I dreamed a world where my two passions, martial arts and fashion, would co-exist in to pop culture! Recently, this collection by Walter Van Beriendonck captures a very vibrant take on my ideal aesthetic. I love how incorporate the colored Obi (karate belt) with the looks. The only problem is the average people would not even know how to tie a karate belt (unless they went to youtube). Seeing this collection makes me believe I am on the right path towards something.
Early march, We managed to travel down southern Kentucky to compete at a great martial arts tournament. Tournament of Champions is a sport karate event by Marty Eubanks (Son of the late Bluegrass Nationals promoter, Ken Eubanks). He has been branding this regional event nonstop all years. Fortunately, it has paid off quite well for him. Soon as we arrived at the tournament, the registration line was packed!! you feel the energy in the air of the top martial artist in the region seeking to win their divisions. Me and couple of my classmates, whom I consider my brothers, decided to do team fights early that morning followed by our actual division later.
After a long day, the adult black belt men’s division finally were caught up. The heavyweight division was stacked with an enormous amount of talent. Personally, it was definitely a challenge because it could be anyone’s day to win! Some of the guys I’ve fought or watched them fight. Good thing being off the radar for a while, they didn’t know what I could do. After going through two rounds in eliminations, the fight I would’ve taken me to fight for first place along with my other team, Sean “Goo” Elder (pictured in the red and black) was short by Tray Lazenby of Team Atl. He is very good counter fighter will great speed for a heavyweight. Despite the blows exchanged, he advanced with a score of 6-3 and lost by one point (6-5) for 3rd and 4th to my friend, Ben Franzen (we fought first round during team fights).
Initially, I wasn’t pleased on the performance. However, I have always been my toughest critic. Throughout the day, I pondered on the mistakes taken from our earlier matches. Soon as my cousin (also classmate) gave me a broader perspective, my initial moral took a slight mental shift towards the greater good. Since November, the obsession to win overall grand champion deprived my evaluation of self-improvement. For once, I never took the chance to view the gradual progression upon myself. Sometimes we focus so much on being perfect or winning for a “title” we never try to register our milestones which transpires us to the present. Obtaining fourth place was a great lesson because I gave it my all. No one wants to be second or three best, but if we recognize our steps towards being greater than we all win! Granted, we all are hungry and push each other to better ourselves.
I finally got the chance to do team fights train along some people I admired as a teenager, learned from my strengths and weaknesses, and fellowship with some martial artists. You can’t get any better than that!
This shot occurred at a regional karate tournament which I won my second grand championship. I recently got back into the tournament scene this past fall. Although I didn’t place as desired, it has pushed me to make myself greater. Extraordinary is the only option.
2010 was a great year because it reflected my journey as a martial artist seeking truth for myself and not from a single source. It was a great moment. However, I was still in the crosswords whether if martial arts was a motivator. Sometimes winning titles doesn’t always determine your happiness. In competition, no one wants to be the loser. Granted, if we all learn something in our battles (inside and outside the ring), then we all walk away as victorious. 2014 will be a different story. It’s time to see if my dedication to the art should pay off!
As a black martial artist, its not often you have martial artist who seek to demonstrate the beauty of both cultures. Often times its very one sided. Sometimes this can develop a cultural conflict. However, its great to learn from different cultures without sacrificing your own. it shows growth and epitome of freedom. One of the pioneers of the black martial arts community, Oso Tayari Casel captures the aesthetics of martial arts and culture quite effortlessly!
Volvo Trucks released the dopest video ever featuring Jean-Claude Van Damme. To highlight its latest truck technology, Van Damme stood between two trucks as they drove down a road backwards. After his epic monologue ends, the two trucks slowly drift apart from each other to highlight their Dynamic Steering system. Meanwhile, he taken the split into another level. For those who are not aware, I am an extreme fan of Jean Claude Van Damme (JCVD). Afterall, he is MAIN reason why I wanted to do martial arts, period! From roller coast ride dealing with fame and drugs, he has shown us he can still do what he does best – make epic shit!
#tbt 5 years ago was a fight or flight point moment. Losing my brother really took a tow of me, which I even considered on hang up the martial arts forever (obviously, I haven’t quit). Granted, this was an unprecedented emotional experience for me; therefore, I didn’t know where to go. I mainly trained by myself, no school backing me or anything. I needed time to figure what’s my true purpose. I competed at a martial arts tournament in Cincinnati as verdict for my future direction.
Despite my oppressing moments, defeat was not an option. I went all the way to fight for overall grand! God shown me the light to never quit no matter the circumstances and do what you are passionate about! From then on, I recognized my purpose. Personally, thank my parents and my son being at my corner through it all (celebrating my victory with my pink polo and denim jacket 😉 )!!
There are plenty of things you can gain from competing on the martial arts tournament scene. One of the greatest benefits for being in the sport martial arts world is seeing other martial artists from all over. Martial artists from different styles, backgrounds, personalities, etc. Chances are you may be competing with these people in your division (i.e. weapons, forms, fighting) or see them compete for the nighttime finals.
Each competitor possess different strengths and weaknesses. At tournaments, I try to utilize these to climb to the top. Unlike all games, you don’t win them all. No one likes to lose. I do not like losing because the entire purpose is to win. However, the only exception of losing is discovering oneself. For example, last national tournament I competed was at the Battle of Atlanta 2011. Unfortunately, I did not place the way how I wanted. My techniques were on point, but my timing was off. Through months, it was very difficult to pinpoint the missing piece of the puzzle. Brian Ruth, a well-respected martial artist in sport karate, stated I lacked aggression from my attacks. It was crazy enough to finally recognize this issue.
This is a priceless moment which the monetary things such as trophies and money does not matter! You it the exposure to other people foreign to you.it’s the goal setting it’s the dealing with disappointments well as success. The dojo or Dojang is your home. Like every other home, you learn the fundamentals of life. You learn health, respect, courage, leadership. These are not shared in tournaments.. In the tournament scene, you only learn the desire to win and great sportsmanship! One must return to the essential traits to anchor this endeavors.
Tournaments are a great place to utilize them. If you want to be a great athlete you must maintain proper health. If you want to do well in tournaments, you need to show respect to the past present and future competitors, coaches and judges. You step on any mat be it for forms, weapons or sparring you are showing courage to step outside of a comfort zone and allow yourself to be judged by others and finally if you are part of a team or school competing you need to take on that leadership role.
Metaphorically,some times we focus so much about the club (tournaments) in which we forget about our home training (dojo). In today’s society, this is extremely crucial. We always want to show off, turn up, but don’t want to place the necessary home skills to offer for the real world. When the club is over, you have to worry about going home safe. Are these domestic values gonna help on your way back. It’s all fun and games until the light are on and the music stops playing. It’s something to think about.
From the 80’s thru the mid 90s, American films had some great martial arts films. Although some possess a typical storyline (i.e. seeking vengeance towards deceased loved one), many of these films reflected the reason why martial arts was apart of pop culture. For example, Best of the Best was perhaps one of those great martial arts films which executed excitement with its epic storyline and martial arts choreography. In fact, this film actually demonstrated the true nature of sport martial arts. This particular match is the final bout against team USA and Korea. Philip Rhee who portrays Tommy Lee of Team USA faces off with Team Korea and Tae Kwon Do champion, Dae Han (whose his real life brother Simon Rhee). Tommy’s moral code as a martial artist is tested because Dae Han is the man who killed his brother (typical in films right).
Despite the great basics and choreography, I was more pleased about the integrity Tommy faced in this match. Here you have a person who has the chance to settle the score against their ultimate adversary. Despite his repressive moments and illegal hits, Tommy fought hard to overcome Dae Han. However, this true test was the compromising decision to finish him. Instead, he took the high road during the guidance of his coach (James Earl Jones) and teammate (Eric Roberts). During the present moment, it doesn’t always feel great to take the high road based on conflicting moments. Reflecting back at those moments it make us appreciate the right decisions we make. This fight demonstrated it entirely in the best metaphorical way possible.
There is no question without a doubt Bruce Lee brought martial arts into pop culture on a level no one can practically duplicate. One of his iconic ensembles was the black and yellow jumpsuit from Game of Death. The outfit was not complete with out the Onitsuka Tiger sneakers.
The Harandia from Onitsuka Tiger in Golden Black is a new running shoe style that’s draws inspiration from classic runners, past and present. Due to the material constructed, its without a doubt the shoe remixed into modern times and with a modest price! It’s obvious Bruce had taste in almost every genre. Clearly these are a classic to cop here!
Whether people recognize it or not, but martial arts will claw back its way into pop culture! One of the reasons I know this is simply because of high-profile directors such as Ang Lee (Crouching Tiger- Hidden Dragon), Quentin Tarantino (i.e. Iron Monkey and Man with the Iron Fists) and now Martin Scorsese presents an epic martial arts film which depicts the life of wing chun master, Yip Man (again). It took no surprise wu-tang clan artists RZA and Raekwon have worked on yet another movie endeavor, this time considering martial arts icon Ip Man in Wong Kar Wai’s The Grandmaster. Featuring dynamic martial arts choreography and brilliant editing, there are also blitzing track from Wu-Tang members. The film release this weekend and can’t wait to see what this film has to offer opposed to its counterparts.
My heart was heavy to receive the news about one of my martial arts heroes, Jim Kelly, went to warrior heaven this past weekend. Jim Kelly was most famous for his role as the swagadelic martial arts fighter, Williams in “Enter the Dragon“. The Kentucky native also appears in numerous Blaxploitation films (i.e. Hot Potato, Black Samurai, Tattoo Connection, 3 the hard way) where he possessed martial art skill, style and swagger to overcome his oppressors by any means necessary (no pun intended). Above everything else, I loved his catchy phrases such as, “You come right out of a comic book” or ” When it comes, I won’t even notice because I will be too busy looking good”. The role in the Bruce Lee film was his second.In recent years, he was a particular celebrity fixture at various comic book conventions.
He started studying martial arts in 1964 in Kentucky and later moved to California where he earned a black belt in karate.His interest in acting began after winning karate tournaments. He also played college football at the University of Louisville. What baffles me about Sifu Kelly was the fact we didn’t see enough of him. True story, There are enough black martial art heroes to look up! It has been stated Hollywood was NOT ready for a black action hero, which caused a deep emotional inflicting wound to continue film during that time. Fortunately, we have other black martial arts actors such as Michael Jai White and Wesley Snipes who keeps the art true and create avenues for future martial art actors. His last appearance was from a Lebron James’ Nike “Chamber of Fear” commercial back in 2004.
As a child, I am beyond pleased my mother raised me on a person who shared my same interest as myself and someone else (besides my father and martial arts instructor) to look up to in the big screen. His work will never be forgotten.
The grandmaster’s memorial service was held this past weekend. There was no shadow of a doubt I attended to show my respects. Along my visit to the service, I got the chance to speak to some old faces and met some new faces as well. I must admit it is not a great moment to meet other martial artists based on certain circumstances. However, my main concern about the martial arts community was its current direction. I always asked myself when the elders are gone, who were going to become their successors? Once that torch is passed down, will we be able to evolve the art beyond what they have given to us. It was an interesting topic as I spoke with several other masters about the subject, which inspired me as I walk into my quest to evolve. Many people love to ride the coat-tail of another person’s success (or skill). The secret is you have to make your own.
One person who walked away and marked his own path was my instructor, Keith Price. Controversial sparked among his colleagues from his departure. On the other hand, it helped other martial artist such as myself. His unconventional methods are one of the reason how I determine expectations. Honestly, I had an underline disagreement with him within the past few years because of my relentless dedication to the art. I always wanted to more from his teachings and felt it was unrecognized. The last thing we want to happen as artist is place our fate in someone’s hands. After the passing of my brother, it was best for me to search for it on my own. Living tomorrow is never promised. I had a success in discovering the art from another level. A discovery no one can take away from me.Tackling the nucleus of the art was my true key to evolve. Sadly, one can never grow without studying the roots.
Our society is so focus on dealing with being relevant at the current state of time. Never do we seek to polish our craft so it could resonate through out time. A skill which no one can not deny. The chains of justification can no longer cast a burden. This is what I see our direction in the community (as well as society). However, my progression will unable to seek fruition if there is an ounce of resentment. Discussing those issues were the way to progress. In the result, I have made amends with him. As the casket was brought down by the steps of the church, I have seen the faces of my fellow brother with such hurt. The hurt was not solely on the lost of our grandmaster, but the lost of the compass they relied on forever.
This is what worries me. We can not expect people to hold our hand in our journey for ever. The bird leaves its nest sooner or later. Out of all the living species, how many do see them taking of their offspring throughout time. The answer is none.. We have to push forward to grow. We have to want it for ourselves. I love the new faces of fellow martial artists who are on the same pursuit as mine. Our elders would appreciate their legacy continues to inspire others.