PALM DESERT, Calif. - With startling precision, Deanna Bivins demonstrates her considerable abilities in the martial arts field, she wields a bo staff.
Dating back centuries to feudal Japan, use of the bo staff is one of the many special skills this 49 year old 6th degree karate black belt has acquired in over 37 years of work and study.
Karate was crazy, my father would come home and we'd watch kung fu movies together. So it was a father daughter love affair in the beginning," Bivins said.
Deanna was given her first karate lesson at age 12. And it has consumed her ever since. The walls of the Red Dragon Karate Studio in Palm Desert are covered with pictures of her competing in martial arts championships, ribbons, medals, patches; testament to her success.
Just a few of her accomplishments: Gold medals in the World Martial Arts Games in Australia, ranked #1 in the North American Weapons Championship and an inductee into the American Karate Hall of Fame.
But after nearly four decades in the martial arts, it is as a teacher, or sensei in karate language, that Deanna Bivins finds the most enjoyment, as well as a living.
Bivins runs a no nonsense session. Students in her class range in age from about eight to sixteen and go through the paces at break-neck speed, bowing repeatedly to show respect for an opponent, but not holding back one bit as they practice martial arts disciplines ranging from karate, to judo, even to almost musical sounding nunchucks.
"Anyone can do it, but you have to be committed...Blood , sweat, tears," Bivins said.
Deanna said the martial arts have many benefits including conditioning and focus. She claims many of her young students do better in school after taking her class.
To critics who might feel that she is teaching aggressiveness and fighting, Deanna said, "We are defense first, not offense. So I make it very clear you are to be humble, respect for what you've learned, tradition that has gone back hundred and hundreds of years."
But that's not to say self defense is not a huge part of karate training. With bullying a growing and painful problem for many young people today, Bivins said martial arts training can help.
Deanna insists it is never too late to get started in the martial arts. She has students well into their 60's.
There are many misconceptions about karate and other martial arts. Movies have in some ways showcased and enhanced the discipline, but in other ways, Hollywood has made it seem somewhat comical , a product of special effects and stuntmen.
For Bivins, it has been a lifetime of enjoyment and enrichment, and she plans to continue passing on her knowledge to students, young and not so young, here in the valley.