"12 Basics..." Guro Sharon LoParo

sonder
n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
— Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows

Who are you? How do you define yourself? What’s your story?

I grew up in Philadelphia, PA.  I was the youngest of 4 girls born to Marjorie and Joe
Infante.  Since my mother was only 20 when I was born and my dad 22 it is obvious that they had no real tools to raise 4 littles girls.  As many of these stories go my mother was swept away by an older man and the story of abuse and abandonment goes on for years.

The four of us went together and apart for most of our lives. My story went like this: foster homes, children’s homes, and then group home.  I learned at an early age to be quiet, don’t get in trouble, and you won’t get picked on or hurt. I know that it is hard to believe but I was a very shy little girl… my sister Carol even spoke for me for years. In the mid 60’s my sister Carol and I moved to the Baptist Children’s House in the inner city of Philadelphia. This was a very tumultuous time that included the assassination of the John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.  There were racial riots all over the city which spilled into the schools. It was very dangerous for the white kids to go to the school because we were targeted for abuse. In the two years I attended the Shaw Jr High School, I never once stepped into the girls room in fear of my life. During the time I lived on the main campus of BCH I worked in their dental clinic and also for a pediatrician’s office that BCH went to.  Although I was very young, about 13 years old, it gave me a path to follow for education and career.   BCH decided to move some of us kids to a group home in the suburbs of Drexel Hill which happened to be two doors down from my now husband, Joe. At the time the neighbors all believed we were juvenile delinquents and tried to block us from moving into the neighborhood. Still being shy it was a very good move for me and gave me great friends and BCH family. It was my first real feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood.  We were all kids with family problems trying to bond together and make it through the obstacles life had put on our path.  

I know that it is hard to believe but I was a very shy little girl… my sister Carol even spoke for me for years.

I became an emancipated minor at 17 and moved into my boyfriend/husband house while waiting to begin Dental Assisting School in Philadelphia, PA.  In 1977 Joe and I married and moved to Pittsburgh where he went dental school while I went back to Dental Hygiene School at University of Pittsburgh.  In 1980 Joe and I drove down to Charlotte with only one car and a small U-Haul hooked onto the back.  We rented an apartment and also furniture because we didn’t own a stick of our own.  We worked hard and long and we are very blessed today to have a beautiful home.  Being away from family and having a feeling of always being on our own, we have formed very close bonds with our friends and neighbors. The relationships I have made in Balintawak have given me a great sense of family as well.  

Today I would define myself as mother of two young men, a grandmother to a beautiful granddaughter, a wife for almost 40 years, manager of all accounts for our home, dental office, the e-cig store we own, mother in law, and INJURED ECRIMADORA!

I managed to tear my bicep tendon and rotator cuff and have a bone spur which required a subacromial decompression and repair of the tendon and cuff.  During the Seattle 2015 seminar I "felt the pain" as Bobby would say.   My first shoulder surgery was March 2, 2016 and second shoulder surgery July 6th.  I am still in rehab and working very hard to come back and swing a stick.  In fact, I am doing my basic drills during warm up in rehab. This is a very long recovery. It has involved all sort of fun things like dry needling, cupping, massage therapy, tens stimulation. I can’t believe how excited I was when I could raise my arm up and wave to my neighbor in December. 

Guro LoParo making headlines!

Guro LoParo making headlines!

How were you exposed to Balintawak ?

When my two sons were in lower school at Charlotte County Day there was a karate program held in the after school program.  My husband wanted our boys to take karate but I wasn’t so sure I wanted to introduce them to something that they could use to beat up on each other with.   In any case, in 1995,  once my youngest son was in kindergarten I decided to let them start karate.  The program was offer through MATI and was taught by one of Irwin Carmichael’s instructors who was also a QI in Balintawak.  It seemed to me that the classes went well but, there was some trouble having enough supervision during and especially between classes.  I made a compliant to CCDS and they had the instructor Sensi Gaerlan call me.  During the conversation I was somehow recruited into becoming the Karate Mom. Now I was not only helping with classes I knew nothing about but also taking lessons.  So I found myself helping with the program in exchange for lessons for me and my kids.

Kempo Karate was what we were teaching at CCDS and we were moving up with our belts. There was a group of Karate Moms from some of the other karate programs at the private schools and we would all meet over at the MATI South school on Wednesday’s for lessons. During these lessons we were all introduced to Balintawak and the class on Fridays was also "Balintawak night".  Dr Dean O’Hare, Dr Patrick Schmitt, George Mandrapilias, Frank Hess, Eric Lawrence, Randy Cornell, Jonathan Grimes, David Russel, Robert Kampher, Steve Mirman, Shane Murray and David Eudy were all instructors who would come to MATI South on Montifort Dr on Friday nights or Saturday mornings.  I also trained with many other instructors and students during the past 21 years: Dr. Garth Dicker, Paul Gale, Darrell Parker, Ross McDonald, Jorge Penafiel, Raymond Asuncion, Irwin Carmichael, Bob Sullen, Ryan Brooks, Rick Michell, Kevin Mannion, Paul Falcon, Michael-Vincent Malanyaon, David Clinard, Robert Hicks, Jeff E. Love, Elmann CabotageBrian Corey, Jemar Carcellar, Alex Ormaza, Scottie Hartsell, John Soriano, Jeff Soriano, Buddy Herndon, Luis Lopez, Adam Greenspan, Paulos Santos, Azeem McDaniel, Benjamin Winn and so many more.  Then of course there are my 3 personal students I had move to level Completion of the Arts Tony Standburg, Wendy Weeks, and Kerry Premo.  I have had my hands help with many of the CA and QI students as well!  So if you see a little of me in them you know we have touched each other and passed on this wonderful art!.

Proto-World Camp in Huntersville NC circa 2001

Proto-World Camp in Huntersville NC circa 2001

How long have you studied? Who was your primary instructor?

I started training in the fall of 1995. Completion of the Arts, summer of 1998.
Qualified Instructor July 2000 Las Vegas.
My main instructors were Glenda Wolfe and Francisco Gaerlan under close supervision of GM Bobby Taboada.
Bobby would always say if you do good…you are my student if not... well someone else’s student. I hope I made and make GM Bobby proud.  
Glenda no longer trains but her husband Jim Dunn does, so Glenda lives on in us!

Celebrating at the school on Montfort Drive. Guro LoParo's instructor, Guro Glenda Wolfe is on the right. (Spring 2001)

Celebrating at the school on Montfort Drive. Guro LoParo's instructor, Guro Glenda Wolfe is on the right. (Spring 2001)

What was the hardest part of learning Balintawak

I would say it was very difficult for me at first.  I had no background in martial arts when I started.  I had to learn how to use my whole body to create the power behind the movements.  I think it was a transformation in all parts of my mind and body that I had to make.  I had to make the movement feel natural and flow properly. It was learning a whole physical language and making it feel like I was born with this form in my heart, body and soul. I had to react without thought and be quick in my movements. It was unlike anything else I have ever learned or done in my life.

I think it was a transformation in all parts of my mind and body that I had to make... It was unlike anything else I have ever learned or done in my life.
GM Taboada at the school on Montfort Drive with students, including the Australia crew. (Spring 2001)

GM Taboada at the school on Montfort Drive with students, including the Australia crew. (Spring 2001)

Favorite part of Balintawak?

My favorite part is the community, brotherhood, sisterhood and the sharing of knowledge.  The willingness to give away the nuggets you have learned or created.  You have to build and grow with the knowledge. To transform with every new lesson you have, be it from a GM or a new student.

Guro Brian Corey (L), Guro Sharon LoParo (C), Guro Jeff Soriano (R)

Guro Brian Corey (L), Guro Sharon LoParo (C), Guro Jeff Soriano (R)

Have you/do you study other arts? How have they influenced each other?

I studied Kempo Karate. I fell so much in love with Balintawak that I stayed a brown belt for 8 years. I did manage to take my Kempo Karate second-degree test a few years ago and then received my 3rd degree Black Belt for all of my years of teaching.  I had continued with the CCDS after school program until fall of 2015.  I am no longer training in and or teaching Kempo Karate. However, I did use Kempo Karate in 2000 to create my 25 techniques. I used a combination of semi advanced techniques with Kempo techniques.  It was a very good blend of the arts.  

What’s your day job? Have there been any concepts from that profession that have informed your Balintawak or vice versa?

My day job now mostly involves managing several personal and business endeavors.  We have also gone through another major remodel at our home. I was like a foreman. My Balintawak students will tell you that my catch phrase was (and is)  “You must sit on your center”. Literally and figuratively. I would say with the challenges I face every day, I must do exactly that: sit on my center.

GM Taboada (2nd from Right), Guro LoParo (3rd from Left), and crew in Orlando Florida to be inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. (2000)

GM Taboada (2nd from Right), Guro LoParo (3rd from Left), and crew in Orlando Florida to be inducted into the Martial Arts Hall of Fame. (2000)

What is the main lesson you want your students to take from your instruction in Balintawak?

Don’t fight with what you already know to learn this art. Let it flow into what you know, relax, and learn it.  Don’t question it against what you have already learned because soon you will see it flow naturally with your art.  GM Bobby has an abundance of knowledge and you will see it all work together or work even better with Balintawak infused into your art.  Also it is fun, it is called "play" after all!

Don’t fight with what you already know to learn this art.
Grand Master Taboada (Standing Center) and a group of slightly less handsome people at West Coast Camp 2016

Grand Master Taboada (Standing Center) and a group of slightly less handsome people at West Coast Camp 2016

What do you emphasize with beginners and what do you emphasize with your more advanced students?

Beginners: I tell to practice in front of a mirror. Call the drills out loud as soon as you can. Your partner is yourself in the mirror.  Watch your footwork.  Try to find more people to train and practice with.

Advanced: I tell them to teach, teach and teach.  Because the more you teach the more you learn.  The better you will become.  Play with as many people as you can.  Watch people play. Teach two students at a time so they can see both sides of what you are teaching.  

HAVE FUN

Martial Arts Hall of Fame induction in Orlando Florida, (2000)

Martial Arts Hall of Fame induction in Orlando Florida, (2000)

What does a typical class look like when you teach?

My classes were always a combination of all levels.  I was very lucky to have other QI or CA in my class.  This way we were able to break down the students after all the basics and students would have lots of different hands.  We would do some bag drills at times and if we had a visiting QI I would love for them to teach something of their choice.  I began teaching grouping and then teaching the feeding of the grouping together so we could have more students able to feed.  It has been almost a year since I have been able to teach.  I am hoping to be able to train soon.

HAVE FUN

What kind of things were you thinking about when you were developing your 24 techniques?

I decided to do my techniques off of semi-advanced techniques, mostly so I could hook them in my memory.  I also wanted to make my techniques so they could work on any size person and almost anyone could preform them.  Didn’t want my techniques to be too fancy and difficult to do.  Wanted them to have power in them as well.
Being a woman, I didn’t want to look too girly!

Guro LoParo recieving her FQI status at the Las Vegas Camp in 2000

Guro LoParo recieving her FQI status at the Las Vegas Camp in 2000

Why did you want to become a Fully Qualified Instructor?

I wanted to finish what I started.  I wanted to be able to prove I could do it.  I believe this is a great martial art for women to learn and practice because you can use your whole body to make the movements and not just use your upper body.  I grew to love the art and I wanted to be on the board along with all my male peers. I also wanted my family and GM Bobby to be proud of me.

Guro LoParo recieving her FQI status at the Las Vegas Camp in 2000

Guro LoParo recieving her FQI status at the Las Vegas Camp in 2000

I wanted to finish what I started.

1 Extra. What are you known for in the Balintawak community?

As far as what I am know for in the Balintawak community, I guess I will put the question out there. I am the only woman sitting up there on the board for now.  I have been around a long time. I like to wear my red lipstick! I do kick students during testing.  Sometimes Bobby introduces me as his girlfriend!  Mostly I hope I am know for my great desire to teach and share this great art and that I am talented!