Tag Archive for Martial Arts

You’ve Gotta Keep Moving

They say Sunday’s supposed to be a day of rest, but that’s not been true for me for a long time. It’s the only day of the week I have no work obligations at either of my jobs, so it’s become a day I get my longer workouts done.

My family is gone in the morning, so that’s when I hit the dojo for practice. I always work kata or other elements of my style (Shuri-ryu), practice some kobudo, and sometimes work in some calisthenics or makiwara work. I do more teaching than practicing these days, so it’s become an important time to get my own practice in and work on corrections and advice from my instructors. In general, though, I’m aiming to get a good sweat.

Later in the evening, when there’s nothing going on at the school I work for, my eldest son and I to sneak into their weight room for squats and related leg exercises. My middle son and I have karate together, so this has the added bonus of spending time with his brother.

I’ve been lifting consistently for about five years, and now that he’s old enough, my son’s caught the bug. I have an Olympic bench and barbell set in my office, and we use that at home for separate workouts. We can do leg curls and extensions on my bench, but nothing beats squats, and I don’t have space at home for a power rack or squat stands.

I’ve thought about hitting the school gym on my own for some time now, but for safety’s sake I waited until I had a partner available. My son’s still a bit small to spot me, but now he’s there to call for help if I have an accident and go down.

Funny thing is, most people still tell me, “You’re too old for that stuff.”

I don’t claim to be a paragon of health, but I’ve seen results. I move better than most people my age. I can lift more than most guys half my age. My heart’s strong, and my doctor doesn’t ride me about my weight. My gut doctor remarked on how much muscle I’m carrying, and even my friends have noticed a difference.

My goal isn’t to get down to 5% body fat and compete in fitness competitions, nor do I intend to step into a cage and fight. I just want to stay healthy. Some of the martial arts instructors I train with are in their 60s and 70s, and when I get to be their age, I want to be active and moving like they are. They may have slowed down a bit, but they’re in far better shape than most of their peers. When people say “move it or lose it,” those are the men and women I picture. They stayed active and it’s paid off for them.

Meanwhile, the naysayers are all trying fad diets or cleanses. They don’t look for the shortcuts because they’re lazy, they just buy into the “you’re too old for that” bullshit and are looking for another solution.


A big part of cutting fat is exercise. It’s not just common sense, it’s proven science:

The other part of it is diet. My own diet can still use a few tweaks, and it doesn’t help that I’ve got a bum thyroid. However, fad diets and cleanses are unsustainable. What’s more is some of them prompt the body to tear down muscle, because muscle is expensive to maintain (calorically speaking). So while those weird shakes might result in temporary weight loss, they can also leave people in worse physical shape.

Most of us think about fat and muscle when we’re talking about fitness, but as we age we should also be thinking about bone health. I’ve seen several older folks with shattered wrists and hips after simple falls. Even moderate activity helps keep bones strong. It’s called Wolff’s Law, and the most obvious example of it I’ve witnessed is in the protruding knuckles of a karate practitioner who has spent a lot of time punching things.

You feel the difference when they punch you, too.

“Too old for this stuff?” Not by a long shot.

Find whatever makes you move and do it! Run. Hit a gym. Join a softball or soccer team. Play racquetball or tennis. Take yoga or spin classes. Ride a bike. Do you. The martial arts just happen to work for me, and it inspires me to dabble in other things like yoga and running so I can be better at karate and judo. There’s bound to be an art that fits your interests, and a good martial arts instructor can often double as a personal trainer.

You’re not too old. My oldest student is 69 years young and trains alongside his grandson. And yes, you have time.

Get to work.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Black Belt, One Week In

It’s been a week since my black belt promotion ceremony, and I’ve noticed more change around me than within me.

Learned and taught in it for the first time today. Pretty cool.

First week teaching and learning as a black belt

Sure, it’s a big accomplishment, and I’m honored to be wearing it. But am I a different person from a week ago? Am I suddenly enlightened, or has my technique suddenly improved since last week? No, not really.

The recognition in others is the biggest change. I’m Mr. Oliveri in the dojo now, rather than Senpai (senior student) or just Mike. Students bow to me when we meet, and their demeanor and etiquette has changed, particularly with those students I didn’t know very well to begin with.

To me, that’s what the black belt symbolizes: accomplishment. It’s almost like a diploma. I am now recognized as an authority on Okinawan Shuri-ryu Karate. Not the authority, and certainly not a master or an expert, but simply someone whom other students and martial artists should be able to ask questions of.

It’s toughest to explain this to someone not in the martial arts. The week before my test, I had my kids in the dentist’s office and he saw me reading The Pinnacle of Karate, the manual for Shuri-ryu. We chatted about my upcoming test for a bit, and he wished me luck. Flash forward to yesterday, and I had my own dental appointment. My dentist asked about my test, congratulated me, and he said it must be nice to have more confidence as I walk down the street.

He’s not incorrect. I do feel more confident in strange places, or if someone gets in my face, but I had that before my instructor wrapped the belt around my waist. Six years of training is not trivial. There’s a huge difference between my skill and technique now and when I received my yellow belt, of course, but again, the belt is more about recognition.

What’s more, it’s an indicator of what I have done so far, as there’s a lot more training to come. I’ll be learning three new kata before I’m eligible for nidan (2nd degree), for example, and I’m expected to continue practicing and refining my technique. The black belt is a milestone, not a destination.

There’s some responsibility that comes with the black belt, especially in the dojo, and I’m sure I’ll adjust to them. In the meantime, I’m still just another martial artist.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: The Family That Fights Together

This week’s Photo Friday 2011 entry was taken at the Academy of Okinawan Karate’s graduation night at the Morton dojo. Here I managed to capture Mr Joey Johnston, the head of the Morton dojo, running a kata while his stepfather, Shuri-ryu Chief Instructor Shihan Joseph Walker, looks on.

Scan for New Opponents

Mr Joey Johnston runs a kata while Shihan Joseph Walker looks on

The Morton dojo has plenty of smooth, white light, so I used my 18-55mm kit lens with a custom white balance for this shot. For the rest of the set I switched between no flash and using an external SpeedLite with automatic white balance because the light was a bit low.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Photo Friday: The Karate Seminar

I selected two pictures from the International Shuri-Ryu Association’s martial arts seminar in Fort Wayne, Indiana last weekend to illustrate a point: karate is not just about standing up with an opponent and punching and kicking.

Yes, that’s where the concentration is, and to look at most of our kata, it’s easy to assume that’s all that’s going on. However, karate, and Shuri-ryu especially, can include takedowns, pressure point attacks, joint locks, pins/holds, and more. In the following photos, Shuri Cup tournament competitors can be seen demonstrating takedowns mixed into the bunkai (simply put, a demonstration of application) of the kata.


Mr Nate England takes down Mr Joey Johnston, a student and an instructor respectively at the Academy of Okinawan Karate.

While we do incorporate judo techniques into the curriculum, we don’t necessarily turn kata demonstration or sparring  into a judo match. In both cases, the demonstrators took their opponent down, but they did not go to the ground with them. Sure, they could get down and submit the opponent in an armbar, but there’s already another opponent ready to come in and attack. As such, the demonstrators stayed on their feet while eliminating their opponent.


Mr Gustavo Lugo eliminates his opponent with a throat strike.

Grappling was a heavy component of the seminar, especially in the sessions I attended. I picked up several new techniques, especially some ground fighting techniques in Shihan Joseph Walker’s Haganah session. Fortunately a lot of the basic concepts were familiar to me, and that made it a lot easier to understand what was demonstrated. I saw and learned a lot, and I feel like my own karate will be better for it.

I only took pictures during the Shuri Cup, as the rest of the time I was too busy practicing to carry a camera. In the downtime between sessions I was too busy getting a drink and jotting notes. The Friday & Saturday sessions, as well as the tournament, took place in a Masonic Lodge hall, and with the available light I opted to use my 50mm prime lens. I knew I’d be shooting rapid fire to catch karate techniques, so I opted against RAW. I set a custom white balance using my instructor Sensei Miller’s gi as the white model, then fired away. I’m happy with the above pics, as I was mostly shooting to capture the moment rather than look for a great photograph. I only carried so much over to the practice hall and had no idea what to expect in terms of lighting, distance, crowds, etc. I also didn’t want to be the guy distracting competitors with a bright flash in their face, especially when they’re supposed to be blocking punches and then aiming their own punches and kicks back at their opponents.

You can see the rest of the set on Flickr, including pictures of the rest of the competitors and the judges. There was a lot of talent out there, and it was a lot of fun to watch.

All in all I had a blast, and finding a gyro joint serving both Kronos Gyros and Vienna Beef hot dogs until four in the morning was a nice bonus. I can’t wait to do it again next year.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

Yes, I Survived the Seminar

I attended the 20th annual International Shuri-ryu Association Martial Arts Seminar in Fort Wayne, Indiana, this past weekend, and I’m just now coming up for air. The seminar was up against the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo, and though it would have been nice to see John, Cullen, and the rest of the Evileye crew, I think I made the right decision.

This is the first year the Academy of Okinawan Karate brought brown belts to the seminar, and I really learned a lot. I didn’t get a lot of new techniques, but I refined a lot of what I already know and I was able to make a lot of new connections and look at some of my karate in a whole new way. It reinforced how good my teachers at the AOK are, and how fortunate I am to have such a great school so close to my home.

This was a Square Sculpture...

This was a square sculpture until Shihan Joseph Walker struck it with a backfist punch.

The seminar structure is simple: students (mostly black belts) spend three days attending workouts and breakout sessions with the top instructors from our style, as well as from other instructors who had worked with or been influenced by Grand Master Robert A. Trias. It was amazing watching some of these guys move and soaking up their knowledge, and it’s clear these guys have a true passion for the martial arts.

Friday night also included the Shuri Cup, a kata tournament open to black belts. I’m told the competition was small this year, but the competitors put on a good show. I took several pictures, and I’ll be talking more about that for this week’s Photo Friday.


This Bench...

This was a solid stone bench until Shihan dropped a hammer fist on it.

We enjoyed our time in Fort Wayne, too. It reminded us a little of Peoria, and though we didn’t stray far from the hotel and convention center, we did find a local bar that became our favorite haunt, and I found a joint that served Kronos Gyros and Vienna Beef hot dogs until the wee hours of the morning. For a while there, I thought I’d discovered Heaven.

Like the writing and comics conventions I attend, I came back exhausted but re-energized and excited about what I do. I already look forward to the next one.

For now, though, I best get a good night’s sleep. I’ve got a lot of writing to do if I want to keep being able to afford these things.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.