Injury and slowing down

ODan Test

The picture to the left was taken during my O Dan (5th Degree Black Belt) Test. At the time, I had just turned 50 years old and was in the best "shape" I'd been in years. It was the strongest Black Belt test I've taken to date. Each time I had tested for a Black Belt rank change, my demonstration was stronger and my personal abilities had improved (overall). Sure, my "jump kicks" were a bit higher at 35 years old and testing for Cho Dan (1st Degree Black Belt), but I developed a much greater understanding of kicking technique and execution with each passing year of focused training.

Since that test, I've had two stints placed in my heart (genetic issues), a Total Knee Replacement (TKR) due to severe knee injuries in high school football, hospitalization for a severe case of pancreatitis (if you've never had it, you do NOT want it...ever) and recently a ruptured quadricep tendon in the same leg as the TKR that required surgical repair and an extensive regiment of physical therapy. I will turn 58 in a few months.

So, can I continue to train and teach the martial arts at an effective level after injury and as I age ? If you asked me that question on May 26th right after I ruptured my quadricep tendon, I probably would have given you a less than optimistic answer (since I could literally no longer lift my leg or move it). When you sit in a leg brace locked at 180 degrees for 8 weeks and can't move your leg, you have "time to think". Feel sorry for yourself, that's ok, but then figure out what you'll do next and start working on that.  Skipping the "pity party" is productive, but sometimes you need to process those emotions and then put them away versus letting them fester for years.

I can't train in martial arts at all right now.  I can hardly walk without a brace and cane, yet I see almost daily improvement.  I "push" at physical therapy while following the precise guidelines of the expert (the therapist).  When I'm finished with a PT session, I'm sweating and breathing hard.  Most folks are reading books and not really putting out much effort.  Sadly, their recovery will reflect that attitude and effort.

I asked my surgeon after my TKR, what range of motion can I expect out of my knee ?  He said, "135 degrees is what the prosthetic knee will safely handle.".  Yes sir....I got 135 degrees from the knee before I was discharged from PT.  I had the same surgeon for the tendon repair...same question...he said "Probably 120 degrees is a good safe mark so you can protect that tendon from another rupture.".  Yes sir....I have 110 degrees right now with horrible strength behind it. I have a lot of work to do...but I WILL hit 120 degrees and I WILL rebuild my leg strength.

Teaching Tang Soo Do and holding the title of Sa Bom Nim is something "I am"'s not something "I do".  I have young Black Belts that hold National Titles in Black Belt Sparring.  Can I "beat them" in a sparring match...probably not.  I've told them for years, "You are younger, faster, stronger....and I'm older, slower, fatter...but wiser".  I've taught them they are "wiser" too.  Guess what ?? that's the natural order of things.  Is anyone really surprised that a young 20 something Black Belt can move faster and stronger than the almost 60 year old Black Belt ?  

I will note one characteristic that I still possess in much greater abundance than my young Black Belts --- I've been hit...hard...I've broken bones and continued to fight (and win)...I stood up with a fractured skull and both bones in my left arm broken.  I walked out of the demonstration where I rupted my quadricep tendon under my own power.  I have experience.  I've been "tested" and passed.  I didn't do these things to prove anything or impress anyone...I did them because I could.  I don't like to quit.  I "accept the discipline of the achievable...but I will get everything out of the effort".

I have new lessons to teach my students.  They need to be humble and always strive to help others.  I can help them develop some "character" and "toughness" when it matters.  I've pushed a young woman Black Belt in my school hard over the years.  I've hit her hard in sparring matches -- controlled and within limits...but hard none the less.  She now knows what it feels like to be hit by an adult man.  She literally is half my weight and size...she once caught me off balance and shifting my stance...she knocked me down.  She now "knows" she can hit hard.  I've knocked the wind out of her a few times...she now knows how to avoid that experience and how terrible that would be in a real fight.  She has a "toughness" that is not easily learned.  I coached and taught her for many years.  Soon, we will all send her off to college --- probably the most dangerous environment in our society for a young woman.  She is ready.  She is prepared. No guarantees...but she has a strong fighting chance.  As an aside...she is also very good with a handgun.  She out shoots many of the grown men I shoot against in competitive shooting competitions.

As we age, we have much to offer the younger generation.  We have skills and abilities they often don't yet appreciate.  Sometimes the younger folks aren't receptive to our teaching, but give them time and understanding.  They will learn.

Experience is often what you get when you don't get what you wanted !!!!

I can't wait to start training and teaching again at Aim and Focus Karate.  

Tang Soo !!!!!

Sa Bom Nim



A look back at this past year…

Master Bastin

As 2016 comes to a close, and you are taking time to relax, enjoy the company of family (or endure the company of family, whichever), and enjoy fellowship with good friends, it is extremely effective to stop and take a moment to review where you are.  Where you have been recently, and specifically, where you wish to go in your future.

Take a moment to look back at this past year.  What great achievements were you able to accomplish?  What small achievements did you accomplish?  What were challenges that you were forced to face during the past year?  What personal, or business obstacles did you overcome?  Most importantly, what failures did you suffer?

As the years roll by, and yes, they most certainly will, it is vital to your continued success to review and reflect on where your journey has taken you; whether it’s your journey in life, in education, in your career, relationships, or your martial arts training.  The act of reflection allows us to view all the aspects that have shaped us, and our decisions during the previous year.

It is always exciting to think back on great accomplishments and positive defining moments.  Those memories help to build our self-confidence and to foster a positive self-image.  These moments are the building blocks of greater success, and we need to identify them, so that we can frame ourselves mentally to accomplish the next great achievement in our lives.

Now, as exciting and uplifting as it is to remember how great your previous exploits, we cannot overlook those times we failed.  Those times we crashed and burned, fell on our face, stumbled, made the wrong call, were challenged and came up short, in short - FAILED.  These are the times where we learned the most about ourselves, even if we didn’t always enjoy the lesson.  And if that resonates with you, you are quite right.  The lessons can be painful and difficult to look back upon the stumbles and falls we have suffered.  But these times are so crucial, and that cannot be stressed enough.  These moments are vitally important for personal growth and continued travel down the journey that is your life.

There has never yet been a man in our history who led a life of ease whose name is worth remembering. - Theodore Roosevelt

Below is an exercise to assist you with defining your past year’s moments.

This past year I had success in all sizes, some large and some small, yet all are successes.

Below, list accomplishments of this past year.



This past year I have dealt with very difficult challenges, and admittedly, at times I failed.  Though it is difficult to admit, I realize that I need to review the good times… and the bad, in order to grow as an individual.

Below, list challenges you faced and fell short of, or times you failed in goals or personal life.  This is only for you, and does not need to be shared with anyone else.  This is for YOUR benefit, not theirs.


NOW, please do not dwell on these past failures.  But instead, use them along with your accomplishments as building blocks for your future.  These are the paving stones of where you have been, and they have helped the direction of where you can go in the future.  Live and learn, as they say.  The only way to move forward successfully is to have a plan, and to not continually fall into the same pitfalls, and obstacles of the past, you must adapt and improve as you go.   Use the exercise above to help with clarity of thought and direction for your coming year.

I wish you the absolute best in 2017.

Master Bastin

14 Minutes

14 minutes

It’s been a good long while since I was able to sit down, and put my thoughts to paper, and I offer my sincerest apologies for this failure on my part.  I had all these great plans to accomplish with assisting Master Johnson and his students, parents, and families with this leadership blog.  But like so many of you have experienced, life happened!!

School started, and along with it came dance, gymnastics, Quarter 3 business goals, Quarter 4 business goals, medical issues, family issues, anything and everything, and on and on…  

I’m thinking that may sound or feel familiar to many of you.  We have all these plans, but life happens and sends us rocketing off to left field before we even know what’s happened.  My Tang Soo Do training felt like this at times.  So many requirements to learn and demonstrate.  So many students relying on you to help support their efforts.  Families in need of advice or assistance with issues they couldn’t tackle on their own.  It can become overwhelming at times.  The last 4 months of my life are a testament to that fact!

Today, I was reading an article from Tom Ziglar, who is the son of the legendary motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, a piece of Tom’s quick little email memo stood out to me. It dawned on me.  Actually, “dawned” is too soft a word.  How about, it Roundhouse Kicked me in the head, that I am a huge believer in goal setting.  And you know what?  I’ve not been following my own teachings!!  As a teacher, that kind of stung a bit honestly.  

I realized that while I have numerous goals, I have not been giving them the attention and diligence they deserve.  Tom Ziglar’s email was about the 1%.  They say the top 1% of people are excellent at setting goals, accomplishing those goals, and continuing beyond those goals.  Much like you, as a martial artist set a goal to achieve a belt rank, achieve that rank, and continue on toward the next rank.  What Tom mentioned that really struck me, was that all it takes are small steps to get you back on track to your goals, if like me, you find yourself standing in left field all of the sudden.  It’s very simple.

14 minutes.

14 minutes is 1% of your 24 hour day.

If you took 14 minutes everyday to review your goals, focus on your plans and strategies. prioritize your tasks, and organize your time, your success in accomplishing your goals would climb dramatically.  

By taking just 14 minutes to stop the whirlwind that is your life, especially as a parent, you can save yourself time and effort on every level of your day.  How much is peace of mind worth to you during your hectic daily routine?  

How much would you pay for it?  

Would you give 14 minutes to save 90 minutes later in the day when you are worn out and exhausted?  

Would you give 14 minutes if it meant you were able to demonstrate your technique at your next belt testing with confidence and precision?

Would you give 14 minutes if it allowed you to consistently make “A”s in school.

Would you give 14 minutes if it allowed you to obtain that promotion at work?

How much is 14 minutes worth to you?

14 minutes.


Tang Soo!

Master Brandon Bastin

Value — continued

I count myself as extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to train in multiple styles of martial arts, with a number of highly skilled instructors.  Over the years I have been exposed to the teaching styles, leadership, and philosophies of martial artists from all walks of life.  One of the things I’ve learned in my studies, is that every instructor is different.  It makes no real difference what the style, system, or organization is, as each individual brings with them their own personal experience and insights.  I firmly believe this a beneficial aspect of the growth and progression of martial arts.  And I’ll go into more depth about this in the upcoming entries.

However, one thing I have run into over the years, is the value placed on martial arts training, and the lack of education given to those who are not actively training - i.e. parents.  As I previously stated, all instructors bring their personality with them to the training floor.  Some instructors are very militaristic, harsh, and aggressive.  While others are more relaxed, and even casual in their style.  The problem isn’t the instructor themselves, but the lack of a clear vision, and expectation defined for the student and/or parent.  The perceived value of a student’s training or rank will be defined by the expectations and parameters placed on that student, by their instructor.  

Not every academy or school will have the same requirements placed upon their students, based upon their individual instructors.  It can be difficult to understand, as a student, or a parent, why one academy has a different set of standards in regards to training and rank, than another.  The world we live in avidly promotes comparing everything.  Is this better than that; what kind of online reviews did this or that get; what does my Facebook group think about this or that.  It is a constant within our daily lives.  So, it is no real surprise when you hear a parent questioning one academies training versus another.  I understand, as a parent, the need to know why my student had to attend a certain number classes, including mandatory Saturday classes, while a student from another academy, who was not required to complete those same requirements, is testing for the same rank.  And in all likelihood will be promoted to that rank, just like my child.  Where is the fairness in that?  You’re right.  That’s is not “fair” or “equal”.

But unless I missed a memo, LIFE isn’t fair.  It never has been.  As an adult, we don’t all get a participation medal.  We don’t all get the same opportunities in our careers.  We don’t all get the same stable family life, or access to higher education or opportunity.  I don’t mean to be insensitive, but it really does frustrate me when a parent complains about their student being required to “DO” more than some other student.  Why would you complain about your child being held to a higher standard, and reaching it?  WHY!?  Would you tell me that sacrificing a few hours during the week, and on a Saturday, for a set period of time, to invest in the development of your child was NOT a good choice as a parent?  Would you tell me that you would rather your child have had the easier path, and been handed their belt for just showing up?  That’s garbage, and you know it.

I recently read a quote from a man named Jim Rohn.  Jim Rohn is a business coach and mentor who has written numerous books, has been a keynote speaker, and is highly respected in his field.  He is not a martial artist, however, his words still ring true.  

Mr Rohn wrote, “You will suffer one of two pains in your life.  The pain of discipline, or the pain of regret.  Discipline weighs ounces, regret weighs tons.”  

When you as a student, suffer the pains of discipline, by attending all those extra classes, sacrificing your time, always make attempts to show the utmost respect on and off the mat, pushing your body, sharpening your mind, and tempering your spirit, you grow.  And growing can be painful, but it’s worth it.  I’ve met so many people over the years who tell me, “Oh you do karate?  I did that too.  But I quit at Yellow Belt.”... or Red Belt, or Brown Belt, or so on.  And almost every time, I see the same thing in their eyes.  The weight of regret.  The weight of knowing they walked away from something that would have made a positive difference for their lives.  That is a heavy weight and burden to carry.

Do not fault your instructors for requiring more from you as a student, as a parent.  The weight of discipline is a light burden in the long run, and you’ll only be better for it.  Do not waste your time and effort focused on some other instructors students, or requirements.  The differences will become blatantly obvious over time, as you, or your student travels along the journey that is martial arts.

I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll keep bringing it up.  Martial arts training is about developing a way of life.  Facing adversity, and rising above it.  As a student, the ONLY person you’ll ever need to compare yourself with, is you.  Is your life better, for showing a bit of discipline?   And as a parent, the ONLY person you need to compare your child with, is themselves.  Have they grown more since yesterday in their maturity, self-confidence, self-discipline, and outlook on themselves and their surroundings?   That is the ONLY thing that matters.  

THAT is the value of your training.

Sa Bom Nim Brandon Bastin


Brandon Profile

In my previous entry, I was writing about “perception” in regards to students and families. We were discussing, if you will, the different paths our martial arts journey may take, as students, families, and instructors depending on how we view and perceive the world around us, and how we allow that to affect our attitude toward our journey. Be it student, teacher, or parent. I’d like to continue with that topic, and move into its next phase, which would be “value”.

How do you define the value you place on something? Are precious metals or gemstones precious for any other reason other than our perception that we place on them? The concept of value is a funny thing, because it is difficult to pin down, and it evolves and changes over time. To a child, the value of ice cream is vastly higher than an adult, in most cases. To an adult, the Mona Lisa holds a vastly higher value than to a child. WHY? Simply because we believe it.

One of the things I’ve continually run into over the years, is the question of how valuable a “black belt” really is. From my experience, that is completely placed upon the individual, and what they believe. I’ve heard many times, from many arm chair black belts, about how they feel that children shouldn’t be able to test or receive a black belt. I’ve also heard from many instructors of different martial arts programs, that they didn’t believe in issuing black belts to anyone under “X” age. I’ve even heard of one family complaining to their instructor about the amount of training one school required, versus another school, for the same rank within the same organization.

First, for the arm chair black belt who has never instructed children, why do you feel qualified to decide who should or shouldn’t be allowed to wear a black belt? I understand the argument that a child age black belt would not be able to defend themselves against an adult, but what child really has the ability to defend themselves effectively against a determined skilled adult? They lack the size, power, strength, and speed to fairly stand against an adult in almost every case. But, if you were to put that same child up against a child of roughly the same size or age bracket, now those black belt skills make an entire world of difference. It is an unfair comparison to place a child’s skill level against an adult while using the exact same standards. Would you say your child shouldn’t be allowed to play baseball because they are unable to hit a homerun on a Major League ball field?

Here is what people, in general, don’t understand. The black belt doesn’t matter. It is just a color. Well, that isn’t exactly true. The color belts do have important significance representing parts of your training, and are vital for goal setting. But that is NOT what I’m addressing. We are talking about PERCEPTION, and the VALUE attached to the belt color. What the “black belt” represents does revolve around a certain set of physical skills, and if a student is able to demonstrate those skills, with knowledge and ability, along with the mental understanding (age accounted for) why should they not be able to hold the rank? But in all honesty, and more importantly, being a black belt has SO MUCH MORE to do with what is going on INSIDE, not OUTSIDE. Yes, being a skilled martial arts technician is important. Yes, being a good fighter is important. Yes, speed and power, and flexibility, and terminology and on and on and on ... all important. But, not as important as what is going on inside. Becoming a black belt is more than all those physical attributes. Becoming a black belt is the vehicle that moves you. It is a way of

life. It is how that individual has decided to view the world and their place in it. It is the thought process they apply to daily challenges. The confidence they display in everyday life; holding their head up; looking you in the eye when they speak; demonstrating the ability to think for themselves in a positive way. Demonstrating RESPECT. You can’t measure those skills. How do you set a “value” to that? What price tag or dollar amount is that worth, as a student, or more importantly, as a parent?

You can’t wrap any color belt around the true core of what makes that individual who they have become.

To Be Continued... 

Perception and Value

Brandon Profile

A short while ago, I was having a conversation with Master Ben Johnson about perception. We were discussing the view that students, and parents, take on martial arts training in general. And specifically, how it can be so vastly different from one student to the next, one family to the next, or from one instructor to the next. This prompted a fairly lengthy discussion about how often the lines are not clear, or the expectations are vague, for the student, or the parent, or even an instructor. With that said, there are a few things I’d like to bring into focus in regards to how you may perceive your martial arts journey.

A message for students about perception

Don’t let yourself get caught up in trying to be better than the guy or girl beside you. It is very easy to begin to compare yourself to the students around you in class. I mean, they are standing right there, and it’s easy to judge yourself against them, especially if you are seeing them every class, right? You have to be careful though, as this can lead down a number of negative paths in your training.

The first path will take you down a road of over confidence, and arrogance. Continually trying to “outdo” the student next to you, so you can feel better about yourself is a hollow victory. The sense of accomplishment will never last, and you’ll be right back where you started trying to “outdo” the next student in line. I have had the unfortunate experience of working with a number of students, and worse, instructors, who walked down this path in their training. Actually, “walked” is not the best word to describe the attitude and demeanor. I think “strutted” down the path is more accurate. It is exceedingly difficult to work with this type of student, as they are a legend in their own mind, and they know it. Instructors... even worse.

The second path is one of self­ doubt, and lack of confidence. As a student, if you are continually comparing yourself to other students, and coming up short in your own mind, you are purposely undermining your own success. You are your own worst enemy. A person, in general, will tend to see the absolute worst in themselves as a rule. Continually reinforcing these negative beliefs by trying to be someone else in class will only lead to disaster. This path will eventually lead to you, as a student, leaving the do jang, with a very negative set of memories revolving around the thought that “I just wasn’t good enough to be a martial artist, so I quit”.

There is a third path you can take in your martial arts journey. But in order to walk this path, you must realize a few key things before you begin. First, everyone is not the same. We can’t all have perfect splits, break insane amounts of boards, or leap over small buildings with amazing flying side kicks. We are, each and everyone one of us, uniquely different. Second, see that first thing again. Third, read the first and second things again. Just saying.

Now, please don’t misunderstand. I encourage you to find the students in class who are absolutely amazing, and try to emulate them. Watch how they train, ask them questions, copy their attitude and effort. You may never be as physically skilled as the people training beside you, but you can always Ki­Hap as loud as they do, and give 110% , just like they do. As an instructor, I’d rather work with the student that isn’t perfect, but gives every effort they can in the attempt to get there someday, than the student who has the “I’m the greatest gift to martial arts EVER!!!!” attitude.

A message to parents about perception

As a parent, it is extremely important that you lead by example for your student. Martial arts training is about an individual journey for each practitioner. As I’m telling the students to focus inward, and evaluate their personal growth, I’ll tell you the same thing. Martial arts training isn’t baseball. You can’t coach your child from the sidelines, criticize the students lined up with your child, compare your child to that other kid, offer valid feedback on physical skills, or critique an instructor’s skill level. You honestly aren’t qualified, in most cases. If you have not received your own black belt, trained in martial arts, or stepped foot on the training floor of a do jang, then your experience playing high school baseball means exactly zero. If that is what you are looking for, then martial arts training is not really the best place for your family.

Now, I don’t say this to be rude, but I’m a parent myself, so I can relate to wanting to compare my kids with everyone else’s kids, so I do have some experience with this issue. And I will tell you, it is a challenge at times to not get caught up with that competitive mentality, especially if you find yourself surrounded by this type of parent when you are a spectator to a class or event. Multi­school testing, and tournament situations are the absolute worst environment for this. When you are sitting with families you don’t know, you’ll often find the “peanut gallery” has a lot of opinions to share with whomever will give a willing ear. It’s unfortunate, but not every do jang has an instructor who is willing to point out this problem, and hold families accountable for their negative behavior or attitudes.

The most important thing to keep in mind, as a parent, is that you made a conscious decision and choice to enroll your child in a martial arts program. WHY? In most cases, this was not done on a whim, but with a serious amount of thought involved. You were looking for a structured program to help your child’s development by building self­confidence, self­esteem, physical strength, flexibility, or a positive social environment. No matter what the specific reason, the ONLY thing you need to do as a parent is look at your child, and ask yourself, “Is this the same person who walked in the door when they started?”

Every student will grow at their own pace, and it’s important to understand and acknowledge that fact. Encourage them whenever you can. It’s not the big compliments or recognition that makes the difference, but the continual little words of encouragement, and positive comments that build over a lifetime, that really make the difference.

It’s an honor and privilege to have the ability to work with you, and your family, as you move along your martial arts journey. Your thoughts and feedback are welcomed and appreciated. Please feel free to reach out with any questions or comments. And remember, keep your head up, your heart humble, and your mind sharp, and always... train hard.

Master Brandon Bastin 

Introducing Master Brandon Bastin

Our web site blog has been rather inactive for a while now.  That’s never a good thing.

Brandon Profile

I’m very excited to announce that Master Brandon Bastin has agreed to post entries on our blog page.  I’ve known Master Bastin for many years…ever since I was a color belt.  He is an exceptional martial artist and teacher.

Master Bastin started training in Tang Soo Do in May of 1998.  He tested for Black Belt (Cho Dan) in the fall of 2000.  He promoted to Cho Dan in the Spring of 2001.  He received his instructor certification (Kyo Sa Nim) in 2002.  He tested for Sa Bom Nim (4th Dan) in the Spring of 2010.  He promoted to 4th Dan in the Fall of 2010.

Brandon and Sam

Master Bastin has been married to his high school sweetheart since 1999.  They have two wonderful children.  His daughter is a 2nd Dan (2nd Degree Black Belt) and is currently an officer for her high school dance team.  His son is a Red Belt 2-Stripe and currently enjoys working on Parkour.

Master Bastin has periodically trained at Aim and Focus Karate.  Many of my Black Belts have benefited from his excellent instruction.

I look forward to reading his blog entries and sharing them with the students and parents in our school.


Sa Bom Nim

Bastin Famliy Fountain 2

© Aim and Focus Karate 2020