Appreciating Veterans’ Day

Poppy VeteransEach year on Veteran’s Day of November 11th I like to honor the memory of those gone before. The poignant poem In Flanders Fields evokes many thoughts and I wanted to share this particular version of the poem and some of the background history.  The handwritten version is the original composition.

I hope you will read the poem at least twice. In past years we have the poem read in classes and also have had students who could recite it by memory.  I am asking that you bring a copy to the next class and if you are a samurai or a shogun, would like to read it the class in a dramatic fashion. Some  were able to recite the poem from memory and this was so remarkable.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian ArmyIn Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The Gathering to honor Peter Grootenhuis

PGBeach2.JPGThis Saturday at 11AM at the Old Town dojo we will be holding ‘the Gathering” to honor the wonderful times we shared with Peter Grootenhuis, Sensei, as fellow students and friends. I hope you may join the seniors and the family.His recent passing was a deep loss to so many of us, and all students hopefully can appreciate his many contributions to the PMA.

Program: traditional weapons class from 10AM to 11AM followed immediately by the Gathering (some words and tales, some performances and dedication kata, all followed by light food and beverages.) Those not attending weapons class should try to arrive by 10:50 AM so we can smoothly transition into the Gathering.

Dress code: karate gi is totally acceptable, you do not need to change out of uniform after the class, other wise just nice clothes but not blue jeans nor shorts, thank you.

We the organizers need your RSVP and any guests since we have to arrange sufficient food. Please email the RSVP right now to this email, or call it in to 619-752-7515. Thank you.

Annual summer camp at Lake Morena

 The annual summer camp called Shochugeiko (training in the hottest part of summer!) was held August 1 to 4th at Lake Morena campground  and it was hot outside, reaching 97 degrees but the evenings were cool and starry. We also trained indoors at the church gym which fortunately was air conditioned! This was our PMA 41st annual summer camp.

In the picture Eric Rosado Sensei is practicing various kicks while trying to balance on the vertical log. During the log drill students were asked to combination kick as well as do katas on the log top.




Hard training is always involved but there are more social moments. Carol Sedlacek and Dean Underwood are passing out pie and ice cream while some PMA Juniors entertained the diners with the PMA fight song.

Social moments included outdoor hockey game, starlight on the ground classes, a contest of Name that Kata based on the musical show, skits at dinner, and more. The value of a summer camp or shochugeiko training is the overall effect that immersion in the karate training has on students. One is kept busy from 8AM until 10 at night with many classes covering a wide variety topics that can include physical fitness, katas, partner drills, classical weapons, sparring, jiujitsu and more along with the academic side of the many lectures. Bonding between students results from the common cause of physical training.

Many thanks must go to the organizers and others who worked together to host this event. The director for the camp was Heather Graves Sensei who worked for two months in advance to get everything. ready. Students all helped in various ways such as cooking, serving meals, cleaning bathrooms, setting up chairs, transportation, carrying equipment, and much more. A big plus to the whole weekend was the presence of the Portland dojo students that included Dean Underwood, Glenn Gholston, Rachel Brown, Grace Gholston and Michelle Escobar.

A further highlight was the appearance on Saturday of Peter Grootenhuis (San Diego) who gave his special lecture on Niches which sent a strong message to the students. Grootenhuis Sensei was confined to his wheel chair but reached new levels of giving energy and insight to the group.

There were numerous seminars and workouts. Below,  Master Devine lectures some of the black belts on the concepts of Ho On I Do (a Japanese phrase meaning to pass along knowledge of the teachers. There were over twenty four formal seminars taught. Some of the topics were the tea ceremony;y (ceremony included) by Michelle Escobar. A powerful workout using leg strength in kicks given by Rachel Brown would be contrasted with an academic seminar on Habits by Robert Graff. On Sunday the group converged on Lake Morena campground adjacent to the lake itself. It is a beautiful and quiet setting. There the group was able to practice techniques, kata, and other drills such as trying to fight while balancing on the vertical stumps.

The purpose of these camps is to forge our spirits so after three days of intense immersion, one is pushed to the limits in mental and physical ways. For the closing of camp the group met at Mimi’s Bistro in Santee on the way home. There were a few speeches and several belt awards. Significant was the awarding of full Shodan (black belt) rank to Sarah Brown.

Next camp (the 42nd winter camp) will be in February so hope to see you all there!





Sarah Brown earns black belt, #92!

SB new black belt.jpgOn September 15th was the black belt award ceremony for Sarah Brown and about 60 guests attended the formal event. It featured a dedication ceremony, special cello music, a very traditional ceremony of presentation and more. The food was great and featured appetizers before the ceremony and after during the socializing. Special thanks to Carolyn Brown.

Ms. Sarah Brown is the 92 student to achieve this first degree rank in PMA’s forty year history. It is termed shodan ho which means a trial year of black belt, and following this and lots of progress, the student receives the formal certificate. Up to that time the student wears white stripes on the belt which are finally removed. The theory is that after a year of dedicated black belt training, those white stripes get so dark from sweat, wear and tear, one no longer sees the white stripes.

One of the features this time was a dedicated cello playing by the two brothers Ethan and Brandon Diep which received lots of compliments from the guests. During the dedication demonstrations various lower belt students did the ‘last kata’ with Ms. Brown as a way of saying goodbye to her as a lower belt. Later in the ceremony she steps up as a black belt and does the first kata with black belts.

Andy Vaughn (Sensei) and Zach Rousseau did an energetic display of the shindo muso (sword and bokken weapons), and then Mr. Rousseau did an excellent performance of PMA’s highest kata called Ganseki Nidan (great rock and you can see the major spinning jump in the photo.ZR Ganseki

The brown belts and lower belts also gave some outstanding dedication performances as seen in this photo of Mr. Malouf and Mr. Shinkre. EM and RS ceremony demo

The many guests seemed to have a good time and during the ceremony Master Devine would describe the various parts of the traditional ceremony to help them understand it better. For example he would explain the meaning behind the banners, the ring wearing to share the spirit of previous black belts, or the meaning behind lighting the sensei candles and ringing the gong. Her Ms. Brown is shown later with some of her avid supporters on hand. SB and friends.jpg

The ceremony takes many people to stage this affair, and this is the first one in two years. Certainly again to be thanked is Carolyn Brown who arranged for the massive amounts of great food and appetizers and beverages. Carol Sedlacek is valued for her month long commitment working behind the scenes to organize the event. Thanks to all the students who set up and cleaned up as well. Thanks go to the many black belts who have worked over the years to help the student achieve this rank. Ms. Brown has been training 13 years now. Her family may be the biggest supporters…. so thank you Rachel Brown for coming down from Portland to support your sister, and also to Michael Brown Sensei, Seth Brown and Isaiah Brown for your efforts.

PMA honors the 3-2-1 date in history

We teach attitudes first.

On March 2, 1981 the PMA dedicated its new name Pacific Martial Arts, its crest shown above, and its conduct code of behavior and attitudes. The code has been used by many students over the years to be a guide for them not just in the dojo but in their daily lives. It is basically twelve points of behavior that is much like the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The karate teachers also encourage the younger students in the regular karate classes to understand the meanings behind the various parts and how to relate it the physical training of self defense, kicks and punches. This Friday we honor the 37th anniversary of the dedication ceremony which was held at Westminster Church Theater in Point Loma. About 125 guests were present as the students did various demonstrations and introduced the reading of the code. Our school used to be known as the San Diego Academy of Karate. The old crest also had the traditional pine tree which loosely stands for mental and physical flexibility. The actual words of the conduct code were formulated and chosen by the students of that era to reflect the goals and mission of the school.

The code is often read aloud during the year at special events like the winter and summer camps, at awards days, at black belt ceremonies, and most often just at a regular karate class. Students from past days who get in touch with us on email or visits often tell of how the conduct code played such a positive role in their daily lives. We often refer to the special day as 3-2-1 which is short for third month, 2nd day of 1981.  Thank you founding students for a truly great legacy.
Pacific Martial Arts

This code of conduct was developed on March 2, 1981 by the students of Pacific Martial Arts to meet their need for a philosophy behind the training. The students foresaw problems that would develop during training and the need to keep harmony.


  • show respect and tolerance to all people
  • give and receive criticisms in a positive manner
  • accept responsibility for teaching others and share knowledge of Karate-do
  • welcome actively and assist new students in the dojo
  • exhibit a positive personality in the dojo through a clear mind concept by leaving personal problems, unpleasant moods and emotions outside the dojo
  • allow each person a sense of dignity and worth
  • have open dialogue between all belt levels and with the instructors
  • respect the symbolisms and history of the Pacific Martial Arts while realizing that your outside conduct and achievements reflect on the whole dojo
  • train with consistency and dedication
  • avoid speaking negatively of any student or the instructor and discuss any misunderstandings in a direct, courteous manner with the person involved
  • give loyalty to the instructor and the dojo in the same sincere way you will expect to receive loyalty from future students
  • fulfill duties and service to the dojo unselfishly and willingly


PMA’s New Weapons Book Available

For the first time PMA’s unique weapons history and techniques are described in a book!

book kobudo cover

This full-color, 150 page book covers a variety of weapons vocabulary, kata, and drills in detailed text and photo sequences, in addition to stories from the rich history of PMA. Kobudo is the Japanese word generally referring to the study of the Japanese and Okinawan classical weapons in martial arts. Hanbo-do refers to the specialized use of the three foot staff so predominant at the PMA.

book goro teng

Hundreds of pictures featuring past and present students and instructors from PMA …..….. in-depth information on hanbo, jo, tonfa, kama, shindo ……. and requirements for getting a kobudo black belt, and more.*       (*This book, among others, is required reading material for the kobudo black belt test. )

book montage

book table of contents

Order now …. the first 50 copies will be signed by both Master Devine and the author on a special dedication page marking this first edition copy. The cost of the book is $64.65, sales tax included. 10% discount on orders of 2 or more books. Out of town shipping costs are not included.

Pay on-line at and order via the secure payment site OR e-mail and use the quick one click method to charge your credit card on file,  OR contact the author at to order.

(After the initial printing, ordering further books will likely take longer due to the need to print in batches. We are not ordering large extra amounts to keep in stock. Please try to order now.)

New Sensei Title awards and a Sandan!

Adams SenseiAt a recent special black belt class at Old Town two students were given the special title of Sensei. In the PMA this is a title one can earn after fifteen years experience, sandan ranking, and dedicated teaching. Only ten titles of Sensei have been awarded in nearly forty years of PMA history.


Many dojos use the word sensei to indicate ‘teacher; and often let many students use the term in the very informal manner such as Sensei Joe. This relegates the meaning of the term to something lesser. We use the word Sensei after the person’s surname. Hence Adams Sensei and Vaughn Sensei. Although acceptable, we do not use the title by itself, the name is used with it.The Sensei of course never uses the title in referring to himself, it would be consider not humble. So Adams Sensei might tell you he is Mr. Adams but would never say or introduce himself as Adams Sensei. It is up the other students to know just who holds the title and be respectful enough to use it.


Past Sensei awards have gone to Mr. Eros, Ms. Shishido, Mr. Brickman, Mr. Rosado, Mr. Brown, Ms. Black, Mr. Conway and Mr. Granja. The title is not one of athletic achievement and in the PMA is a consider a title more of reverence for longevity, loyalty, and carrying on the school principle of ‘Ho On I Do’ which means it is the obligation of the student to carry on the teaching and knowledge of the teachers.

In the photos are in order Marc Adams Sensei, and Andrew Vaughn Sensei. In the other photo Mr. Peter Grootenhuis is seen receiving his third degree or sandan rank as a black belt. This now helps put him directly on the path to being a sensei. He teaches both the noon time class at Del Mar, the Wednesday class there, and assists directly at the weapons class on Saturdays at Old Town. He has specialized in wheel chair techniques, has now complete the Kobudo of the PMA book, a 120 page manual of classic weapons and history of the PMA. ( In the photos Master Devine is making the presentations at the Old Town dojo on October 16, 2017.)

Grootenhuis Sandan


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.