Monday, October 31, 2011

Library Books Are No Longer Just For Checking Out in Chandler

Imagine – you’re in-between bookshelves at the public library just before closing – someone sneaks up behind and grabs you. What do you do with that book in your hand?

When I attended graduate school at the University of Utah and later at the University of New Mexico, I often remember working late in the evening in the library and sitting at a table in the back of the library. Friday and Saturday nights were very quiet and it seemed as if I had the library all to myself. In this day and age, this should be of some concern.

Recently, I enjoyed meeting and training librarians and staff of the Chandler Public Library who may one day be confronted with this or other scenarios. It wasn't too long ago, I taught a group of girl scouts from Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler many of the same techniques using the contents of their school backpacks (I was really surprised how much those girls could cram into a backpack.

Having an extensive background in karate and kobudo provides the ability to use almost anything one carries to work, school, or the local grocery store as a weapon - even your car keys, cell phone, etc. Kobudo is a martial art that teaches use of Okinawan farming and fishing implements, as well as modern garden and construction tools, as weapons of self-defense. These techniques and philosophy can be extended to almost anything you can carry in your hands.

During the seminar, I was assisted by one of my students - Charles Jean, as we taught the attendees how to escape from wrist grabs, lapel grabs and bear-hugs, by using elbows, knees, feet and hands. Then we got into the kobudo portion of the seminar and worked on using books, pens, and car keys for self-defense tools against aggressive attacks. I was hoping to also get a chance to teach them the use of magazines, coins, credit cards, belts, etc as weapons, but this was only a brief introduction. The attendees were surprised to find they were working with potential self-defense weapons every day and even checking them out to the public. Who would have thought that a book or rolled up magazine could be so effective in self-defense.

Over the years, I've taught many dozens of self-defense clinics. I taught all day clinics to some political groups, civic groups, EMT employees, university faculty and staff, military, scouts, teachers, women’s clubs, sororities, religious groups, karate students, and martial arts instructors and I always enjoy teaching because it is rewarding to meet new people but also it is rewarding to see the excitement in the students as they discover how easy it is to defend themselves. I'm also a geologist, artist and public speaker, but for me, it is difficult for anything to match the satisfaction of seeing someone discover this innate ability to defend. The only thing for me that matches this satisfaction, is discovery of new mineral deposits.

Friday, October 14, 2011

PhD Earns Master Degree

A play on words? One of my favorite students already has an advanced degree in biology - but now he also has an advanced diploma in martial arts.  Dr. Adam has been a student of mine for more than 20 years, and prior to that, he studied Shotokan karate for at least a decade.

Few people master martial arts – it takes years of dedication & training. When most people think of a master of martial arts, they visualize an old, wise, Oriental monk; or a faster than life karate master who is almost indestructible. Hollywood exaggerates many elements of a martial arts master. To be a true master of martial arts, one must learn considerable oriental philosophy, history, traditions and of course, martial arts.
Reaching the level of a PhD and Professor requires dedication to a particular field of study and research leaving little time for anything else. And to do the same in martial arts is rare.

Dr. Adam receives certification as shihan and godan at
the Arizona School of Traditional Karate.
Dr Neal Adam, associate professor of biology at Grand Canyon University, has dedicated the past 30 years to learning karate while pursuing a career in science. His love for karate reached a level of nearly complete comprehension of Okinawan Shorin-Ryu Seiyo Kai Karate and Kobudo. To reach such a level of expertise, one must understand the mechanics and physics of karate, they must comprehend the philosophy of the art, they must learn dozens of complex forms and be able to demonstrate the forms without thinking and with extraordinary power and focus, they must master several ancient weapons, and they must learn to defend themselves effectively.

The Master degree (Shihan no Budo) is a measure of one’s expertise and translates in Japanese as Shihan. Dr. Neal Adam reached this level and was presented certifications of Shihan and Godan (5th degree black belt) after testing in front of Soke Hausel, world head of Seiyo Shorin-Ryu Karate and Kobudo at the Hombu (world headquarters) in Mesa.

In addition to demonstrating an understanding of karate and kobudo, Dr. Adam was also required to develop new forms of kobudo. He created a new form of hanbo (3-foot staff) and applications for self defense, and also developed a new form using common tools of his trade for self-defense: eye glasses, rulers, pens, belt, etc.

Dr. Adam, wearing official nerdja gi provided
us with a very entertaining demo of kobudo
for professors and nerds.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Arizona Traditional Karate - Journal of a Soke

We are proud of all of our students and excited to see progress along their martial arts path. In September, some of our deshi were ready to move forward at the Hombu.  Two of our students have been wearing white belts long enough and reached the next step along their budo path and were tested for kukyu (yellow belt).

Lacy Pine and Adam Bialek put in a lot of extra time training each night during September. It was uncommon for either to miss a training session and they also were seen training before and after class most evenings. During their exam, they were required to perform the first three taikyoku kata and then square off and demonstrate bunkai (applications) from the kata. Omedetoo (congratulations)! They kicked their way past the first goal of their budo path.
Adam Bialek (left) and Lacy Pine (right) were promoted to ku kyu following exams Tuesday evening. They did super!

Three deshi (students) from our Gillette dojo affiliate were also promoted by Shihan-Dai Kyle Gewecke, 4th dan.  We are proud of our Gillette students and excited to see them progress!

From Gillette, Chase Cassidy was promoted to sankyu (brown), Nick Jarvis to rokukyu (blue) and Brandon Brown to shichikyu (blue). Omedetoo!
Photo taken at recent Gillette samurai clinic taught by Soke Hausel. 

Back row (L-R) Elaine Finley (1st dan), Hanshi Finley (7th dan), Soke Hausel (10th dan), Kyle Gewecke, 4th dan and Dr. Florence Teulé (1st dan).

Front Row - Heather From, Chase Cassidy, Charlie Bissell, and Brandon Brown.

Three other members of Seiyo Kai International underwent 1.5 weeks of exams at the Hombu dojo in Mesa and Gilbert, Arizona. These individuals had to know dozens of kata and applications and had to master a number of kobudo weapons. Mastering the weapons included demonstrating the kobudo kata for each weapon, bunkai (applications from the kata), and kobudo kumite (sparring). All of these kata are from the Seiyo Shorin-Ryu system. 

After passing the karate and kobudo kata and bunkai portions of the exams, the three were required to perform self-defense applications against an aggressor with a knife, pistol and rifle. Our three candidates were successful and promoted. After presentation of their diplomas, the dojo members were treated to a demonstration of a new kata created by Dr. Neal Adam (Shihan Adam also created a hanbo kata earlier) that is a must for everyone to see.

Paula Borea (center) and Bill Borea (right) pose with Soke
Hausel at the Arizona Hombu following promotion to nidan
(2nd degree black belt).
Following the exams, all three were promoted at a celebration Thursday evening (September 8th). Dr. Adam was promoted to godan (5th degree black belt) and certified as shihan (master instructor). Bill and Paula Borea were promoted to nidan (2nd degree black belt).

Shihan Adam developed a kata for Seiyo Shorin-Ryu in the recent past that uses several of our hanbo (baton) waza. It’s a powerful kata that we will have to get him to teach at an upcoming clinic.

But his latest kata is a sight to behold. He demonstrated this latest– I think he calls it Nerdan No Professor Adam. The kata is designed for the university professor and computer geek and uses tools of the trade for weapons: such as a ruler, pen, glasses, belt and even one’s high-water pants. I suspect that a joystick can be substituted for a pen.

Dr. Neal Adam receives certifications for godan (5th degree black belt) and shihan (master instructor). Shihan Adam has been in the martial arts for at least 3 decades and was one of my students at the University of Wyoming a little more than 2 decades ago. He is currently a member of Grand Canyon University’s faculty.

Thus, right after the award ceremony, our dojo was invaded by a Nerdja, wearing a traditional geek cloak. As the nerdja entered the dojo, it was clear everyone was gripped with fear at the sight of this individual. Never before had any of us seen such an intimidating foe (at least not since we took calculus) and many members came unhinged at the sight of this villain! No computer was safe!

Is it a Nerd? A martial artist?
A ninja? No, its a Nerdja!
Dressed as a nerdja, Shihan Adam preformed a kata using the tools of trade for a geek. Using his ruler, pens, belt and glasses, he was able to show how such simple tools can be effectively used as self-defense weapons.

The Arizona School of Traditional Karate (Seiyo Kai Hombu) was visited by a FOX 10 news crew on  September 22nd, 2011. The crew included a cameraman and interviewer (Richard Saenz) from the nightly news in Phoenix. They were very professional and we enjoyed spending time with them on their visit to the Hombu dojo.

They visited the hombu because two of our grandparents were promoted to nidan black belt – Bill and Paula - a very rare event. The interview began at the Borea’s house as this was a program about how two grandparents end up becoming 2nd degree black belts in Okinawan karate. Bill and Paula have been part of our dojo pretty much since I moved to Arizona in 2006 from the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

The start of the interview showed the mild mannered couple as typical grandparents by day. In the evening, after finding a phone booth, they quickly changed into Super nidans. The Fox 10 crew later came to the dojo and spent time interviewing Bill, Paula and myself, and then went into the training center to video our session. It was kobudo night, so they watched our group train with bo, tonfa as well as nunchaku – the entire session was in Japanese and we finished with our traditional ceremony of respect for martial arts and one another. 

Senpai Paula responds to senpai Bill’s bo attack with tonfa. Bill should know better by now!

 For those of you outside of Arizona who have not yet met Bill and Paula, they have been very important in assisting in establishing our Hombu in Arizona. They also assist Shihan Adam and myself in teaching. Before Arizona, Bill and Paula had some unique attachments to Japan and karate. Both trained in Japan while Bill was stationed in the orient in the US Air Force.

Paula is half-Japanese. After World War II, she was born to a Japanese mother and an American serviceman. Being a child of two opposed cultures resulted in conflicts in her early years. Her Japanese family demanded her mother give her up for adoption at the age of 5 as she was half gaijin (foreigner). At this time in history, the Japanese were nationalistic and did not want to have anything to do with other cultures.

 When Paula returned to Japan with her husband Bill many years later, she was reunited with her Japanese mother and shared many tears. It is the stuff that makes great movies and novels! Paula is not only of Japanese descent, she also of samurai lineage and always had an attachment to her heritage. When she moved to Arizona, she searched for a martial arts school that could help her get closer to that part of her heritage.

Both Bill and Paula are grandparents who show that with the right attitude, anything can be accomplished. They show this everyday in their lives. People who claim they cannot train because of physical limitations need to spend time with these two extraordinary people. Both recently had surgery for serious problems and both continue to train! They are tough as nails!

Shihan Adam uses age jodan uke (rising high block) to defend against atana uchi (head strike) with bo by Rich Mendolia.

We finished the training session with nunchaku kata (forms) followed by a few nunchaku bunkai (self-defense) against tanto (knife) attacks. I noticed a few bruises were provided by Rich and Ryan to their uke (training partners) and we only broke one rubber knife. So it was a very good evening.

The FOX 10 crew indicated that the video will be edited and they will provide us with a copy (hopefully both edited and non-edited) and the edited version will likely air sometime soon and will also be placed on their website.  I want to thank FOX 10 and all of our dojo members – this could not have been done without you, whether you made it or not.

Nunchaku kata demonstration at the Hombu.

A distinguished scientist and martial artist from France stopped by the dojo last month to train in our Wednesday class. Dr. Florence Teulé who is working with a research group at Utah State University on synthetic spider silk stopped by for a few hours of training while in town to do some work at ASU.
Right - Dr. Teulé, senapi (shodan) delivers uraken uchi (back fist) to Dan Graffius (nidan).  Dr. Teulé is not only a shodan black belt in Seiyo Shorin-Ryu karate and kobudo, she is also a uchi deshi (person of significance) for soke, former University of Wyoming faculty advisor for the Campus Shorin-Ryu Karate Club and now the Utah State Representative for Seiyo Kai International.