Monday, May 30, 2016

Sensei Bob Thivierge

When I was a teenager I guess I was karate crazy.




I trained two nights and Saturday with my karate teacher.  A friend of mine had karate classes two nights a week in Jewett City so I trained there also.  If we had free time we went to Chuck Merriman's school in New London and watched class.  There was a Pai Lum Kung Fu instructor in Ledyard so we checked him out.  We could not get enough karate.




In the Jewett City school, under Rusty James, I met Bob Thivierge.  He came early, stayed late and was always perfecting one technique or another.  When he received his green belt I started to notice him more because of his hard work and dedication to the school.  His teacher eventually moved on and he took over the training and became the resident Sensei.  My life had moved on with working and family but I always kept my connection with Bob.


His teacher, Rusty sponsored a small competition in Voluntown.  We got a group of Black Belts together and did point sparring under the tent one summer.  We sparred on a wood floor that was set up for dancing later that night.  Little did they know what had ahappened just hours earlier.  We had about a dozen guys show up from around the area.  Martial arts was a small culture in those days and we knew about all the schools in the area.   I sparred a Phillipino guy who showed up.  With his first move he drilled me with a front kick that knocked me out of the ring.  It was a real WOW  moment for me.  I received a second place losing to the sponsor Rusty James who was a great sparrer.

 The following year Bob took over the competition.   Kickboxing waas now the vogue and was the competition of choice.  My brother John fought and there were some great matches that day.  They all took place in the field outside the tent.  Bob fought and had an amazing match.  He was seriously tough and never backed down.  There were several bouts that day that were pretty fantastic.

The following year there was to be an upgrade.  A boxing ring was to be used for all the fights.  One of my fellow Black Belts Windy Winslow was to fight Tommy Champagne and I was to be in the main event against Bobby.  I was running 20 miles a week and training 6 days a week in karate/kickboxing and could not have been more ready.  I was in the best shape of my life.


It was the Wednesday before the fight and Windy and I had a 2 hour training session.  Our main KO technique was to be the spin backfist (it was to be our "secret" weapon).  After sparring many rounds we decided to drill it some more, with no equipment on.   An errant spin backfist knocked my front tooth loose.  It was hanging by a tiny little ligament and was almost knocked clean out of my mouth. 

I went to the dentist the next day to have him look at it.  As soon as I opened my mouth and he saw it dangling there, all he could say as his eyes popped out was, OOOOOH!

I knew it was not good.

He asked how it happened and I had to tell him, kickboxing! And then I had to tell about the big match coming up in a few days.  I spoke to him about all of my preparation and how important it was to me.  He gave me two choices.  Fight and lose the tooth (because very little was keeping it attached to my gum) or wear a tooth cast and maybe keep it.  It was both an easy and tough decision because I wanted so badly to fight.


Well, I skipped the fight and got a substitute.  Larry Kelley of Amhurst, Massachussets was the number one point fighter in New England and the country.  He is a fantastic kicker and once even knocked out Billy Blanks with a front leg hook kick.  Bobby and he went toe to toe for three rounds.  Even though I was rooting for my substitute, Bobby held his own and went the distance.  I couldn't have been prouder of him.


Bobby was a hard worker and when he got layed off he traveled to Florida by himself and had been working 7 days a week for over 6 months.  It was hard for him because his wife and children were still home but he had to work.   He finally had a day off after working like a dog all these months and went to the beach.  While body surfing a wave overtook him, flipped him upside down and the accident made him a quadraplegic.  After some hospital time he returned home to Jewett City.


His students, friends and family flocked to support him.  I remember they quickly built a ramp in anticipation of his need to make his house wheelchair accessable.  I was competing heavily around New England and had a big entourage of friends who traveled the karate circuit.  I tapped in to them to do a fundraiser for the Thivierge family to try to help them with some expenses.


It was a great turnout.  Larry Kelley, Jeff Goldberg, Steve Best, Lenny Stavrou, Gary Wilcox, Doug Peoples, Neil Hoffler, Wali Islam, Frankie Baker, Arvo Laats and many more turned out to demonstrate and pay homage to Bob Thivierge in his time of need. It was a "Who's who" of New England martial artists!


Bob stayed active teaching karate in his garage and then in a commercial school.  He affiliated with the Enshin karate group who gave him support and helped his school become a succcess.  I am sure Bob inspired many people in that group too.


I had kept in touch with Bob occasionally over the years and often thought back about the kickboxing match we were meant to have.  Maybe someday when we meet again and we can give it a go.


Sensei Bob Thivierge, through your life you continued to inspire me and I will work to pass on your P.M.A.- positive mental attitude as long as I am able.


We will miss you Sensei Bob Thivierge, you were one of the good ones.


With love and respect,


MB

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Everything I Know About Martial Arts I learned From The Wizard Of Oz



After having taught martial arts for decades I always try to give the first class a fun, simple and achievable lesson that teaches one punch, one block and one kick.  I believe our program is fundamental in teaching mental and emotional skills too, tying in the mind, body and spirit concepts of moo do (martial way). 
In the movie "The Wizard Of Oz" (original) Dorothy lands in Oz and of course wants to return home.  She gets advice from the munchkins to follow the yellow brick road and find the wizard who has all the answers to her problem.  Soon we find out it is the journey, not the destination that helps her realizes the true answers.
Dorothy, along with her dog Toto meets their first new friend, the scarecrow.  He is in a quandary and can't figure things out because he has no brain.  Dorothy convinces the scarecrow to join her on the trek to see the wizard in hope of getting him a brain. The lacking of a brain in turn teaches us that we need to find a good school and good teacher because we are seeking knowledge.  Some students want to look cool and learn the kicks, some want the muscles and many want the powerful personality and demeanor of a Black belt.
  Like Dorothy, the martial arts student does not always realize yet what they really need or want and look to the wisdom of the teachers in the path we call "do"- the way.   New members truly come in as white belts, the tabula rasa (blank slate).  It is up to us to point out the attributes they gain on the journey because they
Down the yellow brick road she travels and we meet friend number two, the tin man.  He is frozen with rust, totally immobile and barely able to make sound. With a little lubrication he is able to tell us his story.  He was bewitched, rebuilt as a tin man but missing an essential piece, a heart.  He was unable to have any feelings and he needs a heart. In the story he is the most tender and emotional of the trio.  We as teachers and seniors to our junior students must have a tender heart to nurture students along.
 Great teachers communicate emotionally and from the heart and hope to instill a love of martial arts to their students.  It is always a sad day for me when a student tells us they are quitting.  One of my favorite stories of having a good heart is about adoption.  A teacher is talking about the concept of adoption and then has the children explain what they thought it meant.  From one student to another they all had slightly different versions of understanding and had many questions.  Finally, one little girl put it well.
  “Adoption is when a baby goes from the tummy of one Mom, to the heart of another.”  If that one sentence doesn’t hit you directly in the heart, nothing will.
We talk about fighters having heart but I think teachers that have the patience and love to teach any beginner has a special heart to help everyone along with the many failures beginners experience.  How many times do we tell beginners, no - the other foot, no -  the right hand, no -the other right hand!
When I teach introductory classes I like to teach the concept of courage to new students.  Many children, teens and adults come in with courage already.   You need a little courage and humility in starting a karate class.  Many students come in shy, apprehensive and doubtful that the experience will be for them but they show up wondering, what can I learn?  Children especially come in wary to a room where there are dozens of people training with intensity and lots of noise. It is easy to forget what a new member sees when all you see is your ”normal”.
Yong gi is the concept of courage.  Courage is not the absence of fear, it is being afraid and being able to take action anyway.   Although we get students in that are perfectly confident we can all use a little practice in building courage, especially in new situations.  I know I have!   When I teach new students a high block, I test their arm strength and then I tell them it is time for a test, a courage test. I smack a focus paddle to my palm to show them how hard I will be attacking.  The big "thwack" sound makes a few eyes bulge at the impact.  Now the student wonders, what am I doing here?  My question to them, do you want me to attack you like a little tyke (and I gently tap my hand) or a future Black Belt (and I give my hand a big impact with the paddle). Ninety nine percent of the time the student asks for the Black Belt version.  They are choosing a path to test their inner courage and we know this is never easy.
The cowardly lion was the trifecta on the yellow brick road although we can add advice and mentoring from the munchkins, escaping the wicked witch taught indomitable spirit, the end of the yellow brick road to the see the wizard taught perseverance and finally she realizes at the end, there is no place like home.  Martial arts schools all over the country are like second families and second homes to many.  I know many of our Black Belts are as close to me as any family member.  Many I have spent substantial time with and we have a strong bond.
These topics are the perfect summary of things needed to be a Black Belt.  Knowledge (a brain), a heart compassion) and turning cowardice into courage.   Martial philosophy at its best from L. Frank Baum, author.
And by the way, I am still afraid of flying monkeys.
 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Hwal = Vitality

Moo Do Creed (Moo Duk Kwan Hun Jang)
The purpose of Moo Do is Hwal -               to cultivate ourselves.

Moo Do does not end in offense or defense.

It is one step further, the purpose is life itself.

Even facing the enemy, our goal is to save them.


The principles of Moo Do are the principles of Nature.
 

Guided by Moo Do we may achieve the goal of Hwal in the principles of Nature

 
To do so we must concentrate, stress the beauty, line and speed, and study scientifically
To provide all this is our creed.
                                                                         - Hwang Kee


Lets not forget the philosophical part of the art!

Master Bogdanski
 

Friday, October 09, 2015

Know When to Hold Them

The Kenny Rogers song comes to mind.

"Know when to hold them, know when to fold them"

We all have a tendency to push all day every day, that is what helped make us Black Belts and successful in life.

Know when to take a break.


Sleep;
  • Keeps you heart healthy
  • Reduces stress
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Increases alertness
  • Helps your body and mind recover
Sleep is when your body repairs itself.
I love to sleep and hate to sleep.  Sleep feels so good but keeps you from being active.  Yes we need it.


Friday, July 24, 2015

Age 62 and Training Hard

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At age 62 I know I need to keep up my fitness.   With significant cartilage loss in my knees I can't jog anywhere.  I would be a limping mess.  A few years ago I rediscovered bike riding as a way to keep my legs strong and get some good cardio.

Yesterday I did a 16 mile hill course.  It took one hour and fourty four minutes.  I sweat, my heart pounded and my legs burned.  It was challenging and fun and I got to see lots of beautiful views of NE Connecticut.

One day you will wake up and you will feel like you are aging.  I read you will begin to feel old when you turn 58.  Don't let it happen!

P.S. - Today I sparred 6 rounds and felt fantastic.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

24 Hours



Whenever you celebrate a victory, savor it for 24 hours and then move on.  It's time to set up the next one.  Take what you learned, make it a little better and get to it.

Lets do this on the loss side too.  When something goes wrong and it will, give it 24 hours and move on.  It's not a roadblock, just a detour.  We learn from our failures.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Tang Soo Do Hyung Introspective


The forms (hyung) used by Tang Soo Do are believed to be the intermediate forms between Okinawa and Japan. These include Kee Cho Hyung Il Bu, Ee Bu, and Sam Bu. These are similar to Taikyoku Shodan, Nidan and Sandan.
 
 Next are the Pyung Ahn (Okinawan: Pinan; Japanese: Heian) Cho Dan, Ee Dan, Sam Dan, Sa Dan and Oh Dan.
External (Hard Style), influenced by Southern Chinese Schools, These belong to the We Ga Ryu (Chinese: Wai Chia) They are characterized by aggressiveness, dynamic action and spontaneity.
Basai Dae is the Tang Soo Do version of Bassai Dai. Next is Passi So (Passai or Bassai Sho). Following these is jin Do (Chinto or Gankaku). The twelfth form is O Sip Sa Bo (U Sei Shi Ho; Gojushiho), followed by Wang Shu (Wansu; Empi/Embi). Tjin is the Tang Soo Do version of Ji-in.
So Rim Jang Kwon and Dam Toi are unique to Tang Soo Do. Hyung seventeen and eighteen are Kong Sang Koon Dae and Kong Sang Koon So (Kusanku Dai and Sho; Kanku Dai and Sho). Tang Soo Do has three Rohaee (Rohai) hyung: Chodan, Ee dan and Sam dan.
The last two are Eesip Sa (Nijushiho) and Woon Shu (Unsu).
The Ne Ga Ryu (Chinese: Nei Chia) Internal (Soft [Kung] Style) use forms influenced by the northern Chinese Schools. These forms display deliberateness, stability, fluid motion and slow, quiet power.
These forms include Tsan Tjin (Sanchin), Jun Jang, Ssi San, Ssi Boai (Saifa; Saipa), Bae Rin Bba, SsanSsi Bbai, Sei San (Seisan; Hangetsu), Sai Hoo Ah, Goo Reung Hoo Ah (Kururunfa), Jin Toi, Ji-on, Tae Kuk Kwon, and Ne Bboo Jin (Naihanji; Naihanchi; Tekki) Cho Dan, Ee Dan and Sam Dan.
The Choong Ga Ryu
Chil sung Hyung and Yuk Ro Hyung.
 Yuk Ro Chodan - Du Mun (Great Gate)
Yuk Ro Ee Dan - Jung Jol (Cutting the Middle)
Yuk Ro Sam Dan -  Po Wol embrace the moon
Sal Chu - Killing Hammer

Choong Ro - Seize and Capture