American Tang Soo Do Association
2019 Summer Camp

By Master Brian White - 6th Dan

In 1976 I attended my first American Tang Soo Do Association (ATA) Summer Training Camp. I was just a kid and a white belt and the whole thing was AWESOME!!! It was hot and we trained hard. Practicing our fighting art was why we had all come, but another reason for the event quickly made itself apparent. We got to make new friends and to see old ones. On August 3, this year, 2019, we all got together again for what was an historic Summer Training Camp.

We started the day with opening statements from Kwan Jang Nim Marco DiScipio and then moved to the awarding of black belt level promotions for students who had tested prior to the Summer Training Camp. The students who received their promotions were:

But the biggest promotion of the day was saved for last. Our Summer Training Camp, 2019 saw our own Kwan Jang Nim DiScipio, after having tested in front of an elite board of examiners, receive his Pahl Dan (8th degree black belt) from Grandmaster Dominick Giacobbe. This was an historic and exciting way to get things started.

- Mr. Kurt Milligan, promoted to 1st Dan
- Ms. Stephanie Picardat, to 1st Dan
- Mr. David Nguyen, to 1st Dan
- Mr. Matthew Schmeltz, to 2nd Dan
- Mr. Stephen Cathriner, to 2nd Dan
- Mr. John Dunkelberg, to 2nd Dan
- Mr. Matthew Woodall, to 3rd Dan

As usual, there were incredible seminars presented by great teachers. The first of the day, taught by Master Jeffrey Mazzucco, covered board breaking. He is one of, if not the, greatest power breaker in the world today. Some of his breaking accomplishments over the years include; ten boards with a punch, eleven boards with a chop, and eight boards with a jumping crescent/axe kick. All of these breaks were done with no spacers using standard one-inch pine bought at the hardware store. He covered topics such as how to physically and mentally prepare to break.  One subject he covered regarding mental preparation involved thinking about going through the boards being broken as opposed to simply hitting the wood. Of course he also talked about follow through from a physical perspective as well. As with the mental preparation the student must drive their technique through the boards as opposed to simply striking the wood. He taught that breaking should be done with the technique striking into the curve of the boards instead of against the bias. He also talked about how to correctly hold boards.  When the holders don't know their job, your break will fail and it can also put the holders and the student breaking in a position to be injured.  Master Mazzucco also said to hold boards on the finished edge with your palms in line with the grain of the wood and not the cut edge. He finished his seminar by leading students through the execution of some breaks they chose. Of course everyone wished there was more time but we had to move on.

Our second seminar of the day was with Master Leo Beaupre. Tang Soo Do is, traditionally, an empty-hand style but that does not stop us from expanding our horizons to learn weapons and the second session of the day presented an opportunity to do just that. Master Beaupre, who instructs with Master Mazzucco at the North Attleboro, Massachusetts school, gave us an introduction to Kali (or if you are from the southern Philippines, Kali-Silat), the Filipino art of stick fighting. Of course it is an art unto itself and as such a lifetime of study would not be enough to learn everything. But Master Beaupre gave us a taste of this rich and effective fighting style. He started us with a Sinawali drill that transitioned into using a baton for a wrist lock and arm bar. He was patient and thorough which allowed everyone the chance to get a feel for what Kali has to offer while leaving us all wanting more.


After lunch we got the opportunity to work with Grandmaster Dominick Giacobbe. His list of accomplishments far exceeds the scope of
this paragraph so here is a link to his profile on Tang Soo Do World so you can read more about Grandmaster Giaccobe, In his seminar, he covered two topics, the combination of which speaks to how well-rounded a practitioner he is. He started his class with instruction on the sidekick, a kick we all practice all the time. In his seminar, Grandmaster Giacobbe focused on details such as pivoting the floor foot which helped everyone from white belts to masters hone our technique. He also provided an exercise we could practice to improve one of the greatest kicks in the Tang Soo Do technical portfolio. What's more, the exercises were practical and easy to remember, making them something everyone could take home with them. His second topic was much broader. He explored the Yin or softer side of our fighting practice with us. He walked the students through an exercise working with Chi; showing us how to move and feel it. Next, he took us through some Tai-Chi movements meant to further explore how energy moves through our bodies. By the time we finished Grandmaster Giacobbe's session we were sweating and hungry for further exploration into this area of study.


Finally, we were treated to a seminar of practical and adaptive techniques by Master Christopher Graham. He has been studying Tang Soo Do for 37 years and in that time has gained extensive expertise in Tang Soo Do technique and its practical application. The theme of Master Graham's seminar might best be defined as: Adaptation. He began by discussing how he has adapted our art to best work with his physical strengths and weaknesses. Next, he showed and had us practice a group of practical self-defense techniques modified from more formal Tang Soo Do methods. His session flowed from one topic to the next with each building on the one before it. The session culminated in a final set of simple, flowing, practical, self-defense techniques. As in all three other sessions, Master Graham provided a thorough glimpse into an entire area of practice which students could bring back to class and expand on with their instructors.

Here we are, almost a half-century later still getting together every summer to kick, punch, spar, and break stuff. Every year our organization grows and the world changes and still, we gather together with old friends and new to practice Tang Soo Do. And even though I have been going to camp for forty-three years and am not the child I was in 1976, it is still AWESOME!!!



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