Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rhonda Balsamello, Shidokan's Queen Of Combat

Last week we lost one of our warriors. Shidokan Atlanta Queen of Combat, Rhonda Balsamello passed away suddenly. I know that we all will transition some day, but it is so sad when we lose someone young and without warning. Rhonda was the toughest fighter we've ever had. She had no fear and was always ready to compete. Rhonda was a private person and wouldn't say a lot. She could be shy at times. But through the martial arts, her personality would show. She would was happy when engaged in one on one combat. Karate was truly her way of expressing herself. To those who knew her well, she showed a sense of humor and always went out of her way to help. As a creative person, she designed much of the Shidokan apparel we wear at our gym.

Within a year of training, she was competing in full contact bare knuckle karate tournaments. In keeping the Shidokan Karate concept of being a well rounded martial artist, she also competed in grappling and kickboxing. She found her forte to be Knockdown (bare knuckle) Karate, one of the most difficult forms of competition out there.

She represented our Dojo locally, nationally and internationally. A couple of months ago, she won the Shidokan Japan Cup. Last year she was on her way to this tournament and the night before leaving, her back went out and she couldn't walk. She had back surgery and came back to achieve what most can only dream of, winning a full contact Karate championship in the land of Karate, Japan. She has gained the love and respect of an international Karate organization. She is better well known in other countries than in the U.S.

Here is some footage of Rhonda competing a few years back. I never mined losing my voice yelling and cheering her on. Win, lose, or draw she pushed herself to the limit. She would fight until the end. She could endure the fatigue and pain better than anyone. Fighting is what gave her peace. This is one of my favorites because it shows her dig deep. She may not be with us physically, but her Samurai spirit does.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnrPEp5Pm64

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x8hcqghaPAg

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fight Officials

What makes one qualified to officiate a fight. There are judges, referees, or commission officials present. They have to certified by the state to officiate. Sometimes we see fights and at the end we see judgements that we may not agree with. Sometimes a ref stops or doesn't stop a fight that before or after we think they should. In my opinion, I don't think one should be allowed to officiate if they've never competed in the sport that they are overseeing. Would you let a doctor who has never performed surgery operate on you? No. In the court room, judges oversee lawyers. In the most fields the experts overseeing have experience. Sure one can be a fan and know a lot, but I would prefer to see ex-fighters officiate fights.

Monday, November 28, 2016

IJF Veterans World Championship

A week ago I had the pleasure of competing in the International Judo Federation Veterans World Championships in Ft Lauderdale, FL. It was an incredible experience. I competed in my first IFJ Worlds back in 2012, in Miami. In both instances it was in the next state, so, I had to go (whereas in between they were held in other countries).

What makes this tournament so cool, is that it is truly an international event. This years tournament had about 1000 competitors and 83 countries represented. It was a four day tournament. On Friday, competitors in their 60s and up competed (some guys up to the 80s). Saturday, the young guys competed 30-39, and Sunday, we middle aged guys (40s and 50s) competed. Monday was all about the ladies.

These veterans are amazing. I saw some old guys (I say that jokingly) in better shape that guys half their age. These guys would take of their Gi tops and they were chiseled and ripped.

When I go to national tournaments, there is a smaller group where one or two guys are really good. At the Worlds, everybody is good (about 30). I finished 7th this year and felt more competitive than I did in 2012. I have been successful in other combat sports (Taekwondo, Kickboxing, and Shidokan). I have been training in Judo sine the 90s and after retiring from the striking sports I have been working on my grappling game in Judo. This allows a competitive outlet for me and keeps me humble. In addition, I have competed in Karate Kata, and I even did an international kickboxing team event this past summer with a young opponent). I am 50 years old and feel like I'm 18 (sometimes LOL). I don't put the same pressure on myself like I did when I was younger. I still hate to lose, but I've learned to have fun and not dwell on it. At least I won't have the delusion of, "The older I get, the better I was". So always find a way to challenge yourself and make it fun and remember, you're a winner for getting out there in the first place.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Too Many Champions

In today's combat sports world, there are a lot of champions. The fans want to see the best fighters fight, but for some reason the business of fighting keeps the matches from happening. Fighters (or their management) want the best pay day possible. So, you end up with these fighters avoiding each other. The business/entertainment side of fighting helps and hurts it at the same time. Yes we have to be entertained and events need sponsors to be able to put them on. But at the same time fans want to see the best fight the best. There are too many organizations that have world champions to track of. It would be cool if the major organizations would pit their top fighters against top opposition and provide a true champion. Just my two cents.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Jump In The Deep End

At what level should one start when learning how to do something they are passionate about? Should you start at the shallow end of the pool and waddle your to the deep end or just jump in the deep, and sink or swim? For me personally, I've always jumped into the deep end. I won't say that it's is the best way to get started but you learn real fast. In martial arts/combat sports, I've never competed in the novice or intermediate levels. In sport Karate, when I decided to compete entered black belt competition (and the same goes for Judo). The first time I tried full contact Taekwondo do was right after competing in a point division. Afterwards we organized teams and fought. The guy that I beat in point, said "see you in the contact division". He gave me a grand welcome to full contact. When I started training in Kickboxing, there was maybe one other amateur in the gym. So, I got beat up daily for at least 2 years before I knew what I was doing. In amateur Boxing, I did not start out as a Novice, I jumped right into the Open division (fighters with 10 or more fights). My 5 professional kickboxing fight (BTW I only had 3 amateur Kickboxing fights before turning pro) was against an international champion with over 20 fights and the 6th was against a Russian Champion. By my 10th Kickboxing bout, I fought a 2X World Champion. My 6th pro boxing match was against an Olympic Bronze Medalist. So, I just went for it. Were some of the matches very hard, yes. Did I lose some, yes. But with high level training partners and competing against high level athletes. My learning cure was different than most. Now do I recommend this for everybody? No. But for the few who wish to take it is far as you can, yes. Find out where you stand with superior opposition.  You will learn much faster than those who play it safe. Test your self against the best you can find. You will be able to take pleasure in knowing that you tried if you can't reach a higher level. Or, you will reach that higher level faster.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

My First International Fight

In 1994 I was invited to represent the U.S. in international competition in Fort Lauderdale FL. World Champ, Steve Shepherd promoted an event for USA vs. Russia. I was one of 5 fighters picked to participate. I fought Russian Middleweight Champion, Alexander Voronin. The rules were Full Contact Kickboxing (aka American Kickboxing) with kicks above the waist. This style requires one to develop good boxing basics. Kicking is difficult because you cannot kick to the legs and to land a kick to the head requires a lot of skill. When allowed to low kick you can set up more kicks to the body and head. In Full Contact Kickboxing you have to use your hands to set up kicks. Anyway I wanted to share some of my strategies. You will see lateral movement and feints to set up shots and take away the angles where I can get hit. When he stops moving and gets set, I get off first or cover to take away targets. After I launch an attack, I smother him with the clinch making it difficult for him to cover. When we are separated, I use that restart opportunity for the spin kicks.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLTJtqZxZO8

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Digging Deep

Wanted to share an old fight from the 90s against the late Larry Jarrett. This is American kickboxing (above the waist kicks). This clip is the last 2 rounds of a 9 round bout. What I like about this style is the focus of the boxing and kicks (above the waist).  It forces one to use one to set up the other. Combinations, head movement, and changing rhythm are important. There is a lot of action and we are both landing good shots after a lot of early intensity. You will see grit and determination as we bang it out.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qkXo55qhqs