Monday, October 4, 2010

The Grand Opening

Congratulations to FiveStar Martial Arts! My home dojo - the place where my whole family trains for hours every week - had its official grand-opening celebration on Saturday. It was an awesome and totally enjoyable experience for us. A whole lot of friends and family came to help celebrate, too, which was greatly appreciated.

I've mentioned before that we're very happy with this dojo. It's similar enough to LaValle's to have immediately had that "oh, this is familiar" feeling, but it's different in lots of great ways. Being brand-new and still growing means that the class sizes are quite small. We get lots of one-on-one time with the instructors, Sensei Curtis Pastore and Sensei Paul Napoli, which helps ensure that any flaws in our techniques are noticed and corrected.

It's also a terrific workout, especially because it's not quite as intense as we were doing before. As I've worked out in the past, I've found that week after week, there was ALWAYS something wrong with me. My shoulder hurt. My hip hurt. It wasn't just muscle pain like you'd expect, it was joint and body pain that would sometimes last for weeks. The workouts were extremely high-energy, and I've finally come to realize that it was simply more than my body could handle. I'm not just old, I'm in terrible shape and it's just common sense that I wouldn't be able to handle the same level of exercise as younger folks who were in better physical condition.

Now, however, it's a whole different story. My physical condition has continued to improve, as evidenced by my last check-up, where my doctor was thrilled to report that my cholesterol, triglyceride and blood-glucose numbers were all spectacular, plus I'd lost almost ten pounds since my last exam back when I first started karate. The difference is that I'm no longer in agony all the time. I get a great workout, I leave the dojo sweaty and tired, but I'm not damaging my body to do it.

Another key difference being at a small dojo is that, for better or worse, the student population is pretty small, and not terribly advanced. Heck, my family and I are orange belts and we're currently the school's senior students. So when it came time to put together a demonstration team for the open house, the senseis chose from across all levels of their regular students. They had one of the youngest kids - one of the "Little Dragons" - perform her kata. They had three of the white belts perform the basic "appreciation form" kata. The dojo's  yellow-belt performed Kenpo Short One, while my family and I performed Kenpo Long One. It was awesome and, in my experience, unprecedented. Typically the demo teams are chosen from among the dojo's yudansha, or black belts. But our dojo doesn't have those except as instructors, so we got a unique opportunity to participate. It was awesome.

My family has been working on this kata for the entire time we've been at the dojo, and it builds on Short One which we've known for many months, so it shouldn't have been a challenge. Knowing the kata and being able to give a high-intensity public performance, though, aren't the same thing. We needed to develop a level of precision where we executed the kata perfectly every time, and to amp up the "showmanship" of it, I thought it was important that we not only nail every step of the technique, but that we do it at a speed that showed strength and confidence. Getting a family of five, including three kids, to operate at that level takes effort and I'm tremendously proud of my kids for putting forth the focus and discipline to get it done. We all felt terrific after participating in the demo and it was something I'm very happy and proud that we could be a part of.

But the demo was just one part of the grand opening celebration. The day started with a high-energy cardio kickboxing class that looked... well, probably too intense for me. But it would surely be a great workout for somebody who's in better shape and wants to get a combination of strength, aerobic and flexibility training all in one.

There were also two workshops for the kids. A county deputy sheriff gave an interactive presentation on keeping off of drugs. Later, the senseis gave a workshop on how to deal with bullies that I thought was very well-done.

Other than the demo, the highlight of the day for me was the "Street Self Defense" seminar lead by Sensei Josh Clark. "Now hold on," you might be thinking, "didn't you say that the instructors were named Napoli and Pastore?" Why yes I did, and it's good to see that you're paying attention.

Sensei Clark is not a regular member of the dojo's team of instructors. He and the dojo's owners grew up together and trained together previously, and he stepped in to join them for the grand opening. He's a little busy though, so he probably can't be around full-time. You see, Sensei Clark is a member of the U.S. Army's most elite team of soldiers - the Army Special Forces. He's the product of seven years of the best training the U.S. Army has to offer, and it really shows. The intensity and precision that Sensei Clark exhibits on the training floor is truly impressive, and probably something that only comes with the sort of training he's had combined with his experience executing combat missions in hostile territory. Sensei Clark shared that intensity and some of his training with us on Saturday for this special 30-minute seminar, and I enjoyed it immensely. We spent time dealing with grown-up versions of the situations the kids covered in their bullying workshop. It was realistic, eminently practical, and easy to execute when you're in a tough situation.

Sensei Clark is already planning some more seminars for the future and I definitely plan to participate in them. He's a welcome addition to an already outstanding dojo. Now that FiveStar Martial Arts is officially open, I'm looking forward to more of what we've already enjoyed there - a comfortable place to work hard, to learn, and to develop ourselves mentally and physically. Hopefully with a few more grown-up students to play and learn alongside.

If you happen to be in the Syracuse area and you're looking for a great place to get fit, stay fit, and study modern, American-style martial arts, definitely check out FiveStar Martial Arts. If you enjoy training there half as much as I have, you'll be very glad you signed on.

No comments:

Post a Comment