While I was in San Diego, I had the chance to catch up with a long-time friend from UCLA and former roomate, Dr. T.J. Desch-Obi. TJ's dear friend who I rarely get the chance to hang and spend time with, but someone who's influenced me greatly in my course of study in martial arts anthropology. He's an instructor of Capoeira Angola under Mestre Joao Grande, a purple belt under Rickson Gracie, a former translator for Helio Gracie, a Judo black belt, and a well-rounded martial artist. My moments with TJ are usually filled with laughter, sweat, and good training. He's a history professor at Baruch College in NYC, but we steal any opportunity to get together and vibe.
As good as my time was with TJ, I got a very sad message while I was down in SD.
Thai Sam, a friend of mine, was killed in an auto accident in Beijing. I met Thai while doing a couple of articles on Aikido's Matsuoka Haruo, the former top student of Steven Seagal. Like Matsuoka sensei, Thai was personable, generous, and highly skilled. We struck up a friendship and logged in some time together both off and on the mats. In addition to his high-tech, high-demand job, Thai was also the head instructor at South Bay Aikido. No matter how busy, he was never too aloof or conceited to shoot out a quick e-mail, asking how I was doing and just keeping in touch. I sorely regret all of the times I missed the chance to spend just a little more time with him training, hanging out, or whatever.
But the story doesn't stop there.
Thai was starting a family with his girlfriend Kate. She's due in February and now stuggling to make heads or tails out of her current situation. As much as I'm grieving the loss of a friend, I can't imagine what Kate's going through right now, but I do know that Thai was the kind of guy who was a real friend. If he knew you needed something, he'd do it for you himself. So while I try to do my best to suport Kate and help her get back on her feet and keep moving forward, please say a prayer for Thai and Kate. If any of you want to help contribute to Kate & their unborn child, drop me a line and let me know.