When I started taking karate back in 1976 and later reached blue belt I loved to spar. In fact I loved sparring so much, that after I got home from work, I would pull my mother’s coffee table toward me to stretch my legs while I ate dinner, usually about twenty-thirty minutes I would also watch a couple of TV shows.
Afterwards I would go down into the garage where I had a seventy pound canvas bag hanging and I would execute a couple hundred round kicks and then sidekicks and then I would ride my back to the rosewood school which was about ten miles just to spar with somebody. This would go on Monday-Thursday, Friday I would rest and to peak for competition on Saturday.
At the rosewood school we had some of the best fighters in the nation i.e. Luther Washington, Kenny Wilkes, Richard Jackson, Keith Vitali and Bruce Brutchy just to name a few. Initially I was a forms competitor strictly forms. I would go to the tournament stretch a little spend about 3 minutes with kata and it would be all over without even breaking a sweat. Those were my days as a blue/green belt. Things changed when I became a brown belt.
By that time I had joined the military and completed boot camp and was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia assigned with the Bravo Company Rangers 1/29th Infantry on Kelly Hill. I don’t remember the exact day but I remember fighting in Joe Corley’s Battle of Atlanta as a blue belt and while performing my rendition of the shorei empai kata, which I actually learned from a magazine which had Wally Slocki out of Canada demonstrating I stood directly in front of Jeff Smith and executed a snapping from drive kick just above his head, at that time he was the PKA Light Heavyweight champion of the world. He scored me a ten and all of the other judges relatively close thereafter. That was one of my most memorable tournament win as a forms competitor.
My close friend, Kenny Wilkes convinced me to fight in tournaments I thought they might get too physical because we actually had some knock down drag outs at the rosewood school which was what I had seen. I learned that tournaments were a bit mnore toned down then what actually happened at Genova Karate Studio. I actually fought at numerous Battle of Atlanta events, however you won’t see my name on any awards since the forms because I was too malicious and was disqualified in my fighting but once I became a black belt I was became more mature and with a lot more control.
As the years have passed I see I am no longer excited about trophies, or plaques or even pictures. I love martial arts in fact even at my present age I love sparring; there are so many benefits to be gained. If I were to be asked I would say it’s probably the most beneficial of the sports other than MMA, but that too would be questionable because depending on who you are talking to we could be talking about the same sport. When I worked out at the rosewood school and started training with Richard Jackson we actually started with a few boxing techniques, I didn’t really find the need for grappling until I went into the military. So depending on who you ask, every martial arts school now would be considered MMA. What is MMA anyway, kicking, punching and grappling right?
Anyway, the thrill is gone. So the only sport that would excite me at my present age is a point sport league for black belts. Especially if it presented an opportunity for me to spar against someone my age and weight class, that’s risky for a business. Can you imagine an event with only black belts? When was the last time you went to a tournament? The majority of the competitors are under belts. I don’t think there is but one tournament promoter that would take a chance or gamble on a black belt only event, and he’s already set it up. It’s scheduled for July 19-22 and being hosted by the Columbia Marriott, Columbia, SC. It’s a team event so you’ll need to get a team together, his vision is a true league as we know is done in other major league sports i.e. NFL, MLB and the NBA, oh yeah competitors get paid and sign agreements just like in other pro or semi-pro leagues.