By Dave Kovar
Every now and then, you meet someone who immediately grabs your attention. Joe Hammel was one of those people. I’ll never forget the day in the early 1990s when he walked into my school. He was 53 at the time, and I remember thinking how old he was. He told me that he had wanted to do martial arts since he was a teenager but never had the courage to get started.
I told him that it was never too late to start! Now was just as good a time as any! I didn’t really believe it, but I didn’t tell him that part.
Joe was no dummy. He was an English professor by day and a concert pianist by night. Smart he certainly was, but coordinated he certainly was not. During his first lesson, I remember thinking that he was the most ungraceful person I’d ever worked with. I asked him about prior athletic endeavors. He said he’d never done anything remotely like a sport in his whole life. It showed.
At first glance, the lack of previous physical...
By Terry L. Wilson
A Low Kick
People often say of a martial artist, “He was training as soon as he could walk.” In Joao Gabriel Rocha’s case, this was almost literally true. His introduction to Brazilian jiu-jitsu came from a summer camp for toddlers. At a mere two years, eight months, Joao had embarked on the journey of a lifetime. But this path would not be without struggle.
Joao worked hard and saw payoffs, in the form of a series of impressive victories as a junior (not yet black) belt. In 2013, Joao was promoted to black belt, earning him a spot to compete in the elite Submission Wrestling World Championships.
This grappling competition involves professional athletes of the highest level, from a variety of grappling styles, including jiu-jitsu. Joao worked his way to the finals in the 99 kg division but lost to Marcus “Buchecha” Almelda in the finals.
Despite the loss, Joao was skyrocketing to the top of his profession....
By Nguyen “Tom” Griggs
For this column, I continue using acronyms to spell out the words BLACK BELT, as they relate to teams and leadership. This month, I’ll address the second “L” in black belt leadership, which stands for Learning. Let’s start with one of my favorite Zen parables.
Empty Your Cup
A philosophy professor once met with a Zen master to learn more about Zen teachings. They met at the master’s home and spent the afternoon talking. It became apparent that the professor was not interested in learning. He wanted to show that his beliefs and philosophy were superior to the Zen master’s teachings.
After some time, the wise Zen master paused to make some tea. She brought over two cups and began to pour tea for the professor. As the professor proudly continued to chatter on, he noticed that the Zen master was pouring so much tea into his cup that it overflowed and spilled.
The professor exclaimed rather...
By Karen Eden
One of the biggest lessons I learned in my broadcasting career didn’t come from me, but from my co-anchor, the renowned wrestler Kurt Angle.
You see, Kurt was homegrown from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and had just won Olympic gold for wrestling when I was getting my first major-market TV break alongside him.
I had worked a good 10 years in the business before finally making it in the “big leagues” of broadcast news. Kurt, on the other hand, was brought in as a promotional coup. The management was hoping that Pittsburghers would tune into our brand-new news program to see their history-making golden boy do sports.
I’m not telling you anything that Kurt wouldn’t tell you himself. It was a disaster in the making! As I sat with him night after night, I watched someone who had never anchored before try to pull off...
By Herb Borkland
John Duncan began studying martial arts in 1963. At age 14 he began training at the legendary Texas Karate Institute under Fred Wren. Allen Steen, Jhoon Rhee’s original American black belt, tested Duncan for his first dan. Later, Duncan became an instructor, and then head instructor, at Texas Karate, from 1972 to 1974.
In 1978, Duncan moved to Oklahoma, to study philosophy and literature at the University of Oklahoma. Close to earning his Ph.D., he quit academia to join the police force. Duncan eventually became an Oklahoma State Bureau of Narcotics undercover agent, head of an elite firearms program, and a street-lethal combatives instructor.
In 2007, Duncan retired from law enforcement and became a full-time professor at the University of Oklahoma.
Herbert Borkland: Where did you grow up, and what did your dad do?
John Duncan: (I was) born in Pampa, Texas, and ended up at the West Texas Permian Basin because my father owned an oil well...
By Eric Fleishman
What transforms a normal martial arts dojo into a life-changing hall of enlightenment? The answer is you! Your ability to connect with your students and their parents, and communicate effectively with your staff, is at the heart of what makes your establishment great.
Even more specifically, what kind of interaction are you offering (or, what kind should you be offering) to these key individuals? They need positive reinforcement of their decision to train or work with you, and they look to you to inspire them. With the right motivation, your instructors, students, parents and even vendors will follow you to the ends of the earth.
It starts with having a winning, positive attitude. How you treat those around you sets the precedent for how they will feel, and in turn, how they will treat others. So how does one create, maintain, and develop this incredibly powerful point of view?
You need to be an expert in leading by example, which means...
By Jenny Wolff
Haeng Ung Lee was a multi-faceted individual. He was a military man who loved to golf, run, and tell jokes.
He also loved martial arts.
It was his passion for this pastime that led the now-infamous Eternal Grand Master and his dear friend, Richard Reed, to establish the American Taekwondo Association (ATA) in 1969.
Since then, ATA has become a household name in the industry and remains the largest North American martial arts organization dedicated to the discipline of taekwondo. What began with a simple vision to change lives and make a difference has turned in to a global phenomenon.
This summer, ATA celebrates its 50th anniversary during its annual Worlds event. This is the perfect opportunity to reflect on the last five decades and look forward to the promising future.
How It All Began
Lee began studying martial arts as a teenager in Korea in 1954. By 1956, he was in the Korean Army, teaching...
Interview by Perry William Kelly
“Some men see things as they are and ask why.
I dream of things that never were and ask why not?”
—Robert F. Kennedy
George Mink is a little bit of Steve Austin (TV’s rebuilt Six Million Dollar Man character), some real-life Rambo and a pinch of Bruce Lee all rolled up into one.
A 7th-degree black belt in shorin-kempo karate, Mink has trained around the world for over 47 years, earned black belts in five different styles of martial arts and competed in full-contact matches.
Currently, Mink and his business partner Penny Pitassi run two schools in Illinois and have a main school in San Antonio, Texas. They also have affiliate schools in California and Colorado. They teach students of all ages, and have specialized classes for women’s self-defense and law enforcement.
In addition to running a school, Mink also spends a great deal of time pursuing his passions outside the dojo: fighting for the freedom of...
By Karen Eden
I’ll never forget this story that my former brother-in-law Gary shared with me. He was on his first voyage overseas in the Navy, and couldn’t wait to debark with his friends onto the shores of a Caribbean island.
It seems the island was all set up to receive the sailors, too. It had everything a lonely boy far from home would find intriguing, including rock-bottom prices on otherwise rather expensive merchandise. One in particular caught his eye.
“I couldn’t believe the deal I was getting,” my brother-in-law told us.
Posted right outside the door was a sign that read: “Stereo system on sale for $100.” Knowing that the same stereo system back in the states would cost four times that amount, he went in to check out the deal.
Evidently, it was a state-of-the-art system complete with...
By Herb Borkland
Washington insider and Texan 7th-dan Merrill “Bobby” Matthews, Ph.D., is an internationally respected public policy analyst specializing in health care, entitlements and energy issues. His pioneering martial arts roots go back to the “Blood-and-Guts” era of Grandmaster Alan Steen, the first taekwondo instructor in the Lone Star State. Matthews joined the Southwest Tae Kwon Do Association, founded in 1976 by Keith D. Yates, one of Steen’s original black belts. In 1996, it became the more inclusive American Karate and Tae Kwon Do Organization (AKATO).
Herb Borkland: Where did you grow up, and what did your dad do?
Merrill Matthews: I was born in Longview, Texas and moved to Dallas in 1963. My father was a banker.
HB: How did you discover martial arts?
MM: In 1967, I was a high school sophomore. One day, Bob Beasley came in wearing a windbreaker with the Southwest Karate Black Belt Association logo. That...
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