Another productive year has come and gone and so has one of our most prolific banquets/conference and testing. We actually had to have more tables added to our banquet room which I am grateful for to give even more revenue to the great hosts of Mi Tierra Cafe & Restaurant. They are always so generous with us and we are lucky to have them support us. Back in the days we were lucky to have 15-20 people we are now topping near 140, respectable size from my prospective.
I hate to single folks out at times like this because invariably I always leave a key player out so I apologize now on behalf of my feeble memory. But I will say Master Jose Ramirez of CTL and my sister Silvia Volkmann kept me straight and grounded once again as this is always so stressful for me but it’s what I live for each year that I able to provide a sense of fellowship. Jose nursing a horrible sinus headache the whole week still managed to host Maestro Tony Tanare and get him to his scheduled seminars and still manage to do everything else making me such a lucky person and then when Tony left on Sunday hosted Sijo Colon and family….who does that? And then hosting GM Donny Meadows at CTL on Thursday with a full house, blessed to say the least. Poor Silvia had to put up with my grouchy behavior the whole time, as you all know many fires pop up during these events that most are not privy to but they have to be dealt with regardless. No shows, sickness, change of hearts, you name it and stuff happens but we prevailed as we always do but you can obviously see when we wing things but we try to have a good time while doing it. With people like Sensei Sylvia McDonald of CTL MCing and just her looking at me was the calm that I needed. Coach Logan Ramirez once again wowing the crowd with his singing. And big thanks to retired Air Force Jody Jenkins for knocking out some great photos from the banquet for us, I love his unselfish support along with his wife, Christy. To Mrs. Kayo Ramirez who once again knocked it out of the park by coming up with a great design for our annual shirts.
Even the little name tags that Sensei Krishan Ubongen to Master Eric Jones doing his own great name tags and Hall of Fame posters and putting together awesome medals and like a ghost setting up and tearing down the room on testing day. Usually always the same people doing all the grunt work so if anyone local wants to generously step and help next year, the more help the better. To all the generosity that all provided by their TKA fees and the extras, it helped so much you have no idea. I wish I could give each and everyone of you a special award but I believe you all know how I feel. Master Shannon Ramsey although testing still managed to bring her personalized cookies for each member of TKA. And Mrs. Pat Monahan not only keeping Master Guy straight but handling a great raffle on banquet night. Special thanks go out to Mr. Tom LaFleur who donated his time, supplies and expense to creating some of the best awards to date, I wonder if he will mind if I impose on him again next year? A very giving man and retired Air Force veteran to boot. Master Mike Jones already sent me a disk with some really awesome photos which I will share this week.
I appreciate Master Guy Shinkaruk leading our group into meaningful discussions that he has been tasked to do every year from here on out (Surprise Guy:) and actually turning this event not only into testing but an actual conference where great ideas were brought forth and different takes were given. We have so much knowledge no reason to keep it to ourselves. To of course our incredible TKA Blackbelt Council, GM Tom Balmos, GM Clarence Smith and GM Donny Meadows along with GM Gabriel Green as test examiner and Sr. Master’s Lowell Lyle and Mike Jones running the test efficiently and timely.
Testing was difficult on many levels as it went way beyond just the physical portion that some people witnessed but Master’s Dan Walthers, Stephanie DeLoach, Shannon Ramsey, Sandy Larwood, Brad Bezoni as well as GM Rene Garza were promoted but lessons were learned thru out the interview process and I believe the results will reap benefits in the future. We are now implementing pre-testing a month prior to testing either in person or by video starting next year and possibly at different times throughout the year to provide candidates every possible avenue for success. A special field promotion was presented to now Sam Dan Heather Duty from Tennessee although she did not want to accept but that’s Heather for you. I hope you all enjoyed your special HOF gifts as well as personalized gifts for most of our military blackbelts.Our new inductees did not disappoint, traveling all the way from Puerto Rico was Shidai Shidai Saint Colon and his wife Sifu Maria Arroyo, along with Professor John Harding from Washington and in San Antonio, Sensei’s Krishan Ubongen, Joyce Austin and Cristian Benavides from local schools. GM Dan Roberts was on deck as well but the flu got to him so we will make it right next year for him. These new friendships just goes to show we are hitting the mark inviting these people into our Association. It’s incredible that some of these people fly for example all the way in from Hawaii and the first thing they ask when they arrive is how can I help. These are the kind of people that we live to be associated with, good people, decent people, people that care about keeping martial arts alive. All egos were left at the door to say the least.
Deserving people receiving awards this year for 2019 in no particular order were: Blackbelt Humanitarian of the Year to Sr. Master Mike Jones, Asst. Female Blackbelt Instructor of the Year to Krishan Ubongen, Admin Assist of the Year, Mrs. Silvia Volkmann, Male Blackbelt Instructor of the Year to Master Gregory Robinson, Female Blackbelt Instructor of the Year to Sensei Monika LaFleur, School of the Year to Shotokan Karate & Fitness, Exec Comp. of the Year to GM Mike Hornsby, Master Female Blackbelt Instructor of the Year to Master Sandy Larwood, Asst. Male Blackbelt Instructor of the Year to Master Dan Walthers, Master Male Blackbelt Instructor to Master Ed Ganz, Blackbelt of the Year went to Master Brad Bezoni and the James Cummings Jr. Spirit Award was presented to Shihan Gregory Robinson, a well deserving candidate.
So thank you to all that helped in one way or another and supported, if you aren’t an active member you might want to think about strapping on that belt and come out and visit some of the schools in our area or closest to you. A visit from a friend is a great feeling for the folks that are teaching.
So in looking forward to another great year, in July we support the United States Martial Arts Hall of Fame and their IMAC camp, 23-25 Jul, this year it will be in Dallas, black tie event. Trying to land GM Benny “The Jet” Urquidez as the Top guest this year or possibly Guru Dan Inosanto. Then we all need to support GM Mike Hornsby at his True Force International Karate Championships held in San Antonio, Ending the year with our annual TKA event in Dec. 3-5. We are adding another day to the event so everyone can reap the benefits of all the teachings that we have to offer, so Thursday thru Saturday with Sunday as travel day. Mark your calendars. So if you are planning on testing next year, please start prepping your letters of intent and then we will send you your requirements, need any help getting started, just ask.
Thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to serve everyone to the best of my abilities, I just send out the emails, you all do the heavy lifting, so please know my door is open 24/7. I believe a special camp trip is in the works for folks wanting to go visit our Puerto Rico affiliates possibly in June so if you are interested please work with Master Jose and Sijo Saint Colon.
PS: GM Donny Meadow’s vehicle got broken into the last day of the conference, they stole his award, his new briefcase and some very special knifes that were near and dear to him so we wish him the best and hope they can recover some items. I know Master Guy already donated a very special knife that he has been carrying around for a long time. That my friends is what true friendship is in my opinion.
Again, all my love and appreciation to all my dear friends, instructors, students and family members, you most definitely made the 25th Anniversary a most special one to my family and me. Tang Soo!
Johnny K. Thompson, GrandMaster, 9th Degree