ODTUG Member Series: The Martial Arts Master

The “ODTUG Member Series” is a 1-year long installment of articles highlighting the non-technical obsessions of our wonderful ODTUG community members. Blog posts are published monthly and advertised on ODTUG’s News blog. Enjoy!

 

Kent Graziano

  • Name: Kent Graziano
  • Age check box: 45+
  • Location: The Woodlands, TX
  • Current career age: 30 years
  • # of years involved with ODTUG: 22 years
  • Company: Data Warrior
  • Technology identifiers: Data Vault Master, data modeling, data warehousing, data architecture, Oracle RDBMS, Oracle SQL Developer data modeler
  • Blog/Website: http://kentgraziano.com/
  • Twitter@KentGraziano
  • Oracle Ace Status: Director

Kent Graziano (The Data Warrior) is very well known in the Oracle world. He’s a certified data vault master and the author/co-author of 6 books, including an Amazon best-seller! He’s also pretty recognizable. I call that “personal style”. (He laughed when I used this term, by the way.) He has rocker long hair and often compliments his look with a tie-dyed or Hawaiian T-shirt. When I asked him about this personal style, he responded by saying that this was a legacy passed down to him from a previous boss and firm, Mike McDonough from Aris Corporation (which was subsequently acquired by CIBER). At Aris, Mike implemented “Aloha Friday”, allowing employees to wear Hawaiian shirts on Fridays. This led to the team buying logoed, coordinating Hawaiian shirts at conferences…a.k.a. instant recognition. When Aris parted from KScope (due to acquisition), Kent carried on the legacy…and the ODTUG board adopted it for a few years too! Add in the hair and the rest as they say, is history…

Kent the Viking

(Kent the viking at the Oracle User Group Finland (OUGF) speaker dinner in 2014)

Kent has kept his hair long since 1986. He said he was initially inspired by the Beatles and he kept his hair “as long as legally allowed” in high school. Once he was free of those shackles he let it grow out. It eventually became part of his trademark so he kept it. (Note that his wife has stated more than once that she would divorce him if he ever cut it.)

Kent and an Armadillo - KScope12

(Holding an armadillo at KScope12)

Kent is also infamous in the ODTUG community. He’s been involved with the organization since before it was known as “ODTUG”. He presented at one of the first conferences in Keystone, Colorado and then got involved behind the scenes while helping to organize a Colorado event. Kent was on the ODTUG board for a very long time. He’s held every position except Secretary and Newsletter Editor. This includes prestigious roles like the KScope conference chair, Vice President of ODTUG, and President of ODTUG. When you view his LinkedIn profile, it reads like a bucket list for the career-oriented. His list of certifications alone reads longer than most people’s careers.

Other Cool Things About Kent

I first met Kent at KScope14. It was at an after party and starting to get pretty late into the night. I had heard his name from several of my ODTUG friends and was curious about the data master who sported tie-dyed T-shirts and a smile. For the record, Kent was totally cool. He welcomed me with open arms, was genuinely interested in who I am, and was easy to talk to. Overall, he’s the guy you’d want to seek out just to have an interesting conversation with. He was definitely one of the folks I remember – it was the latest night of that conference year for me and out of all the folks I met, he stood out.

Beyond Kent’s established career and his easy demeanor, there are some other, lesser known facts about Kent that add to his allure:

  • His wife is an artist and a children’s book author
  • His son is a Star Wars fanatic (and loves the series almost as much as Kent, maybe more)
  • Kent enjoys downhill skiing and white water rafting
  • Kent’s degree is in environmental science (he notes here that there were no computer classes back in the day)
  • He loves to harass his friends during their sessions (I’m a personal witness to this!)

The Martial Arts Master

But let’s get to the heart and meat of this blog post. One of Kent’s well-known attributes is his dedication and passion for martial arts. Just to list off a few of his accomplishments:

Phoenix Seminar

(Demonstrating a Combat Hapkido self-defense technique)

When asked to describe his martial arts upbringing, Kent said “My martial arts career has given me a physical outlet and balance with mental aspects of my computer career, and has provided my primary method of stress relief.” Kent took his first Tae Kwon Do class at 13 years old at his local YMCA. He became interested in martial arts because of Bruce Lee and the Kung Fu TV series. He also noticed a similar style of fighting in the Batman and Star Trek (original series) fighting sequences. In college he was able to reconnect with martial arts and then began to take it more seriously (he also notes that he was the smallest guy in the men’s dorm!). The first semester he took Tae Kwon Do he made straight A’s. The more he trained, the more he was able to focus both his mind and body. This mental focus then translated into a successful career, both in IT and as a martial arts instructor. A client once commented on this – he said that he had never seen someone have the ability to focus on a single task like Kent did.

Today, Kent focuses on 3 main styles of martial arts: Tae Kwon Do (which he teaches at the local YMCA), Tai Chi/Chi Gung (which go together, he says), and Combat Hapkido (for practical self-defense and fun). He still trains a couple of hours a week and attends seminars whenever he can. Martial arts has given him “a vocation outside of a traditional career path” that allows him to help hundreds of people improve their lives. He’s proud of the fact that a couple of female students have used what he’s taught them to defend themselves in real life.

Traditional Tae Kwon Do

(One of his training classes at Rocky Mountain Tae Kwon Do in 2010)

Lesson learned here: don’t ever make Kent an enemy! I don’t even know how to pronounce most of the martial arts listed above. I’d hate to see him have to use them in a real fighting scenario!

The Art of Chi Gung

Although Kent has a very tenured history with Tae Kwon Do and other martial arts, the ODTUG community knows him for his Chi Gung sessions. (Kent even led a Chi Gung session the morning after our interview.) If you’ve never heard about the morning Chi Gung sessions, reference his blog post leading up to KScope14.

KScope15 Chi Gung Front View Arms Up

(Morning Chi Gung at KScope15)

What is Chi Gung? As written in that blog post:

Chi Gung (or Qigong) is an ancient Chinese health practice designed to calm and focus the mind, strengthen the body, and increase overall energy level (Chi). It is practiced by thousands every day in China and all over the world for its health benefits. Often referred to as “moving meditation,” Chi Gung breathing exercises have been shown to have innumerable health benefits as the gentle motions aid in the flow of Chi energy throughout your system.

Why should people do Chi Gung? Kent says “for relaxation, improved health, and improved mental focus”. In addition, martial arts in general can reduce violent tendencies. Once upon a time, a martial arts therapy program was run by Kent and his lieutenants at the Colorado state mental health institution. Both child and adolescent inpatients trained once a week for 5 years. This resulted in a study of the effects of traditional martial arts training on the emotionally disturbed and diagnosed violent patients. They found that training in a traditional (not sport-related) martial arts decreased violent tendencies over time, due to one of its major tenants: self control. The program was so successful that they presented the study at psychology conferences.

KScope15 Chi Gung Instructor View

(Another view of morning Chi Gung at KScope15)

How does Chi Gung compare to Yoga? Kent states that “they have the same goal, but take a different approach. All of Chi Gung is done standing up. However, the breathing is done similarly.” Kent does Yoga as well, and he says that there is overlap at a conceptual level. Like Chi Gung, Yoga works all of the joints and muscles in your body over time, so is very good for your health and mobility.

You can find Kent conducting Chi Gung sessions at the following annual events:

If you’re interested in joining one of Kent’s Chi Gung sessions, he offers the following advice about what to expect:

  • Recommended dress code: Comfortable, loose fitting street or exercise clothes (no uniform is required)
  • Activity time: Early morning
  • Duration: 30 minutes
  • Experience required: None
  • Location: Outside, in a designated location (if at all possible)
  • Level of physical exertion: It can be whatever you want because it’s self-directed. The exercises do include bending your knees and squatting, but you can go at your own pace and level. Depending on the weather, you may or may not break a sweat.

In addition, if you’re a beginner interested in learning more about Chi Gung, Kent lends the following tips:

  • The key is to find a qualified instructor nearby; very rarely will you find a standalone Chi Gung class – you may need to search for a Tai Chi class and inquire about Chi Gung options
  • When looking for an instructor always ask about their background, how long they’ve been training, what philosophy they use, and who trained them
  • YouTube videos – as with any martial arts, YouTube videos are great for understanding a concept for what a particular activity is like or can be used as a refresher, but you really need to be guided by an instructor when you’re first starting out; for health and safety reasons you should use an instructor so you don’t hurt yourself
  • Follow @brucefrantzis. He’s a great resource and offers quick tips

Chi Gung at KScope15 – Thoughts from Others

For those who have never ventured to morning Chi Gung at a past event…I gathered some thoughts from folks who braved this well-known morning activity at KScope15. Here is what they had to say:

From Amy del Rosario:

Chi Gung is a great start to a busy day at Kscope. It focuses my mind, resets my body, and Kent is the best leader! I am a new fan of both!

From Debra Lilley:

I have attended Kent’s Chi Gung since he first introduced it at Kscope. I am useless, I can coordinate my movements or my breathing but never both together. Kent doesn’t mind, he is patient and a good teacher. It is a great way to start the day and gives you a sense of achievement, and more importantly, the mental calm to gain the most from the conference.

From Jorge Rimblas:

This was my first time participating in Chi Gung with Kent. I had always liked the idea, but sleep always took precedence. During the conference, you may walk a lot, but you’re often also sitting a lot, and you can start feeling a little tight. Chi Gung gets you moving without a lot of stress. It’s the perfect start to a conference day (or any day) to get your joints lose and your brain in tune.

From Cory Drescher:

Chi Gung with Kent was great! My back always acts up when I travel and sleep on a new bed. One session with Kent did the trick!

The following video was recorded during the KScope12 conference. In this, Kent walks through an entire Chi Gung session.

Kent Graziano – Thoughts from Others

The man, the myth, the legend…Kent is truly a well-respected man within the Oracle space. Here is what others had to say about him.

From Heli Helskyaho:

Kent is a fantastic person with the right priorities: family and friends always come first. In every event Kent attends he makes sure the attendees get exercise for both their body and soul.

From Danny Bryant:

Much like the Chi Gung sessions Kent leads, he is calm yet intensely passionate about the things that matter. His willingness to support and mentor are invaluable. I’m glad I can call him a friend. Plus he’s one of the few people I know that might be able to beat me up. 🙂

From Mike Riley:

Kent Graziano is a tremendous ODTUG member so I won’t go into Kent’s history (more here). Kent’s passion for ODTUG and his innovation collided early in 2011 when we were conversing about his participation in KScope11. He wanted to do something outside of the box, and brainstorming with him led to a combination of two of his passions: ODTUG and martial arts. He came up with the idea of providing Chi Gung classes in the mornings at the conference as a great way to start the day. This moving meditation is both easy to learn and beneficial. I highly encourage anyone who is interested to consider participating in Chicago at KScope16 when I’m sure that Kent will once again lead us in this great exercise.

In the remaining months of this year you can expect to find Kent at ECO 2015 and Oracle Open World 2015. You might also see him at KScope16, RMOUG Training Days 2016, as well as other OTN and user group events.

Thank you, Kent, for the action-packed interview! We’ll be joining you at Chi Gung at a future event!

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