Always walk inside your dojo, with an empty mind, ready to learn no matter your rank.

When we think about the front line of martial arts, the names that pop to our minds are Bruce Lee, JCVD, Chuck Norris, Jet Li, etc.

All  movie stars, and great martial artists; also, all whom started like you… looking for a discipline with which they could learn to defend themselves against bullies.

In training, their main focus was to follow the path of training like a star, with thoughts of greatness, each becoming the best they could become.

One thing they always kept in mind, and never lost, was being humble.

They came everyday to the dojo with an empty mind, ready to learn new techniques, and trained and practiced until they could dominate every single move flawlessly. 

You stay humble…. train to be your best.

Be Black Belt

The one with the camera

It has been over a year…

I was the aunt -the sister- with the camera; taking every picture, every video, until the last drop of my battery. Recharging on some outlet while sitting on the floor. Always so proud to see the fantastic accomplishments of my black belt family. So proud to see the dedication, and the passion, in my sister, her husband, and my niece and nephew.

Especially my niece who, clearly, has blossomed into a strong little miss.


(With my black belt family)

Surely, I am not the first.

It has become fascinating to be so immersed in the world of Tae Kwon Do, it having begun so indirectly.

More over, the man I would come to share my life with would be a black belt too; a very advanced one -Mr. Benavides. Another wonderful personal discipline shared with his sons. 


(With Mr. Benavides)


(With my teenage stepsons)

Now, more affected than ever.

Cheering at every moment, for every level of black belt in the book. And for many ages…  

Seeing little children be also inspired, and starting. Like Isa -I love her spirit.


(Celebrating Isa’s birthday)

No wonder the bug would hit me.

To a person uninformed, the practice may seem an aggressive one, but it is all so positive. Mr. Benavides is a very joyous man, and I know his character in part he gets from a lifetime in martial arts. So for me, it only was a matter of time.

Fast forward and I have become obsessed with the idea of the practice, and participating in ATA competitions. Not as a camera woman, but on the mat. I particularly enjoy forms, and especially creative forms. 

When a form is performed superbly, as I witnessed Mrs. Von Schmeling perform it, it can be mesmerizing. That is the word I will use… I was mesmerized. The perfect synchronization of form and breadth… I could hear her every move and its intention. I could see every start and stopping point, and so much control. I could see her power.

Then I thought -I can do that… I would LOVE to be THAT good.

The thought quickly turned, and I started to think… I am an Architect. But it turns out I am not the only architect that would practice the discipline. I have friends all around the globe that have emerged at all levels of belt since I began looking -and feeling- more deeply about training. A friend architect -Mark- 2nd degree black belt in Chicago, an architect colleague -Armin- training with his son across the globe -a green belt in Austria, another colleague in Arkansas -Jeremiah- who not only is a brown belt but actually also participated in the design of ATA’s headquarters, and another colleague -Keith- who called it a life-changer also practicing with his daughter, in Raleigh. The list goes on. Funny, I have yet to encounter a woman, architect, martial artist… (aaah, the story continues!…)

My goal is to start training on 09/01/15, deliberately scheduled. Today is different than over a year ago in that I am more immersed, I have more intent, I have observed more, and now I have more freedom midday to train with adults in a less hectic, less full session. On those same days I will attempt to also practice Bikram -combining the two at least twice per week.

As I move forward with my path, I will be sharing my progress, and I hope to achieve an impossible: a true scorpion kick in a short 2 1/2 years… Why, you ask? It is only a line of measure. I like to set myself seemingly impossible goals because that is the way I make my most optimal, best, personal progress (in anything).

On that note, one last thing…

I can’t wait!


-Tabitha, White Belt, Bikram Yoga practitioner + Reiki Master

Guest Post : Mrs. Feliciano

I am a 46 year old mother of 4.  I have been battling with my weight since I was in my teens.  The most I’ve ever been is 250 pounds, wearing 4XL in clothing.  Asking the weight limit before entering some places or sitting down somewhere was normal for me.  For the longest time, I was convinced I couldn’t lose weight.  All the excuses you hear today for not losing weight, I used myself:

I don’t have the time.

I don’t have the energy.

I can’t do it.

It’s genetics.

Some body part hurts.

I don’t know how to eat healthy.

I don’t know how to exercise properly or what to do.

I really, really enjoy eating fast food.

I don’t feel like exercising. 

These excuses continued until some years ago when I lost a great deal of weight.  This made me realize I could lose the weight. Since that first big weight loss, I had gained a real knack for losing weight, then gaining it back twice as fast and twice as much.  It also made me realize that all the excuses in the world were no reason for me not to lose the weight.   It was always my own fault I was obese.  I consider myself a practical person, and the facts had been laid out. I can lose the weight.   If only I could keep it off.

Things seemed to change for me about two years ago.  I went through a spiritual transition.  This is a work in progress, another story for another day.  It is what led me to want to start yet another weight loss regimen. Honestly, though, I had no real expectations for success.

Four months into my weight loss routine I was attending my children’s Tae Kwon Do belt promotion. I was amazed by the number of adults testing.  Since I was always a spectator at the classes, I never realized this could be for me. The program director at the school invited me to start classes with my kids.  This is a very family oriented school. I figured it would be one more thing I could do to help me get closer to my weight loss goal.

Penny Beginner Testing

(Mrs. Feliciano Beginner Testing)

I started attending classes.  It was fun.  It was new.  The other adults I was taking the classes with were a real trip.  I found the instructors to be very engaging, and the curriculum to be organized and taught in a very disciplined and structured manner.

This interest turned into fascination almost overnight. This brought out my desire to add structure and discipline to my daily life.  Martial Arts has taught me that through discipline and hard work, I can maintain those long time goals.

Penny Bernard comp

(Mrs. Feliciano with her son, Bernard -Black Belt)

I have this inner energy and desire to continue learning new things and improving what I’ve learned.  I can go to class every day and come out having learned something new, whether it is a new form or an improved stance.

Penny Adv Testing

(From right -Mrs. Feliciano, Mr. Zachrisen, and Mrs. Leon)

Martial Arts is something for all ages, young and old.  For me, this is not a fad or something to pass the time with, or fill a void. It is a lifetime commitment.  One of my instructors recently said that if you are in this just for the black belt, you are in it for the wrong reasons.  I agree. 

By taking Martial Arts seriously, dedicating myself, striving to always do my best, I’ve been able to make Martial Arts a very important part of my life.  Martial Arts will give back to the person as much as the person puts into it, like most anything in life.  I could practice Martial Arts for the rest of my adult life and never reach my full potential.  There is always room for growth and improvement.  The learning experiences obtained through Martial Arts are limitless.

-Mrs. Feliciano, Blue Belt