed to be like them!

At the end of the summer I tested for my yellow belt. My parents were willing to pay the fee for Shinsa. I don't remember how many people tested, how long I was there, nor what I did exactly. I know that I must've done the three beginner taikyoku katas, and some ippons but other than that the only real thing that stayed in my head was the moment I received my yellow belt through the "traditional" smack on the head. Happy as I could be, I went home that night content and wanting to keep on this path.

As far as why I still like to keep's addictive. When your body can do things that you never thought it could you want to find out what else it can do. When you can't do what you know your body can do you want it back! Being loose and limber is something that at a young age is natural. As a result of my training I've been able to maintain it. I can almost do a split and I can kick at a good height. "Normal" people my age can't even lift their legs hip height without crimping their faces in pain. The day after a workout where my legs have been worked I get to feel what the pain is like but I'm always glad to know that the soreness will go away; that I'll be able to "lift" my leg again another day. Sometimes even "normal" people look handicapped to me. They're not handicapped in any way of course but if all you can do or you want to do with your legs is walk then I wouldn't want to be you.

That's all for now. Stay sharp!
December 18, 2006 1:04 PM