September 27, 2009

I finally got my LMA black belt

Saturday, Sept. 26th I tested for my black belt at Leadership Martial Arts. The test was a grueling 3+ hrs of drills, technique demonstration, live sparring and forms. Our head instructor, Sensei Derek Richardson, brought in a panel of martial artists to judge us. We had never met them and they didn't know us, so they were judging solely on what they saw from us that day.

My friend and training partner, Mark Blanco (who will be testing for his black belt sometime in the coming months most likely!) recorded the entire event and compressed over 3 hours into a short video with excellent graphics commentary and time-lapse for the repetitive parts (such as our ridiculously hard "warm up" excercises!). He was also kind enough to include slow motion clips of me getting beat up on by two of our highest ranking women at the school...two women you definitely don't want to mess with!

I started training in martial arts when I was 8 years old. I've studied various traditional styles from Okinawa, Japan, Korea, as well as techniques from many others styles and fighting methods for over 2 decades. Yet each time, I was never able to earn my black belt in any one of them because I would have to move (i.e. Dad's appointment to a new church, going to college, etc.).

I started training at LMA about 3 years ago and it was the first school that was genuinely a Mixed Martial Arts school. I had plenty of experience in the traditional martial arts, but was a complete noob in the areas of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Judo and Muay Thai. Looking back, I'm proud to say that I earned my first black belt at LMA and it truly represents, to me, the culmination of a goal set by a scrawny 8 year old growing up in Georgia.

Thank you first and foremost to my Sensei, and friend, Derek Richardson. And secondly, a HUGE thank you to all my training partners and friends at LMA (you know who you are...and I cherish the bruises from each and every one of you!). And to Houston and Logan, my fellow black belts who endured 3 hrs of pain, CONGRATS GUYS, WE SURVIVED! :)

Oh's the video:

Blessings from the Dojo,

September 22, 2009

5 Fiction books that changed my life

I was thinking tonight about books I've read over the years that have pretty much shaped who I am, specifically fiction books. I'd like to share them with the Dojo readers in no particular order:

Watership Down

Richard Adams

This is, quite simply, my favorite work of fiction ever written. You almost immediately get swept up into the world of this colony of rabbits and their flight and fight for survival. You become familiar with their culture, vocabulary, and even their folklore, all through their own eyes. The novel has deeper undertones and themes regarding society and British politics...but I was completely unaware of them at the time I read it. I fell in love with the characters (especially Bigwig!) and was totally enchanted by the world Adams created. If you saw the horrible animated version on TV back in the 80s don't let it keep you from reading the book. I literally shed tears at the end of this epic.

Out of the Silent Planet & Perelandra

C.S. Lewis

These are the first two books in Lewis' lesser-known "Space Trilogy" (the third being "That Hideous Strength", which I didn't really enjoy that much). Despite the relative shortness of these two little books, there is more deep theology packed into their pages than in all the Narnia books combined. Perelandra is my favorite of the two, but it doesn't make sense without having read Out of the Silent Planet. If you've ever wondered about the Gospel and how it would look to beings on other planets, Lewis gives you much to ponder.


Joseph F. Girzone

Simply put, "Joshua" is a fictional account of Jesus moving to the outskirts of a small middle American town and his relationship with the local people, churches and synagogue. I read this shortly after reading Philip Yancy's "The Jesus I Never Knew" and gave me a fresher understanding of Jesus than I had ever experienced before, particularly giving life to the "friend of sinners" mentality and what it might have looked like in today's culture. Girzone is a retired Catholic priest, yet his depiction of Jesus will engage ANYONE, regardless of their church/denominational background. This book (along with the 4 sequels) absolutely changed my life as I strove to live more like Jesus in everyday situations...years before people started asking "WWJD"!


James Clavell

Having always been interested in Samurai, and having seen episodes of the mini-series as a kid on TV, I picked up Shogun expecting to be transported into the world of Japan during feudal times...I was not disappointed. More than that, there is so much regarding the politics of religion and clash of cultures that anyone interested in history, particularly as it pertains to Christian missions, can get wrapped up in this majestic tale of the stranded Captain Blackthorne and his slow transformation among the samurai in Lord Toronaga's ranks. This is historical fiction at its finest.

Jurassic Park

Michael Crichton

This was the first full-length novel I ever read in less than 48 hrs. It was also the smartest. NO ONE blended heart-pounding action and frontier scientific theories like Crichton did. And in none of his books is this better demonstrated than in the original Jurassic Park. As great as Spielberg's movie adaptation was (and it was amazing!), the book is exponentially better (pun intended!).

JM's Audio Teaching Archive

Check out for some of my messages and teaching sessions:

Bruce Lee quote of the day...