50 years to Black Belt Test

Newsletter 972

Can You Believe It? This Guy Got a Black Belt!

The guy’s name is Russ Holder,
and his earning a black belt is definitely
one of the sweetest wins I have ever had
since I started the martial arts back in 1967.

Russ sent me an email a few years back,
it concerned the Kang Duk Won.
Kang Duk Won means ‘House for Espousing Virtue.’
I had studied kenpo for a few years,
then a friend took me to the Kang Duk Won
and the top of my head blew right off.
I had never even imagined an energy like this school.

The instructor,
Robert J. (Bob) Babich
was simply the best martial artist I have ever seen.
After 50 years experience,
and having seen and met a LOT of martial artists,
after working for the mags,
this is quite a statement.

And the people at the Kang Duk Won,
This was before the MA got popular,
there were no strip mall dojos,
and only the most diligent,
hard working,
Craziest people studied there.
I drove fifty miles for a class,
suffered bone bruises, contusions,
and definitely a few concussions.
And loved it,
and never wanted it to end.

Bob had studied with Don Buck,
and Mas Oyama,
and he conducted classes that were totally unbelievable.
And this bozo guy,
this Russ fellow,
wrote me and said,
‘Hey, we probably worked out together.’
comparing notes,
it was obvious we worked out together.
He knew about the sweat,
the pain in the bones,
the unbelievable exhilaration
one of Bob’s work outs created.

So we have talked over the years,
shared stories,
taken each other back to that point in our lives
where everything mattered,
and nothing mattered.

Russ was a biker,
(is a biker!)
one of those guys that the newspapers slandered,
but who you could trust with your life.
A man as good as his word,
and worth more than a handshake.

So go here…


Poke around,
see the pics,
read the wins.
It only took Russ 50 years,
but he earned his black belt.

So many people start and quit.
So many people are in it because ‘it’s cool.’
Russ was in it for the art.
something was boiling in his bones,
and it came out after 50 years,
50 years to black belt,
but what a journey, eh?

Congrats, Russ.
You are old school and more than cool.
And I hope that people understand what you’ve done.
A humble bow to you.

Here’s a website I set up to teach the Kang Duk Won,


Have a great work out!



Hi Al,

Your Kang Duk Won orange-belt course is amazing!

People say that kids are supposed to learn faster than adults, and
that is generally true. But I have the feeling that I’m learning way
faster than when I was a kid!
It is not astonishing, I can train when I want, I can “see the
teacher” showing me” the forms and techniques as many time I want,
thus I’m more motivated and there is no culpability with missing a
lesson or anything.

Plus, Your course is clear and complete. For the first time, I came to
really understand, and see the usefulness, of what I’m doing! It is
very simple yet very complete, a true joy to go trough.  What a change
for me!

“If you always put limits on what you can do, physical or anything else, it’ll spread over into the rest of your life. It’ll spread into your work, into your morality, into your entire being. There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you. A man must constantly exceed his level.”
– Bruce Lee

One Response to 50 years to Black Belt Test

  1. Howdy Al,

    THANK YOU VERY MUCH for the honorable mention…

    and so the journey continues…

    I enter the school with a little different outlook now…
    – not that I am so great…
    – not that I am better than the other colored belts…
    – not that I am to be revered for the “skill” a black belt might imply…
    – but clearly I have been “at it” for a while and passed a series of tests…
    – – some of which I had some reservations about…
    – – all of which were taken in stride as it turned out…
    and so now one might say “oooOOOooo you have a black belt”
    to which I say “it’s easy, apply your self and you can have one too, how can I help you?”

    On an old school note…
    back in the day at Robert J’s…
    nobody ever wore protective gear…
    we beat our own arms against each other to desensitize them,
    and we practiced repeated block sequences on each others arms,
    and beat our shins with sticks to desensitize them…
    (my shins still have scars up and down)…
    and brown and black belts were not crazy about sparing with green belts because although they were developing power they had not developed a good sense of distancing yet…

    Robert J eventually gave up on tournaments because his students’ moves were too quick to be recognized, yet when the moves were made more obvious by holding back less the other competitors were getting consistently hurt and that was not why the students were competing…

    however, over the years protective gear was introduced…
    helmets, chest guards, gloves, arm guards, shin guards, foot guards…

    well… I still do not have any protective gear…
    a punch or kick not blocked/attacked is a valuable lesson!
    so, now at school it is sparing with “light contact”
    or, if you have protective gear, kicks only to the head or chest and punches only to the chest!!!
    I’ve been told I should concentrate on kicks to the knees and arches because I am old and because those kicks would hurt the opponent more anyway…
    well, I can get a kick up there, but, it would be a present for the opponent…
    but what about an elbow to the throat, or an upper cut to the lower ribs, or a front thrust kick to break the pelvis, or a knife hand to the carotid artery (an unblocked slap on the shoulder will let you know you’re dying)… not allowed… practice that on a bag… fine…

    [happy face]
    but at Friday night sparing class I am allowed to spar with the proficient black belts (who are in their protective gear of course)…
    who are fast, faster than me!
    who are not so gentle with me and who I do not need to be so gentle with…
    who consistently tag me and who I seldom tag…
    impresses me with how much better I need to be…
    and will be…
    all in due time…

    So, although I do enjoy the achievement of having attained the rank of 1st degree black belt,
    and the recognition in the array of colored belts of having attained the rank of black belt,
    nevertheless, in the world of black belts, I am but a mere novice…

    Mr Jung, my instructor tells me:
    “when you are young you are growing,
    as you continue to learn, you are growing,
    therefore you are still young!”

    and so the journey continues…

    Thanks again my friend for the kind words and a humble bow to you too!


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