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Quest: a program of excellence for teens

Welcome to QUEST, an program of excellence for teens!  Beginning May 29, the adult leadership class will move to WEDNESDAYS  at 8 pm and it will become a class devoted entirely to training TEENS to be ATA leaders—-and LEADERS OF THEIR OWN LIVES!!!  It even has a new name—QUEST—because we know you want to be the best.    The program is open to all red-collar leadership students, age 13+.


Goal-Setting: Blasting Through Your Barriers!

2012 is moving along fast!   We’ve come to that time of the year when we have to re-visit our goals.   I could review the “how-to’s” on goal-setting, but that’s way too easy.    Instead, let”s look at the “science and art” of martial arts to find ways to help us blast through barriers that block us from achieving our goals.


What is Integrity?

Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”

Steve Jobs

 This month’s word is “integrity”.

December is a great month to share what it really means.  I would suggest for you to share it during holiday dinners and gatherings to pass on lessons that you’ve learned along the way of your journey in life and see how you measure up.  Let’s first define this big word.


Nick Lucchese

Two straight years of focused effort has produced an 11-year-old black belt and two first places and one third place in our recent ATA Regional Tournament.  That’s a summary of Nick Lucchese’s life as a student of Taekwondo.   Like many other nine-year-olds, Nick did not have an interest in other “traditional” sports, like football or baseball.

According to dad, “Nick actually wanted to do fencing because he really likes weapons, but he went to see the movie GI JOE and saw some “karate fighting” in the movie.  He really liked that, and his cousin was taking classes at Babin’s Karate for Kids at that time.  He came to a “safety class” with his cousin, Austin, and he enrolled soon thereafter.”


Five Powerful Ways to Conquer Fear

Recently, a middle-aged man (and father of two) confessed to me, “Here is something that really surprised me about being in your program.  Until I started, I didn’t realize how much fear I actually had lurking in the back of my mind.  You know, little things.  Stuff like: “What would I do if I were in a bar or restaurant and somebody started pushing me around?  What if somebody threw a punch?” Or: what if I were in a situation and had to defend my family?  Would I know what to do? Really?”


Ireland Fleck Sept 2011

For the last four years, Ireland Fleck has been involved in only one activity—our KARATE FOR KIDS program.

“We had been hearing from her doctors and teachers that her coordination was behind,” Carla Fleck, Ireland’s mother said. “Ireland had expressed an interest in karate and it seemed like it would help with coordination.  So we thought we’d try it.”


Rylee Bacus August 2011


Articulate, Expressive, Ambitious, Confident

Those are the words that best describe RYLEE BACHUS, our student of the month.  Indeed, her enthusiasm to talk about her KARATE FOR KIDS experience—as well as the skill of her oral delivery– is testimony to how much she has learned here about being a leader.

Two and a half years ago, the K4K staff led a “safety festival” at nearby Porter Elementary.   One of the activities was breaking boards.  Well, Rylee did that just once and had to have more.  She took the free month offered and hasn’t stopped since.


Alexis Campbell-July 2011

QUALITIES OF A LEADER–Enthusiasm, Self Control, Ambition

A few years ago, we went to Porter Elementary and conducted a “safety night” for the entire school.  We used the same material you hear in our classes about “saying no” and “safe side adults.”   After that class, more than twenty-five children came to our academy.   Alexis Campbell was one of them and now, two and half years later, Alexis has earned her 1st degree black belt and is working toward her instructor certification!! (More on that later) To say she is excited about KARATE FOR KIDS is an understatement.

Lexi was just nine when parents, Mike and Sara brought her in, hoping that she would build confidence and learn some self defense.    Lexi didn’t even make it through the 30-day trial period before she insisted her Mom and Dad enroll her. She’s been smiling every since.


Valeria Tapia-One Great Surprise After Another! 6-2011

Valeria Tapia

Valeria Tapia’s story begins like so many others.  By age six, she had tried dance and other activities.  Nothing seemed to spark her interest until she learned that one of her school friends, Leah Millman, was coming to KARATE FOR KIDS.   Mom, Maria, and dad, Albert, brought her in and, from that day on it’s been one great surprise after another!

SURPRISE #1:  “She just wants to be here all the time!!”
Like many children, Valeria just wasn’t interested in other “traditional” kids activities.  “It was a pleasant surprise that she got so excited about KARATE FOR KIDS so fast”, Maria says, “She wants to be here all the time!”


Parents/Students + Teamwork = TOTAL SUCCESS!!!


Welcome to our tournament!” Hundreds of competitors, parents, and friends heard those words as they entered the building on Saturday, January 22, 2011 for GATHERING OF EAGLES VI, the tournament we host every January.  It seems like a simple phrase, but in light of our feature story this month about COURTESY, we know just how important words are.  And this month’s success story really is about our dedicated parents and enthusiastic students and how you have come together to create a special event and special experiences for so many competitors—young and old—and their friends and family.

We consider this a true leadership opportunity because the event, the tasks performed, and the training we offer combine to make an experience in which not just the competitors, but also all the volunteers get a chance to push the boundaries of what they have done and accomplished.     Whether you like working with people or just prefer helping with set up and take down, there’s a spot for you on this tournament team that will give you a rewarding experience.

How exactly do we get to host a regional tournament every year?  The short answer is this; we are part of an American Taekwondo Association region of more than twenty black belt academies.  Within this region, we qualify to host a tournament because of the number of participants we send to the OTHER regional tournaments throughout the year.    Only 5 schools qualify each year and we have held the #1 spot for as long as we can remember.

To make the tournament a complete success requires work in many areas:  PLANNING (which starts about 6 months in advance), REGISTRATION, SET UP, JUDGING, TAKE DOWN.  As the host, we are responsible for all of this work except “judging.”   All the school owners and instructors in Arizona share that responsibility.

We call our registration team the “hospitality team” because we want our tournament to grow—and reach 750 competitors.  We know that people will come back only if they are satisfied, so service is very important.  We model the services we provide on several customer-oriented companies, like Southwest Airlines, Disney, and Ritz-Carlton.   We base everything we do on the premise that customers have a good time not just because they come to an event, but because we have planned and practiced hundreds of details and procedures that WE KNOW WILL MAKE THEM HAPPY.    And every January, we hold special training for members of our hospitality team in which we role-play how to greet and process competitors as they arrive at our event.  We practice the process of registration as well as the words to say, like “Welcome to our tournament!” and “My pleasure to serve you!” But most importantly, we learn to recognize that it is not only the nice words we say that are important, but also the sincerity behind those words that really makes the difference.

First, we need to thank a few outstanding leaders for performance “above and beyond”

Yvette Hawthorne has served the hospitality team for three years and offers this comment: I enjoy meeting people and especially like helping the ‘first time competitors’ get introduced to the event in a positive way.   Taylor (her red belt 7 year old daughter) and I are going to lots of other ATA events and what we do at Gathering of Eagles is light years ahead of anything I’ve seen at other events. When they come through the door, I tell them ‘Be sure to have fun and meet someone new.  Come back and show me your medal.’  And they do!!  I’ve met lots of great people in Taekwondo”


Michele Millman, (a black belt herself and mom of Hershel & Jeremy-black belts and Leah-red belt) who has served for five years, says, I think being on the hospitality team is empowering.  I can really help someone—especially those who have never been to an event—even though I am not an instructor or a judge.”


Vince and Christine Birdwell have served for six years!!! (black belts themselves and parents of Amanda-4th degree black belt and Zac-3rd degree black belt, both on staff at our academy and Winston-recommended black belt)

Maria Tapia (mom of Valeria-red belt) and Sara Campbell (mom of Alexis-recommended black belt) set up, prepared, worked in, and took down  the entire registration area.  Both have served the team for two years.  Sara says:  My first tournament was frightening.  I enjoy our hospitality team because I get to meet new people and help those newcomers who are nervous.”

Gary Doble (dad of Trevor and Evan-both black belts) was there for set up AND take down and Robert Hixson (dad of black belt Kaitlyn) helped us all day and especially as we packed up.


Amanda Birdwell worked for many weeks prior to the event prepping registration, processing Mesa and out of state competitor paperwork, and managing the registration area on the day of the event.  Oh yah!-she competed and judged too!

Gary Rust (black belt himself and dad of Widgy & Danny, also black belts) for volunteering his time and services for First Aid the past six years!

Demetris Coachman took measurements of the site and put together the detailed blue print for the tournament layout.  This plan made it very easy for many people to assist with assembling the rings and placing the tables and chairs on Friday night before the event.

Even our “rookies” had comments:   Corey Catbagan, who brought his 5-year-old tiny tiger camo belt son, Elijah, to help set up on Friday night, said:  “Elijah thought it was great fun setting up the rings!”

And Jerry Gonzalez (dad of Gianni, tiny tiger camo belt) said:  “The hospitality training was helpful.  The (registration process) really is simple, so our work is all about service.  I helped for three hours and the time flew by.  It went really smooth.  The (registration) system works great.”

And Candice Ebert, (mom of brown belt Brandee) another rookie, said, “It was fun.  I met lots of nice people.”

The response of our young students is always great.   They are always willing to drag a mat across the gym floor, pick up trash, hang ring signs, or help with anything.   So thanks to these young students for helping. . . .

Sebastian McKee, Valeria Tapia, Taylor Hawthorne, Bruce Brindley, Brandee Ebert, Odessa Mckee, Zack Skelton, Matthew Zedell, Caden Borden, Mackenzie Houston, Gunner Rodarte,  Josh Downes, Evan Doble, Aidan Santana, Elijah Catbagan, Megan Petrusha, Claudia Mascari, Peyton Thomas, Claudio Verdugo, Eden Morris, Hannah Thomas, Cyan Hayes.

And the best part occurs when they reach their teen years and want to take on more responsibility, like these young leaders. .. .

Cody Downes, Madison Houston, Slade Krawcheck, Lizzy Jones, Kaitlyn Hixson, Rylie Bachus, Alexis Campbell, Trevor Doble, Brian Orrino, Madison Petrusha, Juliana Mascari, Gina Mascari.


So often we talk to parents and stress that our children do what we do much more consistently than they do what we say.  In other words, the example we set as parents is a much greater teacher than the words we speak.   So after reading that list of children’s names above, it is not unusual to find the names of the adult helpers listed here that match the children’s names.

Linda Brindley, Jerry & Jen Gonzalez, Vic and Carol Pia,  Mike & Sara Campbell, Jeff and Candice Ebert, Julie Skelton, Melanie Dush, Vanessa Dunham, Leah Zedell, Tina Borden,  Kris & Neil Houston, Krystal Hayes, Kathy Meyer,  Kim Leckey, Pat McCabe, Tracy Rodarte,  Denise Day, Brian Borden,  Gary Doble, Alba & Vincent Orrino, Leslie  Santana, Corey Catbagan, John Petrusha, John & Stacie Ball,  Andy & Christine McKee, Claudio Verdugo, Dawn Thomas, Ron Lubbers, Cary Morris.


We know that the old adage, “many hands make light work” is totally true.  There were about 40 people behind the scenes making everything fall into place and run smoothly on tournament day. So when students, parents and their guests from all over the region and out of state were greeted & checked in, had a place to sit and watch the competitions, a place to sit and eat and had their questions answered it was because this TEAM ‘went the extra mile’ on behalf of Babin’s Black Belt Academy and Karate for Kids.



In making an attempt to thank everyone involved in this huge event,
the likelihood of omitting a name is high.
If we have left out your name, we sincerely apologize.
Please understand how much we appreciate everyone’s contribution,
how much we appreciate your enthusiasm for our program,
and how much we appreciate the opportunity to work with you and your children.

Because of all of you, this event was overwhelming successful and next year’s
GATHERING OF EAGLES VII will be even better!

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