About Me

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Mabuhay! I'm an Asian American writer (Back Kicks And Broken Promises, Abbott Press, 2012), martial artist and teacher who was born in The Philippines, raised in Hong Kong and ended up in New Jersey.

23 April, 2011


Yes, the title of this post refers to ex loves. Well, in this case, one particular ex and an experience I had with her recently. For those of you reading, who like scandal and all sorts of sordid intrigue, I'm sorry that this post isn't a confession of an illicit reunion with her that ended up sweating between sheets. Haha. It's much more G rated than that and an episode in how people can really move on and how a common bond, like Taekwondo, can bring people together.

I ran into this ex last week at the NJ USA Taekwondo Team practice. It's funny. I hadn't thought about her in a long time until about a month ago when I visited a former Taekwondo instructor of ours. When I was waiting for his class to end so we could have a chat, there was another woman in the waiting area. She turned out to be the mother of one of the teenage boys in class. I didn't recognize her, she didn't recognize me and I didn't recognize her son but he recognized me. It had been years, about nine, since I last saw him and he's no longer the cute curly haired kid of 7 or 8. Now, he's a handsome sturdy young man of 17. Well, as he and I talked and caught up, the mother joined us and we caught up and she was the one who mentioned my ex.

My ex and I didn't end on the best of terms (How many break ups do, right? Although, perhaps it's material for another post, but I have had the mutual break up without any residual guilt or longing with another ex.) so when I found out that she was still training a certain amount of anxiety crept in in how things might go if we did run into each other on the Taekwondo circuit. Well, States came and went and there was no contact. I went to the first NJ Team practice and there was no contact. I skipped the second practice but went to the third and there she was. I saw her before she saw me. It wasn't until I stepped out onto the training floor to stretch did our eyes meet. She tilted her head and smiled. I stopped stretching and walked over.

Here's the best part. We said hello and just started talking. There wasn't any awkward "Should we hug, kiss on the cheek, shake hands?" moment. We just asked how we were, caught up and started talking about our involvement with the NJ Taekwondo Team. I told her I was there as a competitor. She was there because her daughter, an adorable 8 year old black belt, was there because she's going to be competing at the Junior Nationals.

Midway through practice, and we'd already planned this, my wife and son arrived. They took pictures and I wanted my son to see what his dad is doing as he prepares for US Team Trials and Nationals. I introduced them to my ex and it was cool. Later, my ex and I talked about the training and some of our experiences with the other black belts in the room at various trainings and workshops. I even felt a little sense that we really had moved on because her daughter had expressed to her that she couldn't understand what some of the Korean masters were saying because of their accents and some of them don't have super strong English skills yet. Well, she said she'd told her daughter to go up to Master Bas since I speak English. My ex and I were talking like old friends. I don't think she felt any akwardness and I know I didn't.

At the end of the practice, there was no fanfare or big goodbye or grand "See you next time." She left with her daughter and I left with my family. And that was that. Chalk this up for what you will - two people, older and more mature, or the common ground of Taekwondo bringing us together in a better and different way, the power of children, I don't know. But, it was a really great experience. We were just two old friends catching up and getting along.

What about you? Do you have any positive running into your ex experiences? It can happen. It does happen.

14 April, 2011


I had a funny and cute, even heartwarming, experience this morning.

Before I tell you about it, I have to give you a little rundown of my daily morning routine. Here goes. I'm the first one to wake up in the morning, usually around 5am. Sometimes I'll get up earlier, around 3:30am or 4:00am, if I won't have time later in the day to write or if I'm particularly eager to get back to work on a project I put down the night before because I do have to sleep sometime.

So, I get up at 5ish and walk the dog, Bauer. After that, I make the coffee, pack Jude's lunch and make his breakfast. Most days, I make him a waffle. Guada and I usually have oatmeal and Jude eats some of that, too. He's a growing boy, after all, turning three in twelve days.

The other thing I have to preface this blog with is that Jude and Bauer have really become friends. The sit with each other on the sofa, Jude pets and hugs the dog and he feeds him his biscuits when we come back from our walks.

Well, today, as Guada and I were upstairs getting dressed for work Jude was downstairs watching his usual morning TV - Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Hand Manny, Jake and The Neverland Pirates - and eating oatmeal. As I came down the stairs, making the turn into the living room, Bauer was in his bed, curled up and content. Jude was standing at the coffee table with his spoon in hand looking at me wistfully. Before I could say anything, he blurted out, "Bauer ate my waffle!" I turned from him to his plate and found that it was empty and repeated what he'd said. Jude said, "Yeah, Bauer ate my waffle." From there, I repirmanded the dog, asked Jude if he wanted me to make him a new one (he did and did) and proceeded to make my own breakfast.

It was a naughty thing the dog did and, honestly, from recent behaviour, quite uncharacteristic. It was, however, an overall cute experience. We only have one child but we've joked that Bauer is our first born and Jude's big brother. Seeing Jude, wistful and annoyed at Bauer, I could only imagine what it'll be like if or when we have another child and they do the things that siblings to do to one another and rat each other out to me or their mother.

Best of all, on a Thursday (my longest and busiest day of the week), I couldn't ask for a better start to the day. I love my family.

12 April, 2011

Networking and Reminiscing and Traditions

If you've been following this blog, you know I'm a Tae Kwon Do master, that I'm back to teaching Tae Kwon Do and that I recently won the NJ State Forms Competition in the 1st Masters Division. I bring this up because, after almost twenty-six years involved in the martial arts, I feel like I'm becoming a real contributing member of the Tae Kwon Do community.

You see, in my younger days when I was competing and teaching with my own school, it was all about getting ahead and making a name for myself. It wasn't ALL about me - I was truly spreading the joy and benefits I've received through Tae Kwon Do practice - but I had a younger man's mind with a younger man's goals and dreams. Thing is, while I'd competed against and narrowly lost to some big names (David Martin of Eagle Tae Kwon Do in Hunterdon and Billy Petrone from Connecticut, who was a member of the US National Team, each by one point and against Billy it was in suddent death overtime), I never got known and I never shook hands with the brass, so to speak.

Well, since starting teaching classes this year and winning States, suddenly I'm making connections with big wigs and laughing and talking about going out for drinks on a Friday night after training. At the risk of name dropping, while preparing for States and after winning it, I've become cordial and friendly with Master Sungkeun Yoo. Who's Master Yoo? He's the current president of the NJ State Tae Kwon Do Association. We've corresponded via email on official matters, for sur, but at the first NJ Team practice we stretched side-by-side and talked about, of all things, women and Filipino food. We're even Facebook friends and we don't just talk Tae Kwon Do.

More recently, Master Mark Williams, who's a legend in American Tae Kwon Do, stopped by the Bodies In Motion studion and dropped off information on the tournament he's hostsing in May. Yesterday, as I was changing out of my dobok and back into my civvies, he stopped by again. For those of you who don't know Master Williams, the equivalent of his stopping would be, if you were a writer say, if Stephen King walked into your workspace and wanted to shoot the breeze and welcome you to the writing community. Or, if you're a dancer, it would be like Nureyev coming into your studio and saying hi. What was more humbling is that, remember, there's a rank system in Tae Kwon Do and Master Williams is two dans my senior. For him to come to me is like, as the saying goes, the mountain coming to Mohammed.

Aside from chance encounters at the local Pathmark Supermarket, I've only met Master Williams on the tournament circuit. At one event, we were in the ring together, ready for a sparring match, but the senior masters told him to go to his own weight division. I was glad because I wonder - doubt - if I'd have won if he had been my opponent. I ended up getting to the heavyweight final and placing second.

During his visit, he welcomed me in true martial arts spirit to the community as a martial arts master. He offered his assistance, too. This was so brilliant to me because many masters I know wouldn't have done that. Instead, they'd have been less than friendly and argue that I was fishing in their stream. I hate to say this but, from a business perspective of running your own school, I have known some masters to act this way. However, in my opinion, this is the wrong way to look at things. After all, we're all martial artists, Tae Kwon Doists and masters. It's all about sharing our art and acting appropriately. From a business standpoint, Master Williams put it nicely when recounting an incident he'd had with another school owner who'd been at his location for many years - "If they (the students) haven't come to you by now, they're not going to."

Anyway, I digress. Master Williams' visit was especially heartwarming because he and I come from the same tree. His master, the late Master Ki Chung Kim, was one of the pioneers of Tae Kwon Do in America. He was an "old school" master who studied Tae Kwon Do as it was practised when there were still individual kwans. My original master, Grandmaster Kwang Jae Lee, is one of those older schoolers as well and, if not peers, an older brother to Master Kim. Grandmaster Lee's background is in Mood Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do. Recounting our own training and experience, Master Williams and I talked of what our masters had taught us and how things are different today.

So, since entering and winning States, I'm starting to make the inroads I'd always wanted to in the Tae Kwon Do community. However, while I'm enjoying that, my Tae Kwon Do involvement now isn't about the  connections and name-dropping. It's about being a master and living up to what the colour of my belt and the number of stripes on it mean. It's funny, too, and testimony that sometimes when you want something too much it won't happen. Now that I'm not focused on trying to gain entry into the inner circles of Tae Kwon Do doors are being opened and opportunities are popping up.

I'm enjoying this ride with every turn it takes. I just hope it doesn't end anytime soon and that  my students are benifitting from it as much as I am.

04 April, 2011

Strange Dreams

I guess it's because there's a lot on my mind with writing, teaching, preparing for the US Tae Kwon Do Nationals, teaching Tae Kwon Do and other things but I've been having some really strange dreams lately. Sunday morning, I woke up with very vivid images of my Mother, although she looked differently than she actually does, happy and accepting of my Father and the affair he was having. This is all in my dream. For the record, my Father has never had nor is he now having any illicit extramarital relationships. The woman my Father was having the affair with looked a lot like Jill Clayburgh, the actress. When I asked my Mother about it, all she'd say was "It's okay. It'll be over soon. It's okay." Strange.

Last night, it continues. I woke up this morning having dreamt of riding a horse in vast plains of short cropped grass rolling over miles and miles of hilly terrain. I have never been on a horse and in my dream I was me as I am today in this modern 21st century world we live in. I wasn't a copy of some medieval serf or soldier riding on horseback. Just plain old me.

I don't know. I told a friend at work about this and she said, usually, when someone remembers clearly what they dreamt about it means that he or she had a really good rest. That would make sense. I'm doing a lot more and working out a lot more preparing for Nationals in July and I can use all the good rest I can get. Just wish I could dream of something more fun and enjoyable, perhaps (and you can take that however you want to).

Have you had any strange dreams lately? Do you have any idea what they might mean or where they came from?

Preparing for US Nationals

I was at the Apex Tigers Tae Kwon Do dojang yesterday as part of the New Jersey Tae Kwon Do team that is going to the US Nationals in June and July in San Jose, CA. While I was there, I met some of New Jersey's best and most talented masters - the State team's coaches - and I trained with one as I worked on my latest form and as we helped some Junior Nationals black belts work on their form, Koryo. I also discovered how much I've been out of the Tae Kwon Do loop.

The last ten years or so, I've always been involved in Tae Kwon Do and martial arts somehow. I'd read and keep up with the general and popular news. I'd chat with fellow black belts. I'd even train at one school or another, some owned by former instructors, and work up a good sweat. However, I haven't been  in the thick of things since the 1990s - and the early 1990s at that.

The last instructor I was training with seriously - Master Levy Diogene - was current in how things are done in Korea and the information that is passed down from the Kukkiwon (the headquarters of Tae Kwon Do in Seoul, South Korea) and the World Tae Kwon Do Federation (the world governing body of sport Tae Kwon Do). He taught me the new way to get into the ready, or joombi, stance. He taught me the updates on how to chamber kicks when doing some of the black belt forms. They were new to me then, since I had learnt my forms originally from Grandmaster Kwang Jae Lee, then Grandmaster Ik-Hwan Kim, and they were a little more traditional, more 'old school' (although Grandmaster Kim was already showing me some of the newer short front stance, known as the walking stance).

Yesterday, I saw and was taught even newer ways to do some of the techniques in some of the black belt forms. Now, instead of keeping a hand out as you kick, you bring it in. Instead of putting your closed fist under the other arm's elbow, while doing chops to the face, you bring the hand down by your belt. The changes are subtle ones and they'll be relatively easy to learn and it'll be relatively easy to fix my poomse (forms). What's going to be hard are the nuances. It used to be such that you tucked your arms here and there as you performed the technique and got into the finished position. Now, there are very specific nuances that help you get there. It's nicer, to be honest, the way the forms look now because it makes the poomse whole - complete - and it's just simply nice to look at. And, they are nice to look at but the master I was watching, Master Sang Hee Kim, made them look effortless and beautiful. As I watched him, I could only wonder if I could get to that level. Was I ever at that level - even before I stopped training and put on all the weight I have to lose, even before I became stiff and lost a lot of the flexibility I acquired that allowed me to break a board that was held directly above my head with a front rising kick?

Master Kim was very helpful and pleasant as he helped me with my Sipjin form, the fifth degree black belt form I may need to do at Nationals. I taught the form to myself from videos and texts figuring, as an experienced master and martial artist, I could learn the whole as a whole. I have but it's the details that make the form.

I said what's going to be hard is to relearn, or even learn for the first time, the nuances of the poomse I know. That's true. What's going to be really difficult is to learn them in the next twelve weeks before Nationals.