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Saints Hope Karate Improves Game

August 1, 1999

LA CROSSE, Wis. (AP) _ Randy White knows all about getting the upper hand in football. He used every edge he could on his way to the Hall of Fame. Now he’s showing the New Orleans Saints how karate can improve their game.

``There are a lot of little things you need to take care of if you want to be the best,″ White said. ``This is just one more way to get an advantage. Football has turned more into a hands game. Everybody in the NFL uses their hands. The key is to be able to counter the moves used against you.″

White, a former defensive tackle for the Dallas Cowboys, was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1994. He made the Pro Bowl nine times and was voted the MVP of the 1977 Super Bowl.

He was introduced to martial arts in 1976 by the Cowboys’ strength coach.

White found the discipline had a lot more uses than breaking concrete blocks to amaze his friends. He found it helped him deal with the 1976 rule change for pass blocking that allowed offensive linemen to use their hands.

``Randy is one of the best defensive linemen to play the game, and a lot of what he did was on his quickness, speed and the fact that he learned how to use martial arts,″ coach Mike Ditka said. ``He was terrific at shedding people and when guys got their hands on him he had the ability to break them down.″

That’s why White was back on a football field this week, grappling with players, slapping their arms down, stepping around guys 20 years younger and in much better condition.

White and Valentine Espiricueta of Applied Sports Martial Arts of Dallas use a variety of karate moves to show players how to offset the grabbing, holding and shoving that goes on in a game. They have shown their techniques to the Denver Broncos, Detroit Lions, San Diego Chargers and Cowboys in the past.

``It can help any player,″ said Espiricueta, a two-time full contact stick-fighting world champion. ``We teach them to get their opponents hands’ off them and in a way that redirects his energy and makes him go a different way. It takes awhile to get it down, but the guys love it.″

White, who remembers life in the trenches, thinks it’s especially beneficial to defensive linemen.

``Basically, you’re training your hands,″ White said. ``Offensive linemen hold you, tackle you, they’ll do whatever they can get away with. I don’t blame them. The thing is, you have to come up with a way to defeat them and get your job done.″

Although White and Espiricueta aren’t teaching the Saints to use the knife-hand moves of martial arts, the quick slaps and chops they demonstrate resemble self-defense techniques.

``It’s the same moves we use, the key to it is hand placement,″ defensive end Jared Tomich said. ``If you can get their hands off you before they can lock onto you, you’re going to be much better off. I wish I had known it earlier because it really is beneficial.″

Defensive tackle La’Roi Glover, who led the Saints with 10 sacks last season, said the training has other advantages.

``It helps you build a mentality that you don’t want anybody to put their hands on you,″ Glover said. ``Your hand-eye coordination gets better and it keeps you alert. I had a little martial arts training in college, but it’s different learning from a Hall of Famer who can apply it to defensive line play.″

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