Tag Archives: Martial Arts

Guess Who Didn’t Get In The Hapkido Beginners’ Course

Here I am really psyched about learning more of the Korean martial art of Hapkido.

This is what I have found out about Hapkido:

The term Hapkido itself consists of three words which are

hap ‘coordinating’
ki ‘energy’
do ‘way’

Let’s just settle for ‘the way of coordinating energy’, shall we?

Hapkido is a form of self defense that uses joint locks and techniques of other martial arts.

It also incorporates traditional weapons, including the short stick, cane, rope, nunchucku, sword, and even the staff.

As a Hapkidoka (does that sound right?) you learn how to apply long and close range fighting techniques, using dynamic kicking and percussive hand strikes at longer ranges and pressure point strikes, jointlocks, or throws at closer fighting distances.

Hapkido is all about circular, non-resisting movements, and about controlling your opponent.

You learn the advantage through footwork and body positioning to get leverage, so you can avoid using strength against strength.

Hapkido was developed from Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu or a closely related jujutsu system taught by Choi Yong Sul who returned to Korea after WWII, having lived in Japan for 30 years.

This system was later combined with kicking and striking techniques of taekkyeon and tang soo do.

But back to me being all psyched about starting with Hapkido.

The latest publication of my local county’s Parks & Recreation Fall Activity Guide listed a beginners’ course with 8 lessons for a really reasonable fee which definitely got my interest.

So, I call the program coordinator who tells me that they needed just one more participant for the course to take place. Sounds like a plan to me!

I jump into my car and head on over to their offices to sign up.

There I am filling out all the forms as diligently as you would expect from any serious, law-abiding martial artist.

Then the program coordinator drops the bomb after I had completed all the filling out stuff:

“Sir, you are aware that this course is targeted to kids from 6 years and older?”

Well, now that he brought it to my attention, I was. Thank you very much!

While I processed this new and vital information, I asked him to tell me what the average age of the other course participants who had signed up so far.

Guess what his answer was!

“Six years old.”

Well, I don’t know about you guys, but that is not the kind of course yours truly wantedto get in.

I was looking for something more like what you see in the video below, just click on the YouTube link:

 

If you have tried Hapkido or have been a practitioner for a couple years now, let me know about your experience. I really want to know.

 

Tennis And The Martial Arts

Most of you already know that besides martial arts, I also enjoy tennis and how martial arts can relate to the game, specifically my game of tennis.

Just the other day, I stumbled across a blog post written by Gary Bala over at TimlessTennis.netthat I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

“Fear not the racket, but the player who wields it.”

-A martial arts weapons philosophy showcased in the movie Ninja Assassin, and modified for the game of tennis.

“Most of what I teach comes right out of the martial arts – the physics, the fundamentals, the self-discipline – and your mind is your greatest weapon.”

 -Coach John Nelson, Univ. of Hawaii Men’s Tennis Program, College Coach 26 years, Master’s Degree in Education, 3rd degree Black Belt in Ju Jitsu

I. Introduction: The Brother Disciplines
Since the Bruce Lee movies of the 1970s, the self-discipline of the Martial Arts has captured the public’s imagination. Watching empty hands and feet used as lethal weapons at lightening speed, powered only by the mind’s will, hypnotized modern fans and observers.

The term “martial arts” actually means the “art of war.” And the term can be traced back to the Roman God of War, Mars. Chinese martial arts date back 4000 years ago to the Xia Dynasty. Martial arts is widely considered however both an art and a science. Many forms of martial arts are linked to religious beliefs such as Confucianism or Daoism or follow a code of honor. The purpose of martial arts is self-defense or defense of others. More broadly however, the goal of martial arts is to offer its students self-knowledge and a better understanding of man and nature.

The forms of the martial arts are varied and far-reaching. They are primarily found in the Far East (Japan, Korea, China). But they also touch the Middle East, South Asia and even the Americas and Europe: Ju Jitsu, Karate, Aikido, Judo, Kung Fu & Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, Ninjutsu (Ninja fighting), Jeet Kune Do (hybrid form), Pentjak Silat (Thai martial arts), Kalari (Indian martial arts), Hikuta (Egyptian martial arts), Capoeira (Brazilian martial arts dance), Open-handed wrestling (Native American martial arts), Savate (French Kickboxing), and others.

All the martial arts share some common characteristics, among them: balance, posture, control, flexibility, timing, hand-eye-foot coordination, aggression, grace, power, agility, speed, strategy, tactics, and more. Indeed, many of these elements are shared with many other sports and activities such as soccer, basketball, football, even archery.

This article will focus however on aspects of the martial arts which make it unique, and relate them to the game of tennis. These key elements help remind tennis players of the vital parts of our own developing game. And they show how accomplished martial artists and high-level tennis players are learning and refining their craft on a shared platform with common goals – they are truly “brothers-in-arms.”

II. The “Chi” is Universal and The Core is “King”
In martial arts, it is believed that there is a universal energy or “chi” in all things. “Chi” is thought to be the source of all power and fluidity in martial arts strikes. In the human anatomy, the universal energy is believed to be centered in the navel. In tennis, the human core or trunk is the ultimate source of power and energy into the ball from strokes.

In tennis, power emanates from the ground up. It is created through well-timed use of the kinetic chain from feet, legs, hips, trunk, arms, hands, racket, all applied into the ball. Many call this “core rotation” in high-performance tennis. Compare this with the roundhouse kick in for example Tae Kwon Do. The roundhouse kick rises from the ground in a springing action, the legs and hips pushing through in an acrobatic move, resulting in a well-timed application of force towards the opponent.

The kinetic chain in tennis and the Chi energy release of martial arts are really two forms of the same process – gathering or coiling energy, and then releasing or uncoiling it, either at the tennis ball or at the martial arts opponent. The human anatomy’s coil-and-uncoil mechanism seems to have three axes points: at the shoulders, the hips and the knees. These same human axes points are used in many martial arts strikes.

To maximize the flow of energy and thus power, the marital arts also emphasizes “punching through the strike”. This means visualizing your arm or leg literally pushing through the opponent. In comparison, tennis emphasizes “hitting into and through the line of the shot”, and extending your stroke follow through or finish towards your target.

III. The Universe is Balanced, Rhythmic and Harmonious 
For the martial arts, there is a balance, rhythm and harmony to all things in nature. And nature is a source of inspiration. Indeed, many martial arts strikes are in fact taken from the moves of the animals. Kung Fu for example is divided into animal styles (real and mythic): the snake, panther, tiger, crane, and dragon. Fighting styles in Kung Fu include, among others: the praying mantis and the drunken monkey.

One of the keys to the martial arts is the concept of balance and centering of the human body. The Ninja fighters of the discipline of Ninjitsu for example are legendary for their balance skills. They are known to practice their strikes on a balance beam. Similarly, the art of Aikido focuses on the body’s center, and teaches that all power and control protrudes from that center in a relaxed state.

Martial arts is essentially a rhythmic dance of timed strikes from perfect postures. For example in Karate, the kata is a precise, highly-defined and pre-determined sequence of strikes. In Tai Chi, the student learns a continuous pattern of postures that actually form a dance. Countless repetitions of the martial artist’s moves develops timing, rhythm and cadence. Bruce Lee once remarked: “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Consider that, in tennis, some of the keys to high-level performance are the same: balance in stroke production, consistency in shot-making, and the rhythm that is offered by for example learning the Wardlaw directionals. Other concepts such as precise timing and good posture in stroke technique, and the value of sound repetitions of strokes, can be taken directly from the martial arts. And if martial arts exercises collectively teach a cadence or dance, then tennis teaches the cadence of the split-step in moving to the ball, which is essentially the “dance of tennis.”

For martial arts, the world is full of harmonious cycles – the changing of the seasons, the cycles of the sun and stars, and the release of human energy and exercise followed by rest and recovery. Both martial arts and tennis instruct students not only about stroke power and energy, but also about the importance of body recovery and healing. Rest, rejuvenation, ice, heat, nutrition, hydration, stretching, and massage are critical to consistent top performance in both disciplines.

IV. The Ready Position 
The “get-ready-to-fight” position in martial arts and the “ready” position in tennis are amazingly the same. The feet are spread comfortably shoulder-width apart. The knees are bent. The body’s weight is on the balls of the feet. The arms and elbows are also bent and relaxed. The hands are loosely out in front. Waist, back, neck and head are straight. The student is comfortable, relaxed and ready to move.

V. Watch, Listen and Breathe
In martial arts combat, the student must utilize every form of sensory perception – sight, sound, touch. He must observe, listen and breathe. He must gauge his opponent, anticipating his next move. He must exercise self-control. He focuses on his breathing to help still his mind’s thoughts. He keeps his back straight, his body balanced, and his head stabilized. He moves like the panther and strikes like the cobra.

Compare this with the high-level tennis player in a contested match. He must continuously track the ball, keeping the head stabilized. He must continuously split-step just before the opponent’s racket contacts the ball, so as to move to it with maximum speed and efficiency, appearing to glide on the court. He should seek to hear the sound or “pop” of the ball off of his racket. He may focus on breathing to quiet his anxiety and fears. His body is balanced, back straight and head completely still. His moves are cat-like, and he seeks at first opportunity to go on the offense with his shot.

Both martial arts and tennis encompass the two polar opposite styles of execution or “schools of thought”: in martial arts, the aggressive power style vs. the steady methodical style, and in tennis, the hard court attacking game vs. clay court point construction style. In martial arts, the power style is represented, for example, by aggressive chops of Karate or the flying kicks of Tae Kwon Do. Whereas the steady methodical style is represented, for example, by the graceful flips of Judo or the circular strikes in Aikido. In tennis, professional players divide, among other ways, into groups which excel at the hard court attacking game (Andy Roddick or Taylor Dent) vs. the clay court point construction style (Rafael Nadal or David Ferrer).

VI. The Power of Smooth
The “power of smooth” refers to a relaxed confidence and an unbroken fluidity, resulting in top performance results. It’s about maximum efficiency with minimal effort. It’s about operating with a deliberate unhurried purpose, without appearing pressed or pressured by time, the opponent or conditions.

In martial arts, one noteworthy example of smooth is the discipline of Aikido – known as the “throwing art”. In Aikido, the student learns a fluid, circular and harmonious defense to an attack. The Aikido student blends in with the attacker’s moves, and returns the attack with relaxed, loose circular throws and flips. Even multiple attackers can be repelled by a confident graceful practitioner who can re-direct one opponent’s attack on a fellow attacker.

In tennis, the top professionals exhibit relaxed, loose, graceful strokes with confident purpose. They never look hurried, pressured or off-balance. Indeed, they “play the ball” and do not allow the ball or the opponent to “play them”. They play with soft hands and loose face muscles, especially at the time of split-step and just when the opponent makes contact with the ball. When faced with attacking power, they return the opponent’s power at him. When faced with opportunity such as a short ball, they are deliberate and decisive. They move forward fluidly and cut off angles gracefully.

VII. You are Always the Student Forever 
In martial arts as in tennis, you are always the student forever. Coach John Nelson, 26 years college coaching, Master’s Degree in Education, and martial arts black belt, put it this way: “The more you get into the martial arts or tennis, [the more] you realize that you don’t know it all. Anyone who thinks that they know it all is finished. They’re not going to continue to develop. So you always become a student.”

VIII. Victory is Vital, But in the End, More Vital is Your Growth and Passion 

Winning is naturally vital in a martial arts contest or a tennis match. But victory will depend in no small part on winning the psychological test of wills against the opponent -who will impose their will on the other? Bill Tilden, in How to Play Better Tennis, wrote pointedly that in a tennis match: “One player…will ultimately impose his tennis personality on the other.” The very same is true in the martial arts.

Both martial arts and tennis are asking the student to test their own outer limits and fulfill their own highest standards. What are the limits of the student’s fatigue, fitness, endurance, flexibility, and strength? What are the student’s highest expectations of his play, his shots, his execution, his strategy, his self-discipline, and his confidence and relaxation?

The final goal, of course, is advancing to a higher level in skill and ability in either the martial arts or tennis. On that score, your worthy opponent makes you better and stronger, as does each of your valuable matches and practice sessions. And your growth and passion for the discipline of the martial arts or tennis is all that can ultimately drive you to a higher level.

IX. The Mental Contest
Andre Agassi, in his autobiography Open, wrote poignantly about the mental battle of tennis. And amazingly the very same applies to the martial arts: “Tennis is the loneliest of sports…In tennis, you’re on an island, with no clock. You can’t sit on a lead. You have to win the last point to win the match. You’re out there, you can’t talk to anybody, you can’t pass the ball, there are no time-outs. There’s no coaching, you don’t have to be good, you have to better than one person and that person is on the other side of the net.”

X. Conclusion
Martial arts and tennis share the loneliness of battle, the fight to the finish, and the solitude of victory or defeat.

Both disciplines are about hard work, self-discipline, and problem-solving.

And both are ultimately about self-knowledge, and your own highest standards for yourself.

…and they are about the lessons of life and the nature of man.

Timeless Tennis: A Blog
www.timelesstennis.net

Sources:
1. Tennis Kung Fu, by Master Bruce Wang, Ph.D. (Lulu.com, 2008)
2. The Complete Martial Arts, by Paul Crompton (McGraw-Hill, 1989)
3. Coach John Nelson, Univ. of Hawaii Men’s Tennis Program, College Coach 26 years, Master’s Degree in Education, and 3rd degree Black Belt in Ju Jitsu
4. Ron Miller, GottaPlayTennis.net, Tennis Instructor 20+ years, and former Martial Arts student of Goju Karate & Aikido

Why Kick High If You Can Kick Low?

I know that well executed high kicks can get people’s attention and admiration. When competing in certain styles such as Tae Kwon Do, Karate etc.  that’s how you get the points, right?! I also know they have their justification, so just hear me out.

Speaking from my personal experience, it’s very exhilarating to execute a yodan-kizami-zuki (upper jab), a chudan-gyaku-zuki (cross to solar plexus) and then finalize with a yodan-mawashi-geri (upper roundhouse kick) to an opponent’s temple. Hmm, was just strolling down memory lane.  Yeah, baby (was supposed to sound like Austin Powers!).

Now, many years later, for me the first two techniques no problem. The final mawashi geri to the what? Let’s get real, will ya? I am not 20 anymore, so I will simply adapt to circumstances which means I am going apply a Muay Thai round kick to my not so friendly opponent’s upper thigh by using my shin.

Listen up, even without going to the gym or dojo for years and years most people can acquire the skills for this kick fairly quickly. I also believe it’s a pretty neat self-defense technique for women. We all know that legs are more powerful than arms. So let’s just put that knowledge to work in our favor.

This combination and especially the final technique is really fast and really effective. Really!

To give you a better idea of what it looks like, check out this clip and try it. You’re gonna like it.

One Of The World’s Highest Ranking Karate Masters Just So Happens To Be A Member Of Mensa

Thanks for stopping by again today.

So what does Karate have to do with Mensa?

Well, if you happen to be Grand Master Sam Pearson that would be a whole lot to be proud of.

First off, you might have heard of Mensa, but so far didn’t really know what they are all about. Let me enlighten you:

Mensa, the high IQ society, provides a forum for intellectual exchange among its members.

There are members in more than 100 countries around the world.

Activities include the exchange of ideas through lectures, discussions, journals, special-interest groups, and local, regional, national and international gatherings; the investigations of members’ opinions and attitudes; and assistance to researchers, inside and outside Mensa, in projects dealing with intelligence or Mensa.

Mensa is open to persons who have attained a score within the upper two percent of the general population on an approved intelligence test that has been properly administered and supervised.

One of their members is Sam Pearson.

And I will be honest with you:  Until this morning I hadn’t heard of him myself.

Grand Master SamPearson is THE man who brought martial arts to the East Carolina town of New Bern in the early 70s.

You have to know that even at the age of 74 he is still a force to reckon with and still works out at the Twin Rivers YMCA.

Sam Pearson was born in 1936. After being raised by his granny in Florida, he was returned to his mom, who according to his own recollection, was on her third husband by then.

His father didn’t play much of role in his upbringing and so as a 17-year old he looked for direction in the outside world.

Thus, in 1953, wanting to change his life and find that direction he was missing, Sam Pearson joined the no-nonsense U.S.  Marines who are known till today for promising their recruits a rough time. A promise made is a promise kept.

Nobody else from his high school at the time joined the Marines. His USMC career would last 20 years.

During a tour in Vietnam he was exposed to the devastating Agent Orange which was used to kill the vegatation so the Viet Cong couldn’t hide in it. Only problem was that our guys were affected by it which was denied by government authorities for way too long.

Like what happened to so many servicemen, the exposure broke down his immune system, causing all kinds of debillitating ailments.

Sam Pearson has battled numerous ailments such as PTSD, diabetes and high blood pressure and even Parkinson’s disease.

Only 3 years ago during a short period, everything seemed to be breaking down, including severly painful shingles across his face.

Things looked very bleak and robbed him of his joy of life. But somehow things turned around and he is doing a lot better today.

Way back in 1974, he introduced martial arts to New Bern, NC.

The current head instructor is his former student and New Bern policeman Ronnie Lovick who is a 7th degree black belt.

During the early 70s, karate and other martial arts started to become really popular in the United States after  many servicemen returned from Asia.

The school was operated at several locations. During the daytime Sam Pearson worked as head of security of a shopping mall.

He ensured that all of his students were worthy of pursuing the martial arts. He looked for honest and dedicated individuals who also did not smoke or drink.

Counting the years that he instructed in the Marines, Sam Pearson has probably taught more than 2,000 students over almost 50 years.

Besides all his great accomplishments, Sam Pearson is most proud of the fact that he is a member in Mensa, the international IQ-society.

Semper Fi, Sam Pearson!

 

Joe Lewis, The World’s Greatest Karate Fighter Of All Time

Whenever I ask people, who aren’t involved in martial arts and karate in specific, about the greatest karate fighter they will in most cases name Bruce Lee and/or Chuck Norris.

Joe Lewis? Not really.

That got me thinking.

Without a doubt, Bruce Lee was and Chuck Norris still is a formidable martial artist and fighter.

The exposure both of them received through television and movies made them household names, worldwide.

Again, Joe Lewis? Nope.

What amazes me about Joe Lewis is that as a U.S. Marine stationed in Okinawa in 1965 he started studying Shorin-Ryu Karate at the youthful age of 18 and reportedly attained his black belt in only 7 (seven!) months.

After his military service Joe Lewis returned to the United States and in 1966 he began his unmatched tournament karate career.

At times, he trained with martial arts legend Bruce Lee, who by the way did not compete in any tournaments.

During 1966 to 1974 Joe Lewis competed on the tournament circuit as well as a professional kick-boxer winning national and world titles as a heavyweight fighter. He is considered the “Founding Father of Kickboxing in the Western Hemisphere”.

Throughout his career he fought famous fighters such as Allen Steen, Thomas LaPuppet, Louis Delgado, Skipper Mullins, Victor Moore, Joe Hayes, Benny “The Jet” Urquidez and yes, Chuck Norris.

Joe Lewis was an original member of the U.S. World Karate Team that also consisted of Mike Stone, Skipper Mullins, Chuck Norris and his friend and student, Bob Wall.

Joe Lewis starred in a number of action-adventure movies such as “Jaguar Lives” and “Force Five” and has received numerous awards for his achievements in and out of the ring.

In 1983, karate living legend Joe Lewis was chosen by his peers and fellow fighters as “The World’s Greatest Karate Fighter Of All Time”.

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Jeff Imada, The Genius Behind Great Action Movies

When you talk about movies like Rush Hour, Armageddon, Lethal Weapon 4,  The Bourne Ultimatum, Gone In Sixty SecondsThe Last Samurai, The Fight Club,  just to mention a few, I am sure the action-filled scenes are the first thing that come to mind.

And when you think about it, some of the most popular movies became box-office successes due to the spectacular stunts and fight scenes displayed on the Big Screen.

Without the stunt and fight professionals, who by the way usually aren’t household names like those of the celebrities on the Red Carpet, many movie productions would never turn out the way they do.

One of these professionals, who deserve more credit for what they do and someone  whom I truly admire, is Jeff Imada.

And yes, the movies I listed above were strongly influenced by Jeff Imada. He either did many of the stunts or coordinated them! Man, this guy must have been in hundreds of great movie productions. It’s absolutely mind-boggling!

Beyond Tinseltown, Jeff Imada is highly recognized and  revered on the martial arts circuit for his mastery of Jeet Kune Do (JKD) and Filipino Martial Arts (FMA).

Born in 1955 in Southern California, Jeff Imada started studying martial arts at the age of 15. So, let’s see, that would have been 1970.

That makes it already 40 years of solid martial arts training experience and what I haven’t mentioned so far in this post:

Jeff Imada is a master student/protege of the world-famous, Guro Dan Inosanto. Remember him?

Jeff was also a very good friend of Brandon Lee, back in the day. Later on, he was the primary fight choreographer in Brandon Lee’s successful movie,  ‘The Crow’.

He has been a stuntman, stunt coordinator and fight choreographer in countless movie productions that have become financial box-office hits, also because of his ingenuity and professionalism.

I was reminded of him just some time ago after I heard about ‘The Book Of Eli’ starring Denzel Washington and Mila Kunis.

In one of the many interviews promoting this movie, Denzel mentioned Dan Inosanto (remember him?) and Jeff Imada in connection with training for the fight scenes.

He’s bringing it, so you better be ready!

Akshay Kumar Gets Serious About Martial Arts Training In Indian Schools

Akshay Who?

Akshay Kumar is frequently referred to as the Indian Jackie Chan. He has starred in over 100 Indian movies and has made a name for himself as the go-to guy for dangerous stunts in numerous Bollywood productions.

After obtaining Taekwondo black belt status in India, he travelled to Thailand to study Muay Thai.

Upon his return to Mumbai, India, he began teaching martial arts. One of his students, who just so happened to be a photographer, advised him to give it a shot at modelling.

For only two hours of  posing in front of the camera, Kumar got Rs. 5,000, which looked pretty good, considering he previously made Rs. 4,000 a month. After just several months of modelling, he was given the lead role in a major movie.

After 20 years of acting and producing, big-time Indian movie celebrity with nationwide recognition, Kumar Akshay is now making a case for introducing martial arts training and education in schools all across India.

 In Kumar’s opinion, schools should train kids enough to protect themselves and to deter other forms of danger when India demands it.

Akshay Kumar, who also hosts the Inidan version of Fear Factor which is a stunt based reality show, has announced he would even speak to top ministers and bureaucrats on this topic.

He is taking his own first steps to making his idea a reality: Kumar is using his own money by putting in place an annual karate competition.

I will keep you posted as soon as I learn of any developments in this regard.

All in favor of Akshay Kumar’s push for martial arts training in schools, say ‘aye’.

Do You Believe Martial Arts Can Save A Life?

Well, according to some people in Plano, Texas, that would be affirmative.

I picked up the following story in the Star Local News, written by Chris O’Dell (codell@acnpapers.com), to whom I give all the credit for the write-up.

It also piqued my interest, because Master Dianne Reeves is mentioned in the story and I had to the pleasure writing about her in a post published here about a year ago.

But let’s get back to Chris O’Dell’s intriguing story from the Lone Star State:

“Eight years ago, William Binns III was a promising brown belt under the direction of seven-time U.S. Karate champion Tim Kirby.

Binns was also a bright student at the University of Texas in Austin, majoring in chemical engineering.

However, around that time, the now 32-year-old began a downward spiral that involved drugs and depression. That despondency ultimately led Binns to attempt suicide by way of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head

But Binns survived the incident, sustaining permanent brain damage and paralysis to his right side. The wound also caused multiple strokes and seizures.

“It’s amazing that he’s still alive,” Kirby said. “He’s just an amazing individual that does not know the word can’t.”

Kirby said Binns was as gifted as any student he had before the injury.

“He was truly one of the most talented brown belts in the country,” he said.

Kirby initially trained Binns at Kirby’s Karate and Fitness in Round Rock. The seventh degree black belt owner eventually moved his gym to North Texas though and temporarily fell out of contact with Binns. Not long after the accident, Kirby and Vision Martial Arts owner Diane Reeves decided to reach out to Binns and get him back into the gym after hearing the news of his injury.

“We did a trial class first and he hasn’t quit since,” Reeves said. “He’s an amazing individual. We really enjoy having him here.”

Despite the numerous obstacles that Binns faces every day, he decided to dedicate a majority of his free time to earning the black belt that he was never able to acquire before his injury. He began training regularly at Vision Martial Arts in Plano, working out nearly every day after his first training session.

“His determination is what impresses me the most,” Reeves said. “He is not a quitter. No matter the obstacles, he’s got the perseverance to get through them.”

Binns first had to begin relearning everything he had lost due to the brain damage. His mother, Pearlie, said he always knows what is going on but doesn’t always know how to get it out.

“It’s really frustrating sometimes,” Binns said.

For someone that had to relearn every word, Binns endured major setbacks in his martial arts career. However, progress began to increase with each training session, eventually allowing Binns to have partial use of his right side.

“He improved on just about every level,” Reeves said. “His verbal skills have gotten better and his physical skills have gotten much better.”

The training has also cut down on the number of seizures Binns has suffered in the last several months.

“At first it was ridiculous,” he said. “But it’s gotten a lot better now.”

Along with training at Vision Martial Arts, Binns also participates in the Pate Rehabilitation program, designed specifically for brain injured individuals. The program focuses on returning the injured participants to their highest possible level of independence and quality of life.

“It’s really demanding,” Binns said. “But it’s good for me.”

The hard work eventually paid off for Binns in a big way. On May 20, 2010, the 32-year-old became the proud owner of a black belt in martial arts, joining his instructor in that category.

“There’s no telling that guy no,” Kirby said. “If he’s convinced he’s going to do something then he does it. And this wasn’t an honorary black belt or anything. He earned it as much as anyone ever has.”

Kirby, who has produced 58 black belt students in his career, noted that Binns’ journey stood out above all the rest.

“It’s a heart-warming story,” he said. “It’s heart-wrenching as well. It’s the most inspiring story I’ve ever been a part of.”

Reeves echoed those sentiments.

“I’ve seen people overcome things before,” she said, “but he has definitely overcome more than I’ve ever seen anyone do before.”

Binns currently lives at home with his mother, who helps with his everyday life.

“He’s an absolute joy to be around,” Pearlie said. “I’m glad he’s here with me.”

And the story was only made possible because of a simple motto that Binns now lives by.

“Never stop trying,” he said.

Since Binns has earned his black belt, he can be seen at the gym helping other students in their journey to acquire a black belt. He said teaching the kids is something he truly enjoys doing now.

“I really enjoy helping them out and teaching the others,” Binns said.

Reeves and Kirby now use Binns’ story as motivation for other students who may feel discouraged or upset at times.

“Everybody loves him there,” Reeves said. “He’s a real hero to the kids. We use him as an example all the time by telling them if Will can do it, then they don’t have any excuses.”

I don’t know about you, but I like these kinds of real-life comeback stories with real happy endings.

Have a great weekend!

Grandmaster George E. Mattson, Uechi-Ryu Karate Legend

Today’s post features another great martial artist who looks back on more than 50 (fifty!) years of training and teaching Uechi-ryu karate.

Uechi-ryu Grandmaster George E. Mattson is rightfully considered a martial arts pioneer and I am sure you will agree with me after reading today’s post.

Uechi-ryu karate  is a powerful, hard style, which even though it is considered Okinawan, originated in China. It was brought to Okinawa in the very early 1900s by Kanbun Uechi. It offers a lot of similarities with Goju Ryu karate. Uechi-ryu is characterized by upright stances, circular blocks, grabs, open hand and one knuckle techniques plus low kicking, often using the big toe.

As a 19-year-old stationed with the U.S. miltary on the island of Okinawa in 1956, Sensei Mattson was the first American to be taught Uechi-ryu karate and consequently the first American to be given a Black Belt Certificate.

Just several years later, in 1964, he was caught on film as a member of a distinguished group of other martial arts legends during Ed Parker’s Long Beach International Karate Championships.

Most of these martial arts greats have been featured or at least mentioned here before.

Check this out:

 How many do you recognize?

Front Row Left To Right: J. Pat BurlesonBruce LeeAnthony MirakianJhoon Rhee.

Back Row Left to Right: Allen Steen, George Mattson, Ed Parker Sr., Tsutomu Ohshima,Robert Trias.

For a true martial arts enthusiast, this is a truly epic photo.

I just think of how many millions of people, young and old, have been positively affected by these masters’ teachings. Nothing short of amazing!

But back to 9th Dan, George E. Mattson:

Master Kanei Uechi, the son of the style’s founder Kanbun Uechi, asked him in 1958 to introduce and spread Uechi-ryu Karate in America. Sensei Mattson complied and over-delivered.  He proceeded in opening a Dojo (school) in Boston and published the very first textbook on Uechi-ryu Karate “The Way of Karate” in 1963.

Since this time Sensei Mattson, who has led the North American Chapter of the international Uechi-Ryu community, has continued to teach  countless students from all corners of the world.  Many have gone on to become accomplished masters in their own right.

Turning the backs on the cold winters of New England, Sensei Mattson and his wife retired in sunny Central Florida.

Retired?

Not really, because in Mount Dora, not too far from Orlando, you can still watch this Uechi-ryu karate legend teaching at his Shubukan (“House of Warrior Training”).

Get A Great Lower Body Stretching Workout In Only 3 Minutes!

No matter what kind of martial art you practice or not, it’s pretty safe to say that appropriate stretching before AND after any workout can offer a number of benefits such as:

  • Increase of range of motion
  • Reduce the risk of injury
  • Prevent sore muscles after your workout

I speak from personal experience. Maybe some of you out there can relate.

Very often we don’t take the time for proper warming up AND cooling down. It is soooo important, especially the older you, I mean, I get. Haha.

Years ago, we did a lot of ballistic stretching which I today would not favor for lower body stretching. I now prefer static stretching, whereas you stretch a muscle to the point of a tolerable discomfort or better warming sensation and then hold for a defined period like 30 seconds. Just don’t overdo it! Work with your body, not against it.

This has worked for me very well and I just wanted to pass it on to you.

To close today’s post, of course I will not leave you without some visuals:

I came across one of the most effective lower body stretching workouts that really takes only 3 minutes to do.

I highly recommend stretching before AND after your actual workout.

In my humble opinion, it doesn’t matter whether you are a martial artist or not, you will benefit from it.  Give it a try and let me know how you like it.