Well here we are on the coat tails of 2009, and I have one question for you... where the hell did it go?? I suppose time remains the same it is simply my perspective that has changed. I have a bad habit of catching diarrhea of the word processor, so I will do my best to keep this short and as sweet as I get.
09 has been a good year overall where I have made some big jumps in my martial skills, made more friends than enemies (I hope), learned some important lessons, and shed some tears I wish I could get back.
My personal training has had its ups and downs in 09, but overall it has been nothing short of great. I have surrounded myself with great coaches such as Brian my BJJ coach, Wes my boxing coach, and of course Hu Xi Lin and Tim Cartmell who remains one of the biggest influences in my life. I owe all of you more than I can ever repay and am eternally grateful!
Firstly I want to say to all my students worldwide (okay, in North America anyways), just how proud I am of all your dedication and hard work. I do not have many students, but the ones that have stuck around and dedicated themselves have made huge improvements in their skills and met many of their personal goals. I love teaching. Period. And their is nothing the makes a teacher happier than seeing his students improve at something they have put 110% of their blood, sweat, and tears into.
Two students in particular stick out:
"The Shadow" is my right hand man both on and off the mat. When Mike first came to me he could not strike his way out of a wet paper bag. His previous teacher ingrained some things that were just plain fucked up and wrong. We had to work to de-program such teachings, and rebuild a foundation from there. A strong wrestler (who has taught his teacher much in that regard) without striking skills is no good in my opinion. So Mike put his mind to it and has worked hard on all aspects of his striking game. Lets hope he does not forget everything I taught him over the next 6 months away!
The other is my silent Asian assassin, "Bonzai!" Bonnie has been my most consistent student in Seattle. She started at Allstar where she continues to attend EVERY kickboxing class I teach (6 classes over 4 days, EVERY week), and eventually came to my group class at the academy where she has been working hard on the grappling aspects of her game. For those keeping score that is over 9 hours of group training a week! In the dictionary under consistency and dedication it says "see her." Bonzai holds her own with scrappy students half her age. I cannot express how proud I am to have her as a student and a friend. "Xie xie ni Bonzai."
Most of 09 (and 08, and 07.....) has been quite dismal in terms of my competition. I have little desire to do any striking events anymore, coupled with my lack of health insurance (thanks Bush, you fucking prick!), pretty much means I only compete in grappling events anymore. And in that regard I have little to brag about this year. To be honest I was seriously contemplating whether or not I am made to compete. Losing consistently screws with your confidence and when your confidence fades your mind weakens. BJJ does NOT come naturally to me and I have (still do) struggled in terms of grasping the central themes and principles of the art. But I have found a new love for competition and now yearn to put my skills to the test as I learn more and more about myself every time I touch the mat!
In the end it all paid off. The 2009 No Gi World Championships last November has been one of the greatest experiences I have ever been a part of! Even without a win I would feel the same way (just not as happy). Taking first in my division, third in the absolute, and getting my first two submissions in competition is a feeling I will never forget! I look forward to the challenges and precedents I have set for myself in the coming years. Competing has awoken a fire in me that is quite needed at this stage in my life.
09 has been one of the toughest years of my life in regards to loss in the martial realm. Over the summer I received one of the worst phone calls I could imagine (short of family of course) when I heard my teacher, my friend, my bud Mike Martello passed in Belgium. I write this with tears dripping from my chin, as not only is this a great personal loss to me, but also to the whole martial arts community and the Chinese martial community specifically! Mike was taken from us too early. Loss such as this serve as a lesson to remind us that life is NOT guaranteed tomorrow. It is precious and can be taken from us in a flash. Kiss your lover, tell mom and dad you love them, and do what makes you happy every single day. That is how Mike lived and that was his enduring lesson to us all.
2009 also marks the final year of the Shen Wu Academy of Mixed Martial Arts in Garden Grove, CA. Tim has decided to close the doors of his long running academy to go teach at Ace Jiu Jitsu full time. Though this certainly is not the end of Tim's teaching it marks an end of an era where many of us cut our teeth and trained with one of the best teachers in the world! Farewell to the Wu.
What would 2009 be without this blog?? First of all you would not be reading my rants, reviews, and raves. I sincerely hope this blog has brought something positive to you over the past 10 months or so. Even if it is just a smile it is my sincere hope that I have affected your life positively via this blog. Secondly I want to thank each and every one of you for your support, and I wish for nothing other than bigger and better offerings in the year 2010.