The last promotion for black belt in kobudo or weapons was made in 2007 at the PMA. On January 9th six new black belt awards were made. Earning a degree in weapons is usually done by a small minority of the black belts. It takes specialized training and mastery in three or more weapons areas such as the bo, the bokken, hanbo, sword, and more. This moment is a great historic accomplishment and indicates the depth and dedication of students to study long years to reach a new goal.
Current active dan holders are Michael Brown Sensei (4th dan), Eric Rosado Sensei (2nd dan) and Becky Black Sensei (2nd) dan and recently awarded, and of course head instructor Master Devine. The new first dan holders are Peggy Teng, Marc Adams, Yuri Gorokhov, Andrew Vaughn, Peter Grootenhuis and Seth Brown. The study of weapons in the PMA is quite distinct and although in the general classes we do teach the short stick hanbo and long staff bo, generally separate classes are held for the other weapons. At the current time students must hold a black belt in open hand karate in order to advance to black belt in weapons study. Everyone on the list has at least thirteen years in karate studies. Seth Brown is the youngest at seventeen years to earn this rank in weapons.
The ceremony to give out the awards was held at Island Palms Resort on Shelter Island Sunday January 17th. Each candidate picked a special friend or family members to award the certificate in conjunction with Master Devine. This award concept is to let the friends and families know we appreciate their large supportive role in the progress of the students.
The ceremony featured a short dedication of karate to the new awardees by some junior members that included Sarah Brown, Ian deGrood, Ethan and Brandon Diep, Isaiah Brown, and Emma Rose Denton. The Polynesian buffet was outstanding.
Pacific Martial Arts always starts the new year with a Polar Bear class and this one was at Coronado. Hardly polar since the thermometer hit almost 70 degrees under sunny skies. The class was traditional stance and kicking drills on the grass of Sunset Park, with partner drills of the Kata Garuma series. About 35 students and 30 parents showed up for the event which was followed by pot luck. We played the emperor game with foam combat swords where teams defend their royal leader against the attackers. Then we all trooped down to water’s edge where groups braved the cold water up to waist level to do punches, kicks and kata. The finale was doing push ups in the water.
Master Devine spoke briefly to the students about the need to strive for excellence rather than just ‘good’ or ‘average.’ Since we often fall short of our goals, it is better to shoot for excellence or more in every training session, because when we fall a little short under stress, at least we will be good to excellent in all we do. It was a great day for karate. Happy New Year.
(The pictures tell most of the story, can you find your self in these?)
Many activities in the dojo happen in December. On Sunday the 13th are two holiday parties at the main dojo for the PMA karate students. The first is the junior party at noon with lots of food, games and song. Later at 4 pm the senior party begins.
On January 1st we have the annual Polar Bear beach class at Coronado and karate families are encouraged to join us for the class, the wade into the surf and sharing some food.
Many juniors are being belt tested in December and January. Those being tested will receive nomination papers.
Currently testing over several days is taking place for six students trying to earn their black belts in kobudo or weapons studies. They demonstrate knowledge and skills and three weapons are tested…. the hanbo or short stick, the bo or staff, and finally the bokken (wooden sword) paired with the four foot staff.
An advanced belt symbol from nature is chosen by the student to represent his training. When Mr. Malouf chose ‘gale’ or ‘kyofu’ in Japanese he expressed strongly the relationship between his approach to training and what a gale can be. The student goes before the class, reads his short essay and then dedicates a performance kata to the symbol chosen. In the photo, he displays the kanji for the Japanese word which he then gets to stencil onto his uniform lapel.
Later, the student will choose a character symbol, something like integrity, honesty, perseverance and others that represents a relationship of his training to that word. This more extensive essay is usually done around the time one is ready for brown belt.
In his presentation of gale, this student writes prosaic words … “my fellow warriors of PMA remember me when you see the wind blowing your banners as you charge into battle, and think of me when a child is filled with wonder seeing a kite fly.”
Choosing symbols to represent one’s training in the dojo causes the student to reflect on his training in depth, why he is are training, the benefits of training, and the good that his training might bring to the community. For many teens and adults, presenting a symbol is often a first time event and a nervous one usually, to get up in front of peers and seniors and express concepts of training. It might be akin to the knights of King Arthur’s day standing up to proclaim their honor and duty to the causes of being a knight. Students take this seriously and I believe it reinforces not just their training, but their other undertakings in life, even if they do not have to choose symbols. For example a student who chooses diligence as representative of his character symbol, by publicly outlining what that means is a way to establishing that virtue in other undertakings such as job, school and family.
The term martial arts encompasses a vast set of fighting styles but generally most center on the systems coming from the orient. This type of fighting is markedly different than the western styles of fighting which involved boxing, wrestling and western style weaponry.
Asian styles often have a stylized format, salutation forms, are meant to develop mind and spirit, and often have sets of codified conduct and rules. These styles involve using all parts of the body in striking and in defense such as the feet, knees, hands, elbows and more. Throwing, evasion, submissions locks and pressure points are also inherent to the Asian styles as opposed to western fighting.
Styles developed based on the regions they came from. For example Karate is from Japan, Taekwondo is from Korea, Kung Fu would be from China, and Muay Thai would be from Thailand. Today in America there is a wide diversity of fighting systems and many of them are even merging. The term mixed martial arts involves drawing out strong points from several style and making them into a sport with contact in the ring. Some advocates prefer to limit themselves to just stand up fighting, or throwing style fights such as judo, or perhaps grappling. There are so many things to learn that it becomes questionable whether one could possible master more than just a part of several styles.
For those who wish to add a character or philosophical side to the various martial arts, many styles codify their systems and require the students to abhere to rigid codes of conduct. This conduct generally means using the art form for the good of the community and to protect others. In Japan a person would then study karate-do (pronounced doh) as a path or way of karate.
Many classical Japanese styles have this suffix ‘do’ to indicate they are more than just a technical fighting system. For example, judo, aikido and kendo all have inherent conduct codes built into the learning. These more classical systems are in contrast to modern approaches that emphasize the martial arts as sporting activities with competition for medals as the key goal.