February 28

Training with my son, a father-son martial arts experience by Bob Schertz

For some of our feature articles, we have asked parents to contribute their perspectives as to what karate training means for them and their children. For this first feature, we have a unique bonus: a father and son who have trained together for many years. In this article, proud parent and advanced martial artist Bob Schertz discusses the training that he and his son Alex have experienced. Bob and Alex have been a wonderful father-son duo in our program, and it’s an absolute joy to see them training together.

Late September of 2005 my son, Alex Schertz, began his journey in karate. Alex was small of stature but loaded with confidence and a competitive nature. I decided to have him take karate due to his size. I also hoped that at some point it would be something that we could do together.

It was not a surprise that, with the help of some amazing instructors, Alex took to karate. He is very competitive and worked hard for every stripe and with every stripe he wanted another one. As he progressed to his green belt he started asking me why I wasn’t taking lessons as well. I had been so involved in his lessons that I had forgotten how much I wanted to learn karate and have the chance to grow in Karate with him.

After my first lesson Alex came to me and said, “Way to go Dad.” It meant a lot to me that he was proud to see me out there taking lessons with him. As our lessons progressed we started working out together at home doing our katas, ippons, and taesus together. I was a very proud Dad watching him grow and become more confident. One of his first tournaments he took Grand Champion over higher belts and I remember him beaming with excitement that he won a trophy bigger than he was.

When the time came for the US Open tournament in Orlando our Sensei, Joe Chianakas, talked to us regarding the tournament. He asked us if we would be interested in taking Alex. This would be a big step for Alex as he would face World Class competition. He was full of excitement and worked hard every day to get ready.

The first day of the competition he participated in weapons. He place seventh out of fourteen competitors. This was the first time that he had not placed first in a tournament and it was a hard lesson. It was difficult to tell a nine year old child, who was in tears, that he needed to think of why he lost and to come back tomorrow with renewed confidence and do the best he could in forms.

Alex went back to the room and practiced his form for several hours before he went to bed. The next day he went to the ring and found 32 of the best martial arts students in the country and some from over seas. I was worried that the number of competitors would bother him but it did not. When his number was called he presented himself and did the best form he had ever done. I heard one of the judges say “WOW”.

He was in first place up until the last contestant who beat him by 1/10th of a point. He looked at me with a smile on his face and said that he did the best he could and that the other contestant was better that day than he was. After that tournament I knew that Alex had taken a big step forward not only learning to lose but learning how to win. I knew that as competitive as he is that he would carry this forward in other areas of his life.

Both Alex and I have continued to take lessons twice a week and it has provided us with a wonderful experience. I have been injured several times, most recently with a tendon that was torn off one of my fingers, during sparring. It was a serious injury that required surgery and the fusion of a bone in my hand. I was not able to take lessons for 3 months. I have even had to give up breaking due to the injury.

Alex noticing that it was hard for me not to be taking lessons asked me if I wanted him to stop, until I was able to come back. I was very proud of him for asking me knowing that he offered to give up, even temporarily, something that he enjoyed so much. I told him that I wanted him to continue and I would be back as soon as I was able.

Since then we have continued with our lessons and have advanced to different belt levels. Alex should get his black belt this year. Getting to all of the lessons has been difficult due to basketball, soccer and baseball.

Alex is an athlete that excels in every sport he tries and I can give credit to karate for his success. The discipline and confidence that he has learned in karate has helped him mentally in every sport. The countless hours of lessons has also given him physical strength that most kids his size do not have.

However, what matters the most is the hours that we have spent together learning a life long skill that will benefit both us as we go forward. When Alex leaves for college, his hopes are to be a third degree black belt and mine are to be a second degree. No one can ever take away this time we have spent together and my hopes are that he will someday do the same for his children.

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.

February 8

Never Give Up – Black Belt Magazine, February 2009

This month’s article, written for the Feb. 2009 issue, was written to address the attitudes and overcoming obstacles in our martial arts training.

Never Give Up – Joe Chianakas – Black Belt Magazine, February 2009

This article appears with permission from Black Belt Magazine’s editor, Robert W. Young, for use on the Metamora Martial Arts site only and may be downloaded for your reading pleasure.  Please do not download this article with the intent to illegally share it elsewhere.

February 2

3 things we can learn from Anderson Cooper being attacked in Egypt

Anderson Cooper could tell us more than you might think about self-defense.

Today, while reporting on the Egyptian protests, CNN’s Anderson Cooper was attacked by members of a crowd in Cairo. Cooper said he was punched “like, 10 times in the head,” while passing at least one protester with a knife.

Despite being in the middle of a dangerous situation, Cooper eventually made it to safety.

I thought I’d point out some important lessons that Cooper’s incident in Egypt can teach us as martial artists.

Know what makes you a target

If you’re not going somewhere you expect will be dangerous, you might not have to address this issue as much. However, if you’re Anderson Cooper heading into demonstrations that have garnered worldwide coverage, you may want to know how you’ll attract attention.

“Anybody with a camera was a target on the streets of Cairo today,” Cooper said.

Having armed yourself with this information, you can attempt to make plans.

Work in groups

When you are entering a potentially violent situation, such as these demonstrations in Egypt, don’t go alone.

Being on air, journalists typically can’t both operate a camera and report the news. In this case, Cooper had a Flip camera and was filming himself as he reported. Without a doubt, he was accompanied by a CNN camera crew, and probably translators and guides.

If Cooper had ventured out by himself and tried filming with his Flip camera, he may not have gotten out as safely as he did.

Walk, don’t run

Cooper said in the video that he and his crew were “walking, not running so as to incite the crowd even further.”

Running would be a considerable sudden movement. In much of the footage I’ve seen, demonstrators have simply been walking. You’ve heard in movies not to make sudden moves in front of an animal. Surely the animal that is the group of demonstrators would have been on high alert with a strange man (or group of people) running through the crowd.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, use these tips and common sense. Anderson Cooper seemed to do all of the logical things – he knew that the camera would attract unwanted attention so he went in a group, and he tried to downplay the situation even further by just trying to escape.

Neither Cooper nor his crew tried to impress anybody by attacking the Egyptian protesters, but tried to quietly exit a volatile situation.

Update 2/16/11: Although Cooper escaped his incident, other journalists have not been so lucky. Last night, we found out that journalist Lara Logan was beaten and sexually assaulted by a mob until she was rescued by a group of women and members of the Egyptian military, according to CNN.

February 2

What are your favorite moments?

We’re turning nine years old this month, and I thought it would be great if everyone would share with us what their favorite moment was with us over the years.

I’ve had the privilege to be with this program since 2003. While I haven’t seen all the great Metamora Martial Arts moments over the years, there are a couple that stick out.

The Sunnyland dojo

This isn’t a moment, necessarily, but a few moments wrapped into one.

I remember the Undoo Renshu in 2004 where we learned Shudo-so the first time in the grassy area right outside the building. We also had an in-house tournament that day, and I specifically remember Joe Maubach ripping his gi pants during the middle of a performance. Thanks to him, I now wear athletic shorts under my gi just in case.

Also, who could forget Mike Chat’s visit just three months later in October 2004? We got out of school early and Kyle Dorethy literally put the pedal to the metal when he took Ben Alig and I over to the studio for a day of demonstrations and a big workout.

Even though it only lasted a year, the Sunnyland dojo is the reason why we’ve had an involvement at our district’s grade schools over the past several years.

Our first open tournament

My junior and senior year of high school (2006 and 2007), Mr. Hawkey invited higher ranks and Mr. Chianakas to visit his office before school and talk martial arts. Biscuits and gravy or sweet roll in hand, I remember the two instructors often discussed hosting an open tournament. Finally, in 2008, we did it. We had over 12 schools, 100+ competitors and lots of encouraging words pour in afterward.

I think we really fired on all cylinders that day with the help we had from our terrific parents and friends.

The ISAT pep assemblies

I don’t know how well the local grade schools actually did on their ISAT tests. But if they studied and took those tests as loudly as they cheered in Metamora Grade School, I’m sure they did well. We talked to over 1,000 students in three locations and performed some demonstrations and breaking, all to show how determination and working hard could pay off.

Arts Day

I’ve been to so many Arts Days at Central Grade School in Washington that I’ve lost track. One of the first times I went, I remember literally having a mob of grade school students holding out their markers for each of us to sign their t-shirt. It was like the Metamora Martial Arts band showed up and we were like the Beatles. Okay, maybe not as popular as the Beatles, but we were still a hot item at recess.

The big U.S. Open trip

For those of you who don’t know, the U.S. Open is one of the biggest martial arts tournaments in the world. You may have seen some of the events on ESPN. Around 20 of us traveled to Orlando, spending two days at the event and others at Cocoa Beach, Wet n Wild water park and Universal Studios.

What are some moments that stand out for you?

Those are some of the events that, as a program, stick out for me. Obviously I have my personal favorite moments. So please, tell us what stands out most to you after being a part of this program or after becoming out friend! We’d love to hear it!

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