May 6

Testing, testing…Adair Rodriguez, you’re next…

We invite you to a black belt test at Metamora Township High School from 2-7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11!

MTHS senior Adair Rodriguez is the 11th person in line to test for black belt at Metamora Martial Arts.

Joe Chianakas and Adair Rodriguez pose in May 2011

Adair Rodriguez, right, tests for black belt on Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Adair has trained diligently for the past four years. He was a standout student in my first large group of white belts that I taught by myself during my first semester out of high school and has since evolved into a leader as the sempai of the program.

Throughout his high school career, Adair has won numerous awards within Metamora Martial Arts and even more trophies at area tournaments, while continuously giving back by volunteering his time as an assistant instructor and hitting a multitude of demonstrations and seminars. He even trained for a brief period in another art, kajukembo.

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We will post Adair’s black belt essay on Monday.

April 5

This month in history: April


Black Belt Magazine featured an article by Sensei Joe Chianakas on the “10 Keys to Combat.” Also, in the same issue, his Next Generation column discussed approaching weapons training with caution.

10 Keys to Combat in Black Belt Magazine, by Joe Chianakas

April 5 – Metamora Martial Arts hosted our first annual open tournament. We had more than 100 competitors representing around a dozen schools.

Metamora Martial Arts belts belts in 2008

Metamora Martial Arts black belts in April 2008 (L-R): Mr. Aaron Ruder, Mr. Justin Knobeloch, Ms. Amanda Dixon, Mr. David Hawkey, Mr. Thomas Deters, Mr. Adam Ulbricht, Ms. Jessica Duffy, Mr. Joe Chianakas, Mr. Adam Bockler, Mr. Neil Kirchoefer


April 4 – We hosted our second annual open tournament with about as many people as the first outing.

2009 Metamora Martial Arts Open Tournament


On April 14, Deshi Adam Bockler placed 1st in the men’s black belt forms division and 3rd place in the men’s black belt weapons division at Morrow’s tournament in Moline. Joshu Adair Rodriguez and Jake Potter also competed in forms and sparring.

Metamora Martial Arts at Morrow's 2012

Pictured L-R: Jake Potter, Mr. Adam Bockler, MMA alum Joe Maubach, Mr. Adair Rodriguez

March 9

Keeping the Art traditional: Master Kevin Roberts speaks out against “commercial belt factories”

For this week’s article, we feature the story of a great friend and fellow martial arts instructor, Mr. Kevin Roberts. Mr. Roberts has been a great supporter of our program, always enthusiastically participating in our tournaments with his family and students.

Mr. Roberts shares his experiences in martial arts and why he teaches in the following article.

Through the Tenets of TaeKwon-Do: Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self-Control, Indomitable Spirit, martial arts has affected my life in several ways.

What I value most about the martial arts are the values and discipline that are contained within them.

If students study and practice the art as a whole, and not just the self-defense or sport aspects, they may find themselves with less stress and receive more respect from others, for they will be giving more respect to those they come in contact with.

The physically demanding challenges that the martial arts offer can also help the weaker become stronger, which in turn, should build more self-esteem more self-confidence.

Why do I teach?

Well, I guess I will answer this as, “Why did I start teaching AGAIN?”

In TaeKwon-Do, there are so many instructors and groups out there promoting people just for financial gain. I have watched TaeKwon-Do be torn apart and treated like T-ball and a huge “marketing store,” giving out black belts in a year and promoting 5- and 6-year-old children to Black Belt.

The Art I studied and love so much was becoming a dinosaur. I watched as stances, blocks and strikes became Hollywood moves, “looking cool” with no practical application behind them.

I teach to help pass on an Art before it is gone.

Some thought I wouldn’t get many students being as I practice “old-fashioned” TaeKwon-Do. Now here I am with over 50 students.

People want true Martial Arts. It is up to us to educate and teach the public what that is. I don’t have the gimmicks and toys for kids to play with. I tell them up front that it will probably take five years to get a Black Belt from me. Sometimes the parents are shocked, and then I ask them to watch a class. When they do, they see the difference.

One high point in my teaching is when a student with learning issues makes a breakthrough and advances to the next technique or belt. Regular school sports just don’t have the time or care to take the time to develop these kids.

Another moment is when the teens or adults take the class, but have thoughts that maybe they are wasting their time.

However, when they see the value and the techniques to be learned, how they are applied and start enjoying the Art, it’s like winning in the fight against the “commercial belt factories” that have watered down and sold out my Art.


Mr. Roberts started TaeKwon-Do training on Dec. 7, 1978, under Mr. Duane Connett, at Lake Land College in Mattoon, Illinois. One of the smaller children his age, he was part of the original TaeKwon-Do class when LLC first offered it. At that time, the demanding two-hour classes consisted mostly of adults, and the then-16 year-old Roberts was the youngest student in the class.

Other than doing missionary work in Haiti in 1981, he trained for three years without missing a class and practiced another two hours a day at home on top of that. Three years after his first lesson, he successfully tested for 1st-degree Black Belt in TaeKwon-Do under Mr. Phil Minton of Terre Haute, Ind., in 1981. During that time, he also attained a brown belt in ShudoKan Karate under Mr. Terry McConnell. He has competed in many tournaments and placed in many divisions.

In 1983, Mr. Roberts tested for 2nd-degree Black Belt under Master Yong Duk Choi, earning additional degrees in 1985 and 1988. He reaffirmed his 4th-degree Black Belt in a test led by Grand Master Han Min Kyo in 2007. More than 30 years since his first class, he passed his test for 5th-degree Black Belt in Springfield, Mo., under a panel of judges in June 2010. The National Progressive Taekwondo Association (NPTA) awarded Mr. Roberts “Instructor of the Year” in 2009.

He teaches a Chang Hon style of TaeKwon-Do at Lake Land College TaeKwon-Do in Mattoon Illinois & Fighting Tigers TaeKwon-Do in Charleston Illinois.

He is also the Director and co-founder of the Kyumson TaeKwonDo Alliance. This is a new organization and his hope and mission is to help TaeKwonDo instructors find their way back to the more traditional Art: uniting TaeKwonDo to train together as one Art.



February 23

Neil Kirchoefer: From the dojo to the seminary

Another soon-to-be regular feature on our website is a “Where are they now?” feature.

We’ve asked black belts and advanced rank students who were a close part of our martial arts family to reflect on their training now that they are adults. We’ve also asked several students to tell us what they are doing now and how martial arts has contributed to their current life status.

In our first “Where are they now?” feature, we are proud to present an article written by first-degree black belt, Neil Kirchoefer.

Neil’s touching story about our martial arts “family” is something we hope all martial artists and athletes experience, and what Neil is doing right now in life may surprise and inspire you!

It feels like so long ago – freshman year, 2002. I was riding on the bus home from school when I heard from my friend Amanda Dixon about an after-school martial arts program. I had a few other friends who were joining, so I decided to check it out.

Neil Kirchoefer is in seminary school

Neil Kirchoefer traded in his black belt for a white collar

Metamora Martial Arts was in its infancy. The highest ranking student, Adam Ulbricht, was merely a green belt. It looked to me to be a fun thing to get into, and the idea of possibly getting a black belt by graduation was very exciting.

Four years later, in August of 2006, after hours of grueling physical activity, I finally achieved the rank of shodan, or first-degree black belt.

I am grateful for my years involved with Metamora Martial Arts in so many ways.

We were not just a dojo – we were a family. This hit me the hardest during my sophomore year, just after my dad passed away. I remember very clearly the group of my fellow martial arts students as they came to support me at his funeral.

I realized that this martial arts group was about far more than just martial arts – much more than learning the forms and moving up in the ranks. We were a tight community, helping each other out on our road to black belt. I developed my closest friendships in high school through martial arts – friendships that continue to this day.

Through martial arts, I also learned about the value of teaching. I found that teaching karate was definitely the best way of learning karate. After teaching Wansu about thirty times over the course of a couple years, I had it down! I also gained a greater confidence in my teaching abilities, and I am a lot more willing to help if needed.

Today, I’m in a world that is very much different than that of my high school years.

I am now in my fourth year of seminary formation, studying to be a Catholic priest for the diocese of Peoria. Rather than seeking a black belt, I am now seeking a white collar.

Neil Kirchoefer and Amanda Dixon - Arts Day 2005

Neil Kirchoefer and Amanda Dixon – Arts Day 2005

If things go as planned, I will be ordained in May of 2015.

Although it’s obvious that the seminary is very much different than the dojo, I have seen a number of similarities.

The seminary, like the dojo, is a community of close friends who are all striving after the same goal. We are very committed to helping each other out in attaining that goal.

I have also seen that the road to black belt and the road to priesthood are both marked by a great deal of sacrifice.

I had to give a lot in order to achieve my dream of becoming a black belt – long, late hours of training, being willing to take criticism, being able to press ahead when at the point of giving up.

I have had to give up a lot in the seminary life as well. Our busy schedule prevents us from sleeping in every morning or staying out late at night. Our rigorous intellectual formation is always keeping us on our toes.

And, of course, for anyone familiar with the life of Catholic priest, we have to give up the idea of getting married or having girlfriends!

This idea of sacrifice is perhaps the biggest lesson I learned while I was training for a black belt. There comes a time in everyone’s life when we realize that we have to sacrifice something in order to gain something greater. If not, then we would just keep sitting at home all day, turning into a potato in front of the computer of television.

Sacrifices must be made in order for life to be lived to the fullest.

I am so grateful that I learned this lesson in my years of martial arts training.

February 16

Why I Teach by Master Steven Aldus

If you are new to martial arts in Peoria and central Illinois, you’ve probably heard of several names in the area. One of those names is probably Steve Aldus.

Having been in the martial arts for 42 years and a teacher for 37, Mr. Aldus wrote to Metamora Martial Arts that he is a multi-disciplined martial artist. He holds many dan (black belt) rankings with experience in karate and tae kwon do, among other arts.

Though, Mr. Aldus said, “I am a Chinese martial artist first and foremost.” He teaches hsing-i ch’uan (Hopei) and old Yang style tai chi ch’uan. In addition, he teaches Chinese weapons, chin na and shuai jiao (Chinese wrestling). Mr. Aldus ran his own school for eight years, but now instructs in Peoria at Cat Ching Do on Tuesdays and with Preston Jackson the Contemporary Art Center on Saturdays.

I owe Mr. Aldus more than he knows; he has inspired me more than he knows.  When I was a little boy, I lived a few houses away from him and was best friends with his son.  I have fond memories of watching Mr. Aldus train in his basement dojo.  The grace, power and mystery of his moves hypnotized me, and I knew that someday I wanted to learn martial arts.  If I had not had the opportunity to watch Mr. Aldus, befriend his son, and have my child mind intrigued and captivated by his martial arts talent, I may never have started training.

To Mr. Aldus: I thank you for being a real inspiration.  As an adult martial artist, I have frequently received your kindness, advice and further inspiration.  Thank you.

One of the features of this blog is asking other martial artists their opinions to create an open forum in order to share knowledge and ideas.

In this first guest post, we asked Mr. Aldus – among other things – why he teaches. Here, nearly unedited, is his response.

Why do I teach?  If you ask different instructors, you will get many different answers.

I teach for various reasons. Fundamentally, I teach to pass on the knowledge unselfishly imparted to me by my instructor, Sifu Li. Teaching Hsing-I Ch’uan is my way to honor my Sifu and all who have gone before him. Teacher Li presented a gift of martial arts to me and I am obliged to pass it along to others. This ensures our martial art lives on through future generations and is not lost.

I have a deep love and appreciation for martial arts and my hope is others will develop the same appreciation through my instruction.

Through teaching others, one receives satisfaction watching the students as they grow and succeed. Their success and growth as martial artists benefits them in life, not just in the kwoon, dojo, or dojang.

Teaching martial arts defines my strengths and my weaknesses. As I work hard to shore up my weaknesses and improve my strengths, I convey this to my students. To see an instructor working as hard as the students on his or her martial art training can be an inspiring lesson.

One of my favorite teaching moments came when I was asked to sit on a testing board. A friend (who I will call Sensei or Master Miller) was testing a large number of his students for black belt. I had visited Master Miller’s school many times and interacted with all of the students testing that day.

Many weeks prior to the testing, a sheet listing the names of the students testing for black belt was posted. After class, on the same day of the posting, I overheard many of the students scheduled for black belt testing complaining about one student up for black belt. They couldn’t understand why this student (who I will name Henry) was testing.

As far as they were concerned, Henry wasn’t up to black belt testing standards. Sometimes Henry forgot or had trouble with parts of his forms, wasn’t able to kick as well as the rest, his self-defense was lacking and on and on.

I approached the students and said to them that they should be concerned about their skill sets and not about what Henry does or does not know. If they thought Henry wasn’t up to testing standards, they should help him out.

“Remember, we are family,” I said.

I looked at them and asked, “Do you have faith in Master Miller’s decisions and do you respect your instructor?”

They answered, “Yes.”

“Then why are you questioning his selections for the black belt testing?” I asked.

I quickly added, “Instructors many times will make decisions based on information known only to him.”

They lowered their heads.

I said, “Let’s make a deal. You help Henry to be the best he can be for this testing and I won’t tell Sensei about this episode, okay?”

Embarrassed, they weakly said, “Yes, Master Aldus.”

The day of the testing arrived. I was asked by Master Miller to speak to his students prior to the testing. I said it would be an honor. I went into the dressing room where they were nervously waiting. I asked them if they were nervous and they all said yes.

All save one.

Henry smiled widely and said with pride, “Master Aldus, I am not very nervous.”

I said to Henry, “Wow, I thought you would be. Why aren’t you nervous, Henry?”

“Because I am testing with all of my friends and they helped me get ready for my testing. I am ready, Sir.”

I said with pride, “Great! I am proud of you, Henry.”

I looked deeply into the eyes of the rest of the students and said, “I am so proud of each and every one of you. You showed today that all of you deserve to be testing for Dan rank. Give your all and leave nothing behind. Good fortune to you all.”

The testing started and continued for the next six hours. Henry struggled, but was buoyed by his fellow students. At the end of this grueling test, the students’ uniforms were soaked, their bodies ached, their minds exhausted. Yes, they were happy it was over and proud to have finished.

The Board retired to a back room to render their decision. The students later said that waiting for final decision seemed longer than the actual testing.

After much deliberation, the Board returned to give their decision. But, before giving the results of the test, Master Miller had something he wanted to say.

Master Miller said, “Henry has given me permission to pass on some very personal information.”

Master Miller took a deep breath.

“Henry has multiple sclerosis.”

The students looked absolutely shocked, they had no idea.

“Henry informed me two years ago and asked me not to tell anyone,” Sensei continued.  “He didn’t want anyone to know because he was afraid the students would treat him differently or take it easy on him. He is not afraid anymore.”

“I would like to thank all of the students who helped Henry. I am very proud of everyone testing today. You all proved today that you are deserving of the rank of first Dan. You all have passed and are officially first-degree black belts and members of our martial arts family from this day forward.”

The students approached in single file to accept congratulations from each Board Member, with Henry leading the way.

Henry shook my hand and said thank you. I told him great job and congratulations. I was very happy for him. As each of the other students stood in front of me, I said congratulations and I was very proud of them. Each student looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you, Master Aldus.”

Every student had tears in their eyes, and so did I.