DA­MON GIL­BERT

COM­PETI­TOR OF THE YEAR

Black Belt - - SCREEN SHOTS -

AS A COACH, DA­MON POSSESSESPOSS THE SAME PAS­SION AND DE­SIRE TO BE THE BEST THAT HE DID AS A WORLD-CHAM­PION COM­PETI­TOR.” — DON RODRIGUES

W e �irst crossed paths with Da­mon il­bert at the Mar­tial Arts uper how in as egas and quickly de­ter­mined that he was a skilled prac­ti­tioner as well as a true gen­tle­man. hat we didn’t know un­til we started do­ing re­search for this write-up was what surely must have been two key com­po­nents in mak­ing him who he is to­dayǣ il­bert is a 1[-time world cham­pion in spar­ring, and he’s been pro­tect­ing the public as an of�icer in the Oak­land olice Depart­ment for go­ing on 20 years. For half that time, he taught de­fen­sive tac­tics to fel­low of �icers, which ought to si­lence naysay­ers who claim sportkarate peo­ple can’t �ight.

(For those who are in­ter­ested in Of�icer il­bert’s views on law en­force­ment, PBS New­sHour re­leased an in­sight­ful video in­ter­view with him in 201•. In it, he dis­cusses the chal­lenges of be­ing an AfricanAmer­i­can po­lice of�icer in mod­ern Amer­ica. atch it at pbs.org.)

il­bert started train­ing in the mar­tial arts in 1980 and earned his black belt in 1991. Just a year later, he be­gan win­ning in com­pe­ti­tion — we’re talk­ing about big events like the Bat­tle of At­lanta and those put on by the orth Amer­i­can port Karate As­so­ci­a­tion and the ational Black­belt

eague. In 200Š the prac­ti­tioner of ka­jukenbo — an art in which his fa­ther holds a sixth-de­gree black belt — joined Team aul Mitchell Karate. ven though he’s based in Cal­i­for­nia, where he serves as chief in­struc­tor at BIT Mar­tial Arts Academy in an ean­dro, and most of the team is head­quar­tered in ew ng­land, il­bert man­ages to get to­gether with them for train­ing and teach­ing sev­eral times a year. Of­ten that hap­pens at tour­na­ments like the Ocean tate rand ation­als, which is run by aul Mitchell head coach and Black Belt all of Famer Don odrigues. “As a coach, Da­mon pos­sesses the same pas­sion and de­sire to be the best that he did as a world-cham­pion com­peti­tor,” odrigues said. “e ap­proaches ev­ery­thing with a never-say-never at­ti­tude, which he showed more than ever when he broke his neck in a team �ight at a tour­na­ment. The doc­tors said he would never �ight again. A lit­tle over a year later, Da­mon cap­tured the I KA orld Cham­pi­onships ti­tle at the . . Open on .”

odrigues’ wife Chris­tine Ban­non- odrigues, a Black Belt all of Fame mem­ber who re­tired from Team aul Mitchell, also thinks highly of il­bert’s acu­men. “Da­mon sweats and bleeds black and white — the team’s col­orsǨ” she said. “e will �ight for his team mem­bers, when a rule is bro­ken or for any other rea­son, un­til the end. e al­ways has his team’s back and is be­yond pas­sion­ate about his coach­ing. The �ighters are blessed to have him in their cor­ner.

“By day, Da­mon is a po­lice of�icer, try­ing to make the streets a bet­ter and safer place by pro­tect­ing and serv­ing his com­mu­nity. By night, he’s a fam­ily man and mar­tial arts in­struc­tor and the �ight­ing coach for Team aul Mitchell. I’m proud to call him a friend and brother in the mar­tial arts.”

Black Belt is proud to name Da­mon il­bert its 2017 Com­peti­tor of the ear, both for his past achieve­ments and for the con­tri­bu­tions he’s mak­ing to the next gen­er­a­tion.

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