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Just for Kicks

My father was a black belt- and yes, he bragged about it often. Even now, as I write this entry, I know that he’s beaming with pride over his achievements in martial arts-specifically the art of Sikaran. Sikaran is a Filipino martial art that primarily consists of foot and hand combat (though hand movements are mainly reserved for blocking techniques). My father began studying Sikaran, according to his mother, in eighth grade. He would study on and off throughout his life before earning his black belt from his sensei and friend, Joe. Sikaran would grow to play a major role in my father’s life as well as the lives of those he touched through his love for this sport. When he moved to Texas with his wife and their two adoptive children, Rob actually began to teach Sikaran to younger generations. This job allowed him a space to be a positive role model and become a valued member of his community. Inspiring people to join martial arts wasn’t a foreign concept to him, in fact two of my uncles and both of my brothers practiced Sikaran with my father for extended periods of time. My mother’s youngest brother loved traveling to tournaments with Rob and he is still able to recount fond memories of those trips. My aunt still remembers how serious and focused my normally relaxed and easy-going father was about participating in these competitive matches. When he was passionate about something though, that’s how he was: fierce and dedicated. Rob employed that mentality to the myriad of hands on or physical activities he enjoyed throughout his life. However, his two favorite activities were snowboarding and martial arts- two pastimes that, much to his chagrin, as his health started to fail, his body wouldn’t allow him to partake in. Although I have never practiced Sikaran (I’m incredibly uncoordinated- the kind of person who breaks her ankle while attempting to walk on uneven terrain) I have seen the hard work and dedication that goes into mastering this art form. I was also able to witness how Sikaran made Rob a better person. Rob was able to be the person that he wanted to be when he was in the dojo studying with his master, competing, or even teaching his own students. It also taught him important life skills and how to support and encourage people as they learned and developed alongside him, a sentiment echoed by my uncle, “It helped me learn loyalty and respect. When I won my first fighting competition Rob was the one person in my corner jumping with excitement- I guess I knew he had my back.” I am grateful for this art form for not only providing my father a physical outlet for his anger, but that he learned values that he was able to pass on to my siblings and I such as respect and determination. Values that he could only learn in his dojo in Pownal, Vermont getting his ass handed to him by his nearly 90 year-old sensei. The emphasis on dedication even when you feel like you’ve lost, made my father into someone who was very strict about quitting extracurriculars. Of course, he was right, those lectures lead to some of our greatest accomplishments. Each time he would say something to the effect of, “You’re never going to be able to realize what you’re capable of if you give up” followed by “Peacocks aren’t quitters” (that was Rob’s favorite). Because of this mentality, I have become a more dedicated person and persevere when I’m having a hard time with whatever art form I’m practicing, lately it has been writing. But in the same way all of that practice and studying in Sikaran pays off when you are able to win a competition or your rank changes with the ceremonious awarding of a new colored belt, I am slowly discovering that dedication and determination and the ability to keep trying makes you into a better writer. Yesterday, I received notice that I have been accepted to my first official publication and that I am going to be featured in the Oakland Arts Review- a feat that wouldn’t have been possible without countless revisions and conversations (Thank you Master Amy Neswald) and the ability to accept and respect rejections. In case you were wondering, yes, I dedicated the piece to Rob.

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