TAMARA DE LA GUERRA
Interview by Shihan Eddie Morales
Online Martial Arts Magazine
Martialforce: Where did your background in Martial Arts begin and why did you start training?
De La Guerra: This is actually an interesting but comical story. My background began when I was living in Madrid, Spain. My father and I got into an argument because he wanted me to train in Karate and I absolutely did not want to. My only image of Karate at that time was watching Jerry Lewis films when he would put in his buckteeth, headband and chop the air like a nerd and I just didn’t want to be him.
This conversation came to be because of an incident the night before. My younger sister and I were walking through town and a ‘crazy’ girl approached us and punched my sister in the mouth. We were young teenagers and all I could think of doing was shoving her up against the Burger King window, which I did! We stood there in shock not really knowing what else to do. It was fortunate that she didn’t want to continue and left. I did win the conversation with my father that night but then the subject came up again when I came back to Canada a few months later.
I started training because of a bet I lost with my brother-in-law. I wanted to join a gym and he was trying to convince me to learn Karate. We decided to play a game of tennis and whoever lost two out of three games would join the other one’s sport for one month. You guessed it, I lost the game and that is when my path began. It has been 20 years and I never looked back since.
Martialforce: Why did you continue training after your initial commitment? What was it about Karate that you enjoyed?
De La Guerra: I believe that at the age of sixteen it just intrigued and challenged me. My family had gone through a separation and I was in Canada alone. It gave me a place to call home. I have always sought challenges throughout my life and this challenged me enough to want to learn more. I always had an incredible amount of energy and had nowhere to put it and Karate was the perfect thing to balance and ground me. As the years passed, I became very intrigued by the body dynamics and its effectiveness.
The development of speed and power as I understood later was not just physical but mental and spiritual as well. All these steps taken in my karate training fascinated me. The ability to have a calm mind but hit with such force was overwhelming. One of the things I really enjoyed the most was the beauty of the Goju Ryu kata (pre-arranged movement).
Martialforce: So your background in Karate is based out of Canada? Is that where you are from?
De La Guerra: No, I am not from Canada. I was actually born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela and moved to Canada when I was twelve. My Father is from Spain and my mother is from Canada. My grandparents were from the Ukraine and the Philippines.
I began my Karate training in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada. My experiences were not all successful and I trained in several Dojo’s (training hall’s). Despite the frustrations, I knew not to take it out on the Art. I grew an appreciation and respect for Eastern philosophy and what it represented in Karate teachings. Unfortunately I belonged to a branch of schools that were about power and control and they abused it. I moved on and knew that when I opened my own school it was going to be about the art and not about me. I was only there to guide them in a positive direction, the best I could.
Martialforce: Are you living here in the United States now? What is the biggest difference?
De La Guerra: Yes, I currently live in California. The biggest difference is definitely the weather but with respect to Karate, I knew that I wanted to be amongst martial artists who are devoted to the art and its teachings. I encountered this with Hanshi Malonoski whom I met in New York City, and also with Kojosho federation members who I competed against in Mexico. All these people are talented martial artists.
Martialforce: Whom are you affiliated with here in the United States?
De La Guerra: Actually I am affiliated with different organizations in the sense that I train with many martial artists here in the United States to perfect and enhance the art I love so much. I am always looking for ways to improve and people that have the same interest and passion for the arts.
Tamara and with her Mother
Martialforce: Have you competed outside of Canada? Which tournaments were your most memorable?
De La Guerra: I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel with my Canadian organization to countries such as the United States, Cuba, Mexico and Western Canada in competition and training.
The most memorable were outside of Canada because I was part of the Canadian team and it made me proud to be a representative. New York City was my first experience and it was amazing. I went there 3 years in a row. The crowd was rowdy and the energy high. I loved it! In Mexico there were 3 countries competing, Canada, United States and Mexico. That was the most successful competition of my career. I was still in my twenties and I walked away with every gold medal, it was very exciting. Every competition is different and challenging in its own way.
Martialforce: As a woman in the martial arts, did you find it difficult or challenging to train with men?
De La Guerra: There was a time that this question would have bothered me because of the separation between the sexes. I will answer it because it’s an important one for other women who are just beginning their training. I know for myself when I started I never wanted to be good enough for a woman, so I made sure that I never used it as an excuse. “Yes” there were certain things that I was weak in, most of the physical strength exercises such as push-ups, situps, etc. I stuck to it and never cared about being first and then one day I was able to crank them out just like any man. I don’t think it was important to me at the time to be a great fighter, though that too came along the way. I will admit I spent many years getting hit and learning how “NOT” to get hit before I could deliver a good technique. That developed from Kata training.
Martialforce: Is it true that there are many people that don’t want to train in Kata and want to spend more time fighting? What is your opinion on that?
De La Guerra: What can I say to that? We live in a world where everyone is in a rush to get somewhere and they lose valuable lessons along the way. Just take a look at all the drive-thru restaurants. In today’s world the youth are exposed to computers, fast food and they grow up thinking this is what life is about, fast and easy. I was taught that Kata training is fundamental to karate just as the alphabets are important to your writing skills and speech.
Karate developed my focus incredibly and served me well in different areas of my life, such as theatre. It gave me a base to discover a lot about myself. Many times I found myself searching deep and developing through my Kata training.
If someone had told me in the beginning that I would appreciate kata I may not have believed him or her but it was something that always kept me balanced and grounded. I felt such a connection to my spirit and I realized I was in it for the journey.
Martialforce: Is rank important to you?
De La Guerra: Rank recognizes your accomplishments and commitment but that is not why I train. My interest has always been the development of technique, knowledge and more importantly my character. In addition, I believe that as a teacher you must grow to give room for your students growth and in a formal setting rank is a symbol of that growth. Too many times I have met people who cling to the rank aspect for dear life and when the belt comes off, they were horrible to people and have no respect for humanity. I found that to be more of an insult than anything. I remember reading a saying once: “You can walk into a room and be judged by thousands and there is nothing you can do about it but the one thing you will walk out with is” your character
Martialforce: Is there anyone you look up to or admired throughout your years of training
De La Guerra: Oh yes, it doesn’t matter what field your in. I admire people who take chances in life to be all they can be and pursue their dreams even if the odds are against them. I love people who have vision and guts to accomplish their dreams even though they are afraid they never allow fear to paralyze them.
Martialforce: Are you still actively competing?
De La Guerra: Approximately 4 months ago I ruptured my Achilles tendon, which has set me back. It’s a one-year recovery but as soon as I am able to compete I will be looking forward to future competition here in California.
Martialforce: That’s quite an injury. How did that happen?
A: De La Guerra: A few years back I was pushing my body so hard and I was extremely over trained. I didn’t listen and I kept pushing. I realized I couldn’t train in my thirties the way I did in my twenties. I had to learn to adjust and allow myself to heal. The soft arts really benefited me and it was perfect timing. I was always known in the dojo to be able to spring up really high and I guess just excessive Achilles tears led to a rupture. The rupture actually happened while I was at a gym in California and I had to fly home to Toronto for surgery.
Martialforce: What else are you involved in besides Karate training?
De La Guerra: I am very athletic so I enjoy all kinds of sports. I train at the gym, Pilates and Yoga. I meditate down by the beach everyday. I roller blade, ski, hike and this year I want to learn to surf, anything that keeps me active. I recently started working with a personal trainer to enhance my abilities.
Martialforce: You have a personal trainer? A lot of people wouldn’t agree with the combination of martial arts and the fitness world. What do you think are the benefits of having a personal trainer?
De La Guerra: Well I think times have changed and I am always in pursuit of discovering something that would benefit my Martial Arts training. I have worked with trainers before and they loved to push me to extremes because of my background but it ended up hindering my training. The truth is I knew exactly what I wanted.
I don’t know why the disagreement is there. Could it be ego-based? My expertise is martial arts and I can teach anyone how to defend themselves. I have the ability to understand body dynamics when it comes to executing a technique, developing power and speed. Beyond that what do I know. I don’t think learning stops and when it comes to different forms of training I seek for those that know. There are so many benefits.
I would like to take this time to thank Martialforce.com for this interview. I’ve never been interviewed online before and see that this is the future of magazines.
Martialforce.com is definitely a positive force in martial arts OSH!
If you would like to contact Tamara click on this link
Sensei Tamara De La Guerra has allot to offer regarding personal training, Karate, Kobudo and technique. She is a dedicated Martial Artist and Humble human being.
Shihan Eddie Morales