Sunday, April 23, 2006

18 Miles from Fairport to Gates
Saturday, April 22, 2006

map of the route

Saturday was the last day of classes for the AMAI Fairport location, so I went and helped with the last two classes and then got geared up to do a long training run while the Rochester instructors and students worked on getting the location into shape to turn it back over to the landlord.

The day before I had decided to do something different for this run, based in part on the weather forecast I was hearing (cold and raining.) Rather than do a pair of out-and-back runs along the Genesee Valley Greenway (too easy to wimp out and cut those short!) I decided to run from Perinton Park in Fairport to Ann's house in Gates, a distance of just over 18 miles. Since it was a point-to-point run, and I don't have a cell phone to call someone to come pick me, I knew I would have no choice but to finish what I had set out to do!

This run was also different from virtually every other one I've done in the past year in that 2/3 of it was on pavement. While in some ways pavement running is easier than trails (and so not a great way to train for a TRAIL marathon!) given my lousy knees I knew 12 miles of pavement might be a major challenge (and so this run was also a first check into the feasibility of my running the Adirondack Marathon in September, since that will be entirely on pavement, albeit with the possibility of my running parts on the unpaved shoulder.)

Anyway, finally got my gear sorted out and packed into the nifty North Face Mountain Biker waist pack that I got for Christmas (thanks, Mom and Dad!) This pack is a major piece of work - I ended up with 5 water bottles, two spare shirts, a bunch of Clif and granola bars, spare socks, etc, etc - everything I might need for a 5 hour run with no hope of support once I'd been dropped off at the start. Of course, it weighs a ton loaded with all that gear, but I used most of it during the course of the afternoon, and it sits fairly comfortably on my hips (with very little bounce! too cool!) At the last minute I decided to pull on my tights - good choice, too, because my legs were nice and warm the whole time, and they would have been freezing in just shorts. Ann dropped me off at Perinton Park, and off I went.

The weather forecast had called for rain in the morning, then clouds and maybe scattered showers all afternoon, with temperatures in the low 50's. Well, it was raining when I hit the path, and it rained until about the last hour of my run. Sometimes light, sometimes hard, but rain, rain, rain. There was also a breeze much of the time which would have been refreshing on a hot day, but which was freakin' cold today! So in fairly short order I looked like a drowned rat and only became more waterlogged as the afternoon progressed.

The first six miles, from Fairport to Perinton, are on a stone dust path - nice running surface. Saw three other people - two walkers and one runner. From Pittsford on the path was paved, and I only encountered half a dozen other nutjobs out in the rain (no surprise, most of them were runners.) At one point I had a nice chat with Chet, a local ultrarunner out training with his wife Diane for next weekend's BPAC Six Hour Run in Buffalo and then the Damn Wakely Dam 32.6 mile trail run at the end of July. It was really nice of Chet to slow down and talk to me, and they were very encouraging when I passed them on their way back. But for the most part it was just me, the rain, and the pain. Yup, running 18 miles HURTS.

Made reasonably good time... averaged a little over 15 minute miles for the first 15 miles, including two longer stops to change into a dry shirt(not it it stayed dry for long!) and consolidate fluids. The last three miles was a killer and took me almost an hour. Not only was I running along the local roads, and not only was I well into the really painful and slow shuffle last miles of a long training run, but it was mostly uphill! First a fairly gradual grade and then a steeper one for the last mile or so. That was just no fun at all.

So the total damage for the 18 miles (plus maybe a quarter mile) was 4 hours 49 minutes. Not great, but I did finish, and under fairly challenging conditions too. (And I keep reminding myself that my long training runs for the Anchorage marathon were absolutely miserable, and took substantially longer than the marathon itself. Of course, since this is my 2nd marathon, this may be the one where the long runs AND the marathon are both miserable. But I hope not.)

Two more weeks of long runs, then it's time for - TAPER! That's going to be sweet... of course, I have to survive a 20 mile and an over 20 mile run first...


Sunday, April 16, 2006

A Year of Long Distance - Race#1
Northern Nipmuck 16 Mile Trail Race
Saturday, April 15, 2006

Northern Nipmuck 2006 results

Northern Nipmuck 2006 Photo Slideshow

After more than a few years of riding and running, you'd think I'd have learned what could be referred to as the "hill code" - you know, when a course description or a guide book describes what the hills are like on the route. It goes something like this:

  • "flat" = either flat or flat with small hills (which might still be steep)
  • "rolling" = a whole bunch of hills, some long, some steep, and some both
  • "hilly" = up and down mountains
Why do I bring this up? Because this is the official description of the course for the Northern Nipmuck 16 Mile Trail Race:

16 Miles of Hills & Hollows

The course runs 8 miles south on the Nipmuck Trail to Boston Hollow Road in Ashford (the northernmost point of Nipmuck Marathon) and returns on the same trail. The terrain is constantly rolling, and although there are no monster hills, there are enough steep sections to test your anaerobic capacity. The total gain over the 16 miles is approximately 3,200 feet. The footing is usually decent, but there are some steep, rocky sections that demand caution. If it has rained recently, expect to get your feet wet in several of the low-lying areas. Snow and ice may be present on the course at this time of year.

OK, the "hills & hollows", "constantly rolling", and "steep sections" should have clued me in, and I should have ignored the "no monster hills", recognizing that this description was probably written by someone who has repeatedly run Greylock and Escarpment. Maybe I wouldn't have thought this course was all that tough back when I was regularly running in the Berkshires (prior to 1999 when I moved to Albany.) But for where I'm at today - this is one tough course, with some killer climbs and descents.

The alarm went off at 5 AM for a 7 AM departure... that would have been an easy race day last fall, but I've gotten out of practice. Grumble, grumble. Didn't help that I woke up at 3:30 or so to a thunderstorm (and had visions of running for 4+ hours in the pouring rain!) Anyway, got on the road without mishap and had a fairly pleasant drive along the Massachusetts Turnpike (which is mainly woods and mountains for the section I was on.) Arrived at Bigelow Hollow State Park in Connecticut, and fortunately saw some runners on the park road, since there were no signs or indications that a race was taking place! After checking in and gearing up, I headed down to the starting line, about half a mile from where I had parked (the race uses the park as a base, but actually starts across the road from it.)

This is one of the smaller Grand Tree events, probably a combination of the distance this early in the season and the terrain the race covers. Still, I saw a number of folks I recognized from last year's races. And since it's an out-and-back, I knew I'd be seeing them again, as they passed me on the way back! After a few words from the race director (including a warning to "Pay attention to the blue blazes and orange flagging tape! If you get lost, don't complain to us - we'll just laugh at you!") we got the command to go, and off we went.

Well... sort of. The first half mile was what I would consider a monster hill - a nonstop climb! Apparently many of the other runners thought the same thing, since there was a long line of folks trudging up the hill. 10 minutes later things flattened out a bit and we started running... for a few minutes until the next hill... and then a little more running... until the next hill... and so on. To add a little variety, some of the hills went down instead of up (my bad knees LOVE steep downhills... argh!) We did hit some sections where it was possible to run for a while - those were great!

Fairly quickly I found myself pretty much alone on the trail, except for one other young gal who was going pretty slowly. Turns out she'd never run trails before - for some reason her boyfriend wanted to run this race, so she came along with him and ran the first half just to see what it would be like. Running with her made me realize that I'm a grizzled old Trail Turtle - she was pretty clueless about trail running, and asked questions about whether or not there are special shoes for it (I guess her road shoes weren't providing the best traction!) and how fast the really good runners would be going. She also started to get lost on a number of occasions - admittedly, it takes practice to keep an eye on the trail (so you don't end up kissing the ground) and keep an eye out for blazes at the same time. To her credit, she never once complained, though she did say she thought she'd probably hike back to the start instead of running.

After an hour, we hit the first road crossing and aid station, at the 4 mile mark. That was reassuring, because it meant I was on target for a finish time of about 4 hours (little did I know what the second leg would be like!) Not long after that my trail buddy decided it was time to head back, so I wished her and her boyfriend well and continued on toward the turnaround. The trail wasn't bad for the first couple of miles, as it climbed up to the top of a ridge along a gradual incline (actually runnable!) And then it turned into a monster - steep downhills, steep uphills, running along rock outcroppings - absolutely killer. At that point the bulk of the other runners started passing me on the way back. At times we were on sections that could be run, and I ducked to the side of the singletrack to let them pass. Much of the time we were passing on sections I was staggering down (trying to keep my knees intact) and they were staggering up.

Finally made it to the turnaround, to find that I had to climb down a cliff only to climb back up it a few minutes later for the run back! But the folks at that aid station were really nice - they refilled one of my water bottles and repeatedly said they didn't mind being out there, because it beats running the course! I also got my picture taken running in; hopefully I'll be able to get a copy of it! My time to the turnaround was a bit longer - 1 hr 15 minutes - but I still hoped to finish in 4 1/2 hours... (foolish!)

So then it was time for the trek back, at which point the real challenge of an out-and-back became apparent - every hill I came down on the way out I had to climb on the way back, on legs that were rapidly giving up all semblance of wanting to run. My feet were really starting to hurt too, between pounding against rocks and my toes getting mashed into the toebox of my shoes on all those downhills (and doing the bulk of the work on the steep uphills.) There was one point where I was in a shady pine forest, listening to the birds, and I found myself thinking it would be really nice to just stay there and take a nap. But I persevered, going slower and slower and cursing the hills more and more, until finally I made it back to the aid station at the middle of the course. That took about 1 hr 30 minutes. Incredibly, the nice fellow there was very positive about the whole thing. We refilled my empty water bottles with a mix of water and Gatorade, and off I trudged for the last painful 4 miles.

Up, down, up, down. What running I did was fairly slow - more like a fast walk - and some sections I'd run when fresh I had to walk, simply because the trail was too rocky and rooty for me to risk stumbling and crashing. After what seemed like forever (but was actually a little over an hour) I came to the top of that original half mile long hill and "ran" (ie. slowly plodded) down it, to find folks still waiting at the finish - the fellow from the last aid station(who cheered and gave me five as I plodded by him) and the folks recording the times. The last four miles took me about 1 hour 20 minutes - I finished with a total time of 5 hours 8 minutes.

And then slowly walked the half mile back to the car...

The course was really beautiful - cool shady pine forests, mountain laurel (OK, those stretches were hot and sunny on the way back, since there were no leaves on the trees!) rocky ridges, and a variety of cool boulders dropped by glaciers ages ago. A few muddy sections, and three or four stream crossings, but since we've had a dry spring, it really wasn't particularly messy. (Just as well... by the time I was done, I had a number of blisters, and that was in spite of trying to keep my shoes dry!) At one point we ran alongside a pond, and at another point alongside a stream, all under shady pine trees. We crossed a field of big mossy rocks - a pain to run through (or stagger through, on the way back) but way cool all the same.

The volunteers at this race were fantastic - I'm planning to write the RD about that. I doubt any of them expected to be out there that long, but they were still positive and supportive - what a great group of people!

Afterwards, I chatted with two other runners (there were only three or four still there when I finally shuffled into the parking area) who tried to convince me that I should run Seven Sisters, a mountainous trail run at the beginning of May. Maybe next year - I have to get into much better shape for this kind of running before I tackle a 12 mile race that's like the Northern Nipmuck course but with worse footing and longer hills (their description!)

So, I'm glad I approached this as a training run - I would have blown up had I been trying to make good time on this course, for this distance! And, as a training run, it had a lot in common with my 1997 marathon training runs - slow times and blistered feet! It also showed me that I need to do more work on these kinds of trails to get ready for the Nipmuck Marathon - I suspect I will be spending time up near Thatcher on the Long Path over the next few weeks, and perhaps I can manage a trip down to Beartown. Albany just doesn't have much in the way of gnarly trails.

This also reinforces that another year of training before tackling Escarpment is probably a wise move, since Escarpment makes the Northern Nipmuck look like a walk in the park...

(And I'm NOT going to talk about the fact that I got my butt kicked today by a 76 year old man and a pregnant lady...)

Next up - the Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon in late May! And lots of distance work over the next few weekends to get ready for the Nipmuck Marathon...


2006 event totals
snowshoe – 3 miles, 59.5 min
running – 23.1 miles, 6 hr 25 min
riding - 12.4 miles, 1 hr 1 min

Friday, April 14, 2006

A Year of Long Distance

In 1997 I signed up to run the Mayor's Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska, as part of a fundraiser for the Leukemia Society of America's Team in Training program. When I sent in my registration I had never run, other than short stretches in summer karate classes and at the annual karate camp I used to attend. Training for the Anchorage Marathon was TOUGH. The long runs were difficult and painful, and by the end of most of them my toes were so badly blistered that each step felt like hot knives being jammed into my feet. But, after my final long run, a 22 mile exercise in utter torture that took me over 5 hours to complete, I was confident that I could complete the race. And not only did I complete it - I had a great time - the best long run I had ever done!

In 1999 I signed up to run the Nipmuck Trail Marathon, and came down with a nasty stomach virus four days before the race. In 2001 I signed up to run the Adirondack Marathon, and decided not to run it on the morning of the race, after a night of very little sleep (noisy neighbors!) and, realistically, knowing that I really wasn't sufficiently prepared to run a marathon.

When I began training seriously again in 2005, on some level I knew that I was once again heading toward long distance running...


  • Nipmuck Trail Marathon - May 28, 2006 (I'm finally going to run it!)
  • Greylock Trail Half Marathon - June 18, 2006 (only a half marathon, but it goes up and over Mount Greylock!)
  • Savoy Mountain 20 Mile Trail Race - August 20, 2006
  • Adirondack Marathon - September 17, 2006 (Another one I'm finally going to run!)
  • Pinnacle Challenge Double Duathlon - October 15, 2006 (5 mi road run/6 mi mountain bike ride/ 13.5 mi road bike ride/ 3 mi trail run - way cool!)

and the "finale" - either the
  • Mendon Ponds 50K trail run - early November 2006
or the
  • Stone Cat Ale 50 mi trail run - early November 2006 (my money's on the Mendon 50K)

And of course, a few shorter events in between the longer ones...

I had originally hoped to do the Escarpment Trail Run at the end of July... but now I don't think my legs will be in shape for that kind of mountain running this year. Maybe next year (or maybe if Nipmuck and Greylock go REALLY, REALLY well...)

So now all I have to do is train and stay healthy and uninjured!

It should be a challenging year...


Next Race: The Northern Nipmuck 16 Mile Trail Race - TOMORROW!

2006 event totals
– 3 miles, 59.5 min
running – 7.1 miles, 1 hr 17 min
riding - 12.4 miles, 1 hr 1 min

9 Mile Ride in the Albany Pine Bush
Thursday, April 13, 2006

Pine Bush Ride Photo Slideshow

Decided to take a break from "training" and just enjoy the gorgeous weather from the seat of my mountain bike on the Pine Bush trails. One of the treats of going out mid-day is that there are very few other people on the trails! The weather was perfect for trail riding - sunny and warm. Got some good pictures, too!

Tomorrow is a "rest day", in preparation for the Northern Nipmuck 16 mile Trail Race - for me, a long training run in preparation for the Nipmuck Marathon! (only 6 weeks away!)


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

8 Mile Run in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Frogs call "peep, peep, peep, peep" from the swamp.
Rabbits and deer bound away as the runner draws near.
Spider's eyes reflect the headlamp's light like turquoise jewels.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Self Defense Seminar
Empty Hand Kata Seminar
Monday, April 10, 2005

Master Demura's Japan Karate-Do Genbukai International

Master Demura teaching the self-defense seminar

Once again we were incredibly fortunate to have Master Fumio Demura, one of the greatest living martial artists, as our guest for two seminars. The first, which focused on training methods and self-defense, was open to all students and instructors in AMAI. The second was a truly unique opportunity for AMAI black belts, in that Master Demura taught us an empty-hand kata from Shito-ryu karate.

Master Demura opened the first seminar by talking a bit about the importance of training constantly and working to perfect the basics. We started with two punching exercises - first throwing a punch at our partner's face and stopping it about 1/4" away, and then punching our partner's stomach and stopping it at their uniform. Both great lessons in distancing and control. After that we took turns crouching on the floor while our partner threw rapid-fire kicks over our backs - an effective exercise in making sure to lift the knee high before and after kicking!

From there we moved on to the self-defense techniques. His particular goal for this part was to help us see how many techniques could come out of one attack. We started out with a "set up" technique: extending a spear hand toward our partner's abdomen, which they would then grab. From there we tried a variety of responses - breaking free and executing an elbow strike, breaking free and striking with a backfist, bring the hand up and over for a wristlock-takedown, stepping across and executing a takedown, and rotating the trapped hand for another wrist lock. Master Demura encouraged us to study our options rather than limiting ourselves to a single response. We wrapped up the first seminar with a particularly challenging exercise - straddling our partner's extended legs, on command we had to jump and switch feet (and later switch direction as well!) without hitting our partner or landing on their legs. (Knowing the condition my legs were in after the long run from the previous day, I would NOT have wanted to be my partner!) Ann and I paired up and worked together for much of the seminar, which was a lot of fun (particularly since we haven't seen each other 2 1/2 weeks!)

Master Demura demonstrates a technique

The second seminar was a real treat, as Master Demura taught us two versions of the kata "Aoyagi" from Shito-ryu karate. Aoyagi, which means Green Willow, was created by the founder of Shito-ryu, Kenwa Mabuni, in 1915. Mabuni studied primarily under two instructors - Anko Itosu (Shuri-te) and Kanryo Higashionna (Naha-te) - in Okinawa the early 1900's. He later combined the training in these two styles into his own form of karate, Shito-ryu (named as a combination of the Chinese characters for names of his two primary teachers.) Mabuni was physically a fairly small man, and in the course of his training he developed a very effective system of body dynamics which could assist a smaller person in defending against a larger agressor. Aoyagi was created as a series of women's self defense techniques and typifies these body dynamics. (See or numerous other Internet and print sources for more information about Kenwa Mabuni and Shito-ryu karate.)

We started out by learning the women's version of Aoyagi, and then moved on to the men's version. (The main differences are in the opening and closing movements, and in the first three techniques.) Some of the movement is quite different from what I'm used to, and both Master Demura and his assistant Sensei Charles Hobbib explained the differences between their method of executing a high block and ours (the physics behind theirs actually makes a little more sense, particularly if you're blocking something like a baseball bat. On the other hand, I wouldn't attempt to block a baseball bat with my arm unless I had absolutely no other choice! As always I find it fascinating to study the different approaches different styles and arts take to solving the same problems.) At various points during the sesssion Master Demura demonstrated possible applications to the movements, as well as explaining what might have been otherwise inexplicable points (such as the fact that when you touch a part of your body during the kata, that indicates you're striking with that part.) By the end of the hour I think I had the overall movements down, though it will take a LOT of practice to refine them.

Master Demura explaining details

This was another great night spent learning from Master Demura. He is an absolutely incredible teacher with an unbelievable depth of knowledge - there are times when I wish I could sit with him for a few hours and just listen to all the stories he has to tell! His enthusiasm for the arts is infectious, and I can only hope that I have a tiny fraction of his energy when I get to be his age. We have been truly fortunate to have him share knowledge and information with us - I can only hope he remains able to do so for many years to come!


Sunday, April 09, 2006

A Long Run on a Sunny Day
3 1/2 hour run in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Some good things from today's run:

Saw 5 deer at different times - they ran off a little ways and then stood there watching me stagger along. (I think they may have been quietly laughing at me. Or else wondering what the heck I was torturing myself like that!)

Sunlight drifting down through pine branches, with needles swishing underfoot. VERY peaceful and VERY pretty.

Running up hills during the first two hours without keeling over!

Ran most of the major trails in not one but two sections of the Pine Bush - that's almost my crazy Pine Bush run I dreamed up last fall!

Two hours seems to be getting more comfortable... there may be hope yet!

Being able to stop running (staggering? hobbling?) at the end!

Oh, and 3 1/2 hours HURTS too!

Next Saturday's 16 mile Northern Nipmuck Trail Race is going to be a MAJOR challenge... but at least it should give me an idea of just how painful the Nipmuck Trail Marathon might be at the end of May!


Monday, April 03, 2006

More Critters!
15.5 mile bike ride along the Mohawk-Hudson Bikeway

Monday, April 3, 2006

Tonight's ride featured a HUGE snapping turtle in the grass on the side of the bike path, and a heron in one of the pools off the river. Pretty cool...

There were also a bunch of hills out in Niskayuna that I rode up and down, and a stiff headwind on the way back (which explained why the ride out was so easy - tailwinds are a wonderful thing!) So all in all, a good workout. I need to get my bike legs back if I'm going to do the Rochester Spring Classic Duathlon in May...


6th Annual Saratoga Martial Arts Festival
Saturday and Sunday, April 1 & 2, 2006

Saratoga Martial Arts Festival info

I had four goals going to SMAF this year -

  • learn a couple of new techniques - this one can be tough, because so much is covered at the seminars that by the end of the weekend I'm typically in overload and can't remember much of anything. So rather than trying to remember everything new I did, I wanted to have just a few things that I could add to my repertoire.

  • learn some new principles/ideas (or variations on principles/ideas I already know) - I think this is actually easier in some ways than remembering techniques, and also more important, because if I have the principles, I can potentially build or adapt my own techniques using them.

  • get to seminars being taught by instructors I wanted to see in the past and didn't - one of the toughest things about events like SMAF is that there's always more to do than there's time to do it. Last year there were several times where two seminars I wanted to attend were going on at the same time. So as difficult as it was to miss seminars being taught by instructors that I know I really enjoyed in the past - I forced myself to do it.


Things were structured a little bit differently this year. On both Saturday and Sunday morning, there were seminars being taught by teams of instructors addressing a common topic, and then in the afternoon each gave a longer seminar individually. Sunday also featured a 2 hour long session on some sort of weapons work. On the plus side, this allowed us to both get a taste for a number of arts and get more in-depth work with one particular instructor. On the minus side, it seemed like there was less to choose from, I guess because the same people were teaching in the morning and then later in the afternoon. But it did fit in well with the overall theme this year, which was looking for the similarities and differences in how various arts approach the same issues.


Energy Drills of 4 Styles - This was the first of the team-taught sessions, with each instructor covering about 20 minutes of material. Our group had Instructor George Ilyadis first. Instructor Ilyadis is a Jeet Kune Do stylist, and he covered some JKD concepts of striking and how they relate to sensing energy. He did an excellent job presenting it - it's quite different conceptually from what we do at AMAI. Next up was Dr. Jerome Barber, a kenpo-arnis stylist. I was very impressed by Dr. Barber's demonstration last year, and even more impressed by his discussion of why it's important to have martial arts events like SMAF. He taught us a Filipino energy-sensitivity drill much like Chinese push-hands - I really enjoyed his presentation, and decided I would definitely attend his seminar in the afternoon. Our third instructor was Sifu Jiang Jian-ye, who has a wealth of knowledge about a wide variety of Chinese martial arts. He did variations on push-hands with us; unfortunately, given the time constraints he had very little time to actually explain what we were doing. The final instructor was Sifu Sharif Bey, a Hung Ga stylist and another instructor whose energy and willingness to share knowledge really impressed me last year. Sifu Bey taught us a Hung Ga energy drill which was a lot of fun, and he also gave us an incredible amount of information about Hung Ga training methods.

Sifu Jiang Jian-ye

Sifu Sharif Bey

While I was in the first seminar, Guro Doug Marcaida gave a seminar on Pekiti Tirsia Kali, a Filipino martial art. From what I saw of Guro Marcaida later in the day, I definitely want to take one of his seminars when the opportunity arises! (Yet another example of the difficulty in making choices at SMAF!)

Guro Doug Marcaida

Kata to Combat - this was another of the team-taught seminars, with an emphasis on translating movements and movement concepts from kata into effective self-defense techniques. Our first instructor was Sifu William Luciano, who teaches Pai-Chia Chu'an (Pai Family Boxing), a Chinese style. Sifu Luciano taught us the beginning movements of a Chinese form and explained some of the self-defense principles behind the movements. After that Kyoshi Joe Mansfield, who trains in Okinawa-Te Ryute Renmei. His focus was primarily on using simple, natural movements to defend yourself, and he also explained how similar movements can be found in most style's katas. This theme was continued by Sensei Tony DiSarro, an instructor in Kosho Shorei Ryu Kempo. Sensei DiSarro showed us how simple, everyday movements like shaking hands or brushing your hair can be combined with proper body positioning to be used as practical self-defense. The final session was taught by Sifu Mark Cardona, of Wan Yi Chuan Kung Fu. Sifu Cardona taught us several moves from a Chinese tiger kata, and also explained the application of these movements. At the very end he treated us to a demonstration of several other animal styles, giving us a chance to see how different approaches are used to achieve similar goals. Having done this seminar, I came away wanting to take another seminar with each of the instructors (Sifu Cardona is the only one I've worked with before.) They all had a lot to offer and were excellent at explaining the concepts behind their arts. Saturday afternoon I would get the opportunity to work with one of them; hopefully next year I can take seminars with some of the others. (I'm seeing a common theme here... more! more! more!)

Sifu Bill Luciano

Kyoshi Joe Mansfield

Sifu Mark Cardona

Knife Defense with Dr. Jerome Barber -
Admittedly, this session was a tough decision, since Sifu Sharif Bey was doing a seminar on Hung Ga Chin Na (joint locking) techniques. But I knew I wanted to try a session with Dr. Barber, and I was not disappointed. We started out with a sensitivity drill designed to help us deflect attacks with little or no applied force. We then extended this to deflecting knife attacks. As we were doing so, Dr. Barber spoke at length about some of the concepts involved in defending against a knife, such as deflecting attacks in ways that won't bring the blade across your own body or leave you open to a weapon in the attacker's other hand. After learning to deflect the attacks, we then worked on following up with locks, strikes, and stripping the knife. He also spent a while talking about legal implications of knife defense and using biomechanical cuts (cuts designed to disable rather than kill an assailant.) At several points, he assisted my partner and I with techniques by demonstrating on me, and his control was excellent - despite multiple kicks to the knee, take-downs, and joint locks, I never once felt that there was any danger of his injuring me. (I believe I even got filmed being beaten up!) Overall, an EXCELLENT seminar taught by a master teacher. (And one which has me even more enthusiastic about possibly attending Dr. Barber's Buffalo Martial Arts Summit in July!)

Dr. Jerome Barber

Timing and Anatomical Power in Kosho Ryu Kempo with Sensei Tony DiSarro - I had wanted to get to Sensei DiSarro's seminars for the past two years, but there was always something I wanted to do even more in the same timeslot. The short session with him in the morning was intriguing enough that I decided to take his afternoon session (a tough choice - I also wanted to do the seminar with Sifu William Luciano - maybe next year!) Sensei DiSarro built on the basic concepts from the morning session - (1) using natural motions and body positioning to defend yourself with as little force as possible, and (2) making physical contact with your assailant in a relaxed, non-threatening way to avoid triggering an adrenaline response in them (ie. take them out before they know what's hit them!) Sensei DiSarro taught in a fairly relaxed way but managed to convey quite a bit of information in the time we had with him. His uke, Sensei Ted Tanaka, was also very helpful in both sessions - he has an eye for detail and an way of explaining things that just makes sense to me. (He also just plain has fun doing martial arts, which makes it fun to work with him!)

Sensei Tony DiSarro

Zenbu Ryu Jujutsu with Sensei Gary Lewis - The last sessions of the day were taught by instructors who had never presented at SMAF before, and I decided to try some jujutsu (another tough choice, since the other seminars were on aikido and Emin Boztepe's style of Wing Chun - I really enjoyed the aikido seminars I've done previously, and I'm particularly interested in the Boztepe system!) Sensei Lewis teaches at Kinderhook Tae Kwon Do, and the first thing that stands out about him is that he is a BIG fellow. The second thing that became very apparent was that we were fortunate that we weren't his uke's - those guys were taking a real beating! Most of the techniques we did worked off of a shoulder grab/lapel grab/single-hand push to the chest, and the variety of techniques that he built off of the initial move was incredible (if only I could remember more of them!) By the end of the 90 minutes, my hand and wrist were throbbing from the constant grab and torque that started out each sequence. Unfortunately, all the up and down aggravated my right knee, so I had to take it easy for the last half an hour or so. Some very cool techniques, and I was impressed with the fact that when Sensei Lewis assisted us with techniques his control was excellent - I initially was worried I would get slammed and cranked like his uke, but that was not the case. All in all, a great (if somewhat strenuous and slightly painful) way to end the first day!

Sensei Gary Lewis


Defense Against Bear Hugs - this was the only team-taught session on Sunday, with a focus on how different styles deal with bear hugs, both from the front and from behind. Our group started with Shihan Barbara Dawes. Shihan Dawes' primary style is Shin Ki No Karate, which combines her training in Okinawan Ryu-Te, defensive tactics, and arnis. Her primary apporach for our session was in practical application of basic kata movements in self defense. Her moves didn't always focus on bear hugs, but they were interesting and effective all the same! Next up was Master Dominick Violante, an instructor who I worked with both last year and the year before - and who has impressed me greatly both with the quality and depth of his knowledge and with his teaching ability and open-mindedness. Master Violante focused on aiki techniques for escaping from bear hugs - the sorts of techniques that look like they have no reason to work but then prove to be very effective, when executed correctly. Most involved subtle shifts in body weight to disrupt the attacker's balance and grip. Don't know that I'd want to try any of the movements against someone out to clean my clock without a lot more practice - but this session reinforced my belief in the effectiveness of aikijujutsu and aikido. The final session of the morning was taught by Sensei Michael Campos, founder and head of Zen Do Kai International. The techniques were very practical and combined striking with a variety of jujutsu-style movements; I was also impressed by Sensei Campos' teaching methods. Perhaps I had an advantage of sorts in that we had an odd number of students, so I ended up paired up with Sensei Campos' assistant! In the end, as much as I wanted to do another session with Master Violante, this portion of the morning helped me decide to take Sensei Campos' seminar in the afternoon.

Shihan Barbara Dawes

Master Dominick Violante

Bokken kumitachi with Sensei Ted Tanaka - Next up was a 2 hour session that I'd been looking forward to all weekend, first because the focus would be on sword and bokken kumitachi (something I've been trying to incorporate into my own sword classes) and secondly because the class would be taught by Sensei Ted Tanaka, who is not only an excellent teacher but also a lot of fun! This session was long but a lot of fun, as we moved back and forth attacking and defending with our bokkens. One of the most interesting aspects was getting a chance to do two short sword kumitachi - I'm familiar with several long sword exercises from various books and videos but had never seen any short sword exercises before today! (Now if only I could remember the movements!)

Sensei Ted Tanaka

Self-Defense Against Club Attacks with Sensei Michael Campos - the last seminar of the weekend, and another tough choice, because all three of the morning instructors had interesting things to present. In the end I decided on Sensei Campos' session, both because I had wanted to do one with him in the previous years and because I'm very interested in self-defense against club attacks. This was a great way to wrap up the weekend... the techniques Sensei Campos taught were not that complicated (so I might remember a few of them) and he also explained the principles behind how they work. We covered single-handed strikes to the head and body, back-handed swings, and two-handed swings (like a baseball bat.) All in all, informative and a lot of fun!

Sensei Michael Campos

So, another year at SMAF has concluded, and the question is - did I accomplish my goals? I think so... I came away with a few techniques which I'm going to try to incorporate into my knowledge base, and a few concepts and principles as well. I also took classes with three instructors I'd been interested in from previous years, as well as short sessions with a couple of old favorites. (Of course, this may just mean that the decision-making for next year's seminars will be even more difficult, since I would gladly do another class with any of them!) And I definitely had some fun in the process, and hopefully gave the instructors and students there a good impression of instructors and students from AMAI.

Only a year to go until SMAF 2007!