*Due to editorial limitations, parts of this interview may have been abbreviated.
1. You inspired so many, who or what inspired you?
I've been very fortunate to have many inspirations in my martial arts career. I would say the biggest inspirations to me were Kevin Thompson and Tori Lynn Andreozzi. Kevin was the captain of Team Paul Mitchell, the team I have represented for the majority of my career and I am now a member of the coaching staff. He is widely regarded as the greatest sport karate competitor of all time, a man who could consistently win forms, weapons, and fighting at any given tournament. He was also known for his humility and kind spirit. In 2012, he was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). During his battle with the terminal illness, he continued to address the team and always attended the finals at the Ocean State Grand Nationals. My personal relationship with Kevin grew a great deal over this time as I joined efforts to raise awareness for his condition, and his indomitable spirit is something that inspires me to this day. Tori Lynn Andreozzi was another competitor who inspired me because of her incredible perseverance when faced with life's greatest obstacles. She was a junior competitor on the NASKA circuit around the time that I started martial arts, and she was struck by a drunk driver resulting in severe disabilities. She was bound to an advanced wheel chair for the rest of her days, and her story captivated me as well. I got to know Tori and her mom pretty well, and started wearing a ribbon to support Tori's campaign. In some ways, it felt that wearing that ribbon allowed me to bring Tori into the ring for a few moments every time I stepped out there. I know it is a long-winded answer, but those two individuals have had the greatest impact on my martial arts career and my life as a whole.
2. Black Belt+ was started to help students outside the dojo, what are your expert tips on training solo or remotely?
Film study is an essential tool for any martial artist in my opinion, but especially for forms and weapons competitors. Recording videos of yourself and watching afterwards is a much better way to catch small mistakes than if you are multitasking while looking in a mirror. Additionally, you can seek out videos of others on YouTube to learn from their mistakes, pick up their good habits, and maybe even catch some specific tutorials along the way. You should never learn exclusively from the internet, but it is a fantastic reference for film study when you aren't critiquing your own clips. Specific to the bo, of course I recommend The Flow System from the Martial Arts Industry Association which is a program that both teaches a full bo curriculum and has instructor training modules, as well as Sport Karate University from Black Belt Magazine. These are both projects that I founded, bringing Mackensi Emory into The Flow System for a kama curriculum, and co-founding SKU with Sammy Smith to create a more affordable alternative tailored to beginner competitors. Forgive the shameless plug...
3. Oftentimes in our training we hit a wall, what’s your advice for students who lack motivation or want to quit?
If you quit now, you will never know what the outcome would have been. Everybody wants to quit at some point in their life, regardless of the task. It is far better to suffer through whatever temporary pain is afflicting your journey, so that you can find out what is on the other side of those trials. I am a firm believer that God has a plan for all of us, and my greatest fear is not working hard enough to become the person that I was meant to be. Make the short time sacrifices for long term prosperity.
4. Traditionally many martial artists start with one style, when do you recommend the best time to branch out and learn other styles?
This may be a controversial answer, but I would say it is beneficial for martial artists to diversify their skillset early and often. I was fortunate to have trained in a curriculum that was primarily Tae Kwon Do based, but implemented a bit of kali, hapkido, and eventually some sport martial arts in their program. Although this was quite the variety of styles, I feel I learned skills that helped me gain a better understanding of certain principles in my primary art. Of course, I don't think someone brand new to the martial arts should jump into five new styles at once, but adding another style after your first six months or so of training in whatever primary art you choose can be beneficial.
5. What are some changes or developments in your art over the years?
Although my rank is held primarily in Tae Kwon Do, I think it is probably better to answer this question through the lens of a sport martial artist. Sport karate has changed a great deal since I first started traveling the circuit back in 2006. I remember competing on ballroom carpet with duct tape delineating the rings, and now every event on the NASKA world tour provides standard 6x6 puzzle mats. The majority of tournaments when I started competing had minimal media coverage, featuring some SportMartialArts.com YouTube videos and maybe a Black and Blue Video recording of the whole nighttime finals show that you could purchase on DVD. Now, multiple tournaments on the world tour have extensive coverage with live streams and professional commentary from SportMartialArts.com and Black Belt Magazine, as well as television broadcasts such as The CW Network at the Ocean State Grand Nationals or of course ESPN at the U.S. Open. Now that I have moved on from competition, I love being able to give back to the sport by commentating on many of these streams and broadcasts. The sport has evolved, and the athletes keep getting better and better, but the biggest enhancements are truly to the infrastructure of sport karate. There is still progress to be made, but Black Belt Magazine has been essential to the growth of sport karate in the last few years to the place it is at today.
6. Today, what is the emphasis of your teaching?
The majority of my teaching today comes in the form of private lessons and seminars, in which my goal is to bring as many people to the world of sport karate as possible and help them become better competitors once they have decided to embark on that journey. The videos of mine that are featured on Black Belt+ are no different. The wide variety of bo videos that I have available in the app (Black Belt+) include essential breakdowns of the basic striking, both for competition and practical application, rising in difficulty level to tutorials about some of the signature moves I pulled off on stages around the world. The main goal of my teaching is to develop bo practitioners who have solid basics and understand the practical application of those skills even if they are primarily used for sport, and to help those athletes achieve their goals after starting from that foundation.
7. What motivates you to stay passionate about your art?
The way that sport karate changed my life is what keeps me passionate about it. I was just a kid from Kentucky who would have been content winning the U.S. Open one time in my life. Through hard work and the courage to innovate competitive bo in a way no one had attempted before, I did not just win the U.S. Open once, but was blessed to become the winningest weapons competitor in the history of the tournament. That experience alone taught me that anything was possible. Those experiences enabled me to travel the world teaching seminars, helped me get accepted to Stanford University where I received a degree in human biology, and gave me many of the skills that I use today as a medical student for the United States Army. I undoubtedly would not be the man I am today without sport karate, and I am forever indebted to the sport, the art, for that reason. I want others to have the opportunity to change their life in the same way that I did, and that's why I still care so much.Check out Jackson Rudolph’s instructional videos on Black Belt+
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