Merry (Xmas) Go Round

Every year is like a merry go round; we do it all over again.  To many people, particularly in this country, Xmas is a holy day and for others it can be whatever they want it to be.  It's also a time for families getting together and even contacting friends we may have not spoken to for a while.   At work we temporarily drop the formalities of class, rank, position, grade or titles and speak to each other on parity. 

This time of the year gives us a chance to prepare for new starts and think about what we need to improve ourselves in the upcoming year.  Whilst this is going on, people like me, see another side to this and have to work right through the festive season.  I lose a bit of contact with the world during this period (except for a few text messages from close friends).  The only celebration I have is the people I work with and when the clock hits midnight on New Year’s Eve,  I shake hands with the closest person to me at the time!

I wish everyone a very MERRY XMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR including family and friends all over the world.

Deja vu’s & Cliches

I probably attend more seminars than anyone in Australia which are usually relevant to my training needs and probably helpful to students.  As an Instructor, one has to be prepared to walk into these seminars as a student which might be difficult to do, as a Black Belt, because it may take away the shine off some people’s ability stepping into unknown territory.  My attitude is 'I don’t go to seminars to do or show what I know, but learn what I don’t know' which will usually mean making mistakes and feeling a little clumsy but that’s all part of the learning process.  The cliché, ‘take one step back to move two steps forward’ is very true.  

Another year has passed (talk about Déjà vu) and when you look back at the last 12 months, you would hopefully, feel satisfied what you have done and learnt.  Twelve months ago, I'd never thought I would have finally ‘conquered’ the Black Belt complexes, logged over 800 hours in BJJ and did a number of Kickboxing sessions with Sensei Benny and Kyoshi Norton (we are talking about training with the best here), on top of my training in Karate-Jitsu. 

I said to Richard, “Although we have done a lot this year, that's not really enough”, so I'm looking forward to an even fuller year in 2011.  If you back up off the accelerator of a motor vehicle, you will slow down.  If you back off in your martial arts training, you will also slow down, without even realising it.  It's really easy to waste time and procrastinate, and come up with excuses but the minutes are ticking away.  I still get phone calls and emails from old students (including Black Belts) wanting to come back.  I have only one thing to say to them, "Don't tell me, surprise me."

The White Tiger – RIP

Sadly, Grandmaster Joe Onopa, Black Belt 10th Degree, Kwon Bop Do (Tae Kwon Do) passed away very recently (just under the age of 70); he was the great, great grandson of the famous Apache Indian Geronimo and he will be sadly missed by many.    I first met Grandmaster Onopa in 1994 in the USA and then when met again when he came to Australia with a group of American athletes for a big martial arts tournament in Sydney.  He was a delightful man and a great martial artist (he was fast and he could kick your head standing right behind him).  We got on extremely well and I met up again with him in the US, in Detroit, the following year.  I was with one of my senior Black Belts at the time and was picked up by Grandmaster Joe in a stretch limo from the Airport!   Grandmaster Joe Onopa - the White Tiger

I remember going to the gym to push weights and he freaked me out when he was bench pressing 450lbs at the age of 55.  I will never forget the time he was showing me some of his stuff in his living room.  He jumped and did a 360 degree turning axe kick but landed badly spraining his ankle.  The next day he took us to a museum in Detroit on a motorised scooter.  This was the best museum I had ever been to and that was really nice of him to do that with his ankle in plaster.  This was one of many times being together, not only in the USA, but the Gold Coast and Sydney.

Grandmaster Joe got me to teach some of his classes and I remember he would not start a minute earlier or finish a minute later.  Apparently, this is how the yanks do it, he said.  In fact, I was given a 60 second warning to the hour before the end of the lesson.  One day, I walked 5 minutes before the start of the next class was told I was late!  I told him that I still had another 5 minutes but he said that I told him I would be there 15 minutes earlier.  This is something I always talk about.  I remember at a formal dinner he surprised me with a 7th Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do.  He told me this was his appreciation of our friendship and my dedication in the martial arts and in recognition of my ability at that level in his organisation.  I was reluctant to accept but, nevertheless, I was not going to argue with the White Tiger.  That certificate is framed and displayed in my office which will always serve as a reminder of him.

Grandmaster Joe was given the name, the White Tiger by me because he had the heart and strength of a tiger.  It all started when he first came to Australia and wanted to go to the zoo because he had a fascination with the white tiger.  The name, White Tiger, suited him because it was a rare animal just like there were not many ‘Onopas’ around.

It was only a few weeks ago I called him and he was so happy to hear from me.  We talked about the good old times and he was planning to come to Australia next year to visit his schools and would get together with our families for dinner.  Sadly, that was not to be.  I am glad I did call him because it was a long time between phone calls.  RIP.

My doctor, the Sensei (Urquidez)

Sensei Benny (Urquidez) talked, 12 months ago, about treating me with his brand of therapy for my old injuries on his return to Australia.  He interviewed me, last night, to find out if I was mentally prepared for the treatment which he described as something which is going to be very painful to whilch I agreed.  Sensei Benny has not been just a fighter but a healer for many years and is often consulted and referred to by the medical profession.

Before being laid on the ground, at Master Fari’s house, he asked me a series of questions to see if I was going to be up to it.  The treatment involves a lot of pain but Sensei Benny places you in a state of full relaxation, giving him full trust to take control over your being.  I have never seen or even imagined the so many varied stretches, positions and movements he put me through.  The whole process went for almost 1.5 hours but it was not until the last 5 minutes I was in extreme pain and yelling for mercy but he encouraged me to keep going with it.  I felt like I was hanging onto my last breath in a Kickboxing match and he was standing in my corner as my coach.  I almost passed out a few times but Sensei Benny could sense it before it may have happened.  The treatment can be described as a combination of medicine, hypnotherapy, physiotherapy, deep tissue manipulation and acupressure like nothing on this earth you could imagine.  He is very serious and spiritual about it and you need to have faith in him.  It was very nice of him to do it considering his very busy schedule.

I'll do what it takes to get better (health wise) and I'll do what it takes to get better in the martial arts.  At another one of Sensei Benny's seminar last night, the first thing he said to me, 'looks like you're back for more punishment'; I take that as a compliment.  He made an interesting point in that he trains to be mentally and physically ready to jump back in the ring, but that does not mean he has to, but it is his way of how he should train.

It was tough!

Friday night was Benny ‘the Jet’ Urquidez seminar and what a night it was.  I was once again happy to meet up and train with the legend of all legends in Kickboxing and Karate.  Some of his best known students include Hollywood Stars, John Cusack and Richard Norton.  Not to mention he has trained many other stars such as Nicholas Cage.  He has also produced World Kickboxing Champions, Pete ‘Sugarfoot’ Cunningham, and Australian icon, Stan ‘the Man’ Longinidis.  Another student worth mentioning is John Hackleberry, World UFC Champion, Chuck Lidell's trainer.  Enough of that!

The conditioning and stretching was the hardest I had ever come across for a long time. It is truly amazing to work with a person of remarkable physical and mental ability.  After our initial meet and greet, Sensei Benny, was quick to ask if Richard Norton was in Sydney, but that wasn't to be, which would’ve been nice to see them both together.  I will just have to fly to Melboure for that.

It is interesting to see that Sensei Benny has been in the MMA scene well before anybody has ever heard of BJJ.  I have seen HIM surprise us with some of his takedowns and throws in Kickboxing matches in the '80's.  At the seminar we got a taste of some of his MMA, as well as Kickboxing.  I also really enjoyed his unique stretching techniques which mainly involves unlocking the joints instead emphasizing muscle stretches.

Sensei Benny is a loveable character and it shows he is really passionate about what he does and teaches although it has taken me 2 days to recover but I loved it.  I get to see him, one more time, this Thursday for some specific training.   

I feel I a great connection with Sensei Benny because of my close alliance and frienship with Kyoshi Richard Norton.  Sometimes, I wonder why there are not enough people out there to take advantage of great martial artists who put themselves out there!

Only a Matter of Time

In a world where spare time is a rare commodity, we need  to improve with managing our time, and to recognise and deal with time wasters, so we work in the most efficient way possible to be able to do what we want to do.

Over thirty years ago, martial classes were 2 hours or more but sessions of that magnitude, today, would be difficult to sustain over a long period of time.  If we can somehow find a better way to reduce the warm-up drills without jeopardising the integrity of the workout then we will have more time to concentrate on the actual techniques.  Traditionally, warm-ups can take as much as 20-30 minutes which may include stretching, and aerobic and anaerobic calisthenics but that is too long with the little time we have today with classes being anything between 1 and 1.5 hours..  Long warm-ups are not going to make all that much difference to your martial arts anyway.  In fact, they can get dragged out which may set in the boredom prior to startin up your techniques.  The exercises need to be quick and intense, and tailor-made to compliment the art.

The Tabata Protocol is a very good solution.  John Will has been spreading the word at seminars and I have found the Tabata system to be, not only a great warm-up, but really improves your overall conditioning.  The beauty of this is it only takes 5 minutes.  This allows maximum time for martial arts training.  All you need is a gymboss timer, a bit of knowledge and imagination.  In a nutshell, workouts are based on 5 X 40 second rounds with 20 second breaks, using 5 different exercises.  This also works with 20/10 seconds and 30/15 seconds depending on what you are trying to achieve.  This is the way I do my kettlebell training; it's much for fun, more intense and much quicker.

Anyway, the point of this is there are ways to make better use of your time.  Maybe, it's worthwhile investigating.  We actually have more time than we think we do, it's only a matter of time.

To Do or not to Do

I was having a conversation with John Will last weekend, en route to seminars, which coincidentally was the same with Richard Norton only a few weeks ago.  Whilst there is an important aspect, in what you learn, should work for self defence, not everything you learn has to be just for self defence.  That includes Karate, MMA, BJJ, Kickblxing, Tae Kwon Do etc.  This may be some relief for schools teaching their students the non-reality aspects of martial arts without the fear of getting stoned.  As I've previously said, training in the martial arts is all about challenges by getting your body and mind to respond to movements.

 I was having lunch with a good friend of mine who told me, some time ago, he was raring to go and start training BJJ but had realised that he is a 'stand-up kind of guy' and there was no point to any ground stuff.  He surmmised BJJ was more sport than self defence, and that may somewhat be true depending how it is taught.  My response to him was, 'as martial artists we like to learn and train as much as we can, and BJJ is another avenue to explore'.  It didn't occur to me, at the time, to say to him, 'then why teach X-treme martial arts', which would've conclusively validated my arugment but that was something I thought of on the way home.  This is not any disrepect to my friend but merely to outline the dilemna faced by Instructors today in their schools ie 'to do, or not to do' – that is the question.

In one of John Will's recent articles, he talks about the importantace of training needs to be complex enough to keep interest and the student's mind fully engaged but functional enough to be useful if required for street application.  Martial arts offers the other little things such as social interaction, increased fitness and confidence (thanks, John) which all are essential ingredients for everyday good living and self defence.

An Awesome Achievement

 L-R: Prof Paulo Guimaraes, Prof Rob Naumoski, Prof Jorge Pereira

I have known Rob Naumoski for quite a number of years who is a close friend of mine.  Last Wednesday night, he was surprised with his Black Belt in BJJ by Jorge Pereira (a Black Belt 6th Degree from Brazil) who is currently here in Australia. 

Rob is a senior Black Belt in Ninjitsu and he now has his Black Belt in BJJ after 12 hard years of training, the hardest rank to get in any martial art.  He runs his full time school in Bexley in which I regularly attend and wrestle with his guys. 

I, like many others, am very proud of Robert because I know how hard he has worked and waited for this very day.  I feel the same contentment as any one of my students receiving their Black Belts because I would also consider them a friend.

Rob is truly a great Instructor but he also has a great fight record to his name which includes:

  • 5 x NSW Champion
  • 3 x Australian Champion
  • 4 x Pan Pacific Champion

Many of you may have noticed Rob dropping in at our schools and seminars in which he is always welcome.  I was sorry to not be there at the presentation due to injury but  none of us knew this was going to happen anyway.  I cannot wait to actually see him wearing the Black Belt.


Sensei Benny 'the Jet' Urquidez will be back again in Australia soon.  Undeniably, the best Kickboxer in the World with a never been beaten record of 200 wins (63 by knockout), zero losses holding 6 World Titles in 5 different weight divisions, remaining undefeated in his 27 year career.  Sensei Benny has also trained Hollywood star, John Cusack, who is also a World Class Kickboxer himself, and holds the rank of 6th Degree.  Sensei Benny has also trained Pete 'Sugarfoot' Cunningham (6 times World Champion himself) and Hollywood Martial Arts Star, our own legendary Kyoshi Richard Norton. 

This will be the 3rd time I will meet up and train with Sensei Benny.  Apart from being an extraordinary martial artist, he is an extremely nice and humble man and I have the privilege of having conversations and dinners with him.  Hopefully, we will see Richard Norton in Sydney to meet up with Sensei Benny.

Sensei Benny has worked alongside many Hollywood Actors, (and Choreographer) to Nicholas Cage, John Cusack, Louis Gossett Jnr and James Wood.  Enjoy the fight scene, from the movie "Wheels on Meals', between Jackie Chan and Sensei Benny: GA


The Theory of Relativity

If you walk into a posh restaurant and pay $90 for a meal, you may be forgiven if you feel a little bit of pain from departing of some of your hard earned dollars but you might console yourself by commenting on the good service, great wine and lovely meal.  You walk into McDonald's the next day and and splurge yourself with $15 (yikes, more pain).  The funny thing about it is  that the $15 Mac meal might hurt more than the $90 one.  Eveything is relative and based on your perception of what is value for money.    

For many of us who had to sell something, such as a car, will have probably reduced the price by as much as $2,500 to make a sale and I bet that wouldn't have caused us any concern.  Try gambling $2,500 away and see how that feels.

When it was announced the infamous Rickson Gracie was coming to Sydney for one seminar only, 200 people pre-paid $440 each for the weekend but he is taken for granted back home!   In Australia, we have our own legends whom can taken for granted because they live on our turf and we know we can get hold of them anytime if we really want to.  Imagine Richard Norton and John Will popping up for one seminar only within the next 5 years!  Every hotel in Sydney will be booked out with interstate travellers.  Those who take it for granted are no different to people living near the Sydney Opera House and have never visited it.    

Perception takes on many forms such as walking into Gloria Jeans and having to think about buying a Friand but you couldn't care less how many doughnuts you gulped down at Krispy Kreme's the night before.  What about the days of the $1 per minute calls to the USA; I was spending almost a $1,000 per month.  Now, it costs next to nothing and I hardly make any international calls.  

I participate as much as 30 seminars a year; maybe this has something to do with the particle accelerator but I better leave that for another blog.