black belt

@ Kuro-Obi Open


Last week, at the first ever local Kuro-Obi Open, space fell short. People came from many places including out of state to compete in the open -a Shotokan Regional led by the regional leader himself, our Sensei Oquendo.

Upon arriving, proud parents and karatekas of all ages were out in the hotel’s courtyard awaiting for the doors to open. Volunteers from the Dojo ran around putting all last details in place.

For a first event, we will stand by the fact that it was a pretty successful one.



We had an amazing line up of Senseis, guests including international Sensei Carlos Vasquez from Venezuela, standing by to judge in the various divisions throughout the day.

For our family it was also a first : the four of us were in karategis, and the fifth -for reasons mostly of lack of coordination- had to be taken care of (thanks to my sister in law and her family for helping) while looking on at her not-so-distant future as a martial artist herself



Competing was the added bonus.

Although waiting our turn was long, we all did compete except for Jorge Jr. who, despite signing on for Kumite, had no opponent ready in his division to take on; instead, he helped as referee at one of the mats along with dad throughout the event.

Diego competed in both Kata and Kumite in his division, taking both gold medals.

As an adult beginner, Tabitha competed in Kata in her division taking also gold.

I competed in both Kata and Kumite, taking silver and gold respectively; though my Kata I am told was more precise and technically clean, it was not a par in difficulty with the opponent’s during the last round of exhibition.

Sensei Oquendo was pleased, tired, and we truly thank him for hosting us all at this event, and for his continued commitment to the development of his karatekas of all ages.

Many more competitions, including Tokyo 2020, to come…

Remember, as Mahatma Gandhi once said : “Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from indomitable will.”

You too can  BE BLACK BELT !    OSS !!

5 Reasons


The five reasons why Martial Arts is the best fitness program for adults :

  • Better self confidence: This reason tops the list. Due to the goal setting, positive encouragement and respect for values that are part of all martial arts programs, the greatest benefit usually reported by martial arts students is greater self confidence. You become more comfortable in all situations – whether you’re in danger or simply doing a task that takes you beyond your comfort zone — and you’ll discover you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.
  • Total body workout: Martial arts is a high-aerobic workout that uses every muscle group in the body. Your stamina, muscle tone, flexibility, balance and strength will improve with martial arts.
  • Stress relief: In martial arts you get to kick, punch and shout(Kiai), which is a great stress release no matter what your age.
  • Reach and maintain your healthy weight: Due to the total-body nature of a martial arts workout, tons of calories are burned during every class. However, you’ll also find that your natural eating signals become better regulated so food cravings will disappear and you’ll eat less portions with more frequency as a result you will have less fat and more muscle tone.
  • Learn self-defense skills: Unlike any other form of exercise, with martial arts you learn potentially life-saving self-defense skills.

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