Karate and Hiking Mt. Whitney

BlackWhitney (Experience of a lifetime for Becky Black, a sixth dan black belt of the Pacific Martial Arts.) When I was asked by Master Devine to contribute to the PMA blog about the connection between my karate training and hiking Mt. Whitney, I had to think long and hard in order to analyze how and if the two were separate. In my mind, my karate training is such an integral part of my life that I take it with me into all my endeavors, whether it be my personal life, my physical training or my professional life. I have done so for so long that I no longer even think about the difference. When we look at the Conduct Code we realize that while it teaches us how to behave within the dojo, the concepts apply to life outside, as well: treat others as you would like to be treated, communicate openly, train with consistency and dedication, etc., so it only makes sense that it works seamlessly into my everyday life and that it certainly applied to my taking on this goal. And thus, my hiking and karate are inseparable.

BlackWhitney 4To hike to the top of Mr. Whitney is a veritable challenge, since it is the highest peak in the lower States at over 14,000 feet. The hike takes you over rocks, steep trails, lots of dangerous cliffs, and through weather ranging from hot and dry to cold and windy. It took several days for me to do it, and I planned ahead for a full year of preparation and training. There is 45% less oxygen than at sea level, so one’s legs get heavy and slow, the head gets light, and it is an effort just to breathe.

In my training for this “pinnacle“ hike (meaning the highest peak and in this case the ultimate goal for me), I knew I had to put everything I had into the physical preparation, but most importantly, I knew I could NOT do it alone. I needed help to get into top physical shape. In karate, we don’t follow the path alone. The Samurai who separated from their lord (Daimyo) were considered Ronin and had to fend for themselves. My karate training has taught me to rely on others to assist me along the way, whether as teachers, training partners or as moral support. So, I went back to my previous in-depth preparation for tournaments and put together a plan that involved conditioning, strength training and aerobics, and a team to train with me. I had a personal trainer who provided weekly sessions and hiking partners. I also had fellow karateka who worked with me (thank you Javed Osmani for the upper body workout, much needed, though I did protest!) and karate classes where the training is demanding enough. As much as I hate to admit it, those push-ups were a necessary evil, as they are the full body workout that is required! All of this was needed to deal with hiking with a 45 lb. pack, 10 plus hours on the trail and the altitude.

BlackWhiteny3The most important aspect of my training, though, was the mental conditioning. When you want to give up is when you have to dig down deep and draw on your mental reserves. Our karate mantra is, “never give up”! My personal trainer, who also works for the Navy, informed me that the Seal Team uses the phrase “40% more”, meaning that when you think you have nothing left, you still have 40% more in reserve. As the air got thinner at 14,000 feet and the trail got longer at 10 miles straight up and with little sleep after a 4 am start, I was sure I had nothing left. But, the mantra kicked in, “Never give up!” My thoughts crept back to a Summer Camp in 2000 when Luke Altenau led us through 2000 punches in kiba dachi to celebrate the new millennium and to the quasi Death March in Borrego Springs in the 116 degree heat for Summer Camp that year. I realized then that I had survived those events, so I knew I just had to take a step and breath and that I could survive this. My mental state, while degraded, was what got me to the top.

BlackWhitney2Getting nearer and nearer to the top got harder and harder. Numerous times I stopped to gather my strength and my breath, I climbed a little slower with each pace, but always forward and upward. The stops on the way were stunning in beauty, and reaching the Summit House with a sigh of relief, I casually strolled about the peak and wondered how I ever got there. Standing at the “top of the world”, with the majestic Sierras surrounding me, I was in  awe!

(Becky Black has been training for thirty years with Pacific Martial Arts in San Diego. She is currently sixth dan in karate-do and a second dan in kobudo or weapons study. She is now a retired teacher having thirty five years of dedicated service in her field of special education. She currently teaches the AECS junior program of karate. )

 

Summer camp and how hot it is!

Each year in August when it is hot and in February when it less hot the PMA gathers for the annual geiko or training camps. We immerse ourselves in karate-do for three to four days. Lots of workouts, new material, guest teachers, academic seminars, bonding and great food. This year was the 39th summer camp in a row and that in itself speaks of tradition. Over 5000 participants to the many camps have taken part over the years.

This year we stayed at Mt. Empire High School near Campo and close to Mexico. We rented out the school so we used the gym, wrestling room, classrooms and dining hall. Students slept on the floor. During the day it was 95 degrees hot. Food was sit down formal and served by our own waiters (students) and it was good. Every meal had four plates… a salad, an entree of meat and side dishes, often a soup, and of course dessert! Our chief cook Claudia Kaminski once again rose to the occasion with food variations from Irish stew, fish talapia, intricate salads and more. The power breakfasts of chia-oatmeal and fruits along with the eggs to order were great.

Guest teachers were Master Terry Wilson who taught jujitsu body harmony moves and Sensei Rob McDonough who taught the most energetic of traditional karate sparring drills. Fifteen black belts from the PMA also taught individual karate sessions, weapons classes and academic seminars. There was even an early morning tea ceremony by Peggy Teng and meditation walk by Robert Graff.

Students seemed to really enjoy the Sunday team bonding event where three different groups each did a semi studs class with lots of pushups, running up and down stadium stairs, crawling and rolling on the football field and karate kicks to challenge everyone.

What was encouraging was seeing the fifteen juniors aged 10 to 12 keep up with the seniors in so many of the classes and with no giving up.

Master Devine Beck Black Sensei took about 15 students on a side trip to the train museum in Campo where students got to travel on an old 80 year old train through the desert scenery. Although it moved slowly, it rocked and rolled, open windows and hard benches. Then they visited the indoor museum with several beautifully kept steam engine locomotives, Pullman cars and more.

It is said that black belts are born at the camp. It is where by immersion you commit to lots of training, insight into the art, learn to bond with others in the group, and get the equivalent of about a month’s regular training to accelerate your own progress. I cannot wait until next February when we do our 40th winter camp …. it is called Kangeiko meaning training in the coldest part of winter. This next location will possibly have some snow!

Tournament Season is now over!

PMA Irvine teamWhen the PMA is present at many of the big open tournaments, we are often refreshingly referred to as the ‘tree people’ because our crest has the pine tree and we are always unique in our good protocol and courtesy and performances.

PMA just finished the two final events of the season. One was the national AAU championships in Raleigh, NC. Our trio spent a week there with Margaret entering seven different black belt events and coming away with several silver medals and other good performances. There were close to thirty top female athletes competing. The highlight though was the work of her, Heather Graves and Michael Kaminski doing the coaching clinics and earning high certificate ranks in the professional referees clinics. They all spent long days refereeing with Mr. Kaminski gaining an A level and running some of the top rings in black belt competition. In addition to this, the trio spent many hours behind the scenes helping organizers set up minute things such as tables, ribbons, signs and what ever it takes to present a top venue for 1500 competitors.

The other major event was the first ever West Coast AAU junior Olympics for the 18 and PMA Irvine teamunder top performers. There were lots of top juniors from all over California who gathered in Whittier for the event. Our team did very well and took numerous medals as brown belts. They did not win the gold but that is for next time. This young team has a great competition future ahead of them next season if they continue with their enthusiasm and effort. Sincere thanks to Michael Kaminski, Heather Graves and Margaret Izotov for the coaching at the event and also for literally being so important in running the tournament and refereeing. It is nice for me to see you getting this recognition from the top AAU officials. Team members this year are Elias Malouf, Eli Morris, David Chell, Ethan Diep, Rohan Shinkre and Aarya Mishra.

Master Devine attended this tournament and was pleased with the efficiency of the event and the high caliber of the students performing. Times have changed over the years and the sparring was very run well and controlled. Safety and non contact were on the minds of the referees which was good to see. Mr. Alfonso Gomez of San Diego was the chief director of the event that was well attended by some top teachers from the karate community. James Tawatao came all the way from Las Vegas in support. Sensei Cigar was the host sponsor for this event.

Representing your dojo

pma-irvine-team.jpgTournaments are just one of several ways to represent your dojo. In the PMA conduct code it says that your outside conduct reflects on the whole dojo. What forms can this take on? Students might be doing community service, making great academic achievements, achieving acclaim in other sports or activities such as Eagle Scouts, the military, and more. For younger students, one of the prime ways to gain recognition for your dojo is to be involved in tournaments for example. This week of June 26th three of our black belts will be doing just that as they head for Raleigh, North Carolina and the AAU National Championships.

In the picture on left is Heather Graves, a third dan in PMA, who is taking on two roles,one as coach and the other as referee. The latter requires long days spent judging the many different levels of competitors. In the PMA the rank of sandan has many requirements. One of these is to learn about outside tournaments so you can bring this knowledge and guide students in a good way if they would like to compete in tournaments. You have to get a license eventually.

Being a coach is also demanding. Mr. Michael Kaminski in the center of the picture is doing just that as he referees and coaches. Being a coach means giving the maximum support to the team members and helping guide them both physically and mentally. One has to spot areas that can be improved on and have the skills to cause the changes.

Ms. Margaret Izotov will be also competing across the board in kata, sparring and in weapons. She has been on a year long path of training hard just for this big event. Success here could well be the marker that gets her a spot on the Olympic team for Tokyo.

Coaches and referees are the background of any national or local tournament. Without them there simply is not the professionalism we would like to see. Courses and seminars are constantly being sponsored to keep the standards up, and also make it fair for the students that they will get the best of judging.

So how does this reflect on the PMA as a dojo. One way is to build and preserve the national reputation among the other instructors. This leads to other instructors associating with the PMA and they share their knowledge and techniques. This is good for everyone. Another way is the establishing of a reputation that PMA students can be counted on to run rings, help set up tournaments,  support other events, as well as being known for courtesy, politeness, good manners, and a solid martial arts background.

When our younger students see the efforts put in by these three students, they are hopefully guided and further inspired to do great things as well. So congratulations and good wishes to the PMA trio off to the National Championships. You are competing with the best from all over the nation. Your outside conduct is truly valued.

When the PMA is present at many of these tournaments, we are often refreshingly referred to as the ‘tree people’ because our crest has the pine tree and we are always unique.

Ladies’ Appreciation Night

LadiesAppreciation

Some leading lady members of the dojo were honored in a short ceremony at the dojo for their contributions this year to both training and service to the dojo. All had proven to be role models in training with consistent training, assisting in the teaching and personal karate development. Also all of them have worked extensively this year on the many dojo events such as tournaments and camps.. For example, Ms. Heather Graves and Ms. Margaret Izotov have been spending many months coaching and guiding the young tournament team, chaperoning to several tournaments, making sure they were well prepared, and more. Ms. Izotov is currently training to enter the Tokyo Olympics. Ms. Alison Smith has been a huge help at our Del Mar dojo  where she backs up Mr. Grootenhuis in the teaching, and also is intense in her study of kobudo weapons.

Ms. Sedlacek also trains four times a week but is invaluable in the organizing work, the dozens of phone calls to students and parents to get them registered for the many different events. Rebecaa Black Sensei who is now a sixth dan and most senior woman ever in the PMA dojo, continues to teach junior programs, assist at the weapons class, helps enormously in managing the belt testing, and much more. Not present in the picture is Ms. Peggy Teng who when not work traveling around the world or running her own Barre studio, continues to support the strong standards of the dojo and its training. Even with limited time she manages all the certificates for example, and is the designer for the many fine camp T-shirts.

Master Devine has frequently said over the years that is generally the ladies who do all the hard working jobs of organizing and keeping the dojo going, and our events so successful. The ladies were given special mementos of lead crystal vases.

PMA team competes at Irvine California

PMA Irvine teamThe PMA karate team entered the AAU Southern Pacific district championships and again performed very well as they gain more and more experience in tournaments.

Results of the AAU qualifier tournament in Irvine CA on Saturday May 13th.

Ms. Izotov: 1st kata, 1st kumite
David Chell: 1st kata, 1st kumite
Mr. Malouf: 2nd kobudo
Mr. Morris: 3rd in kata
Mr. Shinkre: 2nd kata, 2nd kumite, 1st kobudo
Ms.  Mishra  team manager
Mr. Kaminski and Ms. Graves were referees and also acted as coaches for our team.

PMA competes in the PSA tournament at UCSD

On Saturday the PMA sent its younger students to compete at the annual Pacific Southwest Associationmorris-tournament AAU tournament at UCSD. This is a very good quality tournament and serves as a qualifier for those intending to compete later in the summer in the national championships of AAU or Amateur Athletic Union. There is a lot of interest just now in tournament karate as students see the possibility of competing some day in the Olympics at Tokyo in 2020. In the photo Elis Morris is receiving a medal.

The tournament was really well organized and flowed smoothly thanks to the efforts of Alfonso Gomez and Ophira Bergman of the AAU. They had the volunteers, referees and students all in place. There were some really excellent students from the region competing, some of whom already have been to the nationals and won medals there.

Students from LA and Riverside also joined in. The PMA team consisted of Ethan Diep, Eli Morris, Elias Malouf, David Chell and Michael Kaminski who won the black belt division in short weapons, the tonfa. Mr. Chell  and Mr. Morris also won a medal in their  divisions in kata. Acting as coaches were Yuri Gorokhov and Heather Graves. Our young students performed very well in this first event of the tournament season and are looking forward to our next outside event on March 11th in Lynwood CA up in the LA region.

Mr. Kaminski also took part in the refereeing of the tournament. Master Devine pointed out that developing a solid team of performers usually takes two years and about eight tournaments to develop the necessary expertise. PMA does not focus much on tournaments since we view the philosophy and self defenses aspect more important. Nevertheless, competing in tournaments can be very helpful to progress, athleticism and conditioning, and seeing  how the rest of the martial arts world share what we do.

We are planning to take a team of about 12 to the Lynwood tournament on March 11th. PMA always is well respected by other schools at these tournaments. At this tournament Master Devine was singled out and introduced to the audience and competitors by recognizing his pioneering efforts in developing the AAU karate here in San Diego.

self-defense-dzapPMA is keeping busy recently with a community self defense clinic held for the DZAP corporation at our Old Town dojo. Students were introduced to a wide array of defense techniques such as escaping from grabs and choke holds, in addition to discussions about being more alert to possible bad situations. Special thanks go to the instructors who guided the students such as Becky Black, Michael Brown, Margaret Izotov, Heather Graves, Michael Kaminski and Seth Brown.

A black belt retreat was held overnight at Lake Cuayamaca where students engaged in seminar discussions and also study the kata Bassai Sho.

Coming up this next week is belt testing and promotions for the junior students. In a few more weeks is the annual winter camp (kangeiko) to be held at Lake Moreno.

PMA likes Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-workoutThanksgiving is that special time we appreciate and give thanks. One of those things is our freedom to practice karate and join with others in training for the common cause. This photo is special since it is a group of PMA students holding the night before Thanksgiving workout and also the surprise visit from back east of senior Michael Kaminski (center) leading the drill of these dedicated students. So often throughout the year during some holiday, the prevalent attitude is that a holiday means taking time off from everything that includes work, regular clubs, sports, and particularly karate. I like to think that with the holiday time off students will value the chance to have more time to train. If one likes to eat chocolate for example, having a holiday such as President’s day does not mean to go without chocolate, it does mean you may have more time free to enjoy chocolate. And so it is with karate-do training. So even if you are traveling on this great day, take ten minutes out somewhere and do a kata to reinforce your dedication and commitment.

Floyd Burk Tournament results

teamatburkGreat day at the Burk Invitational last Saturday.! Here are  the results as well.. Thanks especially to Brown Sensei, Black Sensei, Carol Sedlacek and Peter Grootenhuis for coming to referee all day, you were busy and brought some expertise to things.  All the students did such a great protocol job and put the PMA in a good light.

2nd row left to right are Brown Sensei, Ms. Sedlacek, Ms. Brown, Black Sensei, Master Devine, host Master Burk and Sifu Moses honored guest.

Results of Events (about 30 trophy places, nice job.)		
Brandon Diep - W 2nd/K 1st/S 4th
Ethan Diep - W 3rd/K 2nd/S 3rd
Rohan Shinkre - W 2nd/K 1st/S 1st
Isaiah Brown - W 1st/K 1st/S 4th
Sarah Brown2 - W 1st/K 3rd/S 4th
Emma Rose Denton - K 2nd/S 1st
Ian DeGrood - K 1st
Seth Brown1  - W 2nd/K 1st/S 4th
Colin Metcalf- W 4th/K 3rd/S 3rd
Elias Malouf- K 4th/S 2nd
Jeff Platt - W 1st/K 1st/S 2nd 
David Chell - K 4th/S 2nd
Eli Morris - K 2nd/S 3r

Colin Metcalf performing weapons kata.

colinatburk