Interview: Master Donte Branch (part 2)
LACM: Master Donte Branch, how are you doing today sir?
Master Branch: I’m fantastic. How are you?
LACM: Man, I am always good. It’s always a treat to catch you. We know you’re busy. We know you’re grinding, and growing, and gifting. So, one, I appreciate you, and we got a couple things to touch on. We said in our last interview, we're going to get back to you. You had some plans in the works. So let's just jump right into that. You are now certified sir. Could you uh, could you tell us a little bit about that?
Master Branch: All right, so when you get your fourth degree black belt in Taekwondo, you become a certified black belt within the Pan American Taekwondo Federation. And so, my instructor, the instructor is the president of the Federation. So through him, I'm now a certified fourth-down instructor and black belt. So I'm like internationally recognized as a black belt in Taekwondo.
LACM: Congratulations, salute, sefu, and such. So, when did that happened? What's the date on your paperwork?
Master Branch: I believe August 25th. Yeah, just August 2019. So like, a couple months ago.
LACM: Congratulations! So what's changed, since you were on the side of the mountain, climbing up the elevation, to now, you're certified? Tell us a little bit about the change.
Master Branch: Honestly, it's just the way people interact. The way students interact with me. Other instructors and parents, you get more respect with the Master in front of your name. So, you know, a lot of people look at you differently. They see you as a role model a lot more than just an instructor. I mean, even though instructor has the same level of respect but, a Master shows that you've done the work needed and necessary to be in that position of power, I guess. And that you're responsible enough to carry out that power.
LACM: With great power and blah, blah, blah ... We know that you're a real life superhero. So it's always great to hear when you come back from Mount Olympus successful. So where are we now? Where are we blessed enough to catch you at? And, why are we here?
Master Branch: We're currently at my home away from home. My dojang. Northeast Taekwondo. It has been here since 2002. I've been here since 2003. This is the blue side that we're on. The other side is the red side, the freshly new side. This is the original Northeast Taekwondo that were looking at, that we're sitting in right now.
LACM: That's good stuff. So you came back here with your official Masters. How often are you holding classes here, and where else are you holding classes?
Master Branch: Oh man, I'm here every day, Monday through Saturday. We have classes on Mondays through Thursdays, 5:30 to 8:30. Fridays I do a what's called the competition training. I'm the head coach for the competition team here and on Fridays and we do that.
LACM: Can you elaborate on the competition structure and needs, or is it a group of dojos from different areas around the city, how is that setup?
Master Branch: So I've just started it in 2018. We handpick, myself and other instructors, we handpick students to show the potential to compete at a National level. So we put them in a exclusive competition training journey to Nationals. So what we do is, we train twice a week. It's about 14 15 kids right now, and we have them do an hour and a half and two hour-long sessions every week, that are specifically for tournament training. We train them for sparring. We train them for what's called forms or patterns, to make sure that they're at the best at their level. Because it's one thing to train every day at an average level, but it's another thing to be nationally recognized as one of the best martial artists in the country.
LACM: For real! That goes all the way back to that paperwork we were talking about on the basketball court. Getting those letters behind your name by walking down those roads. So how else are you out here strengthening your community?
Master Branch: Yeah, so currently I'm a flag football coach for Flag Star Football as well. It's a non-profit organization that works with students and families. Every Sunday they just come out and they play flag football. I have two teams right now. I'm going to the championship this weekend. So hopefully, you know, we come out the other side of that.
LACM: Well congratulations again! This is getting redundant.
Master Branch: Thank you! I had four teams this season. The Kindergarten team, they're done, they won their last game. And then my other three teams, we have our last games this weekend. So I'm currently doing that, and I actually just got a new job. I'll be a coach for a company called Teens Run DC. So I'll be doing their after school running club program. It's a lunch and after school club where I'll be coaching kids who want to find a social group, that fits and makes them feel welcome. And so I'll be the role model for that. Like three times a week.
LACM: I'd hate to see your calendar. You probably got different colored Post-Its and all throughout the whole nine. More praise, upon praise, upon praise. That is super vicious! Now ... I definitely want to get you in action. I don't want to say get a sample. I don't want to constrain you to any one move or grouping of movements right now. I just want to give you freedom of creation. Kind of let your art and your marshall, you know, come together and do what you do and so on and so forth.
Master Branch: Yeah, so today I just wanted to work on my hands. I do a lot of kicking, that's part of my skill set, my kicks. But I really want to work on my boxing a lot more just getting my hands better at both attacking and defending. So I'll probably do some boxing, but I'll definitely get some kicks out the way. I always gotta get my kicks out the way and some you know, what I like to call lead leg techniques lead leg attacks. So just working on my speed my agility on the attack on the offensive. So that's what I usually like to work on Thursdays.
LACM: This is going to be exciting then. Real quick, before we get to our fast movements, and give you a chance to flex your Master muscles, I want to touch on some of the things we talked about last time. Just real quick, with government, education, and communication outside right? Have you found your path along those highways since the last time we talked to you. I know you've already combined your marshall with working with the kids. So how we rocking with the government now? Now that there are processes that have been started and more of the public's attention on our local government. Does what you were talking about last time still hold? Is your interest as Master Branch still in holding office?
Master Branch: Yes, so there's still potential for that. I've actually got parents who are encouraging me to run for office or local office. My dad and I are still strategizing on how I'm going to get my foot in the door in the government, some how, some way. Right now I'm working with local nonprofits and local organizations and companies to work with mostly kids, like underprivileged kids, just to make sure that they have someone who's there to support them and push them and help them. Just making sure the community around me is settled. I do a lot within the community, teaching and offering ... so like Friday, I'm doing a clinic here for home school students who are looking for an experience with ... the subject is women in sports, but they do a session every weekend where they need to study how to use the body and the importance of using your body and how it's helped you to be physically active. So I'm going to do a private clinic here on Friday for them, you know, just continue to spread the knowledge and be there.
LACM: You're a real life super hero. Man you're great and we appreciate you sitting down. Let's get you set up catching some action and then we'll let you get back to strengthening the community.
Master Branch: Thank you.