AN INTERVIEW WITH
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA
AUGUST / 2011
Domo Arigato, faithful readers, my name is Franklin Puello and welcome to Martialforce.com Online Magazine. For a very long time the Martial Arts World has been promoting and introducing members of the Martial Arts community who have made an impact in their area of expertise or geographical areas. But the Martial Arts world has indeed neglected many of the great Female Martial Artists of their times. I have approached one that has indeed originated from a solid lineage. She has proven herself to be a Great “chip from the old block”, and an undisputable Champion. Without further delay, I will introduce to you Master, Eva “Firefox” Aguilera. Domo Arigato, I thank you greatly for agreeing to participate in this interview and share with me and our readers your Martial Arts journey and some of your life.
Interview by Franklin Puello
Martialforce.com: Where were you born?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I was born in Bronx Lebanon Hospital on the grand Concourse, at E.174th Street, in1966. (The old hospital)
Martialforce.com: Where were you originally from?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I am from: The South Bronx 1260 Webster Avenue, at East 169th street, Bronx, New York.
Martialforce.com: Where did you grow up?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: In the New York Housing Authority: Webster Projects.
Martialforce.com: What is your Occupation?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I am presently employed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and additionally employed in the Hotel Industry, in the Casselberry area, as a Costumer Service Agent.
Martialforce.com: When was your first introduction to the martial arts?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: In 1975, Ms. Geraldine Lewis (RIP) was the lady that took me and her daughter Juliet (presently still my best friend), to the karate school. She said one day "come on girls we going to Karate class". From then on she took us all the time and it was free.
Martialforce.com: What Style of Karate?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: At the time I did not know, but soon enough learn it to be: Shotokan Karate Do.
Martialforce.com: Who was/were your Shotokan Teachers/ Instructors?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Reno Morales, Nat McBride and Derrick Williams.
Martialforce.com: Talk about Lineage. These are names of Great Martial Arts Teachers you have mentioned, I (Franklin Puello) have known them for over Thirty Years and can attest to their Mastery of the Martial Arts, their teachings, and contributions to the Arts and to the Community. Can you tell our readers what a typical day of training was like back when you were training towards your black belt?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: It was hard. We worked out in a dilapidated room. This is a room on the side of a project building entrance. There was nothing fancy about our Dojo in contrary to the fancy and elegantly decorated Dojo’s one finds on the market these days. This room had only two small windows, No air conditioner, No bathrooms, No locker rooms, No mats covering the concrete floors, one small mirror on the wall and very little equipment. We did not really wear hand and foot gear. We had the white sponge like hand gear and the white feet gear that was barely padded. We did always have a mouthpiece but it was not mandatory. We had a small area with a curtain up to change, and I do mean small area. When we trained the more we sweated the more the floor and walls sweated with us. We would slip and slide all over the place, and as a result: Yes we had good balance! (Lol). My Teachers would Lead by example instructors. They did everything we did and more. They didn't just shout commands, they did it with us. Another great teaching aspect was that we were taught spiritually. We instilled the will To Do. I am very proud of my instructors; they keep me hungry for karate. The men and women, boys and girls were trained equally. Derrick Williams, Sensei, would hit the girls and boys, men and women just the same. “If you want it you can get it” and with that in mind I developed a great blocking system. I did not like or want to get hit to often. I did block very well (lol). In uniform we were equal. We were not allowed to wear a fitted uniform. We were not allowed to wear an incomplete uniform. Always had a Gi top and Gi pants; and if you forgot your Belt, boy you paid big time. We couldn’t wear any jewelry what so ever on the floor. No shoes or socks to train with. Training with your hair down was not a good thing. When you got hit by Nat McBride, Sensei you felt like you were hit by a tree trunk. We did repetitiously all the basics and fundamental drills. We did Kata over and over and over again. One kata repeated over and over then the next. That was their greatest contribution to my loving Kata and practicing the basics and gradually adding new and more techniques. We were kept at our Rank level any where between 9 to12 months, some longer. We would work out any where between 4 to 6 days a week and even though classes was schedule Monday & Wednesday & Friday & Saturdays we still worked out on the other days and times because we always fraternized and visited other Dojo and trained at there classes (SHIAI). We went to the parks to chill and never chilled always trained something. We would be in someone’s house talking karate or kicking or punching or just remembering details about the class. We were never rushed for Promotion. We would never ask to be promoted, that was like a slap in the face to the instructor. We trained in the dojo but I remember many times training in the parks, in good old hot weather and in the winter out in the snow. Yes they (My Teachers) were crazy. (lol) I always hated the cold. I loved the hot weather then and still love it now. I was very faithful to my dojo. I did not have the typical teenage life and I am very grateful for that. Karate was and still is my life and always will be. Even though both instructors Derrick Williams and Nat McBride were there, Master McBride came mainly in the weekends, he started the class off with strenuous exercises. He was a machine in action. He looked older but was strong as an ox and showed no weaknesses. If you clashed with him you were swelling right away. A nice knot would rise as soon as you connected with him. I didn't know then that it was Jujutsu self defense that we were learning in addition to Karate (go figure). Derrick taught throughout the weekdays. We always did calisthenics in the beginning of every class and we always stretched. We always did kihon (Basics). Derrick would pick one day of the week that we would concentrate on just Kata. There were days that we did a lot of sparring. Sparring with Derrick Williams, Sensei back in those days was fun and very hard, he had no bones. Well at lease it seem like he had none. (lol) No matter what, Saturdays were the days my heart would beat the loudest and faster. Both Shihan would be there and oh boy was that rough. It was not easy keeping up with those two. It was a hard class but at the end of the day we still joked and laughed with one another. I am so glad that I had the kind of instructors I had. Pops being the headman, and we would go visit his Dojo.
Derrick Williams and Eva Firefox
Eva Firefox and Master McBride
Martialforce.com: Please allow me to interrupt and clarify something you just said. POPS being the Head man, who is Pops?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Pops is Grand Master Reno Morales; he is the Lead Man of the Bronx Shotokan Karate Clubs (BSKC). Nat McBride, Shihan is a student of Reno Morales and Derrick in turn is a Student of Nat McBride.
Martialforce.com: As I said, you must certainly come from an Elite Lineage. Not many in the Martial Arts can list such a rich Lineage. Who was the instructor during your first Karate classes? Can you give us the name of the Dojo and location?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: My first instructor was named Greg but it was so long ago I don’t remember his last name. He was the one who took me from White Yellow, and Green Belts. It was in the projects on E.178th Webster Avenue. After him it was an instructor named Earl Razor, but I don’t have much information on him to share. I came to Derrick, Shotokan Karate; I was already a Green Belt along with my best friend Juliet. I do remember having to dye our White Belt to Yellow and Yellow Belt to Green. Yes, we did not change Belts; it was customary to keep the old Belt and change the Color.
We were Green Belts but didn’t really know too much. Derrick let us keep the Green Belt and worked us up to it. This Dojo was under the BSKC, and is located at 3603 Third Avenue, at the corner of E. 169th Street, Bronx, New York.
Martialforce.com: Just to clarify, you had a great start in the study of The Martial Arts and great examples. Was Derrick Williams your first Shotokan Instructor?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Yes, Derrick Williams and Nat McBride were my first Shotokan instructors. The other 2 were not Shotokan, but I don’t remember what it was.
Martialforce.com: How was training with the Patriarch of the Bronx Shotokan Karate, Grand Master Reno Morales? What did you learn from his philosophy of teaching, as well as Master Derrick Williams'?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Training at the BSKC was just another day at the Dojo. My Pops played his role later in my life. He was the head man of the BSKC at the beginning. It was later when Derrick and I had personal disagreements that I left Derrick and I was already a Black Belt under Derrick. I moved on and started training full time all the time with POPS. Pops has been with me through the ups and downs of my life, and the lives of 3 children and 2 grandchildren. Pops has walked the walk with me for over 25 years and still walking. I never disregarded Derrick as my Teacher; I just didn’t go to the dojo as much at that time. I learned a lot about life thanks to POPS.
Derrick has given me the Karate foundation, and Pops has given me Life foundation. We did all kinds of things in his dojo. It was like a field trip. We would spend a day out over there. Karate was never set on a hard time line, it was great. Our advancement in Rank audition was great. We were required to perform everything. We warmed up, we did the basics, we did kata, we did self defense, we did kumite and we ended it with board breaking. (No matter what Rank you were auditioning for). We even got tested in our history of The Martial Arts. Derrick Williams, Sensei was there for me in eternal support, when I almost lost the desire to continue in school. I missed the first 6 months of my High School year, in Taft High school, with no reason in particular. He went to school with me and spoke to a Counselor and worked it out so I could be allowed to go to the Annex of the school to make up my credits of 6 months. Because of my instructors (All of them) lectures on Nutrition and specifically not eating Pork, we were given the book on the pig. My other Mother (Ms Gerry) made sure we knew about the pig and she never cooked it again in her house. This was when I was around 9 or 10 years old, and I stopped eating the pork.
Martialforce.com: What do you think about youngsters, 16- 18 years of age being promoted to Sandan and above? The automatic addition of Titles: as Shihan, Masters, Grand Masters?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I am not big on titles however I am a 5th degree Black Belt, and was awarded the Shihan Title along with my 5th Degree. I think a Master Title is 4th Dan, and Shihan is usually a 5th Dan (who is considered to be an Expert Teacher) and Hanshi (Refers to a Senior Expert, considered a “Teacher of Teachers”) is 6th Dan, and so on again I am being as humble as possible. I would rather, just be call FIREFOX that’s cool with me. I don't believe in children holding Black Belts, so you know I don't agree in children holding a Sensei Title. Some one needs to teach some of theses instructors how to not make Rank an issue in a child’s life. At a child’s age of 15, I became a Black Belt, and I no longer had a childhood. I no longer did the things that teenage kids did because I was bestowed upon the responsibilities attached to a Black Belt and I took that as my new way of life. Some children or most of them are not ready to take it like that. I believe that you should let your kids be kids. A Black Belt is not just what you wear around your waist. It is a new way of living. Most kids are not told that the instructor just want to promote and have lots of Black Belts. How about when you see a kid Black Belt running around, playing, in a tournament, is that ok? Transition through Belts is like going through the school system. Elementary, Junior High, High School, College. So Black Belt is out of High School. Do you think that a child is ready for College? Is he or she special enough to show that difference? There are always exceptions to the rule, but it should show, I know I was.
Martialforce.com: That is a great answer, and I am impressed with the seriousness you adopted upon Reaching Black Belt, obviously applying principles learned in the Martial Arts to your life. In regards to your early competitive career, can you recall any of the people you fought?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I remember competing as early as a Green Belt, training the way we did under Derrick Williams, Shihan and Nat McBride, Shihan made it easy, but I don’t really remember with whom. (sorry). I do remember doing Kata and people saying that I look just like my instructor when I did my Kata. I didn’t fight that often. I was a skinny little nothing back then so I just fought mainly in class. Later in life as a Black Belt I remember competing in the Black Belt division (women). I remember Sheila High only because we did the same kata: Kankudai and she won. I know that I was stronger and my foundation was right. She on the other hand was out before me as a Black Belt competitor, and had already developed a name, and always went last.
Finally later in life I did beat her. It was at that point, when I became FIREFOX to every one. Hence she was competing against a good kata woman, and a woman with a known name. I do remember competing in the men division, but don’t really remember beating anyone in particular. I enjoyed the men division because win or lose I was always complimented that I was great at what I did. That was worth to me more than any trophy. My instructor never showed disappointment in our lost, always praised us and complimented us. That was worth everything when the person who taught you said: you did great maybe next time! and I was alright with that. I didn’t get the ego thing till late, late in life and I am so glad. I was taught never to praise anyone (opponents). Everyone makes mistakes and they bleed just like I bleed and they put on pants one leg at a time like I do. They might be better today but tomorrow was another day.
Martialforce.com: What was tournament competition like when you were first introduced?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Scary. Nerve wrecking. Lots of disciplinary outing. We never ran around in a tournament. We stood in one area. We had lots of respect for the tournament. Back then to be a judge, you had to be in a uniform. You had to be a Black Belt. (Not an honorary black belt). Parents played their positions and stood in the bleachers. They were not our coaches. When every one completed we went home. The only Shiai I remember was Pops and the PAL. Other than that I don’t remember.
Martialforce.com: Who were some of the noted martial artists you had to compete against?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: kata: Sheila High, there were others but she is who I can remember by name. Kumite: Cookie Melendez and only once. Harlem Goju had some tough girls. Again I did not fight a lot and it was so long ago I don’t want to say and mess up a name or title.
Martialforce.com: Could you tell us the toughest competitor facing you during that time?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I remember when I fought Cookie Melendez and back then she was known as a boxer who competed in the tournaments. Well I fought her and I was very young. I did win the match but only because she tapped my jaw really hard and got disqualified. I was very glad. A win was a win and my jaw hurt for day. I on the other hand was a great Kata competitor. I loved performing Kata, but to tell you the truth just going to the tournament was nerve wrecking. I always had butterflies in my stomach and I always had to run to the bathroom. Well even today when I go train I still get the butterflies and still have to run to the bathroom. (go figure. lol) My willingness to make my instructor proud meant a lot to me, more than who I had to go against. My instructor never taught us to fear any competitor. We just came out did our best no matter who we went against. The toughest opponent faced, was myself. I was my worse enemy. At the tournament this allowed me to see just what great instructors I really had. How well rounded my instructors trained us to be. I transposed these skills into not fearing life, or changes in life, as well as reaching for my goals and achieving above all obstacles.
Martialforce.com: In the control of circumstances while fighting or self-defense. In regards to action and reactions; prevention and execution; evasion of attacks. How can one condition his/her reflexes?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I would keep it simple by saying continuous training on what ever you chose to master makes a big difference. Muscle memory is a big part of it, which is closely related to the basic conditioning phase. I think a lot of it is using common sense as when you do anything in life weather it is karate or business etc....I don’t think that there is any one thing, I think it’s a combination of elements. Training variety helps develop mastery at different levels.
In regards to personality, diverse training makes a difference; people have different perceptions of the same situation or how to handle it. Personality just means a separation of how people view things. Different training works for different people in the same situation so there is no one answer; no perfect answer or solution.
Martialforce.com: Kata is the Essence of Karate. It contains many secrets; this phrase has become a cliché. Do you believe the practice of Kata is useful and important?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: YES, I believe that Kata is a fundamental practice. It gives you muscle memory. Kata develops, Speed, focus, timing, spirit and it develops a character that separates you and the next person performing the same form. Kata is a form of exercise for endurance as well.
Martialforce.com: What is your most favorite kata?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Back in the days it was Kwankudai, and then later in the years it was Jion and Kamikaze (Created by Andre Brown, Sensei).
Martialforce.com: What makes it so special?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Kwankudai was special because it was the longest kata, and I felt so comfortable performing it. I would sleep, eat and Blip this kata. This was the Kata that every one said I looked like my instructor. That is indeed The Highest Compliment paid to a Karate-Ka. I broke that kata down to its simplest term. That was when I learn how to break a kata down for analysis and teaching. I learned this kata as a Brown belt and I was real good. (Sorry don’t mean to sound arrogant). Jion was the next kata that I held on to because it was such a strong kata and it defines Strength to me. It defines strong foundation and for a person like my self, that was starting to gain some weight and move a little slower I still found it to make the point no matter what.
Kamikaze was a Kata that I learned when I joined a Fighting Art Association named WOLFOX. This was a kata that was created by Andre (Iceman) Brown. He put this kata together but never performed it, nor did he show me where the rhythm to it was. I was the first person he taught this kata to. It was like: this kata was just for me. I know it was a Black Belt kata for the Wolfox Organization, but at that time I felt that it was just for me, and any one learning this kata after me followed my rhythm. This kata was indeed the longest kata that I ever had to perform. This had every kick, block, stance, strike, spinning, drop, everything in it. There was not a kata out that I knew that would make a back up kata should I come in a tie. There was a Kata called Empihohung (Enpiha) and I know I am not saying or spelling it correct but I am sure you know the kata I am talking about. Master Tee Taylor (RIP) was in the process of showing me this form but I never completed it. Also Malcolm Livingston started showing me but again I never finished it, so I would only perform Kamikaze as a demonstration or once in a while at a tournament as the back up for Jion or Kwankudai.
Martialforce.com: Are you presently training others in the Art of Karate?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: No, however I did teach Shotokan Karate for a short time, in Florida. It only lasted a few months.
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: They said I was to rough. They wanted me to teach less and play more and still have a once a month promotions. Well, I was never taught that kind of Martial Arts Business. THANK GOD!!!!!! I did not know that in order to have a successful school you have to be nice. Well I missed that bus (lol) My teaching style is and always will be Shotokan Karate Do. I am a disciplinarian person. I teach by example. I practice what I preach. I believe that as an instructor one should instill a Spirit in a student, first. Anyone can learn how to kick and punch, but if you instill a spirit you will have given them the will to do anything, no matter what obstacles present themselves on the way. Even when they think they are not able too.
Example: When in class you hear the yes sir/ mom or loud KIAI, yell, or the sound of the uniform “Popping” expressing the power you know and feel the spirits flowing. When someone comes to class and they are not feeling good they leave feeling great from feeling the Spirits of all the other classmates. If I was having a bad day and come to class their spirits lifts me up and changes my frame of mind. That is the discipline taught first, by me. I give and believe in it because I know I use and need it back. Your students’ job is to help carry the spirit through the class. If I am not feeling good my students will say "come on sensei we can do this". It is great, and lifts up my Spirit. That is what I love to teach most, the spiritual way of karate Do.
Eva Firefox and Grand Master Reno Morales
Martialforce.com: Do you have any plans to start Teaching Karate again?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I can’t say right now becauseI work two jobs and in the future I should be only working one good full time paying job so maybe then I can consider it. Not right now.
Martialforce.com: Do you belong to any Martial Arts Association?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: Do you mean like the BSKC (Bronx Shotokan Karate Clubs). Kuroshi-Do and Kuroshi- Kai-Kan, with Soke Pappasan Canti and Soke Hasain Kaleak? I am in my family tree, and out side of them I am a part of WOLFOX and Kuroshi-Do under both of the Soke mentioned.
Martialforce.com: What Advice would you have for a parent, child or youngster who wants to start learning Martial Arts? What benefits would you advocate?
EVA “FIREFOX” AGUILERA: I would tell the parents first that make sure that it’s a want and not a need to learn Karate. Please don't force Karate on a child because at the first opportunity of them leaving Karate they will. It is something that has to be instilled in their hearts. It should be something they want to do. Try placing them around the karate classes or tournaments and associate with other karate kids or people. Is it OK to bring in a child at the age of 5 and older to karate? Yes as long as it’s not forced. Make sure that the school that they go to is a very discipline school. It’s not a Martial Business School (a school that is all about the money.)
I would, and do advocate karate for all ages. I don't promote young kids running through rank. I didn’t promote that the child or teen has more respect for the karate instructor over the parents or any other adult in there life. I believe that the instructor and the parents do need to become one with one another so they are on the same page when it comes to the child.
I would like to say by my observation that the teenage stage in karate is indeed the hardest to keep a child (boy or girl) focused on karate. If and when they pass this stage then they are in for the long haul, my opinion only.
However I do believe that there is such a thing as too young to start karate. People some times live through their children. Wishing they started young hoping they can start their child young. NO I don't agree. Under 5 years to me is too young to in instill the Way of Karate.
You don't need to put my example on paper but I just want you to get the just of how I really feel.
Example: My son was kicking before he can walk he would hold on to the wall or couch and we (his dad and I) say kick and he would. We say punch he would; we say stretch he would try to fall into a full split. He grew up watching me and his dad practicing karate. This is an exception to the rule. My point is that his dad stressed him so much that at the chance he could leave karate he would and he did. He attained a Second Degree Black Belt at the age of I think 15, not really sure but at the age of 19 now it’s not even a thought. I would have never given him or tested him for promotions. I was never at any of his promotions. (his dad knew I was hard when it came to giving out rank and especially to a young child).
Martialforce.com: On behalf of Martialforce.com Magazine, I would like to extend my sincere thanks and appreciation for your participation and willingness to share part of your life, and specially the Karate Do part of it. You have been a force in the Martial Arts and an influential force to many. Oneigashimasu.