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.